C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.
Elizabeth B. Browning
A great acacia, with its slender trunkAnd overpoise of multitudinous leaves,(In which a hundred fields might spill their dewAnd intense verdure, yet find room enough)Stood reconciling all the place with green.
A worthless woman! mere cold clayAs all false things are! but so fair,She takes the breath of men awayWho gaze upon her unaware:I would not play her larcenous tricksTo have her looks!
All are not taken! there are left behindLiving Beloveds, tender looks to bring,And make the daylight still a happy thing,And tender voices, to make soft the wind.
And friends, dear friends,—when it shall beThat this low breath is gone from me,And round my bier ye come to weep,Let One, most loving of you all,Say, “Not a tear must o’er her fall;He giveth His beloved sleep.”
And her yes, once said to you,Shall be Yes for evermore.
And I must bearWhat is ordained with patience, being awareNecessity doth front the universeWith an invincible gesture.
And I said in underbreath—All our life is mixed with death,—And who knoweth which is best?And I smiled to think God’s greatnessFlowed around our incompleteness,—Round our restlessness, His rest.
And lilies white, prepared to touchThe whitest thought, nor soil it much,Of dreamer turned to lover.
And there my little doves did sitWith feathers softly brownAnd glittering eyes that showed their rightTo general Nature’s deep delight.
And tulips, children love to stretchTheir fingers down, to feel in eachIts beauty’s secret nearer.
Beloved, let us love so well,Our work shall still be better for our love,And still our love be sweeter for our work,And both, commended, for the sake of each,By all true workers and true lovers born.
By the way,The works of women are symbolical.We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,To put on when you’re weary—or a stoolTo tumble over and vex you***curse that stool!Or else at best, a cushion where you leanAnd sleep, and dream of something we are not,But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!This hurts most, this***that, after all, we are paidThe worth of our work, perhaps.
Cloud-walls of the morning’s grayFaced with amber column,Crowned with crimson cupolaFrom a sunset solemn.May-mists, for the casements, fetch,Pale and glimmering,With a sunbeam hid in each,And a smell of spring.
Death upon his faceIs rather shine than shade,A tender shine by looks beloved made.
Do ye hear the children weeping, my brothers,Ere the sorrow comes with years?They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,And that cannot stop their tears.
Earth may embitter, not remove,The love divinely given;And e’en that mortal grief shall proveThe immortality of love,And lead us nearer heaven.
Eyes which the preacher could not school,By wayside graves are raised;And lips say, “God be pitiful,”That ne’er said “God be praised.”
First time he kiss’d me, he but only kiss’dThe fingers of this hand wherewith I write;And ever since it grew more clean and white.
For me, my heart, that erst did goMost like a tired child at a show,That sees through tears the mummers leap,Would now its wearied vision close,Would childlike on His love repose,Who giveth His Beloved, sleep.
For none can express thee, though all should approve thee.I love thee so, dear, that I only can love thee.
Get leave to workIn this world,—’tis the best you get at all.
Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive,Half wishing they were dead to save the shame.The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow;They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats,And flare up bodily, wings and all.
God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,A gauntlet with a gift in ’t.
God keeps a nicheIn Heaven, to hold our idols; and albeitHe brake them to our faces, and deniedThat our close kisses should impair their white,—I know we shall behold them raised complete,The dust swept from their beauty, glorified,New Memnons singing in the great Godlight.
God’s prophets of the Beautiful,These Poets were.
How he sleepeth! having drunkenWeary childhood’s mandragore,From his pretty eyes have sunkenPleasures to make room for more—Sleeping near the withered nosegay which he pulled the day before.
I was betrothed that day;I wore a troth kiss on my lips I could not give away.
In this bad, twisted, topsy-turvy world,Where all the heaviest wrongs get uppermost.
Knowledge by suffering endureth,And life is perfected by Death.
Life treads on life, and heart on heart;We press too close in church and martTo keep a dream or grave apart.
My heart is very tired—my strength is low—My hands are full of blossoms pluck’d beforeHeld dead within them till myself shall die.
Nosegays! leave them for the waking,Throw them earthward where they grewDim are such, beside the breakingAmaranths he looks unto.Folded eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.
O brave poets, keep back nothing;Nor mix falsehood with the whole!Look up Godward! speak the truth inWorthy song from earnest soul!Hold, in high poetic duty,Truest Truth the fairest Beauty.
O brothers! let us leave the shame and sinOf taking vainly, in a plaintive mood,The holy name of grief!—holy herein,That, by the grief of One, came all our good.
O Earth, so full of dreary noises!O men, with wailing in your voices!O delved gold, the wailer’s heap!O strife, O curse, that o’er it fall!God makes a silence through you all,And “giveth His beloved, sleep.”
Of all the thoughts of God that areBorne inward into souls afar,Along the Psalmist’s music deep,Now tell me if that any is,For gift or grace, surpassing this—“He giveth His beloved sleep?”His dews drop mutely on the hill,His cloud above it saileth still,Though on its slope men sow and reap.More softly than the dew is shed,Or cloud is floated overhead,“He giveth His beloved sleep.”
Pray, pray, thou who also weepest,—And the drops will slacken so;Weep, weep—and the watch thou keepest,With a quicker count will go.Think,—the shadow on the dialFor the nature most undone,Marks the passing of the trial,Proves the presence of the sun.
Sing, seraph with the glory! heaven is high.Sing, poet with the sorrow! earth is low.The universe’s inward voices cry“Amen” to either song of joy and woe.Sing, seraph, poet! sing on equally!
Sleep on, Baby, on the floor.Tired of all the playing,Sleep with smile the sweeter forThat you dropped away in!On your curls’ full roundness standGolden lights serenely—One cheek, pushed out by the hand,Folds the dimple inly.
Speak low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet,From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low,Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee soWho art not missed by any that entreat.
Thank God for grace,Ye who weep only! If, as some have done,Ye grope tear-blinded in a desert placeAnd touch but tombs,—look up! Those tears will runSoon in long rivers down the lifted face,And leave the vision clear for stars and sun.
The beautiful seems rightBy force of beauty, and the feeble wrongBecause of weakness.
The essence of all beauty, I call love,The attribute, the evidence, and end,The consummation to the inward senseOf beauty apprehended from without,I still call love.
The place is all awave with trees,Limes, myrtles, purple-beaded,Acacias having drunk the leesOf the night-dew, faint headed,And wan, grey olive-woods, which seemThe fittest foliage for a dream.
The tyrant should take heed to what he doth,Since every victim-carrion turns to use,And drives a chariot, like a god made wroth,Against each piled injustice.
The world goes whispering to its own,“This anguish pierces to the bone;”And tender friends go sighing round,“What love can ever cure this wound?”My days go on, my days go on.
There, Shakespeare, on whose forehead climbThe crowns o’ the world. Oh, eyes sublime,With tears and laughters for all time!
Through heaven and earthGod’s will moves freely, and I follow it,As color follows light. He overflowsThe ornamental walls with deity,Therefore with love; His lightnings go abroad,His pity may do so, His angels must,Whene’er He gives them charges.
’Tis aye a solemn thing to meTo look upon a babe that sleeps—Wearing in its spirit-deepsThe unrevealed mysteryOf its Adam’s taint and woe,Which, when they revealed lie,Will not let it slumber so.
We get no goodBy being ungenerous, even to a book,And calculating profits—so much helpBy so much reading. It is rather whenWe gloriously forget ourselves, and plungeSoul-forward, headlong, into a book’s profound,Impassioned for its beauty, and salt of truth—’Tis then we get the right good from a book.
When God helps all the workers for His world,The singers shall have help of Him, not last.
Who can fearToo many stars, though each in heaven shall roll—Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?Say, thou dost love me, love me, love me—tollThe silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,To love me also in silence, with thy soul.
Who lovesBelieves the impossible.
World’s use is cold, world’s love is vain,World’s cruelty is bitter baneBut pain is not the fruit of pain.
You forget too muchThat every creature, female as the male,Stands single in responsible act and thought,As also in birth and death.
A poor man served by thee shall make thee rich.
A white rosebud for a guerdon.
A woman’s pity sometimes makes her mad.
And when a woman says she loves a man, the man must hear her, though he love her not.
Books are men of higher stature, and the only men that speak aloud for future times to hear.
Capacity for joy admits temptation.
Every wish is like a prayer with God.
Folded eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.
Get work! Be sure it is better than what you work to get.
God did anoint thee with His odorous oil, to wrestle not to reign.
He smiled as men smile when they will not speak, because of something bitter in the thought.
Her deep blue eyes smile constantly, as if they had by fitness won the secret of a happy dream she does not care to speak.
I work with patience, which is almost power.
In our age faith and charity are found, but they are found apart. We tolerate everybody, because we doubt everything; or else we tolerate nobody, because we believe something.
Large, musing eyes, neither joyous nor sorry.
Named softly as the household name of one whom God had taken.
O brave poets! keep back nothing, nor mix falsehood with the whole; look up Godward; speak the truth in worthy song from earnest soul; hold, in high poetic duty, truest truth the fairest beauty!
Souls are dangerous things to carry straight through all the spilt saltpetre of this world.
The beautiful seems right by force of beauty, and the feeble wrong, because of weakness.
The plague of gold strikes far and near.
Thy lips which spake wrong counsel, I kiss close.
Thy love shall chant itself its own beatitudes, after its own life working. A child-kiss, set on thy sighing lips, shall make thee glad; a poor man, served, by thee, shall make thee rich; a rich man, helped by thee, shall make thee strong; thou shalt be served thyself by every sense of service which thou renderest.
When the dust of death has choked a great man’s voice, the common words he said turn oracles, the common thoughts he yoked like horses draw like griffins.
Where Christ brings His cross He brings His presence; and where He is none are desolate, and there is no room for despair.
Whoever lives true life will love true love.
Worn, gray olive-woods, which seem the fittest foliage for a dream.