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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sonnet XXIV: Let the World’s Sharpness

(Australian Rock Lily, hand-colored woodcut by Margaret
Preston, 1875-1963, Australian artist)

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” So begins one of the most popular love sonnets in the English language, one of forty-four poems that Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote as a gift to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. Her series, Sonnets from the Portuguese, gets its title from his pet name for her, “my little Portuguese.”

In this sonnet from the series, the poet seeks to comfort her beloved — alluding to the famous passage in Christ’s
Sermon on the Mount, “Why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29; Luke 12:27)


Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife,
Shut in upon itself and do no harm
In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,
And let us hear no sound of human strife
After the click of the shutting. Life to life —
I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,
And feel as safe as guarded by a charm
Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife
Are weak to injure. Very whitely still
The lilies of our lives may reassure
Their blossoms from their roots, accessible
Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer;
Growing straight, out of man’s reach, on the hill.
God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), English poet

1 comment:

Robyn Hood Black said...

Beautiful post - both poem and art!