The Poet's Vow. Part The Second

Part 2: Showing To Whom The Vow Was Declared.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I.

The poet's vow was inly sworn --
The poet's vow was told:
He parted to his crowding friends
The silver and the gold;
They clasping bland his gift, -- his hand,
In a somewhat slacker hold.

II.

They wended forth, the crowding friends,
With farewells smooth and kind --
They wended forth, the solaced friends,
And left but twain behind:
One loved him true as brothers do,
And one was Rosalind.

III.

He said -- My friends have wended forth,
With farewells smooth and kind.
Mine oldest friend, my plighted bride,
Ye need not stay behind.
Friend, wed my fair bride for my sake, --
And let my lands ancestral make
A dower for Rosalind.

IV.

And when beside your wassail board
Ye bless your social lot,
I charge you, that the giver be
In all his gifts forgot!
Or alone of all his words recall
The last, -- Lament me not.

V.

She looked upon him silently,
With her large, doubting eyes,
Like a child that never knew but love,
Whom words of wrath surprise;
Till the rose did break from either cheek,
And the sudden tears did rise.

VI.

She looked upon him mournfully,
While her large eyes were grown
Yet larger with the steady tears;
Till, all his purpose known,
She turned slow, as she would go --
The tears were shaken down. --

VII.

She turned slow, as she would go,
Then quickly turned again;
And gazing in his face to seek
Some little touch of pain --
I thought, she said, -- but shook her head
She tried that speech in vain.

VIII.

I thought -- but I am half a child,
And very sage art thou --
The teachings of the heaven and earth
Did keep us soft and low.
They have drawn my tears, in early years,
Or ere I wept -- as now.

IX.

But now that in thy face I read
Their cruel homily,
Before their beauty I would fain
Untouched, unsoftened be, --
If I indeed could look on even
The senseless, loveless earth and heaven,
As thou canst look on me.

X.

And couldest thou as calmly view
Thy childhood's far abode,
Where little feet kept time with thine
Along the dewy sod?
And thy mother's look from holy book
Rose, like a thought of God?

XI.

O brother, -- called so, ere her last
Explaining words were said!
O fellow-watcher in her room,
With hushed voice and tread!
Rememberest thou how, hand in hand,
O friend, O lover, we did stand,
And knew that she was dead?

XII.

I will not live Sir Roland's bride, --
That dower I will not hold!
I tread below my feet that go,
These parchments bought and sold.
The tears I weep, are mine to keep,
And worthier than thy gold.

XIII.

The poet and Sir Roland stood
Alone, each turned to each;
Till Roland brake the silence left
By that soft-throbbing speech --
Poor heart! he cried, it vainly tried
The distant heart to reach!

XIV.

And thou, O distant, sinful heart,
That climbest up so high,
To wrap and blind thee with the snows
That cause to dream and die --
What blessing can, from lips of man,
Approach thee with his sigh?

XV.

Ay! what, from earth -- create for man,
And moaning in his moan?
Ay! what from stars -- revealed to man,
And man -- named, one by one?
Ay, more! what blessing can be given,
Where the Spirits seven, do show in heaven
A MAN upon the throne? --

XVI.

A man on earth HE wandered once,
All meek and undefiled:
And those who loved Him, said 'He wept' --
None ever said He smiled;
Yet there might have been a smile unseen,
When he bowed his blessed face, I ween,
To bless that happy child.

XVII.

And now HE pleadeth up in heaven
For our humanities,
Till the ruddy light on seraphs' wings
In pale emotion dies.
They can better bear his Godhead's glare,
Than the pathos of his eyes.

XVIII.

I will go pray our God today
To teach thee how to scan
His work divine, for human use,
Since earth on axle ran!
To teach thee to discern as plain
His grief divine -- the blood-drop's stain
He left there, MAN for man.

XIX.

So, for the blood's sake, shed by Him,
Whom angels, God, declare,
Tears, like it, moist and warm with love,
Thy reverent eyes shall wear,
To see i' the face of Adam's race
The nature God doth share.

XX.

I heard, the poet said, thy voice
As dimly as thy breath!
The sound was like the noise of life
To one anear his death;
Or of waves that fail to stir the pale
Sere leaf they roll beneath.

XXI.

And in betwixt the sound and me,
White creatures like a mist
Did float me round confusedly, --
Mysterious shapes unwist!
Across my heart and across my brow
I felt them droop like wreaths of snow
To still the pulse they kist.

XXII.

The castle and its lands are thine --
The poor's -- it shall be done;
Go, man; to love! I go to live
In Courland hall, alone.
The bats along the ceilings cling, --
The lizards in the floors do run, --
And storms and years have worn and reft
The stain by human builders left
In working at the stone!

Source:

The Poems Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume 1
Copyright 1853
C. S. Francis & Co., 262 Broadway, New York
Crosby & Nichols, Boston
 
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