Void In Law

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Sleep, little babe, on my knee,
Sleep, for the midnight is chill,
And the moon has died out in the tree,
And the great human world goeth ill.
Sleep, for the wicked agree:
Sleep, let them do as they will.


Sleep, thou hast drawn from my breast
The last drop of milk that was good;
And now, in a dream, suck the rest,
Lest the real should trouble thy blood.
Suck, little lips dispossessed,
As we kiss in the air whom we would.


O lips of thy father! the same,
So like! Very deeply they swore
When he gave me his ring and his name,
To take back, I imagined, no more!
And now is all changed like a game,
Though the old cards are used as of yore?


Void in law, said the Courts. Something wrong
In the forms? Yet, Till death part us two,
I, James, take thee, Jessie,
was strong,
And ONE witness competent. True
Such a marriage was worth an old song,
Heard in Heaven though, as plain as the New.


Sleep, little child, his and mine!
Her throat has the antelope curve,
And her cheek just the color and line
Which fade not before him nor swerve:
Yet she has no child! -- the divine
Seal of right upon loves that deserve.


My child! though the world take her part,
Saying, She was the woman to choose,
He had eyes, was a man in his heart,
We twain the decision refuse:
We . . . weak as I am. as thou art, . .
Cling on to him, never to loose.


He thinks that, when done with this place.
All's ended? he'll new-stamp the ore?
Yes, Caesar's -- but not in our case.
Let him learn we are waiting before
The grave's mouth, the heaven's gate, God's face,
With implacable love evermore.


He's ours, though he kissed her but now;
He's ours, though she kissed in reply;
He's ours, though himself disavow,
And God's universe favor the lie;
Ours to claim, ours to clasp, ours below,
Ours above, . . if we live, if we die.


Ah baby, my baby, too rough
Is my lullaby? What have I said?
Sleep! When I've wept long enough
I shall learn to weep softly instead,
And piece with some alien stuff
My heart to lie smooth for thy head.


Two souls met upon thee, my sweet;
Two loves led thee out to the sun:
Alas, pretty hands, pretty feet,
If the one who remains (only one)
Set her grief at thee, turned in a heat
To thine enemy, -- were it well done?


May He of the manger stand near
And love thee! An infant He came
To His own who rejected Him here,
But the Magi brought gifts all the same.
I hurry the cross on my Dear!
My gifts are the griefs I declaim!


Last Poems
Copyright 1862
James Miller, (Successor To C. S. Francis & Co.), 522 Broadway, New York