Elizabeth Barrett Browning--Sonnet VI
from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browing
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forebore---
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.
Once again, one is left almost breathless with the depth of feeling exposed here. The circuit of their love and relationship is once again opened--the approach/avoidance encouraged by Robert on the one hand and her father on the other leave Elizabeth torn. Here, she turns away again and makes a prophetic statement that turns out to be true: "Yet I feel that I shall stand//Henceforward in thy shadow." While she wasn't speaking of the realm of poetry, the effect here is to let us think about the relative standing (as poets).
But Elizabeth goes on to explain that even if Robert should leave here, even if love departs, he will not love, she will never stand alone--there is no "I" anymore even if these advances are rejected and the suitor turned out. ("Nevermore//Alone upon the threshold of my door//of Individual live. . . without the sense of that which I forebore. . . ")
Most powerful of all the images of the sestet--the double heart and the suit of God which see her with tears of two in her eyes.
There is no denying that these are love poems. But they are not thin, weedy, etiolated things that one would expect from their common presentation. These are powerful sonnets that get at the heart of what it is to be truly in love and to be all and hope all and expect all and dream of all. They get at the heart of torment as two divided loyalties command one's attention. It is hard to think of a round of sonnets that gets so close to the heart of the matter and dwells on it continuously and in such deep and intimate imagery.