from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning


What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,
And laid them on the outside of the wall
For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse? am I cold,
Ungrateful, that for these most mainfold
High gifts, I render nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold, --- but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows. For frequent tears have run
The colours from my life, and left so dead
And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same as pillow to thy head.
Go farther! let it serve to trample on.

This one is very straightforward with little in the way of difficulty of expression to require explication.  And yet for all of its straightforward simplicity--perhaps because of it--it flows beautifully and the logical sense of the plaint is clear.  Because of this strike-to-the-heart clarity, the startling shift in the sestet is made all the more piquant.  


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