September 12: Elizabeth Barrett Browning Is Too Intense

I know -- not really sad poems. But it's my favorite graphic.

First of all, this is like twenty-four sonnets, starting here, so it gives one (where one = me) the feeling of cramming for an exam. That's not leisure reading! Ten would be good, maybe; reading ten you have time to get under the hood of the poem and see how it works. Plus, as anyone who's ever had to do coverage knows, when you've got a big pile to read, you're just looking for any words in each individual piece that will allow you to consign it to the airlock and blow it out into outer space:
I LIFT my heavy heart up solemnly,
As once Electra her sepulchral urn,...
No classical references. Next!

The other effect of reading a bunch of them is that Elizabeth Barrett Browning is more than I can handle:
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Hence forward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul...
If you had 99 problems, it could well be that E.B.B. would be one also. However, if your taste in women runs to someone who always takes the low-status option (despite all the classical references), she might be the girl for you:
CAN it be right to give what I can give?
To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears
As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years
Re-sighing on my lips renunciative
Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live
For all thy adjurations?
However, "infrequent smiles which fail to live/For all thy adjurations" is a deal-breaker for me. Comedy writers are insecure enough as it is -- O how many courtesy laughs my wife has had to supply over the years! However, this just might be Victorian emotional taste, which we don't understand; since, as we know, on or about the premiere of Gold Diggers of 1933, human nature changed.

The other, final, note I have is regards this from Wikipedia: "Elizabeth was initially hesitant to publish the poems, feeling that they were too personal. However, Robert insisted that they were the best sequence of English-language sonnets since Shakespeare's time and urged her to publish them." They might be -- while R. Browning's reaction could have been the natural husbandly response to "Does this pentameter make me look fat?" I don't think it was -- I'll say one thing, Shakespeare's were dirtier.

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