What bitter wrong can the earth do to us, that we should not long be here contented?

curlew

Lengthening wings break into fire at either curvèd point

Sonnets from the Portuguese No. XXII

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curving point, – what bitter wrong
Can the earth do us, that we should not long
Be here contented?
Think! In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd — where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861)
Sonnets from the Portuguese, first published in 1850
image – mikebaird

Earth Angels

Mike’s great curlew image took me to imagining bird angels instead of human angels, and now I am rethinking the whole poem in terms of the natural world. Try it, and see what you get.

Rather on earth, Belovèd — where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.Sonnet No. XXII

Can you see a pure-spirited wild thing finding a place to stand and love (or live) for today, “with darkness and the death-hour rounding it?”

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7 Responses to “What bitter wrong can the earth do to us, that we should not long be here contented?”

  1. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    o yes, I can see it …and, at a more mundane level, if we carry on as we do, we will all be walking along like this, arms upstretched, for lack of space (to live and love) in an over-populated world. Humans have been known to isolate pure spirits, and free ones too, and again I am reminded of Keats and his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ …..’thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; the voice I hear this passing night was heard in ancient days, by emperor and clown’. John Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were nightingale people, along with good old Florence, and all shining lights in the darkness, in their own ways!

  2. E. A. Able Says:

    I may think of Keats next time I put out a house spider instead of squishing it. 🙂

  3. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    thou wast not born for death immortal spider! No shit scared generations squish thee down. sorry I don’t usually employ such language but it was almost an alliteration and I could not resist.

    you can always squish it, if you feel it is ill-befitting of this lofty poem. moderate it, which I think is a euphemism for murder it or embrace it. ah, language, how I love thee, in thy finery and in thy dungarees!

  4. E. A. Able Says:

    LOL!

    Almost an alliteration” and your could not resist.

    …..
    p.s.
    Little Miss Muffet
    Sat on a tuffet
    Reading her Keats and Shelley.
    Along came a sonnet –
    A spider was on it –
    And frightened Miss Muffet away.

    …after which the spider could call after Miss M: thou wast not born for death immortal Muffet!

  5. Juanita Says:

    Wow – awesome post. Just what I needed to read on a weird emotions day!

  6. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    Lol, Elizabeth, that was delicious, and nutritious. Esp loved what the spider called after Miss Muffet xxx

  7. E. A. Able Says:

    All this romance & stuff has been putting me in a weird mood. I want to make fun of “eternity,” and the next thing I know I’m in awe of it, and then I’m back to giddy.