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10-21 Sarah Raplee – Author of “Blindsight” Psychic Agents Series, Book One

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Love Story for the Ages: Poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning

by Sarah Raplee


In 1844, multi-published English poet Elizabeth Barrett praised the work of a new poet, Robert Browning, in a poem in her collection, titled simply Poems. The two had never met. 

After reading Poems, Robert wrote Elizabeth Barrett a letter. They continued to write each other every day and met the next year. Their romance faced a mountain of seemingly-insurmountable obstacles. Elizabeth was thirty-eight when they began to correspond; Robert was six years younger. Elizabeth belonged to the upper class, while Robert’s father was a bank clerk. 

Elizabeth had a spinal injury from childhood, as well as a lung disease. Her father never wanted her to marry. He forbade the romance. She was close to being a prisoner in her father’s house.Robert Browning’s poem that follows  gives you a sense of what their courtship was like.
Meeting at Night
The gray sea and the long black land; 
And the yellow half-moon large and low: 
And the startled little waves that leap 
In fiery ringlets from their sleep, 
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand. 
 
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach; 
Three fields to cross till a farm appears; 
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch 
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through joys and fears, 
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

Elizabeth secretly wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese for Robert while living in her father’s house. Most people consider the Sonnets to be Elizabeth’s best work. They are one of the most widely-read collections of love poems in the English language.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The two enamored poets managed to elope and run away to Italy. Elizabeth’s father never spoke to her again. In Florence, the bride’s health improved. Three years later she gave birth to a healthy son whom they nicknamed Pen.

Widely considered to be Robert’s best poems, a collection titled Men and Women was dedicated to Elizabeth. Robert insisted his wife was his inspiration.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived a True Love Story for the ages.I hope their romance inspires you as much as it does me.
~Sarah Raplee

14 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for reminding me of the hardships Robert and Elizabeth faced. Their love not only endured but grew stronger. How special Wlizabeth's health improved when she eloped with Robert to Italy.

Sarah Raplee said...

Isn't that amazing? They definitely earned their Happily Ever After!

Tam Linsey said...

I love this story - you incorporated the poems beautifully! Thank you for bringing love into my morning.

B. A. Binns said...

Real love stories are sometimes the best, and this one underscores the meaning of "soul mate." Right now I have agreed to judge a high school poetry contest, and I'm really seeing some things that have to come from the heart, not just poems about love, but about hardship, loss and fear. Sometimes I think these kids are really telling me something about me in their words.

Kylie Wolfe said...

What a wonderful post! I knew of their love story and have read and enjoyed Elizabeth's beautiful sonnet before. You took the facts and made their love story a celebration.

Diana Mcc. said...

Very cool! I never read about their love story before. Very interesting and I loved the poems. In 1844, courting wasn't always easy and especially against the odds they faced.
I'm so glad they got their Happily Ever After. Great post!

Diana Mcc. said...

Question: Do you know what happened to there son, Pen? Did he continue the family tradition of writing poetry?

Sarah Raplee said...

Tam, B.A., Kylie, and Diana,

Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you all enjoyed my post. The Brownings' love story is truly uplifting, isn't it?

B. A., you set a wonderful example by owning your power as a writer to do good in the world. Poetry is the most heartfelt writing on the planet. No wonder the kids' poems touch you so deeply!

Sarah Raplee said...

Diana, that's a good question. Pen Browning became an artist and sculptor.

Karen Duvall said...

What a wonderful and meaningful love story, Sarah. Thanks so much for sharing! I especially enjoyed Robert's poem that describes his clandestine trek across beach and field to meet with his one true love. Sigh... "Two hearts beating each to each." Incredible.

Christy C said...

I almost wrote about Robert and Elizabeth for my February post. Elizabeth's poems are my very favorite love poetry, and I think they are more powerful when you know the story behind them. I think it's interesting that Robert never remarried. Another love story that transcends the veil of life and death. Thank you for a great post, Sarah. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed my post, Karen. I love that poem, too.

Christy, I agree that many poems are more powerful when you know the story behind them. Although even without knowing what inspired a wonderful poem,a person can be moved to laughter or tears.

We struggle to make each word count as writers of prose. how much harder it must be for poets!

Robin Weaver, Author of Blue Ridge Fear said...

Most interesting,. I had never heard this story, so thanks for sharing.

Sarah Raplee said...

You're welcome, Robin. Thanks for stopping by.