22 Jul 2013

Grief -- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(England, 1806–1861)

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy dead in silence like to death —
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
If it could weep, it could arise and go.

First published in 1844.
Quiller-Couch, AT (ed), 1919, The Oxford book of English verse, 1250–1900, Oxford: Clarendon.

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