Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
A Song against Singing
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
To E. J. H.

    THEY bid me sing to thee,
Thou golden-haired and silver-voicëd child
With lips by no worse sigh than sleep’s defiled—
With eyes unknowing how tears dim the sight,
And feet all trembling at the new delight        5
    Treaders of earth to be!
 
    Ah no! the lark may bring
A song to thee from out the morning cloud,
The merry river from its lilies bowed,
The brisk rain from the trees, the lucky wind        10
That half doth make its music, half doth find,—
    But I—I may not sing.
 
    How could I think it right,
New-comer on our earth as, Sweet, thou art,
To bring a verse from out an human heart        15
Made heavy with accumulated tears,
And cross with such amount of weary years
    Thy day-sum of delight?
 
    Even if the verse were said,
Thou, who wouldst clap thy tiny hands to hear        20
The wind or rain, gay bird or river clear,
Wouldst, at that sound of sad humanities,
Upturn thy bright uncomprehending eyes
    And bid me play instead.
 
    Therefore no song of mine,—        25
But prayer in place of singing; prayer that would
Commend thee to the new-creating God
Whose gift is childhood’s heart without its stain
Of weakness, ignorance, and changing vain—
    That gift of God be thine!        30
 
    So wilt thou aye be young,
In lovelier childhood than thy shining brow
And pretty winning accents make thee now:
Yea, sweeter than this scarce articulate sound
(How sweet!) of “father,” “mother,” shall be found        35
    The ABBA on thy tongue.
 
    And so, as years shall chase
Each other’s shadows, thou wilt less resemble
Thy fellows of the earth who toil and tremble,
Than him thou seëst not, thine angel bold        40
Yet meek, whose ever-lifted eyes behold
    The Ever-loving’s face.
 
 
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