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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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"Thoughtful in the smallest things for others, she seemed to give little thought to herself. The first to see merit, she was the last to censure faults, and gave the praise that she felt with a generous hand. No one so heartily rejoiced at the success of others, no one was so modest in her own triumphs. She loved all who offered her affection, and would solace and advise with any. Mrs. Browning belonged to no particular country; the world was inscribed upon the banner under which she fought. Wrong was her enemy; against this she wrestled, in whatever part of the globe it was to be found."

Three years after her marriage her only son was born. The Italians ever after called her "the mother of the beautiful child." And now some of her ablest and strongest work was done. Her Casa Guidi Windows appeared in 1851. It is the story of the struggle for Italian liberty. In the same volume were published the Portuguese Sonnets, really her own love-life. It would be difficult to find any thing more beautiful than these.

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    "First time he kissed me he but only kissed
    The fingers of this hand wherewith I write,
    And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
    Slow to world-greetings, quick with its 'Oh, list,'
    When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
    I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
    Than that first kiss. The second passed in height
    The first, and sought the forehead, and half-missed
    Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
    That was the chrism of love, which love's own crown
    With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
    The third upon my lips was folded down
    In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
    I have been proud and said, 'My love, my own!'

* * * * *

    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."

Mrs. Browning's next great poem, in 1856, was Aurora Leigh, a novel in blank verse, "the most mature," she says in the preface, "of my works, and the one into which my highest convictions upon Life and Art have entered." Walter Savage Landor said of it: "In many pages there is the wild imagination of Shakespeare. I had no idea that any one in this age was capable of such poetry."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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