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TO MY FATHER.
WHEN your eyes
page of dedication, and you start to see to whom it is inscribed, your first thought will be of the time far off when I was a child and wrote verses, and when I dedicated them to you, who were my public and my critic. Of all that such a recollection implies of saddest and sweetest to both of us, it would become neither of us to speak before the world ; nor would it be possible for us to speak of it to one another, with voices that did not falter. Enough, that what is in my heart when I write thus, will be fully known to yours. And
my desire is that you, who are a witness how, if this art of poetry had been a less earnest object to me, it must have fallen from exhausted hands before this day,—that you, who have shared with me in things bitter and sweet, softening or enhancing them, every day,—that you, who hold with me over all sense of loss and transiency, one hope by one Name,-may accept from me the inscription of these volumes, the exponents of a few years of an existence which has been sustained and comforted by you as well as given. Somewhat more faint-hearted than I used to be, it is my fancy thus to seem to return to a visible personal dependence on you, as if indeed I were a child again ; to conjure your
beloved image between myself and the public, so as to be sure of one smile,—and to satisfy my heart while I sanctify my ambition, by associating with the great pursuit of my life, its tenderest and holiest affection.
E. B. B. LONDON, 50 WIMPOLE STREET,
The poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning have won an assured and high place in English literature, and many of the finest of them, such as “ The Drama of Exile,” which established her poetical reputation; "The Seraphim ;" “The Rhyme of the Duchess May,” etc., are extremely popular. The shorter poems (some of them gems of thought), by which she is best known, perhaps, to the general public, are embodied in this volume. And as it has been usual of late years to include the early poems of our great poets in their collected works, Mrs. Browning's have also been retained.
A brief Memoir of the Author has been prefixed to the poems, with the addition of personal reminiscences of Mrs. Browning from the pen of her intimate friend, Mrs. David Ogilvy, who resided in Italy at the Casa Guidi with the poetess and her gifted husband in 1849-50.
PREFACE TO THE 1844 EDITION.
The collection here offered to the pubiic consists of poems which have been written in the interim between the period of the publication of my "Seraphim” and the present; variously coloured, or perhaps shadowed, by the life of which they are the natural expression, -and, with the exception of a few contributions to English or American periodicals, are printed now for the first time.
As the first poem of this collection, the “Drama of Exile,” is the longest and most important work (to me!) which I ever trusted into the current of publication, I may be pardoned for entreating the reader's attention to the fact, that I decided on publishing it after considerable hesitation and doubt. The subject of the Drama rather fastened on me than was chosen ; and the form, approaching the model of the Greek tragedy, shaped itself under my hand, rather by force of pleasure than of design. But when the excitement of composition had subsided, I felt afraid of my position. My subject was the new and strange experience of the fallen humanity, as it went forth from Paradise into the wilderness; with a peculiar reference to Eve's allotted grief, which, considering that self-sacrifice belonged to her womanhood, and the consciousness of originating the Fall to her offence, — appeared to me imperfectly apprehended hitherto, and more expressible by a woman than a man. There was room, at least, for lyrical emotion in those first steps into the wilderness,-in that first sense of desolation after wrath,—in that first audible gathering of the recriminating “groan of the whole creation," in that first darkening of the hills from the recoiling feet of angels,--and in that first silence of the voice of God. And I took pleasure in driving in, like a pile, stroke upon stroke, the Idea of Exile,--admitting Lucifer as an extreme Adam, to represent the ultimate tendencies of sin and loss,—that it might be strong to bear up the contrary Idea of the Heavenly love and purity. But when all was done, I felt afraid, as I said before, of my position. I had promised my own prudence to shut close the gates of Eden between Milton and myself, so that none might say I dared to walk in his footsteps. He should be within, I thought, with his Adam and Eve unfallen or falling, and I, without, with my EXILES,—I also an exile. It would not do. The subject, and his glory covering it, swept through the gates, and I stood full in it, against my will
, and contrary to my vow,—till I shrank back fearing, almost desponding; hesitating to venture even a passing association with our great poet before the face of the public. Whether at last I took courage for the venture, by a sudden revival of that love of manuscript which should be classed by moral philosophers among the natural affections, or by the encouraging voice of a dear friend, it is not interesting to the reader to inquire. Neither could the fact affect