Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861 / Durham / England)

A Woman's Shortcomings


She has laughed as softly as if she sighed,
She has counted six, and over,
Of a purse well filled, and a heart well tried -
Oh, each a worthy lover!
They "give her time"; for her soul must slip
Where the world has set the grooving;
She will lie to none with her fair red lip:
But love seeks truer loving.

She trembles her fan in a sweetness dumb,
As her thoughts were beyond recalling;
With a glance for one, and a glance for some,
From her eyelids rising and falling;
Speaks common words with a blushful air,
Hears bold words, unreproving;
But her silence says - what she never will swear -
And love seeks better loving.

Go, lady! lean to the night-guitar,
And drop a smile to the bringer;
Then smile as sweetly, when he is far,
At the voice of an in-door singer.
Bask tenderly beneath tender eyes;
Glance lightly, on their removing;
And join new vows to old perjuries -
But dare not call it loving!

Unless you can think, when the song is done,
No other is soft in the rhythm;
Unless you can feel, when left by One,
That all men else go with him;
Unless you can know, when unpraised by his breath,
That your beauty itself wants proving;
Unless you can swear "For life, for death!" -
Oh, fear to call it loving!

Unless you can muse in a crowd all day
On the absent face that fixed you;
Unless you can love, as the angels may,
With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;
Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,
Through behoving and unbehoving;
Unless you can die when the dream is past -
Oh, never call it loving!

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Read poems about / on: guitar, smile, dream, faith, silence, song, red, beauty, fear, heaven, woman, death, world, love, night, women, rose, angel

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  • Silver Star - 8,346 Points Mr. Nobody (3/25/2014 9:55:00 AM)

    VERY nice! I felt such a smooth warm flow while reading this masterpiece! ! !


    thanks! (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 10,094 Points * Sunprincess * (3/19/2014 9:52:00 AM)

    ........my favourite stanza...
    Unless you can muse in a crowd all day
    On the absent face that fixed you;
    Unless you can love, as the angels may,
    With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;
    Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,
    Through behoving and unbehoving;
    Unless you can die when the dream is past -
    Oh, never call it loving! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Alaine Debreaux (10/27/2011 2:38:00 PM)

    I just wanted to say that I, like Justin Hayward, was reminded of this poem when I saw the movie 'Adventure' with Clark Gable and Greer Garson, whose movies I just adore, but have to admit I had never seen this movie. It brought the poem back into mind and I had to go search for it to read it in full again. I remembered how I kept a copy of it on the corkboard above my desk at college. Who does not remember Browning from his/her college days? Different kind of movie for Gable and Garson, but memorable because of them. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Justin Hayward (12/21/2009 9:59:00 PM)

    Wonderful.., by very good fortune I stumbled upon this lovely poem via a Classic
    movie starring Greer Garson / Clark Gable called 'Adventure'.Again fortune smiled
    on me and fate took a hand on youtube...and here I am. Her poems and this movie
    are just what the doctor ordered for a rank sentimentalist... and aspiring romantic.
    Greer Garson delivers the last stanza impeccably! What a GREAT MOVIE.....
    WHAT A GREAT POEM! ! now to reading all of her works.See the Film.... (Report) Reply

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