Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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

A Woman's Shortcomings - Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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!


Comments about A Woman's Shortcomings by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:49:00 AM)

    EBB was born before her time. She is the most genius female poetess. (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:48:00 AM)

    (8) ... she gave birth to a son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, whom they called Pen. Their son later married but had no legitimate children. At her husband's insistence, the second edition of Elizabeth’s Poems included her love sonnets; as a result, her popularity increased (as well as critical regard) , and her position was confirmed. (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:48:00 AM)

    (7) ...As Elizabeth had some money of her own, the couple were reasonably comfortable in Italy, and their relationship together was harmonious. The Brownings were well respected in Italy, and even famous. Elizabeth grew stronger and in 1849, at the age of 43, between four miscarriages, (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:47:00 AM)

    (6) ....Wilson, who witnessed the marriage, accompanied the couple to Italy.
    Mr. Barrett disinherited Elizabeth, as he did each of his children who married. Elizabeth had foreseen her father's anger but not expected the disgust of her brothers, who saw Browning as a lower-class gold-digger and refused to see him.
    (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:46:00 AM)

    (5) ...Six years his elder and an invalid, she could not believe that the vigorous and worldly Robert Browning really loved her as much as he professed to. After a private marriage at St. Marylebone Parish Church, they honeymooned in Paris. Browning then imitated his hero Shelley by spiriting his wife off to Italy, in September 1846, which became her home almost continuously until her death. Elizabeth's loyal nurse, (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:45:00 AM)

    (4) ....of a woman of great learning, rich experience, and powerful genius, uniting to her woman’s nature the strength which is sometimes thought peculiar to a man.
    The courtship and marriage between Robert Browning and Elizabeth were carried out secretly as she and her siblings were convinced their father would disapprove.
    (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:44:00 AM)

    (3) ....It is the story of a female writer making her way in life, balancing work and love. The writings depicted in this novel are based on similar, personal experiences that Elizabeth suffered through herself. The North American Review praised Elizabeth’s poem in these words: Mrs. Browning’s poems are, in all respects, the utterance of a woman— (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:44:00 AM)

    (2) .... Portuguese was a pet name Browning used. Sonnets from the Portuguese also refers to the series of sonnets of the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões; in all these poems she used rhyme schemes typical of the Portuguese sonnets. The verse-novel Aurora Leigh, her most ambitious and perhaps the most popular of her longer poems, appeared in 1856............please read (3) (Report)Reply

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  • Sylvia Frances Chan (1/31/2019 2:42:00 AM)

    (1) To know about her poem, we must dive first in her life as she was leading................she is my fav. poetess, since I was a teen. CONGRATULATIONS to the family of the late Mrs. E.Barrett Browning. Due to Robert Browning, she became this famous. True love gained a female genius poetess, yes! (Report)Reply

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  • (1/30/2019 12:34:00 PM)

    Woman! ! With her fair red lips!

    And to drop a smile! ! ! ! ! !

    Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
    (Report)Reply

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  • Drtony Brahmin (1/30/2019 9:49:00 AM)

    the great Browning. we studied these poems in the literatue classes... excellent. tony (Report)Reply

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  • Parameswaran Nair Damodaran Nair (1/30/2019 9:10:00 AM)

    Lovely poem worthy for POD (Report)Reply

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  • (1/30/2019 4:22:00 AM)

    Lovely words of warning? ......love is never so adorning! (Report)Reply

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  • Bernard F. Asuncion (1/30/2019 12:34:00 AM)

    A wonderful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning..... (Report)Reply

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  • Chuy Amante (3/25/2014 9:55:00 AM)

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


    thanks!
    (Report)Reply

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  • (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

    1 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (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

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  • (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

    5 person liked.
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  • (10/17/2008 2:33:00 PM)

    amazing poem! amazing poet! overall amazing! (Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
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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



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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