Poet of the Month
Elizabeth Barrett Br0wning
Elizabeth Barrett Browing was born March 6, 1806, in Durham England. She was the first in her family to be born in England, as she came from a long line of Jamaican Plantation owners. Educated at home, Elizabeth had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of ten. By her the age of 12, she had written her first "epic" poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish, and throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament, but her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church. In 1826, Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Gaining attention for her work in the 1830s, Elizabeth continued to live in her father's London house under his tyrannical rule. He began sending Elizabeth's younger siblings to Jamaica to help with the family's estates, but Elizabeth bitterly opposed slavery and did not want her siblings sent away. During this time, she wrote The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838), expressing Christian sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy. This volume gained the attention of poet Robert Browning, whose work Elizabeth had praised in one of her poems, and they began writing each other letters over the next twenty months. Their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry, but in 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth's health improved and she bore a son, Robert Wideman Browning. Her father never spoke to her again. Political and social themes embody Elizabeth's later work. She expressed her intense sympathy for the struggle for the unification of Italy in Casa Guidi Windows (1848-1851) and Poems Before Congress (1860). In 1857 Browning published her verse novel Aurora Leigh, which portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry, she also addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians, the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity, Elizabeth was heard and recognized around Europe. Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861. Below is one of her poems.
Only a Curl
FRIENDS of faces unknown and a land
Unvisited over the sea,
Who tell me how lonely you stand
With a single gold curl in the hand
Held up to be looked at by me, —
While you ask me to ponder and say
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She’s white and clean
and sometimes mean
because when she tries to take away the
on your yellow notepad,
she makes them more apparent
to the naked eye
contradicting her whole purpose
I wish you could do everything
your directions said you could.
You are just chemicals mixed in a bottle
that sloppily attempt
to hide my mistakes.