Poem introduction

This is from The Sonnets from the Portugese. It was one of the sonnets that she wrote during her courtship with Robert Browning and she didn’t give them to him for years because he apparently said women could write neither novels nor sonnets. They were disguised as translations, but they are some of the most artful and intelligent and passionate love poetry in English.

Sonnets from the Portuguese XXXVI

When we met first and loved, I did not build
Upon the event with marble. Could it mean
To last, a love set pendulous between
Sorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled,
Distrusting every light that seemed to gild
The onward path, and feared to overlean
A finger even. And, though I have grown serene
And strong since then, I think that God has willed
A still renewable fear . . . O love, O troth . . .
Lest these enclaspèd hands should never hold,
This mutual kiss drop down between us both
As an unowned thing, once the lips being cold.
And Love, be false! if he, to keep one oath,
Must lose one joy, by his life’s star foretold.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Downloads read by Jo Shapcott

1How Do I Love Thee?


2A Musical Instrument


3Aurora Leigh


4Sonnets from the Portuguese


Books by Elizabeth Barrett Browning