Sonnet 15 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Analysis

Sonnet 15

Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear
Too calm and sad a face in front of thine;
For we two look two ways, and cannot shine
With the same sunlight on our brow and hair.
On me thou lookest with no doubting care,
As on a bee shut in a crystalline;
Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love’s divine,
And to spread wing and fly in the outer air
Were most impossible failure, if I strove
To fail so. But I look on thee—on thee—
Beholding, besides love, the end of love,
Hearing oblivion beyond memory;
As one who sits and gazes from above,
Over the rivers to the bitter sea.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)

From ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’, written ca. 1845–1846 and first published in 1850, a collection of 44 love sonnets written after she met her husband Robert Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular in the poet’s lifetime and it remains so today.

L1-4 … we see life differently – we have different emotions and the poet (EBB) asks to be accepted when seen as calm and sad

L5-7 … you (Robert) look on me (EBB) as viewing locked beauty because of love – as a crystalline bee … it suggests precious jewellery

L8-10 (part – … if I strove to fail so.) … and if I were to strive to fly away you would still see me in that light

L10 (part – But I look on thee …) -14 … but I look on you and think of the end of our love … when I will forget you … without memory … as one who gazes beyond the rivers (the present time of my life) to a bitter sea (a future time) – implies death when all is lost forgotten and no more … our love is a mere diminishing window when compared to the enormity of the never ending procession of time

Details of Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning

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