Three Sonnets from the Portuguese

for high voice and piano

Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1) When our two souls stand up erect and strong
2) I lived with visions for my company
3) Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers

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When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curved point — what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Beloved, where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the deathhour rounding it.

I lived with visions for my company,
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.
But soon their trailing purple was not free
Of this world’s dust, — their lutes did silent grow,
And I myself grew faint and blind below
Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come… to be,
Beloved, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours (better, yet the same,
As river water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants —
Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.

Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
Here’s Ivy! — take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.