Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Cowper’s Grave
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
IT is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart’s decaying;
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying:
Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.
 
O poets, from a maniac’s tongue was poured the deathless singing!        5
O Christians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!
 
And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory,        10
And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted,
 
He shall be strong to sanctify the poet’s high vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration;
Nor ever shall he be, in praise, by wise or good forsaken,        15
Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken.
 
With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him;        20
 
And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences:
The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber.
 
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,        25
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses:
The very world, by God’s constraint, from falsehood’s ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving.
 
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing,        30
He testified this solemn truth, while phrenzy desolated,
—Nor man nor nature satisfies whom only God created.
 
Like a sick child that knoweth not his mother while she blesses
And drops upon his burning brow the coolness of her kisses,—
That turns his fevered eyes around—“My mother! where’s my mother?”—        35
As if such tender words and deeds could come from any other!—
 
The fever gone, with leaps of heart he sees her bending o’er him,
Her face all pale from watchful love, the unweary love she bore him!—
Thus woke the poet from the dream his life’s long fever gave him,
Beneath those deep pathetic Eyes which closed in death to save him.        40
 
Thus? oh, not thus! no type of earth can image that awaking,
Wherein he scarcely heard the chant of seraphs, round him breaking,
Or felt the new immortal throb of soul from body parted,
But felt those eyes alone, and knew,—“My Saviour! not deserted!”
 
Deserted! Who hath dreamt that when the cross in darkness rested,        45
Upon the Victim’s hidden face no love was manifested?
What frantic hands outstretched have e’er the atoning drops averted?
What tears have washed them from the soul, that one should be deserted?
 
Deserted! God could separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father:        50
Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken—
It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!”
 
It went up from the Holy’s lips amid His lost creation,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation!
That earth’s worst phrenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope’s fruition,        55
And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see his rapture in a vision.
 
 
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