Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
I. Patriotism
Parting Lovers
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
Sienna

I LOVE thee, love thee, Giulio!
  Some call me cold, and some demure,
And if thou hast ever guessed that so
  I love thee … well;—the proof was poor,
  And no one could be sure.        5
 
Before thy song (with shifted rhymes
  To suit my name) did I undo
The persian? If it moved sometimes,
  Thou hast not seen a hand push through
  A flower or two.        10
 
My mother listening to my sleep
  Heard nothing but a sigh at night,—
The short sigh rippling on the deep,—
  When hearts run out of breath and sigh
  Of men, to God’s clear light.        15
 
When others named thee,… thought thy brows
  Were straight, thy smile was tender,… “Here
He comes between the vineyard-rows!”—
  I said not “Ay,”—nor waited, Dear,
  To feel thee step too near.        20
 
I left such things to bolder girls,
  Olivia or Clotilda. Nay,
When that Clotilda through her curls
  Held both thine eyes in hers one day,
  I marvelled, let me say.        25
 
I could not try the woman’s trick:
  Between us straightway fell the blush
Which kept me separate, blind, and sick.
  A wind came with thee in a flush,
  As blow through Horeb’s bush.        30
 
But now that Italy invokes
  Her young men to go forth and chase
The foe or perish,—nothing chokes
  My voice, or drives me from the place:
  I look thee in the face.        35
 
I love thee! it is understood,
  Confest: I do not shrink or start:
No blushes: all my body’s blood
  Has gone to greaten this poor heart,
  That, loving, we may part.        40
 
Our Italy invokes the youth
  To die if need be. Still there ’s room,
Though earth is strained with dead, in truth.
  Since twice the lilies were in bloom
  They had not grudged a tomb.        45
 
And many a plighted maid and wife
  And mother, who can say since then
“My country,” cannot say through life
  “My son,” “my spouse,” “my flower of men,”
  And not weep dumb again.        50
 
Heroic males the country bears,
  But daughters give up more than sons.
Flags wave, drums beat, and unawares
  You flash your souls out with the guns,
  And take your heaven at once!        55
 
But we,—we empty heart and home
  Of life’s life, love! we bear to think
You ’re gone,… to feel you may not come,…
  To hear the door-latch stir and clink
  Yet no more you,… nor sink.        60
 
Dear God! when Italy is one
  And perfected from bound to bound,…
Suppose (for my share) earth ’s undone
  By one grave in ’t! as one small wound
  May kill a man, ’t is found!        65
 
What then? If love’s delight must end,
  At least we ’ll clear its truth from flaws.
I love thee, love thee, sweetest friend!
  Now take my sweetest without pause,
  To help the nation’s cause.        70
 
And thus of noble Italy
  We ’ll both be worthy. Let her show
The future how we made her free,
  Not sparing life, nor Giulio,
  Nor this … this heart-break. Go!        75
 
 
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