Poetry Turnstile: the esteemed Mrs Browning on a Friday afternoon



I thought, seeing as it is Friday afternoon and I am working to a deadline (I must send the final, polished version of Chapter 2 to my supervisors before day’s end) – that it is only right to steal a moment or two or three for poetry.

My eldest brother gave me this particular volume, The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for Christmas one year. It is such a beautiful object (as above) – complete with note a penned by a long-ago previous owner in one of the first, blank pages. This poem, which I think is just so lovely is, My Doves. Thank you Mrs Browning and how lovely your birds.


My Doves


My little doves have left a nest
Upon an Indian tree,
Whose leaves fantastic take their rest
Or motion from the sea;
For, ever there, the sea-winds go
With sunlit paces to and fro.


The tropic flowers look’d up to it,
The tropic stars look’d down;
And there my little doves did sit,
With feathers softly brown,
And glittering eyes, that shew’d their right
To general nature’s deep delight.


And God them taught, at every close
Of water far, and wind,
And liften leaf, to interpose
Their chanting voices kin;
Interpreting that love must be
The meaning of the earth and sea.


Fit ministers! of living loves,
Theirs hath the calmest sound-
Their living voice the likest moves
To lifeless noises round –
In such sweet monotone as clings
To music of insensate things!


My little doves were ta’en away
From that glad nest of theirs,
Across an ocean foaming aye,
And tempest-clouded airs,
My little doves – who lately knew
The sky and wave by warmth and blue.


And now, within the city prison,
In mist and chillness pent,
With sudden upward look they listen
For sounds of past content –
For lapse of water, swell of breeze,
Or nut-fruit falling from the trees!


The stir without, the glow of passion,
The triumph of the mart,
The gold and silver’s dreary clashing
With man’s metallic heart-
The wheeled pomp, the pauper tread-
These only sounds are heard instead.


Yet still, as on my human hand
Their fearless heads they lean,
And almost seem to understand
What human musings mean
(With such a plaintive gaze their eyne
Are fastened upwardly to mine!)


Their chant is soft as on the nest,
Beneath the sunny sky:
For love that stirred it in their breast
Remains undyingly,
And ‘neath the city’s shade can keep
The well of music clear and deep.


And love that keeps the music, fills
With pastoral memories;
All echoing form out the hills,
All droppings form the skies,
All flowings from the wave and wind,
Remembered in their change I find.


So teach ye me the wisest part,
My little doves! To move
Along the city ways, with heart
Assured by holy love,
And vocal with such songs as own
A fountain to the world unknown.


‘Twas hard to sing by Babel’s stream-
More hard, in Babel’s street!
But if the soulless creatures deem
Their music not unmeet
For sunless walls-let us begin
Who wear immortal wings – within!


To me, fair memories belong
Of scenes that erst did bless,
For no regret- but present song
And lasting thankfulness,
And very soon to break away,
Like types, in purer things than they!


I will have hopes that cannot face,
For flowers the valley yields-
I will have humble thoughts instead
Of silent, dewy fields!
My spirit and my God shall be
My seaward hill, my boundless sea!




1 Comment

Filed under Poetry turnstile, Posts of an unqualified kind

One response to “Poetry Turnstile: the esteemed Mrs Browning on a Friday afternoon

  1. ‘Across an ocean foaming aye/ And tempest-clouded airs/ My little doves – who lately knew/ The sky and wave by warmth and blue.’

    So, so lovely

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