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Poem by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning
Only a Curl
I. FRIENDS of faces unknown and a land Unvisited over the sea, Who tell me how lonely you stand With a single gold curl in the hand Held up to be looked at by me, -- II. While you ask me to ponder and say What a father and mother can do, With the bright fellow-locks put away Out of reach, beyond kiss, in the clay Where the violets press nearer than you. III. Shall I speak like a poet, or run Into weak woman's tears for relief ? Oh, children ! -- I never lost one, -- Yet my arm 's round my own little son, And Love knows the secret of Grief. IV. And I feel what it must be and is, When God draws a new angel so Through the house of a man up to His, With a murmur of music, you miss, And a rapture of light, you forgo. V. How you think, staring on at the door, Where the face of your angel flashed in, That its brightness, familiar before, Burns off from you ever the more For the dark of your sorrow and sin. VI. `God lent him and takes him,' you sigh ; -- Nay, there let me break with your pain : God 's generous in giving, say I, -- And the thing which He gives, I deny That He ever can take back again. VII. He gives what He gives. I appeal To all who bear babes -- in the hour When the veil of the body we feel Rent round us, -- while torments reveal The motherhood's advent in power, VIII. And the babe cries ! -- has each of us known By apocalypse (God being there Full in nature) the child is our own, Life of life, love of love, moan of moan, Through all changes, all times, everywhere. IX. He 's ours and for ever. Believe, O father ! -- O mother, look back To the first love's assurance. To give Means with God not to tempt or deceive With a cup thrust in Benjamin's sack. X. He gives what He gives. Be content ! He resumes nothing given, -- be sure ! God lend ? Where the usurers lent In His temple, indignant He went And scourged away all those impure. XI. He lends not ; but gives to the end, As He loves to the end. If it seem That He draws back a gift, comprehend 'Tis to add to it rather, -- amend, And finish it up to your dream, -- XII. Or keep, -- as a mother will toys Too costly, though given by herself, Till the room shall be stiller from noise, And the children more fit for such joys, Kept over their heads on the shelf. XIII. So look up, friends ! you, who indeed Have possessed in your house a sweet piece Of the Heaven which men strive for, must need Be more earnest than others are,--speed Where they loiter, persist where they cease. XIV. You know how one angel smiles there. Then weep not. 'Tis easy for you To be drawn by a single gold hair Of that curl, from earth's storm and despair, To the safe place above us. Adieu.
Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's other poems:
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