Sonnets from the Portuguese

Sonnet 1, Window 1

Austin Moore - Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon

Charles J. Connick Associates, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

Elizabeth was thirty-eight years old when she wrote the first sonnet in her famous sonnet series, Sonnets from the Portuguese. She had been a semi-invalid for years and, in the sonnet, expresses a feeling that she is preparing for some great change in her life, assuming that the change will be death.

This first window symbolizes the Coming of Love. The Mystic Shape with the wings suggests the Seraphim of Love and surprises Elizabeth by dropping a red heart, symbolizing love, into her waiting hands.

Sonnet #1

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's
Sonnets from the Portuguese
Sonnet 1

I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A Shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair,
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--
'Guess now who holds thee?'--'Death,' I said.
     But, there,
The silver answer rang,--'Not Death, but Love.'

The silver answer rang, 'Not Death, but Love.'

In memory of Austin Moore

Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Charles R. Moore