Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5

March 5, 1845 Miss Barrett is still attempting to introduce herself to Browning. She is a bit concerned that he sees her as an invalid and wants to set him on the right path:

"...I am essentially better, and have been for several winters; and I feel as if it were intended for me to live and not die, and I am reconciled to the feeling. Yes! I am satisfied to 'take up' with the blind hopes again, and have them in the house with me, for all that I sit by the window. By the way, did the chorus utter scorn in the μεγ' ωφελημα. I think not. It is well to fly towards the light, even where there may be some fluttering and bruising of wings against the windowpanes, is it not?...

Which makes her think of poetry...

"There is an obscurer passage, on which I covet your thoughts, where Prometheus, after the sublime declaration that, with a full knowledge of the penalty reserved for him, he had sinned of free will and choice—goes on to say—or to seem to say—that he had not, however, foreseen the extent and detail of the torment, the skiey rocks, and the friendless desolation. See v. 275. The intention of the poet might have been to magnify to his audience the torment of the martyrdom—but the heroism of the martyr diminishes in proportion—and there appears to be a contradiction, and oversight. Or is my view wrong? Tell me. And tell me too, if Æschylus not the divinest of all the divine Greek souls? People say after Quintilian, that he is savage and rude; a sort of poetic Orson, with his locks all wild. But I will not hear it of my master! He is strong as Zeus is—and not as a boxer—and tender as Power itself, which always is tenderest."

You see where her heart lay in March 1845. Her heart was in poetry. Greek or English. And she wanted to discuss it with another poet.

"But to go back to the view of Life with the blind Hopes; you are not to think—whatever I may have written or implied—that I lean either to the philosophy or affectation which beholds the world through darkness instead of light, and speaks of it wailingly...I am not desponding by nature, and after a course of bitter mental discipline and long bodily seclusion, I come out with two learnt lessons (as I sometimes say and oftener feel),—the wisdom of cheerfulness—and the duty of social intercourse. Anguish has instructed me in joy, and solitude in society...What we call Life is a condition of the soul, and the soul must improve in happiness and wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.

And I do like to hear testimonies like yours, to happiness, and I feel it to be a testimony of a higher sort than the obvious one. Still, it is obvious too that you have been spared, up to this time, the great natural afflictions, against which we are nearly all called, sooner or later, to struggle and wrestle—or your step would not be 'on the stair' quite so lightly. And so, we turn to you, dear Mr. Browning, for comfort and gentle spiriting! Remember that as you owe your unscathed joy to God, you should pay it back to His world. And I thank you for some of it already.
Also, writing as from friend to friend—as you say rightly that we are—I ought to confess that of one class of griefs (which has been called too the bitterest), I know as little as you. The cruelty of the world, and the treason of it—the unworthiness of the dearest; of these griefs I have scanty knowledge. It seems to me from my personal experience that there is kindness everywhere in different proportions, and more goodness and tenderheartedness than we read of in the moralists. People have been kind to me, even without understanding me, and pitiful to me, without approving of me:—nay, have not the very critics tamed their beardom for me, and roared delicately as sucking doves, on behalf of me? I have no harm to say of your world, though I am not of it, as you see. And I have the cream of it in your friendship, and a little more, and I do not envy much the milkers of the cows.
How kind you are!—how kindly and gently you speak to me! Some things you say are very touching, and some, surprising; and although I am aware that you unconsciously exaggerate what I can be to you, yet it is delightful to be broad awake and think of you as my friend."

She is being humble and sweet and doing a great job laying on the praise. She doesn't want him to pity her, she wants him to discuss poetry and Greek and every other topic with her. I think she will get more that she ever expected.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I see she is focused on her interests hoping his interest is the same.