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ON SITTING DOWN TO READ

KING LEAR

ONCE

AGAIN.

O golden-tongued Romance with serene lute !
Fair plumed Syren ! Queen ! if far away!
Leave melodising on this wintry day,
Shut

up thine olden volume, and be mute.
Adieu ! for once again the fierce dispute
Betwixt hell torment and impassioned clay
Must I burn through ; once more assay
The bitter sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.
Chief poet! and ye clouds of Albion,
Begetters of our deep eternal theme,
When I am through the old oak forest gone
Let me not wander in a barren dream,
But when I am consumed with the Fire,
Give me new Phønix-wings to fly at my desire.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING. [Born, 1809. • Prometheus Bound, and Poems," published, 1833. “Aurora Leigh,"1856. “ Casa Guidi

66

Windows,” 1858. “Poems before Congress,” 1860. Died, 1861. “Last Poems,” 1862.]

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HOW TO GET THE GOOD OUT OF A BOOK.

Or else 1 sate on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and

prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits—so much help
By so much reading. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty, and salt of truth-
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.

(Aurora Leigh. First Book.)

a

THE WORLD OF BOOKS IS STILL THE WORLD.

Yet, behold, Behold !—the world of books is still the world; And worldlings in it are less merciful

And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the

grave

aside From their calm locks, and undiscomfited Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask. True, many a prophet teaches in the roads ; True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens. Upon his own head in strong martyrdom, In order to light men a moment's space.

(Ibid.)

THE POETS.

Books, books, books! I had found the secret of a garret-room Piled high with cases in my

father's name; Piled high, packed large-where, creeping in and

out

Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I feit it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books !

At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.

As the earth
Plunges in fury when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing

flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom—thus my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.

What's this, Aurora Leigh?
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?

Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup !

I write so
Of the only truth-tellers now left to God-
The only speakers of essential truth,
Opposed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel-wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime—the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder—“ This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us ! what are you about ?”
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,

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