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The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume IV

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Of English blood, of Tuscan birth,

What country should we give her?

Instead of any on the earth,

The civic Heavens receive her.


And here among the English tombs

In Tuscan ground we lay her,

While the blue Tuscan sky endomes

Our English words of prayer.


A little child!—how long she lived,

By months, not years, is reckoned:

Born in one July, she survived

Alone to see a second.


Bright-featured, as the July sun

Her little face still played in,

And splendours, with her birth begun,

Had had no time for fading.


So, Lily, from those July hours,

No wonder we should call her;

She looked such kinship to the flowers,—

Was but a little taller.


A Tuscan Lily,—only white,

As Dante, in abhorrence

Of red corruption, wished aright

The lilies of his Florence.


We could not wish her whiter,—her

Who perfumed with pure blossom

The house—a lovely thing to wear

Upon a mother’s bosom!


This July creature thought perhaps

Our speech not worth assuming;

She sat upon her parents’ laps

And mimicked the gnat’s humming;


Said “father,” “mother”—then left off,

For tongues celestial, fitter:

Her hair had grown just long enough

To catch heaven’s jasper-glitter.


Babes! Love could always hear and see

Behind the cloud that hid them.

“Let little children come to Me,

And do not thou forbid them.”


So, unforbidding, have we met,

And gently here have laid her,

Though winter is no time to get

The flowers that should o’erspread her:


We should bring pansies quick with spring,

Rose, violet, daffodilly,

And also, above everything,

White lilies for our Lily.


Nay, more than flowers, this grave exacts,—

Glad, grateful attestations

Of her sweet eyes and pretty acts,

With calm renunciations.


Her very mother with light feet

Should leave the place too earthy,

Saying “The angels have thee, Sweet,

Because we are not worthy.”


But winter kills the orange-buds,

The gardens in the frost are,

And all the heart dissolves in floods,

Remembering we have lost her.


Poor earth, poor heart,—too weak, too weak

To miss the July shining!

Poor heart!—what bitter words we speak

When God speaks of resigning!


Sustain this heart in us that faints,

Thou God, the self-existent!

We catch up wild at parting saints

And feel Thy heaven too distant.


The wind that swept them out of sin

Has ruffled all our vesture:

On the shut door that let them in

We beat with frantic gesture,—


To us, us also, open straight!

The outer life is chilly;

Are we too, like the earth, to wait

Till next year for our Lily?


—Oh, my own baby on my knees,

My leaping, dimpled treasure,

At every word I write like these,

Clasped close with stronger pressure!


Too well my own heart understands,—

At every word beats fuller—

My little feet, my little hands,

And hair of Lily’s colour!


But God gives patience, Love learns strength,

And Faith remembers promise,

And Hope itself can smile at length

On other hopes gone from us....