Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CROWNED AND WEDDED, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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CROWNED AND WEDDED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When last before her people's face her own fair face she bent
Last Line: The blessings happy peasants have, be thine, o crowned queen!'
Subject(s): Marriage; Victoria, Queen Of England (1819-1901); Weddings; Husbands; Wives


I

WHEN last before her people's face her own fair face she bent,
Within the meek projection of that shade she was content
To erase the child-smile from her lips, which seemed as if it might
Be still kept holy from the world to childhood still in sight --
To erase it with a solemn vow, a princely vow -- to rule;
A priestly vow -- to rule by grace of God the pitiful;
A very godlike vow -- to rule in right and righteousness
And with the law and for the land -- so God the vower bless!

II

The minster was alight that day, but not with fire, I ween,
And long-drawn glitterings swept adown that mighty aisled scene;
The priests stood stoled in their pomp, the sworded chiefs in theirs,
And so, the collared knights, and so, the civil ministers,
And so, the waiting lords and dames, and little pages best
At holding trains, and legates so, from countries east and west;
So, alien princes, native peers, and highborn ladies bright,
Along whose brows the Queen's, now crowned, flashed coronets to light;
And so, the people at the gates with priestly hands on high
Which bring the first anointing to all legal majesty;
And so the DEAD, who lie in rows beneath the minster floor,
There verily an awful state maintaining evermore:
The statesman whose clean palm will kiss no bribe whate'er it be,
The courtier who for no fair queen will rise up to his knee,
The court-dame who for no court-tire will leave her shroud behind,
The laureate who no courtlier rhyme than 'dust to dust' can find,
The kings and queens who having made that vow and worn that crown,
Descended unto lower thrones and darker, deep adown:
Dieu et mon droit -- what is 't to them? what meaning can it have? --
The King of kings, the right of death -- God's judgment and the grave.
And when betwixt the quick and dead the young fair queen had vowed,
The living shouted 'May she live! Victoria, live!' aloud:
And as the loyal shouts went up, true spirits prayed between,
'The blessings happy monarchs have be thine, O crowned queen!'

III

But now before her people's face she bendeth hers anew,
And calls them, while she vows, to be her witness thereunto.
She vowed to rule, and in that oath her childhood put away:
She doth maintain her womanhood, in vowing love to-day.
O lovely lady! let her vow! such lips become such vows,
And fairer goeth bridal wreath than crown with vernal brows.
O lovely lady! let her vow! yea, let her vow to love!
And though she be no less a queen, with purples hung above,
The pageant of a court behind, the royal kin around,
And woven gold to catch her looks turned maidenly to ground,
Yet may the bride-veil hide from her a little of that state,
While loving hopes for retinues about her sweetness wait.
SHE vows to love who vowed to rule -- (the chosen at her side)
Let none say, God preserve the queen! but rather, Bless the bride!
None blow the trump, none bend the knee, none violate the dream
Wherein no monarch but a wife she to herself may seem.
Or if ye say, Preserve the queen! oh, breathe it inward low --
She is a woman, and beloved! and 't is enough but so.
Count it enough, thou noble prince who tak'st her by the hand
And claimest for thy lady-love our lady of the land!
And since, Prince Albert, men have called thy spirit high and rare,
And true to truth and brave for truth as some at Augsburg were,
We charge thee by thy lofty thoughts and by thy poet-mind
Which not by glory and degree takes measure of mankind,
Esteem that wedded hand less dear for sceptre than for ring,
And hold her uncrowned womanhood to be the royal thing.

IV

And now, upon our queen's last vow what blessings shall we pray?
None straitened to a shallow crown will suit our lips to-day:
Behold, they must be free as love, they must be broad as free,
Even to the borders of heaven's light and earth's humanity.
Long live she! -- send up loyal shouts, and true hearts
pray between, --
'The blessings happy PEASANTS have, be thine, O crowned queen!'





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