Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LOVED ONCE, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

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LOVED ONCE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I classed, appraising once
Last Line: Who dream that they loved once.
Subject(s): Complacency; Despair


I CLASSED, appraising once,
Earth's lamentable sounds, -- the wella-day,
The jarring yea and nay,
The fall of kisses on unanswering clay,
The sobbed farewell, the welcome mournfuller, --
But all did leaven the air
With a less bitter leaven of sure despair
Than these words -- 'I loved ONCE.'


And who saith 'I loved ONCE'?
Not angels, -- whose clear eyes, love, love foresee,
Love, through eternity,
And by To Love do apprehend To Be.
Not God, called LOVE, his noble crown-name casting,
A light too broad for blasting:
The great God, changing not from everlasting,
Saith never 'I loved ONCE.'


Oh, never is 'Loved ONCE'
Thy word, Thou Victim-Christ, misprized friend!
Thy cross and curse may rend,
But having loved Thou lovest to the end.
This is man's saying -- man's: too weak to move
One sphered star above,
Man desecrates the eternal God-word Love
By his No More, and Once.


How say ye 'We loved once,'
Blasphemers? Is your earth not cold enow,
Mourners, without that snow?
Ah friends, and would ye wrong each other so?
And could ye say of some whose love is known,
Whose prayers have met your own,
Whose tears have fallen for you, whose smiles have shown
So long, -- 'We loved them ONCE'?


Could ye 'We loved her once'
Say calm of me, sweet friends, when out of sight?
When hearts of better right
Stand in between me and your happy light?
Or when, as flowers kept too long in the shade,
Ye find my colors fade,
And all that is not love in me decayed?
Such words -- Ye loved me ONCE!


Could ye 'We loved her once'
Say cold of me when further put away
In earth's sepulchral clay,
When mute the lips which deprecate today?
Not so! not then -- least then! When life is shriven
And death's full joy is given, --
Of those who sit and love you up in heaven
Say not 'We loved them once.'


Say never ye loved ONCE:
God is too near above, the grave beneath,
And all our moments breathe
Too quick in mysteries of life and death,
For such a word. The eternities avenge
Affections light of range.
There comes no change to justify that change,
Whatever comes -- Loved ONCE!


And yet that same word ONCE
Is humanly acceptive. Kings have said,
Shaking a discrowned head,
'We ruled once,' -- dotards, 'We once taught and led,'
Cripples once danced i' the vines, and bards approved,
Were once by scornings moved:
But love strikes one hour -- LOVE! Those never loved
Who dream that they loved ONCE.

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