Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MEMORY AND HOPE, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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MEMORY AND HOPE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Back-looking memory
Last Line: To 'reach the things before.'
Subject(s): Memory; Hope; Dreams; Optimism; Nightmares


I

BACK-LOOKING Memory
And prophet Hope both sprang from out the ground;
One, where the flashing of cherubic sword
Fell sad in Eden's ward,
And one, from Eden earth within the sound
Of the four rivers lapsing pleasantly,
What time the promise after curse was said,
'Thy seed shall bruise his head.'

II

Poor Memory's brain is wild,
As moonstruck by that flaming atmosphere
When she was born; her deep eyes shine and shone
With light that conquereth sun
And stars to wanner paleness year by year:
With odorous gums she mixeth things defiled,
She trampleth down earth's grasses green and sweet
With her far-wandering feet.

III

She plucketh many flowers,
Their beauty on her bosom's coldness killing;
She teacheth every melancholy sound
To winds and waters round;
She droppeth tears with seed where man is tilling
The rugged soil in his exhausted hours;
She smileth -- ah me! in her smile doth go
A mood of deeper woe.

IV

Hope tripped on out of sight,
Crowned with an Eden wreath she saw not wither,
And went a-nodding through the wilderness
With brow that shone no less
Than a sea-gull's wing, brought nearer by rough weather,
Searching the treeless rock for fruits of light;
Her fair quick feet being armed from stones and cold
By slippers of pure gold.

V

Memory did Hope much wrong
And, while she dreamed, her slippers stole away;
But still she wended on with mirth unheeding,
Although her feet were bleeding,
Till Memory tracked her on a certain day,
And with most evil eyes did search her long
And cruelly, whereat she sank to ground
In a stark deadly swound.

VI

And so my Hope were slain,
Had it not been that THOU wast standing near --
Oh Thou who saidest 'Live,' to creatures lying
In their own blood and dying!
For Thou her forehead to thine heart didst rear
And make its silent pulses sing again,
Pouring a new light o'er her darkened eyne
With tender tears from thine.

VII

Therefore my Hope arose
From out her swound and gazed upon thy face,
And, meeting there that soft subduing look
Which Peter's spirit shook,
Sank downward in a rapture to embrace
Thy pierced hands and feet with kisses close,
And prayed Thee to assist her evermore
To 'reach the things before.'





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