Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE STUDENT, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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THE STUDENT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My midnight lamp is weary as my soul
Last Line: We cannot understand thy idiocy!
Subject(s): Students


'My midnight lamp is weary as my soul,
And, being unimmortal, has gone out.
And now alone yon moony lamp of heaven,
Which God lit and not man, illuminates
These volumes, others wrote in weariness
As I have read them; and this cheek and brow,
Whose paleness, burned in with heats of thought,
Would make an angel smile to see how ill
Clay thrust from Paradise consorts with mind --
If angels could, like men, smile bitterly.
'Yet, must my brow be paler! I have vowed
To clip it with the crown which cannot fade,
When it is faded. Not in vain ye cry,
O glorious voices that survive the tongues
From whence was drawn your separate sovereignty --
For I would reign beside you! I would melt
The golden treasures of my health and life
Into that name! My lips are vowed apart
From cheerful words; mine ears, from pleasant sounds;
Mine eyes, from sights God made so beautiful, --
My feet, from wanderings under shady trees;
Mine hands, from clasping of dear-loving friends, --
My very heart, from feelings which move soft!
Vowed am I from the day's delightsome-ness,
And dreams of night! and when the house is dumb
In sleep, which is the pause 'twixt life and life,
I live and waken thus; and pluck away
Slumber's sleek poppies from my pained lids --
Goading my mind with thongs wrought by herself,
To toil and struggle along this mountain-path
Which hath no mountain-airs; until she sweat
Like Adam's brow, and gasp, and rend away
In agony, her garment of the flesh!'

And so his midnight lamp was lit anew,
And burned till morning. But his lamp of life
Till morning burned not! He was found embraced,
Close, cold, and stiff, by Death's compelling sleep;
His breast and brow supported on a page
Charactered over with a praise of fame,
Of its divineness and beatitude --
Words which had often caused that heart to throb,
That cheek to burn; though silent lay they now,
Without a single beating in the pulse,
And all the fever gone!

I saw a bay
Spring verdant from a newly - fashioned grave.
The grass upon the grave was verdanter,
That being watered by the eyes of One
Who bore not to look up toward the tree!
Others looked on it -- some, with passing glance,
Because the light wind stirred in its leaves;
And some, with sudden lighting of the soul
In admiration's ecstasy! -- Ay! some
Did wag their heads like oracles, and say,
''T is very well!' -- but none remembered
The heart which housed the root, except that ONE
Whose sight was lost in weeping!

Is it thus,
Ambition, idol of the intellect?
Shall we drink aconite, alone to use
Thy golden bowl? and sleep ourselves to death --
To dream thy visions about life? O Power
That art a very feebleness! -- before
Thy clayey feet we bend our knees of clay,
And round thy senseless brow bind diadems
With paralytic hands, and shout 'a god,'
With voices mortal hoarse! Who can discern
Th' infirmities they share in? Being blind,
We cannot see thy blindness: being weak,
We cannot feel thy weakness: being low,
We cannot mete thy baseness: being unwise,
We cannot understand thy idiocy!





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