Correspondence

1854.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 106–107.

[London]

Saty Night. March 1. [1845][1]

Dear Miss Barrett—I seem to find of a sudden—surely I knew before .. anyhow, I do find now,—that with the octaves on octaves of quite new golden strings you enlarged the compass of my life’s harp with, there is added, too, such a tragic chord—that which you touched, so gently, in the beginning of your letter I got this morning: “just escaping” &c[.] But if my truest heart’s wishes avail, as they have hitherto done, you shall laugh at East winds yet, as I do! See now: this sad feeling is so strange to me, that I must write it out, must—and you might give me great, the greatest pleasure for years and yet find me as passive as a stone used to wine-libations, and as ready in expressing my sense of them—but when I am pained, I find the old theory of the uselessness of communicating the circumstances of it, singularly untenable. I have been “spoiled” in this world—to such an extent, indeed, that I often reason out .. make clear to myself .. that I might very properly .. so far as myself am concerned .. take any step that would peril the whole of my future happiness—because the past is gained, secure, and on record; and, tho’ not another of the old days should dawn on me,— I shall not have lost my life, no! —Out of all which, you are—please—to make a sort of sense, if you can, so as to express that I have been deeply struck to find a new real unmistakeable sorrow along with these as real but not so new joys you have given me–

How strangely this connects itself in my mind with another subject in your note! I looked at that translation for a minute, not longer, years ago, knowing nothing about it or you—and I only looked to see what rendering a passage had received that was often in my thoughts .. I forget your version (it was not yours, my “yoursthen—I mean I had no extraordinary interest about it) but the original makes Prometheus (telling over his bestowments towards human happiness,) say, as something περαιτερω τωνδε[2]—that he stopped mortals μη προδερκεσθαι μορον—το ποιον εὑρων, asks the Chorus, τησδε φαρμακον νοσου? Whereto he replies ῾τυφλας εν αυτοις ελπιδας κατἕωκισα (what you hear men dis[s]ertate upon by the hour, as proving the immortality of the soul apart from revelation,—undying yearnings, restless longings, instinctive desires which, unless to be eventually indulged, it were cruel to plant in us, &c &c–) But,—μεγ᾽ ωφελημα τουτ᾽ εδωρησω βροτοις![3] concludes the chorus, like a sigh from the admitted Eleusinian Æschylus was! You cannot think how this foolish circumstance struck me this evening; so I thought I would e’en tell you at once and be done with it—are you not my dear friend already, and shall I not use you? And pray you not to “lean out of the window” when my own foot is only on the stairs—do wait a little for

Yours ever

RB

 

 

Address: Miss Barrett / 50 Wimpole St

Postmark: 10FN10 MR3 1845 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 6.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 32–33.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Year provided by postmark.

2.

 

Cho. “Thou didst not per chance transgress even somewhat beyond this offence?”

Prom. “Aye, I caused mortals no longer to forsee their doom.”

Chor. “Of what sort was the cure thou didst find for this affliction?”

Prom. “I caused blind hopes to dwell within their breasts.”

 

3. “A great boon was this thou gavest to mortals” (Prometheus Bound, line 253, trans. Smyth; cf. line 297 in EBB’s revised translation).

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