Local

2461.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 115–117.

[London]

Saturday. [Postmark: 4 July 1846]

Oh, this saturday! how heavily the wheels of it turn round! as if “with all the weights of sleep & death hung at them”. [1] After all it was not possible for me to get to Mrs Jameson’s this morning .. not that I was unwell to signify, mind .. but unfit for the exertion .. & it would not have been agreeable to anybody if I had gone there & fainted. So here I am, the picture of helpless indolence, stretched out at full length between the chair & the high stool, thinking how you will not today sit on the low one, nor in your old own place by me——oh how I think, think, think of you, to make imperfect amends!– Are you disappointed .. you? I hope you are, & I fear you are. My generosity does not carry me through the hope of it to the end. I love your love too much. And that is the worst fault, my beloved, I ever can find in my love of you.

Look, what Miss Mitford has sent me from the Daily News .. Mr Horne’s lament for poor Haydon. [2] Tell me if you do not like it– It has moved me much, & as a composition it is fine, I think, .. worthy of Orion. I shall write to Mr Horne to thank him, as one reader of many, for touching that solemn string into such a right melody. To my mind, it is worth, & more than worth, twenty such books as his ballad-book [3]  .. tell me if it is’nt– It has much affected me.

Papa went out early .. so we should have escaped the ‘complication’—but every half hour we are expecting our visitors. And for Monday .. I scarcely dare say yet ‘Come on Monday’. Only we will find our Lost pleiads [4]  .. of that, be very sure– I am very sure. Still to miss one for a moment, draws me into darkness .. or .. do you not know that you are all my stars? Yes, & the sun, besides! The thing which people call a sun seems to shine quite coldly today, because you are not on this side of my window– “All complaining is vain”, do you say?

Let me pass the time a little, then, by confessing to you that what you said, some letters ago, about the character of our intercourse, in our present relation, being a sort of security for the future, .. that that did strike me as a true & reasonable observation as far as it goes. I think, at least, that if I were inclined to fear for my own happiness apart from yours, (which, as God knows, is a fear that never comes into my head) I should have sense to reason myself clear of it all by seeing in you none of the common rampant man-vices which tread down a woman’s peace .. & which begin the work often long before marriage. Oh, I understand perfectly, how as soon as ever a common man is sure of a woman’s affections, he takes up the tone of right & might .. & he will have it so .. & he wont have it so!.– I have heard of the bitterest tears being shed by the victim as soon as ever, by one word of hers, she had placed herself in his power. Of such, are ‘Lovers quarrels’ for the most part. The growth of power on one side .. & the struggle against it, by means legal & illegal, on the other. There are other causes, of course—but, for none of them, could it be possible for me to quarrel with you now or ever– Neither now nor ever do I look forward to the ordinary dangers—. What I have feared has been so different! May God bless you my own .. own! For my part, you have my leave to make me unhappy if you please. It only would be just that the happiness you have given, you should take away—it is yours, as I am yours.

Say how your head is—say how your mother is. Think of me with the thoughts that do good.

Your own Ba.

[Enclosure, in EBB’s hand]

To the memory of B R Haydon, by the author of Orion.

 

Mourn, fatal Voice, whom ancients called the Muse!

Thy fiery whispers rule this mortal hour,

Wherein the toiling Artist’s constant soul

Revels in glories of a visioned world,—

Power, like a god, exalting the full heart,—

Beauty with subtlest ravishment of grace

Refining all the senses; while afar

Through vistas of the stars where strange friends dwell,

A temple smiles for him to take his seat

Among the happy Dead whose work is done.

 

Mourn, fatal Voice, whom ancients called the Muse!

Thou lead’st the devotee through fruitful bowers

Wherein Imagination multiplies

Divinely, and, with noblest ecstasy,

To nature ever renders truth for truth.

 

Mourn, fatal Voice, whom ancients called the Muse!

Thou teachest to be strong & virtuous;

In labour, patient; clear-eyed as a star,

Self-truthful; vigilant within; & full

Of faith to be, & do, and send it forth;—

But teachest no man how to know himself,

His over-measures or his fallings short,

Nor how to know when he should step aside

Into the quiet shade, to wait his hour

And foil the common dragon of the earth.

 

O fatal Voice! so syren-sweet, yet rife

With years of sorrow, deathbeds terrible!

Mourn for a worthy son whose aims were high

Whose faith was strong amidst a scoffing age.

No warning giv’st thou, on the perilous path,

To those who need the gold thy teaching scorns,

Heedless if other knowledge hold due watch.

Then fill’st with heavenly bliss the enraptured eyes,

While the feet move to ruin & the grave.

Therefore, O voice, inscrutably divine,

Uplifting sunward, casting in the dust,

Forgetting man as man, & mindful only

Of the man-angel even while on earth,—

Mourn now with all thine ancient tenderness,

Mingled with tears that fall in heavy drops,

For One who lost himself, remembering thee!

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.

Postmark: 8NT8 JY4 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 215.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 841–844.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. We have been unable to trace the source of this quotation.

2. See enclosure above. Miss Mitford had sent a transcription, as explained in letter 2467, which EBB has recopied. As a result, there are minor differences from the printed text which appeared in The Daily News, 29 June 1846.

3. Horne’s Ballad Romances, which had been published in early 1846.

4. The Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas, who were transfomed into a cluster of stars. One cannot be seen and is known as the lost Pleiad, believed by some to be Electra mourning the destruction of Troy.

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