Correspondence

782.  EBB to Thomas Powell

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 4, 309–310.

[Torquay]

Decr 24th 1840.

Dear Sir,

I prefer sending you my first thanks, to keeping them back even a day,—although doing so wd enable me to read through what your kindness sent, & this most probably, suggest[s] still better reasons for thanking you. But it is right to apprize you of the safe arrival—& the reasons are good enough already—seeing that—this kind attention wins quite unprovoked, & proceeded, besides, from a friend of Mr Horne’s, & a writer neither unknown nor unesteemed by the obliged. For I see the Monthly Chronicle—& had read some of the poems which accompanied the book.[1]

Of the rest, it has not yet of course been possible for me to do more than read a little with my eyes & a little with my fingers—but poetical thoughts “sweetly spoken”[2] have been recognized & felt notwithstanding the haste––for instance in page 12, that mutual intertexture of sound & light—& the stanza in ‘Stanzas’ p 22, beginning “The moonlight sleepeth on the grave”—& the true, touching words at the bottom of p 25

 

‘The memory of the storm may cease,

But not of those who smiled the peace’.

Then I like ‘the Hills’. But the ‘Chaunt’ comes nearer to me than anything—notwithstanding that beautiful stanza in the Dirge,

 

‘As a young child from her sleep

Is wakened by the song she sings &c[’][3]

That appears to me a new & beautiful thought.

Believe me, I estimate the high & graceful finishing of the Flower & the Leaf—which indeed is, in my mind .. if I may dare to say so, .. almost excessive—for does not its polish occasion us sometimes to slide over Chaucer?—to very soft sounds, I admit?[4]

I am glad you like anything done by me, whether in the Chaucer or elsewhere—& will readily, if you continue to wish it, work as well as I can for the second volume. You mean I think the second Nun’s tale, instead of the Nun’s Priest’s[5]—altho’ you say the latter—(the 2d Nun’s Cecilia)[6],—& I do trust Mr Wordsworth will not deny himself to it after all. Poets never grow old!– I knew an individual once, Sir Uvedale Price, who was not a poet,—only poetical,—yet a very young man, at eighty one. By which sign, the great poet of our times must be in his very prime of youthfulness,—surely not too old for Cecilia!

With my repeated thanks for your obliging present & words, I remain

faithfully yrs

Elizabeth B Barrett.

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: Armstrong Browning Library.

1. Powell was a prolific contributor of poems to The Monthly Chronicle (19 appeared between July and December 1840). From the context it appears that he had now sent EBB a volume of his poems, but we have been unable to trace such a work; the earliest listed in the British Library Catalogue is his Poems (1842).

2. We have not located the source of this quotation.

3. Of these quotations, only this last comes from a poem printed in The Monthly Chronicle (VI, 434–435). A poem entitled “Stanzas” did appear there (p. 470), but did not contain the phrase quoted by EBB. Another poem in the magazine was entitled “The Grave! A Chaunt!” (pp. 381–384); this may be the same as the ‘Chaunt’ that EBB admired.

4. “The Flower and the Leaf” was one of Powell’s two contributions to The Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer, Modernized. The second was “The Legends of Ariadne, Philomene, and Phillis.”

5. As previously noted, nothing came of the plans for a second volume. Powell published “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale; or, The Cock and the Fox” in The Monthly Chronicle, February 1841, pp. 119–133.

6. “The Second Nonnes Tale” refers to the “maid and martir Seinte Cecilie” (verse 4).

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