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ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.

I.

HERE are some poets whom we picture to ourselves as surrounded with aureolas; who are clothed in so pure an atmosphere that when we speak of them, though with a critical pur

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pose and in this exacting age, our language must express that tender fealty which sanctity and exaltation compel from all mankind. We are not sure of our judgment: ordinary tests fail us;

the pearl is a pearl, though discolored; fire is fire, though shrouded in vapor, or tinged with murky hues. We do not see clearly, for often our eyes are blinded with tears; we love, we cherish, we

revere.

The memory and career of Elizabeth Barrett Browning appear to us like some beautiful ideal. Nothing is earthly, though all is human; a spirit is passing before our eyes, yet of like passions with ourselves, and encased in a frame so delicate that every fibre is alive with feeling and tremulous with radiant thought. Her genius certainly may be compared to those sensitive, palpitating flames, which harmonically rise and fall in response to every sound-vibration near

them. Her whole being was rhythmic, and, in a time when art is largely valued for itself alone, her utterances were the expression of her inmost soul.

While the recent composite period has exhibited many phases of poetic art, it is not difficult, with respect to each of them taken singly, to find some former epoch more distinguished. The Elizabethan age surpassed it in dramatic creation, and in those madrigals and canzonets which - to transpose Mendelssohn's fancy music without harping; the Protectorate developed more epic grandeur, the Georgian era, more romantic sentiment and strength of wing. Recent progress has been phenomenal, chiefly,

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in variety, finish, average excellence of work. To this there is one exception. The Victorian era, with its wider range of opportunities for women, has been illumined by the career of the greatest female poet that England has produced, -nor only England, but the whole territory of the English language; more than this, the most inspired woman, so far as known, of all who have composed in ancient or modern tongues, or flourished in any land or time.

What have we of Sappho, beyond a few exquisite fragments, a disputed story, the broken strings of a remote and traditional island-lyre? Yet, from Sappho down, including the poetry of Southern and Northern Europe and the whole

melodious greensward of English song, the remains of what woman are left to us, which in quantity and inspiration compete with those of Mrs. Browning? What poet of her own sex, except Sappho, did she herself find worthy a place among the forty immortals grouped in the hemicycle of her own "Vision of Poets"? Take the volume of her collected writings, with so much that we might omit, with so many weaknesses and faults, and what riches it contains!

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How different, too, from other recent work, thoroughly her own, eminently that of a woman, a Christian sibyl, priestess of the melody, heroism, and religion of the modern world.

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