Saturday, November 07, 2009

Poetry Class!

Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!
Sit and watch by her side an hour.
That is her book-shelf, this is her bed;
She plucked that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too, in the glass;
Little has yet been changed, I think:
The shutters are shut, no light may pass
Save two long rays through the hinge's chink.

Sixteen years old when she died!
Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name;
It was not her time to love; beside,
Her life had many a hope and aim,
Duties enough and little cares,
And now was quiet, now astir,
Till God's hand beckoned unawares, -
And the sweet white brow is all of her.

Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope?
What, your soul was pure and true,
The good stars met in your horoscope,
Made you of spirit, fire and dew -
And, just because I was thrice as old
And our paths in the world diverged so wide,
Each was naught to each, must I be told?
We were fellow mortals, naught beside?

No, indeed! for God above
Is great to grant, as mighty to make,
And creates the love to reward the love:
I claim you still, for my own love's sake!
Delayed it may be for more lives yet,
Through worlds I shall traverse, not a few:
Much is to learn, much to forget
Ere the time be come for taking you.

But the time will come, - at last it will,
When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shall say)
In the lower earth, in the years long still,
That body and soul so pure and gay?
Why your hair was amber, I shall divine,
And your mouth to your own geranium's red -
And what you would do with me, in fine,
In the new life come in the old one's stead.

I have lived (I shall say) so much since then,
Given up myself so many times,
Gained me the gains of various men,
Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes;
Yet one thing, one in my soul's full scope,
Either I missed or itself missed me:
And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope!
What is the issue? let us see!

I loved you, Evelyn, all the while!
My heart seemed full as it could hold;
There was place and to spare for the frank young smile,
And the red young mouth, and the hair's young gold.
So, hush, - I will give you this leaf to keep;
See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand!
There, that is our secret; go to sleep!
You will wake, and remember, and understand.

"Evelyn Hope" - Robert Browning


Michael said...

I enjoy these poetry Class entries, makes me wish you would do something similar for short stories (not that they'd work as well as a blog post).
And Browning sure could write about dead girls, couldn't he.

steve said...


Yes, Browning sure could write about dead girls! He built a career on it! Nice of you to notice! HAH!

The problem with doing this same kind of thing with short stories is availability - and the 999 names of crapola. I read a LOT of short stories in various quarterlies and literary journals (not to mention places like the New Yorker), and the problem is, almost ALL of them are such awful, lazy, first-draft garbage that even condemning them would be giving them more attention than they deserve.

I could do it with older short stories (there are hundreds I've loved just in the 20th century), but then the problem becomes one of access. It's easy for people to hunt up a collection of Browning, and it's easy for people to find the latest issue of some magazine - but a great old sci-fi short story from 1970 that's never really been reprinted? Praising such a thing doesn't seem exactly fair to anybody who might be reading ...

.... but it's good food for thought! There must be a way, and I don't want anything I've enjoyed reading to get left out of this ongoing reading autobiography ...

Thanks for the suggestion, Michael! I'll mull on it ...