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I Thought How Once Theocritus Had Sung – 18 December 2007
I found the poem “I Thought How Once Theocritus Had Sung” by
Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a book of British and American poetry
published in 1932.
Considered by many critics to be England’s greatest woman poet, Mrs.
Browning was born March 6, 1806 in Durham, England and died in Florence,
Italy June 29, 1861.
Theocritus, the Greek poet to whom she refers, is regarded as the
originator, as well as the greatest creator, of pastoral or rural verse.
The fresh, vivid descriptions of nature of this ancient poet, who
flourished in the 3rd century BC, influenced the work of Virgil, Lord
Tennyson, and Algernon Swinburne.
I Thought How Once Theocritus Had Sung
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I thought how once Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wish’d-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw in gradual vision through my tears
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years –
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
“Guess now who holds thee?” – “Death,” I said. But there
The silver answer rang – “Not Death, but Love.”
No! I see all the beauty of God's creation and I'm joyful. At the
same time, I see all the suffering and corruption going on in the
world, and feel called to help expose and end it so that we may have true
peace and compassion.
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