Monday, April 23, 2012

A Victorian Era Poet

It's still April, still National Poetry Month. So let's take a look at a Victorian era poet.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a familiar name in the world of poetry. Anyone interested in writing poems might benefit from learning about the personal histories of well-known poets. What things did they experience in life that led to the poetry they produced? 

Writers pull from their background experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction, and poets do the same. Elizabeth Barrett lived in the early part of the nineteenth century. In 1821, at age 15, she had an accident that injured her spine. She became an invalid, spending most of her time in her bedroom at her parents home. Some twenty years later she met Robert Browning and married him secretly after a year's time.

Her parents were against the marriage. Perhaps they were overly protective of their invalid daughter. Or maybe they just didn't like the man she'd chosen to spend her life with. They forbade her to marry Robert Browning, but she defied them and fled with him. They married and moved to Italy where she had a son and regained her health. The sunny climate and the joy in her marriage were most likely factors in healing her body.

But her heart had one sore spot. She wrote regularly to her parents who still lived in England. They never answered, and she learned much later that they had never opened any of the letters. What a tragic loss for both sides when it didn't need to be. 

Elizabeth continued to write poetry throughout her life. She is thought to have written poems about love, and she most definitely did. But she also wrote many about social injustice and political situations. Her best known book is Sonnets from the Portuguese, so named because her husband often referred to her as 'my little Portuguese' because of her dark hair and complexion. The book is subtitled A Celebration of Love.

You can read what is perhaps her best known poem How Do I Love Thee? at a fine poetry website. Read her poem several times to receive the full benefit. You may be inspired to read the other 43 sonnets in her book. 

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