My Heart And I


In this poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning refers to her friend and Italian statesman promoting unification, Count Cavour, who had recently died. She and her husband, poet Robert Browning, had just spent fifteen happy and relatively healthy years in Italy with friends. Elizabeth was no stranger to facing death, given her prolonged sickness throughout her life. Browning's expressive verses of compassion and loss have been praised as a fresh, strange music. In 1861, shortly after her death, Robert Browning published it, along with a collection of her later works, with this dedication: "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett."
Because I Could Not Stop for Death
All Saints Church graveyard
    Enough! we're tired, my heart and I.
    We sit beside the headstone thus,
    And wish that name were carved for us.
    The moss reprints more tenderly
    The hard types of the mason's knife,
    As heaven's sweet life renews earth's life
    With which we're tired, my heart and I.

    You see we're tired, my heart and I.
    We dealt with books, we trusted men,
    And in our own blood drenched the pen,
    As if such colours could not fly.
    We walked too straight for fortune's end,
    We loved too true to keep a friend;
    At last we're tired, my heart and I.

    How tired we feel, my heart and I!
    We seem of no use in the world;
    Our fancies hang grey and uncurled
    About men's eyes indifferently;
    Our voice which thrilled you so, will let
    You sleep; our tears are only wet:
    What do we here, my heart and I?

    So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
    It was not thus in that old time
    When Ralph sat with me 'neath the lime
    To watch the sunset from the sky.
    Dear love, you're looking tired,' he said;
    I, smiling at him, shook my head:
    'Tis now we're tired, my heart and I.

    So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
    Though now none takes me on his arm
    To fold me close and kiss me warm
    Till each quick breath end in a sigh
    Of happy languor. Now, alone,
    We lean upon this graveyard stone,
    Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.

    Tired out we are, my heart and I.
    Suppose the world brought diadems
    To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
    Of powers and pleasures? Let it try.
    We scarcely care to look at even
    A pretty child, or God's blue heaven,
    We feel so tired, my heart and I.

    Yet who complains? My heart and I?
    In this abundant earth no doubt
    Is little room for things worn out:
    Disdain them, break them, throw them by
    And if before the days grew rough
    We once were loved, used, well enough,
    I think, we've fared, my heart and I.

My Heart And I was featured as The Short Story of the Day on Wed, Mar 06, 2019

This poem is featured in our selection of Poetry for Students and 100 Great Poems.


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