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Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Some of us are venturing into poetry this year and we are going to do a group reading of Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is the thread to discuss the book and the poems :smile2: It's free for one and all! 

 

We'll be starting this week (over the weekend I think) but if someone's in a haste, all eager to discuss, go right ahead. :)

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That's good! - I should be able to read some of Sonnets from the Portuguese as part of the read-a-thon at the weekend  :smile:

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I started reading my edition the other day. I only read the first sonnet and the introduction (not in that order ;)), but I wanted to mention that it might be a good idea to have a little background knowledge of Elizabeth Barrett Browning before diving into the poems. I think it will be a little easier to analyse her poems then. :)

 

My edition dates back to the 1930s or thereabouts, and I'm not sure what sort of introduction more recent editions have, if any. Wikipedia has plenty of information.

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I think what intrigues me most about some of the Classic poetry writers, is their lives. They were often unconventional, they had passionate love affairs and often their lives ended tragically early. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is no exception. I love how her husband Robert Browning, encouraged her to write and publish her poetry. He didn't see her as a rival. And I agree with Kylie, understanding the background of her life, gives you a better understanding of her poetry.

 

I don't know if we're supposed to discuss every sonnet, but the first one is very moving. Here I think firstly she's talking about her illness and by the sounds of it, her depression.

 

But the lines .....

'Guess now who holds thee!' - 'Death,' I said, But, there,

The silver bell rang, 'Not Death, but Love.'

.....I feel were written not long after she met Robert Browning, and she realises that she is in the grips of love now, not death.

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Wait her husband was Robert Browning? I didn't know that.

 

I'm hoping to start reading the poems soon. Have not been very motivated lately... :blush2:

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I'm sorry that I haven't been around, last weekend was a busy one and I didn't have the time or the stamina to start with the book! I hope I will be able to start today or tomorrow. 

 

Thanks Kylie for mentioning there's an intro in your edition, I'm sure it would be useful to read about her life. Not to mention interesting! :smile2:

 

Poppy, I'm not sure how we're going to do this either, if we're to do it sonnet by sonnet, but thank you for jumping in and starting the conversation! :smile2: Even if I'd read (some of the) sonnets I probably would've been too shy to say anything about them, being such a novice and 'scaredypants' about poetry :blush::giggle2:

 

Please carry on if you have more to say and I encourage all of you to voice your opinions and thoughts. Poetry is subjective, so please, class, there are no wrong answers and no silly questions! :D

 

Edit: I suppose we could start with the sonnet poppy's brought up! 

 

Here it is in full: 

 

 

I thought once how Theocritus had sung

Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-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." 

 

 

(Any possible typos are mine of course)

 

 

Kylie, do you remember how I bought a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the book fair but then didn't take it home with me and you were left with it? What did you do with it? Do you still have the copy? You probably took it to some secondhand bookshop...?

Edited by frankie

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I'm so sorry for not having done anything about the book, not having read any of the sonnets or anything like I promised I would :( It's this uni paper I need to write and even though the poetry reading group was my idea and I picked the book, it started to feel like a chore as there was a timeline (sort of) and everything, and it's not a clear cut novel I can just read whenever. 

 

I should be able to finish the uni paper this week, and then I'm off to hometown for a wedding, but I'm hoping that I can start reading the book and actually contributing to this thread next week!!! And somebody kick me in the butt if I don't! :unsure: 

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I read this once before and didn't understand squat because I kind of skimmed and then forgot to come back and actually read and make comments  :doh:

I find the rhyme scheme interesting. It starts of ABBA then goes like CBBC and then finishes DEDEDE. I think that is typical of rhyme scheme in sonnets if I'm correct where it shifts after the eighth line. Also that shift represents a change in the poem. The first eight lines are looking back on the good and bad times of life that casted a shadow on her. The next six sort of "resolve" the conflict. The mystic shape moves around her and she assumes it is death, but it is actually love. 

 

What the whole poem symbolizes, I'm not sure. Maybe that death and love are closely related and almost indistinguishable? Or that both when heading towards death and when heading towards love we tend to look back on the past experiences of our lives? I'm really not sure...

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I'll have to pull my copy.....it was the first book my husband sent me, lo these many years ago.  :wub:

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Started reading the other day, and I must have to admit that after the good line 

 

“Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there,

The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.”

 

the next few pages just made no sense to me :10_confused:  .

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