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The Poetic Miracle: How Love Healed Elizabeth Barrett and Inspired Robert Browning

Love is an everlasting subject for humanity. In fairy tales, the prince’s tender kiss possesses the power to revive Snow White, and the amorous saga of the renowned British poets Barrett and Browning rivals any enchanting legend.

When the radiance of love graced Barrett’s somber existence, this intelligent yet ill-fated woman had been bedridden for a staggering span of twenty-four years. Every physician foresaw her permanent debilitation, but Browning’s affection bestowed upon her the ability to manifest a miracle. As this enchanting duo strolled hand in hand through the realm of literature, they forged the most resplendent love story in the annals of British literature and, indeed, the entirety of world literature.

Opulent yet destitute, an incapacitated recluse. On the 29th of June, 1861, the illustrious British poet Elizabeth Barrett breathed her last breath, cradled in her husband’s arms, adorned with a girlish smile. Following her demise, she received collective condolences from the denizens of Florence. To be lauded by the world is a life well lived. Imprinted profoundly in the heart of her beloved husband, Robert Browning, were their tender affections, along with Barrett’s heartfelt letters and exquisitely poignant verses. All of these shall endure for a lifetime. Even in her absence, she shall continue to perform a poetic miracle in the celestial expanse. Should you be fortunate enough to attain it, you shall harbor no regrets even in death.

Elizabeth Barrett was born into opulence on the 6th of March, 1806, within an affluent English family. Her father, Edward Moulton Barrett, was a sugar plantation proprietor in Jamaica, and their entire clan reveled in vast wealth. Edward once acquired 500 acres of land near the Malvern Hills, establishing a domain where he and his wife nurtured twelve children amidst the lap of luxury.

Barrett entered the world in a fragile state, with doctors predicting her untimely demise. Thankfully, under her mother’s meticulous care, she gradually flourished. Despite her persistently frail constitution and a year-round pallor, she surpassed her twelve siblings in intellect. From a tender age, she displayed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and exhibited remarkable literary prowess. Although she never received formal education, she achieved proficiency in ancient Greek through self-directed study.

Owing to her delicate health, Barrett was confined to the confines of her home for the majority of her days. As she gazed upon her brothers and sisters frolicking and playing across the vast estate, her mother would ruefully admonish her: “Stay still and spare yourself the trouble.” The discerning Barrett could only withdraw her envious gaze and retreat to her books.

Thus, while her peers reveled in communal play, Barrett immersed herself in a sea of solitary reading. By the age of ten, she had perused the majority of Shakespeare’s plays, Homer’s epics, and historical accounts of Britain, Greece, and Rome.

Through copious amounts of reading, Barrett cultivated a unique disposition. At eight years old, she could already compose poetry, and her narrative verse at the tender age of nine possessed an undeniable emotive quality. By the age of thirteen, Barrett had published a four-volume epic poem chronicling the Battle of Marathon in Greece. Her father, Edward, printed fifty copies of her verses, distributing them amongst relatives and friends for circulation. He beamed with pride. In the eyes of her kin and acquaintances, Barrett had blossomed into a gifted woman, and Edward firmly believed his daughter would ascend to the ranks of renowned poets, thus bringing glory to their lineage.

As Barrett matured, her parents eventually permitted her occasional excursions astride her diminutive white steed, allowing her to traverse the manor’s perimeter. Each time she mounted her horse, Barrett experienced unparalleled delight, a rare blush adorning her pallid countenance. Little did she know that the hand of Destiny would soon encroach upon her, robbing her not only of happiness but also nearly imprisoning her for life.

One fateful day in September of 1821, while astride her mount within the manor’s grounds, Barrett suffered an unfortunate fall, resulting in a spinal injury and subsequent loss of consciousness in her lower body. At the tender age of fifteen, doctors declared Barrett paralyzed, confining her to a wheelchair and bed for the remainder of her days.

The gateway to her future silently closed before Barrett’s eyes. Henceforth, her sole companions were books and her mother. To compound her misfortune, seven years later, her mother passed away suddenly. In her final moments, her mother’s gaze remained fixed upon Barrett, a mother’s last attachment and concern for her disabled daughter. Grief-stricken, Barrett fell ill after attending her mother’s funeral. Fearing the emotional toll it would exact, her father arranged for her son Edward to accompany her to the coastal town of Torquay in Devon for recuperation and solace.

Her youngerbrothers and sisters, along with her father, remained in London. Despite the physical separation, Barrett’s family maintained a constant presence in her life through frequent correspondence. It was during this time of solitude and reflection that Barrett’s poetic talent flourished even further.

In 1838, Barrett anonymously published her first collection of poems, titled “The Seraphim and Other Poems.” The collection garnered positive reviews and caught the attention of prominent literary figures, including the renowned poet Robert Browning. Impressed by Barrett’s work, Browning initiated a correspondence with her, expressing his admiration for her poetry.

Their exchange of letters soon blossomed into a deep and passionate connection. Browning was captivated by Barrett’s intellect, her poetic genius, and her resilient spirit despite her physical limitations. Their love grew stronger with each letter, and they longed to meet in person.

In 1845, Browning finally visited Barrett at her residence on Wimpole Street in London. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in their lives, as their love transcended the barriers of illness and societal expectations. They were kindred spirits, finding solace and inspiration in each other’s words.

Against the wishes of her tyrannical father, Barrett and Browning secretly married in 1846 and eloped to Italy, settling in Florence. Italy became their sanctuary, a place where they could freely express their love and creativity without judgment. Barrett’s health also improved in the milder climate, and she experienced a newfound sense of freedom and happiness.

During their time in Italy, Barrett continued to write prolifically, producing some of her most acclaimed works. Her collection “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” published in 1850, is a testament to her enduring love for Browning. The collection’s title was chosen to disguise the intimate nature of the poems, as Barrett felt they were too personal to be attributed to her directly. One of the most famous sonnets from the collection is Sonnet 43, which begins with the immortal lines, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s literary contributions and her remarkable love story with Robert Browning solidified her place in the annals of literature. Her poetry explored themes of love, social justice, and the role of women in society. She challenged societal norms and expectations through her words, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning passed away on June 29, 1861, at the age of 55. Her legacy lives on through her poetry and her enduring love for Robert Browning. Their love story serves as a testament to the power of love to overcome adversity and inspire greatness.

To this day, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry continues to resonate with readers around the world. Her words evoke deep emotions, reminding us of the enduring power of love and the strength of the human spirit.

  Reason told Barrett that she should reject Browning. But love has never been rational. With Browning’s persistent request, Barrett finally agreed to his visit.
  It was a day in late May, the spring cold had gone, the wind was warm and the sun was warm. When Browning appeared in front of her, Barrett looked at this tall and handsome young man, and her heart beat very fast. His eyes were gentle, but seemed to contain light, which instantly warmed Barrett’s heart. Barrett wished she could stand up, make a ladylike bow, ask the guest to sit down, and offer him a cup of coffee. But the reality is that she can only curl up on the sofa and cannot move.
  In Browning’s eyes, Barrett was thin and pale, like a sick white cat, but her beautiful and sad big eyes instantly hit his heart, making him want to protect and take care of her all his life. Accompany her.
  On the third day after the meeting, Barrett received another letter from Browning, which was a proposal letter. Browning decided to show his sincerity to her and take over the rest of her life. This letter made Barrett both touched and happy, but she did not dare to accept it – Browning was such a beautiful and pure young man, and she was already 39 years old and disabled. How could she bring him closer to this gloomy world? life, delaying his future?
  Barrett wrote back to Browning: “Please don’t say such things again, otherwise I don’t know how to continue our friendship.” After writing, Barrett curled up on the sofa, feeling pain beyond words. After Browning saw this reply, he felt uneasy and quickly wrote an apology: Please forgive me for being too abrupt. Although I do love you as much as I love your poems, if I offend you, I am willing to continue to be friends. , and don’t want to lose you from now on.
  Browning apologized carefully so that Barrett could no longer say no. The two continued to correspond frequently, and each day Barrett looked forward to the postman’s knock on the door more and more in the evening. She wrote in her diary: “No, it’s not the postman, it’s the light in my life that burns my eyes, but I would rather become blind.”
  In the blink of an eye, summer came, and Browning did not mention the marriage again, but only sent Barrett a bouquet of dewy roses every day. The bright color and fragrance of the flowers brightened up the room that was surrounded by the smell of bitter medicine all day long. In order to make those beautiful flowers more alive, Barrett opened the window that had always been closed tightly. Along with the window was opened, along with her heart that had been sealed for more than 20 years.
  Surprisingly, in the atmosphere of love, Barrett’s physical condition improved rapidly and she regained her vitality. Immersed in love, Barrett continued to write sweet poems, and “Mrs. Browning’s Sonnets” was her work at that stage.
  ”Mrs. Browning’s Sonnets” is a collection of poems praising love. The collection of poems begins with a sad tone, recalling the bleak days the poetess spent in the hospital bed, and then the two themes of the poem appear: expected death and sudden love. In the sixth poem, the doubtful and ashamed poetess pleads for “love” to leave her. But then, under the call of his loyal lover, the love buried in the poet’s heart finally surfaced. Gratitude and joy jump between every line, and the shadow of death gradually fades away. In the tenth love poem, a turning point in the life of the poetess occurs. The streams of emotion converge into a raging torrent, drowning all sorrow and doubt. The poetess no longer hesitates whether to accept love, but devotes her whole body and soul to her lover.
  No one’s name appears in this set of poems, but it faithfully records the entire process of Barrett and Browning from their acquaintance to their falling in love. Every word is Barrett’s feelings for Browning. Barrett, once buried in sadness, frustration, fear and despair, had almost forgotten that there was love in the world. But when the man who was 6 years younger than her appeared in her world, she bloomed a beautiful flower from the dust of fate. The name of that flower was love.
  Escape for love and create a miracle of love
  The winter of 1845 was particularly warm for Barrett, the humid air seemed to be filled with sweetness, and her body no longer seemed so uncomfortable. Browning ignited Barrett’s dead life and breathed new vitality and vitality into her spirit. Barrett began to practice turning over, constantly beating and moving her legs, resisting the severe pain, trying to crawl and stand on the bed… She fell down again and again, soaking her clothes with sweat, and even fainted several times because of the severe pain, but she still He persisted with a smile and vowed to climb out of the bottomless abyss of darkness…
  During the day after day of practice, the time came to the autumn of 1846. One day, she heard the postman knocking on the door, but the servant didn’t open the door. Barrett became anxious and stood up from her chair tremblingly. When she moved to the door and opened it, the postman’s eyes widened in surprise – everyone knew that she was a poetess who had been paralyzed for many years, but now she stood up!
  ”The poetess has stood up!” This news exploded on the street where Barrett lived. Barrett’s doctor couldn’t believe it, and her father Edward couldn’t believe it even more. Only Barrett knows that this is a miracle created by love.
  With uncontrollable excitement, Barrett immediately wrote to Browning: “Dear Mr. Browning, I stood up and walked to the door this evening and took the postman’s letter with my own hands.” Browning was surprised and delighted when he saw the letter. He muttered “Thank God” and immediately set off for Barrett’s house. When he ran down the street holding the rose, passers-by commented: “Is this young man crazy?”
  When he arrived at Barrett’s house, Browning first saw him standing in the living room holding the wall. Barrett. Browning was so excited that he rushed to support her and blurted out: “Let’s get married!”
  Barrett knew that this seemingly impulsive sentence had actually been hidden in Browning’s heart for a long time. She no longer wanted to refuse, and almost immediately agreed to Browning’s proposal. The two immediately hugged each other, crying and laughing…
  At that moment, Barrett, immersed in happiness, ignored one thing – in her traditional and conservative family, she decided on marriage matters privately without her father’s nod. Treason. Later, when she realized this and confessed it to her father, his father became furious and immediately locked his daughter in the house.
  However, Barrett, who has tasted love, will never allow herself to fall into darkness again. In the early morning of September 12, 1846, she escaped from the house with the help of her loyal maid after a sleepless night. She hired a car and, as agreed with Browning, went directly to a nearby church, and the two secretly got married. After walking out of the church, the newlyweds could only break up temporarily. Before stepping into the house, Barrett reluctantly took off her wedding ring – she couldn’t let this ring ruin her next plan.
  On September 18, 1846, while her father was away in London, Barrett left home with part of the inheritance left to her by her mother, as well as all the love letters Browning had written to herself over the past year. When Edward returned to London and discovered that his daughter had “escaped”, Barrett and Browning were already in Italy. In a rage, Edward deprived Barrett of her inheritance rights, but she was happy to do so.
  Barrett and Browning lived in Pisa for half a year. In that sunny mountain town, they almost forgot about the world and enjoyed their love wholeheartedly. In April of the following year, the couple moved to Florence, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Browning said: “We are as happy as two owls in a cave. My goddess has become fatter and her face is rosy.” It is love that has created a miracle. The patient who was originally lingering on the bed can now follow his lover to climb mountains and wade in the river. , exploring the beautiful places, Venice, Padua, Milan and other places have left the footprints of this fairy couple.

  In Milan, Barrett followed Browning and climbed to the highest point of the church. Her joy was beyond words. She wrote to her sister: “I told him not to praise his wife when he meets everyone, as if his wife has been here and there with him, as if a wife with two legs is the rarest living treasure in the world.” After marriage,
  Bo Ronning read for the first time the love poems that Barrett wrote to him before their marriage. Browning was deeply shocked: “This is the most beautiful sonnet since Shakespeare! I must not keep it privately!” After obtaining his wife’s consent, they published it under the name “Mrs. Browning’s Sonnets” This collection of poems.
  Once the collection of poems was published, the purity and enthusiasm of love expressed between the lines infected countless readers. Therefore, this collection of poems was hailed as the most beautiful love poetry in the Victorian era.
  In March 1849, the third year after her marriage, Barrett celebrated her 43rd birthday and gave birth to her only son, Robert Barrett Browning. Robert was very smart. His mother taught him English, French and Italian, and his father gave him two hours of music lessons every day. By the age of eight or nine, Robert could play Beethoven’s sonatas. Later, he became an artist.
  In 1851, the Brownings returned to their home after five years with their two-year-old child, but the door to No. 50 Wimpole Street was forever closed to her. Together with the letter that Barrett had respectfully written to her father, They were all returned intact. The stubborn Edward never forgave his daughter who ran away for love until his death.
  Although she felt regretful, Barrett never regretted her choice. Rejected by her father, she spent the rest of her life in Italy with her husband. Here, her life is rich and fulfilling. For Barrett, Italy symbolizes inspiration, beauty and strength. With the support of her husband, she devoted herself to literary creation. Moreover, the pattern of the poems she composed after her marriage became larger. In 1851, she devoted her full love for Italy to her new collection of poems, “What I Saw from the Window of Gidetta”. Her “Fugitive Slave” and “The Curse of a Nation” passionately condemned the American slavery system. She exposed social ills in her poems, fought for women’s liberation, and opposed slavery. Her progressive ideals were supported by the Italian people.
  After 15 years of marriage, she and Browning never separated for a day, until June 29, 1861, when Mrs. Browning said goodbye to her dear Browning. That night, the couple were chatting, and Barrett seemed tired. She murmured: “Dear Mr. Browning, how much I love you!” After that, she snuggled into Browning’s chest and fell asleep. . A few minutes later, her head suddenly dropped…
  Just like that, 55-year-old Barrett passed away in her husband’s arms with a girlish smile. On July 1, 1861, all shops in Florence voluntarily closed their doors to express their grief. In order to thank Mrs. Browning for her influence on the Italian national independence movement, the people of Florence, in the name of the city government, placed a bronze monument at the place where she lived during her lifetime. It read in Italian: Here, Barrette Lived and wrote. She combined the wisdom of a scholar, the spirituality of a poet and the heart of a woman. She used her poetry to forge a golden chain link that connected Italy and England.
  Browning was devastated by his wife’s death. For the rest of his life, he raised their son alone with endless thoughts of Barrett. In 1898, thirty-seven years after Barrett’s death, the two-volume “Browning-Barrett Letters” with more than one million words was published. This collection of letters contains 574 letters from the two of them during their relationship. The sincere and delicate emotions in them have moved countless readers. Therefore, this collection of letters is known as the unparalleled documentary “love letter literature” in the world.
  Barrett’s scarred first half of her life and her second half of life saved by love constitute the legend of a great female poet. Browning illuminated her once gloomy life with his sincere and passionate love, while Barrett returned his equally sincere and passionate love. As she wrote in her love poem: “How do I love you? I can’t express it in thousands of words. The degree of my love for you is so deep and far-reaching, as if my soul has flown to the nine heavens and the underworld to explore life.” The mystery of God and the grace of God…”