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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Florence, July 5th, 1861.

  "When some belovèd voice that was to you
  Both sound and sweetness faileth suddenly,
  And silence, against which you dare not cry,
  Aches round you like a strong disease and new,—
  What hope? what help? what music will undo
  That silence to your sense? Not friendship's sigh,—
  Not reason's subtle count,—not melody
  Of viols, nor of pipes that Faunus blew,—
  Not songs of poets, nor of nightingales,
  Whose hearts leap upward through the cypress-trees
  To the clear moon,—nor yet the spheric laws
  Self-chanted,—nor the angels' sweet All-hails,
  Met in the smile of God. Nay, none of these!
  Speak THOU, availing Christ, and fill this pause!"

Thus sang the Muse of a great woman years ago; and now, alas! she, who, with constant suffering of her own, was called upon to grieve often for the loss of near and dear ones, has suddenly gone from among us, "and silence, against which we dare not cry, aches round us like a strong disease and new." Her own beautiful words are our words, the world's words,—and though the tears fall faster and thicker, as we search for all that is left of her in the noble poems which she bequeaths to humanity, there follows the sad consolation in feeling assured that she above all others felt the full value of life, the full value of death, and was prepared to meet her God humbly, yet joyfully, whenever He should claim her for His own. Her life was one long, large-souled, large-hearted prayer for the triumph of Right, Justice, Liberty; and she who lived for others was

       "poet true,
  Who died for Beauty, as martyrs do
  For Truth,—the ends being scarcely two."

Beauty was truth with her, the wife, mother, and poet, three in one, and such an earthly trinity as God had never before blessed the world with.

This day week, at half-past four o'clock in the morning, Mrs. Browning died. A great invalid from girlhood, owing to an unfortunate accident, Mrs. Browning's life was a prolonged combat with disease thereby engendered; and had not God given her extraordinary vitality of spirit, the frail body could never have borne up against the suffering to which it was doomed. Probably there never was a greater instance of the power of genius over the weakness of the flesh. Confined to her room in the country or city home of her father in England, Elizabeth Barrett developed into the great artist and scholar.

From her couch went forth those poems which have crowned her as "the world's greatest poetess"; and on that couch, where she lay almost speechless at times, and seeing none but those friends dearest and nearest, the soul-woman struck deep into the roots of Latin and Greek, and drank of their vital juices. We hold in kindly affection her learned and blind teacher, Hugh Stuart Boyd, who, she tells us, was "enthusiastic for the good and the beautiful, and one of the most simple and upright of human beings." The love of his grateful scholar, when called upon to mourn the good man's death, embalms his memory among her Sonnets, where she addresses him as her

  "Beloved friend, who, living many years
  With sightless eyes raised vainly to the sun,
  Didst learn to keep thy patient soul in tune
  To visible Nature's elemental cheers!"

Nor did this "steadfast friend" forget his poet-pupil ere he went to "join the dead":—

  "Three gifts the Dying left me,—Aeschylus,
  And Gregory Nazianzen, and a clock
  Chiming the gradual hours out like a flock
  Of stars, whose motion is melodious."

We catch a glimpse of those communings over "our Sophocles the royal," "our Aeschylus the thunderous," "our Euripides the human," and "my Plato the divine one," in her pretty poem of "Wine of Cyprus," addressed to Mr. Boyd. The woman translates the remembrance of those early lessons into her heart's verse:—

  "And I think of those long mornings
  Which my thought goes far to seek,
  When, betwixt the folio's turnings,
  Solemn flowed the rhythmic Greek.
  Past the pane, the mountain spreading,
  Swept the sheep-bell's tinkling noise,
  While a girlish voice was reading,—
  Somewhat low for [Greek: ais] and [Greek: ois]."

These "golden hours" were not without that earnest argument so welcome to candid minds:—

  "For we sometimes gently wrangled,
  Very gently, be it said,—
  Since our thoughts were disentangled
  By no breaking of the thread!
  And I charged you with extortions
  On the nobler fames of old,—
  Ay, and sometimes thought your Persons
  Stained the purple they would fold."

What high honor the scholar did her friend and teacher, and how nobly she could interpret the "rhythmic Greek," let those decide who have read Mrs. Browning's translations of "Prometheus Bound" and Bion's "Lament for Adonis."

Imprisoned within the four walls of her room, with books for her world and large humanity for her thought, the lamp of life burning so low at times that a feather would be placed on her lips to prove that there was still breath, Elizabeth Barrett read and wrote, and "heard the nations praising" her "far off." She loved

       "Art for art,
  And good for God himself, the essential Good,"

until destiny (a destiny with God in it) brought two poets face to face and heart to heart. Mind had met mind and recognized its peer previously to that personal interview which made them one in soul; but it was not until after an acquaintance of two years that Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were united in marriage for time and for eternity, a marriage the like of which can seldom be recorded. What wealth of love she could give is evidenced in those exquisite sonnets purporting to be from the Portuguese, the author being too modest to christen them by their right name, Sonnets from the Heart. None have failed to read the truth through this slight veil, and to see the woman more than the poet in such lines as these:—

  "I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange
  My near sweet view of heaven for earth with thee!"

We have only to turn to the concluding poem in "Men and Women," inscribed to E.B.B., to see how reciprocal was this great love.

From their wedding-day Mrs. Browning seemed to be endowed with new life. Her health visibly improved, and she was enabled to make excursions in England prior to her departure for the land of her adoption, Italy, where she found a second and a dearer home. For nearly fifteen years Florence and the Brownings have been one in the thoughts of many English and Americans; and Casa Guidi, which has been immortalized by Mrs. Browning's genius, will be as dear to the Anglo-Saxon traveller as Milton's Florentine residence has been heretofore. Those who now pass by Casa Guidi fancy an additional gloom has settled upon the dark face of the old palace, and grieve to think that those windows from which a spirit-face witnessed two Italian revolutions, and those large mysterious rooms where a spirit-hand translated the great Italian Cause into burning verse, and pleaded the rights of humanity in "Aurora Leigh," are hereafter to be the passing homes of the thoughtless or the unsympathizing.

Those who have known Casa Guidi as it was could hardly enter the loved rooms now and speak above a whisper. They who have been so favored can never forget the square anteroom, with its great picture and piano-forte, at which the boy Browning passed many an hour,—the little dining-room covered with tapestry, and where hung medallions of Tennyson, Carlyle, and Robert Browning,—the long room filled with plaster casts and studies, which was Mr. Browning's retreat,—and, dearest of all, the large drawing-room, where she always sat. It opens upon a balcony filled with plants, and looks out upon the old iron-gray church of Santa Felice. There was something about this room that seemed to make it a proper and especial haunt for poets. The dark shadows and subdued light gave it a dreamy look, which was enhanced by the tapestry-covered walls and the old pictures of saints that looked out sadly from their carved frames of black wood. Large book-cases, constructed of specimens of Florentine carving selected by Mr. Browning, were brimming over with wise-looking books. Tables were covered with more gayly bound volumes, the gifts of brother authors. Dante's grave profile, a cast of Keats's face and brow taken after death, a pen-and-ink sketch of Tennyson, the genial face of John Kenyon, Mrs. Browning's good friend and relative, little paintings of the boy Browning, all attracted the eye in turn, and gave rise to a thousand musings. A quaint mirror, easy-chairs and sofas, and a hundred nothings that always add an indescribable charm, were all massed in this room. But the glory of all, and that which sanctified all, was seated in a low arm-chair near the door. A small table, strewn with writing-materials, books, and newspapers, was always by her side.

To those who loved Mrs. Browning (and to know her was to love her) she was singularly attractive. Hers was not the beauty of feature; it was the loftier beauty of expression. Her slight figure seemed hardly large enough to contain the great heart that beat so fervently within, and the soul that expanded more and more as one year gave place to another. It was difficult to believe that such a fairy hand could pen thoughts of such ponderous weight, or that such a "still small voice" could utter them with equal force. But it was Mrs. Browning's face upon which one loved to gaze,—that face and head which almost lost themselves in the thick curls of her dark brown hair. That jealous hair could not hide the broad, fair forehead, "royal with the truth," as smooth as any girl's, and

"Too large for wreath of modern wont."

Her large brown eyes were beautiful, and were in truth the windows of her soul. They combined the confidingness of a child with the poet-passion of heart and of intellect; and in gazing into them it was easy to read why Mrs. Browning wrote. God's inspiration was her motive power, and in her eyes was the reflection of this higher light.

  "And her smile it seemed half holy,
  As if drawn from thoughts more far
  Than our common jestings are."

Mrs. Browning's character was wellnigh perfect. Patient in long suffering, she never spoke of herself, except when the subject was forced upon her by others, and then with no complaint. She judged not, saving when great principles were imperilled, and then was ready to sacrifice herself upon the altar of Right. Forgiving as she wished to be forgiven, none approached her with misgivings, knowing her magnanimity. She was ever ready to accord sympathy to all, taking an earnest interest in the most insignificant, and so humble in her greatness that her friends looked upon her as a divinity among women. Thoughtful in the smallest things for others, she seemed to give little thought to herself; and believing in universal goodness, her nature was free from worldly suspicions. The first to see merit, she was the last to censure faults, and gave the praise that she felt with a generous hand. No one so heartily rejoiced at the success of others, no one was so modest in her own triumphs, which she looked upon more as a favor of which she was unworthy than as a right due to her. She loved all who offered her affection, and would solace and advise with any. She watched the progress of the world with tireless eye and beating heart, and, anxious for the good of the whole world, scorned to take an insular view of any political question. With her a political question was a moral question as well. Mrs. Browning belonged to no particular country; the world was inscribed upon the banner under which she fought. Wrong was her enemy; against this she wrestled, in whatever part of the globe it was to be found.

A noble devotion to and faith in the regeneration of Italy was a prominent feature in Mrs. Browning's life. To her, Italy was from the first a living fire, not the bed of dead ashes at which the world was wont to sneer. Her trust in God and the People was supreme; and when the Revolution of 1848 kindled the passion of liberty from the Alps to Sicily, she, in common with many another earnest spirit, believed that the hour for the fulfilment of her hopes had arrived. Her joyful enthusiasm at the Tuscan uprising found vent in the "Eureka" which she sang with so much fervor in Part First of "Casa Guidi Windows."

  "But never say 'No more'
  To Italy's life! Her memories undismayed
  Still argue 'Evermore'; her graves implore
  Her future to be strong and not afraid;
  Her very statues send their looks before."

And even she was ready to believe that a Pope might be a reformer.

  "Feet, knees, and sinews, energies divine,
  Were never yet too much for men who ran
  In such hard ways as must be this of thine,
  Deliverer whom we seek, whoe'er thou art,
  Pope, prince, or peasant! If, indeed, the first,
  The noblest therefore! since the heroic heart
  Within thee must be great enough to burst
  Those trammels buckling to the baser part
  Thy saintly peers in Rome, who crossed and cursed
  With the same finger."

The Second Part of "Casa Guidi Windows" is a sad sequel to the First, but Mrs. Browning does not deride. She bows before the inevitable, but is firm in her belief of a future living Italy.

  "In the name of Italy
  Meantime her patriot dead have benison;
  They only have done well;—and what they did
  Being perfect, it shall triumph. Let them slumber!"

Her short-lived credence in the good faith of Popes was buried with much bitterness of heart:—

  "And peradventure other eyes may see,
  From Casa Guidi windows, what is done
  Or undone. Whatsoever deeds they be,
  Pope Pius will be glorified in none."

It is a matter of great thankfulness that God permitted Mrs. Browning to witness the second Italian revolution before claiming her for heaven. No patriot Italian, of whatever high degree, gave greater sympathy to the aspirations of 1859 than Mrs. Browning, an echo of which the world has read in her "Poems before Congress" and still later contributions to the New York "Independent." Great was the moral courage of this frail woman to publish the "Poems before Congress" at a time when England was most suspicious of Napoleon. Greater were her convictions, when she abased England and exalted France for the cold neutrality of the one and the generous aid of the other in this war of Italian independence. Bravely did she bear up against the angry criticism excited by such anti-English sentiment. Strong in her right, Mrs. Browning was willing to brave the storm, confident that truth would prevail in the end. Apart from certain tours de force in rhythm, there is much that is grand and as much that is beautiful in these Poems, while there is the stamp of power upon every page. It is felt that a great soul is in earnest about vital principles, and earnestness of itself is a giant as rare as forcible. Though there are few now who look upon Napoleon as

"Larger so much by the heart"

than others "who have governed and led," there are many who acknowledge him to be

"Larger so much by the head,"

and regard him as she did,—Italy's best friend in the hour of need. Her disciples are increasing, and soon "Napoleon III. in Italy" will be read with the admiration which it deserves.

Beautiful in its pathos is the poem of "A Court Lady," and there are few satires more biting than "An August Voice," which, as an interpretation of the Napoleonic words, is perfect. Nor did she fail to vindicate the Peace of Villafranca:—

  "But He stood sad before the sun
  (The peoples felt their fate):
  'The world is many,—I am one;
  My great Deed was too great.
  God's fruit of justice ripens slow:
  Men's souls are narrow; let them grow.
  My brothers, we must wait.'"

And truly, what Napoleon then failed, from opposition, to accomplish by the sword, has since been, to a great extent, accomplished by diplomacy.

But though Mrs. Browning wrote her "Tale of Villafranca" in full faith, after many a mile-stone in time lay between her and the fact, her friends remember how the woman bent and was wellnigh crushed, as by a thunderbolt, when the intelligence of this Imperial Treaty was first received. Coming so quickly upon the heels of the victories of Solferino and San Martino, it is no marvel that what stunned Italy should have almost killed Mrs. Browning. That it hastened her into the grave is beyond a doubt, as she never fully shook off the severe attack of illness occasioned by this check upon her life-hopes. The summer of 1859 was a weary, suffering season for her in consequence; and although the following winter, passed in Rome, helped to repair the evil that had been wrought, a heavy cold, caught at the end of the season, (and for the sake of seeing Rome's gift of swords to Napoleon and Victor Emmanuel,) told upon her lungs. The autumn of 1860 brought with it another sorrow in the death of a beloved sister, and this loss seemed more than Mrs. Browning could bear; but by breathing the soft air of Rome again she seemed to revive, and indeed wrote that she was "better in body and soul."

Those who have known Mrs. Browning in later years thought she never looked better than upon her return to Florence in the first days of last June, although the overland journey had been unusually fatiguing to her. But the meeting was a sad one; for Cavour had died, and the national loss was as severe to her as a personal bereavement. Her deep nature regarded Italy's benefactor in the light of a friend; for had he not labored unceasingly for that which was the burden of her song? and could she allow so great a man to pass away without many a heart-ache? It is as sublime as it is rare to see such intense appreciation of great deeds as Mrs. Browning could give. Her fears, too, for Italy, when the patriot pilot was hurried from the helm, gave rise to much anxiety, until quieted by the assuring words of the new minister, Ricasoli.

Nor was Mrs. Browning so much engrossed in the Italian regeneration that she had no thought for other nations and for other wrongs. Her interest in America was very great,—

  "For poets, (bear the word!)
  Half-poets even, are still whole democrats:
  Oh, not that we're disloyal to the high,
  But loyal to the low, and cognizant
  Of the less scrutable majesties."

In Mrs. Browning's poem of "A Curse for a Nation," where she foretold the agony in store for America, and which has fallen upon us with the swiftness of lightning, she was loath to raise her poet's voice against us, pleading,—

  "For I am hound by gratitude,
  By love and blood,
  To brothers of mine across the sea,
  Who stretch out kindly hands to me."

And in one of her last letters, addressed to an American friend who had reminded her of her prophecy and of its present fulfilment, she replied,—"Never say that I have 'cursed' your country. I only declared the consequence of the evil in her, and which has since developed itself in thunder and flame. I feel with more pain than many Americans do the sorrow of this transition-time; but I do know that it is transition, that it is crisis, and that you will come out of the fire purified, stainless, having had the angel of a great cause walking with you in the furnace." Are not such burning, hopeful words from such a source—worthy of the grateful memory of the Americans? Our cause has lost an ardent supporter in Mrs. Browning; and did we dare rebel against God's will, we should grieve deeply that she was not permitted to glorify the Right in America as she has glorified it in Italy. Among the last things that she read were Motley's letters on the "American Crisis," and the writer will ever hold in dear memory the all but final conversation had with Mrs. Browning, in which these letters were discussed and warmly approved. In referring to the attitude taken by foreign nations with regard to America, she said,—"Why do you heed what others say? You are strong, and can do without sympathy; and when you have triumphed, your glory will be the greater." Mrs. Browning's most enthusiastic admirers are Americans; and I am sure, that, now she is no longer of earth, they will love her the more for her sympathy in the cause which is nearest to all hearts.

Mrs. Browning's conversation was most interesting. It was not characterized by sallies of wit or brilliant repartee, nor was it of that nature which is most welcome in society. It was frequently intermingled with trenchant, quaint remarks, leavened with a quiet, graceful humor of her own; but it was eminently calculated for a tête-à-tête. Mrs. Browning never made an insignificant remark. All that she said was always worth hearing;—a greater compliment could not be paid her. She was a most conscientious listener, giving you her mind and heart, as well as her magnetic eyes. Though the latter spoke an eager language of their own, she conversed slowly, with a conciseness and point that, added to a matchless earnestness, which was the predominant trait of her conversation as it was of her character, made her a most delightful companion. Persons were never her theme, unless public characters were under discussion, or friends were to be praised,—which kind office she frequently took upon herself. One never dreamed of frivolities in Mrs. Browning's presence, and gossip felt itself out of place. _Your_self (not _her_self) was always a pleasant subject to her, calling out all her best sympathies in joy, and yet more in sorrow. Books and humanity, great deeds, and, above all, politics, which include all the grand questions of the day, were foremost in her thoughts, and therefore oftenest on her lips. I speak not of religion, for with her everything was religion. Her Christianity was not confined to church and rubric: it meant civilization.

Association with the Brownings, even though of the slightest nature, made one better in mind and soul. It was impossible to escape the influence of the magnetic fluid of love and poetry that was constantly passing between husband and wife. The unaffected devotion of one to the other wove an additional charm around the two, and the very contrasts in their natures made the union a more beautiful one. All remember Mrs. Browning's pretty poem on her "Pet Name":—

  "I have a name, a little name,
  Uncadenced for the ear,
  Unhonored by ancestral claim,
  Unsanctified by prayer and psalm
  The solemn font anear.

* * * * *

  "My brother gave that name to me,
  When we were children twain,—
  When names acquired baptismally
  Were hard to utter, as to see
  That life had any pain."

It was this pet name of two small letters lovingly combined that dotted Mr. Browning's spoken thoughts, as moonbeams fleck the ocean, and seemed the pearl-bead that linked conversation together in one harmonious whole. But what was written has now come to pass. The pet name is engraved only in the hearts of a few.

  "Though I write books, it will be read
  Upon the leaves of none;
  And afterward, when I am dead,
  Will ne'er be graved, for sight or tread,
  Across my funeral stone."

Mrs. Browning's letters are masterpieces of their kind. Easy and conversational, they touch upon no subject without leaving an indelible impression of the writer's originality; and the myriad matters of universal interest with which many of them are teeming will render them a precious legacy to the world, when the time shall have arrived for their publication. Of late, Italy has claimed the lion's share in these unrhymed sketches of Mrs. Browning in the négligée of home. Prose has recorded all that poetry threw aside; and thus much political thought, many an anecdote, many a reflection, and much womanly enthusiasm have been stored up for the benefit of more than the persons to whom these letters were addressed. And while we wait patiently for this great pleasure, which must sooner or later be enjoyed and appreciated, we may gather a foretaste of Mrs. Browning's power in prose-writing from her early essays, and from the admirable preface to the "Poems before Congress." The latter is simple in its style, and grand in teachings that find few followers among nations in these enlightened days.

Some are prone to moralize over precious stones, and see in them the petrified souls of men and women. There is no stone so sympathetic as the opal, which one might fancy to be a concentration of Mrs. Browning's genius. It is essentially the woman-stone, giving out a sympathetic warmth, varying its colors from day to day, as though an index of the heart's barometer. There is the topmost purity of white, blended with the delicate, perpetual verdure of hope, and down in the opal's centre lies the deep crimson of love. The red, the white, and the green, forming as they do the colors of Italy, render the opal doubly like Mrs. Browning. It is right that the woman-stone should inclose the symbols of the "Woman Country."

Feeling all these things of Mrs. Browning, it becomes the more painful to place on record an account of those last days that have brought with them so universal a sorrow. Mrs. Browning's illness was only of a week's duration. Having caught a severe cold of a more threatening nature than usual, medical skill was summoned; but, although anxiety in her behalf was necessarily felt, there was no whisper of great danger until the third or fourth night, when those who most loved her said they had never seen her so ill; on the following morning, however, she was better, and from that moment was thought to be improving in health. She herself believed this; and all had such confidence in her wondrous vitality, and the hope was so strong that God would spare her for still greater good, that a dark veil was drawn over what might be. It is often the case, where we are accustomed to associate constant suffering with dear friends, that we calmly look danger in the face without misgivings. So little did Mrs. Browning realize her critical condition, that, until the last day, she did not consider herself sufficiently indisposed to remain in bed, and then the precaution was accidental. So much encouraged did she feel with regard to herself, that, on this final evening, an intimate female friend was admitted to her bedside and found her in good spirits, ready at pleasantry and willing to converse on all the old loved subjects. Her ruling passion had prompted her to glance at the "Athenaeum" and "Nazione"; and when this friend repeated the opinions she had heard expressed by an acquaintance of the new Italian Premier, Ricasoli, to the effect that his policy and Cavour's were identical, Mrs. Browning "smiled like Italy," and thankfully replied,—"I am glad of it; I thought so." Even then her thoughts were not of self. This near friend went away with no suspicion of what was soon to be a terrible reality. Mrs. Browning's own bright boy bade his mother goodnight, cheered by her oft-repeated, "I am better, dear, much better." Inquiring friends were made happy by these assurances.

One only watched her breathing through the night,—he who for fifteen years had ministered to her with all the tenderness of a woman. It was a night devoid of suffering to her. As morning approached, and for two hours previous to the dread moment, she seemed to be in a partial ecstasy; and though not apparently conscious of the coming on of death, she gave her husband all those holy words of love, all the consolation of an oft-repeated blessing, whose value death has made priceless. Such moments are too sacred for the common pen, which pauses as the woman-poet raises herself up to die in the arms of her poet-husband. He knew not that death had robbed him of his treasure, until the drooping form grew chill and froze his heart's blood.

At half-past four, on the morning of the 29th of June, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died of congestion of the lungs. Her last words were, "It is beautiful!" God was merciful to the end, sparing her and hers the agony of a frenzied parting, giving proof to those who were left of the glory and happiness in store for her, by those few words, "It is beautiful!" The spirit could see its future mission even before shaking off the dust of the earth.

Gazing on her peaceful face with its eyes closed on us forever, our cry was her "Cry of the Human."

  "We tremble by the harmless bed
  Of one loved and departed;
  Our tears drop on the lips that said
  Last night, 'Be stronger-hearted!'
  O God! to clasp those fingers close,
  And yet to feel so lonely!
  To see a light upon such brows,
  Which is the daylight only!
  Be pitiful, O God!"

On the evening of July 1st, the lovely English burying-ground without the walls of Florence opened its gates to receive one more occupant. A band of English, Americans, and Italians, sorrowing men and women, whose faces as well as dress were in mourning, gathered around the bier containing all that was mortal of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Who of those present will forget the solemn scene, made doubly impressive by the grief of the husband and son? "The sting of death is sin," said the clergyman. Sinless in life, her death, then, was without sting; and turning our thoughts inwardly, we murmured her prayers for the dead, and wished that they might have been her burial-service. We heard her poet-voice saying,—

  "And friends, dear friends, when it shall be
  That this low breath is gone from me,
  And round my bier ye come to weep,
  Let one most loving of you all
  Say, 'Not a tear must o'er her fall,—
  He giveth His beloved sleep.'"

But the tears would fall, as they bore her up the hill, and lowered "His beloved" into her resting-place, the grave. The sun itself was sinking to rest behind the western hills, and sent a farewell smile of love into the east, that it might glance on the lowering bier. The distant mountains hid their faces in a misty veil, and the tall cypress-trees of the cemetery swayed and sighed as Nature's special mourners for her favored child; and there they are to stand keeping watch over her.

"Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west, Toll slowly! And I said in under-breath, All our life is mixed with death, And who knoweth which is best?

* * * * *

"Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west, Toll slowly! And I 'paused' to think God's greatness flowed around our incompleteness,— Round our restlessness, His rest."

Dust to dust,—and the earth fell with a dull echo on the coffin. We gathered round to take one look, and saw a double grave, too large for her;—may it wait long and patiently for him!

And now a mound of earth marks the spot where sleeps Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A white wreath to mark her woman's purity lies on her head; the laurel wreath of the poet lies at her feet; and friendly hands scatter white flowers over the grave of a week as symbols of the dead.

We feel as she wrote,—

  "God keeps a niche
  In heaven to hold our idols; and albeit
  He brake them to our faces, and denied
  That our close kisses should impair their white,
  I know we shall behold them raised, complete,
  The dust swept from their beauty, glorified,
  New Memnons singing in the great God-light."

It is strange that Cavour and Mrs. Browning should have died in the same month, within twenty-three days of each other,—the one the head, the other the heart of Italy. As head and heart made up the perfect life, so death was not complete until Heaven welcomed both. It seemed also strange, that on the night after Mrs. Browning's decease an unexpected comet should glare ominously out of the sky. For the moment we were superstitious, and believed in it as a minister of woe.

Great as is this loss, Mrs. Browning's death is not without a sad consolation. From the shattered condition of her lungs, the physician feels assured that existence could not at the farthest have been prolonged for more than six months. Instead of a sudden call to God, life would have slowly ebbed away; and, too feeble for the slightest exertion, she must have been denied the solace of books, of friends, of writing, perhaps of thought even. God saved her from a living grave, and her husband from protracted misery. Seeking for the shadow of Mrs. Browning's self in her poetry, (for she was a rare instance of an author's superiority to his work,) many an expression is found that welcomes the thought of a change which would free her from the suffering inseparable from her mortality. There is a yearning for a more fully developed life, to be found most frequently in her sonnets. She writes at times as though, through weakness of the body, her wings were tied:—

  "When I attain to utter forth in verse
  Some inward thought, my soul throbs audibly
  Along my pulses, yearning to be free,
  And something farther, fuller, higher rehearse,
  To the individual true, and the universe,
  In consummation of right harmony!
  But, like a wind-exposed, distorted tree,
  We are blown against forever by the curse
  Which breathes through Nature. Oh, the world is weak;
  The effluence of each is false to all;
  Add what we best conceive, we fail to speak!
  Wait, soul, until thine ashen garments fall,
  And then resume thy broken strains, and seek
  Fit peroration without let or thrall!"

The "ashen garments" have fallen,—

  "And though we must have and have had
  Right reason to be earthly sad,
  Thou Poet-God art great and glad!"

It was meet that Mrs. Browning should come home to die in her Florence, in her Casa Guidi, where she had passed her happy married life, where her boy was born, and where she had watched and rejoiced over the second birth of a great nation. Her heart-strings did not entwine themselves around Rome as around Florence, and it seems as though life had been so eked out that she might find a lasting sleep in Florence. Rome holds fast its Shelley and Keats, to whose lowly graves there is many a reverential pilgrimage; and now Florence, no less honored, has its shrine sacred to the memory of Theodore Parker and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The present Florence is not the Florence of other days. It can never be the same to those who loved it as much for Mrs. Browning's sake as for its own. Her reflection remains and must ever remain; for,

  "while she rests, her songs in troops
  Walk up and down our earthly slopes,
  Companioned by diviner hopes."

The Italians have shown much feeling at the loss which they, too, have sustained,—more than might have been expected, when it is considered that few of them are conversant with the English language, and that to those few English poetry (Byron excepted) is unknown.

A battalion of the National Guard was to have followed Mrs. Browning's remains to the grave, had not a misunderstanding as to time frustrated this testimonial of respect. The Florentines have expressed great interest in the young boy, Tuscan-born, and have even requested that he should be educated as an Italian, when any career in the new Italy should be open to him. Though this offer will not be accepted, it was most kindly meant, and shows with what reverence Florence regards the name of Browning. Mrs. Browning's friends are anxious that a tablet to her memory should be placed in the Florentine Pantheon, the Church of Santa Croce. It is true she was not a Romanist, neither was she an Italian,—yet she was Catholic, and more than an Italian. Her genius and what she has done for Italy entitle her to companionship with Galileo, Michel Angelo, Dante, and Alfieri. The friars who have given their permission for the erection of a monument to Cavour in Santa Croce ought willingly to make room for a tablet on which should be inscribed,

SHE SANG THE SONG OF ITALY. SHE WROTE "AURORA LEIGH."