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Light human nature is too lightly tost
And ruffled without cause, complaining on–
Restless with rest, until, being overthrown,
It learneth to lie quiet. Let a frost
Or a small wasp have crept to the inner-most
Of our ripe peach, or let the wilful sun
Shine westward of our window,–straight we run
A furlong’s sigh as if the world were lost.
But what time through the heart and through the brain
God hath transfixed us,–we, so moved before,
Attain to a calm. Ay, shouldering weights of pain,
We anchor in deep waters, safe from shore,
And hear submissive o’er the stormy main
God’s chartered judgments walk for evermore.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
On first glance, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1805-1855) would seem to have lived a life of privilege and fortune, with little room for discontent or unhappiness anywhere. Her family, which resided in the north of England, was extremely wealthy on both sides, the result of both inheritances and ownership of Jamaican sugar plantations. As the oldest of twelve children, she had a very comfortable upbringing, well-educated, and encouraged in her love of poetry-writing by her mother, who kept every one of her daughter’s notebooks, giving us a fascinating glimpse into Elizabeth’s stylistic and philosophical development as she aged.More