Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Time To Dance Is Not To Woo

The feminism that I hear in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems seems to me to be both much more honest and infinitely more appealing than the brand of feminism that rules the world these days. It is in fact feminine, for it exalts the feminine; today's variety seems intent on destroying the whole concept of the feminine.


'Yes,' I answered you last night;
'No,' this morning, sir, I say:
Colors seen by candle-light
Will not look the same by day.

When the viols played their best,
Lamps above and laughs below,
Love me sounded like a jest,
Fit for yes or fit for no.

Call me false or call me free,
Vow, whatever light may shine,--
No man on your face shall see
Any grief for change on mine.

Yet the sin is on us both;
Time to dance is not to woo;
Wooing light makes fickle troth,
Scorn of me recoils on you.

Learn to win a lady's faith
Nobly, as the thing is high,
Bravely, as for life and death,
With a loyal gravity.

Lead her from the festive boards,
Point her to th starry skies;
Guard her, by your truthful words,
Pure from coutrship's flatteries.

By your truth she shall be true,
Ever true, as wives of yore;
And her yes, once said to you,
SHALL be Yes for evermore.

1 comment:

John W. May said...

Like ‘Your Love Was Writ in Sand’, this poem really teaches me much about the poet’s character as a woman. She seems very self-aware of her worth- a worth that I believe to be intrinsic to all women.

Again, and here I must admit a lack of historical perspective, though fully aware of the notion women of the Victorian period had of chastity (not just in a sexual sense, but more so of character and social manner), I didn’t realize the extent to which they viewed themselves a autonomous… not that I made that assumption, but I never see this depicted in contemporary narratives.

What she admonishes a man to do in stanzas 5 and 6 seems to me a good and ageless piece of advice.

Here’s a site that might interest you (from which I’m learning):