On Poetry I: ‘the object of the intellectual part of me’

  • Elizabeth Barrett


[Y]ou are quite right in telling me not to give up poetry for magazine-writing, or for prose of a higher character. You will be satisfied when you hear me say that I couldn’t if I tried. Whatever degree of faculty I have, lies in poetry — still more of my personal happiness lies in it — still more of my love. I cannot remember the time when I did not love it … with a lying-awake sort of passion at nine years old, and with a more powerful feeling since, which even all my griefs, such as have shaken life, have failed to shake. At this moment I love it more than ever — and am bent more than ever, if possible, to work into light … not into popularity but into expression … whatever faculty I have. This is the object of the intellectual part of me — and if I live it shall be done. There will be no bitterness in the process whatever the labour … because it is not for the sake of popularity, no, nor of a higher kind of fame, but for poetry’s own sake — rather, to speak more humbly and accurately, for the sake of my love of it. Love is the safest and most unwearied moving principle in all things — it is an heroic worker.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Elizabeth Barrett

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