Aurora Leigh

Getting started on Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s Aurora Leigh, per my earlier post on verse novels. Although I don’t recall doing so, I must have watched The Barretts of Wimpole Street at some point, because I can’t otherwise explain my complete familiarity with Barret-Browning’s life story and complete absence of familiarity with anything she ever wrote (except for the How do I love thee? sonnet in the vaguest sort of way and backgroundly knowing she wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese).

Just starting out, not quite done with Book I, which details Aurora’s early life — her Italian mother’s death at her age four, her childhood in Italy followed by her father’s death at her age 13, and subsequent transplanting to England and the care of a conventional spinster aunt.  (I love her description of nature a la England vice Italy: All the fields / are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like..! So true — it’s the best thing about England!)

Some cool turns of phrase that handily encapsulate things you always knew but never could encapsulate yourself:

I felt a mother-want about the world,
and still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night in shutting up the fold –
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
it knows not.

And this description of that thing that keeps those who must write on their imaginative toes even if they don’t yet know their fate:

I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or a babe sucks surely in the dark

And a couple of items for the Rocking Title for Novels file:

– A Doubt for Cloudy Seasons
– Dreamers After Dark

Nine books in blank verse. I suppose a key question might be — what does verse bring to this that prose would not have (or vice versa)? No idea yet.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

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