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No modern poet has written of women with such variety as Browning. Coleridge, except in a few love-poems, scarcely touched them. Wordsworth did not get beyond the womanhood of the home affections, except in a few lovely and spiritual sketches of girlhood which are unique in our literature, in which maidenhood and the soul of nature so interchange their beauty that the girl seems born of the lonely loveliness of nature and lives with her mother like a child.

What motherhood in its deep grief and joy, what sisterhood and wifehood may be, have never been sung with more penetration and exquisiteness than Wordsworth sang them. But of the immense range, beyond, of womanhood he could not sing. Byron’s women are mostly in love with Byron under various names, and he rarely strays beyond the woman who is loved or in love. The woman who is most vital, true and tender is Haidee in Don Juan. Shelley’s women melt into philosophic mist, or are used to build up a political or social theory, as if they were “properties” of literature. Cythna, Rosalind, Asia, Emilia are ideas, not realities. Beatrice is alive, but she was drawn for him in the records of her trial. Even the woman of his later lyrics soon ceases to be flesh and blood. Keats let women alone, save in Isabella, and all that is of womanhood in her is derived from Boccaccio. Madeline is nothing but a picture. It is curious that his remarkable want of interest in the time in which he lived should be combined with as great a want of interest in women, as if the vivid life of any period in the history of a people were bound up with the vivid life of women in that period. When women awake no full emotion in a poet, the life of the time, as in the case of Keats, awakes little emotion in him. He will fly to the past for his subjects. Moreover, it is perhaps worth saying that when the poets cease to write well about women, the phase of poetry they represent, however beautiful it be, is beginning to decay. When poetry is born into a new life, women are as living in it as men. Womanhood became at once one of its dominant subjects in Tennyson and Browning. Among the new political, social, religious, philosophic and artistic ideas which were then borne like torches through England, the idea of the free development of women was also born; and it carried with it a strong emotion. They claimed the acknowledgment of their separate individuality, of their distinct use and power in the progress of the world. This was embodied with extraordinary fulness in Aurora Leigh, and its emotion drove itself into the work of Tennyson and Browning. How Tennyson treated the subject in the Princess is well known. His representation of women in his other poems does not pass beyond a few simple, well-known types both of good and bad women. But the particular types into which the variety of womanhood continually throws itself, the quick individualities, the fantastic simplicities and subtleties, the resolute extremes, the unconsidered impulses, the obstinate good and evil, the bold cruelties and the bold self-sacrifices, the fears and audacities, the hidden work of the thoughts and passions of women in the far-off worlds within them where their soul claims and possesses its own desires these were beyond the power of Tennyson to describe, even, I think, to conceive. But they were in the power of Browning, and he made them, at least in lyric poetry, a chief part of his work.

In women he touched great variety and great individuality; two things each of which includes the other, and both of which were dear to his imagination. With his longing for variety of representation, he was not content to pile womanhood up into a few classes, or to dwell on her universal qualities. He took each woman separately, marking out the points which differentiated her from, not those which she shared with, the rest of her sex. He felt that if he dwelt only on the deep-seated roots of the tree of womanhood, he would miss the endless play, fancy, movement, interaction and variety of its branches, foliage and flowers. Therefore, in his lyrical work, he leaves out for the most part the simpler elements of womanhood and draws the complex, the particular, the impulsive and the momentary. Each of his women is distinct from the rest. That is a great comfort in a world which, through laziness, wishes to busy itself with classes rather than with personalities. I do not believe that Browning ever met man or woman without saying to himself Here is a new world; it may be classed, but it also stands alone. What distinguishes it from the rest that I will know and that describe.

When women are not enslaved to conventions and the new movement towards their freedom of development which began shortly after 1840 had enfranchised and has continued ever since to enfranchise a great number from this slavery they are more individual and various than men are allowed to be. They carry their personal desires, aspirations and impulses into act, speech, and into extremes with much greater licence than is possible to men. One touches with them much more easily the original stuff of humanity. It was this original, individual and various Thing in women on which Browning seized with delight. He did not write half as much as other poets had done of woman as being loved by man or as loving him. I have said that the mere love-poem is no main element in his work. He wrote of the original stuff of womanhood, of its good and bad alike, sometimes of it as all good, as in Pompilia; but for the most part as mingled of good and ill, and of the good as destined to conquer the ill.

He did not exalt her above man. He thought her as vital, interesting and important for progress as man, but not more interesting, vital, or important. He neither lowered her nor idealised her beyond natural humanity. She stands in his poetry side by side with man on an equality of value to the present and future of mankind. And he has wrought this out not by elaborate statement of it in a theory, as Tennyson did in the Princess with a conscious patronage of womanhood, but by unconscious representation of it in the multitude of women whom he invented.

But though the wholes were equal, the particulars of which the wholes were composed differed in their values; and women in his view were more keenly alive than men, at least more various in their manifestation of life. It was their intensity of life which most attracted him. He loved nothing so much as life in plant or animal or man. His longer poems are records of the larger movement of human life, the steadfast record in quiet verse as in Paracelsus, or the clashing together in abrupt verse as in Sordello, of the turmoil and meditation, the trouble and joy of the living soul of humanity. When he, this archangel of reality, got into touch with pure fact of the human soul, beating with life, he was enchanted. And this was his vast happiness in his longest poem, the Ring and the Book

Do you see this square old yellow book I toss
I’ the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers pure crude fact
Secreted from man’s life when hearts beat hard
And brains, high blooded, ticked two centuries hence?
Give it me back. The thing’s restorative
I’ the touch and sight.

But in his lyrics, it was not the steady development of life on which he loved to write, but the unexpected, original movement of life under the push of quick thought and sudden passion into some new form of action which broke through the commonplace of existence. Men and women, and chiefly women, when they spoke and acted on a keen edge of life with a precipice below them or on the summit of the moment, with straight and clear intensity, and out of the original stuff of their nature were his darling lyric subjects. And he did this work in lyrics, because the lyric is the poem of the moment.

There was one of these critical moments which attracted him greatly that in which all after-life is contained and decided; when a step to the right or left settles, in an instant, the spiritual basis of the soul. I have already mentioned some of these poems those concerned with love, such as By the Fireside or Cristina and the woman is more prominent in them than the man. One of the best of them, so far as the drawing of a woman is concerned, is Dis aliter visum. We see the innocent girl, and ten years after what the world has made of her. But the heart of the girl lies beneath the woman of the world. And she recalls to the man the hour when they lingered near the church on the cliff; when he loved her, when he might have claimed her, and did not. He feared they might repent of it; sacrificing to the present their chance of the eternities of love. “Fool! who ruined four lives mine and your opera-dancer’s, your own and my husband’s!” Whether her outburst now be quite true to her whole self or not Browning does not let us know; but it is true to that moment of her, and it is full of the poetry of the moment she recalls. Moreover, these thirty short verses paint as no other man could have done the secret soul of a woman in society. I quote her outburst. It is full of Browning’s keen poetry; and the first verse of it may well be compared with a similar moment in By the Fireside, where nature is made to play the same part, but succeeds as here she fails:

Now I may speak: you fool, for all
Your lore! Who made things plain in vain?
What was the sea for? What, the grey
Sad church, that solitary day,
Crosses and graves and swallows’ call?

Was there nought better than to enjoy?
No feat which, done, would make time break,
And let us pent-up creatures through
Into eternity, our due?
No forcing earth teach heaven’s employ?

No wise beginning, here and now,
What cannot grow complete (earth’s feat)
And heaven must finish, there and then?
No tasting earth’s true food for men,
Its sweet in sad, its sad in sweet?

No grasping at love, gaining a share
O’ the sole spark from God’s life at strife
With death, so, sure of range above
The limits here? For us and love.
Failure; but, when God fails, despair.

This you call wisdom? Thus you add
Good unto good again, in vain?
You loved, with body worn and weak;
I loved, with faculties to seek:
Were both loves worthless since ill-clad?

Let the mere star-fish in his vault
Crawl in a wash of weed, indeed,
Rose-jacynth to the finger tips:
He, whole in body and soul, outstrips
Man, found with either in default.

But what’s whole, can increase no more,
Is dwarfed and dies, since here’s its sphere.
The devil laughed at you in his sleeve!
You knew not? That I well believe;
Or you had saved two souls: nay, four.

For Stephanie sprained last night her wrist,
Ankle or something. “Pooh,” cry you?
At any rate she danced, all say,
Vilely; her vogue has had its day.
Here comes my husband from his whist.

Here the woman speaks for herself. It is characteristic of Browning’s boldness that there are a whole set of poems in which he imagines the unexpressed thoughts which a woman revolves in self-communion under the questionings and troubles of the passions, and chiefly of the passion of love. The most elaborate of these is James Lee’s Wife, which tells what she thinks of when after long years she has been unable to retain her husband’s love. Finally, she leaves him. The analysis of her thinking is interesting, but the woman is not. She is not the quick, natural woman Browning was able to paint so well when he chose. His own analytic excitement, which increases in mere intellectuality as the poem moves on, enters into her, and she thinks more through Browning the man than through her womanhood. Women are complex enough, more complex than men, but they are not complex in the fashion of this poem. Under the circumstances Browning has made, her thought would have been quite clear at its root, and indeed in its branches. She is represented as in love with her husband. Were she really in love, she would not have been so involved, or able to argue out her life so anxiously. Love or love’s sorrow knows itself at once and altogether, and its cause and aim are simple. But Browning has unconsciously made the woman clear enough for us to guess the real cause of her departure. That departure is believed by some to be a self-sacrifice. There are folk who see self-sacrifice in everything Browning wrote about women. Browning may have originally intended her action to be one of self-sacrifice, but the thing, as he went on, was taken out of his hands, and turns out to be quite a different matter. The woman really leaves her husband because her love for him was tired out. She talks of leaving her husband free, and perhaps, in women’s way, persuades herself that she is sacrificing herself; but she desires in reality to set herself free from an unavailing struggle to keep his love. There comes a time when the striving for love wearies out love itself. And James Lee’s wife had reached that moment. Her departure, thus explained, is the most womanly thing in the poem, and I should not wonder if Browning meant it so. He knew what self-sacrifice really was, and this departure of the woman was not a true self-sacrifice.

Another of these poems in which a woman speaks out her heart is Any Wife to any Husband. She is dying, and she would fain claim his undying fidelity to his love of her; but though she believes in his love, she thinks, when her presence is not with him, that his nature will be drawn towards other women. Then what he brings her, when he meets her again, will not be perfect. Womanly to the core, and her nature is a beautiful nature, she says nothing which is not kind and true, and the picture she draws of faithfulness, without one stain of wavering, is natural and lovely. But, for all that, it is jealousy that speaks, the desire to claim all for one’s self. “Thou art mine, and mine only” that fine selfishness which injures love so deeply in the end, because it forbids its expansion, that is, forbids the essential nature of love to act. That may be pardoned, unless in its extremes, during life, if the pardon does not increase it; but this is in the hour of death, and it is unworthy of the higher world. To carry jealousy beyond the grave is a phase of that selfish passion over which this hour, touched by the larger thought of the infinite world, should have uplifted the woman. Still, what she says is in nature, and Browning’s imagination has closed passionately round his subject. But he has left us with pity for the woman rather than with admiration of her.

Perhaps the subtlest part of the poem is the impression left on us that the woman knows all her pleading will be in vain, that she has fathomed the weakness of her husband’s character. He will not like to remember that knowledge of hers; and her letting him feel it is a kind of vengeance which will not help him to be faithful. It is also her worst bitterness, but if her womanhood were perfect, she would not have had that bitterness.

In these two poems, and in others, there is to be detected the deep-seated and quiet half-contempt contempt which does not damage love, contempt which is half pity which a woman who loves a man has for his weakness under passion or weariness. Both the wives in these poems feel that their husbands are inferior to themselves in strength of character and of intellect. To feel this is common enough in women, but is rarely confessed by them. A man scarcely ever finds it out from his own observation; he is too vain for that. But Browning knew it. A poet sees many things, and perhaps his wife told him this secret. It was like his audacity to express it.

This increased knowledge of womanhood was probably due to the fact that Browning possessed in his wife a woman of genius who had studied her own sex in herself and in other women. It is owing to her, I think, that in so many poems the women are represented as of a finer, even a stronger intellect than the men. Many poets have given them a finer intuition; that is a common representation. But greater intellectual power allotted to women is only to be found in Browning. The instances of it are few, but they are remarkable.

It was owing also to his wife, whose relation to him was frank on all points, that Browning saw so much more clearly than other poets into the deep, curious or remote phases of the passions, thoughts and vagaries of womanhood. I sometimes wonder what women themselves think of the things Browning, speaking through their mouth, makes them say; but that is a revelation of which I have no hope, and for which, indeed, I have no desire.

Moreover, he moved a great deal in the society where women, not having any real work to do, or if they have it, not doing it, permit a greater freedom to their thoughts and impulses than those of their sex who sit at the loom of duty. Tennyson withdrew from this society, and his women are those of a retired poet a few real types tenderly and sincerely drawn, and a few more worked out by thinking about what he imagined they would be, not by knowing them. Browning, roving through his class and other classes of society, and observing while he seemed unobservant, drew into his inner self the lives of a number of women, saw them living and feeling in a great diversity of circumstances; and, always on the watch, seized the moment into which he thought the woman entered with the greatest intensity, and smote that into a poem. Such poems, naturally lyrics, came into his head at the opera, at a ball, at a supper after the theatre, while he talked at dinner, when he walked in the park; and they record, not the whole of a woman’s character, but the vision of one part of her nature which flashed before him and vanished in an instant. Among these poems are A Light Woman, A Pretty Woman, Solomon and Balkis, Gold Hair, and, as a fine instance of this sheet-lightning poem about women Adam, Lilith and Eve. Too Late and The Worst of It do not belong to these slighter poems; they are on a much higher level. But they are poems of society and its secret lives. The men are foremost in them, but in each of them a different woman is sketched, through the love of the men, with a masterly decision.

Among all these women he did not hesitate to paint the types farthest removed from goodness and love. The lowest woman in the poems is she who is described in Time’s Revenges

So is my spirit, as flesh with sin,
Filled full, eaten out and in
With the face of her, the eyes of her,
The lips, the little chin, the stir
Of shadow round her mouth; and she
I’ll tell you calmly would decree
That I should roast at a slow fire,
If that would compass her desire
And make her one whom they invite
To the famous ball to-morrow night

Contrasted with this woman, from whose brutal nature civilisation has stripped away the honour and passion of the savage, the woman of In a Laboratory shines like a fallen angel. She at least is natural, and though the passions she feels are the worst, yet she is capable of feeling strongly. Neither have any conscience, but we can conceive that one of these women might attain it, but the other not. Both are examples of a thing I have said is exceedingly rare in Browning’s poetry men or women left without some pity of his own touched into their circumstances or character.

In a Laboratory is a full-coloured sketch of what womanhood could become in a court like that of Francis I.; in which every shred of decency, gentlehood and honour had disappeared. Browning’s description, vivid as it is, is less than the reality. Had he deepened the colours of iniquity and indecency instead of introducing so much detailed description of the laboratory, detail which weakens a little our impression of the woman, he had done better, but all the same there is no poet in England, living or dead, who could have done it so well. One of the best things in the poem is the impression made on us that it is not jealousy, but the hatred of envy which is the motive of the woman. Jealousy supposes love or the image of love, but among those who surrounded Francis, love did not exist at all, only lust, luxury and greed of power; and in the absence of love and in the scorn of it, hate and envy reign unchallenged. This is what Browning has realised in this poem, and, in this differentiation, he has given us not only historical but moral truth.

Apart from these lighter and momentary poems about women there are those written out of his own ideal of womanhood, built up not only from all he knew and loved in his wife, but also out of the dreams of his heart. They are the imaginings of the high honour and affection which a man feels for noble, natural and honest womanhood. They are touched here and there by complex thinking, but for the most part are of a beloved simplicity and tenderness, and they will always be beautiful. There is the sketch of the woman in The Italian in England, a never to be forgotten thing. It is no wonder the exile remembered her till he died. There is the image we form of the woman in The Flowers Name. He does not describe her; she is far away, but her imagined character and presence fill the garden with an incense sweeter than all the flowers, and her beauty irradiates all beauty, so delicately and so plenteously does the lover’s passion make her visible. There is Evelyn Hope, and surely no high and pure love ever created a more beautiful soul in a woman than hers who waits her lover in the spiritual world. There are those on whom we have already dwelt Pippa, Colombe, Mildred, Guendolen. There is the woman in the Flight of the Duchess; not a sketch, but a completed picture. We see her, just emerged from her convent, thrilling with eagerness to see the world, believing in its beauty, interested in everything, in the movement of the leaves on the trees, of the birds in the heaven, ready to speak to every one high or low, desirous to get at the soul of all things in Nature and Humanity, herself almost a creature of the element, akin to air and fire.

She is beaten into silence, but not crushed; overwhelmed by dry old people, by imitation of dead things, but the life in her is not slain. When the wandering gipsy claims her for a natural life, her whole nature blossoms into beauty and joy. She will have troubles great and deep, but every hour will make her conscious of more and more of life. And when she dies, it will be the beginning of an intenser life.

Finally, there is his wife. She is painted in these lyric poems with a simplicity of tenderness, with a reticence of worship as sacred as it is fair and delicate, with so intense a mingling of the ideal and the real that we never separate them, and with so much passion in remembrance of the past and in longing for the future, that no comment can enhance the picture Browning draws of her charm, her intellect and her spirit.

These pictures of womanhood were set forth before 1868, when a collected edition of his poems was published in six volumes. They were chiefly short, even impressionist studies, save those in the dramas, and Palma in Sordello. Those in the dramas were troubled by his want of power to shape them in that vehicle. It would have then been a pity if, in his matured strength, he had not drawn into clear existence, with full and careful, not impressionist work, and with unity of conception, some women who should, standing alone, become permanent personages in poetry; whom men and women in the future, needing friends, should love, honour and obey, and in whom, when help and sympathy and wisdom were wanted, these healing powers should be found. Browning did this for us in Pompilia and Balaustion, an Italian and a Greek girl not an English girl. It is strange how to the very end he lived as a poet outside of his own land.

In 1868, Pompilia appeared before the world, and she has captured ever since the imagination, the conscience and the sentiment of all who love womanhood and poetry. Her character has ennobled and healed mankind. Born of a harlot, she is a star of purity; brought up by characters who love her, but who do not rise above the ordinary meanness and small commercial honesty of their class, she is always noble, generous, careless of wealth, and of a high sense of honour. It is as if Browning disdained for the time all the philosophy of heredity and environment; and indeed it was characteristic of him to believe in the sudden creation of beauty, purity and nobility out of their contraries and in spite of them. The miracle of the unrelated birth of genius that out of the dunghill might spring the lily, and out of the stratum of crime the saint was an article of faith with him. Nature’s or God’s surprises were dear to him; and nothing purer, tenderer, sweeter, more natural, womanly and saintly was ever made than Pompilia, the daughter of a vagrant impurity, the child of crime, the girl who grew to womanhood in mean and vulgar circumstances.

The only hatred she earns is the hatred of Count Guido her husband, the devil who has tortured and murdered her the hatred of evil for good. When Count Guido, condemned to death, bursts into the unrestrained expression of his own nature, he cannot say one word about Pompilia which is not set on fire by a hell of hatred. Nothing in Browning’s writing is more vivid, more intense, than these sudden outbursts of tiger fierceness against his wife. They lift and enhance the image of Pompilia.

When she comes into contact with other characters such as the Archbishop and the Governor, men overlaid with long-deposited crusts of convention, she wins a vague pity from them, but her simplicity, naturalness and saintliness are nearly as repugnant to social convention as her goodness is to villany; and Browning has, all through the poem, individualised in Pompilia the natural simplicity of goodness in opposition to the artificial moralities of conservative society. But when Pompilia touches characters who have any good, however hidden, in them, she draws forth that good. Her so-called parents pass before they die out of meanness into nobility of temper. Conti, her husband’s cousin, a fat, waggish man of the world, changes into seriousness, pity and affection under her silent influence. The careless folk she meets on her flight to Rome recognise, even in most suspicious circumstances, her innocence and nobleness; and change at a touch their ordinary nature for a higher. And when she meets a fine character like Caponsacchi, who has been led into a worldly, immoral and indifferent life, he is swept in a moment out of it by the sight alone of this star of innocence and spiritual beauty, and becomes her true mate, daily self-excelled. The monk who receives her dying confession, the Pope, far set by his age above the noise of popular Rome, almost at one with the world beyond death and feeling what the divine judgment would be, both recognise with a fervour which carries them beyond the prejudices of age and of their society the loveliness of Heaven in the spirit of this girl of seventeen years, and claim her as higher than themselves.

It is fitting that to so enskied and saintly a child, when she rests before her death, the cruel life she had led for four years should seem a dream; and the working out of that thought, and of the two checks of reality it received in the coming of her child and the coming of Caponsacchi, is one of the fairest and most delicate pieces of work that Browning ever accomplished. She was so innocent and so simple-hearted and the development of that part of her character in the stories told of her childhood is exquisitely touched into life so loving, so born to be happy in being loved, that when she was forced into a maze of villany, bound up with hatred, cruelty, baseness and guilt, she seemed to live in a mist of unreality. When the pain became too deep to be dreamlike she was mercifully led back into the dream by the approach of death. As she lay dying there, all she had suffered passed again into unreality. Nothing remained but love and purity, the thrill when first she felt her child, the prayer to God which brought Caponsacchi to her rescue so that her child might be born, and lastly the vision of perfect union hereafter with her kindred soul, who, not her lover on earth, would be her lover in eternity. Even her boy, who had brought her, while she lived, her keenest sense of reality (and Brownings whole treatment of her motherhood, from the moment she knew she was in child, till the hour when the boy lay in her arms, is as true and tender as if his wife had filled his soul while he wrote), even her boy fades away into the dream. It is true she was dying, and there is no dream so deep as dying. Yet it was bold of Browning, and profoundly imagined by him, to make the child disappear, and to leave the woman at last alone with the thought and the spiritual passion of her union with Caponsacchi

O lover of my life, O soldier saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death.

It is the love of Percival’s sister for Galahad.

It is not that she is naturally a dreamer, that she would not have felt and enjoyed the realities of earth. Her perceptions are keen, her nature expansive. Browning, otherwise, would not have cared for her. It was only when she was involved in evil, like an angel in hell (a wolfs arm round her throat and a snake curled over her feet), that she seemed to be dreaming, not living. It was incredible to her that such things should be reality. Yet even the dream called the hidden powers of her soul into action. In realising these as against evil she is not the dreamer. Her fortitude is unbroken; her moral courage never fails, though she is familiar with fear; her action, when the babe has leaped in her womb, is prompt, decisive and immediate; her physical courage, when her husband overtakes her and befouls her honour, is like a man’s. She seizes his sword and would have slain the villain. Then, her natural goodness, the genius of her goodness, gives her a spiritual penetration which is more than an equivalent in her for an educated intelligence. Her intuition is so keen that she sees through the false worldliness of Caponsacchi to the real man beneath, and her few words call it into goodness and honour for ever. Her clear sense of truth sees all the threads of the net of villany in which she has been caught, and the only means to break through it, to reveal and bring it into condemnation. Fortitude, courage, intuition and intelligence are all made to arise out of her natural saintliness and love. She is always the immortal child.

For a time she has passed on earth through the realms of pain; and now, stabbed to her death, she looks back on the passage, and on all who have been kind and unkind to her on the whole of the falsehood and villany. And the royal love in her nature is the master of the moment. She makes excuses for Violante’s lie. “She meant well, and she did, as I feel now, little harm.” “I am right now, quite happy; dying has purified me of the evil which touched me, and I colour ugly things with my own peace and joy. Every one that leaves life sees all things softened and bettered.” As to her husband, she finds that she has little to forgive him at the last. Step by step she goes over all he did, and even finds excuses for him, and, at the end, this is how she speaks, a noble utterance of serene love, lofty intelligence, of spiritual power and of the forgiveness of eternity.

For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends, none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me, somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul:
But for the unresisting body, thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to him thanks and farewell!

Thus, pure at heart and sound of head, a natural, true woman in her childhood, in her girlhood, and when she is tried in the fire by nature gay, yet steady in suffering; brave in a hell of fears and shame; clear-sighted in entanglements of villany; resolute in self-rescue; seeing and claiming the right help and directing it rightly; rejoicing in her motherhood and knowing it as her crown of glory, though the child is from her infamous husband; happy in her motherhood for one fortnight; slain like a martyr; loving the true man with immortal love; forgiving all who had injured her, even her murderer; dying in full faith and love of God, though her life had been a crucifixion; Pompilia passes away, and England’s men and women will be always grateful to Browning for her creation.