Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
A Child's Thought of God
They say that God lives very high;
But if you look above the pines
You cannot see our God; and why?
And if you dig down in the mines,
You never see Him in the gold,
Though from Him all that’s glory shines.
God is so good, He wears a fold
Of heaven and earth across His face,
Like secrets kept, for love, untold.
But still I feel that His embrace
Slides down by thrills, through all things made,
Through sight and sound of every place;
As if my tender mother laid
On my shut lids her kisses’ pressure,
Half waking me at night, and said,
“Who kissed you through the dark, dear guesser?”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the oldest of twelve children and the first person in her family for two hundred years to be born in England (her family had lived in Jamaica where they owned sugar plantations). An enthusiastic Christian believer, as a teenager Browning taught herself Hebrew to read the Old Testament in its original language, and later studied Greek. By age fifteen she had suffered a chronic lung ailment and a spinal injury from a horsing accident that virtually incapacitated her for the rest of her life. When her brother drowned she withdrew and became a near recluse. Her father bitterly opposed her romance with Robert Browning, who was six years younger than her, and with whom she exchanged nearly six hundred letters in less than two years. In 1846 they eloped to Florence, Italy, where she died some fifteeen years later.