Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Barrett Browning, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jan-24-2023
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


Published in 1844, "Grief" is one of several sonnets Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB), the oldest of twelve children, wrote following the death of her 33 year old beloved brother and immediately younger sibling, Edward (nicknamed "Bro"), by drowning in 1840. (Another brother, Samuel, had also died, 5 months earlier at age 28, in Cinnamon Hill, the family's estate in Jamaica, from a fever.) The other sonnets reflecting the numbing grief EBB felt (as expressed in her letters) after Bro's death are "Tears" and "Substitution". All were published in her 1844 Poems.

"Grief" is a Petrarchan sonnet describing the distinction between the poet's "hopeless grief" and the grief of men "incredulous of despair". She further instructs "deep-hearted man" to adopt the poet's form of grief, to "express/Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death". This "silence like to death" reflects EBB's movement to speechlessness and silence following Bro's death. (ref = Billone)

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