by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861)

On the door you will not enter
Language: English 
On the door you will not enter
 I have gazed too long - adieu!
Hope withdraws her peradventure -
 Death is near me, - and not you!
  Come, O lover,
  Close and cover
These poor eyes you called, I ween,
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

When I heard you sing that burden
 In my vernal days and bowers,
Other praises disregarding,
 I but hearkened that of yours, -
  Only saying
  In heart-playing,
'Blessed eyes mine eyes have been,
If the sweetest, HIS have seen!'

But all changeth. At this vesper,
 Cold the sun shines down the door.
If you stood there, would you whisper,
 'Love, I love you,' as before, -
  Death pervading
  Now, and shading
Eyes you sang of, that yestreen,
As the sweetest, ever seen?

Yes! I think, were you beside them,
 Near the bed I die upon, - 
Though their beauty you denied them,
 As you stood there, looking down,
  You would truly
  Call them duly,
For the love's sake found therein, -
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

And if you looked down upon them,
 And if they looked up to you,
All the light which has foregone them
 Would be gathered back anew!
  They would truly
  Be as duly
Love-transformed to Beauty's sheen, -
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

But, ah me! you only see me
 In your thoughts of loving man,
Smiling soft perhaps and dreamy
 Through the wavings of my fan, -
  And unweeting
  Go repeating,
In your reverie serene,
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

While my spirit leans and reaches
 From my body still and pale,
Fain to hear what tender speech is
 In your love, to help my bale -
  O my poet,
  Come and show it!
Come, of latest love, to glean
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

O my poet, O my prophet,
 When you praised their sweetness so,
Did you think, in singing of it,
 That it might be near to go?
  Had you fancies,
  From their glances,
That the grave would quickly screen
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen?'

No reply! The fountain's warble
 In the court-yard sounds alone.
As the water to the marble
 So my heart falls with a moan,
  From love-sighing
  To this dying!
Death forerunneth Love, to win
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

Will you come? When I'm departed
 Where all sweetnesses are hid -
Where thy voice, my tender-hearted,
 Will not lift up either lid.
  Cry, O lover,
  Love is over!
Cry, beneath the cypress green -
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

When the Angelus is ringing,
 Near the convent will you walk,
And recall the choral singing
 Which brought angels down our talk?
  Spirit-shriven
  I viewed Heaven,
Till you smiled - 'Is earth unclean,
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen?'

When beneath the palace-lattice,
 You ride slow as you have done,
And you see a face there - that is
Not the old familiar one, -
  Will you oftly
  Murmur softly,
'Here, ye watched me morn and e'en,
Sweetest eyes, were ever seen!'

When the palace-ladies sitting
 Round your gittern, shall have said,
'Poet, sing those verses written
 For the lady who is dead,' -
  Will you tremble,
  Yet dissemble, -
Or sing hoarse, with tears between,
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen?'

'Sweetest eyes!' How sweet in flowings,
 The repeated cadence is!
Though you sang a hundred poems,
 Still the best one would be this.
  I can hear it
  'Twixt my spirit
And the earth-noise, intervene -
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen!'

But the priest waits for the praying,
 And the choir are on their knees, - 
And the soul must pass away in 
 Strains more solemn high than these!
  Miserere
  For the weary -
Oh, no longer for Catrine,
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen!'

Keep my riband: take and keep it, -
 I have loosed it from my hair;
Feeling, while you overweep it,
 Not alone in your despair, -
  Since with saintly
  Watch, unfaintly,
Out of Heaven shall o'er you lean
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

But - but now - yet unremoved
 Up to Heaven, they glisten fast:
You may cast away, Beloved,
 In your future, all my past;
  Such old phrases
  May be praises
For some fairer bosom-queen -
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen!'

Eyes of mine, what are ye doing?
 Faithless, faithless, - praised amiss,
If a tear be of your showing,
 Dropt for any hope of HIS!
  Death hath boldness
  Beside coldness,
If unworthy tears demean
'Sweetest eyes, were ever seen.'

I will look out to his future - 
 I will bless it till it shine.
Should he ever be a suitor
 Unto sweeter eyes than mine,
  Sunshine gild them,
  Angels shield them,
Whatsoever eyes terrene
Be the sweetest HIS have seen!

E. Philp sets stanzas 1-4
V. Saalbach sets stanzas 1-2 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanzas 3-6 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanzas 8-10 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanzas 11-12 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanza 13 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanza 14 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanza 15 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
V. Saalbach sets stanza 19 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information

About the headline (FAQ)

Confirmed with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh and Other Poems edited by John Robert Glorney Bolton and Julia Bolton Holloway, Penguin Classics, 1995, pages 359-364, based on Poems 1844. First (shorter) version published in Graham's Magazine, October 1834


Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)


Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2008-01-25
Line count: 152
Word count: 783