Saturday, February 14, 2009

EBB

I receive an occasional email from Classic Poetry Aloud and I thought I would share today's post--


Today's posting is When our Two Souls by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861), a love poem to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Today, in the twenty-first century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning does not loom as large in the popular imagination as her male Victorian contemporaries. Of her work the Sonnets from the Portuguese are the most read, and of those the most well-known is How do I Love Thee?, which again deals with love, but - as so often with EB Browning - with death hovering in the wings.

In her day, however, EB Browning was seen as more than a composer of pretty verse. She was politically interested, played a role influencing child labour laws, and wrote widely. On the death of Wordsworth in 1850, she was seriously considered for the post of Poet Laureate, but Tennyson was chosen in her place. Today, while her husband Robert Browning lies, lionised, in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, EB Browning rests in Florence's Protestant Cemetery.

It may be, though, that the time has come for a woman Poet Laureate in Britain. The post has recently become vacant, following the end of Andrew Motion's ten year tenure. Wendy Cope remains among the favourites to be appointed, despite the fact that she has said she doesn't want the job (see here for more) and despite the prestige of the post and the associated £100 and butt of sack (a sort of sherry) given annually to the holder. (For a Classic Poetry Aloud reading of one of Wendy Cope's poems, please see Occasional Miscellany #4.) With Cope out of the race, Carol Ann Duffy is now in the frame, so we may get our female laureate yet.


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