An audio recording by Doug Storm of “Evelyn Hope” by Robert Browning (1812–89) from his 1855 volume Men & Women. (audio file has a 10-second delay)
BEAUTIFUL Evelyn Hope is dead!
Sit and watch by her side an hour
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That is her book-shelf, this her bed;
She pluck’d that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too, in the glass;
Little has yet been changed, I think:
The shutters are shut, no light may pass
Save two long rays thro’ the hinge’s chink.
Sixteen years old when she died!
Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name;
It was not her time to love; beside,
Her life had many a hope and aim,
Duties enough and little cares,
And now was quiet, now astir,
Till God’s hand beckon’d unawares,—
And the sweet white brow is all of her.
Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope?
What, your soul was pure and true,
The good stars met in your horoscope,
Made you of spirit, fire and dew—
And, just because I was thrice as old
And our paths in the world diverged so wide,
Each was nought to each, must I be told?
We were fellow mortals, nought beside?
No, indeed! for God above
Is great to grant, as mighty to make,
And creates the love to reward the love:
I claim you still, for my own love’s sake!
Delay’d it may be fore more lives yet,
Through worlds I shall traverse, not a few:
Much is to learn, much to forget
Ere the time be come for taking you.
But the time will come, at last it will,
When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shall say)
In the lower earth, in the years long still,
That body and soul so pure and gay?
Why your hair was amber, I shall divine,
And your mouth of your own geranium’s red—
And what you would do with me, in fine,
In the new life come in the old one’s stead.
I have liv’d (I shall say) so much since then,
Given up myself so many times,
Gain’d me the gains of various men,
Ransack’d the ages, spoil’d the climes;
Yet one thing, one, in my soul’s full scope,
Either I miss’d or itself miss’d me:
And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope!
What is the issue? let us see!
I lov’d you, Evelyn, all the while!
My heart seem’d full as it could hold;
There was place and to spare for the frank young smile,
And the red young mouth, and the hair’s young gold.
So hush,—I will give you this leaf to keep:
See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand!
There, that is our secret: go to sleep!
You will wake, and remember, and understand.