682. Sonnets from the Portuguese

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 1806-1861

I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
  Of the sweet years, the dear and wish'd-for years,
  Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
  I saw in gradual vision through my tears
  The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years--
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
  So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
  And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
'Guess now who holds thee?'--'Death,' I said. But there
  The silver answer rang--'Not Death, but Love.'

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition