Poet's story stirs tender emotions at Education Week

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

She had two miscarriages, then gave birth to a healthy son she nicknamed "Pen." When Browning's mother died, he fell into depression. Elizabeth had kept his stack of letters and a collection of 44 sonnets in which she expressed her feelings for him, even though he didn't think it right for poets to express personal feelings in their work. It was her sonnets, later published as "Sonnets of the Portuguese," that pulled him out of his depression.

The Brownings' time together in Italy was rich and fulfilling, but eventually came to an end when Elizabeth died in 1861. Wilcox described the intimate final moments of her life when she said farewell to her faithful husband.

“My Robert, my heaven, my beloved, our lives are held by God, God bless you, God bless you, God bless you," Wilcox quoted Elizabeth. "It is beautiful."

Wilcox said Browning had the chance to remarry but didn't because, "My heart and soul is buried in Florence."

With women weeping and the sound of sniffles resonating around the auditorium, Wilcox recounted how his late wife, Laurie, introduced him to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry. "She became part of our relationship," he said.

Before Laurie died of cancer a few years ago, he whispered one of his favorite lines into her ear as she lay in a hospital bed.

"I love with the breath, smiles, tears of my life, — and, if God so choose I shall love thee better after death," he said.

Wilcox concluded by sharing several lessons he learned from Elizabeth's life and love story.

  • "The greatest discovery is that the woman you love, loves you back.”
  • "We never know what life will bring. The unexpected life can be great and bring unexpected blessings."
  • "Elizabeth knew she was born for some great cause, that she had been sent to earth for some great purpose. She felt this in her heart."
  • "Never doubt the possibility of footsteps on the stairs."
  • "Live with gratitude and joy. We may yet have our great compensation date."

"May each of us love and be loved as Elizabeth and Robert," Wilcox said.

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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