A Woman's Shortcomings

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

She has laughed as softly as if she sighed,

She has counted six, and over,

Of a purse well filled, and a heart well tried -

Oh, each a worthy lover!

They "give her time"; for her soul must slip

Where the world has set the grooving;

She will lie to none with her fair red lip:

But love seeks truer loving.

She trembles her fan in a sweetness dumb,

As her thoughts were beyond recalling;

With a glance for one, and a glance for some,

From her eyelids rising and falling;

Speaks common words with a blushful air,

Hears bold words, unreproving;

But her silence says - what she never will swear -

And love seeks better loving.

Go, lady! lean to the night-guitar,

And drop a smile to the bringer;

Then smile as sweetly, when he is far,

At the voice of an in-door singer.

Bask tenderly beneath tender eyes;

Glance lightly, on their removing;

And join new vows to old perjuries -

But dare not call it loving!

Unless you can think, when the song is done,

No other is soft in the rhythm;

Unless you can feel, when left by One,

That all men else go with him;

Unless you can know, when unpraised by his breath,

That your beauty itself wants proving;

Unless you can swear "For life, for death!" -

Oh, fear to call it loving!

Unless you can muse in a crowd all day

On the absent face that fixed you;

Unless you can love, as the angels may,

With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;

Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,

Through behoving and unbehoving;

Unless you can die when the dream is past -

Oh, never call it loving!