Valentine Poem Fragment: "In a Gondola" by Robert Browning

This is a fragment of a long "he said/she said" poem titled "In A Gondola," written by Robert Browning (1812-1889).  It's not an exalted love poem, but rather a role-playing dalliance enacted on Venice's night canals by a woman (possibly married) and her lover.  Browning forever established his lover-man credentials in 1846 by eloping to Italy with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and by inspiring her to write "Sonnets From the Portuguese" ("How do I love thee?" etc.).  There's a hilarious "Cambridge Footlights" courtship sketch with Emma Thompson as Elizabeth and Stephen Fry as Robert--set in London when Elizabeth was a prisoner of ill health and paternal cloistering (at Minute 2 "diddy"=daddy).

"In a Gondola" was sparked when an intermediary for painter Daniel Maclise asked Browning to write a few lines on an oil-painting titled "The Serenade" (now in Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library; scroll to bottom of linked page for small image).  Browning wrote the few lines, and then added over 200 more. These excerpted stanzas are intended to be "sung" by the woman, but for the podcast I asked a man to speak them (audio link below), just for fun.

(More fun with nature: the "bee" on the delphinium flower above is actually an illusion created by tiny fuzzy petals.)  

In A Gondola (excerpt)
by Robert Browning

The moth's kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made me believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst.

The bee's kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is rendered up,
And passively its shattered cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.


Valentine Poem: "Venus Transiens" by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was born into a prominent New England Family.  In addition to poetry, she wrote criticism and a biography of John Keats.  Lowell was a generous and vivid person who supported other artists, launched the Imagist movement in America, and got into spats with Ezra Pound.  "Venus Transiens," written in 1915, was probably inspired by her muse, the actress Ada Dwyer Russell.

Venus Transiens
by Amy Lowell 

Tell me,
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are,
When she topped 
The crinkled waves,
Drifting shoreward
On her plaited shell?
Was Botticelli's vision
Fairer than mine;
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness
As with a gauze
Of misted silver?

For me,
You stand poised
In the blue and bouyant air,
Cinctured by bright winds,
Treading the sunlight.
And the waves which precede you
Ripple and stir
The sands at my feet.