Saturday, April 30, 2011

At The Campfire

"He who breathes deepest lives most." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.

Much of Barrett Browning’s work carries a religious theme. She had read and studied such famous literary works as Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno. She says in her writing, "We want the sense of the saturation of Christ's blood upon the souls of our poets, that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity, expounding agony into renovation. Something of this has been perceived in art when its glory was at the fullest. Something of a yearning after this may be seen among the Greek Christian poets, something which would have been much with a stronger faculty". She believed that "Christ's religion is essentially poetry—poetry glorified.” She explored the religious aspect in many of her poems, especially in her early work, such as the sonnets. She was interested in theological debate, had learned Hebrew and read the Hebrew Bible. The poem Aurora Leigh, for example, features religious imagery and allusion to the apocalypse.

At The Campfire

I would lie near you
and near the flame, near the gleam
in your sea deep eyes
as you claim your youth
in the golden mallow hue
on the moon's lit tip,
the stalk in the fire
we have set between our souls
as we orbit, spin.

November 28, 2009 1:51 AM


  1. I have a conundrum with that quote. It is the reason I chose it. The first thing that strikes me, there is a t-shirt quote, contemporary that states, "he who dies with the most toys wins." I used it some time ago here rephrasing it, "he who dies with the most love wins." Now the older version is Ms. Browning's (a bit of a fox, no?) quote, "he who breathes deepest lives most."

    My conundrum. I cannot qualify. I have a kind of heart failure that tenderizes my lungs, a pulmonary embolism, an allergic condition, and who knows what all else but surely something. I am never far from a coughing fit. I cannot qualify, ever, for Ms. Browning's measure. Can God set up His world with that kind of twist to things? Apparently so. This is one of the ways I know this is not God's World but instead the World that He Permits.

    I have been blessed in other ways, with special favor. I already know that other people cannot do at all what I can do easily in some areas. That is equally a conundrum, no?


  2. perhaps it comes down to what you mean by living. you dare to see into living, you dare to live with passion. to me you are really living. no blinders. that's how i take elizabeth's poem. we can't control our bodies.

    but Christopher, i went through the forest yesterday. i thought, i am all but 41. and i know this is still young in so many ways. but i jumped on trees and off of them. i sang loudly. i ran. i sweat. i was in the glory of the moment and all about me - my god - all about me. it is like the forest helps me to breathe deeper. and i thought, oh, let me do this until i can't and when i can't - let it all be done, for how am i to live when i can't breathe like this. and so i know living wild in our bodies is something very real also and i wish your body were more your friend.

    i wrote this the other day. i hope i haven't brought it here already:

    ever the more alive
    evermore and everest

    brings you ever the more
    in your everest most capacity
    closest to death.

    have you watched Synecdoche, New York? you must. have patience. i don't think it's for everyone, but frig is it worth it!


  3. I don’t think the quote was specific to a physical action. That would be too limiting. I think taking in as much as we can and savoring, whatever the condition we are in at the moment is a closer meaning.

  4. You guys want to qualify and broaden things but I think the reply reaches into the same areas, that every stopping place leads to someone who can complain of exceptions.

    I believe that breathing the way Ms. Browning was using it is sacred breath. It is overwhelmingly a part of our spiritual legacy that breath work is in the heart of spiritual practice. There is no question that breath work is not the only way. There is also no question that breath work is one of the best ways.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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