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July 20, 2019

6/26/2019 2:28:00 PM
The Reused Muse: Satire in Past Voices
By Jeff Balch

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died 158 years ago this week, after composing some of the loveliest verse of the 19th century. Robert Browning, who fell for her poetry and then for her, judged her sonnets the greatest since Shakespeare’s and so swept her from a domineering father, married her and convinced her to publish. She was an early feminist, and were she alive today I doubt she would fall for our president as she did for Robert. I think she would instead dismiss Trump with a verse like the following.

“Sonnet 43b” (with apologies to Mrs. Browning)

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and height

Of thy foolish tweets, thy every cruel slight,

To the ends of being and thy false displays.

I loathe thee with a passion that can yet amaze

My quiet preference for the prim polite.

I loathe thee freely, as thou turn’st from right;

I loathe thee purely, as thou crave’st cheap praise.

I loathe thee much as thou dost now abuse

The fairest standard of comport and speech;

Loathe thee with a loathing that I shan’t e’er lose

Whil’st I draw breath and whil’st a soul might reach

The hollow GOP; and I yet may choose

To loathe thee more if feeble Dems impeach.


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