Cheerfulness Taught by Reason (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

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Cheerfulness Taught by Reason
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I think we are too ready with complaint
In this fair world of God’s. Had we no hope
Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope
Of yon gray blank of sky, we might be faint
To muse upon eternity’s constraint
Round our aspirant souls. But since the scope
Must widen early, is it well to droop,
For a few days consumed in loss and taint?
O pusillanimous Heart, be comforted,—
And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road-
Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread
Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
To meet the flints? —At least it may be said,
“Because the way is short, I thank thee, God!”

Word art by Corrie Haffly


Lindsay Smallwood recommended this poem to me, and I confess I chose it mostly because of the delicious word pusillanimous (which I’ve confessed loving before!)

But, on second and third reading, I love this too: her deep reflection on the truths that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and yet we droops in these days “consumed in loss and taint”. We do well, then, to learn to give thanks in every circumstance: a cheerfulness taught by reason and hope, not by naiveté.

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2 thoughts on “Cheerfulness Taught by Reason (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)”

  1. Her imagery of being barefoot on a rocky trail, yet thankful for the brevity of the journey, is an encouragement to persevere rather than let our faint hearts dictate our mood. Here’s to singing a tune as we walk along the hedged and flint-paved path.

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