I remember reading Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barret Browning as a very young student. I read it in a week as though in a trance, enchanted with the long prose poem and surprised at the familiarity of the cycle of stages that the protagonists Aurora and her cousin Romney go through – the brash idealism of early youth, the need to own a cause and fight for it, the exhilaration of taking risks and playing with their lives, the obstacles they face from the world that turns out to be quite different from what it seemed, the decisions they take impulsively out of their beliefs, the mistakes they must make and the consequences they must face before they come to the Voltarian realisation that the same truth holds good for each of us. For all of us. We must cultivate our garden.
It seems unbelievable that a hundred and fifty years after the book was written, in this enlightened and modern world, most of us still essentially remain the same, making the same assumptions and presumptions with the idealisms of early youth and later realising that the wise people born before us were so right, so true in most of the things that they said.
Art is heaven, but Love is God, said Elizabeth Browning. I hope that she is now at peace in her heaven with her God, reciting her sonnets to her beloved Robert.