Folded Eyes See Brighter Colors

“Folded eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from her poem “A Child Asleep” in The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1900)

Oil Painting of Barrett Browning

Portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning at age 53. Oil painting by Michele Gordigiani, Florence, July 1859.  

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861) was a popular English poet of the Victorian era. Born in County Durham, the eldest of 12 children, Elizabeth Barrett wrote poetry from about the age of six. At the age of 15 she became ill, and would struggle with frail health for the rest of her life. She was educated and tutored at home and began writing verses at age four; by age eight she was reading novels; at ten studying Greek; by twelve she began her own Homeric epic, The Battle of Marathon: A Poem. Her father and mother encouraged her work. Between 1841 and 1844 Barrett Browning was prolific in poetry, translation and prose. In 1844 she published two volumes of Poems, which included “A Drama of Exile”, and “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship”Her prolific output made her a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for poet laureate in 1850 on the death of William Wordsworth. Her career and life came to a halt when her health began to deteriorate in 1860. She died in her husband’s arms, the poet Robert Browning, who was quoted saying she went “smilingly, happily, […] Her last word was… “‘Beautiful'”.


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