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I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery while I strove,
'Guess now who holds thee?' - 'Death!' I said, But there,
The silver answer rang. . . Not Death, but Love.'
Excerpted from Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning Copyright © 1996 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Excerpted by permission.
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