Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Ingram, 5th ed.)/Chapter 10

GRATEFUL FLORENCE.


Mrs. Browning died at half-past four in the morning of June 29th, 1861, in the fifty-third year of her age. She died of congestion of the lungs; and from the shattered condition of her lungs the physicians asserted that her existence could not have been prolonged, in any circumstance, many months.

From the grief of those dearest to her the veil may not be rudely torn. Suffice to say that on the evening of July 1st all that remained of England's great poetess was reverently borne to the lovely little Protestant cemetery, looking out towards Fiesole. The bier was surrounded by a sympathetic band of English, Americans, and Italians, whose intense sorrow dared hardly display itself in presence of the holy grief of the husband and the son of her whom they had loved so well.

There, amid the dust of illustrious fellow poets, and where tall cypresses wave over the graves, and the beautiful hills keep guard around, rises a stately marble cenotaph, designed by Sir Frederick Leighton, to the memory of the authoress of Aurora Leigh. Owing, however, to the removal of the old city walls of Florence, the Protestant cemetery is now included within the city limits, and further interments there are forbidden by law; but the place is preserved by the municipality.

As long as the language she wrote in lives, the memory of Elizabeth Barrett Browning will exist; but it is pleasant to know that the people among whom she lived and laboured during the latter years of her life, and whom she loved so well, were not forgetful of her. Upon Casa Guidi the municipality of Florence placed a white marble slab, and thereon, inscribed in letters of gold, are these words written by Tommaseo:—

qui scrisse e mori
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING,
che in cuore di donna seppe unire
saprenza de dotto, e facondia di poeta,
fece del suo aureo verso, anello,
fra Italia e Inghilterra.
pose questa memoria
firenze grata.
a.d. 1861.

which may be thus rendered in English:—

here wrote and died
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING,
who in her woman's heart united
the wisdom of the sage and the eloquence of the poet;
with her golden verse linking Italy to England.
grateful florence placed
this memorial.
a.d. 1861.