A Vision Of Poets "Knowledge By Suffering Entereth"
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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"Knowledge By Suffering Entereth"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Written as a dream-vision wherein truth is encountered, this poem is an allegorical account of the making of a poet and of his relation to the world of ordinary men. Dreaming that he is unable to sleep, the poet sees a beautiful lady riding upon a white horse; she says that she has come "to crown all poets to their worth," a declaration that the poet does not at first understand because he thinks that poets are never praised in life. However sceptical he might be, he finally follows the strange lady to three fountains of which he must drink in order to become a true poet: world's use, world's love, and world's cruelty. The last fountain causes him to swoon, but upon waking he discovers that the forest has turned into a church and an angel stands before the altar. Soon he is joined by a procession of true poets, each with a bleeding heart, and listens to the angel who tells about the Poet-God that all poets worship in their verse. Allegorically the dream-vision is a journey through death and suffering to the knowledge of God and the acceptance of the poet's role as seer; the "Conclusion" not only makes such an interpretation clear but also shows the adoration of the true poet after his death and the faith that his surviving son has in his father's vision.

"But thou," I murmured to engage
The child's speech farther, "hast an age
Too tender for this orphanage."
"Glory to God–to God!" he saith,