Change on Change

Welcome to Poetry in the Evening.

We are connected to nature in ways that cannot be fully understood. Poetry allows us to explore the relationship with the world around us. “Change on Change’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a poem about lost love and change envisioned through the lens of changing seasons.

Love flourished through spring and summer, but when the cooler winds of autumn arrive, there has been a parting, a loss. What is left is the sound of the river and the blush on the poet’s cheeks.

With every transition, we are influenced by the events and experiences that have occurred. As winter comes nearer, the poet recognizes that she is no longer the person of the spring and summer months.

Transitions hold emotional nuances that have a poignancy that brings both sadness for what was, but also joy for what has been gained as we move forward.

I invite you to join me in reciting, Change on Change by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Change on Change

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Three months ago, the stream did flow,
    The lilies bloomed along the edge;
And we were lingering to and fro,—
Where none will track thee in this snow,
    Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah! sweet, be free to come and go;
    For if I do not hear thy foot,
    The frozen river is as mute,—
    The flowers have dried down to the root;
    And why, since these be changed since May,
        Shouldst thou change less than they?


And slow, slow as the winter snow,
    The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my two cheeks, three months ago,
Set blushing at thy praises so,
    Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah! sweet, be free to praise and go;
    For if my face is turned to pale,
    It was thine oath that first did fail,—
    It was thy love proved false and frail!
    And why, since these be changed, I trow,
        Should I change less than thou?

This poem is in the public domain. 

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

59 thoughts on “Change on Change

    1. Agreed! Thank you for sharing such an evocative poem. Even though the poem specifically mentions “5 months ago”, as I was listening to it, it made me wonder if she could be referring to the changes over a lifetime, when people can grow apart?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Change on Change has the universal feeling, doesn’t it! What I found from exploring the British Library was that “Sonnets from the Portuguese are a sequence of 44 sonnets which were written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning during the course of her courtship with the poet Robert Browning. Sonnet 43 is the perhaps the most famous, with the opening line ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”. I understand that EBB was uncertain whether Robert Browning’s love was true. The poetry become more confident as I think you would be interested in the rest of this article.

        However Change on Change does not appear to be part of this collection so I am off to find out the background of this poem. I love going down rabbit holes.

        Many thanks for listening in…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dave for your encouraging comments – you always inspire me to look deeply into literature. When I read and recite EBB’s poetry, I feel that she is in the room with me. Her words come across the years and it seems as fresh now as it was when the poem was created. A reminder that, no matter what age we live in, we experience the same emotions.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. Many thanks, Robbie, for joining me in the recitation. I had wondered why EBB chose to name her sonnets “from the Portuguese.” So I searched for an explanation and found this passage in the British Library.

      “Elizabeth was initially reluctant to publish the poems due to their intimate nature. However, Robert convinced her of their importance and she published them in her book Poems in 1850. To help protect her privacy, Elizabeth called them The Sonnets from the Portuguese to create the impression that she had just translated them from Portuguese rather than written them herself. The choice of Portuguese is thought to have been inspired by her husband’s nickname for her, ‘My little Portuguese’.,%2C%20'My%20little%20Portuguese‘.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Your ‘phrasing’ is so sweet and captures the nuances perfectly!
    And yes, I agree with the sentiment EBB presents – “Should I change less than thou?”

    I am delighted by your recitals, Rebecca. However, I must let you know that I will be ‘around’ a little less than normal. K and I are currently spending a good deal of time and vitality upon our dancing; leaving little energy for our other joys. All things change, as EBB so deeply animates in her poem. I will still be here, but within a ‘different’ state!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so very very excited for you and K, Carolyn. I watched your latest video and marveled at the beauty and elegance of your dance movements. It looked like you were floating. You and K are a “power couple” on the dance floor. I look forward to hearing more of your adventures. Sending many hugs across the miles.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. My favouite season is autumn for it reminds me of going back to school and new adventures. I am glad that we have seasons. One of my most favourite quotes about seasons comes from Yoko Ono:

      “Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
      Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
      Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
      Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
      Yoko Ono

      Liked by 3 people

    1. My dear friend, how wonderful to anticipate and embrace change. I believe that this is the point where and when we feel most alive and in the moment. I just finished “The TIme Keeper” by Mitch Albom, which was a wonderful reflection on time and how we relate to our finite existence. I especially appreciated this quote: “It is never too late or too soon. It is when it is supposed to be.” Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper. Sending many hugs your way across the continent and ocean.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, Rebecca, most aware that things will be different in the future, positive or negative! I like your quote by Mitch Albom and I have therefore written down the booktitel you mentioned:) Many hugs your way.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Teagan for your encouragement and support – so very much appreciated. I understand the EBB’s Sonnets from the Portuguese’s were written during her courtship with Robert Browning. Six years older than Robert, she had never been in good health so she was hesitant. She was concerned that he really didn’t love her (he loved her on sight). I have read that as the sonnets progress they become more positive until that marvelous Sonnet 43 “How to I love thee.”

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Linda. How interesting that you should mention the pauses. You have given me something to think about. You are absolutely right – the pauses give us time to reflect and gather the words into our minds. Pauses are just as important as words. Many thanks for sharing that insight.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I just found the entire 44 Sonnets from the Portuguese – my winter project will be to recite them. It will take me more than a winter but I’m looking forward to exploring more of EBB’s poetry. Many thanks for your lovely comments, Diana. I see that you have been on our side of the border. LOVED your photos!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Many thanks for joining me in reciting Change on Change, Colleen. Since we have met up, I have become very interested in the structure of poems. When I looked up Change on Change, I discovered that the stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of ABAABACCCDD. EBB also used a consistent metrical pattern. As to the syllable count this is what I read: “The first ten lines of each stanza contain eight syllables, written in iambic tetrameter, while the last line of each stanza has six rather than eight syllables.”

      I have entered the world of syllables!!! What an adventure.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for reciting these lovely lines, so musical, and you read them so well. In your introduction you mentioned Portuguese, does she write in Portuguese, as well. it would be interesting to me. You find some very interesting poems and poets, as well. I like the pictures that the poet paints as she recites them, I really enjoyed this very much, very fitting for the season we are in! !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed this poetry recitation, Frances. Thank you for beginning my poetry journey many years ago with the Children’s Encyclopedia Britannica. The first volume was dedicated to poetry. Remember when you read poetry to us every afternoon. I was 4 and my brother was 3 when you opened the book to the first poem. You read every poem in that volume including “the Owl and the Pussycat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Great memories!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I remember those days, most precious. Thank you for remembering with me while we enjoy this podcast many decades later, We have had so many precious memories to recall! !

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Fantastic, dear Rebecca!
    I love this poem, and your recitation was perfect.

    Thank you for this! You know how much I adore EBB. You say she is a poet of the Romantic Movement.
    No wonder I adore her poetry so much, I found her at 16 years of age, during my Romantic Movement!

    PS… sent RB Mermaid…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are a brilliant and creative romantic, Resa. Just received the RB Mermaid. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your creation. Here is a quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning that defines the power of love: “Who so loves believes the impossible.” I had goosebumps when I read that sentence and still do when I am writing it now. EBB is universal in her approach to living boldly. Her insights remain as fresh today as when they were first written down.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yay!
        Thank you for the quote! She is fabulous!
        “Her insights remain as fresh today as when they were first written down.” because/and that’s why she still is with us.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Bette, for your heartwarming comments. When I recite poetry, I feel a sense that the poet is standing beside me. This coming year, I will challenge myself to read Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I’m taking a huge, deep breath….

      Liked by 2 people

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