Michelle Gerhart, '02
Cedar Crest College

A Desire: Elizabeth Browning's desire to recognize the feat of George Sand

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a seemingly endless list of poetry. However "To George Sand A Desire" is unique in its accolade of the author George Sand. George Sand was considered to be one of the grandmothers in female French poetry by Elizabeth Browning. Browning utilizes her tribute to glorify the remarkable feat Sand accomplished as a woman striving to break through in a man's world. In this piece Browning explores the boundaries of the sexes and the walls established in the literary world built to keep women separate and out.

"A Desire" opens with a wonderfully powerful tribute to Sand and in depth look into the sex roles with the statement "Thou large-brained woman and large hearted man."

In this line Browning acclaims George Sand's unification of intellect and sensitivity in her writings. Further Browning also explores the roles of both sexes in the adjectives she contributes to each sex. In fact this opening line appears as a contrast, after all intellect is associated with women and sensitivity with men. As sad as this is conception may be the fact remains that in Browning's time as well as the present women are associated with emotion and men with intellect. Browning refutes this misconception and proclaims that both men and women can be intellectual as well as emotional. The remainder on the first line in this piece draws attention to Sand's gender identity with "Self-called George Sand." After all George Sand is the creation of Aurore Dupin (George Sand's real name) a female author who was willing to publish under a man's name in order to gain acceptance by her audience.

All writers face the question "who is my audience, who does my work speak to?" Unfortunately in George Sand's case she was speaking to audience who refused to even consider that a woman could bring such erudition and style to the literary world. Browning explores the struggle Sand faced with her imagery of a Roman circus. In this image Sand is center stage as her audience roars around her. The roaring crowd is associated with lions as Sand attempts to stand up to the lions and "moans defiance...answers roar for roar." Browning then concludes that Sand does this "as spirits can" after all how long could any person physically stand against a mass of lions. Furthermore Sand is a woman and there by is even less likely to have chance at physical victory with the lions.

Never the less the crowd roars either in approval of Sand's gallant attempt at victory or at Dupin's failure and laughable attempt to win in a man's game. In any case Browning states that she wishes to draw Sand angel wings so that she might "amaze the place with holier light." In actuality she is drawing Sand wings of acclaim with this very poem as a tribute. Browning refers to "two pinions", Sand's wings and either author's quill or pen. Browning is giving recognition to Sand's writings and to the fact that through her own tribute Sand will have wings to fly up in the literary world and to gain recognition from readers as a woman, and as Aurore Dupin. The last line of the piece sanctifies Sand as a genius and even more importantly as a female author with a voice which will be appreciated by readers and writers to come.

Aurore Dupin was a woman with a remarkable literary aptitude who struggled to gain acceptance as a woman with intellect and talent. Her solution to this dilemma was to publish under a man's name and to play a man in a man's world. Browning brings acclaim to her role as a female author who brought enlightenment and motivation to Browning as an author. Aurore Dupin blurred the lines between male and female and enabled Browning to question her own role as a female author. Browning chose not to pose as a man but as a female with the literary force of her successor George Sand.