Away from gridiron, poetry reigns

• How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” — Elizabeth Barrett Browning


• “Love, if you knew the light — That your soul casts in my sight.” — Robert Browning


Before the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, I happened upon the sixth-ranked Baylor University Bears practicing indoors in Waco, Texas, for their game against the 15th-ranked Central Florida Knights.

Wendel Sloan

Wendel Sloan

After spotting my camera, an assistant “hinted” I leave.

Had they let me demonstrate pass patterns I ran in Portales’ Rotary Park with “Slinging” Scot Stinnett at quarterback, I am confident the Bears wouldn’t have been upset by the Knights, 52-42.

After the “hint,” I left at wide-receiver speed — reaching pay-dirt at the Armstrong Browning Library on the academic side of campus.

Soon, I was immersed in a world centuries, continents and sensibilities away from big-money football.

The library/museum is dedicated to married poets Robert (1812-1889) and Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861) Browning. Joseph Armstrong (1873-1954), Baylor English professor, was its driving force.

The stunning 62 stained-glass windows, the world’s largest secular collection, illustrate their poetry, including:

• “I am not of thy worth nor for thy place!” — EBB

• “I found you, loved yet feared you so.” — RB

Visitors live the everyday life of the famous poets through their jewelry, furniture, household items, desks, inkstands, personal memorabilia and thousands of hand-written letters and manuscripts.

The most striking exhibit is a recreation of their drawing room, with life-size mannequins of Robert and Elizabeth.

Because of being six years older and in frail health, Elizabeth was reluctant to marry Robert. After finally accepting his umpteenth proposal, they enjoyed a loving marriage — inspiring their greatest poetry.

Arguably, his most famous work is “My Last Duchess.” Hers is “Sonnets from the Portuguese.”

Unlike military-strategist coaches, the library’s docents freely allowed photos. (Facebook friends can see them in my “Browning” album.)

• “Escape me? Never — Beloved!” — RB

• “I shall but love thee better after death.” — EBB


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