From Aurora Leigh:

So it is:
We covet for the soul, the body's part,
To die and rot. Even so, Aurora, ends
Our aspiration, who bespoke our place
So far in the east

What is the meaning of "who bespoke our place so far in the east"? What possibly could it mean?

As an aside, is there a good version of "Aurora Leigh" online with a parallel translation into plain English, i.e. with comments and annotations? It's well-nigh impossible to understand a good third of the poem.

  • 1
    Almost certainly, it is an allusion to Christ. It is the Middle East, not the Far East, that the poet is referring to.
    – Mick
    Dec 25, 2017 at 9:25
  • @Mick - thank you, but I don't get the structure of the phrase yet. What is "who bespoke our place"? The aspiration of us, who ... did what? "To bespeak" = "to order"? Dec 25, 2017 at 10:39
  • Bespeak probably means either to proclaim or to foretell in this context. However, I have absolutely no expertise with such recondite poetry. The poet seems to be addressing the desirability of annihilation following death, but her conclusion is not evident from the text. On the whole, I prefer dancing with daffodils.
    – Mick
    Dec 25, 2017 at 13:14
  • @Mick - what is "dancing with daffodils"? Dec 25, 2017 at 13:39
  • 2
    @Mick - if you have an answer, why not post it below as an actual answer? :)
    – Mithical
    Dec 25, 2017 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


I won’t claim to have the definitive answer, but one recurring theme in the poem is the morning sun as the source of the soul and of divine inspiration. Aurora is even called out within the poem as a name that means the dawn. Some instances of it include Aurora opening the window and her soul to the morning sun, Marian having been born to humble origins, but facing the east and inspired by some spirit, and Aurora’s suitor calling her a “Chaldean” who loves her “Eastern” books (meaning ancient Greek; Chaldea is now part of modern Turkey). There are some other references to the east in the poem, like her saying that her aunt who wants her to say yes to his proposal is blowing a wind from the east, and perhaps to the garden east of Eden.

In context, the previous stanza is talking about something like Plato’s conception of the soul (to which there are many allusions in the poem) and the next is talking about aspiring to be closer to God. So the metaphor is, at least in part, about humans as coming from the east and wandering, like beasts, to the west in search of food and comfort. while our higher selves aspire to return.

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