"Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife,/Shut in upon itself and do no harm/In this close hand of Love..."
The speaker begins the sonnet with this line. She introduces the symbol of a knife, which represents the darkness and negativity in the world (its "sharpness"). In a confident tone, she proposes that the "sharpness" of the world be shut out completely and replaced by love. With a loving hand, she can shut out the world's pain and prevent hurtful people from harming her husband and herself. Love is so powerful that it is capitalized for emphasis.
"Life to life—/I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,/And feel as safe as guarded by a charm."
The speaker establishes the deep connection she shares with her husband. Referring to her beloved as "Dear" with a capital "d," she once again emphasizes a person or concept that means a great deal to her. Their bodies seem to be connected to one another with the phrase, "life to life." The two lovers depend on each other and are essential to each other's survival. The speaker explains that she leans upon, or counts on, her husband's love for survival. She is so confident in his support and love that she feels no "alarm"—she is neither apprehensive nor afraid that he will abandon her. She feels reassured and safe to the point that she feels she is "guarded," or protected, by a kind of magic "charm." Her husband is her protector.
"God only, who made us rich, can make us poor."
The speaker demonstrates her profound belief that only God has the power to govern the lives of His creatures. God gave the speaker and her husband the love they share, making them "rich." Even if ill-intentioned people in the world try to threaten their love, they ultimately can do no harm. Only God has the ability to make them "poor," or take away their bounty. On a grander scale, the "us" may refer to humanity as a whole. The speaker may also be saying that only God has the power to give all humans and living creatures riches in life and take away their joys when he sees fit.
Sonnet 24 (Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife) Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for Sonnet 24 (Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife)
Sonnet 24 (Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife) study guide contains a biography of Elizabeth Browning, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.