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Title: A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)
Author: Orr, Sutherland, Mrs., 1828-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)" ***



       "No pause i' the leading and the light!"
                      _The Ring and the Book_, vol. ix. p. 226.


_First Published May 1885._
_Second Edition, 1886._
_Third Edition, 1887._
_Fourth Edition, 1889._
_Fifth Edition, 1890._
_Sixth Edition, 1892._
_Reprinted 1895, 1899, 1902, 1907,
          1910, 1913, 1919, 1923._



This book was written at the request of some of the members of the
Browning Society, and was originally intended to be a primer. It bears
the marks of this intention in its general scheme, and in the almost
abrupt brevity which the desired limits of space seemed to impose on its
earlier part. But I felt from the first that the spirit of Mr.
Browning's work could neither be compressed within the limits, nor
adapted to the uses, of a primer, as generally understood; and the book
has naturally shaped itself into a kind of descriptive Index, based
partly on the historical order and partly or the natural classification
of the various poems. No other plan suggested itself, at the time, for
bringing the whole series of these poems at once under the reader's eye:
since a description which throughout followed the historical order would
have involved both lengthiness and repetition; while, as I have tried to
show, there exists no scheme of natural classification into which the
whole series could have been forced. I realize, only now that it is too
late, that the arrangement is clumsy and confusing: or at least has
become so by the manner in which I have carried it out; and that even if
it justify itself to the mind of my readers, it can never be helpful or
attractive to their eye, which had the first right to be considered.
That I should have failed in a first attempt, however earnest, to meet
the difficulties of such a task, is so natural as to be almost beyond
regret, where my credit only is concerned; but I shall be very sorry if
this result of my inexperience detracts from any usefulness which the
Handbook might otherwise possess as a guide to Mr. Browning's works. I
note also, and with real vexation, some blunders of a more mechanical
kind, which I might have been expected to avoid.

I have been indebted for valuable advice to Mr. Furnivall; and for
fruitful suggestion to Mr. Nettleship, whose proposed scheme of
classification I have in some degree followed.


_March 2nd, 1885._


In preparing the Handbook for its second edition, my first endeavour has
been to correct, as far as possible, the faults which I acknowledged in
my Preface to the first. But even before the time for doing so had
arrived, I had convinced myself that where construction or arrangement
was concerned, these faults could not be corrected: that I, at least,
could discover no more artistic method of compressing into a small
space, and to any practical purpose, an even relatively just view of Mr.
Browning's work. The altered page-headings will, where they occur,
soften away the harshness of the classification, while they remove a
distinct anomaly: the discussion of such a poem as "Pauline" under its
own title, such a one as "Aristophanes' Apology," under that of a group;
but even this slight improvement rather detracts from than increases
what little symmetry my scheme possessed. The other changes which, on my
own account, I have been able to make, include the re-writing of some
passages in which the needful condensation had unnecessarily mutilated
the author's sense; the completing of quotation references which through
an unforeseen accident had been printed off in an unfinished state; and
the addition of a few bibliographical facts. By Mr. Browning's desire, I
have corrected two mistakes: the misreading, on my part, of an
historical allusion in "The Statue and the Bust," and of a poetical
sentiment expressed in "Pictor Ignotus"--and, by the insertion of a word
or sentence in the notice of each, expanded or emphasized the meaning of
several of the minor poems. I should have stated in my first Preface,
had not the fact appeared to me self-evident, that I owe to Mr.
Browning's kindness all the additional matter which my own reading could
not supply: such as the index to the Greek names in "Aristophanes'
Apology," and the Persian in "Ferishtah's Fancies;" the notes to
"Transcendentalism," and "Pietro of Abano;" and that he has allowed me
to study in the original documents the story of "The Ring and the Book."
The two signed notes by which he has enriched the present edition have
grown out of recent circumstances.


_January 11th, 1886._


The present edition of the Handbook includes a summary of Mr. Browning's
"Parleyings," which from the contents of this volume, as well as from
its recent appearance, finds its natural place in a Supplement.

I have added an Index to the six volumes of the "Works," which has been
desired for greater facility of reference.

Various corrections and improvements of the nature indicated in the
Preface to my second edition have been also made in the book.


_June 25th, 1887._


The deeply painful circumstances in which the Handbook re-appears have
compelled me to defer the fulfilment of Mr. Browning's wish, that its
quotation references should be adapted to the use of readers of his new
edition. They also leave it the poorer by some interesting notes which
he more than once promised me for my next reprint; I had never the heart
to say to him: "Is it not safer to give them now?"

The correction, p. 149, of the note referring to p. 184 of
"Aristophanes' Apology," was lately made by Mr. Browning in the
Handbook, pending the time when he could repeat it in his own work. The
cancelled footnote on my 353rd page means that he did remove the
contradiction of which I spoke.

An open discussion on "Numpholeptos," which took place some months ago,
made me aware that my little abstract was less helpful even than its
brevity allowed, because I had emphasized the imagery of the poem where
it most obscured--or least distinctly illustrated--its idea; and I
re-wrote a few sentences which I now offer in their amended form. A
phrase or two in "One Word More" has been altered for the sake of more
literal accuracy. No other correction worth specifying has been made in
the book.


_January 7th, 1890._


The changes made in the present edition have been almost entirely
bibliographical. Their chief object was that indicated in an earlier
preface, of bringing the Handbook into correspondence with the latest
issue of Mr. Browning's works. I felt reluctant when making them, to
entirely sacrifice the convenience of those students of Browning who
from necessity, or, as in my own case, from affection, still cling to
the earlier editions; and would gladly have retained the old references
while inserting the new. All however that seemed practical in this
direction was to combine the index of 1868 with that of 1889 in so far
as they run parallel with each other.

A long felt want has been supplied by the addition to the Handbook of a
Bibliography of Mr. Browning's works, based on that of Dr. Furnivall,
and thoroughly revised by Mr. Dykes Campbell. The bibliographical
details scattered throughout the work have also been made more complete.

The time and trouble required for the altered quotation references have
been reduced to a minimum by the thoughtful kindness of my friend Miss
Fanny Carey of Trent Leigh, Nottingham; who voluntarily, many months
ago, prepared for me a list of the new page numbers, leaving them only
to be transcribed when the time came. I have also to thank Mr. G. M.
Smith for a copy of his general Index to the works.


_Dec. 1st, 1891._


PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION                                    v

PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION                                      vi

PREFACE TO THIRD EDITION                                      vii

PREFACE TO FIFTH EDITION                                     viii

PREFACE TO SIXTH EDITION                                       ix


CONTINUOUS CHARACTER OF HIS WORK.                               1


"Pauline." "Paracelsus." "Sordello"                            17



"Strafford." "Pippa Passes." "King Victor and King Charles."
"The Return of the Druses." "A Blot in the 'Scutcheon."
"Colombe's Birthday." "A Soul's Tragedy." "Luria." "In a
Balcony" (A Fragment)                                          53

"THE RING AND THE BOOK"                                        75

TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE GREEK, with "Artemis Prologizes"         118



"Aristophanes' Apology," with "Balaustion's Adventure."
"Fifine at the Fair." "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour
of Society." "Bishop Blougram's Apology." "Mr. Sludge, 'The
Medium'"                                                      121


"Christmas-Eve and Easter-day." "La Saiziaz." "Cleon." "An
Epistle containing the Strange Medical Experience of
Karshish, the Arab Physician." "Caliban upon Setebos; or,
Natural Theology in the Island"                               178


"A Death in the Desert." "Rabbi Ben Ezra." "Deaf and Dumb: a
group by Woolner." "The Statue and the Bust"                  198


"Old Pictures in Florence." "Respectability." "Popularity."
"Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha." "A Light Woman."
"Transcendentalism." "How it Strikes a Contemporary." "Dîs
aliter Visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours." "At the
'Mermaid.'" "House." "Shop." "Pisgah-Sights" I.
"Pisgah-Sights," II. "Bifurcation." "Epilogue" "Pacchiarotto
and other Poems"                                              207


LYRICAL LOVE POEMS. "One Word More. To E. B. B." "Prospice."
"Numpholeptos." "Prologue" (to "Pacchiarotto and other
Poems."). "Natural Magic." "Magical Nature." Introductory
Poem to "The Two Poets of Croisic." Concluding Poem to "The
Two Poets of Croisic" (a Tale). DRAMATIC LOVE POEMS.
"Cristina." "Evelyn Hope." "Love among the Ruins." "A
Lovers' Quarrel." "By the Fireside." "Any Wife to any
Husband." "Two in the Campagna." "Love in a Life." "Life in
a Love." "The Lost Mistress." "A Woman's Last Word." "A
Serenade at the Villa." "One Way of Love." "Rudel to the
Lady of Tripoli." "In Three Days." "In a Gondola."
"Porphyria's Lover." "James Lee's Wife." "The Worst of it."
"Too Late."                                                   219



"Saul." "Epilogue to Dramatis Personæ." "Fears and
Scruples." "Fra Lippo Lippi." "Abt Vogler." "Pictor
Ignotus." "The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's
Church." "A Toccata of Galuppi's." "The Guardian-Angel: a
picture at Fano." "Eurydice to Orpheus: a picture by
Leighton." "A Face." "Andrea del Sarto." "The Laboratory."
"My Last Duchess." "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." "The
Confessional." "A Forgiveness."                               237


"Red Cotton Night-Cap Country; or, Turf and Towers."
"Cenciaja." "The Two Poets of Croisic." "The Inn Album."
"The Heretic's Tragedy: a Middle-Age Interlude"               254


"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." "The Flight of the
Duchess"                                                      271


"Holy-Cross Day." "Pacchiarotto, and how he Worked in
Distemper." "Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of Burial."
"Up at a Villa--Down in the City." "Another Way of Love."
"Garden Fancies--II. Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis"              277


"De Gustibus--." "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad." "The
Englishman in Italy"                                          285



"The Lost Leader." "Nationality in Drinks." "Garden
Fancies--I. The Flower's Name." "Earth's Immortalities."
"Home-Thoughts, from the Sea." "My Star." "Misconceptions."
"A Pretty Woman." "Women and Roses." "Before." "After."
"Memorabilia." "The Last Ride Together." "A Grammarian's
Funeral." "Johannes Agricola in Meditation." "Confessions."
"May and Death." "Youth and Art." "A Likeness."
"Appearances." "St. Martin's Summer." Prologue to "La
Saisiaz." "Cavalier Tunes." "How they Brought the Good News
from Ghent to Aix." "Song." "Incident of the French Camp."
"Count Gismond." "The Boy and the Angel." "The Glove." "The
Twins." "The Pied Piper of Hamelin; a Child's Story." "Gold
Hair: a Story of Pornic." "Hervé Riel." "Through the Metidja
to Abd-el-Kadr." "Meeting at night." "Parting at Morning."
"The Patriot: an Old Story." "Instans Tyrannus."
"Mesmerism." "Time's Revenges." "The Italian in England."
"Protus." "Apparent Failure." "Waring"                        289



DRAMATIC IDYLS, I. SERIES: "Martin Relph." "Pheidippides."
"Halbert and Hob." "Ivàn Ivànovitch." "Tray." "Ned Bratts."
DRAMATIC IDYLS, II. SERIES. "Prologue." "Echetlos." "Clive."
"Mulèykeh." "Pietro of Abano." "Doctor ----." "Pan and
Luna." "Epilogue." "Jocoseria." "Wanting is--what?"
"Donald." "Solomon and Balkis." "Cristina and Monaldeschi."
"Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli." "Adam, Lilith, and Eve."
"Ixion." "Jochanan Hakkadosh." "Never the Time and the
Place." "Pambo"                                               308


Ferishtah's Fancies                                           331

Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their day:
To wit: Bernard de Mandeville, Daniel Bartoli, Christopher
Smart, George Bubb Dodington, Francis Furini, Gerard de
Lairesse, and Charles Avison. Introduced by a Dialogue
between Apollo and the Fates: concluded by Another between
John Fust and his Friends.                                    339

NOTE                                                          363

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                  365

ALPHABETICAL LIST OF BROWNING'S WORKS                         395

INDEX TO FIRST LINES OF POEMS                                 411

INDEX                                                         417




If we were called upon to describe Mr. Browning's poetic genius in one
phrase, we should say it consisted of an almost unlimited power of
imagination exerted upon real things; but we should have to explain that
with Mr. Browning the real includes everything which a human being can
think or feel, and that he is realistic only in the sense of being never
visionary; he never deals with those vague and incoherent fancies, so
attractive to some minds, which we speak of as coming only from the
poet's brain. He imagines vividly because he observes keenly and also
feels strongly; and this vividness of his nature puts him in equal
sympathy with the real and the ideal--with the seen and the unseen. The
one is as living to him as the other.

His treatment of visible and of invisible realities constitutes him
respectively a dramatic and a metaphysical poet; but, as the two kinds
of reality are inseparable in human life, so are the corresponding
qualities inseparable in Mr. Browning's work. The dramatic activity of
his genius always includes the metaphysical. His genius always shows
itself as dramatic and metaphysical at the same time.

Mr. Browning's genius is dramatic because it always expresses itself in
the forms of real life, in the supposed experiences of men and women.
These men and women are usually in a state of mental disturbance or
conflict; indeed, they think much more than they act. But their thinking
tends habitually to a practical result; and it keeps up our sense of
their reality by clothing itself always in the most practical and
picturesque language which thought can assume. It has been urged that he
does not sink himself in his characters as a completely dramatic writer
should; and this argument must stand for what it is worth. His
personality may in some degree be constructed from his works: it is, I
think, generally admitted, that that of Shakespeare cannot; and in so
far as this is the test of a complete dramatist, Mr. Browning fails of
being one. He does not sink himself in his men and women, for his
sympathy with them is too active to admit of it. He not only describes
their different modes of being, but defends them from their own point of
view; and it is natural that he should often select for this treatment
characters with which he is already disposed to sympathize. But his
women are no less living and no less distinctive than his men; and he
sinks his individuality at all times enough to interest us in the
characters which are not akin to his own as much as in those which are.
Even if it were otherwise, if his men and women were all variations of
himself, as imagined under differences of sex, of age, of training, or
of condition, he would still be dramatic in this essential quality, the
only one which bears on our contention: that everything which, as a
poet, he thinks or feels, comes from him in a dramatic, that is to say,
a completely living form.

It is in this way also that his dramatic genius includes the
metaphysical. The abstract, no less than the practical questions which
shape themselves in his mind, are put before us in the thoughts and
words, in the character and conduct of his men and women. This does not
mean that human experience solves for him all the questions which it can
be made to state, or that everything he believes can be verified by it:
for in that case his mode of thought would be scientific, and not
metaphysical; it simply means, that so much of abstract truth as cannot
be given in a picture of human life, lies outside his philosophy of it.
He accepts this residue as the ultimate mystery of what must be called
Divine Thought. Thought or spirit is with him the ultimate fact of
existence; the one thing about which it is vain to theorize, and which
we can never get behind. His gospel would begin, "In the beginning was
the Thought;" and since he can only conceive this as self-conscious, his
"Alpha and Omega" is a Divine intelligence from which all the ideas of
the human intellect are derived, and which stamps them as true. These
religious conceptions are the meeting-ground of the dramatic and the
metaphysical activity of his poetic genius. The two are blended in the
vision of a Supreme Being not to be invested with human emotions, but
only to be reached through them.

To show that Mr. Browning is a metaphysical poet, is to show that he is
not a metaphysical _thinker_, though he is a thinker whose thought is
metaphysical so far as principle goes. A metaphysical thinker is always
in some way or other thinking about _thought_; and this is precisely
what Mr. Browning has no occasion to do, because he takes its
assumptions upon trust. He is a constant analyst of secondary motives
and judgments. No modern freethinker could make a larger allowance for
what is incidental, personal, and even material in them: we shall see
that all his practical philosophy is bound up with this fact. But he has
never questioned the origin of our primary or innate ideas, for he has,
as I have said, never questioned their truth. It is essential to bear in
mind that Mr. Browning is a metaphysical poet, and not a metaphysical
thinker, to do justice to the depth and originality of his creative
power; for his imagination includes everything which at a given moment a
human being can think or feel, and often finds itself, therefore, at
some point to which other minds have _reasoned_ their way. The
coincidence occurs most often with German lines of thought, and it has
therefore been concluded that he has studied the works in which they are
laid down, or has otherwise moved in the same track; the fact being that
he has no bond of union with German philosophers, but the natural
tendencies of his own mind. It may be easily ascertained that he did not
read their language until late in life; and if what I have said of his
mental habits is true, it is equally certain that their methods have
been more foreign to him still. He resembles Hegel, Fichte, or
Schelling, as the case may be, by the purely creative impulse which has
met their thought, and which, if he had lived earlier, might have
forestalled it. Mr. Browning's position is that of a fixed centre of
thought and feeling. Fifty years ago he was in advance of his age. He
stood firm and has allowed the current to overtake him, or even leave
him behind. If I may be allowed a comparison: other mental existences
suggest the idea of a river, flowing onwards, amidst varying scenes, and
in a widening bed, to lose itself in the sea. Mr. Browning's genius
appears the sea itself, with its immensity and its limits, its
restlessness and its repose, the constant self-balancing of its ebb and

As both dramatic and metaphysical poet, Mr. Browning is inspired by one
central doctrine: that while thought is absolute in itself, it is
relative or personal to the mind which thinks it; so that no one man can
attain the whole truth of any abstract subject, and no other can convict
him of having failed to do so. And he also believes that since
intellectual truth is so largely for each of us a matter of personal
impression, no language is special enough to convey it. The arguments
which he carries on through the mouths of his men and women often
represent even moral truth as something too subtle, too complex, and too
changing, to be definitely expressed; and if we did not see that he
reverences what is good as much as he excuses what is bad, we might
imagine that even on this ground he considered no fixed knowledge to be
attainable. These opinions are, however, closely bound up with his
religious beliefs, and in great measure explained by them. He is
convinced that uncertainty is essential to the spiritual life; and his
works are saturated by the idea that where uncertainty ceases,
stagnation must begin; that our light must be wavering, and our progress
tentative, as well as our hopes chequered, and our happiness even devoid
of any sense of finality, if the creative intention is not to frustrate
itself; we may not see the path of progress and salvation clearly marked
out before us. On the other hand, he believes that the circumstances of
life are as much adapted to the guidance of each separate soul as if
each were the single object of creative care; and that therefore while
the individual knows nothing of the Divine scheme, he _is_ everything in

This faith in personality is naturally abstruse on the metaphysical
side, but it is always picturesque on the dramatic; for it issues in
that love of the unusual which is so striking to every reader of Mr.
Browning's works; and we might characterize these in a few words, by
saying that they reflect at once the extent of his general sympathies,
and his antagonism to everything which is general. But the "unusual"
which attracts him is not the morbid or the monstrous, for these mean
defective life. It is every healthy escape from the conventional and the
commonplace, which are also defective life; and this is why we find in
his men and women those vivid, various, and subtly compounded motives
and feelings, which make our contact with them a slight, but continuous
electric shock.

And since the belief in personality is the belief in human life in its
fullest and truest form, it includes the belief in love and
self-sacrifice. It may, indeed, be said that while Mr. Browning's
judgments are leavened by the one idea, they are steadily coloured by
the other; this again being so evident to his serious renders that I
need only indicate it here. But the love of love does more than colour
his views of life; it is an essential element in his theology; and it
converts what would otherwise be a pure Theism into a mystical
Christianity which again is limited by his rejection of all dogmatic
religious truth. I have already alluded to his belief that, though the
Deity is not to be invested with human emotions, He can only be reached
through them. Love, according to him, is the necessary channel; since a
colourless Omnipotence is outside the conception as outside the
sympathies of man. Christ is a message of Divine love, indispensable and
therefore true; but He is, as such, a spiritual mystery far more than a
definable or dogmatic fact. A definite revelation uttered for all men
and for all time is denied by the first principles of Mr. Browning's
religious belief. What Christianity means for him, and what it does not,
we shall also see in his works.

It is almost superfluous to add that Mr. Browning's dramatic sympathies
and metaphysical or religious ideas constitute him an optimist. He
believes that no experience is wasted, and that all life is good in its
way. We also see that his optimism takes the individual and not the race
for its test and starting point; and that he places the tendency to good
in a _conscious_ creative power which is outside both, and which deals
directly with each separate human soul. But neither must we forget that
the creative purpose, as he conceives it, fulfils itself equally through
good and evil; so that he does not shrink from the contemplation of evil
or by any means always seek to extenuate it. He thinks of it
philosophically as a condition of good, or again, as an excess or a
distortion of what is good; but he can also think of it, in the natural
sense, as a distinct mode of being which a bad man may prefer for its
own sake, as a good man prefers its opposite, and may defend
accordingly. He would gladly admit that the coarser forms of evil are
passing away; and that it is the creative intention that they should do
so. Evil remains for him nevertheless essential to the variety, and
invested with the dignity of human life; and on no point does he detach
himself so clearly from the humanitarian optimist who regards evil and
its attendant sufferings as a mere disturbance to life. Even where
suffering is not caused by evil doing, he is helped over it by his
individual point of view; because this prevents his ever regarding it as
distinct from the personal compensations which it so often brings into
play. He cannot think of it in the mass; and here again his theism
asserts itself, though in a less obvious manner.

So much of Mr. Browning's moral influence lies in the hopeful religious
spirit which his works reveal, that it is important to understand how
elastic this is, and what seeming contradictions it is competent to
unite. The testimony of one poem might otherwise be set against that of
another with confusing results.

Mr. Browning's paternal grandfather was an Englishman of a west country
stock;[1] his paternal grandmother a Creole. The maternal grandfather
was a German from Hamburg named Wiedemann, an accomplished draughtsman
and musician.[2] The maternal grandmother was completely Scotch.

This pedigree throws a valuable light on the vigour and variety of Mr.
Browning's genius; for it shows that on the ground of heredity they are,
in great measure, accounted for. It contains almost the only facts of a
biographical nature which can be fitly introduced into the present work.



Mr. Browning's choice of subject is determined by his belief that
individual feeling and motive are the only true life: hence the only
true material of dramatic art. He rejects no incident which admits of
development on the side of feeling and motive. He accepts none which
cannot be so developed. His range of subject covers, therefore, a great
deal that is painful, but nothing that is simply repulsive: because the
poetry of human life, that is of individual experience, is absent from
nothing which he portrays.

His treatment of his subject is realistic in so far that it is always
picturesque. It raises a distinct image of the person or action he
intends to describe; but the image is, so to speak, always saturated
with thought: and I shall later have occasion to notice the false
impression of Mr. Browning's genius which this circumstance creates.
Details, which with realists of a narrower kind would give only a
physical impression of the scene described, serve in his case to build
up its mental impression. They create a mental or emotional atmosphere
which makes us vaguely feel the intention of the story as we travel
through it, and flashes it upon us as we look back. In "Red Cotton
Night-cap Country" (as we shall presently see) he dwells so
significantly on the peacefulness of the neighbourhood in which the
tragedy has occurred, that we feel in it the quiet which precedes the
storm, and which in some measure invites it. In one of the Idyls, "Ivàn
Ivànovitch," he begins by describing the axe which will strike off the
woman's head, and raising a vague idea of its fitness for any possible
use. In another of them, "Martin Relph," the same process is carried on
in an opposite manner. We see a mental agony before we know its
substantial cause; and we only see the cause as reflected in it "Ned
Bratts," again, conveys in its first lines the sensation of a
tremendously hot day in which Nature seems to reel in a kind of riotous
stupefaction; and the grotesque tragedy on which the idyl turns, becomes
a matter of course. It would be easy to multiply examples.

Mr. Browning's verse is also subordinate to this intellectual theory of
poetic art. It is uniformly inspired by the principle that sense should
not be sacrificed to sound: and this principle constitutes his chief
ground of divergence from other poets. It is a case of
divergence--nothing more: since he is too deeply a musician to be
indifferent to sound in verse, and since no other poet deserving the
name would willingly sacrifice sense to it. But while all agree in
admitting that sense and sound in poetry are the natural complement of
each other, each will be practically more susceptible to one than to the
other, and will unconsciously seek it at the expense of the other. With
all his love for music, Mr. Browning is more susceptible to sense than
to sound. He values though more than expression; matter, more than form;
and, judging him from a strictly poetic point of view, he has lost his
balance in this direction, as so many have lost it in the opposite one.
He has never ignored beauty, but he has neglected it in the desire for
significance. He has never meant to be rugged, but he has become so, in
the exercise of strength. He has never intended to be obscure, but he
has become so from the condensation of style which was the excess of
significance and of strength. Habit grows on us by degrees till its
slight invisible links form an iron chain, till it overweights its
object, and even ends in crushing it out of sight; and Mr. Browning has
illustrated this natural law. The self-enslavement was the more
inevitable in his case that he was not only an earnest worker, but a
solitary one. His genius[3] removed him from the first from that sphere
of popular sympathy in which the tendency to excess would have been
corrected; and the distance, like the mental habit which created it, was

It is thus that Mr. Browning explains the eccentricities of his style;
and his friends know that beyond the point of explaining, he does not
defend them. He has never blamed his public for accusing him of
obscurity or ugliness He has only thought those wrong who taxed him with
being wilfully ugly or obscure. He began early to defy public opinion
because his best endeavours had failed to conciliate it; and he would
never conciliate it at the expense of what he believed to be the true
principles of his art. But his first and greatest failure from a popular
point of view was the result of his willingness to accept any judgment,
however unfavourable, which coincided with this belief.

"Paracelsus," had recently been published, and declared
"unintelligible;" and Mr. Browning was pondering this fact and
concluding that he had failed to be intelligible because he had been too
concise, when an extract from a letter of Miss Caroline Fox was
forwarded to him by the lady to whom it had been addressed. The writer
stated that John Sterling had tried to read the poem and been repelled
by its _verbosity_; and she ended with this question: "_doth he know
that Wordsworth will devote a fortnight or more to the discovery of the
single word that is the one fit for his sonnet_?"

Mr. Browning was not personally acquainted with either John Sterling or
Caroline Fox, and what he knew of the former as a poet did not, to his
mind, bear out this marked objection to wordiness. Still, he gave the
joint criticism all the weight it deserved; and much more than it
deserved in the case of Miss Fox, whom he imagined, from her
self-confident manner, to be a woman of a certain age, instead of a girl
some years younger than himself; and often, he tells us, during the
period immediately following, he contented himself with two words where
he would rather have used ten. The harsh and involved passages in
"Sordello," which add so much to the remoteness of its thought, were the
first consequence of this lesson. "Pauline" and "Paracelsus" had been
deeply musical, and the music came back to their author's verse with the
dramas, lyrics, and romances by which "Sordello" was followed. But the
dread of being diffuse had doubly rooted itself in his mind, and was to
bear fruit again as soon as the more historical or argumentative mood
should prevail.

The determination never to sacrifice sense to sound is the secret of
whatever repels us in Mr. Browning's verse, and also of whatever
attracts. Wherever in it sense keeps company with sound, we have a music
far deeper than can arise from mere sound, or even from a flow of real
lyric emotion, which has its only counterpart _in_ sound. It is in the
idea, and of it. It is the brain picture beating itself into words.

The technical rules by which Mr. Browning works, carry out his principle
to the fullest extent.

I. He uses the smallest number of words which his meaning allows; is
particularly sparing in adjectives.

II. He uses the largest _relative_ number of Saxon (therefore
picturesque) words.[4]

III. He uses monosyllabic words wherever this is possible.

IV. He farther condenses his style by abbreviations and omissions, of
which some are discarded, but all warranted by authority: "in," "on,"
and "of," for instance, become "i'," "o'," and "o'." Pronouns, articles,
conjunctions, and prepositions are, on the same principle, occasionally
left out.

V. He treats consonants as the backbone of the language, and hence, as
the essential feature in a rhyme; and never allows the repetition of a
consonant in a rhyme to be modified by a change in the preceding vowel,
or by the recurrence of the rhyming syllable in a different word--or the
repetition of a consonant in blank verse to create a half-consonance
resembling a rhyme: though other poets do not shrink from doing so.[5]

VI. He seldom dilutes his emphasis by double rhymes, reserving
these--especially when made up of combined words, and producing a
grotesque effect--for those cases in which the meaning is given with a
modifying colour: a satirical, or self-satirical, intention on the
writer's part. Strong instances of this occur in "The Flight of the
Duchess," "Christmas Eve," and "Pacchiarotto."

VII. He always uses the measure most appropriate to his subject, whether
it be the ten-syllabled blank verse which makes up "The Ring and the
Book," the separate dramatic monologues, and nearly all the dramas, or
the heroic rhymed verse which occurs in "Sordello" and "Fifine at the
Fair;" or one of the lyrical measures, of which his slighter poems
contain almost, if not quite, every known form.[6]

VIII. He takes no liberties with unusual measures; though he takes any
admissible liberty with the usual measures, which will interrupt their
monotony, and strengthen their effect.

IX. He eschews many vulgarisms or inaccuracies which custom has
sanctioned, both in prose and verse, such as, "thou _wert_;" "better
than _them_ all;" "he _need_ not;" "he _dare_ not." The universal "I
_had_ better;" "I _had_ rather," is abhorrent to him.[7]

X. No prosaic turns or tricks of language are ever associated in his
verse with a poetic mood.


The writer of a handbook to Mr. Browning's poetry must contend with
exceptional difficulties, growing out of what I have tried to describe
as the unity in variety of Mr. Browning's poetic life. This unity of
course impresses itself on his works; and in order to give a systematic
survey of them, we must treat as a collection of separate facts what is
really a living whole; and seek to give the impression of that whole by
a process of classification which cuts it up alive. Mr. Browning's work
is, to all intents and purposes, one group; and though we may divide and
subdivide it for purposes of illustration, the division will be always
more or less artificial, and, unless explained away, more or less
misleading. We cannot even divide it into periods, for if the first
three poems represent the author's intellectual youth, the remainder are
one long maturity; while even in these the poetic faculty shows itself
full-grown. We cannot trace in it the evidence of successive manners
like those of Raphael, or successive moods like those of Shakespeare;
or, if we do, this is neutralized by the simple fact that Mr. Browning's
productive career has been infinitely longer than was Raphael's, and
considerably so than Shakespeare's; and that changes which meant the
development of a genius in their case, mean the course of a life in his.

And this is the central fact of the case. Mr. Browning's work is
himself. His poetic genius was in advance of his general growth, but it
has been subject to no other law. "The Ring and the Book" was written at
what may be considered the turning-point of a human life. It was in some
degree a turning-point in the author's artistic career: for most of his
emotional poems were published before, and most of the argumentative
after it; and in this sense his work may be said to divide itself into
two. But the division is useless for our purpose. The Browning of the
second period is the Browning of the first, only in a more crystallized
form. No true boundary line can be drawn even here.

My endeavour will, therefore, be to bring the sense of this real
continuity into the divisions which I must impose on Mr. Browning's
work; and thus also to infuse something of his life into the meagre
statement of contents to which I am forced to reduce it. The few words
of explanation by which I preface each group may assist this end. At the
same time I shall resist all temptation to "bring out" what I have
indicated as Mr. Browning's leading ideas by headings, capitals,
italics, or any other artificial device whatever; as in so doing I
should destroy his emphasis and hinder the right reading, besides
effacing the usually dramatic character, of the individual poems. The
impressions I have received from the collective work will, I trust, be
confirmed by it.


[Footnote 1: I stated in my first edition that Mr. Browning was
descended from the "Captain Micaiah Browning" who raised the siege of
Derry in 1689 by springing the boom across Lough Foyle, and perished in
the act (the incident being related in Macaulay's "History of England,"
vol. iv., pp. 244 and 245 of the edition of 1858). I am now told that
there is no evidence of this lineal descent, though there are
circumstances which point to some kind of relationship. Another probable
ancestor is Captain ---- Browning, who commanded the ship "Holy Ghost,"
which conveyed Henry V. to France before he fought the battle of
Agincourt; and in return for whose services two waves, said to represent
waves of the sea, were added to his coat of arms. The same arms were
worn by Captain Micaiah Browning, and are so by the present family.]

[Footnote 2: Wiedemann is the second baptismal name of Mr. Browning's
son; and, in his infantine mouth, it became (we do not exactly guess
how), the "Penini," shortened into "Pen," which some ingenious
interpreters have derived from the word "Apennine."]

[Footnote 3: And--we are bound to admit--the singular literary
obtuseness of the England of fifty years ago.]

[Footnote 4: A distinguished American philologist, the late George P.
Marsh, has declared that he exceeds all other modern English writers in
his employment of them.]

[Footnote 5: In "In Memoriam" we have such rhymes as:--

     {now   {curse  {mourn   {good    {light     {report
     {low   {horse  {turn    {blood   {delight   {port

In the blank verse of "The Princess," and of "Enoch Arden" such
assonances as:--

     {sun    {lost   {whom   {wand
     {noon   {burst  {seem   {hand.

     {known  {clipt   {word
     {down   {kept    {wood, etc.

I take these instances from the works of so acknowledged a master of
verse as Mr. Tennyson, rather than from those of a smaller poet who
would be no authority on the subject, because they thus serve to show
that the poetic ear may have different kinds as well as degrees of
sensibility, and must, in every case, be accepted as, to some extent, a
law to itself.]

[Footnote 6: "La Saisiaz," for instance, is written in the same measure
as "Locksley Hall," fifteen syllables, divided by a pause, into groups
of four trochees, and of three and a half--the last syllable forming the
rhyme. It is admirably suited to the sustained and incisive manner in
which the argument is carried on. "Ixion" in "Jocoseria," is in
alternate hexameter and pentameter, which the author also employs here
for the only time; it imitates the turning of the wheel on which Ixion
is bound. "Pheidippides" is in a measure of Mr. Browning's own, composed
of dactyls and spondees, each line ending with a half foot or pause. It
gives the impression of firm, continuous, and rhythmic motion, and is
generally fitted to convey the exalted sentiment and heroic character of
the poem.

In his translation of the "Agamemnon," Mr. Browning has used the double
ending continuously, so as to reproduce the extended measure of the
Greek iambic trimeter.]

[Footnote 7: As objection has been taken to the opinions conveyed in
this paragraph, and Mr. Browning's authority has been even, in a manner,
invoked against them, I subjoin by his desire the accompanying note. The
question of what is, or is not, a vicious locution is not essential to
the purposes of the book; but it is essential that I should not be
supposed to have misstated Mr. Browning's views on any point on which I
could so easily ascertain them.

"I make use of 'wast' for the second person of the perfect-indicative,
and 'wert' for the present-potential, simply to be understood; as I
should hardly be if I substituted the latter for the former, and
therewith ended my phrase. 'Where wert thou, brother, those three days,
had He not raised thee?' means one thing, and 'Where wast thou when He
did so?' means another. That there is precedent in plenty for this and
many similar locutions ambiguous, or archaic, or vicious, I am well
aware, and that, on their authority, I _be_ wrong, the illustrious poet
_be_ right, and you, our critic, _was_ and shall continue to be my
instructor as to 'every thing that pretty _bin_.' As regards my
objection to the slovenly 'I had' for 'I'd,' instead of the proper 'I
would,' I shall not venture to supplement what Landor has magisterially
spoken on the subject. An adverb adds to, and does not, by its omission,
alter into nonsense the verb it qualifies. 'I would rather speak than be
silent, better criticize than learn' are forms structurally regular:
what meaning is in 'I had speak, had criticize'? Then, I am blamed for
preferring the indicative to what I suppose may be the potential mood in
the case of 'need' and 'dare'--just that unlucky couple: by all means go
on and say 'He need help, he dare me to fight,' and so pair off with 'He
need not beg, he dare not reply,' forms which may be expected to
pullulate in this morning's newspaper.

"VENICE, Oct. 25, 1885."

"R. B."




These three poems are Mr. Browning's first, and they are also, as I have
said, the one partial exception to the unity and continuousness of his
work; they have, at least, one common characteristic which detaches them
from the remainder of it. Each is in its different way the study of a
human spirit, too ambitious to submit to the limits of human existence,
and which learns humility in its unsuccessful conflict with them. This
ambition is of its nature poetic, and seems so much in harmony with Mr.
Browning's mind--young and untutored by experience as it then was, full
of the consciousness of its own powers as it must have been--that it is
difficult not to recognize in it a phase of his own intellectual life.
But if it was so, it is one which he had already outgrown, or lived much
more in fancy than in fact. His sympathy with the ambition of Paracelsus
and Sordello is steadily counteracted by his judgment of it; and we are
only justified in asserting what is beyond dispute: that these poems
represent an introductory phase of the author's imagination, one which
begins and ends in them. The mind of his men and women will be exercised
on many things, but never again so much upon itself. The vivid sense of
their personality will be less in their minds than in his own.

"PAULINE." (1832.)

This poem is, as its title declares, a fragment of a confession. The
speaker is a man, probably still young; and Pauline, the name of the
lady who receives the confession, and is supposed to edit it. It is not,
however, "fragmentary" in the sense of revealing only a small part of
the speaker's life, or of only recording isolated acts, from which the
life may be built up. Its fragmentary character lies in this: that,
while very explicit as a record of feeling and motive, it is entirely
vague in respect to acts. It is an elaborate retrospect of successive
mental states, big with the sense of corresponding misdeeds; and
pointing among these to some glaring infidelities to Pauline, the man's
constant love and friend; but on the whole conveying nothing beyond an
impression of youthful excesses, and of an extreme and fantastic
self-consciousness which has inspired these excesses, and which now
magnifies and distorts them.

An ultra-consciousness of self is in fact the key-note of the whole
mental situation. Pauline's lover has been a prey to the spiritual
ambition so distinctly illustrated in these three first poems; and,
unlike Paracelsus and Sordello, he has given it no outlet in unselfish
aims. His life has not been wholly misspent; he is a poet and a student;
he has had dreams of human good; he has reverenced great men: and never
quite lost the faith in God, and the sense of nearness to Him; and he
alleges some of these facts in deprecation of his too harsh verdict upon
himself. But his ultimate object has been always the gratification of
Self--the ministering to its pleasures and to its powers; and this
egotism has become narrower and more consuming, till the thirst for even
momentary enjoyment has banished the very belief in higher things. The
belief returns, and we leave him at the close of his confession
exhausted by the mental fever, but released from it--new-born to a
better life; though how and why this has happened is again part of the
mystery of the case. "Pauline" is _the_ one of Mr. Browning's longer
poems of which no intelligible abstract is possible: a circumstance the
more striking that it is perfectly transparent, as well as truly
poetical, so far as its language is concerned.

The defects and difficulties of "Pauline" are plainly admitted in an
editor's note, written in French, and signed by this name; and which,
proceeding as it does from the author himself, supplies a valuable
comment on the work.

"I much fear that my poor friend will not be always perfectly understood
in what remains to be read of this strange fragment, but it is less
calculated than any other part to explain what of its nature can never
be anything but dream and confusion. I do not know moreover whether in
striving at a better connection of certain parts, one would not run the
risk of detracting from the only merit to which so singular a production
can pretend: that of giving a tolerably precise idea of the manner
(_genre_) which it can merely indicate. This unpretending opening, this
stir of passion, which first increases, and then gradually subsides,
these transports of the soul, this sudden return upon himself, and above
all, my friend's quite peculiar turn of mind, have made alterations
almost impossible. The reasons which he elsewhere asserts, and others
still more cogent have secured my indulgence for this paper, which
otherwise I should have advised him to throw into the fire. I believe
none the less in the great principle of all composition--in that
principle of Shakespeare, of Raphael, and of Beethoven, according to
which concentration of ideas is due much more to their conception than
to their execution; I have every reason to fear that the first of these
qualities is still foreign to my friend, and I much doubt whether
redoubled labour would enable him to acquire the second. It would be
best to burn this; but what can I do?"

       *       *       *       *       *

We might infer from this, as from his subsequent introduction, that Mr.
Browning disclaimed all that is extravagant in the poem, and laid it
simply to the charge of the imaginary person it is intended to depict:
but that he has also prefaced it with a curious Latin quotation which
identifies that person with himself.[8]

"Pauline" did not take its place among the author's collected works till
1868, when the uniform edition of them appeared; and he then introduced
it by a preface (to which I have just alluded) in which he declared his
unwillingness to publish such a boyish production, and gave the reasons
which induced him to do so. The poem is boyish, or at all events
youthful, in point of conception; and we need not wonder that this
intellectual crudeness should have outweighed its finished poetic
beauties in its author's mind. It contains however one piece of mental
portraiture which, with slight modifications, might have stood for Mr.
Browning when he re-edited the work, as it clearly did when he wrote it.
It begins thus (vol. i. page 14):

       "I am made up of an intensest life,"

The tribute at page 14[9] to the saving power of imagination is also
characteristic of his maturer mind, though expressed in an ambiguous
manner. It is interesting to know that in the line (page 26),

                                "the king
       Treading the purple calmly to his death,"

he was thinking of Agamemnon: as this shows how early his love of
classic literature began. The allusion to Plato, at pages 19, 20, and
21, largely confirms this impression. The feeling for music asserts
itself also at page 18, though in a less spiritual form than it assumes
in his later works. But the most striking piece of true biography which
"Pauline" contains, is its evidence of the young writer's affectionate
reverence for Shelley, whom he idealizes under the name of Sun-treader.
An invocation to his memory occupies three pages, beginning with the
ninth; it is renewed at the end of the poem, and there can be no doubt
that the pathetic language in which it is couched came straight from the
young poet's own heart. We even fancy that Shelley's influence is
visible in the poem itself, which contains a profusion of natural
imagery, and some touches of naturalistic emotion, not at all in keeping
with Mr. Browning's picturesque, but habitually human genius. The
influence, if it existed, passed away with his earliest youth; not so
the admiration and sympathy which it implied; and this, considering the
wide difference which separated the two minds, is an interesting

"PARACELSUS." (1835.)

"Paracelsus" is a summary of the life, as Mr. Browning conceives it, of
this well-known physicist of the sixteenth century; and is divided into
five scenes, or groups of scenes, each representing a critical moment in
his experience, and reviewing in his own words the circumstances by
which it has been prepared. The personages whom it includes are, besides
the principal one, Festus and Michal, early friends of Paracelsus, and
now man and wife; and the Italian poet Aprile. Michal appears only in
the first scene; Aprile in the second or third; but Festus accompanies
Paracelsus throughout the drama, in the constant character of judicious,
if not profound, adviser, and of tender friend. His personality is
sufficiently marked to claim the importance of a type; and as such he
stands forth, as contrasted with both Paracelsus and Aprile, and yet a
bond of union between them. It is more probable however that he was
created for the mere dramatic purpose of giving shape to the confession
of Paracelsus, and preserving it from monotony. The story is principally
told in a dialogue between them.

The first scene is entitled "Paracelsus aspires;" and takes place at
Würzburg between himself, Festus, and Michal, on the eve of his
departure from their common home. Both friends begin by opposing his
aspirations, and thus lead him to expound and defend them. The aim and
spirit of these is the distinguishing feature of the poem. Paracelsus
aspires to knowledge: such knowledge as will benefit his fellow-men. He
will seek it in the properties of nature, and, as history tells us, he
will succeed. But his _aspirations_ pass over these isolated
discoveries, which he has no idea of connecting into scientific truths:
and tend ever towards some final revelation of the secret of life, to
flash forth from his own brain when the flesh shall have been subdued,
and the imprisoned light of intellect set free. And here Mr. Browning's
metaphysical fancy is somewhat at issue with his facts. Paracelsus
employed nature in the quest of the supernatural or magical; this is
shown by the poem, though in it he begins by repudiating, with all other
external aids, the help of the black art. He therefore relied on other
kinds of knowledge than that which springs direct from the human mind.
The inconsistency however disappears in Mr. Browning's conception of the
case, and the metaphysical language which he imputes to Paracelsus in
the earlier stages of his career, is not felt to be untrue.

Paracelsus not only aspires to know: he believes it his mission to
acquire knowledge; and he believes also that it is only to be acquired
through untried methods, through untaught men: most of all through
solitary communion with nature, and at the sacrifice of all human joys.
Festus regards this as a delusion, and combats it, in this first scene,
with the arguments of common sense; overshooting the mark just enough to
leave his friend the victory. Paracelsus has declared that he
appreciates all he is renouncing, but that he has no choice. He knows
that the way on which he is about to enter is "trackless;" but so is the
bird's: God will guide him as He guides the bird. And Festus replies
that the road to knowledge is _not_ trackless. "Mighty marchers" have
left their footprints upon it. Nature has not written her secrets in
desert places, but in the souls of great men: the "Stagirite,"[11] and
the sages who form a glory round him. He urges Paracelsus to learn what
they can teach, and then take the torch of wisdom from the exhausted
runner's hand, and let his fresh strength continue the race. He warns
him against the personal ambition which alloys his unselfish thirst for
knowledge; against the presumption which impels him to serve God (and

                                 "... apart from such
       Appointed channel as he wills shall gather
       Imperfect tributes, for that sole obedience
       Valued perchance...." (vol. ii. p. 17.)

against the dangers of a course which cuts him adrift from human love.
But Paracelsus has his answer ready. "The wisdom of the past has done
nothing for mankind. Men have laboured and grown famous: and the evils
of life are unabated: the earth still groans in the blind and endless
struggle with them. Truth comes from within the human intellect. To KNOW
is to have opened a way for its escape--not a way for its admission. It
has often refused itself to a life of study. It has been born of
loitering idleness. The force which inspires him proves his mission to
be authentic. His own will could not create such promptings. He dares
not set them aside."

The depth of his conviction carries the day, and the scene ends with
these expressive words:--

         "_Par._ ...
       Are there not, Festus, are there not, dear Michal.
       Two points in the adventure of the diver,
       One--when, a beggar, he prepares to plunge,
       One--when, a prince, he rises with his pearl?
       Festus, I plunge!
         _Fest._     We wait you when you rise!"
                                                (vol. ii. p. 38.)

The next two, or indeed three scenes are united under the title
"Paracelsus attains;" but the attainment is not at first visible. We
find him at Constantinople, in the house of the Greek conjuror, nine
years after his departure from home. He has not discovered the magical
secret which he came to seek; and his tone, as he reviews his position,
is full of a bitter and almost despairing sense of failure. His
desultory course has borne scanty and confused results. His powers have
been at once overstrained and frittered away. He is beset by the dread
of madness; and by the fear, scarcely less intolerable, of a moral
shipwreck in which even the purity of his motives will disappear. His
thoughts revert sadly to his youth, and its lost possibilities of love
and joy. At this juncture the poet Aprile appears, and unconsciously
reveals to him the secret of his unsuccess. He has sought knowledge at
the sacrifice of love; in so doing he has violated a natural law and is
suffering for it. Knowledge is inseparable from love in the scheme of
life. Aprile too has sinned, but in the opposite manner; he has refused
to _know_. He has loved blindly and immoderately, and retribution has
overtaken him also: for he is dying. If the one existence has lacked
sustaining warmth, the other has burned itself away. Aprile's "Love" is
not however restricted to the personal sense of the word; it means the
passion for beauty, the impulse to possess and to create it; everything
which belongs to the life of art. He represents the æsthetic or
emotional in life, as Paracelsus represents the intellectual. We see
this in the sorrowful confession of Paracelsus:--

       "I cannot feed on beauty for the sake
       Of beauty only, nor can drink in balm
       From lovely objects for their loveliness;" (vol. ii. p. 95.)

and, in the words already addressed to Aprile (page 65):--

       "Are we not halves of one dissevered world,"

Aprile acknowledges his own mistake, in a passage which fully completes
the moral of the story, and begins thus (page 59):--

       "Knowing ourselves, our world, our task so great,
       Our time so brief,...."

Paracelsus never sees him again, and will speak of him on a subsequent
occasion as a madman; but he evidently accepts him as a messenger of the
truth; and the message sinks into his soul.

In what is called the third scene, five years more have elapsed; and
Paracelsus is at Bâle, again opening his heart to his old friend. He is
professor at the University. His fame extends far beyond it. Outwardly
he has "attained." But the sense of a wasted life, and above all, of
moral deterioration, is stronger on him than ever, and the tone in which
he expresses it is only calmer than in the previous soliloquy, because
it is more hopeless. He has failed in his highest aims--and failed
doubly: because he has learned to content himself with low ones. He
believes that he is teaching useful, although fragmentary truths; that
these may lead to more; that those who follow him may stand on his
shoulders and be considered great. But the crowning TRUTH is as far from
him as ever; and the mass of those who crowd his lecture-room do not
even come for what they can learn, but for the vulgar pleasure of seeing
old beliefs subverted, and old methods exposed. He is humiliated at
having declined on to what seems to him a lower range of knowledge;
still more by the kind of men with whom it has brought him into contact;
and he sees himself sinking into a lower depth, in which such praise as
they can give will repay him. His contempt for himself and them is
making him reckless of consequences, and preparing the way for his

In spite however of his failure Paracelsus has done so much, that Festus
is converted; and ready to justify both his early belief in his own
mission, and the abnormal means by which he has chosen to carry it out.
Their positions are reversed, and he combats his friend's self-abasement
as he once combated his too great confidence in himself. He grieves over
what seems to him the depression of an over-wrought mind, and what he
will not regard as due to any deeper cause. But Paracelsus will take no
comfort; and when, finally, he denounces the folly of intellectual
pretensions, and ends with the pathetic words--in part the echo of
Festus' own:--

                                         "... No, no:
       Love, hope, fear, faith--these make humanity;
       These are its sign and note and character.
       And these I have lost!..." (vol. ii. p. 109.)

Festus has no answer to give. He parts from Paracelsus perplexed and
saddened rather than convinced, but with a dawning consciousness of
depths in life, to which his strong but simple soul has no key.

In the fourth scene these depths are more fully and more perplexingly
revealed. Two years more have elapsed. Paracelsus has escaped from Bâle,
and is at Colmar, once more confessing himself to Festus, and once more
said to "aspire." But his aspirations are less easy to understand than
formerly, because their aim is less single. The sense of wasted life,
Aprile's warnings, some natural rebound against the continued
intellectual strain have determined him to strive for a fuller
existence, and neglect no opportunity of usefulness or enjoyment. A
serious and commendable change would seem to be denoted by the words, "I
have tried each way singly: now for both!" (page 121); and again at page
126, where a new-born softness asserts itself. His language has,
however, a vein of bitterness, sometimes even of cynicism, which belies
the idea of any sustained impulse to good. He is worn in body, weary in
mind, fitful and wayward in mood, and just in the condition in which men
half impose on others, and half on themselves. He alludes to the habit
of drinking as one which he has now contracted; and he is clearly
entering on the period of his greatest excesses, perhaps also of his
most strenuous exertions in the cause of knowledge. But his energy is
reckless and irregular, and the spirit of the gambler rather than that
of the student is in it. He works all night to forget himself by day,
gathering up his diminished strength for, a lavish expenditure; and a
new misgiving as to the wisdom of his "aspirations" pierces through the
assertion that even sickness may lend an aid; since

                          "... mind is nothing but disease,
       And natural health is ignorance."   (vol. ii. p. 122.)

We feel that henceforward his path will be all downhill.

In the fifth and closing scene, thirteen years later, Paracelsus
"attains" again, and for the last time. He is dying. Festus watches by
him in his hospital cell with a very touching tenderness; and as
Paracelsus awakes from a period of lethargy to a delirious remembrance
of his past life, he soothes and guides him to an inspired calm in which
its true meaning is revealed to him. The half prophetic death-bed vision
includes everything which experience had taught him; and a great deal
which we cannot help thinking only a more modern experience could have
taught. It disclaims all striving after absolute knowledge, and asserts
the value of limitation in every energy of life. The passage in which he
describes the faculties of man, and which begins

       "Power--neither put forth blindly, nor controlled
       Calmly by perfect knowledge;" (vol. ii. p. 168.)

contains the natural lesson of the speaker's career, supposing him in a
condition to receive it. But it also reflects Mr. Browning's constant
ideal of a fruitful and progressive existence; and the very beautiful
monologue of which it forms part is, so far as it goes, his actual
confession of faith. The scientific idea of evolution is here distinctly
foreshadowed: though it begins and ends, in Mr. Browning's mind, in the
large Theism which was and is the basis of his religious belief.

The poem is followed by an historical appendix, which enables the reader
to verify its facts, and judge Mr. Browning's interpretation of them.

"SORDELLO." (1840.)

"Sordello" is, like "Paracelsus," the imaginary reconstruction of a real
life, in connection with contemporary facts; but its six "books" present
a much more complicated structure. The historical part of "Paracelsus"
is all contained in the one life. In "Sordello" it forms a large and
moving background, which often disputes our attention with the central
figure, and sometimes even absorbs it: projecting itself as it were in
an artistic middle distance, in which fact and fancy are blended; while
the mental world through which the hero moves, is in its way, as
restless and as crowded as the material. It may save time and trouble to
readers of the poem to know something of its historical foundation and
poetic motive, before making any great effort to disentangle its various
threads; but it will always be best to read it once without this key:
since the story, involved as it is, has a sustained dramatic interest
which is destroyed by anticipating its course.

The historical personages who take part in it directly and indirectly,

           Ghibellines.                        Guelphs.

     Surnamed the Monk:                 (father and son).
     married, first to Agnes
     Este; secondly to Adelaide,        RICHARD, COUNT OF SAN
     a Tuscan.                          BONIFACIO (father and
     a soldier, married, first to
     Retrude, of the family of
     the German Emperor
     Frederick the Second;
     and secondly, in advanced
     life, to Sofia, fifth
     daughter of Eccelino the

     ADELAIDE, second wife of
     Eccelino da Romano.

     PALMA (properly Cunizza),
     Eccelino's daughter by
     Agnes Este.

                    The poet SORDELLO.

_Historical basis of the Story._

A Mantuan poet of the name of Sordello is mentioned by Dante in the
"Purgatorio," where he is supposed to be recognized as a fellow-townsman
by Virgil.

       "Surse ver lui del luogo ove pria stava,
       Dicendo, O Mantovan, Io son Sordello
       Della tua terra: e l' un l' altro abbracciava."[12]

And also in his treatise "De vulgare Eloquentiâ," where he speaks of him
as having created the Italian language. These facts are related by
Sismondi in his "Italian Republics," vol. ii., page 202; and the writer
refers us for more particulars to his work on the "Literature of
Southern Europe." He seems, however, to exhaust the subject when he
tells us that the nobility of Sordello's birth, and his intrigue or
marriage with Cunizza are attested by contemporaries; that a "mysterious
obscurity" shrouds his life; and that his violent death is obscurely
indicated by Dante, whose mention of him is now his only title to
immortality. According to one tradition he was the son of an archer
named Elcorte. Another seems to point to him when it imputes a son to
Salinguerra as the only offspring of his first marriage, and having died
before himself. Mr. Browning accepts the latter hypothesis, whilst he
employs both.

The birth of his Sordello, as probably of the real one, coincides with
the close of the twelfth century; and with an active condition of the
family feuds which were just merging in the conflict of Guelphs and
Ghibellines. The "Biographie Universelle" says:

"The first encounter between the two parties took place at Vicenza
towards 1194. Eccelino the Second, who allied himself with the republics
of Verona and Padua, was exiled from Vicenza himself his whole family
and his faction, by a Podesta, his enemy. Before submitting to this
sentence, he undertook to defend himself by setting fire to the
neighbouring houses; a great part of the town was burned during the
conflict, in which Eccelino was beaten. These were the first scenes of
confusion and massacre, which met the eyes of the son of the Lord of
Romano, the ferocious Eccelino the Third, born 4th of April, 1194."

In Mr. Browning's version, Adelaide, wife of Eccelino II., is saved with
her infant son--this Eccelino the Third--by the devotion of an archer,
Elcorte, who perishes in the act. Retrude, wife of Salinguerra, and also
present on this occasion, only lives to be conveyed to Adelaide's castle
at Goito; but her new-born child survives; and Adelaide, dreading his
future rivalry with her own, allows his father to think him dead, and
brings him up, under the name of Sordello, as her page, declaring him to
be Elcorte's son adopted out of gratitude. The "intrigue" between him
and Palma (Cunizza) appears in due time as a poetical affinity,
strongest on her side, and which determines her to see him restored to
his rightful place. Palma's subsequent marriage with Richard, Count of
San Bonifacio, serves to justify the idea of an engagement to him,
ratified by her father before his retirement from the world, and which
she and Salinguerra conspire to break, the one from love of Sordello,
the other in the interests of her House. Eccelino's real assumption of
the monastic habit after Adelaide's death is represented as in part
caused by remorse--for Salinguerra is his old and faithful ally, and he
has connived at the wrong done to him in the concealment of his son; and
his return to the Guelph connexion from which his daughter has sprung,
as a general disclaimer of his second wife's views.

The Lombard League also figures in the story, as the consequence of
Salinguerra's and Palma's conspiracy against San Bonifacio; though it
also appears as brought about by the historic course of events.
Salinguerra, under cover of military reprisals, has entrapped the Count
into Ferrara, and detained him there, at the moment when he was expected
to meet his lady-love in his own city of Verona. Verona prepares to
resent this outrage on its Prince, and with it, the other States which
represent the Guelph cause; and when Palma--seizing her
opportunity--summons Sordello thither in his character of her minstrel,
and reveals to him her projects for him and for herself, their interview
is woven into the historical picture of a great mediæval city suddenly
called to arms. What Sordello sees when he goes with Palma to Ferrara,
belongs to the history of all mediæval warfare; and his sudden and
premature death revives the historical tradition though in a new form.
The intermediate details of his minstrel's career are of course
imaginary; but his struggle to increase the expressiveness of his mother
tongue again records a fact.

I have mentioned such accessible authorities as Sismondi and the
"Biographie Universelle," because they _are_ accessible: not from any
idea that they give the measure of Mr. Browning's knowledge of his
subject. He prepared himself for writing "Sordello" by studying all the
chronicles of that period of Italian history which the British Museum
supplied; and we may be sure that every event he alludes to as
historical, is so in spirit, if not in the letter; while such details as
come under the head of historical curiosities are absolutely true. He
also supplemented his reading by a visit to the places in which the
scenes of the story are laid.

_Its Dramatic Idea._

The dramatic idea of "Sordello" is that of an imaginative nature,
nourished by its own creations, and also consumed by them; and breaking
down in consequence under the first strain of real conflict and
passion. The mysterious Italian poet,--scarcely known but as a voice, a
mere phantom among living men--was well fitted to illustrate such an
idea; he might also perhaps have suggested it. But we know that it was
already growing in Mr. Browning's mind; for Sordello had been
foreshadowed in Aprile, though the two are as different as their common
poetic quality allows. Aprile is consumed by a creative passion, which
is always akin to love; Sordello by an imaginative fever which has no
love in it; and in this respect he presents a stronger contrast to
Aprile than Paracelsus himself. As a poet he may be said to contain both
the artist and the thinker, and therefore to transcend both; and his
craving is for neither love nor knowledge, as the foregoing poem
represents them, but for that magnitude of poetic existence, which means
all love and all knowledge, as all beauty and all power in itself. But
he makes the same mistake as Aprile, or at least as Paracelsus, and
makes it in a greater degree; for he rejects all the human conditions of
the poetic life: and strives to live it, not in experience or in
sympathy, but by a pure act of imagination, or as he calls it, of
_Will_; and he wears himself out body and soul by a mental strain which
proves as barren as it is continuous. The true joy of living comes home
to him at last, and with it the first challenge to self-sacrifice. Duty
prevails; but he dies in the conflict, or rather of it.

The intended lesson of the story is distinctly enforced in its last
scene, but is patent almost from the first--that the mind must not
disclaim the body, nor imagination divorce itself from reality: that the
spiritual is bound up with the material in our earthly life. All Mr.
Browning's practical philosophy is summed up in this truth, and much of
his religion; for it points to the necessity of a human manifestation of
the Divine Being; and though Sordello's story contains no explicit
reference to Christian doctrine, an unmistakeable Christian sentiment
pervades its close. That restless and ambitious spirit had missed its
only possible anchorage: the ideal of an intellectual existence at once
guided and set free by love.

Mr. Browning has indeed prefaced the poem by saying that in writing it
he has laid his chief stress _on the incidents in the development of a
soul_. It must be read with reference to this idea; and I should be
bound to give precedence to it over the poetic inspiration of the story
if Mr. Browning had practically done so. This is not, however, the case.
Sordello's poetic individuality overshadows the moral, and for a time
conceals it altogether. The close of his story is distinctly the
emerging of a soul from the mists of poetic egotism by which it has been
obscured; and Mr. Browning has meant us from the first to see it
struggling through them. But in so doing he has judged Sordello's poetic
life as a blind aspiration after the spiritual, while the egotism which
he represents as the keynote of his poetic being was in fact the
negation of it. The idea was just: that the greatest poet must have in
him the making of the largest man. His Sordello is imperial among men
for the one moment in which his song is in sympathy with human life; and
Mr. Browning would have made it more consistently so, had he worked out
his idea at a later time. But the poem was written at a period in which
his artistic judgment was yet inferior to his poetic powers, and the
need of ordering his vast material from the reader's, as well as the
writer's, point of view--though he states it by implication at the end
of the third book--had not thoroughly penetrated his mind.

I venture on this criticism, though it is no part of my task to
criticize, because "Sordello" is the one of Mr. Browning's works which
still remains to be read; and even a mistaken criticism may sometimes
afford a clue. "Sordello" is not only harder to read than "Paracelsus,"
but harder than any other of Mr. Browning's works; its complications of
structure being interwoven with difficulties of a deeper kind which
again react upon them. Enough has been said to show that the conception
of the character is very abstruse on the intellectual and poetic side;
that it presents us with states of thought and feeling, remote from
common experience, and which no language could make entirely clear; and
unfortunately the style is sometimes in itself so obscure that we cannot
judge whether it is the expression or the idea which we fail to grasp.
The poem was written under the dread of diffuseness which had just then
taken possession of Mr. Browning's mind, and we have sometimes to
struggle through a group of sentences out of which he has so laboured to
squeeze every unnecessary word, that their grammatical connection is
broken up, and they present a compact mass of meaning which without
previous knowledge it is almost impossible to construe. We are also
puzzled by an abridged, interjectional, way of carrying on the
historical part of the narrative; by the author's habit of alluding to
imaginary or typical personages in the same tone as to real ones; and by
misprints, including errors in punctuation, which will be easily
corrected in a later edition, but which mar the present one.

It is only fair to add that he would deprecate the idea of any excessive
labour as bestowed on this, to his mind, immature performance. It is for
us, not for him, to do justice to it. With all its faults and
obscurities, "Sordello" is a great work; full moreover of pregnant and
beautiful passages which are not affected by them. When Mr. Browning
re-edited "Sordello" in 1863, he considered the possibility of
re-writing it in a more transparent manner; but he concluded that the
labour would be disproportionate to the result, and contented himself
with summarizing the contents of each "book" in a continuous heading,
which represents the main thread of the story. It will be useful to read
this carefully.


The story opens at Verona, at the moment of the formation of the Lombard
League--a well-known union of Guelph cities against the Ghibellines in
Northern Italy. Mr. Browning, addressing himself to an imaginary
audience composed of living and dead, describes the city as it hastens
to arms, and the chain of circumstances through which she has been
called upon to do so; and draws a curious picture of two political
ideals which he considers respectively those of Ghibelline and Guelph:
the one symbolized by isolated heights, the other by a continuous level
growth; those again suggesting the violent disruptions which create
imperial power; these the peaceful organic processes of democratic life.
The poet Shelley is desired to withdraw his "pure face" from among the
spectators of this chequered scene; and Dante is invoked in the name of
him whose fame preceded his, and has been absorbed by it. A secret
chamber in Count Richard's palace shows Palma and Sordello in earnest
conference with each other. Then the curtain falls; and we are carried
back thirty years, and to Goito Castle.

Sordello is there: a refined and beautiful boy; framed for all spiritual
delights. As his life is described, it has neither duties nor
occupations; no concern with the outer world; no contact even with that
of Adelaide, his supposed protectress. He is dreaming away his childhood
in the silent gloom of the castle, or the sunny outdoor life of the
hills and woods. He lives in imagination, blends the idea of his own
being with everything he sees; and for years is happy in the bare fact
of existence. But the germ of a fatal spiritual ambition is lurking
within him; and as he grows into a youth, he hankers after something
which he calls sympathy, but which is really applause. He therefore
makes a human crowd for himself out of carved and tapestried figures,
and the few names which penetrate into his solitude, and fancies himself
always the greatest personage amongst them. He simulates all manner of
heroic performances and of luxurious rest. He is Eccelino, the Emperor's
vicar; he is the Emperor himself. He becomes more than this; for his
fancy has soared upwards to the power which includes all empire in
one--the spiritual power of song. Apollo is its representative. Sordello
is he. He has had one glimpse of Palma; she becomes his Daphne; the
dream life is at its height.

And now Sordello is a man. He begins to sicken for reality. Vanity and
ambition are ripe in him. His egotisms are innocent, but they are
absorbing. The soul is as yet dormant.[13]


The dream-life becomes a partial reality. Sordello's wanderings carry
him one day to the walls of Mantua, outside which Palma is holding a
"Court of Love." Eglamor sings. His song is incomplete. Sordello feels
what is wanting; catches up the thread of the story; and sings it to its
proper close.[14] His triumph is absolute. He is installed as Palma's
minstrel in Eglamor's place. Eglamor accepts his defeat with touching
gentleness, and lies down to die. This poet is meant to embody the
limited art, which is an end in itself, and one with the artist's life.
Sordello, on the other hand, represents the boundless aspirations which
art may subserve, but which must always leave it behind. The parallel
will be stated more distinctly later on.

Sordello's first wish is fulfilled. He has found a career which will
reconcile his splendid dreams with his real obscurity, and set him, by
right of imagination--the true Apolloship--apart from other men. But his
true difficulties have yet to begin. It is not enough that he feels
himself a transcendent personage. He must make others believe that he is
so. Every act of imagination is with him an act of existence, or as Mr.
Browning calls it of Will; but this self-asserting was much easier with
the imaginary crowd than it can be with the real one. Sordello is soon
at cross-purposes with his hearers: for when he sings of human passion,
or human prowess, they never dream of identifying him with it; and when
he sings of mere abstract modes of being, they do not understand.

The love of abstract conception is indeed the rock on which he splits.
The feelings which are real to us are unreal to him, because they are
accidental. What is real to him is the underlying consciousness which
according to his view is permanent: the "intensest" self described in
"Pauline"--the mind which is spoken of in the fifth "book" of "Sordello"
(vol. i. page 236) as nearest to God when emptied of even thought; and
his aim is to put forth all the _qualities_ which this absolute
existence can assume, and yet be reflected in other men's minds as
independent of them. This lands him in struggles not only with his
hearers but with himself--for he is unused to expressing what he feels;
and with a language which at best could convey "whole perceptions" like
his, in a very meagre form, or a fragmentary one. He still retains the
love of real life and adventure which inspired his boyish dreams. There
is nothing, as I have said, that he does not wish to _be_; and now,
amidst commonplace human beings, his human desires often take a more
simple and natural form. But the poet in him pushes the man aside, and
bids him, at all events, wait. He does not know that he is failing
through the hopeless disunion of the two. He silences his better
humanity, and retains the worst; for he is more and more determined to
succeed at whatever cost. Yet failure meets him on every side. He is too
large for his public, but he is also too small for it. Every question
raised even in talk carries him into the infinite. Every man of his
audience has a practical answer ready before he has. Naddo plies him
with common sense. "He is to speak to the human heart--he is not to be
so philosophical--he is not to seem so clever." Shallow judges pull him
to pieces. Shallow rivals strive to sing him down.[15] He loses his
grasp of the ideal. He cannot clutch the real. His imagination dries up.

Meanwhile Adelaide has died. Salinguerra, who had joined the Emperor at
Naples, is brought back in hot haste by the news that Eccelino has
retired to a monastery, has disclaimed the policy of his House; and is
sealing his peace with the Guelph princes by the promised marriage of
his sons Eccelino and Alberic with the sisters of Este; and of his
daughter Palma with Count Richard of San Bonifacio himself. He is coming
to Mantua. Sordello must greet him with his best art. But Sordello
shrinks from the trial, and escapes back to Goito, whence Palma has just
departed. What his Mantuan life has taught him is thus expressed (vol.
i. page 130):--

       "The Body, the Machine for Acting Will,
       Had been at the commencement proved unfit;
       That for Demonstrating, Reflecting it,
       Mankind--no fitter: was the Will Itself
       In fault?"

He is wiser than he was, but his objects remain the same. The
sympathies--the moral sense--the soul--are still asleep.


Sordello buries himself once more in the contemplation of nature; but
finds in it only a short-lived peace. The marshy country about Mantua is
suddenly converted into water; and with the shock of this catastrophe
comes also the feeling: Nature can do and undo; her opportunities are
endless. With man

                  "...youth once gone is gone:
       Deeds let escape are never to be done." (vol. i. p. 135.)

He has dreamed of love, of revel, and of adventure; but he has let pass
the time when such dreams could be realized; and worst of all, the
sacrifice has been useless. He has sacrificed the man in him to the
poet; and his poetic existence has been impoverished by the act. He has
rejected experience that he might _be_ his fullest self before living
it; and only _living_, in other words, experience, could have made that
self complete. His later years have been paving the way for this
discovery; it bursts on him all at once. He has been under a long
strain. The reaction at length has come. He yearns helplessly for the
"blisses strong and soft" which he has known he was passing by, but of
which the full meaning never reached him until now. He must live yet.
The question is, "in what way." And this is unexpectedly answered. Palma
sends for him to Verona: tells him of her step-mother's death--of
strange secrets revealed to herself--of the secret influence Sordello
has exercised over her life--of a great future awaiting his own, and
connecting it with the Emperor's cause. She summons him to accompany her
to Ferrara, and hear from Salinguerra's lips what that future is to be.

Sordello has entered on a new phase of existence. He feels that
henceforward he is not to _act men_, but to _make them act_;
this is how his being is to be fulfilled. It is a first step in the
direction of unselfishness, but not yet into it. The soul is not yet

At this point of his narrative Mr. Browning makes a halt, and carries us
off to Venice, where he muses on the various questions involved in
Sordello's story. The very act of digression leads back to the
comparison between Eglamor and Sordello: between the artist who is one
with his work, and him who is outside and beyond it--between the
completeness of execution which comes of a limited ideal, and the true
greatness of those performances which "can never be more than dreamed."
And the case of the true poet is farther illustrated by that of the
weather-bound sailor, who seems to have settled down for life with the
fruits of his adventures, but waits only the faintest sign of a
favourable wind to cut his moorings and be off.

Then comes a vision of humanity, also in harmony with the purpose of the
poem. It takes the form of some frail and suffering woman, and is
addressed by the author with a tenderness in which we recognize one of
his constant ideals of love: the impulse not to worship or to enjoy, but
to comfort and to protect. He next considers the problem of human sorrow
and sin, and deprecates the absolute condemnation of the sinner, in
language which anticipates that of "Fifine at the Fair." "Every life has
its own law. The 'losel,' the moral outcast, keeps his own conceit of
truth though through a maze of lies. Good labours to exist through evil,
by means of the very ignorance which sets each man to tackle it for
himself, believing that he alone can."[16] Mr. Browning rejects at least
the _show_ of knowledge which gives you a name for what you die of;
and that deepening of ignorance which comes of the perpetual insisting
that fountains of knowledge spring everywhere for those who choose to
dispense it. "What science teaches is made useless by the shortness of
human existence; it absorbs all our energy in building up a machine
which we shall have no time to work. All direct truth comes to us from
the poet: whether he be of the smaller kind who only see, or the
greater, who can tell what they have seen, or the greatest who can make
others see it." Corresponding instances follow.[17]

Mr. Browning is aware that one is a poet at his own risk; and that the
poetic chaplet may also prove a sacrificial one. He will still wear it,
however, because in his case it means the suffrage of a "patron

       "Whose great verse blares unintermittent on
       Like your own trumpeter at Marathon,--" (vol. i. p. 169.)

He recalls his readers to the "business" of the poem:

                               "the fate of such
       As find our common nature--overmuch
       Despised because restricted and unfit
       To bear the burthen they impose on it--
       Cling when they would discard it; craving strength
       To leap from the allotted world, at length
       They do leap,--flounder on without a term,
       Each a god's germ, doomed to remain a germ
       In unexpanded infancy, unless...." (pp. 170, 171.)

admits that the story sounds dull; but suggests the possibility of its
containing an agreeable surprise. An amusing anecdote to this effect
concludes the chapter.[19]


We are now introduced to Taurello Salinguerra: a fine soldier-like
figure; the type of elastic strength in both body and mind. We are told
that he possesses the courage of the fighter, the astuteness of the
politician, the knowledge and graces of the man of leisure. He has
shown himself capable of controlling an Emperor, and of giving
precedence to a woman. He is young at sixty, while the son who is half
his age, is "lean, outworn and really old." And the crowning difference
between him and Sordello is this: that while Sordello only draws out
other men as a means of displaying himself, he only displays himself
sufficiently to draw out other men. "His choicest instruments" have
"surmised him shallow."

He is in his palace at Ferrara, musing over the past--that past which
held the turning-point of his career; which began the feud between
himself and the now Guelph princes, and which naturally merged him in
the Ghibelline cause. He remembers how the fathers of the present Este
and San Bonifacio combined to cheat him out of the Modenese heiress who
was to be his bride--how he retired to Sicily, to return with a wife of
the Emperor's own house--how his enemies surprised him at Vicenza. He
sees his old comrade Eccelino, so passive now, so brave and vigorous
then. He sees the town as they fire it together: the rush for the gates:
the slashing, the hewing, the blood hissing and frying on the iron
gloves. His spirit leaps in the returning frenzy of that struggle and
flight. It sinks again as he thinks of Elcorte--Adelaide's escape--her
rescued child; his own doom in the wife and child who were not rescued.

"And now! he has effaced himself in the interests of the Romano house.
Its life has grafted itself on his own; and to what end? The Emperor is
coming. His badge and seal, already in Salinguerra's hands, bestow the
title of Imperial Prefect on whosoever assumes the headship of the
Ghibellines in the north of Italy; and Eccelino, its proper chief,
recoils; withdraws even his name from the cause. Who shall wear the
badge? None so fitly as himself, who holds San Bonifacio captive--who
has dislocated if not yet broken the Guelph right arm. Yet, is it worth
his while? Shall he fret his remaining years? Shall he rob his old
comrade's son?" He laughs the idea to scorn....

Sordello has come with Palma to Ferrara. He came to find the men who
were to be the body to his spirit, the instrument to his will. But he
came, expecting that these would be great. And now he discovers that
very few are great; while behind and beneath, and among them, extends
something which has never yet entered his field of thought: the mass of
mankind. The more he looks the more it grows upon him: this people with

                                   "... mouths and eyes,
       Petty enjoyments and huge miseries,--"   (vol. i. p. 181.)

and the more he feels that the few are great because the many are in
them--because they are types and representatives of these. Hitherto he
has striven to impose himself on mankind. He now awakes to the joy and
duty of serving it. It is the magnified body which his spirit needs. And
in the new-found knowledge, the new-found sympathy, his soul springs
full-grown into life.

But another check is in store for him. He has taken for granted that the
cause in which he is to be enlisted is the people's cause. The new soul
in him can conceive nothing less. A first interview with Salinguerra
dispels this dream, and dispels it in such a manner that he leaves the
presence of his unknown father years older and wearier than when he
entered it. He wanders through the city, mangled by civil war. The
effects of Ghibelline vengeance meet him on every side. Is the Guelph
more humane? He discusses the case with Palma. They weigh deeds with
deeds. "Guelph and Ghibelline are alike unjust and cruel, alike
inveterate enemies of their fellow-men." Who then represents the
people's cause? A sudden answer comes. A bystander recognizing his
minstrel's attire begs Sordello to sing, and suggests the Roman Tribune
Crescentius as his theme. Rome rises before his mind--the mother of
cities--the great constructive power which weaves the past into the
future; which represents the continuity of human life. _The
reintegration of Rome must typify the triumph of mankind._ But Rome is
now the Church; she is one with the Guelph cause. The Guelph cause is
therefore in some sense the true one. Sordello's new-found spiritual and
his worldly interests thus range themselves on opposite sides.


The day draws to its close. Sordello has seen more of the suffering
human beings whom he wishes to serve, and the ideal Rome has collapsed
in his imagination like a mocking dream. Nothing can be effected at
once. No deed can bridge over the lapse of time which divides the first
stage of a great social structure from its completion. Each life may
give its touch; it can give no more; through the endless generations.
The vision of a regenerate humanity, "his last and loveliest," must
depart like the rest. Then suddenly a voice,

                                 "... Sordello, wake!
       God has conceded two sights to a man--
       One, of men's whole work, time's completed plan,
       The other, of the minute's work, man's first
       Step to the plan's completeness: what's dispersed
       Save hope of that supreme step which, descried
       Earliest, was meant still to remain untried
       Only to give you heart to take your own
       Step, and there stay--leaving the rest alone?" (vol. i. p. 217.)

The facts restate themselves, but from an opposite point of view. No man
can give more than his single touch. The whole could not dispense with
one of them. The work is infinite, but it is continuous. The later poet
weaves into his own song the echoes of the first. "The last of each
series of workmen sums up in himself all predecessors," whether he be
the type of strength like Charlemagne, or of knowledge like Hildebrand.
Strength comes first in the scheme of life; it is the joyousness of
childhood. Step by step Strength works Knowledge with its groans and
tears. And then, in its turn, Knowledge works Strength, Knowledge
controls Strength, Knowledge supersedes Strength. It is Knowledge which
must prevail now. May it not be he who at this moment resumes its whole
inheritance--its accumulated opportunities, in himself? He could stand
still and dream while he fancied he stood alone; but he knows now that
he is part of humanity, and it of him. Goito is left behind; Ferrara is
reached; he must do the one thing that is within his grasp.

He must influence Salinguerra. He must interest him in the cause of
knowledge; which is the people's cause. With this determination, he
proceeds once more to the appointed presence. His minstrelsy is at first
a failure. He is, as usual, outside his song. He is trying to guide it;
it is not carrying him away. He is paralysed by the very consciousness
that he is urging the head of the Ghibellines to become a Guelph.
Salinguerra's habitual tact and good-nature cannot conceal his own sense
of the absurdity of the proposal. Sordello sees in

                                   "a flash of bitter truth:
       So fantasies could break and fritter youth
       That he had long ago lost earnestness,
       Lost will to work, lost power to even express
       The need of working!"                         (vol. i. p. 228.)

But he will not be beaten. He tries once more. We see the blood leap to
his brain, the heart into his purpose, as he challenges Salinguerra to
bow before the royalty of song. He owns himself its unworthy
representative: for he has frittered away his powers. He has identified
himself with existing forms of being, instead of proving his kingship by
a new spiritual birth--by a supreme, as yet unknown revelation of the
power of human will. He has resigned his function. He is a self-deposed
king. He acknowledges the man before him as fitter to help the world
than he is. But this is shame enough. He will not see its now elected
champion scorn the post he renounces on his behalf. And his art is still
royal though he is not. It is the utterance of the spiritual life: of
the informing thought--which was in the world before deeds began--which
brought order out of chaos--which guided deeds in their due gradation
till itself emerged as SONG: to react in deed; but to need no help of
it; to be (so we complete the meaning) as the knowledge which controls
strength, which supersedes strength.[20]

The walls of the presence-chamber have fallen away. Imaginary faces are
crowding around him. He turns to these. He shows them human life as the
poet's mirror reflects it: in its varied masquerade, in its mingled good
and evil, in its steady advance; in the rainbow brightness of its
obstructed lights; the deceptive gloom of its merely repeated shadows.
He enforces in every tone that continuity of the plan of creation to
which the poet alone holds the clue. Finally, in the name of the
unlimited truth, the limited opportunity, the one duty which confronts
him now, the People whose support, in his performance of it, he may
claim for the first time, he forbids the Emperor's coming, and invokes
Salinguerra's protection for the Guelph cause.

Salinguerra is moved at last, though not in the intended way. He does
not yield to Sordello's enthusiasm, but he sees that it is worth
employing. There is no question of his becoming a Guelph, but why should
not Sordello turn Ghibelline? The cause requires a youth to "stalk, and
bustle, and attitudinize;" and he clearly thinks this is all the youth
before him wants to do, whether conscious of the fact or not. He thinks
the thought aloud. "Palma loves her minstrel; it is written in her eyes;
let her marry him. Were she Romano's son instead of his daughter, she
could wear the Emperor's badge. Himself fate has doomed to a secondary
position. To contend against it is useless." Before he knows what he has
done, without really meaning to do it, he has thrown the badge across
Sordello's neck, and thus created him Eccelino's successor.

It was a prophetic act. At the moment of its performance

                               "... each looked on each:
       Up in the midst a truth grew, without speech." (vol. i. p. 243.)

Palma's moment is come, and she relates the story, as she received it
from Adelaide, of Sordello's birth. With blanched lips, and sweat-drops
on his face, the old soldier takes the hand of his poet-son, and lays
its consecrating touch on his own face and brow. Then, recovering
himself, with his mailed arms on Sordello's shoulders, he launches forth
in an eager survey of the situation as it may shape itself for both.
Palma at last draws him away, and Sordello, exhausted and speechless, is
left alone. The two are in a small stone chamber, below the one they
have left. Half-drunk with his new emotions, Salinguerra paces the
narrow floor. His eyes burn; his tread strikes sparks from the stone.
The future glows before him. He and Sordello combined will break up
Hildebrand. They will rebuild Charlemagne; not in the brute force of
earlier days; but as strength adorned with knowledge, as empire imposing
law. Palma listens in satisfied repose; her task is done.

A stamp is heard overhead.


Sordello is alone--face to face with his memory, with his conscience,
and, as we presently find out, with the greatest temptation he has ever
known. The moon is slowly rising; and just so the light of truth is
overflowing his past life, and laying bare its every recess. He sees no
fault in this past, except the want of a uniform purpose in which its
various moods could have coalesced, the all-embracing sense of existence
been translated into fact; but he unconsciously confesses its
selfishness, in deciding that this purpose should have been outside
him--a remote and uplifting, though sympathetic influence, such as the
moon is to the sea. Smaller lives than his have attained a higher
completeness, because they have worked for an ideal: because they have
had their moon.

"Where then is _his_ moon? What the love, the fear, the motive, in
short, that could match the strength, could sway the full tide, of a
nature like his?" He doubts its existence. And if, after all, he has
been destined to be a law to himself, must he not in some sense apply
this relative standard to the rest of life; and may not the outward
motive be at all times the embodiment of an inner want or law, which
only the stronger nature can realize as such? He has found his purpose.
That purpose is the people. "But the people is himself. The desire to
help it comes from within. Will he fulfil this the better for regarding
its suffering part as an outward motive, as something alien to himself,
and for which Self must be forsaken?" In plain words: would he not serve
it as well by serving his own interests as by forsaking them?

This sophistry is so patent that it startles even him; but it is only
silenced to reassert itself in another form. "The Guelph rule would
doubtless be the best. But what can he do to promote it? Attest his
belief by refusing the Emperor's badge? That would be something in the
end. But meanwhile, how many sympathies to be broken, how many aversions
defied, before the one ideal can be made to prevail. Is not the
proceeding too arbitrary? Would it be justified by the result? The
question is only one of ideas. If the men who supported each opposite
cause were wholly good or bad, his course would be clear. But such
divisions do not exist. All men are composite. All nature is a blending
of good and evil, in which the one is often but a different form of the
other. Evil is in fact indispensable; for it is not only the ground of
sympathy, but the active principle of life. Joy means the triumph over
obstruction. The suspended effort is death, so far as it goes.
Obstruction and effort must begin again and again. The sphere grows
larger. It can never be more complete (more satisfying to those who are
imprisoned within it). The only gain of existence is to be extracted
from its hindrances, by each individual and for himself." The last plea
for self-sacrifice is thus removed.

These arguments are often just, even profound; they might also have been
sincere in this special case; for there was something to be said in
favour of accepting the opportunities which offered themselves, and of
guiding the course of events, instead of engaging in a probably
fruitless opposition to it. But they are not sincere. Sordello is at
best deceiving himself, and Mr. Browning intends us to to see this. He
is struggling, if unconsciously, to evade the very trials which he
thinks so good for other men. His true object soon stands revealed in a
first and last effort at compromise. "The people's good is in the
future. His is in the present. Can he not speed the one, and yet enjoy
the other?" ... The present rises up, in its new-found richness, in its
undisguised temptation. The joys which lure him become gigantic; the
price of renunciation shrinks to nothing; and at last, the pent up
passion breaks forth--that passion for life, for sheer life, which
inspired his imagination as a boy, which nerved his ambition as a man;
to which his late-found humanities have given voice and shape; which now
gathers itself to a supreme utterance in the grasp of death. "The
earthly existence now: the transcendent hereafter, if Fate will. A man's
opportunities--a man's powers--a man's self-consciousness of joy and
conflict--these things he craves while he may yet possess them."

Then a sudden revulsion. "He would drink the very dregs of life! How
many have sacrificed it whilst its cup was full, because a better still
seemed behind it."

                                      "... the death I fly, revealed
       So oft a better life this life concealed,
       And which sage, champion, martyr, through each path
       Have hunted fearlessly--...."
                                                  (vol. i. p. 272.)

"But they had a belief which he has not. They knew what 'masters life.'
For him the paramount fact is that of his own being...."

This is the last protest of the flesh within him. Sordello is dying, and
probably feels that he is so; and he lapses into a calm contemplation,
which reveals to him the last secret of his mistaken career. He already
knew that he had ignored the bodily to the detriment of his spiritual
existence. He now feels that he has destroyed his body by forcing on it
the exigencies of the spirit. He has striven to obtain infinite
consciousness, infinite enjoyment, from finite powers. He has broken the
law of life. He has missed (so we interpret Mr. Browning's conclusion)
the ideal of that divine and human Love which would have given the
freest range to his spirit and yet accepted that law. Eglamor began with
love. Will Sordello find it, meeting that gentle spirit on his course?

We know at least that the soul in him has conquered. His stamp upon the
floor has brought Palma and Salinguerra to him in anxious haste. They
find him dead:

       "Under his foot the badge: still, Palma said,
       A triumph lingering in the wide eyes,
       Wider than some spent swimmer's if he spies
       Help from above in his extreme despair,...."
                         (vol. i. p. 279.)

Sordello is buried at Goito Castle, in an old font-tomb in which his
mother lies, and beside whose sculptured female forms the child-poet had
dreamed his earliest dreams of life and of love. Salinguerra makes
peace with the Guelphs, marries a daughter of Eccelino the monk, and
effaces himself once for all in the Romano house, leaving its sons
Eccelino and Alberic to plague the world at their pleasure, and meet the
fate they have deserved. He himself, after varied fortunes, dwindles
into a "showy, turbulent soldier," less "astute" than people profess to
think: whose qualities even foes admire; and whose aggressions they
punish, but do not much resent. We see him for the last time at the age
of eighty, a nominal prisoner in Venice.

The drama is played out. Its actors have vanished from the stage. One
only lives on in Mr. Browning's fancy, in the pathos of his modest
hopes, and acknowledged, yet scarcely comprehended failure--more human,
and therefore more undying than Naddo himself: the poet Eglamor.
Sordello he recalls only to dismiss him with less sympathy than we
should expect: as ending the ambition for what he could not become, by
the well-meant renunciation of what he was born to be; made a hero of by
legends which credited him with doing what his conscience had forbidden
him to do; leaving the world to suffer by his self-sacrifice; a type of
failure more rare and more brilliant than that of Eglamor, yet more full
of the irony of life.

In one sense, however, he had lived for a _better thing_, and we are
bidden look back, through the feverish years, on a bare-footed rosy
child running "higher and higher" up a wintry hillside still crisp with
the morning frost,

                             "... singing all the while
       Some unintelligible words to beat
       The lark, God's poet, swooning at his feet,
       So worsted is he...."                       (vol. i. p. 288-9)

The poet in him had failed with the man, but less completely.


[Footnote 8: The quoted passage is from the works of Cornelius Agrippa,
a well-known professor of occult philosophy, and is indeed introductory
to a treatise upon it. The writer is quite aware that his work may be
scandalizing, hurtful, and even poisonous to narrow minds, but is sure
that readers of a superior understanding will get no little good, and
plenty of pleasure from it; and he concludes by claiming indulgence on
the score of his youth, in case he should have given even the better
judges any cause for offence. For those who read this preface with any
previous knowledge of Mr. Browning's life and character, there will be
an obvious inference to his own youthfulness in the exaggerated estimate
thus implied of his imaginative sins; for the tendency of "Pauline" is
both religious and moral; and no man has been more innocent than its
author, from boyhood up, of tampering with any belief in the black art.
His hatred for that "spiritualism," which is its modern equivalent, is
indeed matter of history. But the trick he has here played himself may
confuse the mind of those who only know him from his works, and for whom
his vivid belief in the supernatural may point to a different kind of

[Footnote 9: Vol. i. of the new uniform edition of 1888-89. This will be
the one always referred to.]

[Footnote 10: The "Andromeda," described as "with" the speaker at pages
29 and 30, is that of Polidoro di Caravaggio, of which Mr. Browning
possesses an engraving, which was always before his eyes as he wrote his
earlier poems. The original was painted on the wall of a garden attached
to the Palazzo Bufalo--or del Bufalo--in Rome. The wall has been pulled
down since Mr. Browning was last there.]

[Footnote 11: Aristotle.]

[Footnote 12: He rose to meet him from the place at which he stood,
saying, "Oh Mantuan, I am Sordello of thy land!" and they embraced each

[Footnote 13: The name of Naddo occurs in this book, and will often
reappear in the course of the story. This personage is the typical
Philistine--the Italian Brown, Jones, or Robinson--and will represent
genuine common-sense, or mere popular judgment, as the case may be.]

[Footnote 14: Elys, the subject of this song, is any woman of the then
prevailing type of Italian beauty: having fair hair, and a "pear-shaped"

[Footnote 15: Bocafoli and Plara, mannerists: one of the sensuous
school, the other of the pompously pure; imaginary personages, but to
whom we may give real names.]

[Footnote 16: The belief in personal experience is very strong here.]

[Footnote 17: The third of these, vol. i. p. 168, is very characteristic
of the state of Sordello's, and therefore, at that moment, of his
author's mind. The poet who _makes others see_ is he who deals with
abstractions: who makes the mood do duty for the man.]

[Footnote 18: Walter Savage Landor.]

[Footnote 19: The word "Eyebright" at page 170 stands for Euphrasia its
Greek equivalent, and refers to one of Mr. Browning's oldest friends.]

[Footnote 20: Here, as elsewhere, I give the spirit rather than the
letter, or even the exact order of Sordello's words. The necessary
condensation requires this.]




Our attention is next attracted to Mr. Browning's dramas; for his first
tragedy, "Strafford," was published before "Sordello," having been
written in an interval of its composition, and his first drama, "Pippa
Passes," immediately afterwards. They were published, with the exception
of "Strafford," and "In a Balcony," in the "Bells and Pomegranates"
series, 1841-1846, together with the "Dramatic Lyrics," and "Dramatic
Romances," which will be found distributed under various headings in the
course of this volume.

The dramas are:--

     "Strafford." 1837.
     "Pippa Passes." 1841.
     "King Victor and King Charles." 1842.
     "The Return of the Druses." 1843.
     "A Blot in the 'Scutcheon." 1843.
     "Colombe's Birthday." 1844.
     "A Soul's Tragedy." 1846.
     "Luria." 1846.
     "In a Balcony." (A Fragment.) 1853.

The five-act tragedy of "STRAFFORD" turns on the impeachment and
condemnation of the man whose name it bears. Its keynote is Strafford's
devotion to the King, which Mr. Browning has represented as the
constant motive of his life, and also the cause of his death. When the
action opens, England is without a Parliament. The question of
ship-money is "burning." The Scotch Parliament has just been dissolved,
and Charles is determined to subdue the Scots by force. Wentworth has
been summoned from Ireland to assist in doing so. He is worn and weary,
but the King needs him, and he comes.

He accepts the Scotch war against his better judgment: and next finds
himself entrapped by the King's duplicity and selfishness, not only into
the command of the expedition to Scotland, but into the appearance of
having advised it. Pym has vainly tried to win him back to the popular
cause. Lady Carlisle vainly warns him of his danger in subserving the
King's designs. No danger can shake his allegiance. He leads the army to
the north; is beaten; discovers that the popular party is in league with
the Scotch; returns home to impeach it, and finds himself impeached. A
Bill of Attainder is passed against him; and Charles, who might prove by
one word his innocence of the charges conveyed in it, promises to do so,
evades his promise, and finally signs the warrant for Strafford's death.
Pym, who loved him best, who trusted him longest, is he who demands the

Lady Carlisle forms a plan for Strafford's escape from the Tower; but it
fails at the last moment, and we see him led away to execution. True to
the end, he has no thought but for the master who has betrayed
him--whose terrible weakness must betray himself--whose fate he sees
foreshadowed in his own. He kneels to Pym for the King's life; and,
seeing him inexorable, _thanks God that he dies first_. Pym's last
speech is a tender farewell to the friend whom he has sacrificed to his
country's cause, but whom he trusts soon to meet in the better land,
where they will walk together as of old, all sin and all error purged

We are told in the preface to the first edition of Strafford that the
portraits are, so the author thinks, faithful: his "Carlisle," only,
being imaginary; and we may add that he regards his conception of her
as, in the main, confirmed by a very recent historian of the reign of
Charles I. The tragedy was performed in 1837, at Covent Garden Theatre,
under the direction of Macready, by whose desire it had been written,
and who sustained the principal part.

The appearance of "Strafford" coincides so closely with at least the
conception of "Sordello" as to afford a strong proof of the variety of
the author's genius. The evidence is still stronger in "Pippa Passes,"
in which he leaps directly from his most abstract mode of conception to
his most picturesque; and, from the prolonged strain of a single inward
experience, to a quick succession of pictures, in which life is given
from a general and external point of view. The humour which found little
place in the earlier work has abundant scope here; and the descriptive
power which was so vividly apparent in all of them, here shows itself
for the first time in those touches of local colour which paint without
describing. Mr. Browning is now fully developed, on the artistic and on
the practical side of his genius.

Mr. Browning was walking alone, in a wood near Dulwich, when the image
flashed upon him of some one walking thus alone through life; one
apparently too obscure to leave a trace of his or her passage, yet
exercising a lasting though unconscious influence at every step of it;
and the image shaped itself into the little silk-winder of Asolo,
Felippa, or Pippa.

"PIPPA PASSES" represents the course of one day--Pippa's yearly holiday;
and is divided into what is virtually four acts, being the occurrences
of "Morning," "Noon," "Evening," and "Night." Pippa rises with the sun,
determined to make the best of the bright hours before her; and she
spends them in wandering through the town, singing as she goes, and all
the while thinking of its happiest men and women, and fancying herself
they. These happy ones are four, each the object of a different love.
Ottima, whose aged husband is the owner of the silk mills, has a lover
in Sebald. Phene, betrothed to the French sculptor Jules, will be led
this morning to her husband's home. Luigi (a conspiring patriot) meets
his mother at eve in the turret. The Bishop, blessed by God, will sleep
at Asolo to-night. Which love would she choose? The lover's? It gives
cause for scandal. The husband's? It may not last. The parent's? it
alone will guard us to the end of life. God's love? That is best of all.
It is Monsignore she decides to be.

Ottima and her lover have murdered her husband at his villa on the
hillside. She is the more reckless of the two, and she is striving by
the exercise of her attractions to silence Sebald's remorse. She has
succeeded for the moment, when Pippa passes--singing. Something in her
song strikes his conscience like a thunderbolt, and its reviving force
awakens Ottima's also. Both are spiritually saved.

Jules has brought home his bride, and is discovering that some students
who owed him a grudge have practised a cruel cheat upon him; and that
the refined woman by whom he fancied himself loved is but an ignorant
girl of the lowest class, of whom also his enemies have made a tool. Her
remorse at seeing what man she has deceived disarms his anger, and marks
the dawning of a moral sense in her; and he is dismissing her gently,
with all the money he can spare, when Pippa passes--singing.[21]
Something in her song awakens his truer manhood. Why should he dismiss
his wife? Why cast away a soul which needs him, and which he himself
has called into existence? He does not cast Phene away. Her salvation
and his happiness are secured.

Luigi and his mother are in the turret on the hillside above Asolo. He
believes it his mission to kill the Austrian Emperor. She entreats him
to desist; and has nearly conquered his resolution by the mention of the
girl he loves, when Pippa passes--singing. Something in her song revives
his flagging patriotism. He rushes from the tower, thus escaping the
police, who were on his track; and the virtuous, though mistaken motive,
secures his liberty, and perhaps his life.

Monsignore and his "Intendant" are conferring in the palace by the
Duomo; and the irony of the situation is now at its height. Pippa's
fancy has been aspiring to three separate existences, which would each
in its own way have been wrecked without her. The divinely-guarded one
which she especially covets is at this moment bent on her destruction.
For she is the child of the brother at whose death the Bishop has
connived, and whose wealth he is enjoying. She is still in his way, and
he is listening to a plan for removing her also, when Pippa
passes--singing. Something in her song stings his conscience or his
humanity to life. He starts up, summons his attendants, has his former
accomplice bound hand and foot, and the sequel may be guessed.

The scene is varied by groups of students, of poor girls, and of
Austrian policemen, all joking and chatting in characteristic fashion,
and all playing their part in the story; and also by the appearance of
Bluphocks, an English adventurer and spy, who is in league with the
police for the detection of Luigi, and with the Intendant for Pippa's
ruin; and the saving effect of Pippa's songs is the more dramatic that
it becomes on one occasion the means of betraying herself. She goes home
at sunset, unconscious of all she has effected and escaped, and
wondering how near she may ever come to touching for good or evil the
lives with which her fancy has been identifying her. "So far, perhaps,"
she says to herself, "that the silk she will wind to-morrow may some day
serve to border Ottima's cloak. And if it be only this!"

       "All service ranks the same with God--
       With God, whose puppets, best and worst,
       Are we: there is no last nor first."   (vol. iii. p. 79.)

These are her last words as she lies down to sleep.

Pippa's songs are not impressive in themselves. They are made so in
every case by the condition of her hearer's mind; and the idea of the
story is obvious, besides being partly stated in the heroine's own
words. No man is "great" or "small" in the sight of God--each life being
in its own way the centre of creation. Nothing should be "great" or
"small" in the sight of man; since it depends on personal feeling, or
individual circumstance, whether a given thing will prove one or the

"KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES" is an historical tragedy in two divisions
and four parts, of which the time is 1730 and 31, and the place the
castle of Rivoli near Turin. The episode which it records may be read in
any chronicle of the period; and Mr. Browning adds a preface, in which
he justifies his own view of the characters and motives involved in it.
King Victor II. (first King of Sardinia) was sixty-four years old, and
had been nominally a ruler from the age of ten, when suddenly (1730) he
abdicated in favour of his son Charles. The Queen was dead, and he had
privately married a lady of the Court, to whom he had been long
attached; and the desire to acknowledge this union, combined with what
seems to have been a premature old age, might sufficiently have
explained the abdication; but Mr. Browning adopts the idea, which for a
time found favour, that it had a deeper cause: that the King's
intriguing ambition had involved him in many difficulties, and he had
devised this plan for eluding them.

Charles has become his father's heir through the death of an older and
better loved son. He has been thrust into the shade by the favourite,
now Victor's wife, and by the Minister d'Ormea; his sensitive nature
crushed into weakness, his loftiness of purpose never called into play.
He seems precisely the person of whom to make at once a screen and a
tool. But he has scarcely been crowned when it is evident that he will
be neither. He assumes the character of king at the same time as the
function; and by his honesty, courage, and humanity, restores the
prosperity of his country, and the honour of his house. He secures even
the devotion, interested though it be, of the unscrupulous d'Ormea

Victor, however, is restless in his obscurity; and by the end of the
year is scheming for the recovery of his crown. He presents himself
before his son, and demands that it be restored to him; denouncing what
he considers the weakness of King Charles' rule. Charles refuses, gently
but firmly, to abandon what has become for him the post of duty; and
King Victor departs, to conspire openly against him. D'Ormea is active
in detecting the conspiracy and unveiling it; and Victor is brought back
to the palace, this time a prisoner.

But Charles does not receive him as such. His filial piety is outraged
by the unnatural conflict; and his wife Polixena has vainly tried to
convince him that there is a higher because less obvious virtue in
resisting than in giving way. He once more acknowledges his father as
King. And both he and his wife are soon aware that in doing so, he is
only humouring the caprice of a dying man. "_I have no friend in the
wide world_ is the old King's cry. Give me what I have no power to take
from you."

                        "So few years give it quietly,
       My son! It will drop from me. See you not?
       A crown's unlike a sword to give away--
       That, let a strong hand to a weak hand give!
       But crowns should slip from palsied brows to heads
       Young as this head:...."                    (vol. iii. p. 162-3.)

Charles places the crown on his father's head. A strange conflict of
gratified ambition, of remorseful tenderness, of dreamy regret, stirs
the failing spirit. But command and defiance flash out in the old King's
last words.

This death on the stage is the only point on which Mr. Browning diverges
from historical truth. King Victor lived a year longer, in a modified
captivity to which his son had most unwillingly consigned him; and he is
made to suggest this story in the half-insanity of his last moments as
one which may be told to the world; and will give his son the appearance
of reigning, while he remains, in secret, King.

"THE RETURN OF THE DRUSES" is a tragedy in five acts, fictitious in
plot, but historical in character. The Druses of Lebanon are a compound
of several warlike Eastern tribes, owing their religious system to a
caliph of Egypt, Hakeem Biamr Allah; and probably their name to his
confessor Darazi, who first attempted to promulgate his doctrine among
them; some also impute to the Druse nation a dash of the blood of the
Crusaders. One of their chief religious doctrines was that of divine
incarnations. It seems to have originated in the pretension of Hakeem to
be himself one; and as organized by the Persian mystic Hamzi, his Vizier
and disciple, it included ten manifestations of this kind, of which
Hakeem must have formed the last. Mr. Browning has assumed that in any
great national emergency, the miracle would be expected to recur; and he
has here conceived an emergency sufficiently great to call it forth.

The Druses, according to him, have colonized a small island belonging
to the Knights of Rhodes, and become subject to a Prefect appointed by
the Order. This Prefect has almost extirpated the Druse sheikhs, and
made the remainder of the tribe victims of his cruelty and lust. The cry
for rescue and retribution, if not loud, is deep. It finds a passionate
response in the soul of Djabal, a son of the last Emir, who escaped as a
child from the massacre of his family, and took refuge in Europe; and
who now returns, with a matured purpose of patriotic and personal
revenge. He has secured an ally in the young Lois de Dreux--an intended
Knight of the Order, and son of a Breton Count, whose hospitality he has
enjoyed--and induced him to accompany him to the islet, and pass his
probation there. This, he considers, will facilitate the murder of the
Prefect, which is an essential part of his plan; and he has obtained the
promise of the Venetians, who are hostile to the Knights, to lend their
ships for his countrymen's escape as soon as the death of the tyrant
shall have set them free.

So far his course is straight. But he has scarcely returned home, when
he falls in love with Anael, a Druse girl, whose devotion to her tribe
is a religion, and who is determined to marry none but the man who will
deliver it; and he is then seized by an impulse to heighten the act of
deliverance by a semblance of more than human power. He declares himself
Hakeem, the Divine founder of the sect, again present in human form, and
who will again be transformed, or "exalted," so soon as by the slaughter
of their tyrant he has set the Druses free. His bride will be exalted
with him. The imposture succeeds only too well. "Mystic" as well as
"schemer," Djabal, for a moment, deceives even himself; and when the
crisis is at hand, and reason and conscience reassert themselves, the
enthusiasm which he has kindled still forces him on. His only refuge is
in flight; and even this proves impossible. He nerves himself, before
escaping, to the Prefect's murder; and is confronted on the threshold
of the Prefect's chamber, by his promised wife, who has herself done the

Anael has loved Djabal, believing him Divine, with what seemed to her
too human a love. She felt unworthy to share his exaltation. She has
done that which her humanity disclaimed that she might no longer be so.
A few moments more, and they both know that the crime has been
superfluous. Lois, who also loves Anael, and hopes to win her, has
procured from the Chapter of his Order the removal of the tyrant, and
been appointed by it in his place; the day of Druse oppression was
already over. But Djabal and Anael are inseparably united. The scorn
with which she received his now inevitable confession was intense but
momentary. The woman's heart in her revels in its new freedom to cherish
and to protect; and she embraces her lover's shame with a far greater
joy than their common triumph could have aroused in her. She is brought
forward as the Prefect's murderer in presence of all the personages of
the drama; and falls dead with a cry of "Hakeem" on her lips. Djabal
stabs himself on her body, thus "exalting" himself to her. But he has
first committed his Druses to the care of Lois, to be led back to their
mountain home. He remains Hakeem for them, though branded as an impostor
by the rest of the world. Directly, or indirectly, he has done the work
of the deliverer.

"A BLOT IN THE 'SCUTCHEON" is a tragedy in three acts, less intricate as
well as shorter than those which precede it; and historical only in the
simple motive, the uncompromising action, and the mediæval code of
honour, which in some degree fix its date. Mr. Browning places this
somewhere in the eighteenth century.

Lord Henry Mertoun has fallen in love with Mildred Tresham. His estates
adjoin those of Earl Tresham, her brother and guardian. He inherits a
noble name, and an unsullied reputation; and need only offer himself to
be accepted. But the youthful reverence which he entertains for Lord
Tresham makes him shrink from preferring his suit; and he allows himself
and Mildred to drift into a secret intimacy, which begins in all
innocence, but does not end so. Then his shyness vanishes. He seeks an
interview with the Earl, and obtains his joyful consent to the union.
All seems to be going well. But Mildred's awakened womanhood takes the
form of an overpowering remorse and shame; and these become the indirect
cause of the catastrophe.

Gerard, an old retainer of the family, has witnessed Lord Mertoun's
nightly visits to the castle; and, amidst a bitter conflict of feeling,
he tells the Earl what he has seen. Tresham summons his sister. He is
writhing under the sense of outraged family honour; but a still stronger
fraternal affection commends the culprit to his mercy. He assists her
confession with touching delicacy and tenderness; shows himself prepared
to share her shame, to help her to live it through--to marry her to the
man she loves. He insists only upon this, that Mertoun shall not be
deceived: and that she shall cancel the promise of an interview which
she has given him for the following day.

Mildred tacitly owns her guilt, and invokes any punishment her brother
may adjudge to it; but she will not betray her lover by confessing his
name, and she will not forbid Mertoun to come. The Earl's mind does not
connect the two. No extenuating circumstance suggests itself. He has
loved his young sister with a chivalrous admiration and trust; and he is
one of those men to whom a blot in the 'scutcheon is only less terrible
than the knowledge that such trust has been misplaced. He is stung to
madness by what seems this crowning proof of his sister's depravity; and
by the thought of him who has thus corrupted her. He surprises Mertoun
on the way to the last stolen visit to his love; and, before there has
been time for an explanation, challenges and kills him.

The reaction of feeling begins when he perceives that Mertoun has
allowed himself to be killed. Remorse and sorrow deepen into despair as
the dying youth gasps out the story of his constant love, of his boyish
error--of his manly desire of reparation; above all, as he reminds his
hearer of the sister whose happiness he has slain; and asks if he has
done right to set his "thoughtless foot" upon them both, and say as they

       "... Had I thought,
       'All had gone otherwise'...."
                           (vol iv. p. 59.)

Mildred is waiting for her lover. The usual signal has been made: the
lighted purple pane of a painted window sends forth its beckoning gleam.
But Mertoun does not appear; and as the moments pass, a despairing
apathy steals over her, which is only the completed certainty of her
doom. She has never believed in the promised happiness. In a strange
process of self-consciousness she has realized at once the moral and the
natural consequences of her transgression; the lost peace of conscience,
the lost morning of her love. Her paramount desire has been for
expiation and rest. In one more pang they are coming. Lord Tresham
breaks in on her solitude. His empty scabbard shows what he has done.
But she soon sees that reproach is unnecessary, and that Mertoun's death
is avenged. It is best so. The cloud has lifted. The friend and the
brother are one in heart again. She dies because her own heart is
broken, but forgiving her brother, and blessing him. He has taken
poison, and survives her by a few minutes only.

Mildred has a firm friend in her cousin Gwendolen: a quick-witted,
true-hearted woman, the betrothed of Austin Tresham, who is next heir to
the earldom. She alone has guessed the true state of the case, and,
with the help of Austin, would have averted the tragedy, if Lord
Tresham's precipitate passion had not rendered this impossible. These
two are in no need of their dying kinsman's warning, to remember, if a
blot should again come in the 'scutcheon, that "vengeance is God's, not

This tragedy was performed in 1843, at Drury Lane Theatre, during the
ownership of Macready; in 1848, at "Sadlers Wells," under the direction
of Mr. Phelps, who had played the part of Lord Tresham in the Drury Lane

COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY is a play in five acts, of which the scene is the
palace at Juliers, the time 16--. Colombe of Ravestein is ostensibly
Duchess of Juliers and Cleves; but her title is neutralized by the Salic
law under which the Duchy is held; and though the Duke, her late father,
has wished to evade it in her behalf, those about her are aware that he
had no power to do so, and that the legal claimant, her cousin, may at
any moment assert his rights. This happens on the first anniversary of
her accession, which is also her birthday.

Prince Berthold is to arrive in a few hours. He has sent a letter before
him from which Colombe will learn her fate; and the handful of courtiers
who have stayed to see the drama out are disputing as to who shall
deliver it. Valence, an advocate of Cleves, arrives at this juncture,
with a petition from his townspeople who are starving; and is allowed to
place it in the Duchess's hands, on condition of presenting the Prince's
letter at the same time. He does this in ignorance of its contents; he
is very indignant when he knows them; and the incident naturally
constitutes him Colombe's adviser and friend; while the reverence with
which he owns himself her subject, also determines her if possible to
remain his sovereign.

Prince Berthold arrives unprepared for any show of resistance; and is a
little startled to find that Colombe defies him, and that one of her
courtiers (not choosing to be outdone by Valence) has the courage to
tell him so; but he treats the Duchess and her adviser with all the
courtesy of a man whose right is secure; and Valence, to whom he
entrusts his credentials, is soon convinced that it is so. But he has a
far-sighted ambition which keeps him alive to all possible risks: and it
occurs to him as wiser to secure the little sovereignty by marrying its
heiress than by dispossessing her. He desires Valence to convey to the
young Duchess the offer of his hand. The offer is worth considering,
since as he asserts, it may mean the Empire: to which the Duchy is, in
his case, but a necessary stepping-stone; and Valence, who has loved
Colombe since his first glimpse of her at Cleves, a year ago; who has
begun to hope that his affection is returned; and who knows that the
Prince's message is not only a test of her higher nature, but a snare to
it, feels nevertheless bound to leave her choice free. This choice lies
clearly between love and power; for Berthold parades a cynicism half
affected, half real; and on being questioned as to his feeling for the
lady, has dismissed the question as irrelevant.

Valence is, throughout the play, an advocate in the best sense of the
word. As he has pleaded the wrongs of an oppressed people, he sets forth
the happiness of a successful prince--the happiness which the young
Duchess is invited to share; and he departs from all the
conventionalities of fiction, by showing her the true poetry, not the
artificial splendours, of worldly success. Colombe is almost as grateful
as the young Prince could desire, for she assumes that he has fallen in
love with her, whether he says so or not; and here, too, Valence must
speak the truth. "The Prince does not love her." "How does he know
this?" "He knows it by the insight of one who does love." Astonished,
vaguely pained, Colombe questions him as to the object of his
attachment, and, in probably real ignorance of who it can be, draws him
on to a confession. For a moment she is disenchanted. "So much unselfish
devotion to turn out merely love! She will at all events see Valence's

In the last act she discusses the Prince's proposal with himself. He
frankly rests it on its advantages for both. He has much to say in
favour of such an understanding, and reminds his listener as she
questions and temporizes, that if he gives no heart he also asks none.
The courtiers now see their opportunity. They inform the Prince that by
her late father's will the Duchess forfeits her rights in the event of
marrying a subject. They point to such a marriage as a natural result of
the loving service which Valence has this day rendered to her, and the
love which is its only fitting reward. And Colombe, listening to the
just if treacherous praises of this man, feels no longer "sure" that she
does "not love him." Valence is summoned; requested to assert his claim
or to deny it; given to understand that the lady's interests demand the
latter course. The manly dignity and exalted tenderness with which he
resigns her convert, as it seems, the doubt into certainty; and Colombe
takes him on this her birthday at the sacrifice of "Juliers and the

Berthold has a confidant, Melchior, a learned and thoughtful man, who is
affectionately attached to the young prince, and who views with regret
the easy worldly successes which neutralize his higher gifts. Melchior
has also appreciated the genuineness of Colombe's nature, and conducted
the last interview with Valence as one who desired that loyalty should
be attested and love triumph. He now turns to Berthold with what seems
an appeal to his generosity. But Berthold cannot afford to be generous.
As he reminds the happy bride before him he wants her duchy much more
than she does. He is, however, the sadder, and perhaps the wiser, for
having found this out.

"Colombe's Birthday" was performed in 1853, at the Haymarket Theatre; in
1853 or '54, in the United States, at Boston. The part of Colombe was
taken, as had been those of Mildred Tresham and Lady Carlisle, by Miss
Helen Faucit, now Lady Martin.

"A SOUL'S TRAGEDY" brings us near to the period of the "Men and Women;"
and displays, for the first time in Mr. Browning's work, a situation
quite dramatic in itself, but which is nevertheless made by the
characters, and imagined for them. It is a story of moral retrogression;
but, setting aside its very humorous treatment, it is no "tragedy" for
the reader, because he has never believed in that particular "soul,"
though its proprietor and his friends are justly supposed to do so. The
drama is divided into two acts, of which the first represents the
"poetry," the second the prose, of a certain Chiappino's life. The scene
is Faenza; the time 15--.

Chiappino is best understood by comparison with Luitolfo, his
fellow-townsman and friend. Luitolfo has a gentle, genial nature;
Chiappino, if we may judge him by his mood at the time of the action, an
ill-conditioned one. Luitolfo's gentleness is allied to physical
timidity, but his moral courage is always equal to the occasion.
Chiappino is a man more of words than of deeds, and wants both the
courage and the rectitude which ill-conditioned people often possess.
Faenza is governed by a provost from Ravenna. The present provost is a
tyrant; and Chiappino has been agitating in a somewhat purposeless
manner against him. He has been fined for this several times, and is now
sentenced to exile, and confiscation of all his goods.

Luitolfo has helped him until now by paying his fines; but this is an
additional grievance to him, for he is in love with Eulalia, the woman
whom his friend is going to marry, and declares that he has only
refrained from urging his own suit, because he was bound by this
pecuniary obligation not to do so. He is not too delicate, however, to
depreciate Luitolfo's generosity, and generally run him down with the
woman who is to be his wife; and this is what he is doing in the first
scene, under cover of taking leave of her, and while her intended
husband is interceding with the provost in his behalf. A hurried knock,
which they recognise as Luitolfo's, gives a fresh impulse to his spite;
and he begins sneering at the milk-and-watery manner in which Luitolfo
has probably been pleading his cause, and the awful fright in which he
has run home, on seeing that the provost "shrugged his shoulders" at the

Luitolfo _is_ frightened, for his friendship for Chiappino has been
carrying him away; and on finding that entreaties were of no use, he has
struck at the provost, and, as he thinks, killed him. A crowd which he
imagines to be composed of the Provost's attendants has followed him
from the palace. Torture stares him in the face; and his physical
sensitiveness has the upper hand again. For a moment Chiappino becomes a
hero; he is shamed into nobleness. He flings his own cloak over
Luitolfo, gives him his passport, hurries him from the house, assumes
his friend's blood-stained garment, and claims his deed. But he has
scarcely done so when he perceives their mistake. Luitolfo's fears have
distorted a friendly crowd into a hostile one; and the throng which
Chiappino has nerved himself to defy is the populace of Faenza
applauding him as its saviour. He postpones the duty of undeceiving it
under pretence of the danger being not yet over. The next step will be
to refuse to do so. His moral collapse, the "tragedy" of his "soul," has

In the second act, a month later, this is complete. The papal legate,
Ogniben, has ridden on his mule in to Faenza to find out what was
wanted. "He has not come to punish; there is no harm done: for the
provost was not killed after all. He has known twenty-three leaders of
revolts," and therefore, so we understand, is not disposed to take such
persons too seriously. He has made friends with Chiappino, accepting him
in this character, and lured him on with the hope of becoming provost
himself; and Chiappino again rising--or falling--to the situation, has
discovered patriotic reasons for accepting the post. He has outgrown his
love, as well as modified his ideas of civic duty; and he disposes of
the obligations of friendship, by declaring (to Eulalia) that the blow
imputed to him was virtually his, because Luitolfo would fain have
avoided striking it, while he would have struck it if he could. The
legate draws him out in a humorous dialogue; satirizes his flimsy
sophistries under cover of endorsing them, and leads him up to a final

This occurs when he reminds Chiappino in the hearing of the crowd of the
private agreement they have come to: that he is to have the title and
privileges of Provost on the one hand, and pay implicit obedience to
Rome, in the person of her legate, on the other; but with the now added
condition, that if the actual assailant of the late provost is
discovered, he shall be dealt with as he deserves. At which new view of
the situation Chiappino is silent; and Luitolfo, who had missed all the
reward of his deed, characteristically comes forward to receive its
punishment. The legate orders him to his own house; advises Chiappino,
with a little more joking at his expense, to leave the town for a short
time; takes possession of the key of the provost's palace, to which he
does _not_ intend to give a new inmate; bids a cheery goodbye to every
one, and rides away as he came. He has

       "known _four_ and twenty leaders of revolts." (vol. iii. p. 302.)

The tragedy of "LURIA" is supposed to be enacted at some period of the
fifteenth century; being an episode in the historical struggle between
Florence and Pisa. It occupies one day; and the five acts correspond
respectively to its "Morning," "Noon," "Afternoon," "Evening," and
"Night." The day is that of a long-expected encounter which is to end
the war. The Florentine troops are commanded by the Moorish mercenary
Luria. He is encamped between the two cities; and with, or near him, are
his Moorish friend and confidant Husain; Puccio--the officer whom he has
superseded; Braccio--Commissary of the Republic; his secretary Jacopo,
or Lapo; and a noble Florentine lady, Domizia.

Luria is a consummate general, a brave fighter, and a humane man. Every
soldier of the army is devoted to him, and the triumph of the Republic
seems secured. But the men who trust him to win the victory cannot trust
him not to misuse it. They are afraid that his strength will be turned
against themselves so soon as it has disposed of their foreign foe: and
Braccio is on the spot, in order to watch his movements, to register
every deed that can give the slightest hold for an accusation--in short,
to supply the Signoria with the materials for a trial, which is
proceeding step by step with Luria's successful campaign, and is to
crush him the moment this is completed. Everyone but Husain is more or
less his enemy. For Lapo is almost blindly devoted to his chief. Puccio
is jealous of the stranger for whom he has been set aside. Domizia is
making him an instrument of revenge. Her brothers have been faithful as
he is, and condemned as he is to be. They accepted their sentence
because it was the mother-city who passed it. She encourages Luria to
encounter the same ingratitude, because she believes he will resist and
punish it.

He is not unwarned of his danger. The Pisan general, Tiburzio, has
discovered the conspiracy against him, and brings him, shortly before
the battle, an intercepted letter from Braccio to the Signoria, in
which he is convinced that he may read his fate. He urges him to open
it; to desert the perfidious city, and to adopt Pisa's cause. But
Luria's loyalty is unshaken. He tears up the letter in the presence of
Braccio, Puccio, and Domizia: and only when the battle has been fought
and won demands the secret of its contents. At the word "trial" he is
carried away by a momentary indignation; but this subsides into a tender
regret that "his Florentines" should have so misjudged him; that he
should have given them cause to do it. He has laboured for their city,
not only with the obedience of a son, but with the devotion of a lover.
His Eastern fancy has been enslaved by her art, her intellect: by the
life of educated thought which so far removed her from the blind unrest,
and the animal strength of his savage world; Domizia's attractions have
added to the spell. He has never guarded his love for Florence against
doubt, for he never dreamed that it could be doubted. He cannot find it
in his heart to chastise her now.

Temptation besets him on every side; for the armies of both Florence and
Pisa are at his command. Husain and Domizia urge him on to revenge.
Tiburzio entreats him to give to Pisa the head with which Florence will
only decorate a gateway. Him he thanks and dismisses. To the others he
prepares his answer. Alone for the last time; with eyes fixed on the
setting sun--his "own orb" so much nearer to him in his Eastern home,
and which will shine for him there no more--he drains a phial of poison:
the one thing he has brought from his own land to help him in the
possible adversity. Death was to be his refuge in defeat. He will die on
his triumph-day instead.

They all gather round him once more: Puccio grateful and devoted; for he
has seen that though discredited by Florence, Luria was still working
for her success--Tiburzio, who returns from Florence, where he has
tendered his submission to Luria's arms, and borne his heartfelt
testimony to Luria's honour--Domizia, who has learned from Luria that
there are nobler things than retaliation: and now entreats him to forego
his vengeance against her city, as she foregoes her own--Braccio,
repentant for the wrong done, and beseeching that Luria will not "punish
Florence." But they cannot avert the one punishment which that gentle
spirit could inflict. He lies dead before them.

"IN A BALCONY" is a dramatic fragment, equivalent to the third or fourth
act, of what might prove a tragedy or a drama, as the author designed.
The personages are "Norbert" and "Constance," a young man and woman; and
the "Queen," a woman of a certain age. Constance is a relation and
protégée of the Queen--as we imagine, a poor one. She is loved by
Norbert; and he has entered the Queen's service, for the opportunity of
wooing and winning her. His diplomatic exertions have been strenuous.
They have secured to his royal mistress the possession of a double
crown. The "Balcony" echoes with the sound of festivities which are
intended to mark the event.

Constance returns Norbert's affection. He thinks the moment come for
pleading his and her cause with their sovereign. But Constance entreats
him to temporize: either to defer the proposal for her hand, or to make
it in so indirect a manner, that the Queen may only see in it a tribute
to herself. He has allowed her to think that he served her for her own
sake; she must not be undeceived too roughly. Her heart has starved
amidst the show of devotion: its hunger must not be roused by the touch
of a living love in which she has no part. A shock of this kind would be
painful to her--dangerous to themselves.

Norbert is an honest man, possessed of all the courage of his love: and
he finds it hard to believe that the straightforward course would not be
the best; but he yields to the dictates of feminine wisdom; and having
consented to play a part, plays it with fatal success. The Queen is a
more unselfish woman than her young cousin suspects. She has guessed
Norbert's love for Constance, and is prepared to sanction it; but her
own nature is still only too capable of responding to the faintest touch
of affection: and at the seeming declaration that that love is her's,
her joy carries all before it. She is married; but as she declares she
will dissolve her marriage, merely formal as it has always been; she
will cast convention to the winds, and become Norbert's wife. She opens
her heart to Constance; tells her how she has yearned for love, and how
she will repay it. Constance knows, as she never knew, what a mystery of
pain and passion has been that outwardly frozen life; and in a sudden
impulse of pity and compunction, she determines that if possible its new
happiness shall be permanent--its delusions converted into truth.

She meets Norbert again; makes him talk of his future; discovers that he
only dreams of it as bound up with the political career he has already
entered upon; and though she sees that every vision of this future
begins and ends in her, she sees, as justly, that its making or marring
is in the Queen's hands. Here is a second motive for self-sacrifice.
Norbert has no suspicion of what he has done. The Queen appears before
Constance has had time to inform him of it; and the latter has now no
choice but to let him learn it from the Queen's own lips. She draws her
on, accordingly, under plea of Norbert's diffidence, to speak of what
she believes him to have asked of her, and what she knows to be already
granted. She tries to prompt his reply.

But Norbert will not be prompted. He is slow to understand what is
expected of him, very indignant when he does so; and in terror lest he
should still be misunderstood--in unconsciousness of the torture he is
inflicting--he asserts and re-asserts his respect for the one woman, his
absorbing passion for the other. The Queen goes out. Her looks and
silence have been ominous. The shadow of a great dread falls upon the
scene. The dance-music stops. Heavy footsteps are heard approaching.
Norbert and Constance stand awaiting their doom. But they are united as
they have never yet been, and they can defy it; for her love has shown
itself as capable of all sacrifice--his as above temptation.

Various theories have been formed as to the kind of woman Mr. Browning
meant Constance to be; but a careful and unbiassed reading of the poem
can leave no doubt on the subject. He has given her, not the courage of
an exclusively moral nature, but all the self-denial of a devoted one,
growing with the demands which are made upon it. How single-hearted is
her attempt to sacrifice Norbert's love, is sufficiently shown by one
sentence, addressed to him after his interview with the Queen:

       "You were mine. Now I give myself to you." (vol. vii. p. 28.)


From the dramas, we pass naturally to the dramatic monologues; poems
embodying a lengthened argument or soliloquy, and to which there is
already an approach in the tragedies themselves. The dramatic monologue
repeats itself in the finest poems of the "Men and Women," and "Dramatis
Personæ;" and Mr. Browning's constructive power thus remains, as it
were, diffused, till it culminates again in "The Ring and the Book:" at
once his greatest constructive achievement, and the triumph of the
monologue form. From this time onwards, the monologue will be his
prevailing mode of expression, but each will often form an independent
work. "The Ring and the Book" is thus our next object of interest.

Mr. Browning was strolling one day through a square in Florence, the
Piazza San Lorenzo, which is a standing market for old clothes, old
furniture, and old curiosities of every kind, when a parchment-covered
book attracted his eye, from amidst the artistic or nondescript rubbish
of one of the stalls. It was the record of a murder which had taken
place in Rome, and bore inside it an inscription which Mr. Browning thus

                               "... A Roman murder-case:
       Position of the entire criminal cause
       Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
       With certain Four the cut-throats in his pay,
       Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
       By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
       At Rome on February Twenty-Two,
       Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety-Eight:
       Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
       Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
       The customary forfeit."                (vol. viii. p. 6.)

The book proved, on examination, to contain the whole history of the
case, as carried on in writing, after the fashion of those days:
pleadings and counter-pleadings, the depositions of defendants and
witnesses; manuscript letters announcing the execution of the murderer;
and the "instrument of the Definitive Sentence" which established the
perfect innocence of the murdered wife: these various documents having
been collected and bound together by some person interested in the
trial, possibly the very Cencini, friend of the Franceschini family, to
whom the manuscript letters are addressed. Mr. Browning bought the whole
for the value of eightpence, and it became the raw material of what
appeared four years later as "The Ring and the Book."

This name is explained as follows:--The story of the Franceschini case,
as Mr. Browning relates it, forms a circle of evidence to its one
central truth; and this circle was constructed in the manner in which
the worker in Etruscan gold prepares the ornamental circlet which will
be worn as a ring. The pure metal is too soft to bear hammer or file; it
must be mixed with alloy to gain the necessary power of resistance. The
ring once formed and embossed, the alloy is disengaged, and a pure gold
ornament remains. Mr. Browning's material was also inadequate to his
purpose, though from a different cause. It was too _hard_. It was "pure
crude fact," secreted from the fluid being of the men and women whose
experience it had formed. In its existing state it would have broken up
under the artistic attempt to weld and round it. He supplied an alloy,
the alloy of fancy, or--as he also calls it--of one fact more: this fact
being the echo of those past existences awakened within his own. He
breathed into the dead record the breath of his own life; and when his
ring of evidence had re-formed, first in elastic then in solid strength,
here delicately incised, there broadly stamped with human thought and
passion, he could cast fancy aside, and bid his readers recognize in
what he set before them unadulterated human truth.

All this was not effected at once. The separate scenes of the
Franceschini tragedy sprang to life in Mr. Browning's imagination within
a few hours of his reading the book. He saw them re-enacted from his
terrace at Casa Guidi on a sultry summer night--every place and person
projected, as it seemed, against the thundery sky--but his mind did not
yet weave them into a whole. The drama lay by him and in him till the
unconscious inspiration was complete; and then, one day in London, he
felt what he thus describes:--

       "A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
       And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
       Letting me have my will again with these...."
                                        (vol. viii. p. 32.)

and "The Ring and the Book" was born. All this is told in an
introductory chapter, which bears the title of the whole work; and here
also Mr. Browning reviews those broad facts of the Franceschini case
which are beyond dispute, and which constitute, so far as they go, the
crude metal of his ring. He has worked into this almost every incident
which the chronicle supplies and his book requires no supplement. But
the fragmentary view of its contents, which I am reduced to giving, can
only be held together by a previous outline of the story.

There lived in Rome in 1679 Pietro and Violante Comparini, an elderly
couple of the middle class, fond of show and good living, and who in
spite of a fair income had run considerably into debt. They were, indeed
at the period in question, in receipt of a papal bounty, employed in the
relief of the needy who did not like to beg. Creditors were pressing,
and only one expedient suggested itself: they must have a child; and
thus enable themselves to draw on their capital, now tied up for the
benefit of an unknown heir-at-law. The wife conceived this plan, and
also carried it out, without taking her husband into her confidence. She
secured beforehand the infant of a poor and not very reputable woman,
announced her expectation, half miraculous at her past fifty years, and
became, to all appearance, the mother of a girl, the Francesca Pompilia
of the story.

When Pompilia had reached the age of thirteen, there was also in Rome
Count Guido Franceschini, an impoverished nobleman of Arezzo, and the
elder of three brothers, of whom the second, Abate Paolo, and the third,
Canon Girolamo also play some part in the story. Count Guido himself
belonged to the minor ranks of the priesthood, and had spent his best
years in seeking preferment in it. Preferment had not come, and the only
means of building up the family fortunes in his own person, was now a
moneyed wife. He was poor, fifty years old, and personally
unattractive. A contemporary chronicle describes him as short, thin, and
pale, and with a projecting nose. He had nothing to offer but his rank;
but in the case of a very obscure heiress, this might suffice, and such
a one seemed to present herself in Pompilia Comparini. He heard of her
at the local centre of gossip, the barber's shop; received an
exaggerated estimate of her dowry; and made proposals for her hand;
being supported in his suit by the Abate Paul. They did not, on their
side, understate the advantages of the connection. They are, indeed,
said to have given as their yearly income, a sum exceeding their
capital, and Violante was soon dazzled into consenting to it. Old Pietro
was more wary. He made inquiries as to the state of the Count's fortune,
and declined, under plea of his daughter's extreme youth, to think of
him as a son-in-law.

Violante pretended submission, secretly led Pompilia to a church, the
very church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, where four years later the
murdered bodies of all three were to be displayed, and brought her back
as Count Guido's wife. Pietro could only accept the accomplished fact;
and he so far resigned himself to it, that he paid down an instalment of
his daughter's dowry, and made up the deficiency by transferring to the
newly-married couple all that he actually possessed. This left him no
choice but to live under their roof, and the four removed together to
the Franceschini abode at Arezzo. The arrangement proved disastrous; and
at the end of a few months Pietro and Violante were glad to return to
Rome, though with empty pockets, and on money lent them for the journey
by their son-in-law.

We have conflicting testimony as to the cause of this rupture. The
Governor of Arezzo, writing to the Abate Paul in Rome, lays all the
blame of it on the Comparini, whom he taxes with vulgar and aggressive
behaviour; and Mr. Browning readily admits that at the beginning there
may have been faults on their side. But popular judgment, as well as
the balance of evidence, were in favour of the opposite view; and
curious details are given by Pompilia and by a servant of the family, a
sworn witness on Pompilia's trial, of the petty cruelties and privations
to which both parents and child were subjected.

So much, at all events, was clear; Violante's sin had overtaken her; and
it now occurred to her, apparently for the first time, to cast off its
burden by confession. The moment was propitious, for the Pope had
proclaimed a jubilee in honour of his eightieth year, and absolution was
to be had for the asking. But the Church in this case made conditions.
Absolution must be preceded by atonement. Violante must restore to her
legal heirs that of which her pretended motherhood had defrauded them.
The first step towards this was to reveal the fraud to her husband; and
Pietro lost no time in making use of the revelation. He repudiated
Pompilia, and with her all claims on her husband's part. The case was
carried into court. The Court decreed a compromise. Pietro appealed from
the decree, and the question remained unsettled.

The chief sufferer by these proceedings was Pompilia herself. She
already had reason to dread her husband as a tyrant--he to dislike her
as a victim; and his discovery of her base birth, with the threatened
loss of the greater part of her dowry, could only result, with such a
man, in increased aversion towards her. From this moment his one aim
seems to have been to get rid of his wife, but in such a manner as not
to forfeit any pecuniary advantage he might still derive from their
union. This could only be done by convicting her of infielity; and he
attacked her so furiously, and so persistently, on the subject of a
certain Canon Giuseppe Caponsacchi, whom she barely knew, but whose
attentions he declared her to have challenged, that at last she fled
from Arezzo, with this very man.

She had appealed for protection against her husband's violence to the
Archbishop and to the Governor. She had striven to enlist the aid of his
brother-in-law, Conti. She had implored a priest in confession to write
for her to her parents, and induce them to fetch her away. But the whole
town was in the interest of the Franceschini, or in dread of them. Her
prayers were useless, and Caponsacchi, whom she had heard of as a
"resolute man," appeared her last resource. He was, as she knew,
contemplating a journey to Rome; an opportunity presented itself for
speaking to him from her window, or her balcony; and she persuaded him,
though not without difficulty, to assist her escape, and conduct her to
her old home. On a given night she slipped away from her husband's side,
and joined the Canon where he awaited her with a carriage. They
travelled day and night till they reached Castelnuovo, a village within
four hours of the journey's end. There they were compelled to rest, and
there also the husband overtook them. They were not together at the
moment; but the fact of the elopement was patent; and if Franceschini
had killed his wife there, in the supposed excitement of the discovery,
the law might have dealt leniently with him. But it suited him best for
the time being to let her live. He procured the arrest of the fugitives,
and after a short confinement on the spot, they were conveyed to the New
Prisons in Rome (Carceri Nuove) and tried on the charge of adultery.

It is impossible not to believe that Count Guido had been working
towards this end. Pompilia's verbal communications with Caponsacchi had
been supplemented by letters, now brought to him in her name, now thrown
or let down from her window as he passed the house. They were written,
as he said, on the subject of the flight, and as he also said, he burned
them as soon as read, not doubting their authenticity. But Pompilia
declared, on examination, that she could neither write nor read; and
setting aside all presumption of her veracity, this was more than
probable. The writer of the letters must therefore, have been the Count,
or some one employed by him for the purpose. He now completed the
intrigue by producing eighteen or twenty more of a very incriminating
character, which he declared to have been left by the prisoners at
Castelnuovo; and these were not only disclaimed with every appearance of
sincerity by both the persons accused, but bore the marks of forgery
within themselves.

Pompilia and Caponsacchi answered all the questions addressed to them
simply and firmly; and though their statements did not always coincide,
these were calculated on the whole to create a moral conviction of their
innocence; the facts on which they disagreed being of little weight. But
moral conviction was not legal proof; the question of false testimony
does not seem to have been even raised; and the Court found itself in a
dilemma, which it acknowledged in the following way: it was decreed that
for his complicity in "the flight and deviation of Francesca Comparini,"
and too great intimacy with her, Caponsacchi should be banished for
three years to Civita Vecchia; and that Pompilia, on her side, should be
relegated, for the time being, to a convent. That is to say: the
prisoners were pronounced guilty; and a merely nominal punishment was
inflicted upon them.

The records of this trial contain almost everything of biographical or
even dramatic interest in the original book. They are, so far as they
go, the complete history of the case; and the result of the trial,
ambiguous as it was, supplied the only argument on which an even formal
defence of the subsequent murder could be based. The substance of these
records appears in full in Mr. Browning's work; and his readers can
judge for themselves whether the letters which were intended to
substantiate Pompilia's guilt, could, even if she had possessed the
power of writing, have been written by a woman so young and so
uncultured as herself. They will also see that the Count's plot against
his wife was still more deeply laid than the above-mentioned
circumstances attest.

Count Guido was of course not satisfied. He wanted a divorce; and he
continued to sue for it by means of his brother, the Abate Paul, then
residing in Rome; but before long he received news which was destined to
change his plans. Pompilia was about to become a mother; and in
consideration of her state, she had been removed from the convent to her
paternal home, where she was still to be ostensibly a prisoner. The
Comparini then occupied a small villa outside one of the city gates. A
few months later, in this secluded spot, the Countess Franceschini gave
birth to a son, whom her parents lost no time in conveying to a place of
concealment and safety. The murder took place a fortnight after this
event. I give the rest of the story in an almost literal translation
from a contemporary narrative, which was published, immediately after
the Count's execution, in the form of a pamphlet[22]--the then current
substitute for a newspaper.

"Being oppressed by various feelings, and stimulated to revenge, now by
honour, now by self-interest, yielding to his wicked thoughts, he (Count
Guido) devised a plan for killing his wife and her nominal parents; and
having enlisted in his enterprise four other ruffians,"--labourers on
his property, "started with them from Arezzo, and on Christmas-eve
arrived in Rome, and took up his abode at Ponte Milvio, where there was
a villa belonging to his brother, and where he concealed himself with
his followers till the fitting moment for the execution of his design
had arrived. Having therefore watched from thence all the movements of
the Comparini family, he proceeded on Thursday, the 2nd of January, at
one o'clock of the night,[23] with his companions to the Comparini's
house; and having left Biagio Agostinelli and Domenico Gambasini at the
gate, he instructed one of the others to knock at the house-door, which
was opened to him on his declaring that he brought a letter from Canon
Caponsacchi at Civita Vecchia. The wicked Franceschini, supported by two
other of his assassins, instantly threw himself on Violante Comparini,
who had opened the door, and flung her dead upon the ground. Pompilia,
in this extremity, extinguished the light, thinking thus to elude her
assassins, and made for the door of a neighbouring blacksmith, crying
for help. Seeing Franceschini provided with a lantern, she ran and hid
herself under the bed, but being dragged from under it, the unhappy
woman was barbarously put to death by twenty-two wounds from the hand of
her husband, who, not content with this, dragged her to the feet of
Comparini, who, being similarly wounded by another of the assassins, was
crying, '_confession_.'"

"At the noise of this horrible massacre people rushed to the spot; but
the villains succeeded in flying, leaving behind, however, in their
haste, one his cloak, and Franceschini his cap, which was the means of
betraying them. The unfortunate Francesca Pompilia, in spite of all the
wounds with which she had been mangled, having implored of the Holy
Virgin the grace of being allowed to confess, obtained it, since she was
able to survive for a short time and describe the horrible attack. She
also related that after the deed, her husband asked the assassin who had
helped him to murder her _if she were really dead_; and being assured
that she was, quickly rejoined, _let us lose no time, but return to the
vineyard_;[24] and so they escaped. Meanwhile the police (Forza) having
been called, it arrived with its chief officer (Bargello), and a
confessor was soon procured, together with a surgeon, who devoted
himself to the treatment of the unfortunate girl."

"Monsignore, the Governor, being informed of the event, immediately
despatched Captain Patrizj to arrest the culprits; but on reaching the
vineyard the police officers discovered that they were no longer there,
but had gone towards the high road an hour before. Patrizj pursued his
journey without rest, and having arrived at the inn, was told by the
landlord that Franceschini had insisted upon obtaining horses, which
were refused to him because he was not supplied with the necessary
order; and had proceeded therefore on foot with his companions towards
Baccano. Continuing his march, and taking the necessary precautions, he
arrived at the Merluzza inn, and there discovered the assassins, who
were speedily arrested; their knives still stained with blood, a hundred
and fifty scudi in coin being also found on Franceschini's person. The
arrest, however, cost Patrizj his life, for he had heated himself too
much, and having received a slight wound, died in a few days."

"The knife of Franceschini was on the Genoese pattern, and triangular;
and was notched at the edge, so that it could not be withdrawn from the
wounded flesh without lacerating it in such a manner as to render the
wound incurable."

"The criminals being taken to Ponte Milvio, they went through a first
examination at the inn there at the hands of the notaries and judges
sent thither for the purpose, and the chief points of a confession were
obtained from them."

"When the capture of the delinquents was known in Rome, a multitude of
the people hastened to see them as they were conveyed bound on horses
into the city. It is related that Franceschini having asked one of the
police officers in the course of the journey _how ever the crime had
been discovered_, and being told _that it had been revealed by his
wife, whom they had found still living_, was almost stupefied by the
intelligence. Towards twenty-three o'clock (the last hour before sunset)
they arrived at the prisons. A certain Francesco Pasquini, of Città di
Castello, and Allessandro Baldeschi, of the same town, both twenty-two
years of age, were the assistants of Guido Franceschini in the murder of
the Comparini; and Gambasini and Agostinelli were those who stood on
guard at the gate."

"Meanwhile the corpses of the assassinated Comparini were exposed at San
Lorenzo, in Lucina, but so disfigured, and especially Franceschini's
wife, by their wounds in the face, that they were no longer
recognizable. The unhappy Francesca, after taking the sacrament,
forgiving her murderers, under seventeen years of age, and after having
made her will, died on the sixth day of the month, which was that of the
Epiphany; and was able to clear herself of all the calumnies which her
husband had brought against her. The surprise of the people in seeing
these corpses was great, from the atrocity of the deed, which made one
really shudder, seeing two septuagenarians and a girl of seventeen so
miserably put to death."

"The trial proceeding meanwhile, many papers were drawn up on the
subject, bringing forward all the most incriminating circumstances of
this horrible massacre; and others also were written for the defence
with much erudition, especially by the advocate of the poor, a certain
Monsignor Spreti, which had the effect of postponing the sentence; also
because Baldeschi persisted in denial, though he was tortured with the
rope, and twice fainted under it. At last he confessed, and so did the
others, who also revealed the fact that they had intended in due time to
murder Franceschini himself, and take his money, because he had not kept
his promise of paying them the moment they should have left Rome."

"On the twenty-second of February there appeared on the Piazza del
Popolo a large platform with a guillotine and two gibbets, on which the
culprits were to be executed. Many stands were constructed for the
convenience of those who were curious to witness such a terrible act of
justice; and the concourse was so great that some windows fetched as
much as six dollars each. At eight o'clock Franceschini and his
companions were summoned to their death, and having been placed in the
Consorteria, and there assisted by the Abate Panciatici and the Cardinal
Acciajuoli, forthwith disposed themselves to die well. At twenty o'clock
the Company of Death and the Misericordia reached the dungeons, and the
condemned were let down, placed on separate carts, and conveyed to the
place of execution."

It is farther stated that Franceschini showed the most intrepidity and
cold blood of them all, and that he died with the name of Jesus on his
lips. He wore the same clothes in which he had committed the crime: a
close-fitting garment (_juste-au-corps_) of grey cloth, a loose black
shirt (_camiciuola_), a goat's hair cloak, a white hat, and a cotton

The attempt made by him to defraud his accomplices, poor and helpless as
they were, has been accepted by Mr. Browning as an indication of
character which forbade any lenient interpretation of his previous acts.
Pompilia, on the other hand, is absolved, by all the circumstances of
her protracted death, from any doubt of her innocence which previous
evidence might have raised. Ten different persons attest, not only her
denial of any offence against her husband, but, what is of far more
value, her Christian gentleness, and absolute maiden modesty, under the
sufferings of her last days, and the medical treatment to which they
subjected her. Among the witnesses are a doctor of theology (Abate
Liberate Barberito), the apothecary and his assistant, and a number of
monks or priests; the first and most circumstantial deposition being
that of an Augustine, Frà Celestino Angelo di Sant' Anna, and
concluding with these words: "I do not say more, for fear of being taxed
with partiality. I know well that God alone can examine the heart. But I
know also that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; and
that my great St. Augustine says: 'As the life was, so is its end.'"

It needed all the evidence in Pompilia's favour to secure the full
punishment of her murderer, strengthened, as he was, by social and
ecclesiastical position, and by the acknowledged rights of marital
jealousy. We find curious proof of the sympathies which might have
prejudiced his wife's cause, in the marginal notes appended to her
depositions, and which repeatedly introduce them as lies.

"F. _Lie concerning the arrival at Castelnuovo._"

"H. _New lies to the effect that she did not receive the lover's
letters, and does not know how to write_," &c., &c.[25]

The significant question, "Whether and when a husband may kill his
unfaithful wife," was in the present case not thought to be finally
answered, till an appeal had been made from the ecclesiastical tribunal
to the Pope himself. It was Innocent XII. who virtually sentenced Count
Franceschini and his four accomplices to death.

When Mr. Browning wrote "The Ring and the Book," his mind was made up on
the merits of the Franceschini case; and the unity of purpose which has
impressed itself upon his work contributes largely to its power. But he
also knew that contemporary opinion would be divided upon it; and he has
given the divergent views it was certain to create, as constituting a
part of its history. He reminds us that two sets of persons equally
acquainted with the facts, equally free from any wish to distort them,
might be led into opposite judgments through the mere action of some
impalpable bias in one direction or the other, which third, more
critical or more indifferent, would adopt a compromise between the two;
and he closes his introductory chapter with a tribute to that mystery of
human motive and character which so often renders more conclusive
judgments impossible.

       "Action now shrouds, now shows the informing thought:
       Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
       Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
       Shows one tint at a time to take the eye
       Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
       Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
       Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
       Your sentence absolute for shine or shade." (vol. viii. p. 55.)

The three forms of opinion here indicated appear in the three following
chapters as the respective utterance of "HALF-ROME," "THE OTHER

HALF-ROME has an instinctive sympathy with the husband who has been made
ridiculous, and the nobleman who is threatened with an ignominious
death; and is disposed throughout to regard him as more sinned against
than sinning. "Count Guido has been unfortunate in everything. He is one
of those proud and sensitive men who make few friends, and who meet
reverses half-way. He has waited thirty years for advancement in the
church, is sick of hope deferred, and is on the point of returning home
to end his days, as he thinks, in frugality and peace, when a pretty
girl is thrown in his way. Visions of domestic cheerfulness and comfort
rise up before him. He is entrapped into marriage before he has had time
to consider what he is doing, and discovers when it is too late that the
parents reputed wealthy have little left but debts; and that in exchange
for their daughter's dowry, present and prospective, he must virtually
maintain them as well as her."

"He is far from rich, but he makes the best of a bad bargain--takes the
three with him to Arezzo, and lodges them with his mother and his
youngest brother, in the old family house. He is repaid with howls of
disappointment. Pietro and Violante want splendour and good-living. They
haven't married their daughter to a nobleman and gone to live in his
palace, to be duller than they were at home, and have less to eat and
drink. They abuse the mother, who won't give up her place in the
household, and try to sneer the young brother-priest out of his respect
for old-fashioned ways. They go back to Rome, trumpeting their wrongs:
and, once there, spring a mine upon the luckless Count. They refuse to
pay the remainder of Pompilia's dowry, on the ground that she is not
their child. Violante Comparini has cheated her husband into accepting a
base-born girl as his own, and a well-born gentleman into marrying her,
but was ready to have qualms of conscience as soon as it should be
convenient to tell the truth; and now the moment has come."

"Count Guido, left alone with his nameless and penniless wife, still
hopes for the best. Pompilia is not guilty of her mock parents' sins.
She has been honest enough to take part against them when writing to her
brother-in-law in Rome.[26] He and she may still live in peace together.
But now the old story begins again--that of the elderly husband and the
young wife. Canon Caponsacchi throws comfits at Pompilia in the theatre;
brushes against her in the street; has constantly occasion to pass under
her window, or to talk to some one opposite to it. He, of course, looks
up; Pompilia looks down; the neighbours say, 'What of that?' The Count
is uncomfortable, but he is only laughed at for his pains; the fox
prowls round the hen-roost undisturbed. He wakes one morning, after a
drugged sleep, to find the house ransacked, and Pompilia gone, and
everyone able to inform him that she has gone with Caponsacchi, and to
Rome. He pursues them, and overtakes them where they have spent the
night together. She brazens the matter out, covers her husband with
invective, and threatens him with his own sword. He gives both in
charge, and follows them to Rome, where he seeks redress from the law.
But he does not obtain redress, though the couple's guilt is made as
clear as day by a packet of love letters which they had left behind
them. They swear that they did not write the letters, and the Court
believes them. 'They have done wrong, of course, but there is no proof
of crime;' and they are let off with a mere show of punishment."

"The Count returns to Arezzo to find the whole story known, and himself
the laughing-stock of everybody. He is complimented on his patience
under his wife's attack--congratulated on having come out of it with a
whole skin. He pushes his claim for a divorce on the obvious ground of
infidelity! is met by a counter-claim on the ground of--cruelty! One
exasperating circumstance fellows another. At last he hears of the birth
of a child, which will be falsely represented as his heir; and then the
pent-up passion breaks forth, and in one great avenging wave it washes
his name clear."

"Yet he gives the guilty one a last chance. He utters the name of
Caponsacchi at her door. If she regrets her offence, that name will bar
it. It proves a talisman at which the door flies open. The Count and his
assistants must be tried for form's sake. But if they are condemned,
there is no justice left in Rome. If he had taken his wife's life at the
moment of provocation, he would have been praised for the act. But he
called in the law to do what he was bound to do for himself; and the law
has assessed his honour at what seemed to be his own price. The
vengeance, too long delayed, has been excessive in consequence. It was
clumsy into the bargain, since the Canon has escaped alive. Well, if
harm comes, husbands who are disposed to take the new way instead of the
old will have had a lesson; and the Count has only himself to thank."

THE OTHER HALF-ROME is chiefly impressed by the spectacle of a young
wife and mother butchered by her husband in cold blood: and can only
think of her as having been throughout a victim. It does not absolve
Violante, but it allows something for honest parental feeling in the old
couple's desire for a child; and something for the good done to this
human waif by its adoption into a decent home. According to this
version, it is the Count and his brother who lay the matrimonial trap,
and the Comparini parents and child who fall into it. "The grim Guido is
at first kept in the background. Abate Paolo makes the proposal. He is
oily and deferential, and flatters poor foolish Violante, and dazzles
her at the same time. 'His elder brother,' he says, 'is longing to
escape from Rome and its pomps and glare. He wants his empty old palace
at Arezzo, and his breezy villa among the vines,'--and here the
emptiness of both is described so as to sound like wealth. 'Poor Guido!
he is always harping upon his home. But he wants a wife to take there--a
wife not quite empty-handed, since he is not rich for his rank--but
above all, with a true tender heart and an innocent soul--one who will
be a child to his mother, and fall into his own ways. Many a parent
would be glad to welcome him as a son-in-law, but report tells him that
Violante's daughter is just the girl he wants.'"

"The marriage takes place. Foolish Pietro is talked over and strips
himself of everything he has. He and his wife have no choice but to go
and live with their son-in-law and his mother and brother. They meet
with nothing under his roof but starvation, insult, and cruelty, and
return home after a few months, duped and beggared, to ask hospitality
of those whom they had once entertained. Violante, overwhelmed by these
misfortunes, confesses that Pompilia is not her child, and Pietro
proclaims the fact; not that he wishes to leave Pompilia in the lurch,
but because he thinks this a sure way of getting her back.--Count Guido
is clearly not the man to wish to retain as his wife a base-born girl
without a dowry, and whom he has never loved.--But the case must be
settled by law, the law pronounces in Count Guido's favour so far as the
actual marriage portion is concerned; and Count Guido clearly lays his
plans so as to half-drive and half-tempt his wife into the kind of
misconduct which will rid him of her without prejudicing his right to
what she has brought him."

This half of Rome accepts Pompilia's story of all that led to her
flight, and Caponsacchi's statement that he assisted in it simply to
save her life. It thinks the husband's intrigues sufficiently proved by
the fact that the Canon owns to having received letters which the wife
denies having written, and which must, therefore, have been forged.
Count Guido, it declares, has had no wrongs to avenge, and supposing he
had wrongs, he has adopted too convenient a mode of avenging them. "He
demands protection from the law, and the moment its balance trembles
against him he flies out of court, declaring that wounded honour can
only be cured by the sword. At all events he has given the law plenty to
do: three courts at work for him, and an appeal to the Pope besides. If
any law is binding on mankind it is that such as he shall be made an end
of. He is the common enemy of his fellow-men."

TERTIUM QUID sees no reason for assuming that the wrong is altogether on
either side, and reviews the circumstances in such a manner as to show
that there is probably right on both. He lays stress on the expediency
of judging the Comparini by the morals of their class, and Count Guido
by the peculiarities of his own nature; admits the punishment of the
wife and parents to have been excessive, and cannot admit it to have
been unprovoked; does not pretend to decide between the conflicting
statements, and does not consider that Pompilia's dying confession
throws much light upon them; seeing that it may be equally true, or
false, or neutralized by another reserved for the priest's ear. Does not
regard putting the Count to the torture as the right mode of eliciting
the truth: because he may be innocent. But declares that if _he_ does
not deserve to undergo the torture, no one ever did or will. Tertium
Quid is sometimes flippant in tone, and his neutral attitude seems
chiefly the result of indifference or of caution. He is addressing
himself to a Highness and an Excellency, and is careful not to shock the
prejudices of either. Still, his statement is the nearest approach to a
judicial summing up of which the nature of the work admits.

Mr. Browning now enters on the constructive part of his work. He puts
the personages of the drama themselves before us, allowing each to plead
his or her own cause. The imaginary occasion is that of Count Guido's
trial; and all the depositions which were made on the previous one are
transferred to this. The author has been obliged in every case to build
up the character from the evidence, and to re-mould and expand the
evidence in conformity with the character. The motive, feeling, and
circumstance set forth by each separate speaker are thus in some degree
fictitious; but they are always founded upon fact; and the literal truth
of a vast number of details is self-evident. We first hear:

COUNT GUIDO FRANCESCHINI. He has been caught red-handed from the murder
of his wife. His crime is patent. He has himself confessed it under
torture. His only hope of reprieve lies in the colour which he may be
able to impart to it; and his speech is cunningly adapted to the nature
of the Court, and to the moral and mental constitution of those of whom
it is composed. His judges are churchmen: neutral on the subject of
marriage; rather coarsely masculine in their idea of the destiny of
women. He does not profess to have entertained any affection for his
wife. He derides the idea of having ill-used her, and thinks she might
have liked him better if he had done so, instead of threatening her into
good behaviour like a naughty child, with hair powder for poison, and a
wooden toy for a sword; has no doubt that, if she had cared to warm his
heart, some smouldering embers within it might still have burst into
flame; but admits once for all that there was no question of feeling in
the case; it was a bargain on both sides, and a fair one as far as he
was concerned.

Paternity, however, is a condition with which his hearers may be
supposed to sympathize; and he is absolutely eloquent, when he describes
the desire he has cherished for a son, and the burning pain which filled
him when he knew that it had been defrauded. He tells the story of his
wife's intrigue and flight, much as the opinion of Half-Rome has
reflected it; but he laces the question of his child's legitimacy in
such a manner as to extract an equal advantage from either view. In
either case it was Pompilia's crowning iniquity that she gave birth to a
child, and placed it beyond his reach; and in either case it was the
outraged paternal feeling which inspired his act.

The whole monologue is leavened by a spirit of mock deference for
religion, for the Church, and for the law which represents the Church.
Count Guido is led in from the torture, a mass of mock-patient
suffering: wincing as he speaks, but quite in spite of himself--grateful
that his pains are not worse--begging his judges not to be too much
concerned about him; "since, thanks to his age and shaken health, a
fainting fit soon came to his relief--indeed, torture itself is a kind
of relief from the moral agonies he has undergone." He reminds his
judges that the Church was his only mistress for thirty years. He would
have served her, he declares, to the end of his life, but that his
fidelity had been so long ignored. He trusted to the law--in other words
to the Church--to avenge his honour when he ought to have done so
himself. She deceived his trust, and still he hoped and endured. When he
came to Rome, in his last frenzy of just revenge, he still stayed his
hand, because the Feast of the Nativity had begun: it was the period at
which the Church enjoins peace and good-will towards men. The face of
the heavenly infant looked down upon him; he prayed that he might not
enter into temptation. But the days went by, and the Face withered and
waned, and the cross alone confronted him. Then he felt that the hour
had come, and he found his way to his wife's retreat.

The door opened to the name of Caponsacchi. His worst fears were thus
confirmed. Even so, had he been admitted by Pompilia, weak from her
recent sufferings, he might have paused in pity--by Pietro, he might
have paused in contempt; but it was the hag Violante who opened to him:
the cheat, the mock-mother, the source of all his wrongs. The impulse to
stamp out that one detested life involved all three. And now he triumphs
in the deed. He has cast a foul burden from his life. He can look his
fellow-men in the face again. Far from admitting that he deserves
punishment, he claims the sympathy and the approval of those who have
met to judge him: for he has done their work--the work of Divine justice
and of natural law. In a final burst of rhetoric he challenges his
judges to restore to him his life, his name, his civil rights, and best
of all, his son; and together, he declares, they will rebuild the family
honour, and revive the old forgotten tradition of domestic purity and
peace. And if one day the son, about to kiss his hand, starts at the
marks of violence upon it, he will smile and say, "it was only an

                                               "... just a trip
       O' the torture-irons in their search for truth,--
       Hardly misfortune, and no fault at all."    (vol. ix. p. 82.)

GIUSEPPE CAPONSACCHI next tells his story. It includes some details of
his earlier life, which throw light on what will follow. He is not a
priest from choice. He had interest in the Church, and grew up in the
expectation of entering it. But when the time came for taking his vows,
he recoiled from the sacrifice which they involved, and yielded only to
the Bishop's assurance that he need make no sacrifice; there were two
ways of interpreting such vows, and he need not select the harder; a man
of polish and accomplishments was as valuable to the Church as a scholar
or an ascetic. Her structure stood firm, and no one need now-a-days
break his back in the effort to hold her up. Let him write his madrigals
(he had a turn for verse-making) and not become a fixture in his seat in
the choir through too close an attendance there. The terms were easy,
and Caponsacchi became a priest, no worse and no better than he was
expected to be; but with the feelings and purposes of a truer manhood
lying dormant within him. These Pompilia was destined to arouse.

He relates that he first saw her at the theatre. His attention was
attracted by her strange sad beauty: and a friend who sat by him, and
was a connection of the husband's, threw comfits at her to make her
return his gaze, warning him at the same time to do nothing which could
compromise her. He accepted the warning, but could not forget the face.
He felt a sudden disgust for the light women and the light pleasures
which were alone within his reach, and determined to change his mode of
life, and leave Arezzo for Rome.

At this juncture a love-letter was brought to him. It purported to come
from the lady at whom he had flung the comfits;[27] offered him her
heart, and begged an interview with him. The bearer was a masked woman,
who owned to an equivocal position in Count Guido's household.
Caponsacchi saw through the trick, declined the proposed interview on
the ground of his priesthood, and completed his answer with an allusion
to the husband, which would punish him in the probable case of its
passing directly into his hands. The next day the same messenger
appeared with a second letter, reproaching him for his cruelty; he
answered in the same strain. But the letters continued, now dropped into
his prayer-book, now flung down to him from a window. At length they
changed their tone. He had been begged to come: he was now entreated to
stay away. The husband, before absent, had returned: indifferent, had
become jealous. His vengeance was aroused; and the sooner Caponsacchi
escaped to Rome, the better. This challenge to his courage had the
intended effect. He wrote word that the street was public if the house
was not, and he would be under the lady's window that evening.

He went. She was standing there, lamp in hand, like Our Lady of Sorrows
on her altar. She vanished, reappeared on a terrace close above his
head, and spoke to him. He had sent her letters, she said, which she
could not read; but she had been told that they spoke of love. She
thought at first that he must be wicked, and then she felt that he could
not be so wicked as to have meant what that woman said; and now that she
saw his face she knew he did not write it. Still, he meant her well when
no one else did. Her need was sore; he alone in the world could help
her; she had determined to call to him. If he had some feverish fancy
for what was not her's to give, he would be cured of it so soon as he
knew all. She told him her story, and entreated him to take her to
Rome, and consign her to her parents' care. He promised, and then his
heart misgave him. Would it be right in him? Would it be good for her?
He passed two days in a ceaseless internal conflict, and then determined
to see her once more, but only to comfort and advise.

She stood again awaiting him at her window. Again she spoke, reproaching
him for the suspense she had undergone. Her manner dispelled all doubt,
and he did for her what she desired. The journey, which he describes in
detail, was to him one spontaneous and continued revelation of her
purity and truth. Then came the trial and his banishment. He was
compelled to leave her to the protection of the law; to the good offices
of the Court which confronts him now--of the men who, as he reminds
them, laughed in their sleeve at the young priest's escapade, and at the
transparent excuses with which he had taxed their credulity,--of the men
who, in consideration for his youth, merely sent him to disport himself
elsewhere, leaving the woman he had striven to protect, to the husband
who was to murder her.

The news which summons him from Civita Vecchia has fallen on him like a
thunderbolt. His being is shaken to its foundations. He strives to
contain himself in outward deference to the Court, but a storm of
suppressed sorrow and indignation rages beneath all his words: now
uttering itself in pitying tender reverence for Pompilia's memory; now
in scorn of those who would defame her; now in anger at himself, who is
casting suspicion on her innocence by the very passion with which he
defends it, now in defiance of those who choose to call the passion by
the vulgar name of love. He tears up the flimsy calumnies which have
been launched against her and himself; flinging them back in short,
contemptuous utterances in the teeth of whosoever may believe them; begs
his judges to forget his violence; and makes a last attempt to convince
himself and them that no selfish desire underlies it. Pompilia is
dying: he too is dead--to the world. What can she be to him but a
dream--a thinker's dream--of a life not consecrated to the Church, but
spent, as with her, in one constant domestic revelation of the eternal
goodness and truth--a dream from which he will pass content.... And here
the whole edifice of self-control and self-deception breaks down, and
the agonized heart sends forth its cry:--

       "O great, just, good God! Miserable me!" (vol. ix. p. 166.)

The third speaker is POMPILIA. Her evidence is the story of her life. It
is given from her deathbed; and its half-dreamy reminiscences are
uttered with the childlike simplicity with which she may have opened her
heart to her priest. She is full of strange pathetic wonder at the
mystery of existence; at the manner in which the thing we seem to grasp
eludes us, and the seemingly impossible comes to pass. "Husbands are
supposed to love their wives and guard them. See how it has been with
her! That other man--that friend--they say _he_ loves her; his kindness
was all love! She is a wife and he a priest, and yet they go on saying
it! Her boy, she imagined, would be hers for life: and he is taken from
her. He, too, becomes a dream; and in that dream she sees him grown tall
and strong, and tutoring his mother as an imprudent child, for venturing
out of the safe street into the lonely house where no help could reach
her. It all reminds her of the day when she and a child-friend played at
finding each other out in the figures on the tapestry; and Tisbe
recognized her in a tree with a rough trunk for body, and her five
fingers blossoming into leaves. Things are, and are not at the same

One thing, however, is real amidst the unreality: her joy and pride in
finding herself a mother. The event proved that when she left Arezzo the
hope of maternity was already dawning upon her; and Mr. Browning has
combined this fact with the latent maternal sentiment of all true women,
and read it into every impulse of her remaining life. She was wretched.
She had vainly sought for help. She had resigned herself to the
inevitable. She had lain down at night with the old thought--

                             "... 'Done, another day!
       How good to sleep and so get nearer death!'--
       When, what, first thing at day-break, pierced the sleep
       With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
       Light in me, light without me, everywhere
       Change!"                                   (vol. ix. p. 216.)

From this moment, as she tells us, everything was transformed. For days,
for weeks, Caponsacchi's name had been ringing in her ears: in jealous
explosions on her husband's part; in corrupting advice on the part of
the waiting-woman who brought letters supposed to be sent to her by him;
in declarations of love which her first glance at his face told her he
could not have written. This, too, has all seemed a grotesquely painful
dream. But when she awoke on the April morning in that bounding of the
spirit towards an unknown joy, the name assumed a new meaning for her,
and she said, "Let Caponsacchi come."

She remembers little after that, but the enfolding tenderness which
secured the fulfilment of her hope. She describes nothing after the
"tap" at the door, which was the beginning of the end. She has attained
the crown of her woman's existence, and she can bear no resentment
towards him whose cruelty embittered, and whose vengeance has cut it
short. The motherly heart in her goes out to the wicked husband who was
also once a child, and strives to palliate what he has done. "He was
sinned against as well as sinning. Her poor parents were blind and
unjust in their mode of retaliating upon him. She was blind and foolish
in doing nothing to heal the breach. Her earthly goods have been a
snare to Guido; she herself was an importunate presence to him. By God's
grace he will be the better for having swept her from his path. She
thanks him for destroying in her that bodily life which was his to
pollute, and for leaving her soul free. Her infant shall have been born
of no earthly father. It is the child of its mother's love."

And this love for her child overflows in gratitude to him who saved her
for it--a gratitude which is also something more. She has recoiled from
the idea of being united to a priest by any bond of earthly affection;
but the knowledge is growing upon her that her bond to Caponsacchi _is_
love, though it assumes an ideal character in her innocence, her
ignorance, and the exaltation of feeling which denotes her approaching
death. She has recalled the incidents of her flight, but only to bear
witness to Caponsacchi's virtues: his watchful kindness, his chivalrous
courage, the unselfishness which could risk life and honour without
thought of reward, the priestly dignity which he never set aside. Her
last words contain an invocation to himself which has all the passion of
earthly tenderness, and all the solemnity of a prayer. She addresses him
as her soldier-saint--as the friend "her only, all her own," who is
closest to her now on her final journey; whose love shall sustain, whose
strong hand shall guide her, on the unknown path she is about to tread.
She thinks he would not marry if he could. True marriage is in heaven,
where there is no making of contracts, with gold on one side, power or
youth or beauty on the other, but one is "man and wife at once when the
true time is." Would either of them wish the past undone? Her soul says

       "So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
       Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
       Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
       God stooping shows sufficient of His light
       For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise." (vol. ix. p. 241.)

We have now the written pleadings of two advocates who figure largely in
the records of the case; the one enlisted on the Count's side, the other
on Pompilia's They are



The subject of these pleadings is the possible justification of the
crime for which Count Franceschini is on trial, but not otherwise the
crime itself; for he has owned to its commission; and though the avowal
has been drawn from him by torture, it is justly accepted as decisive.
All the arguments for and against him hinge therefore on the evidence of
Pompilia's guilt or innocence as established by the previous enquiry;
and as we have seen, the _formal_ result of this enquiry was
unfavourable to her. The Count obtained his verdict, though the
subsequent treatment of the offenders made it almost nugatory; and de
Archangelis rings the changes on the stock arguments of his client's
outraged honour, and his natural if not legal right to avenge it.

Bottinius, on the other hand, does not admit that the husband's honour
has been attacked; but he defends the wife's conduct, more by
extenuating the acts of which she is accused, than by denying them. His
denials are generally parenthetic: and imply that the whether she did
certain things is much less important than the why and the how; and
though he professes to present her as a pearl of purity, he shows his
standard of female purity to be very low.

Mr. Browning might easily have composed a more genuine defence from the
known facts of the case; but he represents these quibblings and
counter-quibblings as equally beside the mark. The question of the
murderer's guilt was being judged on broader grounds; and the supposed
talkers on either side are aware of this. De Archangelis and Bottinius
both know that their cleverness will benefit no one but themselves, and
for this reason they are as much concerned to show how good a case they
can make out of a doubtful one, as to prove that their case is in itself
good. Each is thinking of his opponent, and how best to parry his
attack; and their arguments are relieved by a brisk exchange of
personalities, in which "de Archangelis" includes his subordinate
"Spreti"--"advocate of the poor"--whose learned contribution to this
paper warfare has probably aroused his jealousy.

Mr. Browning has also displayed the hollowness of the proceedings by
making "de Archangelis" the very opposite of his saturnine and
blood-thirsty client: the last person we could think of as in sympathy
with him. He is a coarse good-natured paterfamilias, whose ambitions are
all centred on an eight-year-old son, whose birthday it is; and his
defence of the murder is concocted under frequent interruptions, from
the thought of Cinuncino (little Giacinto, or Hyacinth), and the fried
liver and herbs which are to form part of his birthday feast. Bottinius
is a vain man, occupied only with himself, and regretting nothing so
much as that he may not display his rhetorical powers, by delivering his
speech instead of writing it.

Count Guido, with his accomplices, has been condemned to death. His
friends have appealed from the verdict, on the ground of his being,
though in a minor degree, a priest. The answer to this appeal rests with
the head of the Church. The next monologue is therefore that of

THE POPE. The reflections here imagined grow out of a double fact.
Innocent the Twelfth refused to shelter Count Franceschini with his
accomplices from the judgment of the law, and thus assumed the
responsibility of his death. He had reached an age at which so heavy a
responsibility could not be otherwise than painful. As Mr. Browning
depicts him, his decision is made. From dawn to dark he has been
studying the case, piecing together its fragmentary truths, trying its
merits with "true sweat of soul." There is no doubt in his mind that
Guido deserves to die. But he has to nerve himself afresh before he
gives the one stroke of his pen, the one touch to his bell, which shall
send this soul into eternity; and that is what we see him doing.

As he says to himself, he is weighed down by years. He lifts the cares
of the whole world on a "loaded branch" for which a bird's nest were a
"superfluous burthen." Yet this strong man cries to him for life: and he
alone has the power to grant it. How easy to reprieve! How hard to deny
to this trembling sinner the moment's respite which may save his soul.
He wants precedent for such a deed; and he seeks it in the records of
the Papacy. It is from the Popes his predecessors that he must learn how
to dare, to suffer, and--to judge. But these records tell him how
Stephen cursed Formosus; how Romanus and Theodore reinstated the
sanctity of Formosus and cursed Stephen; and how John reinstated Stephen
and cursed Formosus. They could not all be right. There is no guarantee
for infallibility--no test of justice--to be found here.

How, then, would he defend his condemnation of Guido if he himself were
now summoned to the judgment-seat? The question is self-answered: no
defence would be needed; for God sees into the heart. He appraises the
seed of act, which is its motive; not "leafage and branchage, vulgar
eyes admire." The Pope knows that his motives will stand the scrutiny of
God. How, finally, could he plead his cause with a man like himself:
with the man Antonio Pignatelli, his very self? He must, once for all,
marshal the facts, and let them plead for him.

Next follows the Pope's version of the story, which differs from those
preceding it, in being the summing up of a spiritual judge, who deals
not only with facts but with conditions, and who looks at the thing
done, in its special reference to the person who did it. As seen in this
light, the blacks of the picture are blacker, the whites, whiter, than
they appear from the ordinary point of view. Guido has been doubly
wicked because his birth, his breeding, and his connection with the
Church, had surrounded him with incitements to good, and with
opportunities for it. Pompilia is doubly virtuous because she is a mere
"chance-sown," "cleft-nurtured" human weed, owing all her goodness to
herself. With Guido, the bad end is secured by the worst means. Not
satisfied to murder his wife, he must use a jagged instrument with which
to torture her flesh. Not satisfied to torment her in the body, he must
imperil her soul by placing desperate temptation in her way. With
Pompilia the right virtue is always employed for the good end. She is
submissive where only her own life is at stake; brave, when a life
within her own calls on her for protection. Guido's accomplices: his
brothers, his mother, the four youths who helped him to kill his wife:
the Governor, and the Archbishop, who abetted his ill-treatment of her,
have alike sinned against their age, their character, or their

Caponsacchi has not been faultless. He has failed somewhat in the
dignity of his office, somewhat in its decorum; his mode of rescuing the
oppressed has had too much the character of an escapade. But the more
disciplined soldier of the Church would have erred in the opposite
direction. The ear which listens only for the voice of authority becomes
obtuse to the cry of suffering. The spirit which only moves to command
becomes unfit for spontaneous work. Caponsacchi, standing aloof like a
man of pleasure, has proved himself the very champion of God, ready to
spring into the arena, at the first thud of the false knight's glove
upon the ground. He has shown himself possessed of the true courage
which does not shrink from temptation, and does not succumb to it. Such
transgressions as his reflect rather on the limits imposed than on the
impatience which transgressed them. He must submit to a slight
punishment. He must work--be unhappy--bear life. But he ranks next in
grace to Pompilia--the "rose" which the old Pope "gathers for the breast
of God." Of Count Guido's other victims, Pietro and Violante, the worst
that can be said is this: they have halted between good and evil; and,
as the way of the world is, suffered through both. The balance of
justice once more confirms the Pope's decree.

Yet at this very moment his will relaxes. A sudden dread is upon him--a
chill such as comes with the sudden clouding of a long clear sky. The
ordeal of a deeper and stranger doubt is yet to be faced. He has judged,
as he believed, by the light of Divine truth. Has he been mistaken?

Step by step he tests and reconstructs his belief, tracing it back to
its beginning. God, the Infinite, exists. Man, the atom, comprehends him
as the conditions of his intelligence permit, but so far truly. Man's
mind, like a convex glass, reflects him, in an image, smaller or less
small, adequate so far as it goes. As revealed in the order of nature,
God is perfect in intelligence and in power; but not so in love; and
there has come into the mouths and hearts of men, a tale and miracle of
Divine love which makes the evidence of his perfection complete. The
Pope believes that tale, whether true in itself, or like man's
conception of the infinite, true only for the human mind. He accepts its
enigmas as a test of faith: as a sign that life is meant for a training
and a passage: as a guarantee of our moral growth, and of the good which
evil may produce.

Christianity stands firm. And yet his heart misgives him; for it is not
justified by its results. It is not that the sceptical deny its value:
that those bent on earthly good reject it with open eyes. The surprise
and terror is this: that those who have found the pearl of price--who
have named and known it--will still grovel after the lower gain. Such
the Aretine bishop who sent Pompilia back to her tormentor; the friar
who refused to save her because he feared the world; the nuns who at
first testified to her purity, and were ready to prove her one of
dishonest life, when they learned that she possessed riches which by so
doing they might confiscate to themselves.

Nor is the fault in humanity at large: for love and faith have leapt
forth profusely in the olden time, at the summons of "unacknowledged,"
"uncommissioned" powers of good. Caponsacchi has shown that they do so
still. Before Paul had spoken and Felix heard, Euripides had pronounced
virtue the law of life, and, in his doctrine of hidden forces,
foreshadowed the one God. Euripides felt his way in the darkness. He,
the Pope, walking in the glare of noon, might ask support of him. Where
does the fault lie? It lies in the excess of certainty--in the too great
familiarity with the truth--in that encroachment of earthly natives on
the heavenly, which is begotten by the security of belief. Between night
and noonday there has been the dawn, with its searching illumination,
its thrill of faith, the rapture of self-sacrifice in which anchorite
and martyr foretasted the joys of heaven. Now Christianity is hard
because it has become too easy; because of the "ignoble confidence,"
which will enjoy this world and yet count upon the next: the "shallow
cowardice," which renders the old heroism impossible.

The Pope is discursive, as is the manner of his age; and his reflections
have been, hitherto, rather suggested by the case before him than
directly related to it. But he grasps it again in a burst of prophetic
insight which these very reflections have produced. Heroism has become

       "Unless ... what whispers me of times to come?
       What if it be the mission of that age
       My death will usher into life, to shake
       This torpor of assurance from our creed?" (vol. x. p. 137.)

What if earthquake be about to try the towers which lions dare no longer
attack: if man be destined to live once more, in the new-born readiness
for death? Is the time at hand, when the new faith shall be broken up as
the old has been; when reported truth shall once more be compared with
the actual truth--the portrait of the Divine with its reality? Is not
perhaps the Molinist[28] himself thus striving after the higher light?

The Pope's fancy conjures up the vision of that coming time. He sees the
motley pageant of the Age of Reason pushing the churchly "masque" aside,
impatient of the slowly-trailing garments, in which he, the last actor
in it, is passing off the scene. He beholds the trials of that
transition stage; the many whose crumbling faith will land them on the
lower platform of the material life; the few, who from habit, will
preserve the Christian level; the fewer still, who, like Pompilia, will
do so in the inspired conviction of the truth. He sees two men, or
rather types of men, both priests, frankly making the new experiment,
and adopting nature as their law. Under her guidance, one, like
Caponsacchi acts, in the main, well; the other, like Guido Franceschini,
wallows in every crime.... The "first effects" of the "new cause" are
apparent in those murdering five, and in their victims.

But the old law is not yet extinct. He (the Church) still occupies the
stage, though his departure be close at hand: so, in a last act of
allegiance to Him who placed him there, he _smites with his whole
strength once more_,

       "Ending, so far as man may, this offence." (vol. x. p. 141.)

Yet again his arm is stayed. Voices, whether of friend or foe, are
sounding in his ear. They reiterate the sophistries which have been
enlisted in the Count's defence: the credit of the Church, the
proprieties of the domestic hearth; the educated sense of honour which
is stronger than the moral law; the general relief which will greet the
act of mercy. The Pope listens. For one moment we may fancy that he
yields. "Pronounce then," the imaginary speakers have said. A swift
answer follows:

       "I will, Sirs: but a voice other than your's
       Quickens my spirit...."                  (vol. x. p. 146.)

and the death-warrant goes out.

A favourite theory of Mr. Browning's appears in this soliloquy, for the
first time since he stated it in "Sordello," and in a somewhat different
form: that of the inadequacy of words to convey the truth. The Pope
declares (p. 78) that we need

                      "Expect nor question nor reply
       At what we figure as God's judgment-bar!
       None of this vile way by the barren words
       Which, more than any deed, characterize
       Man as made subject to a curse."

and again (p. 79) that

                  "... these filthy rags of speech, this coil
       Of statement, comment, query and response,
       Tatters all too contaminate for use,
       Have no renewing: He, the Truth, is, too,
       The Word."

The scene changes to the prison-cell where Count Guido has received his
final sentence of death. Two former friends and fellow-Tuscans, Cardinal
Acciajuoli and Abate Panciatichi, have come to prepare him for
execution; but the one is listening awe-struck to the only kind of
confession which they can obtain from him, while the other plies his
beads in a desperate endeavour to exorcise the spiritual enemy, "ban"
the diabolical influences, it is conjuring up. The speaker is no longer
Count Guido Franceschini, but

GUIDO. He is indeed another man than he was in his first monologue, for
he has thrown off the mask. His tone is at first conciliatory, even
entreating: for his hearers are men of his own class, and he hopes to
persuade them to one more intercession in his behalf. But it changes to
one of scorn and defiance, as the hopelessness of his case lays hold of
him, and rises, at the end, to a climax of ferocity which is all but

"Repentance! if he repent for twelve hours, will he die the less on the
thirteenth? He has broken the social law, and is about to pay for it.
What has he to repent of but that he has made a mistake? Religion! who
of them all believes in it? Not the Pope himself; for religion enjoins
mercy; it is meant to temper the harshness of the law: and he destroys
the life which the law has given over to him to save. What man of them
all shows by his acts that he believes; or would be treated otherwise
than as a lunatic if he did? Let those who will, halt between belief and
unbelief. It has not been in him to do so. Give him the certainty of
another world, and he would have lived for it. Owning no such certainty,
he has lived for this one; he has sought its pleasures and avoided its
pains. Only he has carried the thing too far. The world has decreed
limits to every man's pleasure; it limits this for the good of all; and
it has made unlawful the excess of pleasure which turns to someone
else's pain. He has exceeded the lawful amount of pleasure, and he pays
for it by an extra dose of pain."

"There the matter ends. But his judges want more--a few edifying lies
wherewith to show that he did not die impenitent, and stop the mouth of
anyone who may hint, the day after the execution, that old men are too
fond of putting younger ones out of the way. They shall have his
confession; but it must be the truth."

"He killed his wife because he hated her; because, whether it were her
fault or not, she was a stumbling-block in his path. He had been
outraged by her aversion, exasperated by her patience, maddened by her
never putting herself in the wrong. While her parents were with her, she
resisted and clamoured, and then her presence could be endured; but they
were left alone together, and then everything was changed. Day by day,
and all day, he was confronted by her automatic obedience, by her dumb
despair. She rose up and lay down--she spoke or was silent at his
bidding; neither a loosened hair, nor a crumple in the dress, giving
token of resistance; he might have strangled her without her making a
sign. She eloped from him, yet he could not surprise her in the
commission of a sin: and he returned from his pursuit of her, ridiculous
when he should have been triumphant. He took his revenge at last. And
now that he might tell his story and find no one to controvert it--how
he came to claim his wife and child, and found no child, but the lover
by the wife's side; was attacked, defended himself, struck right and
left, and thus did the deed--she survives, by miracle, to confute him,
to condemn him, and worst of all, to forgive him."

"He has been ensnared by his opportunities from first to last. He failed
to save himself from retribution, only because he was drunk with the
sudden freedom from this hateful load. And Pompilia haunts him still.
Her stupid purity will freeze him even in death. It will rob him of his
hell--where the fiend in him would burn up in fiery rapture--where some
Lucrezia might meet him as his fitting bride--where the wolf-nature
frankly glutted would perhaps leave room for some return to human form.
For she cannot hate. It would grieve her to know him there; and--if
there be a hell--it will be barred to him in consideration for her."

"The Cardinal, the Abate, they too are petrifactions in their way! He
may rave another twelve hours, and it will be useless." Yet he makes one
more effort to move them. He reminds the Cardinal of the crimes he has
committed--of the help he will need when a new Pope is to be elected; of
the possible supporter who may then be in his grave. Then fiercely
turning on them both; "the Cardinal have a chance indeed, when there is
an Albano in the case! The Abate be alive a year hence, with that
burning hollow cheek and that hacking cough!--Well, _he_ will die bold
and honest as he has lived."

At this juncture he becomes aware that the fatal moment has arrived.
Steps and lights are on the stairs. The defiant spirit is quenched. "He
has laughed and mocked and said no word of all he had to say." In wild
terror he pleads for life--bare life. A final vindication of his wife's
goodness bursts from him in the words,

       Pompilia, will you let them murder me?"   (vol. x. p. 243.)

The concluding part of the work reverses the idea of the first, and is

THE BOOK AND THE RING. It completes the record of the Franceschini case,
and gives the concluding touches to the circle of evidence which now
assumes its final dramatic form. We have first an account of the
execution, conveyed in a gossiping letter from a Venetian gentleman on a
visit to Rome, and who reports it as the last news of the week, and the
occasion of his having lost a bet. The writer also discusses the Pope's
health, the relative merits of his present physician and a former one;
the relative chances of various candidates for the Papacy; and the
Pope's possible motives for setting aside "justice, prudence, and
esprit de corps," in the manner testified by his recent condemnation of
a man of rank. His political likes and dislikes are thrown into the
scale, but his predilection for the mob is considered to have turned it.
"He allows the people to question him when he takes his walks; and it is
said that some of them asked him, on the occasion of his last, whether
the privilege of murder was altogether reserved for noblemen." "The
Austrian ambassador had done his best to avert bloodshed, and pleaded
hard for the life of one whom, as he urged, he 'may have dined at table
with!' and felt so aggrieved by the Pope's answer, that he all but
refused to come to the execution, and would barely look at it when he
came." Various details follow, some of which my readers already know.

Mr. Browning next speaks of the three manuscript letters bound into the
original book; selects one of these, written by the Count's advocate, de
Archangelis, and gives it, first, in its actual contents, and next, in
an imaginary postscript which we are to think of as destined for the
recipient's private ear. The letter itself is written for the Count's
family and friends; and states, in a tone of solemn regret, that the
justifications brought forward by his correspondent arrived too late;
that the Pope thought it inexpedient to postpone the execution, or to
accept the plea of youth urged in favour of the four accomplices; and
that they all died that day. It declares that the Count suffered in an
exemplary manner, amidst the commiseration and respect of all Rome, and
that the honour of his house will lose nothing through the catastrophe.

The supplement is conceived in a very different spirit. The writer
laughs at their "pleas" and "proofs," coming, like Pisan help, when the
man is already dead--"not that twenty such vindications would have done
any good--

       "When Somebody's thick head-piece once was bent
       On seeing Guido's drop into the bag." (vol. x. p. 256.)

Well, people enjoyed the show, but saw through it all the same; and
meanwhile his (the writer's) superb defence goes for nothing; and though
argument is solid and subsists

       "While obstinacy and ineptitude
       Accompany the owner to his tomb;" (vol. x. p. 256.)

his hands and his pockets are empty. Ah well! little Cino will gain by
it in the long run. He had been promised that if papa couldn't save the
Count's head, he should go and see it chopped off: and when a patroness
of his joked the child on his defeat, and on Bottini's ruling the roast,
the clever rogue retorted that papa knew better than to baulk the Pope
of his grudge, and could have argued Bottini's nose off if he had
chosen. Doesn't the fop see that he (de Archangelis) can drive right and
left horses with one hand? The Gomez case shall make it up to him."

The two other letters are in the same strain as the first. Both are
written on the day of the execution. Both announce it in a condoling
manner. Both allude to the justifications which arrived too late: and in
one or both, the criminal is spoken of as "poor" Signor Guido. Mr.
Browning has preferred, however, representing the other side; and the
next which he gives is, like Don Hyacinth's supplement, only such as
might have been written. It is supposed to be from Pompilia's advocate
Bottinius (or Bottini), and is in keeping with the spirit of his
defence. He is clearly jealous of not having had a worse case to plead.
"He has won," he says. "How could he do otherwise? with the plain truth
on his side, and the Pope ready to steady it on his legs again if he let
it drop asleep. Arcangeli may crow over him, as it is, for having been
kept by him a month at bay--though even this much was not his doing; the
little dandiprat Spreti was the real man."

And this is not all. "Of course Rome must have its joke at the advocate
with the case that proved itself: but here is a piece of impertinence he
was not prepared for. The barefoot Augustinian, whose report of
Pompilia's dying words took all the freshness out of the best points of
his defence, has been preaching on the subject; and the sermon is flying
about Rome in print." Next follows an extract from it. The friar warns
his hearers not to trust to human powers of discovering the truth. "It
is not the long trial which has revealed Pompilia's innocence; God from
time to time puts forth His hand, and He has done so here. But earth is
not heaven, nor all truth intended to prevail. One dove returned to the
ark. How many were lost in the wave? One woman's purity has been rescued
from the world. 'How many chaste and noble sister-fames' have lacked
'the extricating hand?' And we must wait God's time for such truth as is
destined to appear. When Christians worshipped in the Catacomb, one man,
no worse than the rest, though no less foolish, will have pointed to its
mouth, and said, 'Obscene rites are practised in that darkness. The
devotees of an execrable creed skulk there out of sight.' Not till the
time was ripe, did lightning split the face of the rock, and lay bare a

       "Narrow and short, a corpse's length, no more:
       And by it, in the due receptacle,
       The little rude brown lamp of earthenware,
       The cruse, was meant for flowers, but held the blood,
       The rough-scratched palm-branch, and the legend left
       _Pro Christo_." (vol. x. p. 265)

"And how does human law, in its 'inadequacy' and 'ineptitude' defend the
just? How has it attempted to clear Pompilia's fame? By submitting, as
its best resource, that wickedness was bred in her flesh and bone. For
himself he cannot judge, unless by the assurance of Christ, if he have
not lost much by renouncing the world: for he has lost love, and
knowledge, and perhaps the means of bringing goodness from its ideal
conception into the actual life of man. But the bubble, fame--worldly
praise and appreciation--he has done well to set these aside."

"And what is all this preaching," resumes Bottinius, "but a way of
courting fame? The inflation of it! and the spite! and the Molinism! As
its first pleasant consequence, Gomez, who had intended to appeal from
the absurd decision of the Court, declines to ask the lawyers for
farther help.[29] There is an end of that job and its fee. Nevertheless,
his 'blatant brother' shall soon see if law is as inadequate, and
advocacy as impotent, as he fancies. Providence is this time in their
favour. Pompilia was consigned to the 'Convertite' (converted ones). She
was therefore a sinner. Guido has been judged guilty: but there was no
word as to the innocence of his wife. The sisterhood claims, therefore,
the property which accrued to her through her parents' death, and which
she has left in trust for her son. Who but himself--the Fisc--shall
support the claim, and show the foul-mouthed friar that his dove was a
raven after all." (He too can drive left and right horses on occasion.)

This he actually did. But once more the Pope intervened: and Mr.
Browning proceeds to give the literal substance of the "Instrument" of
justification as it lies before him. In this, Pompilia's "perfect fame"
is restored, and her representative, Domenico Tighetti, secured against
all molestations of her heir and his ward, which the Most Venerable
Convent, etc. etc., may commit or threaten.

What became of that child, Gaetano, as he was called after the new-made
saint? Did he live a true scion of the paternal stock, whose heraldic
symbols Mr. Browning has described by Count Guido's mouth?--

       "Or did he love his mother, the base-born,
       And fight i' the ranks, unnoticed by the world?" (vol. x. p. 277.)

This question Mr. Browning asks himself, but is unable to answer. He
concludes his book by telling us its intended lesson, and explaining why
he has chosen to present it in this artistic form. The lesson is that
which we have already learned from his Pope's thoughts:--

                     "... our human speech is naught,
       Our human testimony false, our fame
       And human estimation words and wind." (vol. x. p. 277.)

Art, with its indirect processes, can alone raise up a living image of
that truth which words distort in the stating.

And, lastly, he dedicates the completed work to the "Lyric Love," whose
blessing on its performance he has invoked in a memorable passage at the
close of his introductory chapter.


Another group of works detaches itself from any possible scheme of
classification: These are Mr. Browning's transcripts from the Greek.

The "Alkestis" of Euripides, imbedded in the dramatic romance called
"Balaustion's Adventure." 1871.

The "Herakles" of Euripides, introduced into "Aristophanes' Apology."

The "Agamemnon" of Æschylus, published by itself. 1877.

They are even outside my subject because they are literal; and therefore
show Mr. Browning as a scholar, but not otherwise as a poet than in the
technical power and indirect poetic judgments involved in the work. All
I need say about this is, that its literalness detracts in no way from
the beauty and transparency of "Alkestis" or "Herakles," while it makes
"Agamemnon" very hard to read; and that Mr. Browning has probably
intended his readers to draw their own conclusion, which is so far his,
as to the relative quality of the two great classics. Some critics
contend that a less literal translation of the "Agamemnon" would have
been not only more pleasing, but more true; but Mr. Browning clearly
thought otherwise. Had he not, he would certainly have given his author
the benefit of the larger interpretation; and his principal motive for
this indirect defence of Euripides would have disappeared.

Mr. Browning has also given us an original fragment in the classic

"ARTEMIS PROLOGIZES." ("Men and Women,"[30] published in "Dramatic
Lyrics," in 1842.) This was suggested by the "Hippolytos" of Euripides;
and destined to become part of a larger poem, which should continue its
story. For, according to the legend, Hippolytos having perished through
the anger of Aphrodité (Venus), was revived by Artemis (Diana), though
only to disappoint her affection by falling in love with one of her
nymphs, Aricia. Mr. Browning imagines that she has removed him in secret
to her own forest retreat, and is nursing him back to life by the help
of Asclepios; and the poem is a monologue in which she describes what
has passed, from Phaedra's self-betrayal to the present time. Hippolytos
still lies unconscious; but the power of the great healer has been
brought to bear upon him, and the unconsciousness seems only that of
sleep. Artemis is _awaiting the event_.

The ensuing chorus of nymphs, the awakening of Hippolytos, and with it
the stir of the new passion within him, had already taken shape in Mr.
Browning's mind. Unfortunately, something put the inspiration to flight,
and it did not return.[31]


[Footnote 21: The song professedly refers to Catherine Cornaro, the
Venetian Queen of Cyprus, and is the only one in the poem that is based
on any fact at all.]

[Footnote 22: This pamphlet has supplied Mr. Browning with some of his
most curious facts. It fell into his hands in London.]

[Footnote 23: The first hour after sunset.]

[Footnote 24: "Villa" is often called "vineyard" or "vigna," on account
of the vineyard attached to it.]

[Footnote 25: It is difficult to reconcile this explicit denial of
Pompilia's statements with the belief in her implied in her merely
nominal punishment: unless we look on it as part of the formal
condemnation which circumstances seemed to exact.]

[Footnote 26: A letter written in this strain was also produced on the
trial; and Pompilia owned to having written it, but only in the sense of
writing over in ink what her husband had traced in pencil--being totally
ignorant of its contents.]

[Footnote 27: Count Guido thought, or affected to think, that these had
been thrown by Caponsacchi.]

[Footnote 28: The disciple of Michael de Molinos, not to be confounded
with Louis Molina, who is especially known by his attempt to reconcile
the theory of grace with that of free will. Molinos was the founder of
an exaggerated Quietism. He held that the soul could detach itself from
the body so as to become indifferent to its action, and therefore
non-responsible for it; and it was natural that all who defied the
received laws of conduct, or were suspected of doing so, should be
stigmatized as his followers. Molinism was a favourite bugbear among the
orthodox Romanists of Innocent the Twelfth's day.]

[Footnote 29: A passing allusion is made to this Gomez case in one of
the manuscript letters, the writer of which begs Cencini (clearly also
an advocate), to send him the papers concerning it. The place it
occupies in the thoughts of the two lawyers, as Mr. Browning depicts
them, is very characteristic of the manner in which his imagination has
embraced and vivified every detail of the situation.]

[Footnote 30: The poems to which I refer as now included in "Men and
Women" will be found so in the editions of 1868 and 1888-9; though the
redistribution made in 1863 has much curtailed their number.]

[Footnote 31: It was in this poem that Mr. Browning first adopted the
plan of spelling Greek names in the Greek manner. He did so, as he tells
us in the preface to his "Agamemnon," "innocently enough;" because the
change commended itself to his own eye and ear. He has even assured his
friends that if the innovation had been rationally opposed, or simply
not accepted, he would probably himself have abandoned it. But when,
years later, in "Balaustion's Adventure," the new spelling became the
subject of attacks which all but ignored the existence of the work from
any other point of view, the thought of yielding was no longer
admissible. The majority of our best scholars now follow Mr. Browning's



The isolated monologues have a special significance, which is almost
implied in their form, but is also distinct from it. Mr. Browning has
made them the vehicle for most of the reasonings and reflections which
make up so large a part of his imaginative life: whether presented in
his own person, or, as is most often the case, in that of his men and
women. As such, they are among those of his works which lend themselves
to a rough kind of classification; and may be called "argumentative."

They divide themselves into two classes: those in which the speaker is
defending a preconceived judgment, and an antagonist is implied; and
those in which he is trying to form a judgment or to accept one: and the
supposed listener, if there be such, is only a confidant. The first kind
of argument or discussion is carried on--apparently--as much for victory
as for truth; and employs the weapons of satire, or the tactics of
special-pleading, as the case demands. The second is an often pathetic
and always single-minded endeavour to get at the truth. Those monologues
in which the human spirit is represented as communing with itself,
contain some of Mr. Browning's noblest dramatic work; but those in which
the militant attitude is more pronounced throw the strongest light on
what I have indicated as his distinctive intellectual quality: the
rejection of all general and dogmatic points of view. His casuistic
utterances are often only a vindication of the personal, and therefore
indefinite quality of human truth; and their apparent trifling with it
is often only the seeking after a larger truth, in which all seeming
contradictions are resolved. It was inevitable, however, that this
mental quality should play into the hands of his dramatic imagination,
and be sometimes carried away by it; so that when he means to tell us
what a given person under given circumstances would be justified in
saying, he sometimes finds himself including in the statement something
which the given person so situated would be only likely to say.

The first of these classes, or groups, which we may distinguish as
SPECIAL PLEADINGS, contains poems very different in length, and in
literary character; and to avoid the appearance of confusion, I shall
reverse the order of their publication, and place the most important

"Aristophanes' Apology;[32] or The Last Adventure of Balaustion."

"Fifine at the Fair." (1872.)

"Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society." (1871.)

"Bishop Blougram's Apology" (Men and Women). (1855.)

"Mr. Sludge, the Medium." (Dramatis Personæ.) (1864.)

"ARISTOPHANES' APOLOGY" is, as its second title shows, a sequel to
"Balaustion's Adventure" (1871). Both turn on the historical fact that
Euripides was reverenced far more by the non-Athenian Greeks than by the
Athenians; and both contain a transcript from him. But the interest of
"Aristophanes' Apology" is independent of its "Herakles," while that of
"Balaustion's Adventure" is altogether bound up with its Alkestis; and
in so far as the "adventure" places Balaustion herself before us, it
will be best treated as an introduction to her appearance in the later
and more important work.

Balaustion is a Rhodian girl, brought up in a worship for Euripides,
which does not, however, exclude the appreciation of other great Greek
poets. The Peloponnesian War has entered on its second stage. The
Athenian fleet has been defeated at Syracuse. And Rhodes, resenting this
disgrace, has determined to take part against Athens, and join the
Peloponnesian league. But Balaustion will not forsake the mother-city,
the life and light of her whole known world; and she persuades her
kinsmen to migrate with her to it, and, with her, to share its fate.
They accordingly take ship at Kaunus, a Carian sea-port belonging to
Rhodes. But the wind turns them from their course, and when it abates,
they find themselves in strange waters, pursued by a pirate bark. They
fly before it towards what they hope will prove a friendly
shore--Balaustion heartening the rowers by a song from Æschylus, which
was sung at the battle of Salamis--and run straight into the hostile
harbour of Syracuse, where shelter is denied them.

The captain pleads in vain that they are Kaunians, subjects of Rhodes,
and that Rhodes is henceforward on Sparta's side. "Kaunian the ship may
be: but Athenians are on board. All Athens echoed in that song from
Æschylus which has been ringing across the sea. The voyagers may retire
unhurt. But if ten pirate ships were pursuing them, they should not
bring those memories of Salamis to the Athenian captives whom the defeat
of Nicias has left in Syracusan hands." The case is desperate. The
Rhodians turn to go.

Suddenly a voice cries, "Wait. Do they know any verses from Euripides?"
"More than that, they answer, Balaustion can recite a whole play--that
strangest, saddest, sweetest song--the 'Alkestis.' It does honour to
Herakles, their god. Let them place her on the steps of their temple of
Herakles, and she will recite it there." The Rhodians are brought in,
amidst joyous loving laughter, among shouts of "Herakles" and
"Euripides." The recital takes place;[33] it is repeated a second day
and a third; and Balaustion and her kinsmen are dismissed with good
words and wishes, for, as she declares:

                    "... Greeks are Greeks, and hearts are hearts,
       And poetry is power,...." (vol. xi. p. 14.)

The story of Alkestis scarcely needs repeating. Apollo had incurred the
anger of Jupiter by avenging the death of his son Æsculapius on the
Cyclops whose thunder-bolt had slain him; and been condemned to play the
part of a common mortal, and serve Admetus, King of Thessaly, as
herdsman. The kind treatment of Admetus had made him his friend: and
Apollo had deceived the Fate sisters into promising that whenever the
king's life should become their due, they would renounce it on condition
of some other person dying in his stead. When the play opens, the fatal
moment has come. Alkestis, wife of Admetus, has offered herself to save
him; and Admetus, though he does so with a heavy heart, has been weak
enough to accept the sacrifice. Death enters the palace, from which
even Apollo can no longer turn him away.

But just as Alkestis has breathed her last, Herakles appears; and his
great cheery voice is heard on the threshold of the house of mourning,
inquiring if the master be within. Admetus suppresses all signs of
emotion, that he may receive him as hospitality demands; and Herakles,
hearing what has happened from a servant of the house, is moved to
gratitude and pity. He wrestles with Death; conquers him; and brings
back Alkestis into her husband's presence, veiled, and in the guise of a
second companion. Admetus will at first neither touch nor look at her.
He has promised his dying wife to give her no successor; and her memory
is even dearer to him than she herself has been. The god however
reasons, persuades, and insists; and at length, very reluctantly,
Admetus gives his hand to the stranger, whom he is then told to unveil.
Herakles has delayed the recognition, that Alkestis might be enabled to
probe her husband's fidelity, and convince herself that sorrow had made
him worthier of her.

Balaustion half recites the play, half describes it, "as she has seen it
at Kameiros this very year," occasionally compressing an unimportant
scene, but always closely adhering to the original. She knows that she
is open to the reproach of describing more than the masked faces of the
actors could allow her to see; but she meets it in these words:--

       "What's poetry except a power that makes?
       And, speaking to one sense, inspires the rest,
       Pressing them all into its service:" (vol. xi. pp. 17, 18.)

The whole work is a vindication of the power of poetry, as exerted in
itself, and as reproduced in those who have received its fruits (pages
110, 111); and Balaustion herself displays it in this secondary form, by
suggesting a version of the story of Alkestis, more subtly, if less
simply, beautiful than the original. She makes _Love_ the conqueror of
Death. According to her, the music made by Apollo among Admetus's flocks
has tamed every selfish passion in the King's soul; and when the time
comes for his wife to die, he refuses the sacrifice. "Zeus has decreed
that their two lives shall be one; and if they must be severed, he must
go who was the body, not she, who was the soul, of their joint
existence." But Alkestis declares that the reality of that existence
lies not in her but in him, and she bids him look at her once more
before his decision is made. In this look, her soul enters into his;
and, thus subduing him, she expires. But when she reaches the nether
world she is rejected as a deceiver. "The death she brings to it is a
mockery, since it doubles the life she has left behind." Proserpine
sends her back to her husband's side; and the "lost eyes" re-open
beneath his gaze, while it still embraces her.

Apollo smiles sadly at the ingenuousness of mortals, who thus imagine
that the chain of eternal circumstance could snap in one human life; at
their blindness to those seeds of pity and tenderness which the crushed
promise of human happiness sets free. Yet he seems to think they lose
nothing by either. "They do well to value their little hour. They do
well to treasure the warm heart's blood, of which no outpouring could
tinge the paleness or fill the blank of eternity, the power of love
which transforms their earthly homes, their

       ... hopes and fears, so blind and yet so sweet
       With death about them."              (p. 115.)

"Balaustion" means wild pomegranate flower; and the girl has been so
called on account of her lyric gifts. She recalls the pomegranate tree,
because its leaves are cooling to the brow, its seed and blossom
grateful to the sense, and because the nightingale is never distant from
it. She will keep the name for life--so she tells her friends--and with
it a better thing which her songs have gained her. One youth came daily
to the temple-steps at Syracuse to hear her. He was at her side at
Athens when she landed. They will be married at this next full moon.

"Alkestis" failed "to get the prize" when its author was competing with
Sophocles. "But Euripides has had his reward: in the sympathies which he
has stirred; in the genius which he has inspired. His crown came direct
from Zeus."

We need not name the poetess whom Mr. Browning quotes at the close of
this poem. The painter so generously eulogized is F. Leighton.

When we meet Balaustion again, in "Aristophanes' Apology," many things
have happened. She has seen her poet in his retirement (this was
mentioned in her "adventure"), kissed his hand, and received from it,
together with other gifts, his tragedy of Herakles. Euripides has died;
Athens has fallen; and Balaustion, with her memories in her heart, and
her husband, Euthykles, by her side, is speeding back towards Rhodes.
She is deeply shocked by the fate of her adoptive city, to which her
fancy pays a tribute of impassioned reverence, too poetic to be given in
any but Mr. Browning's words. Yet she has a growing belief that that
fate was just. Sea and air and the blue expanse of heaven are full of
suggestion of that spirit-life, with its larger struggles or its
universal peace, which is above the world's crowd and noise. And she
determines that sorrow for what is fleeting shall not gnaw at her heart.

But in order to overcome the sorrow, she must loosen it from her. The
tragedy she has witnessed must enact itself once more for Euthykles and
her, he writing as she dictates. It will have for prologue a second
adventure of her own, which he also has witnessed; and this adventure
will constitute the book. It is prefaced in its turn by a backward
glance at the circumstances, (so different from the present) in which
she related the first.

It was the night on which Athens received the news that Euripides was
dead: Euthykles had brought this home to her from the theatre. They were
pondering it gravely, but not sadly, for their poet was now at rest, in
the companionship of Æschylus, safe from the petty spites which had
frothed and fretted about his life. He had lived and worked, to the end,
true to his own standard of right, heedless of the reproach that he was
a man-hater and a recluse, without regard for civic duty, and with no
object but his art. He had left it to Sophocles to play poet and
commander at the same time, and be laughed at for the result. He had
first taken the prize of "Contemplation" in his all but a hundred plays;
then, grasping the one hand offered him which held a heart, had shown at
the court of Archelaus of Macedon whether or not the power of active
usefulness was in him. His last notes of music had also been struck for
that one friend.

Even Athens did him justice now. The reaction had set in; one would have
his statue erected in the theatre; another would have him buried in the
Piræus; etc. etc. Not so Euthykles and Balaustion. His statue was in
their hearts. Their concern was not with his mortal vesture, but with
the liberated soul, which now watched over their world. They would hail
this, they said, in the words of his own song, his "Herakles."

The reading was about to begin, when suddenly there was torch-light--a
burst of comic singing--and a knocking at the door; Bacchus bade them
open; they delayed. Then a name was uttered, of "authoritative" sound,
of "immense significance;" and the door was opened to--Aristophanes. He
was returning from the performance of his "Thesmophoriazusae,"[34] last
year a failure, but this time, thanks to some new and audacious
touches, a brilliant success. His chorus trooped before him--himself no
more sober than was his wont--crowned, triumphant, and drunk; a group of
flute-boys and dancing-girls making up the scene. All these, however,
slunk away before Balaustion's glance, Aristophanes alone confronting
her. And, as she declares, it was "no ignoble presence." For the broad
brow, the flushed cheek, the commanding features, the defiant attitude,
all betokened a mind, wantoning among the lower passions, but yet master
of them.

He addresses Balaustion in a tone of mock deference; banters her on her
poetic name, her dignified mien, and the manner in which she has scared
his chorus and its followers away; "not indeed that that matters, since
the archon's economy and the world's squeamishness will soon abolish it
altogether."[35] Then struck by a passing thought, he stands grave,
silent--another man in short--awaiting what she has to say.

In this sober moment, Balaustion welcomes him to her house. She welcomes
him as the Good Genius: as genius of the kindly, though purifying
humour, which, like summer lighting, illumines, but does not destroy.
She knows and implies that he is not only this. But she greets the
light, no matter to what darkness it be allied. She reverences the god
who forms one half of him, so long as the monster which constitutes the
other, remains out of sight; a poetic myth is made to illustrate this
feeling. The gravity, however, is short-lived. The lower self in
Aristophanes springs up again, and his "apology" begins.

"Aristophanes' APOLOGY" is a defence of comedy, as understood and
practised by himself: that is, as a broad expression of the natural
life, and a broad satire upon those who directly or indirectly condemn
it. It is addressed to Euripides in the person of his disciple. It is at
the same time an attack upon him; and in either capacity it covers a
great deal of ground. For the dispute does not lie simply between comedy
and tragedy--which latter, with the old tragedians, was often only the
naturalism of comedy on a larger scale--but between naturalism and
humanity, as more advanced thinkers understood it; between the old ideas
of human and divine conveyed by tragedy and comedy alike, and the new
ones which Euripides, the friend of Socrates, had imported into them;
and the question at issue involved, therefore, not only art and morals,
but the entire philosophy of life. The "Apology" derives farther
interest and significance from the varied emotions by which it is
inspired. The speaker (as is the case in "Fifine at the Fair") is
answering not only his opponent, but his own conscience. How the
conscience of Aristophanes has been aroused he presently tells: first
struggling a little with the false shame which the experience has left
behind. This is the scene which he describes.

A festive supper had followed the successful play. Jollity was at its
height. The cup was being crowned to Aristophanes as the "Triumphant,"
when a knock came to the door: and there entered no "asker of
questions," no casual passer-by, but the pale, majestic, heavily-draped
figure of Sophocles himself. Slowly, solemnly, and with bent head, he
passed up the hall, between two ranks of spectators as silent as
himself; raised his eyes as he confronted the priest,[36] and announced
to him, that since Euripides was "dead to-day," and as a fitting
spectacle for the god, his chorus would appear at the greater feast,
next month, clothed in black and ungarlanded. Then silently, and amidst
silence, he passed out again.

This, then, was the purport of the important news which was known to
have arrived in port, but which every one had interpreted in his own
way. Euripides was no more! But neither the news nor he who brought it
could create more than a momentary stupor; and the tipsy fun soon
renewed itself, at the expense of the living tragedian and the dead.
Aristophanes alone remained grave. The value of the man whom he had
aspersed and ridiculed stood out before him summed up by the hand of
Death. He recalled the failure which had marked the now hopeless
limitation of his own genius, and those last words addressed to him by
Euripides which brought home its lesson.[37] The archon, "Master of the
Feast," judging that its "glow" was "extinct," had risen to conclude it
by crowning the parting cup. He had crowned it with judicious reserve to
the "Good Genius;" and Strattis (the comic poet) had burst forth in an
eulogium of the Comic Muse which claimed the title of Good Genius for
her--when yielding to this new and over-mastering impulse, he
(Aristophanes) checked the coming applause, and demanded that the Tragic
Muse and her ministrant Euripides should receive the libation instead;
justifying the demand by a noble and pathetic tribute to the memory of
the dead poet, and to the great humanities which only the _tragic_ poet
can represent.

But he found no response. The listeners mistook his seriousness for
satire, and broke out afresh at the excellence of such a joke; and
recovering his presence of mind as quickly as he had lost it, he changed
his tone, thanked those alike who had laughed with him, and who had
wept with the "Lord of Tears;" and desired that the cup be consecrated
to that genius of complex poetry which is tragedy and comedy in one. It
was sacrilege, he declared, to part these two; for to do so was to hack
at the Hermai[38]--to outrage the ideal union of the intellectual and
the sensuous life in man. And from this new vantage-ground he launched
another bolt at Euripides, whose coldness, he asserted, had belied this
union, and made him guilty of a crime inexpiable in the sight of the

Yet he could not dismiss him from his thoughts. He wanted to go over the
old ground with him, and put himself in the right. Balaustion and her
husband were in a manner representatives of the dead tragedian. That was
why he had come. He was not sure that he expressed, or at the moment
even felt, all that he had just repeated. "Drunk he was with the good
Thasian, and drunk he probably had been." Nevertheless, the impulse he
had thus obeyed sprang perhaps from some real, if hitherto undiscovered
depths in his soul.

Up to this moment his defence has been carried on in a disjointed
manner, and consists rather in defying attack than in resisting it: the
defiant mood being only another aspect of the perturbed condition which
has brought him to Balaustion's door. It finds its natural
starting-point in the coarse treatment of things and persons which his
"Thesmophoriazusae," with its "monkeying" of Euripides,[39] has so
recently displayed. But he reminds Balaustion that the art of comedy is
young. It is only three generations since Susarion gave it birth. (He
explains this more fully later on.) It began when he and his companions
daubed their faces with wine lees, mounted a cart, and drove by night
through the villages: crying from house to house, how this man starved
his labourers, that other kissed his neighbour's wife, and so on. The
first comedian battered with big stones. He, Aristophanes, is at the
stage of the wooden club which he has taken pains to plane smooth, and
inlay with shining studs. The mere polished steel will be for his

"And is he approaching the age of steel?" Balaustion asks, well knowing
that he is not. "His play failed last year. Was his triumph to-night due
to a gentler tone? Is he teaching mankind that brute blows are not human
fighting, still less the expression of godlike power; and that ignorance
and folly are convicted by their opposites, not by themselves?"

"Not he, indeed," he replies; "he improves on his art: he does not turn
it topsy-turvy. _He_ does not work on abstractions. _His_ power is not
that of the recluse. He wants human beings with their approbation and
their sympathy, and his Athens, to be pleased in her own way. He leaves
the rest to Euripides. Real life is the grist to _his_ mill. It is clear
enough, however, that the times are against him. Every year more
restrictions; Euripides with his priggishness; Socrates with his books
and his moonshine, and his supercilious ways: never resenting his
(Aristophanes') fun, nor seeming even to notice it[40], not
condescending to take exception to any but the 'tragedians;' as if he,
the author of the 'Birds,' was a mere comic poet!" Then follows a tirade
on the variety of his subjects; their depth, their significance, and the
mawkishness and pedantry which they are intended to confute.

"Drunk! yes, he owns that he is." This in answer to a look from
Balaustion, which has rebuked a too hazardous joke--"Drink is the proper
inspiration. How else was he beaten in the 'Clouds,' his masterpiece,
but that his opponent had inspired himself with drink, and he this time
had not?[41] Purity! he has learned what that is worth"--With more in
the same strain. Now, however, that his adventure is told, the tumult of
feeling in some degree subsides, and the more serious aspects of the
apology will come into play.

Balaustion and her husband, seeing the sober mood return, once more
welcome "the glory of Aristophanes" to their house, and bid him on his
side share in their solemnity, and commemorate Euripides with them. This
calls his attention to the portrait of the dead poet; those implements
of his work which were his tokens of friendship to Balaustion; the
papyrus leaf inscribed with the Herakles itself; and he cannot resist a
sneer at this again unsuccessful play. His hostess rebukes him grandly
for completing the long outrage on the living man by this petty attack
on his "supreme calm;" and as supreme calmness means death, he begins
musing on the immunities which death confers, and their injustice. "Give
him only time and he will pulverize his opponents; _he_ will show them
whether this work of his is unintelligible, or that other will not live.
But let them die; and they slink out of his reach with their malice,
stupidity, and ignorance, while survivors croak 'respect the dead' over
the hole in which they are laid. At all events, he retorts on them when
he can--unwisely perhaps, since those he flings mud at are only
immortalized by the process. Euripides knew better than to follow his

Again Balaustion has her answer. "He has volleyed mud at Euripides
himself while pretending to defend the same cause: the cause of art, of
knowledge, of justice, and of truth;" and she makes his cheek burn by
reminding him of what petty and what ignoble witticisms that mud was
made up. At last he begins in real earnest. "Balaustion, he understands,
condemns comedy both in theory and in practice, from the calm and
rational heights to which she, with her tragic friend, has attained.
Here are his arguments in its favour."

"It claims respect as an institution, because as such it is coeval with
liberty--born of the feast of Bacchus, and therefore of the good gifts
of the earth--a mode of telling truth without punishment, and of
chastising without doing harm. It claims respect by its advance from
simple objects to more composite, from plain thumping to more searching
modes of attack. The men who once exposed wrong-doing by shouting it
before the wrong-doer's door, now expose it by representing its various
forms. The comic poets denounce not only the thief, the fool, the miser,
but the advocates of war, the flatterers of the populace, the sophists
who set up Whirligig[42] in the place of Zeus, the thin-blooded
tragedian in league with the sophists, who preaches against the flesh.
Where facts are insufficient he has recourse to fancy, and exaggerates
the wronged truth the more strongly to enforce it (here follows a
characteristic illustration.) To those who call Saperdion the Empousa,
he shows her in a Kimberic robe;[43] in other words, he exposes her
charms more fully than she does it herself, the better to convict those
who malign them."

And here lies his grudge against Euripides. Euripides is one of those
who call Saperdion a monster--who slander the world of sense with its
beauties and its enjoyments, or who contemptuously set it aside. "Born
on the day of Salamis--when heroes walked the earth; and gods were
reverenced and not discussed--when Greeks guarded their home with its
abundant joys, and left barbarian lands to their own starvation--he has
lived to belie every tradition of that triumphant time. He has joined
himself with a band of starved teachers and reformers to cut its very
foundations away. He exalts death over life, misery over happiness; or,
if he admits happiness, it is as an empty name."

"Moreover, he reasons away the gods; for they are, according to him,
only forms of nature. Zeus _is_ the atmosphere. Poseidon _is_ the sea.
Necessity rules the universe. Duty, once the will of the gods, is now a
voice within ourselves bidding us renounce pleasure, and giving us no
inducement to do so."

"He reasons away morality, for he shows there is neither right nor
wrong, neither 'yours' nor 'mine,' nor natural privilege, nor natural
subjection, that may not be argued equally for or against. Why be in
such a hurry to pay one's debt, to attend one's mother, to bring a given

"He reasons away social order, for he declares the slave as good as his
master, woman equal to man, and even the people competent to govern
itself. 'Why should not the tanner, the lampseller, or the mealman, who
knows his own business so well, know that of the State too?'"

"He ignores the function of poetry, which is to see beauty, and to
create it: for he places utility above grace, truth above all beauty. He
drags human squalor on to the scene because he recognizes its existence.
The world of the poet's fancy, that world into which he was born, does
not exist for him. He spoils his art as well as his life, carving back
to bull what another had carved into a sphinx."

"How are such proceedings to be dealt with? They appeal to the mob. The
mob is not to be swayed by polished arguments or incidental hints. We
don't scare sparrows with a Zeus' head, though the eagle may recognize
it as his lord's. A big Priapus is the figure required."

"And this," so Aristophanes resumes his defence, "comedy supplies.
Comedy is the fit instrument of popular conviction: and the wilder, the
more effective: since it is the worship of life, of the originative
power of nature; and since that power has lawlessness for its apparent
law. Even Euripides, with his shirkings and his superiority, has been
obliged to pay tribute to the real. He could not shake it off all at
once. He tacked a Satyric play to some five of his fifty trilogies: and
if this was grim enough at first, he threw off the mask in Alkestis,
showing how one could be indecent in a decent way."[44]

For the reasons above given, which he farther expands and illustrates,
Aristophanes chooses the "meaner muse" for his exponent. "And who, after
all, is the worse for it? Does he strangle the enemies of the truth? No.
He simply doses them with comedy, _i.e._ with words. Those who offend in
words he pays back in them, exaggerating a little, but only so as to
emphasize what he means; just as love and hate use each other's terms,
because those proper to themselves have grown unmeaning from constant
use. And what is the ground of difference between Balaustion and
himself? Slender enough, in all probability, as he could show her, if
they were discussing the question for themselves alone. As it is,
Euripides has attacked him in the sight of the mob. His defence is
addressed to it: he uses the arguments it can understand. It does not
follow that they convey a literal statement of his own views. Euripides
is not the only man who is free from superstition. He too on occasion
can show up the gods;" and he describes the manner in which he will do
this in his next play. All that is serious in the Apology is given in
the concluding passage. "Whomever else he is hard upon, he will level
nothing worse than a harmless parody at Sophocles, for he has no grudge
against him:--

       'He founds no anti-school, upsets no faith,
       But, living, lets live,'                  (vol. xiii. p. 110.)

And all his, Aristophanes', teaching is this:--

                                    '... accept the old,
       Contest the strange! acknowledge work that's done,
       Misdoubt men who have still their work to do!'     (p. 111.)

He has summed up his case. Euripides must own himself beaten. If
Balaustion will not admit the defeat, let her summon her rosy strength,
and do her worst against his opponent."

Balaustion pauses for a moment before relating her answer to this
challenge: and gives us to understand that, in thus relieving her
memory, she is reproducing not only this special experience, but a great
deal of what she habitually thinks and feels; thus silencing any sense
of the improbable, which so lengthened an argument accurately
remembered, might create in the reader's mind.

Her tone is at first deprecating. "It is not for her, a mere mouse, to
argue on a footing of equality with a forest monarch like himself. It is
not for her to criticize the means by which his genius may attain its
ends. She does not forget that the poet-class is that essentially which
labours in the cause of human good. She does not forget that she is a
woman, who may recoil from methods which a man is justified in
employing. Lastly, she is a foreigner, and as such may blame many things
simply because she does not understand them. She may yet have to learn
that the tree stands firm at root, though its boughs dip and dance
before the wind. She may yet have to learn that those who witness his
plays have been previously braced to receive the good and reject the
evil in them, like the freshly-bathed hand which passes unhurt through
flame. She may judge falsely from what she sees."

"But," she continues,[45] "let us imagine a remote future, and a
far-away place--say the Cassiterides[46]--and men and women, lonely and
ignorant--strangers in very deed--but with feelings similar to our own.
Let us suppose that some work of Zeuxis or Pheidias has been transported
to their shores, and that they are compelled to acknowledge its
excellence from its own point of view--its colouring true to nature,
though not to their own type--its unveiled forms decorous, though not
conforming to their own standard of decorum. Might they not still, and
justly, tax it on its own ground with some flaw or incongruity, which
proved the artist to have been human? And may not a stranger, judging
you in the same way, recognize in you one part of peccant humanity, poet
'three parts divine' though you be?"

"You declare comedy to be a prescriptive rite, coeval in its birth with
liberty. But the great days of Greek national life had been reached when
comedy began. You declare also that you have refined on the early
practice, and imported poetry into it. Comedy is therefore, as you
defend it, not only a new invention, but your own. And, finally, you
declare your practice of it inspired by a fixed purpose. You must stand
or fall by the degree in which this purpose has been attained."

"You would, by means of comedy, discredit war. Do you stand alone in
this endeavour?" And she quotes a beautiful passage from 'Cresphontes,'
a play written by Euripides for the same end. "And how, respectively,
have you sought your end? Euripides, by appealing to the nobler
feelings which are outraged by war; you, by expatiating on the animal
enjoyments which accompany peace. The 'Lysistrata' is your equivalent
for 'Cresphontes.' Do you imagine that its obscene allurements will
promote the cause of peace? Not till heroes have become mean
voluptuaries, and Cleonymos,[47] whom you yourself have derided, becomes
their type."

"You would discredit vice and error, hypocrisy, sophistry and untruth.
You expose the one in all its seductions, and the other in grotesque
exaggerations, which are themselves a lie; showing yourself the worst of
sophists--one who plays false to his own soul."

"You would improve on former methods of comedy. You have returned to its
lowest form. For you profess to strike at folly, not at him who commits
it: yet your tactics are precisely to belabour every act or opinion of
which you disapprove, in the form of some one man. You pride yourself,
in fact, on giving personal blows, instead of general and theoretical
admonitions; and even here you seem incapable of hitting fair; you libel
where you cannot honestly convict, and do not care how ignoble or how
irrelevant the libel may be. Does the poet deserve criticism as such?
Does he write bad verse, does he inculcate foul deeds? The cry is, 'he
cannot read or write;' 'he is extravagant in buying fish;' 'he allows
someone to help him with his verse, and make love to his wife in
return;' 'his uncle deals in crockery;' 'his mother sold herbs' (one of
his pet taunts against Euripides); 'he is a housebreaker, a footpad, or,
worst of all, a stranger;'"--a term of contempt which, as Balaustion
reminds him has been repeatedly bestowed upon himself.

"What have you done," she continues, "beyond devoting the gold of your
genius to work, which dross, in the person of a dozen predecessors or
contemporaries, has produced as well. Pun and parody, satire and
invective, quaintness of fancy, and elegance, have each had its
representative as successful as you. Your life-work, until this moment,
has been the record of a genius increasingly untrue to its better self.
Such satire as yours, however well intended, could advance no honest
cause. Its exaggerations make it useless for either praise or blame. Its
uselessness is proved by the result: your jokes have recoiled upon
yourself. The statues still stand which your mud has stained; the
lightning flash of truth can alone destroy them. War still continues, in
spite of the seductions with which you have invested peace. Such
improvements as are in progress take an opposite direction to that which
you prescribe. Public sense and decency are only bent on cleansing your

And now her tone changes. "Has Euripides succeeded any better? None can
say; for he spoke to a dim future above and beyond the crowd. If he
fail, you two will be fellows in adversity; and, meanwhile, I am
convinced that your wish unites with his to waft the white sail on its
way.[48] Your nature, too, is kingly." She concludes with a tribute to
the "Poet's Power," which is one with creative law, above and behind all
potencies of heaven and earth; and to that inherent royalty of truth, in
which alone she could venture to approach one so great as he. He too, as
poet, must reign by truth, if he assert his proper sway.

       "Nor, even so, had boldness nerved my tongue,
       But that the other king stands suddenly
       In all the grand investiture of death,
       Bowing your knee beside my lowly head--
       Equals one moment!"                   (vol. xiii. p. 144.)

Then she bids him "arise and go." Both have done homage to Euripides.

"Not so," he replies; "their discussion is not at an end. She has
defended Euripides obliquely by attacking himself. Let her do it in a
more direct fashion." This leads up to what seems to her the best
defence possible: that reading of the "Herakles" which the entrance of
Aristophanes had suspended. Its closing lines set Aristophanes musing.
The chorus has said:

       "The greatest of all our friends of yore,
       We have lost for evermore!"                 (p. 231.)

"Who," he asks, "has been Athens' best friend? He who attracted her by
the charm of his art, or he who repelled her by its severity?" He
answers this by describing the relative positions of himself and
Euripides in an image suggested by the popular game of Cottabos.[49]
"The one was fixed within his 'globe;' the other adapted himself to its
rotations. Euripides received his views of life through a single
aperture, the one channel of 'High' and 'Right.' Aristophanes has
welcomed also the opposite impressions of 'Low' and 'Wrong,' and
reproduced all in their turn. Some poet of the future, born perhaps in
those Cassiterides, may defy the mechanics of the case, and place
himself in such a position as to see high and low at once--be Tragic and
Comic at the same time. But he meanwhile has been Athens' best
friend--her wisest also--since he has not challenged failure by
attempting what he could not perform. He has not risked the fate of
Thamyris, who was punished for having striven with the higher powers, as
if his vision had been equal to their own."[50] And he recites a
fragment of song, which Mr. Browning unfortunately has not completed,
describing the fiery rapture in which that poet marched, all
unconscious, to his doom. Some laughing promise and prophecy ensues, and
Aristophanes departs, in the 'rose-streaked morning grey,' bidding the
couple farewell till the coming year.

That year has come and gone. Sophocles has died: and Aristophanes has
attained his final triumph in the "Frogs"--a play flashing with every
variety of his genius--as softly musical in the mystics' chorus as
croaking in that of the frogs--in which Bacchus himself is ridiculed,
and Euripides is more coarsely handled than ever. And once more the
voice of Euripides has interposed between the Athenians and their
doom.[51] When Ægos Potamos had been fought, and Athens was in Spartan
hands, Euthykles flung the "choric flower" of the "Electra" in the face
of the foe, and

       "... because Greeks are Greeks, though Sparté's brood,
       And hearts are hearts, though in Lusandros' breast,
       And poetry is power,...."                          (p. 253.)

the city itself was spared. But when tragedy ceased, comedy was allowed
its work, and it danced away the Piræan bulwarks, which were demolished,
by Lysander's command, to the sound of the flute.

And now Euthykles and Balaustion are nearing Rhodes. Their master lies
buried in the land to which they have bidden farewell; but the winds and
waves of their island home bear witness to his immortality: for theirs
seems the voice of nature, re-echoing the cry, "There are no gods, no
gods!" his prophetic, if unconscious, tribute to the One God, "who
saves" him.

Balaustion has no genuine historic personality. She is simply what Mr.
Browning's purpose required: a large-souled woman, who could be supposed
to echo his appreciation of these two opposite forms of genius, and
express his judgments upon them. But the Euripides she depicts is
entirely constructed from his works; while her portrait of Aristophanes
shows him not only as his works reflect, but as contemporary criticism
represented him; he is one of the most vivid of Mr. Browning's
characters. The two transcripts from Euripides seem enough to prove that
that poet was far more human than Aristophanes professed to think; but
the belief of Aristophanes in the practical asceticism of his rival was
in some degree justified by popular opinion, if not in itself just; and
we can understand his feeling at once rebuked and irritated by a
contempt for the natural life which carried with it so much religious
and social change. Aristophanes was a believer in the value of
conservative ideas, though not himself a slave to them. He was also a
great poet, though often very false to his poetic self. Such a man might
easily fancy that one like Euripides was untrue to the poetry, because
untrue to the joyousness of existence; and that he shook even the
foundations of morality by reasoning away the religious conceptions
which were bound up with natural joys. The impression we receive from
Aristophanes' Apology is that he is defending something which he
believes to be true, though conscious of defending it by sophistical
arguments, and of having enforced it by very doubtful deeds; and we also
feel that from his point of view, and saving his apparent
inconsistencies, Mr. Browning is in sympathy with him. At the same time,
Balaustion's rejoinder is unanswerable, as it is meant to be; and the
double monologue distinguishes itself from others of the same group, by
being not only more dramatic and more emotional, but also more
conclusive; it is the only one of them in which the question raised is
not, in some degree, left open.

The poem bristles with local allusions and illustrations which puzzle
the non-classical reader. I add an explanatory index to some names of
things and persons which have not occurred in my brief outline of it.

Vol. xiii. p. 4. _Koré._ (Virgin.) Name given to Persephoneé. In Latin,

P. 6. _Dikast_ and _Heliast._ Dicast=Judge, Heliast=Juryman, in Athens.

P. 7. 1. _Kordax-step._ 2. _Propulaia._ (Propylaia.) 1. An indecent
dance. 2. Gateway of the Acropolis. 3. _Pnux._ (Pnyx.) 4. _Bema._ 3.
Place for the Popular Assembly. 4. Place whence speeches were made.

P. 8 _Makaria._ Heroine in a play of Euripides, who killed herself for
her country's sake.

P. 10. 1. _Milesian smart-place._ 2. _Phrunikos._ (Phrynicus.) 1. The
painful remembrance of the capture of Miletus. 2. A dramatic poet, who
made this capture the subject of a tragedy, "which, when performed
(493), so painfully wrung the feelings of the Athenian audience that
they burst into tears in the theatre, and the poet was condemned to pay
a fine of 1,000 drachmai, as having recalled to them their own
misfortunes."[52] He is derided by Aristophanes in the "Frogs" for his
method of introducing his characters.

P. 12. _Amphitheos, Deity, and Dung._ A character in the Acharnians of
Aristophanes--"not a god, and yet immortal."

P. 14. 1. _Diaulos._ 2. _Stade._ 1. A double line of the Race-course. 2.
The _Stadium_, on reaching which, the runner went back again.

P. 16. _City of Gapers._ Nickname of Athens, from the curiosity of its

P. 17. _Koppa-marked._ Race-horses of the best breed were marked with
the old letter Koppa.

P. 18. _Comic Platon._ The comic writer of that name: author of plays
and poems, _not_ THE Plato.

P. 21. _Salabaccho._ Name of a courtesan.

P. 30. _Cheek-band._ Band worn by trumpeters to support the cheeks.
_Cuckoo-apple._ Fruit so-called=fool-making food. _Threttanelo_,
_Neblaretai_. Imitative sounds: 1. Of a harp-string. 2. Of any joyous
cry. _Three-days' salt-fish slice._ Allowance of a soldier on an
expedition. (It was supposed that at the end of this time he could
forage for himself.)

P. 31. _Goat's breakfast and other abuse._ Indecent allusions, to be
fancied, not explained.

P. 32. _Sham Ambassadors._ Characters in the Acharnians. _Kudathenian._
Famous Athenian. _Pandionid._ Descendant of Pandion, King of Athens.
_Goat-Song._ Tragoedia--Tradegy. It was called goat-song because a
goat-skin, probably filled with wine, was once given as a prize for it.
The expression occurs in Shelley.

P. 33. _Willow-Wicker Flask._ Nickname of the poet it is applied to, a

P. 36. _Lyric Shell or Tragic Barbiton._ Lesser and larger lyre.

P. 38. _Sousarion._ Susarion of Megara, inventor of Attic comedy.
_Chionides._ His successor.

P. 39. _Little-in-the-Fields._ The Dionysian Feast; a lesser one than
the City Dionysia.

P. 40. _Ameipsias._ A comic poet, contemporary with Aristophanes, whose
two best plays he beat.

P. 42. _Iostephanos._ "Violet-crowned," name of Athens. _Kleophon._ A
demagogue of bad character, attacked by Aristophanes as profligate, and
an enemy of peace. _Kleonumos._ A similar character; also a big fellow,
and great coward.

P. 43. _Telekleides._ Old comic poet, on the same side as Aristophanes.
_Mullos and Euetes._ Comic poets who revived the art of comedy in Athens
after Susarion.

P. 44. _Morucheides._ Son of Morychus--like his father, a comic poet and
a glutton. _Sourakosios._ Another comic poet.

P. 46. _Trilophos._ Wearer of three crests on his helmet.

P. 47. _Ruppapai._ Word used by the crew in rowing--hence, the crew

P. 49. _Free dinner in the Prutaneion._ (Prytaneion.) Such was accorded
to certain privileged persons. _Ariphrades._ A man of infamous
character, singer to the harp: persistently attacked by Aristophanes.
_Karkinos._ Comic actor: had famous dancing sons.

P. 50. _Exomis._ A woman's garment. _Parachoregema._ Subordinate chorus,
which sings in the absence of the principal one. _Aristullos._ Bad
character satirized by Aristophanes, and used in one of his plays as a
travesty of Plato. This incident, and Plato's amused indifference, are
mentioned at p. 137 of the Apology.

P. 51. _Murrhine_, _Akalantis_. Female names in the Thesmophoriazusae.
_New Kalligeneia._ Name given to Ceres, meaning, "bearer of lovely
children." _The Toxotes._ A Syrian archer in the "Thesmophoriazusae."
_The Great King's Eye._ Mock name given to an ambassador from Persia in
the Acharnians. _Kompolakuthes._ Bully-boaster: with a play on the name
of Lamachus.

P. 52. _Silphion._ A plant used as a relish. _Kleon-Clapper._ Corrector
of Kleon.

P. 54. _Trugaios._ Epithet of Bacchus, "vintager;" here name of a person
in the comedy of "Peace." _Story of Simonides._ Simonides, the lyric
poet, sang an ode to his patron, Scopas, at a feast; and as he had
introduced into it the praises of Castor and Pollux, Scopas declared
that he would only pay his own half-share of the ode, and the Demi-gods
might pay the remainder. Presently it was announced to Simonides that
two youths desired to see him outside the palace; on going there he
found nobody, but meanwhile the palace fell in, killing his patron. Thus
was he _paid_.

P. 58. _Maketis._ Capital of Macedonia.

P. 60. _Lamachos._ General who fell at the siege of Syracuse; satirized
by Aristophanes as a brave, but boastful man.

P. 67. _Sophroniskos' Son._ Socrates.

P. 74. _Kephisophon._ Actor, and friend of Euripides; enviously reported
to help him in writing his plays.

P. 79. _Palaistra._ A wrestling-school, or place of exercise.

P. 82. _San._ Letter distinguishing race-horses. _Thearion's Meal-Tub
Politics._ Politics of Thearion the baker. _Pisthetarios._ Character in
the "Birds," alias "Mr. Persuasive." _Strephsiades._ Character in the

P. 83. _Rocky ones._ Epithet given to the Athenians.

P. 85. _Promachos._ Champion.

P. 86. _The Boulé._ State Council. _Prodikos._ Prodicus. A Sophist,
satirized in the "Birds" and "Clouds."

P. 87. _Choes._ Festival at Athens. "The Pitchers."

P. 89. _Plataian help._ The Platæans sent a thousand well appointed
warriors to help at Marathon. The term stands for _timely_ help.

P. 94. _Plethron square._ 100 feet square.

P. 98. _Palaistra tool._ Tool used at the Palaistra, or wrestling
school: in this case the strigil.

P. 99. _Phales._ _Iacchos._ Two epithets of Bacchus--the former

P. 112. _Kinesias._ According to Aristophanes, a bad profligate lyric
poet, notable for his leanness.

P. 113. _Rattei._ Like "Neblaretai," an imitative or gibberish word
expressing joyous excitement. _Aristonumos._ _Sannurion._ Two comic
poets, the latter ridiculed by Aristophanes for his leanness.

P. 124. _Parabasis._ Movement of the chorus, wherein the Coryphoeus came
forward and spoke in the poet's name.

P. 128. _Skiadeion._ Sunshade. Parasol.

P. 129. _Theoria._ _Opora._ Characters in the Eirené or "Peace:" the
first personifying games, spectacles, sights; the second, plenty,
fruitful autumn, and so on.

P. 133. _Philokleon._ Lover of Kleon. (Cleon.) _Bdelukleon._ Reviler of

P. 135. _Logeion._ Front of the stage occupied by the actors.

P. 137. _Kukloboros-roaring._ Roaring like the torrent Cycloborus (in

P. 140. _Konnos._ The play by Ameipsias which beat the "Clouds."
_Euthumenes._ One who refused the pay of the comic writers, while he
tripled that of those who attended at the Assembly. _Argurrhios._ As
before. _Kinesias._ As before.

P. 144. _Triballos._ A supposed _country_ and clownish god.

P. 172. _Propula._ (Propyla.) Gateway to the Acropolis.

P. 248. _Elaphebolion month._ The "Stag-striking" month.

P. 249. _Bakis prophecy._ Foolish prophecies attributed to one Bacis,
rife at that time; a collective name for all such.

P. 255. _Kommos._ General weeping--by the chorus and an actor.


"Fifine at the Fair" is a defence of inconstancy, or of the right of
experiment in love; and is addressed by a husband to his wife, whose
supposed and very natural comments the monologue reflects. The speaker's
implied name of Don Juan sufficiently tells us what we are meant to
think of his arguments; and they also convict themselves by landing him
in an act of immorality, which brings its own punishment. This character
is nevertheless a standing puzzle to Mr. Browning's readers, because
that which he condemns in it, and that which he does not, are not to be
distinguished from each other. It is impossible to see where Mr.
Browning ends and where Don Juan begins. The reasoning is scarcely ever
that of a heartless or profligate person, though it very often betrays
an unconsciously selfish one. It treats love as an education still more
than as a pleasure; and if it lowers the standard of love, or defends
too free an indulgence in it, it does so by asserting what is true for
imaginative persons, though not for the commonplace: that whatever stirs
even a sensuous admiration appeals also to the artistic, the moral, and
even the religious nature. Its obvious sophistries are mixed up with the
profoundest truths, and the speaker's tone has often the tenderness of
one who, with all his inconstancy, has loved deeply and long. We can
only solve the problem by referring to the circumstances in which the
idea of the poem arose.

Mr. Browning was, with his family, at Pornic many years ago, and there
saw the gipsy who is the original of Fifine. His fancy was evidently
sent roaming, by her audacity, her strength--the contrast which she
presented to the more spiritual types of womanhood; and this contrast
eventually found expression in a poetic theory of life, in which these
opposite types and their corresponding modes of attraction became the
necessary complement of each other. As he laid down the theory, Mr.
Browning would be speaking in his own person. But he would turn into
someone else in the act of working it out--for it insensibly carried
with it a plea for yielding to those opposite attractions, not only
successively, but at the same time; and a modified Don Juan would grow
up under his pen, thinking in some degree his thoughts, using in some
degree his language, and only standing out as a distinctive character at
the end of the poem. The higher type of womanhood must appear in the
story, at the same time as the lower which is represented by Fifine; and
Mr. Browning would instinctively clothe it in the form which first
suggested or emphasized the contrast. He would soon, however, feel that
the vision was desecrated by the part it was called upon to play. He
would disguise or ward it off when possible: now addressing Elvire by
her husband's mouth, in the terms of an ideal companionship, now again
reducing her to the level of an every-day injured wife; and when the
dramatic Don Juan was about to throw off the mask, the flickering wifely
personality would be extinguished altogether, and the unfaithful husband
left face to face with the mere phantom of conscience which, in one
sense, Elvire is always felt to be. This is what actually occurs; and
only from this point of view can we account for the perpetual
encroaching of the imaginary on the real, the real on the imaginary,
which characterizes the work.

A fanciful prologue, "Amphibian," strikes its key-note. The writer
imagines himself floating on the sea, pleasantly conscious of his bodily
existence, yet feeling unfettered by it. A strange beautiful butterfly
floats past him in the air; her radiant wings can be only those of a
soul; and it strikes him that while the waves are his property, and the
air is hers, hers is true freedom, his only the mimicry of it. He sees
little to regret in this, since imagination is as good as reality; and
Heaven itself can only be made up of such things as poets dream. Yet he
knows that his swimming seems but a foolish compromise between the
flight to which he cannot attain, and the more grovelling mode of being
which he has no real wish to renounce; and he wonders whether she, the
already released, who is upborne by those sunlit wings, does not look
down with pity and wonder upon him. So also will Elvire, though less
dispassionately, watch the intellectual vagaries of her Don Juan, which
embrace the heavens, but are always centred in earth. This prologue is
preceded by a quotation from Molière's "Don Juan," in which Elvire
satirically prescribes to her lover the kind of self-defence--or
something not unlike it--which Mr. Browning's hero will adopt.

Don Juan invites his wife to walk with him through the fair: and as he
points out its sights to her, he expatiates on the pleasures of
vagrancy, and declares that the red pennon waving on the top of the
principal booth sends an answering thrill of restlessness through his
own frame. He then passes to a glowing eulogium on the charms of the
dark-skinned rope-dancer, Fifine, who forms part of the itinerant show.

Elvire gives tokens of perturbation, and her husband frankly owns that
as far as Fifine is concerned, he cannot defend his taste: he can
scarcely account for it. "Beautiful she is, in her feminine grace and
strength, set forth by her boyish dress; but with probably no more
feeling than a sprite, and no more conscience than a flower. It is
likely enough that her antecedents have been execrable, and that her
life is in harmony with them." Still, he does not wish it supposed that
he admires a body without a soul: and he tries to convince himself that
Fifine, after all, is not quite without one. "There is no grain of sand
on the sea-shore which may not, once in a century, be the first to
flash back the rising sun; there can be no human spirit which does not
in the course of its existence greet the Divine light with one answering

But no heavenly spark can be detected in Fifine; and he is reduced to
seeking a virtue for her, a justification for himself, in that very
fact. If she has no virtue, she also pretends to none. If she gives
nothing to society, she asks nothing of it. His fancy raises up a
procession of such women as the world has crowned: a Helen, a Cleopatra,
some Christian saint; he bids Elvire see herself as part of it--as the
true Helen, who, according to the legend, never quitted Greece,
contemplated her own phantom within the walls of Troy--and be satisfied
that she is "best" of all. "All alike are wanting in one grace which
Fifine possesses: that of self-effacement. Helen and Cleopatra demand
unquestioning homage for their own mental as well as bodily charms; the
saint demands it for the principle she sets forth. His love demands that
he shall see into her heart; his wife that he shall believe the
impossible as regards her own powers of devotion. Fifine says,'You come
to look at my outside, my foreign face and figure my outlandish limbs.
Pay for the sight if it has pleased you, and give me credit for nothing
beyond what you see.' So simply honest an appeal must touch his heart."

Don Juan well knows what his wife thinks of all this, and he says it for
her. "Fifine attracts him for no such out of the way reason. Her charm
is that she is something new, and something which does not belong to
him. He is the soul of inconstancy; and if he had the sun for his own,
he would hanker after other light, were it that of a tallow-candle or a
squib." But he assures her that this reasoning is unsound, and his
amusing himself with a lower thing does not prove that he has become
indifferent to the higher. He shows this by reminding her of a picture
of Raphael's, which he was mad to possess; which now that he possesses
it, he often neglects for a picture-book of Doré's; but which, if
threatened with destruction, he would save at the sacrifice of a million
Dorés, perhaps of his own life. And now he turns back to her phantom
self, as present in his own mind; describes it in terms of exquisite
grace and purity; and declares hers the one face which fits into his
heart, and makes whole what would be half without it.

Elvire is conciliated; but her husband will not leave well alone. He has
established her full claim to his admiration: but he is going to prove
that so far as her physical charms are concerned, she owes it to his
very attachment: "for those charms are not attested by her
looking-glass. He discovers them by the eye of love--in other words--by
the artist soul within him."

All beauty, Don Juan farther explains, is in the imagination of him who
feels it, be he lover or artist; be the beauty he descries the attribute
of a living face, of a portrait, or of some special arrangement of
sound. The feeling is inspired by its outward objects, but it cannot be
retraced to them. It is a fancy created by fact, as flame by fuel; no
more identical with it. The fancy is not on that account a delusion. It
is the vision of ideal truth: the recognition by an inner sense of that
which does not exist for the outer. That is why hearts choose each other
by help of the face, and why they choose so diversely. The eye of love,
which again is the eye of art, reads soul into the features, however
incomplete their expression of it may be. It reconstructs the ideal type
which nature has failed to carry out.

He illustrates this by means of three faces roughly sketched in the
sand. At first sight they are grotesque and unmeaning. Yet a few more
strokes of the broken pipe which is serving him as a pencil, will give
to two of these a predominating expression; convert the third into a
likeness of Elvire.

"These completing touches represent the artist's action upon life. By
this method Don Juan has been enabled on a former occasion, to complete
a work of high art. A block of marble had come into his possession, half
shaped by the hand of Michael Angelo.

       "... One hand,--the Master's,--smoothed and scraped
       That mass, he hammered on and hewed at, till he hurled
       Life out of death, and left a challenge: for the world,
       Death still,--...." (vol. xi. p. 260.)

Not death to him: for as he gazed on the rough-hewn block, a form
emerged upon his mental sight--a form which he interpreted as that of
the goddess Eidotheé.[53] And as his soul received it from that of the
dead master, his hand carried it out."

Mr. Browning's whole theory of artistic perception is contained in the
foregoing lines; but he proceeds to enforce it in another way. "The life
thus evoked from death, the beauty from ugliness, is the gain of each
special soul--its permanent conquest over matter. The mode of effecting
this is the special secret of every soul; and this Don Juan defines as
its chemic secret, the law of its affinities, the law of its actions and
reactions. Where one, he says, lights force, another draws forth pity;
where one finds food for self-indulgence, another acquires strength for
self-sacrifice. One blows life's ashes into rose-coloured flame, another
into less heavenly hues. Love will have reached its height when the
secret of each soul has become the knowledge of all; and the
many-coloured rays of individual experience are fused in the white light
of universal truth."

Here again Don Juan imagines a retort. Elvire makes short work of his
poetic theories, and declares that this professed interest in souls is a
mere pretext for the gratification of sense. "Whom in heaven's name is
he trying to take in?" He entreats music to take his part. "It alone can
pierce the mists of falsehood which intervene between the soul and
truth. And now, as they stroll homewards in the light of the setting
sun, all things seem charged with those deeper harmonies--with those
vital truths of existence which words are powerless to convey. Elvire,
however, has no soul for music, and her husband must have recourse to

The case between them may, he thinks, be stated in this question, "How
do we rise from falseness into truth?" "We do so after the fashion of
the swimmer who brings his nostrils to the level of the upper air, but
leaves the rest of his body under water--by the act of self-immersion in
the very element from which we wish to escape. Truth is to the aspiring
soul as the upper air to the swimmer: the breath of life. But if the
swimmer attempts to free his head and arms, he goes under more
completely than before. If the soul strives to escape from the grosser
atmosphere into the higher, she shares the same fate. Her truthward
yearnings plunge her only deeper into falsehood. Body and soul must
alike surrender themselves to an element in which they cannot breathe,
for this element can alone sustain them. But through the act of plunging
we float up again, with a deeper disgust at the briny taste we have
brought back; with a deeper faith in the life above, and a deeper
confidence in ourselves, whom the coarser element has proved unable to

"Suppose again, that as we paddle with our hands under water, we grasp
at something which seems a soul. The piece of falsity slips through our
fingers, but by the mechanical reaction just described, it sends us
upwards into the realm of truth. This is precisely what Fifine has done.
Of the earth earthy as she is, she has driven you and me into the realms
of abstract truth. We have thus no right to despise her" This discourse
is interrupted by a contemptuous allusion to a passage in "Childe
Harold," (fourth canto), in which the human intelligence is challenged
to humble itself before the ocean.

Elvire is still dissatisfied. The suspicious fact remains, that whatever
experience her husband desires to gain, it is always a woman who must
supply it. This he frankly admits; and he gives his reason. "Women lend
themselves to experiment; men do not. Men are egotists, and absorb
whatever comes in their way. Women, whether Fifines or Elvires, allow
themselves to be absorbed. You master men only by reducing yourself to
their level. You captivate women by showing yourself at your best. Their
power of hero-worship is illustrated by the act of the dolphin, 'True
woman creature,' which bore the ship-wrecked Arion to the Corinthian
coast. Men are not only wanting in true love: their best powers are
called forth by hate. They resemble the vine, first 'stung' into
'fertility' by the browsing goat, which nibbled away its tendrils, and
gained the 'indignant wine' by the process. In their feminine
characteristics Elvire stands far higher than Fifine; but Fifine is for
that very reason more useful as a means of education; for Elvire may be
trusted implicitly; Fifine teaches one to take care of himself. They are
to each other as the strong ship and the little rotten bark." This
comparison is suggested by a boatman whom they lately saw adventurously
pushing his way through shoal and sandbank because he would not wait for
the tide.

Don Juan begs leave to speak one word more in defence of Fifine and her
masquerading tribe; it will recall his early eulogium on her frankness.
"All men are actors: but these alone do not deceive. All you are
expected to applaud in them is the excellence of the avowed sham."

Don Juan has thus developed his theory that soul is attainable through
flesh, truth through falsehood, the real through what only seems; and,
as he thinks, justified the conclusion that a man's spiritual life is
advanced by every experience, moral or immoral, which comes in his way.
He now relates a dream by which, as he says, those abstract reflections
have been in part inspired; in reality, it continues, and in some degree
refutes them. The dream came to him this morning when he had played
himself to sleep with Schumann's Carnival; having chosen this piece
because his brain was burdened with many thoughts and fancies which,
better than any other, it would enable him to work off; and as he tells
this, he enlarges on the faculty of music to register, as well as
express, every passing emotion of the human soul. He notes also the
constant recurrence of the same old themes, and the caprice of taste
which strives as constantly to convert them into something new.

The dream carries him to Venice, and he awakes, in fancy, on some
pinnacle above St. Mark's Square, overlooking the Carnival. Here his
power of artistic divination--alias of human sympathy, is called into
play; for the men and women below him all wear the semblance of some
human deformity, of some animal type, or of some grotesque embodiment of
human feeling or passion. He throws himself into their midst, and these
monstrosities disappear. The human asserts itself; the brute-like
becomes softened away; what imperfection remains creates pity rather
than disgust. He finds that by shifting his point of view, he can see
even necessary qualities in what otherwise struck him as faults.

Another change takes place: one felt more easily than defined; and he
becomes aware that he is looking not on Venice, but on the world, and
that what seemed her Carnival is in reality the masquerade of life. The
change goes on. Halls and temples are transformed beneath his gaze. The
systems which they represent: religions, philosophies, moralities, and
theories of art, collapse before him, re-form and collapse again. He
sees that the deepest truth can only build on sand, though itself is
stationed on a rock; and can only assert its substance in the often
changing forms of error. The vision seems to declare that change is the
Law of Life.

"Not so," it was about to say. "That law is permanence." The scene has
resembled the forming and reforming, the blending and melting asunder of
a pile of sunset clouds. Like these, when the sun has set, it is
subsiding into a fixed repose, a stern and colourless uniformity.
Temple, tower, and dwelling-house assume the form of one solitary
granite pile, a Druid monument. This monument, as Mr. Browning describes
it,[54] consists really of two, so standing or lying as to form part of
each other. The one cross-shaped is supposed to have been sepulchral, or
in some other way sacred to death. The latter, on which he mainly
dwells, was, until lately, the centre of a rude nature-worship, and is
therefore consecrated to life. It symbolizes life in its most active and
most perennial form. It means the force which aspires to heaven, and the
strength which is rooted in the earth. It means that impulse of all
being towards something outside itself, which is constant amidst all
change, uniform amidst all variety. It means the last word of the scheme
of creation, and therefore also the first. It repeats and concludes the
utterance already sounding in the spectator's ear:--

       "... 'All's change, but permanence as well.'
       --Grave note whence--list aloft!--harmonics sound, that mean:
       Truth inside, and outside, truth also; and between
       Each, falsehood that is change, as truth is permanence.
       The individual soul works through the shows of sense,
       (Which, ever proving false, still promise to be true)
       Up to an outer soul as individual too;
       And, through the fleeting, lives to die into the fixed,
       And reach at length 'God, man, or both together mixed,'"[55]
                                                 (p. 332.)

The condition of this monument, its history, the conjectures to which
it has given rise, are described in a humorous spirit which belies its
mystic significance; but that significance is imbedded in the very
conception of the poem, and distinctly expressed in the author's
subsequent words. The words which I have just quoted contain the whole
philosophy of "Fifine at the Fair" as viewed on its metaphysical side.
They declare the changing relations of the soul to some fixed eternal
truth foreshadowed in the impulses of sense. They are the burden of Don
Juan's argument even when he is defending what is wrong. They are the
constantly recurring keynote of what the author has meant to say.

Don Juan draws also a new and more moral lesson from this final vision
of his dream. "Inconstancy is not justified by natural law, for it means
unripeness of soul. The ripe soul evolves the Infinite from a fixed
point. It finds the many in the one. Elvire is the _one_ who includes
the _many_. Elvire is the ocean: while Fifine is but the foam-flake
which the ocean can multiply at pleasure. Elvire shall henceforth
suffice to him."

But here, as elsewhere, he makes a great mistake: that of confusing
nature with the individual man. Her instability supplied him with no
excuse for being inconstant, and her permanence gives him no motive for
constancy; and he proves this in another moment by breaking bounds no
longer in word only, but in deed. It turns out that he had put gold as
well as silver into Fifine's tambourine. The result, intended or not,
has been a letter slipped into his hand. He claims five minutes to go
and "clear the matter up;" exceeds the time, and on returning finds his
punishment in an empty home.

This at least, we seem intended to infer. For Elvire has already
startled him by assuming the likeness of a phantom, and he gives her
leave, in case he breaks his word, to vanish away altogether. The story
ends here; but its epilogue "The Householder" depicts a widowed
husband, grotesquely miserable, fetched home by his departed wife; and
his identity with Don Juan seems unmistakable. This scene is more
humorous than pathetic, as befits the dramatic spirit of the poem; but
the most serious purport and most comprehensive meaning of "Fifine at
the Fair" are summed up in its closing words. The "householder" is
composing his epitaph, and his wife thus concludes it: "Love is all, and
Death is nought."


"Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau" is a defence of the doctrine of
expediency: and the monologue is supposed to be carried on by the late
Emperor of the French, under this feigned name. Louis Napoleon is musing
over past and present, and blending them with each other in a waking
dream. He seems in exile again. But the events of his reign are all, or
for the most part behind him, and they have earned for him the title of
"inscrutable." A young lady of an adventurous type has crossed his path,
in the appropriate region of Leicester Square. Some adroit flattery on
her side has disposed him to confidence, and he is proving to her, over
tea and cigars, that he is not so "inscrutable" after all; or, if he be,
that the key to the enigma is a simple one. "This wearer of crinoline
seems destined to play Oedipus to the Sphinx he is supposed to be;" or
better still, as he gallantly adds, the "Lais" for whose sake he will
unveil the mystery unasked. The situation he thus assumes is not
dignified; but as Mr. Browning probably felt, his choice of a
_confidante_ suits the nature of what he has to tell, as well as the
circumstances in which he tells it. Politically, he has lived from hand
to mouth. So in a different way has she. A very trifling incident
enables him to illustrate his confession, which will proceed without
interruption on the listener's part.

They are sitting at a table with writing materials upon it. Among these
lies a piece of waste-paper. Prince Hohenstiel descries upon it two
blots, takes up a pen, and draws a line from one to the other. This
simple, half-mechanical act is, as he declares, a type of his whole
life; it contains the word of the enigma. His constant principle has
been: not to strive at creating anything new; not to risk marring what
already existed; but to adapt what he found half made and to continue
it. In other words, he has been a sustainer or "saviour," not a reformer
of society.

Many pages are devoted to the statement and vindication of this fact,
and they contain everything that can be said, from a religious or
practical point of view, in favour of taking the world as we find it.
Prince Hohenstiel's first argument is: that he has not the genius of a
reformer, and it is a man's first duty to his Creator to do that only
which he can do best; his second: that sweeping reforms are in
themselves opposed to the creative plan, because they sacrifice
everything to one leading idea, and aim at reducing to one pattern those
human activities which God has intended to be multiform; the third and
strongest: that the scheme of existence with all its apparent evils is
God's work, and no man can improve upon it. There have been, he admits,
revolutions in the moral as well as the physical world; and inspired
reformers, who were born to carry them on; but these men are rare and
portentous as the physical agencies to which they correspond, and
whether "dervish (desert-spectre), swordsman, saint, lawgiver," or
"lyrist," appear only when the time is ripe for them. Meanwhile, the
great machine advances by means of the minute springs, the revolving
wheel-work, of individual lives. Let each of these be content with its
limited sphere. God is with each and all.

And Prince Hohenstiel has another and still stronger reason for not
desiring to tamper with the existing order of things. He finds it good.
He loves existence as he knows it, with its mysteries and its beauties;
its complex causes and incalculable effects; the good it extracts from
evil; the virtue it evolves from suffering. He reveres that Temple of
God's own building, from which deploys the ever varying procession of
human life. If the temple be intricate in its internal construction, if
its architectural fancies impede our passage; if they make us stumble or
even fall; his invariable advice is this: "Throw light on the
stumbling-blocks; fix your torch above them at such points as the
architect approves. But do not burn them away." He considers himself
therefore, not a very great man, but a useful one: one possessing on a
small scale the patience of an Atlas, if not the showy courage of a
Hercules: one whose small achievements pave the way for the great ones.

Thus far the imaginary speaker so resembles Mr. Browning himself, that
we forget for the moment that we are not dealing with him; and his
vicarious testimony to the value of human life lands him, at page 145,
in a personal protest against the folly which under cover of poetry
seeks to run it down. He lashes out against the "bard" who can rave
about inanimate nature as something greater than man; and who talks of
the "unutterable" impressions conveyed by the ocean, as greater than the
intelligence and sympathy, the definite thoughts and feelings which
_can_ be uttered. The lines from "Childe Harold" which will be satirized
in "Fifine at the Fair" are clearly haunting him here. But we shall now
pass on to more historic ground.

It is a natural result of these opinions that Prince
Hohenstiel-Schwangau regards life as the one boon which contains every
other; and that the material prosperity of his people has been the first
object by which his "sustaining" policy was inspired. He does not deny
that even within the limits thus imposed, some choice of cause or system
seemed open to him. "It seemed open to him to choose between religion
and free-thought, between monarchy and government by the people: and to
throw his energies entirely into one scale or the other, instead of
weighting one and the other by turns. It could justly have been urged
that the simpler aim is included in the more complex, and that he would
promote the interests of his subjects by serving them from the wider,
rather than from the narrower point of view."

"But what is true in theory is not always so in practice. He has loved a
cause, and believed in it--the cause of united Italy; and so long as he
was free to express sympathy with this--so long, his critics say, as he
was a mere voice, with air to float in, and no obstacle to bar his
way--he expressed it from the bottom of his soul. But with the power to
act--with the firm ground wheron to act--came also the responsibilities
of action: the circumstance by which it must be controlled. He saw the
wants of his people; the eyes which craved light alone, and the mouths
which craved only bread. He felt that the ideal must yield to the real,
the remote to what was near; and the work of Italian deliverance
remained incomplete. It was his very devotion to the one principle which
brought the reproach of vacillation upon him."

"He broke faith with his people too"--so his critics continue--"for he
supplied food to their bodies; but withheld the promised liberties of
speech and writing which would have brought nourishment to their souls."

And again he answers that he gave them what they wanted most. He gave
them that which would enable them to acquire freedom of soul, and
without which such freedom would have been useless.

He concedes something, however, to reformers by declaring, as his final
excuse, that he would not have thus yielded to circumstances if the
average life of man were a hundred years instead of twenty; for, given
sufficient time, all adverse circumstance may be overcome. "The body
dies if it be thwarted. Mind--in other words, intellectual
truth--triumphs through opposition. Envy, hatred, and stupidity, are to
it as the rocks which obstruct the descending stream, and toss it in
jewelled spray above the chasm by which it is confined. Abstract
thinkers have therefore their rights also; and it is well that those, in
some respects, greater and better men than he, who are engaged in the
improvement of the world, should find success enough to justify their
hopes; failure enough to impose caution on their endeavours."

The Prince confesses once for all, that since improvement is so
necessarily limited; since the higher life is incompatible with life in
the flesh: he is content to wait for the higher life and make the best
he can of the lower. But if anyone declares that this quiescent attitude
means indolence or sleep, his judgment is on a par with that which was
once passed on the famous statue of the Laocoon. Some artist had covered
the accessories of the group, and left only the contorted central
figure, with nothing to explain its contortions. One man said as he
looked upon it,

                       "... I think the gesture strives
       Against some obstacle we cannot see." (p. 172.)

Every other spectator pronounced the "gesture" a yawn.

Prince Hohenstiel gives us a second proof that he is not without belief
in the ideal. He accepts the doctrine of evolution: though not in its
scientific sense. He likes the idea of having felt his way up to
humanity (as he now feels his way in it) through progressive forms of
existence; he being always himself, and nowise the thing he dwelt in. He
likes to account in this manner for the feeling of kinship which
attracts him to all created things. It also completes his vision of
mankind as fining off at the summit into isolated peaks, but held
together at the base by its common natural life; and thus confirms him
in the impression that the personal needs and mutual obligations of the
natural life are paramount.

As he concludes this part of his harangue, an amused consciousness
steals over him that he has been washing himself very white; and that
his self-defence has been principally self-praise--at least, to his
listener's ears. So he proceeds to show that his arguments were just, by
showing how easily, being blamed for the one course of action, he might
have been no less censured for the opposite. He imagines that his life
has been written by some romancing historian of the Thiers and Victor
Hugo type; and that in this version, practical wisdom, or SAGACITY, is
made to suggest everything which he has really done, while he unwisely
obeys the dictates of ideal virtue and does everything which he did not.

Hohenstiel-Schwangau (France) had made him her head-servant: president
of the assembly which she had elected to serve her; and he knew that his
fellow-servants were working for their own ends, while he alone was
faithful to his bond. He, doubtless, had his dreams, conjured up by
SAGACITY, of pouncing upon the unfaithful ones, denouncing them to his
mistress, the State, and begging her to allow him to do their work as
well as his own, till such time as the danger was past, and her desire
for a more popular government could be fulfilled. But in so doing he
would have deceived her, and he chose the truth. He knew that he had no
right to substitute himself for the multitude, his knowledge for their
ignorance, his will for theirs; since wise and foolish were alike of
God's creating, and each had his own place and purpose in the general
scheme. (Here and through the following pages, 176-7, the real and the
imaginary Prince appear merged into each other.) He performed his strict
duty, and left things to their natural course.

His position grew worse and worse. His fellow-servants made no secret of
their plans--to be carried into execution when his time of service
should have expired, and his controlling hand been removed from them.
Each had his own mine of tyranny--whether Popedom, Socialism, or
other--which he meant to spring on the people fancying itself free. The
Head Servant was silent. They took fright at his silence. "It meant
mischief." "It meant counterplot." "It meant some stroke of State." "He
must be braved and bullied. His re-election must be prevented; the sword
of office must be wrested from his grasp."

At length his time expired, and _then_ he acted and spoke. He made no
"stroke of State." He stepped down from his eminence; laid his authority
in the people's hand; proved to it its danger, and proposed that
Hohenstiel-Schwangau should give him the needful authority for
protecting her. The proposal was unanimously accepted; and he justified
his own judgment and that of his country by chastising every disturber
of the public peace, and reducing alike knaves and fools to silence and
submission. But now SAGACITY found fault: "he had not taken the evil in
time; he might have nipped it in the bud, and saved life and liberty by
so doing: he had waited till it was full grown, and the cost in life and
liberty had been enormous." He replied that he had been checked by his
allegiance to the law; and that rather than strain the law, however
slightly, he was bound to see it broken.

And so, the record continues, he worked and acted to the end. He had
received his authority from the people; he governed first for them.
(Here again, and at the following page 184, we seem to recognize the
real Hohenstiel or Louis Napoleon, rather than the imaginary.) He walked
reverently--superstitiously, if spectators will--in the path marked out
for him, ever fearing to imperil what was good in the existing order of
things; but casting all fear aside when an obvious evil cried out for
correction. Hohenstiel-Schwangau--herself a republic--had attacked the
liberties of Rome, and destroyed them with siege and slaughter. On his
accession to power, he found this "infamy triumphant."

SAGACITY suggested that he should leave it untouched. "It was no work of
his; he was not answerable for its existence. It had its political
advantages for his own country."

But he would not hear of such a course. There was a canker in the body
politic, requiring to be cut out; and he cut it out: though the patient
roared, the wound bled, and the operator was abused by friend and foe.

"Why so rough and precipitate?" again SAGACITY interposed, "though the
right were on your side? Why not temporize, persuade, even threaten,
before coming to blows?"

"Yes," was the reply, "and see the evil strengthen while you look on."

SAGACITY defended her advice on larger grounds; and here too he was at
issue with her. Hohenstiel-Schwangau had a passion for fighting. She
would fight for anything, or for nothing, merely to show that she knew
how. Give her a year's peace after any war, and she was once more ready
for the fray. Prince Hohenstiel and SAGACITY both agreed that this evil
temper must be destroyed; but SAGACITY advised him to undermine--Prince
Hohenstiel chose to combat it.

SAGACITY said, "Here is an interval of peace. Prolong it, make it
delightful; but do so under cover of intending to cut it short. If you
would induce a fierce mountain tribe to come down from its fortress and
settle in the plain, you do not bid it destroy the fortress. You bid it
enjoy life in the city, and remember that it runs no risk in doing so,
because it has its fortress to fall back upon at the first hint of
danger. And the time will come when it can hear with equanimity that the
fortress has gone to ruin, and that fighting is no longer in fashion.
The mountain tribe will have learned to love the fatness of the valley,
while thinking of those mother ribs of its mountain fastness which are
ever waiting to prop up its life. Just so put a wooden sword into the
hand of the Hohenstieler, and let him brag of war, learning meanwhile
the value of peace."

"Not so," the Prince replied; "my people shall not be cheated into
virtue. Truth is the one good thing. I will tell them the truth. I will
tell them that war, for war's sake, is damnable; that glory at its best
is shame, since its image is a gilded bubble which a resolute hand might
prick, but the breath of a foolish multitude buoys up beyond its reach."
"And what," he asked, "is the glory, what the greatness, which this
foolish nation seeks? That of making every other small; not that of
holding its place among others which are themselves great. Shall such a
thing be possible as that the nation which earth loves best--a people so
aspiring, so endowed; so magnetic in its attraction for its
fellow-men--shall think its primacy endangered because another selects a
ruler it has not patronized, or chooses to sell steel untaxed?"

"But this does not mean that Hohenstiel is to relinquish the power of
war. The aggressiveness which is damnable in herself is to be condemned
in others, and to be punished in them. Therefore, for the sake of
Austria who sins, of Italy who suffers, of Hohenstiel-Schwangau who has
a duty to perform, the war which SAGACITY deprecates must be waged, and
Austria smitten till Italy is free."

"At least," rejoins SAGACITY, "you secure some reward from the country
you have freed; say, the cession of Nice and Savoy; something to satisfy
those at home who doubt the market-value of right and truth."

"No," is the reply, "you may preach that to Metternich and remain with
him." And so the Prince worked on; determined that neither fear, nor
treachery, nor much less blundering, on his part, should imperil the
precarious balance of the world's life.

Once more, and for the last time, SAGACITY lifts up her voice. "You were
the fittest man to rule. Give solidity to your life's work by leaving a
fit successor to carry it on. Secure yourself this successor in a son.
The world is open to you for the choice of your bride."

And again the ideal Prince retorts on the suggestion. "The fit successor
is not secured in this way. All experience proves it. The spark of
genius is dropped where God will. It may find hereditary (hence
accumulated) faculties ready to be ignited. It may fire the barren
rock." And, changing the metaphor,

                             "... The seed o' the apple-tree
       Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
       'Tis the great gardener grafts the excellence
       On wildings where he will."                   (p. 203.)

He ends by calling up the vision of an Italian wayside temple, in which,
as the legend declares, succession was carried on after a very different
principle. Each successive high priest has become so by murdering his
predecessor, his qualification being found in that simple fact; or in
the qualities of cunning or courage of which it has been the test.[56]

And now the dream is lived through, and Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau
awakens in his own palace: not much better pleased with his own plain
speaking than with the imaginary heroics of Messrs. Hugo and Thiers.
"One's case is so much stronger before it is put into words. Motives
which seem sufficient in the semi-darkness of one's own consciousness,
are so feeble in the light of day. When we reason with ourselves, we
subordinate outward claims without appearing to do so: since the
necessity of making the best of life for our own sake supplies
unconsciously to ourselves the point of view from which all our
reasonings proceed. When forced to think aloud, we stoop to what is
probably an untruth. We say that our motives were--what they should have
been; what perhaps we have fancied them to be."

These closing pages convey the author's comment on Prince Hohenstiel's
defence. They present it, in his well-known manner, as what such a man
might be tempted to say; rather than what this particular man was
justified in saying. But he takes the Prince's part in the lines

                               "Alack, one lies oneself
       Even in the stating that one's end was truth," (p. 209.)

for they farther declare that though we aim at truth, our words cannot
always be trusted to hit it. The best cannon ever rifled will sometimes
deflect. Words do this also. We recognize the conviction of the
inadequacy of language which was so forcibly expressed in the Pope's
soliloquy in "The Ring and the Book," but in what seems a more defined


"Bishop Blougram's Apology" is a defence of religious conformity in
those cases in which the doctrines to which we conform exceed our powers
of belief, but ate not throughout opposed to them; its point of view
being that of a Roman Catholic churchman, who has secured his preferment
by this kind of compromise. It is addressed to a semi-freethinker, who
is supposed to have declared that a man who could thus identify himself
with Romish superstitions must be despised as either knave or fool; and
Bishop Blougram has undertaken to prove that he is not to be thus
despised; and least of all by the person before him.

The argument is therefore special-pleading in the full sense of the
word; and it is clear from a kind of editor's note with which the poem
concludes, that we are meant to take it as such. But it is supposed to
lie in the nature of the man who utters, as also in the circumstance in
which it is uttered: for Bishop Blougram was suggested by Cardinal
Wiseman;[57] and the literary hack, Gigadibs, is the kind of critic by
whom a Cardinal Wiseman is most likely to be assailed: a man young,
shallow, and untried; unused to any but paper warfare; blind to the
deeper issues of both conformity and dissent, and as much alive to the
distinction of dining in a bishop's palace as Bishop Blougram himself.
The monologue is spoken on such an occasion, and includes everything
which Mr. Gigadibs says, or might say, on his own side of the question.
We must therefore treat it as a conversation.

Mr. Gigadibs' reasoning resolves itself into this: "_he_ does not
believe in dogmas, and he says so. The Bishop cannot believe in them,
but does not say so. He is true to his own convictions: the Bishop is
not true to his." And the Bishop's defence is as follows.

"Mr. Gigadibs aims at living his own life: in other words, the ideal
life. And this means that he is living no life at all. For a man, in
order to live, must make the best of the world he is born in; he must
adapt himself to its capabilities as a cabin-passenger to those of his
cabin. He must not load himself with moral and intellectual fittings
which the ship cannot carry, and which will therefore have to be thrown
overboard. He (the Bishop) has chosen to live a real life; and has
equipped himself accordingly."

"And, supposing he displays what Mr. Gigadibs considers the courage of
his convictions, and flings his dogmas overboard,--what will he have
gained? Simply that his uncertainty has changed sides. Believing, he had
shocks of unbelief. Disbelieving, he will have shocks of belief (note a
fine passage, vol. iv. p. 245): since no certainty in these matters is

"But," says Gigadibs; "on that principle, your belief is worth no more
than my unbelief."

"Yes," replies the Bishop, "it is worth much more in practice, if no
more in theory. Life cannot be carried on by negations. Least of all
will religious negations be tolerated by those we live with. And the
more definite the religion affirmed, the better will the purposes of
life be advanced by it."

"Not those of a noble life," argues Gigadibs, "nor in the judgment of
the best men. You are debasing your standard by living for the many
fools who cannot see through you, instead of the wiser few who can."

To which the Bishop replies that he lives according to the nature which
God has given him, and which is not so ignoble after all; and that he
succeeds with wise men as well as with fools, because they do not see
through him either: because their judgment is kept in constant
suspension as to whether he can believe what he professes or cannot;
whether, in short, he is a knave or a fool. The proposition is vividly
illustrated; and a few more obvious sophistries complete this portion of
the argument.

Gigadibs still harps upon the fact that conformity cannot do the work of
belief; and the Bishop now changes his ground. "He conforms to
Christianity in the _wish_ that it may be true; and he thinks that this
wish has all the value of belief, and brings him as near to it as the
Creator intends. The human mind cannot bear the full light of truth; and
it is only in the struggle with doubt and error that its spiritual
powers can be developed." He concedes, in short, that he is much more in
earnest than he appeared; and the concession is confirmed when he goes
on to declare that we live by our instincts and not by our beliefs. This
is proved--he alleges--by such a man as Gigadibs, who has no warrant in
his belief for living a moral life, and does so because his instincts
compel it. Just so the Bishop's instincts compel a believing life. They
demand for him a living, self-proving God (here the doctrine of
expediency re-asserts itself), and they tell him that the good things
which his position confers are the gift of that God, and intended by Him
for his enjoyment. "You," he adds, "who live for something which never
is, but always is _to be_, are like a traveller, who casts off, in every
country he passes through, the covering that will be too warm for him in
the next; and is comfortable nowhen and nowhere."

One of his latest arguments is the best. Gigadibs has said: "If you must
hold a dogmatic faith, at all events reform it. Prune its excrescences

"And where," he retorts, "am I to stop, when once that process has
begun? I put my knife to the _liquefaction_,[58] and end, like Fichte,
by slashing at God Himself. And meanwhile, we have to control a mass of
ignorant persons whose obedience is linked to the farthest end of the
chain (to the first superstition which I am called upon to lop off). We
have here again a question of making the best of our cabin-fittings, the
best of the opportunities which life places to our hand." In conclusion,
he draws a contemptuous picture of the obscure and inconsequent
existence which Gigadibs accepts, as the apostle without genius and
without enthusiasm, of what is, if it be one at all, a _non-working_

Gigadibs is silenced, and, as it proves, impressed; but the Bishop is
too clever to be very proud of his victory; for he knows it has been a
personal, much more than a real one. His strength has lain chiefly in
the assumption (which only the entire monologue can justify or even
convey) that his opponent would change places with him if he could; and
he knows that in arguing from this point of view he has been only half
sincere. His reasonings have been good enough for the occasion. That is
the best he can say for them.


"Sludge, the Medium," is intended to show that even so ignoble a person
as a sham medium may have something to say in his own defence; and so
far as argument goes, Sludge defends himself successfully on two
separate lines. But in the one case he excuses his imposture: in the
other, he in great measure disproves it. And this second part of the
monologue has been construed by some readers into a genuine plea for the
theory and practice of "spiritualism." Nothing, however, could be more
opposed to the general tenour of Mr. Browning's work. He is simply
showing us what such a man might say in his own behalf, supposing that
the credulity of others had tempted him into a cheat, or that his own
credulity had made him a self-deceiver; or, what was equally possible,
in even the present case, that both processes had gone on at the same
time. The amount of abstract truth which the monologue is intended to
convey is in itself small, and more diluted with exaggeration and
falsehood than in any other poem of this group.

Sludge has been found cheating in the house of his principal patron and
dupe. The raps indicating the presence of a departed mother have been
distinctly traced to the medium's toes. There is no lying himself out of
it this time, so he offers to confess, on condition that the means of
leaving the country are secured to him. There is a little bargaining on
this subject, and he then begins:--

"He never meant to cheat. It is the gentlefolk who have teased him into
doing it; they _would_ be taken in. If a poor boy like him tells a lie
about money, or anything else in which they are 'up,' they are ready
enough to thrash it out of him; but when it is something out of their
way, like saying: he has had a vision--he has seen a ghost--it's 'Oh,
how curious! Tell us all about it. Sit down, my boy. Don't be
frightened, &c. &c.;' and so they lead him on. Presently he is obliged
to invent. They have found out he is a medium. A medium he has got to
be. 'Couldn't you hear this? Didn't you see that? Try again. Other
mediums have done it, perhaps you may.' And, of course, the next night
he sees and hears what is expected of him."

"He gets well into his work. He sees visions; peeps into the glass ball;
makes spirits write and rap, and the rest of it. There is nothing to
stop him. If he mixes up Bacon and Cromwell, it only proves that they
are both trying to speak through him at once. If he makes Locke talk
gibberish, and Beethoven play the Shakers' hymn, and a dozen other such
things: 'Oh! the spirits are using him and suiting themselves out of his
stock.' When he guesses right, it shows his truth. When he doesn't, it
shows his honesty. A hit is good and a miss is better. When he boggles
outright, 'he is confused with the phenomena.' And when this has gone on
for weeks, and he has been clothed and cosseted, and his patrons have
staked their penetration upon him; how is he to turn round and say he
has been cheating all the time? 'I should like to see you do it!' It
isn't that he wouldn't often have liked to be in the gutter again!"

This amusing account is diversified with expressions of Sludge's hearty
contempt for all the men and women he has imposed upon: above all, for
their absurd fancy that any scrap of unexpected information must have
come to him in a supernatural way. "As if a man could hold his nose out
of doors, and one smut out of the millions not stick to it; sit still
for a whole day, and one atom of news not drift into his ear!" This idea
recurs in various forms.

Well! he owns that he has cheated; and now that he has done so, he is
not at all sure that it _was_ all cheating, that there wasn't something
real in it after all. "We are all taught to believe that there is
another world; and the Bible shows that men have had dealings with it.
We are told this can't happen now, because we are under another law. But
I don't believe we are under another law. Some men 'see' and others
don't, that's the only difference. I see a sign and a message in
everything that happens to me; but I take a small message where you want
a big one. I am the servant who comes at a tap of his master's knuckle
on the wall; you are the servant who only comes when the bell rings. Of
course I mistake the sign sometimes. But what does that matter if I
sometimes don't mistake? You say: one fact doesn't establish a system.
You are like the Indian who picked up a scrap of gold, and never dug
for more. You pick up one sparkling fact, and let it go again. I pick up
one such, then another and another, and let go the dirt which makes up
the rest of life."

Sludge combats the probable objection that the heavenly powers are too
great, and he is too small for the kind of services he expects of them.
Everything, he delares, serves a small purpose as well as a great one.
Moreover, nothing nowadays _is_ small. It is at all events the lesser
things and not the greater which are spoken of with awe. The simple
creature which is only a sac is the nearest to the creative power; and
since also man's filial relation to the Creator is that most insisted
on, the more familiar and confiding attitude is the right one.

He lastly declares and illustrates his view that many a truth may
stagnate for want of a lie to set it going, and thinks it likely enough
that God allows him to imagine he is wielding a sham power, because he
would die of fright if he knew it was a real one. He adds one or two
somewhat irrelevant items to his defence; then finding his patron
unconvinced, discharges on him a volley of abuse, and decides to try his
luck elsewhere. "There must be plenty more fools in other parts of the



To the second class of these poems, which are of the nature of
reflections, belong--taking them in the order of their importance:--

     "Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day." (1850.)
     "La Saisiaz." (1878.)
     "Cleon." ("Men and Women.") (1855.)
     "An Epistle containing the strange medical experience of Karshish,
       the Arab physician." ("Men and Women.") (1855.)
     "Caliban upon Setebos; or Natural Theology in the Island."
       (Dramatis Personæ.) (1864.)

CHRISTMAS-EVE AND EASTER-DAY are two distinct poems, printed under this
one head: and each describing a spiritual experience appropriate to the
day, and lived through in a vision of Christ. This vision presents
itself to the reader as a probable or obvious hallucination, or even a
simple dream; but its utterances are more or less dogmatic; they contain
much which is in harmony with Mr. Browning's known views; and it is
difficult at first sight to regard them in either case as proceeding
from an imaginary person who is only feeling his way to the truth. This,
however, they prove themselves to be.

The first poem is a narrative. Its various scenes are enacted on a
stormy Christmas Eve; and it opens with a humorous description of a
little dissenting chapel, supposed to stand at the edge of a common; and
of the various types of squalid but self-satisfied humanity which find
their spiritual pasture within its walls. The narrator has just "burst
out" of it. He never meant to go in. But the rain had forced him to take
shelter in its porch, as evening service was about to begin: and the
defiant looks of the elect as they pushed past him one by one, had
impelled him to assert his rights as a Christian, and push in too. The
stupid ranting irreverence of the pastor, and the snuffling satisfaction
of the flock, were soon, however, too much for him, and in a very short
time he was again--where we find him--out in the fresh night air.

Free from the constraint of the chapel, he takes a more tolerant view of
what he has seen and heard there. He gives the preacher credit for
having said a great deal that was true, and in the manner most
convincing to the already convinced who were assembled to hear him. For
his own part, he declares, Nature is his church, as she has been his
teacher; and he surrenders himself with a joyful sense of relief to the
religious influences of the solitude and the night: his heart glowing
with the consciousness of the unseen Love which everywhere appeals to
him in the visible power of the Creator. Suddenly a mighty spectacle
unfolds itself. The rain and wind have ceased. The barricade of cloud
which veiled the moon's passage up the western sky has sunk riven at her
feet. She herself shines forth in unbroken radiance, and a double lunar
rainbow, in all its spectral grandeur, spans the vault of heaven. There
is a sense as of a heavenly presence about to emerge upon the arc. Then
the rapture overflows the spectator's brain, and the Master, arrayed in
a serpentining garment, appears in the path before him.

But the Face is averted. "Has he despised the friends of Christ? and is
this his punishment?" He prostrates himself before Him; grasps the hem
of the garment; entreats forgiveness for what was only due to the
reverence of his love, to his desire that his Lord should be worshipped
in all spiritual beauty and truth.

The Face turns towards him in a flood of light. The vesture encloses him
in its folds, and he is borne onwards till he finds himself at Rome, and
in front of St. Peter's Church. He sees the interior without entering.
It swarms with worshippers, packed into it as in the hollow of a hive.
All there is breathless expectation, ecstatic awe; for the mystery of
the mass is in process of consummation, and in another moment the
tinkling of the silver bell will announce to the prostrate crowd the
actual presence of their Lord; will open to them the vision of the
coming heavenly day. Here, too, is faith, though obscured in a different
manner. Here, too, is _love_: the love which in bygone days hurled
intellect from its throne, and trampled on the glories of ancient
art--which instructed its votaries to feel blindly for its new and
all-sufficient life, as does the babe for its mother's breast--which
consecrates even now the deepest workings of the heart and mind to the
service of God. And Christ enters the Basilica, into which, after a
momentary doubt, he himself follows Him.

They float onwards again, and again he is left alone but for the hem of
the garment; for Christ has entered the lecture-hall of a rationalistic
German professor, and into this He will not bid His disciple follow Him;
but the interior of the building is open, as before, to the disciple's
mental sight. The lecturer is refreshing his hearers' convictions by an
inquiry into the origin of the Christian Myth and the foundation of fact
on which it rests; and he arrives at the conclusion that Christ was a
man, but whose work proved Him all but Divine; His Gospel quite other
than those who heard it believed, but in value nearly the same.

The spectator begins musing on the anomalies of this view. "Christ, only
a man, is to be reverenced as something more. On what ground?--The
ground of intellect?--Yet he teaches us only what a hundred others have
taught, without claiming to be worshipped on account of it--The ground
of goodness?--But goodness is due from each man to his fellows; it is no
title to sovereignty over them." And he thus sums up his own conviction.
"He may be called a _saint_ who best teaches us to keep our lives pure;
he a _poet_ whose insight dims that of his fellow-men. He is no less
than this, though guided by an instinct no higher than that of the bat;
no more, though inspired by God. All gifts are from God, and no
multiplying of gifts can convert the creature into the Creator. Between
Him who created goodness, and made it binding on the conscience of man:
and him who reduces it to a system, of which the merits may be judged by
man: lies the interval which separates Nature, who decrees the
circulation of the blood, from the observer Harvey, who discovered it.
One man is Christ, another Pilate; beyond their dust is the Divinity of

"And the 'God-function' with regard to virtue was first to impress its
truths on every human breast; and secondly, to give a motive for
carrying them out; and this motive could be given only by one, who,
being life's Lord, died for the sake of men. Whoever conceives this
love, and takes this proof to his heart, has found a new motive, and has
also gained a truth."

But Christ lingers within the hall "Is there something after all in that
lecture which finds an echo in the Christian soul? Yes, even there.
There is the ghost of love, if nothing more, in the utterance of that
virgin-minded man, with the 'wan, pure look,' and the frail life burning
itself away in the striving after truth. For his critical tests have
reduced the pearl of price to ashes, and yet left it, in his judgment, a
pearl; and he bids his followers gather up their faith as an almost
perfect whole; go home and venerate the myth on which he has
experimented, adore the man whom he has proved to be one. And if his
learning itself be loveless, it may claim our respect when a tricksy
demon has let it loose on the Epistles of St. Paul, as it claims our
gratitude when expended on secular things. It is at least better than
the ignorance which hates the word of God, if it cannot wholly accept
it; while these, his disciples, who renounce the earth, and chain up the
natural man on a warrant no more divine than this, are by so much better
than he who at this moment judges them. Let them carry the doctrine by
which they think themselves carried, as does the child his toy-horse. He
will not deride nor disturb them."

The subject of these experiences has reached a state of restful
indifference. "He will adhere to his own belief, and be tolerant towards
his neighbour's: since the two only differ as do two different
refractions of a single ray of light. He will study, instead of
criticizing, the different creeds which are fused into one before the
universal Father's throne."

But this is not the lesson he has been intended to learn. The storm,
breaking out afresh, catches up and dashes him to the ground, while the
vesture, which he had let slip during his last musings, recedes swiftly
from his sight. Then he knows that there is one "way," and he knows also
that he may find it; and in this new conviction he regains his hold of
the garment, and at one bound has reentered the little chapel, which he
seems never indeed to have left. The sermon is ending, and he has heard
it all. He still appreciates its faults of matter and manner; but he no
longer rejects the draught of living water, because it comes to him with
some taste of earth. What the draught can do is evidenced by those
wrecks of humanity which are finding renewal there. There his choice
shall rest; for, nowhere else, so he seems to conclude, is the message
of Love so simply and so directly conveyed.

A great part of the narrative is written in a humorous tone, which shows
itself, not only in thought and word, but in a jolting measure, and even
grotesque rhymes. The speaker desires it to be understood that he is not
the less in earnest for this apparent "levity;" and the levity is quite
consistent with religious seriousness in such a person as the poem
depicts. But, as I have shown, it is alone enough to prove that the
author is not depicting himself. The poem reflects him more or less
truly in the doctrine of Divine Love, the belief in personal guidance,
and the half-contemptuous admiration with which the speaker regards
those who will mortify the flesh in obedience to a Christ-_man_. But it
belies the evidence of his whole work when, as in Section XVII., it
represents moral truth as either innate to the human spirit, or directly
revealed to it; and we shall presently notice a still greater
discrepancy which it shares with its companion poem.[59]

"_Easter-Day_"[60] deals with the deeper issues of scepticism and faith;
and opens with a dialogue in which the two opposite positions are
maintained. Both speakers start from the belief in God, and the
understanding that Christianity is unproved; but the one accepts it in
faith: the other regards it as, for the time being, negatived.

The man of faith begins by exclaiming, how hard it is to be
(practically) a Christian; and how disproportionate to our endeavour is
our success in becoming so. The sceptic replies that to his mind the
only difficulty is belief. "Let the least of God's commands be proved
authentic: and only an idiot would shrink from martyrdom itself, with
the certain bliss that would reward it." The man of faith, who is
clearly the greater pessimist of the two, thinks the world too full of
suffering to be placed, by any knowledge, beyond the reach of
faith--beyond the necessity of being taken upon trust. And his adversary
concedes that absolute knowledge would--where it was applicable--destroy
its own end. In social life, for instance, it would do away with all
those acts of faith, those instinctive judgments and feelings, which are
the essence _of_ life. But he thinks one may fairly desire a better
touchstone for the purposes of God than human judgment or feeling; and
that, if we cannot know them with scientific certainty, one must wish
the balance of probability to lie clearly on one side.

The man of faith is of opinion that this much of proof exists for
everyone who chooses to seek it. "The burning question is how we are to
shape our lives. For himself he is impelled to follow the Christian
precept, and renounce the world." The sceptic denies that God demands
such a sacrifice, and sees only man's ingratitude in the impression
that He does so. The man of faith admits that it would be hard to have
made the sacrifice, and be rewarded only by death; while the many
unbelievers who have virtually made it for one or other of the hobbies
which he describes, have at least its success to repay them. But even
so, he continues, he would have chosen the better part; for he would
have chosen Hope,--the hope which aspires to a loftier end. "His
opponent, it is true, hopes also; but _his_ hopes are blind. They are
not those of St. Paul, but those which, according to Æschylus, the Titan
gave to men, to spice therewith the meal of life, and prevent their
devouring it in too bitter haste; and if hope--or faith--is meant to be
something more than a relish...!"

The opponent protests against this attack upon the "trusting ease" of
his existence, and declares that his interlocutor is not doing as he
would be done by. Whereupon the first speaker relates something which
befell him on the Easter-Eve of three years ago, and which startled him
out of precisely such a condition.

He was crossing the common, lately spoken of by their friend, and musing
on life and the last judgment: when the following question occured to
him: what would be his case if he died and were judged at that very
moment? "From childhood," he continues, "I have always insisted on
knowing the worst; and I now plunged straight into the recesses of my
conscience, prepared for what spectre might be hidden there. But all I
encountered was _common sense_, which did its best to assure me that I
had nothing to fear: that, considering all the difficulties of life, I
had kept my course through it as straight, and advanced as rapidly as
could be expected." (More reflections, half serious half playful ensue.)
"Suddenly I threw back my head, and saw the midnight sky on fire. It was
a _sea_ of fire, now writhing and surging; now sucked back into the
darkness, now overflowing it till its rays poured downwards on to the
earth. I felt that the Judgment Day had come. I felt also, in that
supreme moment of consciousness, that I had chosen the world, and must
take my stand upon the choice. I defended it with the courage of
despair. 'God had framed me to appreciate the beauties of life; I could
not put the cup untasted aside; He had not plainly commanded me to do
so; He knew how I had struggled to resign myself to leaving it half
full; Hell could be no just punishment for such a mood as that.'"

"Another burst of fire. A brief ecstasy which confounded earth and
heaven. Then ashes everywhere. And amid the wreck--like the smoke
pillared over Sodom--mantled in darkness as in a magnific pall which
turned to grey the blackness of the night--pity mingled with judgment in
the intense meditation in which his gaze was fixed--HE stood before me.
I fell helpless at His feet. He spoke:

'The judgment is past; dispensed to every man as though he alone were
its object. _Thy_ sin has been the love of earth. Thou hast preferred
the finite to the infinite--the fleshly joys to the spiritual. Be this
choice thy punishment. Thou art shut out from the heaven of spirit. The
earth is thine for ever.'"

"My first impulse was one of delighted gratitude. 'All the wonders--the
treasures of the natural world, are _mine_?'"

"'Thine,' the Vision replied,'if such shows suffice thee; if thou wilt
exchange eternity for the equivalent of a single rose, flung to thee
over the barrier of that Eden from which thou art for ever excluded.'"

"'Not so,' I answered. 'If the beauties of nature are thus deceptive, my
choice shall be with Art--art which imparts to nature the value of human
life. I will seek man's impress in statuary, in painting....'"

"'Obtain that,' the Vision again rebuked me, 'the one form with its
single act, the one face with its single look: the failure and the shame
of all true artists who felt the whole while they could only reproduce
the part.'"

And again the Vision expatiates on the limited nature of the earthly
existence--the limited horizon which reduces man to the condition of the
lizard pent up in a chamber in the rock--the destined shattering of the
prison wall which will quicken the stagnant sense to the impressions of
a hitherto unknown world--the spiritual hunger with which the saints,
content in their earthly prison, still hail the certainty of

"'Let me grasp at Mind,' I then entreated,--'whirl enraptured through
its various spheres. Yet no. I know what thou wilt say. Mind, too, is of
the earth; and all its higher inspirations proceed from another
world--are recognized as doing so by those who receive them. I will
catch no more at broken reeds. I will relinquish the world, and take
Love for my portion. I will love on, though love too may deceive me,
remembering its consolations in the past, struggling for its rewards in
the future.'"

"'AT LAST,' the Vision exclaimed, 'thou choosest LOVE. And hast thou not
seen that the mightiness of Love was curled inextricably about the power
and the beauty which attached thee to the world--that through them it
has vainly striven to clasp thee? Abide by thy choice. Take the show for
the name's sake. Reject the reality as manifested in Him who created,
and then died for thee. Reject that Tale, as more fitly invented by the
sons of Cain--as proving too much love on the part of God.'"

"Terrified and despairing, I cowered before Him, imploring the remission
of the sentence, praying that the old life might be restored to me, with
its trials, its limitations; but with their accompanying hope that it
might lead to the life everlasting."

"When I 'lived' again, the plain was silvered over with dew; the dawn
had broken."

Looking back on this experience, the narrator is disposed to regard it
as having been a dream. It has nevertheless been a turning-point in his
existence; for it has taught him to hear in every blessing which
attaches him to the earth, a voice which bids him renounce it. And
though he still finds it hard to be a Christian, and is often
discouraged by the fact, he welcomes his consciousness of this: since it
proves that he is not spiritually stagnating--not cut off from the hope
of heaven.

Mr. Browning is, for the time being, outside the discussion. His own
feelings might equally have dictated some of the arguments on either
side; and although he silences the second speaker, he does not mean to
prove him in the wrong. He is at one with the first speaker, when he
suggests that certainty in matters of belief is no more to be desired
than to be attained; but that personage regards uncertainty as
justifying presumptions of a dogmatic kind; while its value to Mr.
Browning lies precisely in its right to exclude them. And, again; while
the value of spiritual conflict is largely emphasized in his works, he
disagrees with the man of faith in "Easter-Day" as with the dogmatic
believer in "Christmas-Eve," as to the manner in which it is to be
carried on. According to these the spirit fights against life: according
to him it fights in, and by means of, its opportunities. From his point
of view human experience is an education: from theirs it is a snare.

So much of personal truth as these poems contain will be found re-stated
in "La Saisiaz," written twenty-eight years later, and which impresses
on it the seal of maturer thought and more direct expression.

"LA SAISIAZ" (Savoyard for "The Sun") is the name of a villa among the
mountains near Geneva, where Mr. Browning, with his sister and a friend
of many years standing, spent part of the summer of 1877. The poem so
christened is addressed to this friend, and was inspired by her death:
which took place with appalling suddenness while they were there
together. The shock of the event re-opened the great questions which had
long before been solved by Mr. Browning's mind: and within sight of the
new-made grave, he re-laid the foundations of his faith, that there is
another life for the soul.

The argument is marked by a strong sense of the personal and therefore
relative character of human experience and knowledge. It accepts the
"subjective synthesis" of some non-theistic thinkers, though excluding,
of course, the negations on which this rests; and its greater maturity
is shown by the philosophic form in which the author's old religious
doctrine of personal (or subjective) truth has been re-cast. He assumes
here, it is true, that God and the soul exist. He considers their
existence as given, in the double fact that there is something in us
which thinks or perceives,[61] and something outside and beyond us,
which is perceived by it; and this subject and object, which he names
the Soul and God, are to him beyond the necessity of farther proof,
because beyond the reach of it. He might therefore challenge for his
conclusions something more than an optional belief. He guards himself,
nevertheless, against imposing the verdict of his own experience on any
other man: and both the question and the answer into which the poem
resolves itself begin for his own spirit and end so.

Mr. Browning knows himself a single point in the creative series of
effect and cause: at the same moment one and the other: all behind and
before him a blank. Or, more helpless still, he is the rush, floated by
a current, of which the whence and whither are independent of it, and
which may land it to strike root again, or cast it ashore a wreck. He
asks himself, as he is whirled on his "brief, blind voyage" down the
stream of life, which of these fates it has in store for him. Knowing
this, that God and the soul exist--no less than this, and no more--he
asks himself whether he is justified in believing that, because his
present existence is beyond a doubt, its renewal is beyond doubt also:
that the current, which has brought him thus far, will land him, not in
destruction, but in another life.

"Everything," he declares, "in my experience--and I speak only of my
own--testifies to the incompleteness of life, nay, even to its
preponderating unhappiness. The strong body is found allied to a stunted
soul. The soaring soul is chained by bodily weakness to the ground. Help
turns to hindrance, or discloses itself too late in what we have taken
for such. Every sweet brings its bitter, every light its shade; love is
cut short by death:"--

     "I must say--or choke in silence--'Howsoever came my fate,
     Sorrow did and joy did nowise,--life well-weighed,--preponderate.'
     By necessity ordained thus? I shall bear as best I can;
     By a cause all-good, all-wise, all-potent? No, as I am man!
     Such were God: and was it goodness that the good within my range
     Or had evil in admixture or grew evil's self by change?
     Wisdom--that becoming wise meant making slow and sure advance
     From a knowledge proved in error to acknowledged ignorance?
     Power? 'tis just the main assumption reason most revolts at! power
     Unavailing for bestowment on its creature of an hour,
     Man, of so much proper action rightly aimed and reaching aim,
     So much passion,--no defect there, no excess, but still the same,--
     As what constitutes existence, pure perfection bright as brief
     For yon worm, man's fellow-creature, on yon happier world--its leaf!
     No, as I am man, I mourn the poverty I must impute:
     Goodness, wisdom, power, all bounded, each a human attribute!"
                                                       (vol. xiv. p. 183.)

"If we regard this life as final, we must relinquish our conception of
the power of God: for His work is then open to human judgment, in the
light of which it yields only imperfect results."

"But let us once assume that our present state is one of probation,
intended by God as such: and every difficulty is solved. Evil is no
longer a mark of failure in the execution of the Divine Scheme: it
becomes essential to it; my experience indeed represents it as such. I
cannot conceive evil as abolished without abrogation of the laws of
life. For it is not only bound up with all the good of life; it is often
its vehicle. Gain is enhanced by recent loss. Ignorance places us
nearest to knowledge. Beauty is most precious, truth most potent, where
ugliness and falsehood prevail; and what but the loss of Love teaches us
what its true value has been?"

"May I then accept the conclusion that this life will be supplemented by
a better one?"

Mr. Browning initiates his final inquiry by declaring that he will
accept only the testimony of fact. He rejects surmise, he seeks no
answer in the beauties or in the voices of nature; none in the minds of
his fellow-men; none even in the depths of his sentient self with its
"aspiration" and "reminiscence:" its plausible assurances that God would
be "unjust," and man "wronged," if a second life were not granted to us.

And here he seems for a moment to deny, what he has elsewhere stated,
and everywhere implied, in the poem: that his own spirit must be to him,
despite its isolation and weakness, the one messenger of Divine truth.

But he is only saying the same thing in a different way. He rejects the
spontaneous utterance of his own spirit; but relies on its conclusions.
He rejects it as pleader; but constitutes it judge. And this distinction
is carried out in a dialogue, in which Fancy speaks for the spontaneous
self; Reason for the judicial--the one making its _thrusts_, and the
other _parrying_ them. The question at issue has, however, slightly
shifted its ground; and we find ourselves asking: not, "is the Soul
immortal?" but "what would be the consequence to life of its being
proved so?"

FANCY. "The soul exists after death. I accept the surmise as certainty:
and would see it put to use during life."

REASON. "The 'use' of it will be that the wise man will die at once:
since death, in the absence of any supernatural law to the contrary,
must be clear gain. The soul must fare better when it has ceased to be
thwarted by the body; and we have no reason to suppose that the
obstructions which have their purpose in this life would be renewed in a
future one. Are we happy? death rescues our happiness from its otherwise
certain decay. Are we sad? death cures the sadness. Is life simply for
us a weary compromise between hope and fear, between failure and
attainment? death is still the deliverer. It must come some day. Why not
invoke it in a painless form when the first cloud appears upon our sky?"

FANCY. "Then I concede this much: the certainty of the future life shall
be saddled with the injunction to live out the present, or accept a
proportionate penalty."

REASON. "In that case the wise man will live. But whether the part he
chooses in it be that of actor or of looker-on, he will endure his life
with indifference. Relying on the promises of the future, he will take
success or failure as it comes, and accept ignorance as a matter of

FANCY. "I concede more still. Man shall not only be compelled to live:
he shall know the value of life. He shall know that every moment he
spends in it is gain or loss for the life to come--that every act he
performs involves reward or punishment in it."

REASON. "Then you abolish good and evil in their relation to man; for
you abolish freedom of choice. No man is good because he obeys a law so
obvious and so stringent as to leave him no choice; and such would be
the moral law, if punishment were _demonstrated_ as following upon the
breach of it; reward on its fulfilment. Man is free, in his present
state, to choose between good and evil--free therefore to be good;
because he may believe, but has no demonstrated _certainty_, that his
future welfare depends on it."

It is thus made clear that only in man's present state of limited
knowledge is a life of probation conceivable; while only on the
hypothesis that this life is one of probation, can that of a future
existence be maintained. Mr. Browning ends where he began, with a
_hope_, which is practically a _belief_, because to his mind the only
thinkable approach to it.

A vivid description of the scenes amidst which the tragedy took place
accompanies this discussion.

"CLEON" is a protest against the inadequacy of the earthly life; and the
writer is supposed to be one of those Greek poets or thinkers to whom
St. Paul alludes, in a line quoted from Aratus in the Acts, and which
stands at the head of the poem. Cleon believes in Zeus under the
attributes of the one God; but he sees nothing in his belief to warrant
the hope of immortality; and his love of life is so intense and so
untiring that this fact is very grievous to him.

He is stating his case to an imaginary king--Protus--his patron and
friend; whose convictions are much the same as his own, but who thinks
him in some degree removed from the common lot: since his achievements
in philosophy and in art must procure him not only a more perfect
existence, but in one sense a more lasting one. Cleon protests against
this idea.

"He has," he admits, "done all which the King imputes to him. If he has
not been a Homer, a Pheidias, or a Terpander, his creative sympathies
have united all three; and in thus passing from the simple to the
complex, he has obeyed the law of progress, though at the risk perhaps
of appearing a smaller man."

"But his life has not been the more perfect on that account. Perfection
exists only in those more mechanical grades of being, in which joy is
unconscious, but also self-sufficing. To grow in consciousness is to
grow in the capability and in the desire for joy; to decline rather
than advance, in the physical power of attaining it. Man's soul
expands; his 'physical recipiency' remains for ever bounded."

"Nor are his works a source of life to him either now or for the future.
The conception of youth and strength and wisdom is not its reality: the
knowing (and depicting) what joy is, is not the possession of it. And
the surviving of his work, when he himself is dead, is but a mockery the

It is all so horrible that he sometimes imagines another life, as
unlimited in capability, as this in the desire, for joy, and dreams that
Zeus has revealed it. "But he has not revealed it, and therefore it will
not be." St. Paul is preaching at this very time, and Protus sends a
letter to be forwarded to him; but Cleon does not admit that knowledge
can reside in a "barbarian Jew;" and gently rebukes his royal friend for
inclining to such doctrine, which, as he has gathered from one who heard
it, "can be held by no sane man."

Cleon constantly uses the word soul as antithesis to body: but he uses
it in its ancient rather than its modern sense, as expressing the
sentient life, not the spiritual; and this perhaps explains the anomaly
of his believing that it is independent of the lower physical powers,
and yet not destined to survive them.

The EPISTLE of Karshish is addressed to a certain Abib, the writer's
master in the science of medicine. It is written from Bethany; and the
"strange medical experience" of which it treats, is the _case_ of
Lazarus, whom Karshish has seen there. Lazarus, as he relates, has been
the subject of a prolonged epileptic trance, and his reason impaired by
a too sudden awakening from it. He labours under the fixed idea that he
was raised from the dead; and that the Nazarene physician at whose
command he rose (and who has since perished in a popular tumult) was no
other than God: who for love's sake had taken human form, and worked
and died for men. Karshish regards the madness of this idea as beyond
rational doubt: but he is perplexed and haunted by its consistency: by
the manner in which this supposed vision of the Heavenly life has
transformed, even inverted the man's judgment of earthly things. He
combats the impression as best he can: recounts his scientific
discoveries--the new plants, minerals, sicknesses, or cures to which his
travels in Judea have introduced him; half apologizes for his digression
from these more important matters; tries to excuse the hold which
Lazarus has taken upon him by the circumstances in which they met; and
breaks out at last in this agitated appeal to Abib and the truth:--

       "The very God! think, Abib; dost thou think
       So, the All-Great, were the All-Loving too--

              *       *       *       *       *

       The madman saith He said so: it is strange."
                                              (vol. iv. p. 198.)

The solitary sage alluded to is of course imaginary. Like the doubtful
messenger to whom the letter will be entrusted, he helps to mark the
incidental character with which Karshish strives to invest his

"CALIBAN UPON SETEBOS" carries us into an opposite sphere of thought. It
has for its text these words from Psalm 50: _Thou thoughtest that I was
altogether such an one as thyself_: and is the picture of an acute but
half savage mind, building up the Deity on its own pattern. Caliban is
much exercised by the government of the world, and by the probable
nature of its ruler; and he has niched an hour from his tasks, on a
summer noon, when Prospero and Miranda are taking his diligence upon
trust, to go and sprawl full length in the mud of some cave, and talk
the problem out. The attitude is described, as his reflections are
carried on, in his own words; but he speaks as children do, in the third

Caliban worships Setebos, god of the Patagonians, as did his mother
before him; but her creed was the higher of the two, because it included
what his does not: the idea of a future life. He differs from her also
in a more original way. For she held that a greater power than Setebos
had made the world, leaving Setebos merely to "vex" it; while he
contends that whoever made the world and its weakness, did so for the
pleasure of vexing it himself; and that this greater power, the "Quiet,"
if it really exists, is above pain or pleasure, and had no motive for
such a proceeding.

Setebos is thus, according to Caliban, a secondary divinity. He may have
been created by the Quiet, or may have driven it off the field; but in
either case his position is the same. He is one step nearer to the human
nature which he cannot assume. He lives in the moon, Caliban thinks, and
dislikes its "cold," while he cannot escape from it. To relieve his
discomfort, half in impatience half in sport, he has made human beings;
thus giving himself the pleasure of seeing others do what he cannot, and
of mocking them as his playthings at the same time.

This theory of creation is derived from Caliban's own experience. In
like manner, when he has got drunk on fermented fruits, and feels he
would like to fly, he pinches up a clay bird, and sends it into the air;
and if its leg snaps off, and it entreats him to stop the smarting, or
make the leg grow again, he may give it two more, or he may break off
the remaining one; just to show the thing that he can do with it what he

He also presumes that Setebos is envious, because _he_ is so; as for
instance: if he made a pipe to catch birds with, and the pipe boasted:
"_I_ catch the birds. _I_ make a cry which my maker can't make unless he
blows through me," he would smash it on the spot.

For the rest he imagines that Setebos, like himself, is neither kind
nor cruel, but simply acts on all possible occasions as his fancy
prompts him. The one thing which would arouse his own hostility, and
therefore that of Setebos, would be that any creature should think he is
ever prompted by anything else; or that his adopting a certain course
one day would be a reason for following it on the next.

Guided by these analogies--which he illustrates with much quaintness and
variety--Caliban humours Setebos, always pretending to be envious of
him, and never allowing himself to seem too happy. He moans in the
sunlight, gets under holes to laugh, and only ventures to think aloud,
when out of sight and hearing, as he is at the present moment. Thus
sheltered, however, he makes too free with his tongue. He risks the
expression of a hope that old age, or the Quiet, will some day make an
end of his Creator, whom he loves none the better for being so like
himself. And in another moment he is crouching in abject fear: for an
awful thunderstorm has broken out. "That raven scudding away 'has told
him all.'"

       "Lo! 'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos!" (vol. vii. p. 161.)

and will do anything to please him so that he escape this time.

The most impressive of the dramatic monologues, "A Death in the Desert,"
detaches itself from this double group. It is contemplative in tone, but
inspired by a formed conviction, and, dramatically at least, by an
instructive purpose; and thus becomes the centre of another small
division of Mr. Browning's poems, which for want of a less ugly and
hackneyed word we may call "didactic."


The poems contained in this group are, taking them in the order of their

     "A Death in the Desert." Dramatis Personæ. 1864.
     "Rabbi Ben Ezra." Dramatis Personæ. 1864.
     "Deaf and Dumb: a group by Woolner." Dramatis Personæ. 1864.
     "The Statue and the Bust." Dramatic Romances. Published in "Men and
       Women." 1855.

"A DEATH IN THE DESERT" is the record of an imaginary last scene in the
life of St. John. It is conceived in perfect harmony with the facts of
the case: the great age which the Evangelist attained: the mystery which
shrouded his death: the persecutions which had overtaken the Church: the
heresies which already threatened to disturb it; but Mr. Browning has
given to St. John a foreknowledge of that age of philosophic doubt in
which its very foundations would be shaken; and has made him the
exponent of his own belief--already hinted in "Easter Eve" and "Bishop
Blougram:" to be fully set forth in "The Ring and the Book" and "La
Saisiaz"--that such doubt is ordained for the maturer mind, as the test
of faith, and its preserver.

The supposed last words of the Evangelist, and the circumstances in
which they were spoken, are reported by loving simplicity as by one who
heard them, and who puts forward this evidence of St. John's death
against the current belief that he lingers yet upon earth. The account,
first spoken, then written, has passed apparently from hand to hand, as
one disciple after the other died the martyr's death; and we find the
MS. in the possession of an unnamed person, and prefaced by him with a
descriptive note, in which religious reverence and bibliographical
interest are touchingly blended with each other.

St. John is dying in the desert, concealed in an inmost chamber of the
rock. Four grown disciples and a boy are with him. He lies as if in
sleep. But, as the end approaches, faint signs of consciousness appear
about the mouth and eyes, and the patient and loving ministrations of
those about him nurse the flickering vital spark into a flame.

St. John returns to life, feeling, as it were, the retreating soul
forced back upon the ashes of his brain, and taxing the flesh to one
supreme exertion. But he lives again in a far off time when "John" is
dead, and there is no one left who _saw_. And he lives in a sense as of
decrepit age, seeking a "foot-hold through a blank profound;" grasping
at facts which snap beneath his touch; in strange lands, and among
people yet unborn, who ask,

       "Was John at all, and did he say he saw?" (vol vii. p. 128.)

and will believe nothing till the proof be proved.

This prophetic self-consciousness does not, however, displace the memory
of his former self. John knows himself the man who _heard_ and
_saw_--receiving the words of Christ from His own mouth, and enduring
those glories of apocalyptic vision which he marvels that he could bear,
and live; seeing truths already plain grow of their own strength: and
those he guessed as points expanding into stars. And the life-long faith
regains its active power as the doubting future takes shape before him;
as he sees its children

                  "... stand conversing, each new face
       Either in fields, of yellow summer eves,
       On islets yet unnamed amid the sea;
       Or pace for shelter 'neath a portico
       Out of the crowd in some enormous town
       Where now the larks sing in a solitude:
       Or muse upon blank heaps of stone and sand
       Idly conjectured to be Ephesus:...."
                                            (vol. vii. p. 134.)

and he hears them questioning truths of deeper import than those of his
own life and work.

The subsequent monologue is an earnest endeavour to answer those
questionings, which he sets forth, in order that he may do so; his
eloquence being perhaps the more pathetic, that in the depth of his own
conviction--in his loving desire to impart it--he assumes a great deal
of what he tries to prove. "He has _seen_ it all--the miracle of that
life and death; the need, and yet the transiency, of death and sin; the
constant presence of the Divine love; those things which not only _were_
to him, but _are_. And he is called upon to prove it to those who
_cannot see_: whose spirit is darkened by the veil of fleshly strength,
while his own lies all but bare to the contact of the Heavenly light. He
must needs be as an optic-glass, bringing those things before them, not
in confusing nearness, but at the right historic distance from the eye."

"Life," he admits, "is given to us that we may learn the truth. But the
soul does not learn from it as the flesh does. For the flesh has little
time to stay, and must gain its lesson once and for all. Man needs no
second proof of the worth of fire: once found, he would not part with it
for gold. But the highest spiritual certainty is not like our conviction
of a bodily fact; and though we know the worth of Christ as we know the
preciousness of fire, we may not in like manner grasp this truth,
acknowledging it in our lives. He--John--in whose sight his Lord had
been transfigured, had walked upon the waters, and raised the dead to
life: _he, too_, forsook Him when the 'noise' and 'torchlight,' and the
'sudden Roman faces,' and the 'violent hands' were upon them...."

The doubter, he imagines, will argue thus, taking "John's" Gospel for
his starting-point:--

(_a_) "Your story is proved inaccurate, if not untrue. The doctrine
which rests upon it is therefore unproved, except in so far as it is
attested by the human heart. And this proof again is invalid. For the
doctrine is that of Divine love; and we, who believe in love, because we
ourselves possess it, may read it into a record in which it has no
place. Man, in his mental infancy, read his own emotions and his own
will into the forces of nature, as he clothed their supposed personal
existence in his own face and form. But his growing understanding
discarded the idea of these material gods. It now replaces the idea of
the one Divine intelligence by that of universal law. God is proved to
us as law--'named,' but 'not known.' A divinity, which we can recognize
by like attributes to our own, is disproved by them."

(_b_) "And granting that there is truth in your teaching: why is this
allowed to mislead us? Why are we left to hit or miss the truth,
according as our insight is weak or strong, instead of being plainly
told this thing _was_, or it _was not_? Does 'John' proceed with us as
did the heathen bard, who drew a fictitious picture of the manner in
which fire had been given to man; and left his readers to discover that
the fact was not the fable itself, but only contained in it?"

And John replies:

(_a_) "Man is made for progress, and receives therefore, step by step,
such spiritual assistance as is proportionate to his strength. The
testimony of miracles is granted when it is needed to assist faith. It
is withdrawn so soon as it would compel it. He who rejects God's love in
Christ because _he_ has learned the need of love, is as the lamp which
overswims with oil, the stomach which flags from excess of food: his
mind is being starved by the very abundance of what was meant to nourish
it. Man was spiritually living, when he shrank appalled from the
spectacle of Nature, and needed to be assured that there was a might
beyond _its_ might. But when he says, 'Since Might is everywhere, there
is no need of Will;' though he knows from his own experience how Might
may combine with Will, then is he spiritually dead. And man is
spiritually living, when he asks if there be love

       "Behind the will and might, as real as they?" (vol. vii. p. 140.)

But when he reasons: since love is everywhere, and we love and would be
loved, we make the love which we recognize as Christ: and Christ was
_not_; then is he spiritually dead. For the loss which comes through
gain is death, and the sole death."

(_b_) The second objection he answers by reverting to his first
statement. "Man is made for progress. He could not progress if his
doubtings were at once changed to certainties, and all he struggles for
at once found. He must yearn for truth, and grasp at error as a 'midway
help' to it. He must learn and unlearn. He must creep from fancies on to
fact; and correct to-day's facts by the light of to-morrow's knowledge.
He must be as the sculptor, who evokes a life-like form from a lump of
clay, ever seeing the reality in a series of false presentments;
attaining it through them, God alone makes the live shape at a jet."

The tenderness which has underlain even John's remonstrances culminates
in his closing words. "If there be a greater woe than this (the doubt)
which he has lived to see, may he," he says, "be 'absent,' though it
were for another hundred years, plucking the blind ones from the abyss."

       "But he was dead." (vol. vii. p. 146.)

The record has a postscript, written not by the same person, but in his
name, confronting the opinions of St. John with those of Cerinthus, his
noted opponent in belief, into whose hands the MS. is also supposed to
have fallen. It is chiefly interesting as heightening the historical
effect of the poem.[62]

"RABBI BEN EZRA" is the expression of a religious philosophy which,
being, from another point of view, Mr. Browning's own, has much in
common with that which he has imputed to St. John; and, as "A Death in
the Desert" only gave the words which the Evangelist might have spoken,
so is "Rabbi Ben Ezra" only the possible utterance of that pious and
learned Jew. But the Christian doctrine of the one poem brings into
strong relief the pure Theism of the other; and the religious
imagination in "Rabbi Ben Ezra" is strongly touched with the gorgeous
and solemn realism which distinguishes the Old Testament from the new.

The most striking feature of Rabbi Ben Ezra's philosophy is his estimate
of age. According to him the soul is eternal, but it completes the first
stage of its experience in the earthly life; and the climax of the
earthly life is attained, not in the middle of it, but at its close. Age
is therefore a period, not only of rest, but of fruition.

"Spiritual conflict is appropriate to youth. It is well that youth
should sigh for the impossible, and, if needs be, blunder in the
endeavour to improve what is. He would be a brute whose body could keep
pace with his soul. The highest test of man's bodily powers is the
distance to which they can project the soul on the way which it must
travel alone."

"But life in the flesh is good, showering gifts alike on sense and
brain. It is right that at some period of its existence man's heart
should beat in unison with it; that having seen God's power in the
scheme of creation, he should also see the perfectness of His love; that
he should thank Him for his manhood, for the power conferred on him to
live and learn. And this boon must be granted by age, which gathers in
the inheritance of youth."

"The inheritance is not one of earthly wisdom. Man learns to know the
right and the good, but he does not learn how outwardly to apply the
knowledge; for human judgments are formed to differ, and there is no one
who can arbitrate between them. Man's failure or success must be sought
in the unseen life--not in that which he has done, but in that which he
has aspired to do."

"Nothing dies or changes which has truly BEEN. The flight of time is but
the spinning of the potter's wheel to which we are as clay. This fleeing
circumstance is but the machinery which stamps the soul (that vessel
moulded for the Great Master's hand). And its latest impress is the
best: though the base of the cup be adorned with laughing loves, while
skull-like images constitute its rim."

       "Look not thou down but up!
       To uses of a cup,
       The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's-peal,
       The new wine's foaming flow,
       The Master's lips a-glow!
       Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what needst thou with earth's
                                                 (vol. vii. p. 119)

"DEAF AND DUMB" conveys, in a single stanza, the crowning lesson of the
life of Paracelsus, and indeed of every human life: for the sculptured
figures to which it refers have supplied the poet with an example of the
"glory" which may "arise" from "defect," the power from limitation. It
needs, he says, the obstructing prism to set free the rainbow hues of
the sunbeam. Only dumbness can give to love the full eloquence of the
eyes; only deafness can impress love's yearnings on the movements of
neck and face.

"THE STATUE AND THE BUST" is a warning against infirmity of purpose. Its
lesson is embodied in a picturesque story, in which fact and fiction are

In the piazza of the SS. Annunziata at Florence is an equestrian statue
of the Grand Duke Ferdinand the First, representing him as riding away
from the church, and with his head turned in the direction of the once
Riccardi Palace, which occupies a corner of the square. Tradition
asserts that he loved a lady whom her husband's jealousy kept a prisoner
there, and whom he could only see at her window; and that he avenged his
love by placing himself in effigy where his glance could always dwell
upon her.

In Mr. Browning's expanded version, the love is returned, and the lovers
determine to fly together. But each day brings fresh motives for
postponing the flight, and each day they exchange glances with each
other--he passing by on his horse, she looking down from her window--and
comfort themselves with the thought of the morrow. And as the days slip
by, their love grows cooler, and they learn to be content with
expectation. They realize at last that the love has been a dream, and
that they have spent their youth in dreaming it; and in order that the
dream may continue, and the memory of their lost youth be preserved,
they cause, he his statue to be cast, she her bust to be moulded, and
each placed in the attitude in which they have daily looked upon each
other. They feel the irony of the proceeding, though they find
satisfaction in it. Their image will do all that the reality has done.

Mr. Browning blames these lovers for not carrying out their intention,
whether or not it could be pronounced a good one. "Man should carry his
best energies into the game of life, whether the stake he is playing
for be good or bad--a reality or a sham. As a test of energy, the one
has no value above the other."

He leaves the "bust" in the region of fancy, by stating that it no
longer exists. But he tells us that it was executed in "della Robbia"
ware, specimens of which, still, at the time he wrote, adorned the outer
cornice of the palace. The statue is one of the finest works of John of

The partial darkening of the Via Larga by the over-hanging mass of the
Riccardi (formerly Medici) Palace[63] is figuratively connected in the
poem with the "crime" of two of its inmates: the "murder," by Cosimo dei
Medici and his (grand) son Lorenzo, of the liberties of the Florentine

The smallness of this group, and its chiefly dramatic character, show
how little direct teaching Mr. Browning's works contain. There is,
however, direct instructiveness in another and larger group, which has
too much in common with all three foregoing to be included in either,
and will be best indicated by the term "critical." In certain respects,
indeed, this applies to several, perhaps to most, of those which I have
placed under other heads; and I use it rather to denote a lighter tone
and more incidental treatment, than any radical difference of subject or


     "Old Pictures in Florence."        } Dramatic Lyrics.
     "Respectability."                  } Published in "Men
     "Popularity."                      } and Women."
     "Master Hugues of Saxe-gotha."     } 1855.
     "A Light Woman." Dramatic Romances. Published in "Men and
       Women." 1855.
     "Transcendentalism." ("Men and Women.") 1855.
     "How it Strikes a Contemporary." ("Men and Women.") 1855.
     "Dîs aliter Visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours." ("Dramatis
       Personæ.") 1864.
     "At the Mermaid."              }
     "House."                       }
     "Shop."                        } "Pacchiarotto, and other
     "Pisgah Sights," I. and II.    } Poems." 1876.
     "Bifurcation."                 }
     "Epilogue."                    }

The first and fourth of these are significant from the insight they give
into Mr. Browning's conception of art. We must allow, in reading them,
for the dramatic and therefore temporary mood in which they were
written, and deduct certain utterances which seem inconsistent with the
breadth of the author's views. But they reflect him truly in this
essential fact, that he considers art as subordinate to life, and only
valuable in so far as it expresses it. This means, not that his standard
is realistic: but that it is entirely human; it could scarcely be
otherwise in a mind so devoted to the study of human life; but these
very poems display also, on Mr. Browning's part, a loving familiarity
with the works of painters, sculptors, and musicians, and a practical
understanding of them, which might easily have resulted in a partial
acceptance of artistic standards as such, and of the policy of art for
art; and it is only through the breadth and strength of his dramatic
genius, that artistic sympathies in themselves so strong could be
subjected to it.

In music, this position appears at first sight to be reversed; for Mr.
Browning rejects the dramatic theory which would convert it into a
direct expression of human thought. Here, however, the poet in him comes
into play. He leaves the plastic arts to express what may be both felt
and thought; and calls on music to express what may be felt but not
thought. In this sense he accepts it as an independent science subject
to its own ideals and to its own laws. But this only means that, in his
opinion, the relation of music to human life is different from that of
plastic art: the one revealing the unknown, while the other embodies
what is known.

"OLD PICTURES IN FLORENCE" is a fanciful monologue, spoken as by one who
is looking down upon Florence, through her magical atmosphere, from a
villa on the neighbouring heights. The sight of her Campanile brings
Giotto to his mind; and with Giotto comes a vision of all the dead Old
Masters who mingle in spirit with her living men. He sees them each
haunting the scene of his former labours in church or chapter-room,
cloister or crypt; and he sees them grieving over the decay of their
works, as these fade and moulder under the hand of time. He is also
conscious that they do not grieve for themselves. Earthly praise or
neglect cannot touch them more. But they have had a lesson to teach; and
so long as the world has not learnt the lesson, their souls may not rest
in heaven.

"Greek art had _its_ lesson to teach, and it taught it. It reasserted
the dignity of the human form. It re-stated _the truth_ of the soul
which informs the body, and the body which expresses it. Men saw in its
creations their own qualities carried to perfection, and were content to
know that such perfection was possible, and to renounce the hope of
attaining it. In this experience the first stage was progress; the
second was stagnation. Progress began again, when men looked on these
images of themselves and said: "we are not inferior to these. We are
greater than they. For what has come to perfection perishes, and we are
imperfect because eternity is before us; because we were made to
_grow_." The soul which has eternity within its grasp cannot express
itself in a single glance; nor can its consciousness be petrified into
an unchanging sorrow or joy. The painters who set aside Greek art
undertook to vindicate the activity of the soul. They made its hopes and
fears shine through the flesh, though the flesh they shone through were
frayed and torn by the process. This was the work which they had to do;
and which remains undone, while men speak of them as "Old Master" this,
and "Early" the other, and do not dream that "Old" and "New" are
fellows: "that all are links in the chain of the one progressive art
life; the one spiritual revelation."

The speaker now relapses into the playful mood which his more serious
reflections have scarcely interrupted. He thinks of the removable
paintings which lie hidden in cloister or church, and which a
sympathizing purchaser might rescue from decay; and he reproaches those
melancholy ghosts for not guiding such purchasers to them. He, for
instance, does not aspire to the works of the very great; but a number
of lesser lights, whose name and quality he recites, might, he thinks,
have lent themselves to the fulfilment of his artistic desires;[64] and
he declares himself particularly hurt by the conduct of his old friend
Giotto, who has allowed some picture he had been hunting through every
church in Florence to fall into other hands. He concludes with an
invocation to a future time when the Grand Duke will have been pitched
across the Alps, when art and the Republic will revive together, and
when Giotto's Campanile will be completed--which glorious consummation,
though he may not live to see, he considers himself the first to

Mr. Browning alludes, in the course of this monologue, to the two
opposite theories of human probation: one confining it to this life, the
other extending it through a series of future existences; and without
pronouncing on their relative truth, he owns himself in sympathy with
the former. He is tired and likes to think of rest. The sentiment is,
however, not in harmony with his general views, and belongs to the
dramatic aspect of the poem.[65]

MASTER HUGUES OF SAXE GOTHA, also a monologue, is christened after an
imaginary composer; and consists of a running comment on one of his
fugues, as performed by the organist of some unnamed church. The latter
has just played it through: the scored brow and deep-set eyes of Master
Hugues fixed on him, as he fancied, from the shade; and he now imagines
he hears him say, "You have done justice to the notes of my piece, but
you must grasp its meaning to understand where my merit lies;" so he
plays the fugue again, listening for the meaning, and reading it as out
of a book. From this literary or dramatic point of view, the impression
received is as follows. Some one lays down a proposition, unimportant in
itself, and not justly open to either praise or blame. Nevertheless a
second person retorts on it, a third interposes, a fourth rejoins, and a
fifth thrusts his nose into the matter. The five are fully launched into
a quarrel. The quarrel grows broader and deeper. Number one restates his
case somewhat differently. Number two takes it up on its new ground.
Argument is followed by vociferation and abuse; a momentary
self-restraint by a fresh outbreak of self-assertion. All tempers come
into play, all modes of attack are employed, from pounding with a
crowbar to pricking with a pin. And where all this time is music? Where
is the gold of truth? Spun over and blackened by the tissue of jangling
sounds, as is the ceiling of the old church by cobwebs.

       "Is it your moral of Life?
       Such a web, simple and subtle,
       Weave we on earth here in impotent strife,
       Backward and forward each throwing his shuttle,
       Death ending all with a knife?"         (vol. vi. p. 202)

The organist admires Master Hugues, and approaches his creations with an
open mind; but he cannot help feeling that this mode of composition
represents the tortuousness of existence, and that its "truth" spreads
golden above and about us, whether we accept her or not. He ends by
bidding Master Hugues and the five speakers clear the arena; and leave
him to "unstop the full organ," and "blare out," in the "mode
Palestrina," what another musician has had to say.

This scene in an organ loft has many humorous touches which would in any
case forbid our taking it too seriously; and we must no more think of
Mr. Browning as indifferent to the possible merits of a fugue than as
indifferent to the beauties of a Greek statue. But the dramatic
situation has in this, as in the foregoing case, a strong basis of
personal truth.

Two more of these poems show the irony of circumstance as embodied in
popular opinion.

"POPULARITY" is an expression of admiring tenderness for some person
whom the supposed speaker knows and loves as a poet, though it is the
coming, not the present age, which will bow to him as such. But the main
idea of the poem is set forth in a comparison. The speaker "sees" his
friend in the character of an ancient fisherman landing the Murex-fish
on the Tyrian shore. "The 'murex' contains a dye of miraculous beauty;
and this once extracted and bottled, Hobbs, Nobbs, and Co. may trade in
it and feast; but the poet who (figuratively) brought the murex to land,
and created its value, may, as Keats probably did, eat porridge all his

"HOW IT STRIKES A CONTEMPORARY" describes a poet whose personality was
not ignored, but mistaken; and the irony of circumstance is displayed
both in the extent of this mistake, and the colour which circumstance
has given to it. This poet is a mysterious personage, who constantly
wanders through the city, seeing everything without appearing to use his
eyes. His clothing, though old and worn, has been of the fashion of the
Court. He writes long letters, which are obviously addressed to "our
Lord the King," and "which, no doubt, have had to do with the
disappearance of A., and the fate of B." He can be, people think, no
other than a _spy_. A spy, we must admit, might proceed in much the same
manner. Mr. Browning does, however, full justice to the excesses of
popular imagination, once directed into a given channel, in the parallel
touches which depict the portentous luxury in which the spy is supposed
to live: the poor though decent garret in which the poet dies.

"TRANSCENDENTALISM" is addressed to a young poet, who is accused of
presenting his ideas "naked," instead of draping them, in poetic
fashion, in sights and sounds: in other words, of talking across his
harp instead of singing to it. He acts on the supposition that, if the
young want imagery, older men want rational thoughts. And his critic is
declaring this a mistake. "Youth, indeed, would be wasted in studying
the transcendental Jacob Boehme for the deeper meaning of things which
life gives it to see and feel; but when youth is past, we need all the
more to be made to see and feel. It is not a thinker like Boehme who
will compensate us for the lost summer of our life; but a magician like
John of Halberstadt, who can, at any moment, conjure roses up."[66]

There is a strong vein of humour in the argument, which gives the
impression of being consciously overstated. It is neverthess a genuine
piece of criticism.

"AT THE MERMAID" and the "EPILOGUE" deal with public opinion in its
general estimate of poets and poetry; and they expose its fallacies in a
combative spirit, which would exclude them from a more rigorous
definition of the term "critical." In the first of these Mr. Browning
speaks under the mask of Shakespeare, and gives vent to the natural
irritation of any great dramatist who sees his various characters
identified with himself. He repudiates the idea that the writings of a
dramatic poet reveal him as a man, however voluminous they may be; and
on this ground he even rejects the transcendent title to fame which his
contemporaries have adjudged to him. They know him in his work. They
cannot, he says, know him in his _life_. He has never given them the
opportunity of doing so. He has allowed no one to slip inside his soul,
and "label" and "catalogue" what he found there.

This is truer for Shakespeare than for Mr. Browning, who has often
addressed his public with comparative directness, and would be grieved
to have it thought that in the long course of his writings he has never
spoken from his heart. He would also be the first to admit that, in the
course of his writings, the poet must, indirectly, reveal the man. But
he has too often had to defend himself against the impression that
whatever he wrote as a poet must directly reflect him as a man. He has
too often had to repeat, that poetry is an art which "_makes_" not one
which merely _records_; and that the feelings it conveys are no more
necessarily supplied by direct experience than are its facts by the
Cyclopædia. And with the usual deduction for the dramatic mood, we may
accept the retort as genuine.

I have departed in the case of this poem from the mere statement of
contents, which is all that my plan admits of, or my readers usually can
desire: because it expresses an indifference to general sympathy which
belies the author's feeling in the matter. Mr. Browning speaks equally
for himself and Shakespeare, when he derides another idea which he
considers to be popular: that the fit condition of the poet is
melancholy. "I," he declares, "have found life joyous, and I speak of it
as such. Let those do otherwise who have wasted its opportunities, or
been less richly endowed with them."

The "Epilogue" is a criticism on critics, and is spoken distinctly by
Mr. Browning himself. He takes for his text a line from Mrs.

       "The poets pour us wine,"

and denounces those consumers of the wine of poetry, who expect it to
combine strength and sweetness in an impossible degree. Body and
bouquet, he affirms, may be found on the label of a bottle, but not in
the vat from which the bottle was filled. "Mighty" and "mellow" may be
born at once; but the one is for now, the other only for after-time. The
earth, he declares, is his vineyard; his grape, the loves, the hates,
and the thoughts of man; his wine, what these have made it. Bouquet may,
he admits, be artificially given. Flowers grow everywhere which will
supplement the flavour of the grape; and his life holds flowers of
memory, which blossom with every spring. But he denies that his brew
would be the more popular if he stripped his meadow to make it so. How
much do his public drink of that which they profess to approve? They
declare Shakespeare and Milton fit beverage for man and boy. "Look into
their cellars, and see how many barrels are unbroached of the one brand,
what drippings content them of the other. He will be true to his task,
and to Him who set it."

       "Wine, pulse in might from me!
       It may never emerge in must from vat,
       Never fill cask nor furnish can,
       Never end sweet, which strong began--
       God's gift to gladden the heart of man;
         But spirit's at proof, I promise that!
       No sparing of juice spoils what should be
         Fit brewage--mine for me."
                                               (vol. xiv. p. 148)

At the 18th stanza the figure is changed, and Mr. Browning speaks of his
work (by implication) as a stretch of country which is moor above and
mine below; and in which men will find--what they dig for.

"HOUSE" is written in much the same spirit as "At the Mermaid." It
reminds us that the whole front of a dwelling must come down before the
life within it can be gauged by the vulgar eye; however we may fancy
that this or that poetic utterance has unlocked the door--that it opens
to a "sonnet-key."[68]

"SHOP" is a criticism on those writers, poets or otherwise, who are so
disproportionately absorbed by the material cares of existence as to
place the good of literature in its money-making power; and depicts such
in the character of the shopman who makes the shop his home, instead of
leaving it for some mansion or villa as soon as business hours are past.
"The flesh must live, but why should not the spirit have its dues also?"

"RESPECTABILITY" is a comment on the price paid for social position. A
pair of lovers have been enjoying a harmless escapade; and one remarks
to the other that, if their relation had been recognized by the world,
they might have wasted their youth in the midst of proprieties which
they would never have learned the danger and the pleasure of infringing.
The situation is barely sketched in; but the sentiment of the poem is
well marked, and connects it with the foregoing group.

of conduct.

A man desires to extricate his friend from the toils of "A LIGHT WOMAN;"
and to this end he courts her himself. He is older and more renowned
than her present victim, and trusts to her vanity to ensure his success.

But his attentions arouse in her something more. He discovers too late
that he has won her heart. He can only cast it away, and a question
therefore arises: he knows how he appears to his friend; he knows how he
will appear to the woman whom his friend loved; "how does he appear to
himself?" In other words, did the end for which he has acted justify the
means employed? He doubts it.

"DÎS ALITER VISUM" records the verdict of later days on a decision which
recommended itself at the time: that is, to the person who formed it. A
man and woman are attracted towards each other, though she is young and
unformed; he, old in years and in experience; and he is, or seems to be,
on the point of offering her his hand. But caution checks the impulse.
They drift asunder. He forms a connection with an opera-dancer. She
makes a loveless marriage. Ten years later they meet again; and she
reminds him of what passed between them, and taxes him with the ruin of
four souls. He has thought only of the drawbacks to _present_ enjoyment,
which the unequal union would have involved; he never thought or cared
how its bitter-sweetness might quicken the striving for eternity.

This criticism reflects the woman's point of view, and was probably
intended to justify it. It does not follow that the author would not, in
another dramatic mood, have justified the man, in his more practical
estimate of the situation. Mr. Browning's poetic self is, however,
expressed in the woman's belief: that everything which disturbs the
equal balance of human life gives a vital impulse to the soul. The
stereotyped completeness of the lower existences supplies him here also
with a warning.

The title of "BIFURCATION" refers to two paths in life, followed
respectively by two lovers whom circumstances divide. The case is not
unusual. The woman sacrifices love to duty, and expects her lover to
content himself with her choice. Why not, she thinks? She will be
constant to him; they will be united in the life to come. And meanwhile,
she is choosing what for her is the smoother and safer path, while for
him it is full of stumbling-blocks. Love's guidance is refused him, and
he falls. Which of these two has been the sinner: he who sinned
unwillingly, or she who caused the sin? We feel that Mr. Browning
condemns the apparent saint.

"PISGAH SIGHTS. I." depicts life as it may _seem_ to one who is leaving
it; who is, as it were, "looking over the ball." As seen from this
position, Good and Evil are reconciled, and even prove themselves
indispensable to each other. The seer becomes aware that it is unwise to
strive against the mixed nature of existence; vain to speculate on its
cause. But the knowledge is bittersweet, for it comes too late.

"PISGAH SIGHTS. II." is a view of life as it _might_ be, if the
knowledge just described did not come too late; and shows that according
to Mr. Browning's philosophy it would be no life at all. The speaker
declares that if he had to live again, he would take everything as he
found it. He would neither dive nor soar; he would strive neither to
teach nor to reform. He would keep to the soft and shady paths; learn by
quiet observation; and allow men of all kinds to pass him by, while he
remained a fixture. He would gain the benefit of the distance with those
below and above him, since he would be magnified for the one class,
while seen from a softening point of view by the other. And so also he
would admire the distant brightness, "the mightiness yonder," the more
for keeping his own place. If seen too closely, _the star might prove a



Those of Mr. Browning's poems which are directly prompted by thought
have their counterpart in a large number which are specially inspired by
emotion; and must be noticed as such. But this group will perhaps be the
most artificial of all; for while thought is with him often uncoloured
by feeling, he seldom expresses feeling as detached from thought. The
majority, for instance, of his love poems are introduced by the title
"dramatic," and describe love as bound up with such varieties of life
and character, that questions of life and character are necessarily
raised by them; the emotion thus conveyed being really more intense,
because more individual, than could be given in any purely lyric
effusion not warmed by the poet's own life. Some few, however, are
genuine lyrics, whether regarded as personal utterances or not; and in
the case of two or three of these, the personal utterance is

Under the head of LYRICAL LOVE POEMS must be placed

     "One Word More," to E. B. B. ("Men and Women." 1855.)
     "Prospice." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)
     "Numpholeptos."   }
     "Prologue."       } "Pacchiarotto and other Poems."
     "Natural Magic."  } 1876.
     "Magical Nature." }
     "Introduction."      } "The Two Poets of Croisic."
     "A Tale."            } 1878.

"ONE WORD MORE" is a message of love, as direct as it is beautiful; but
as such it also expresses an idea which makes it a fitting object of
study. Most men and women lay their highest gift at the feet of him or
of her they love, and with it such honour as the world may render it.
They value both, as making them more worthy of those they love, and for
their sake rejoice in the possession. Mr. Browning feels otherwise.
According to him the gifts by which we are known to the world have lost
graciousness through its contact. Their exercise is marred by its
remembered churlishness and ingratitude. Every artist, he declares,
longs "once" and for "one only," to utter himself in a language distinct
from his art; to "gain" in this manner, "the man's joy," while escaping
"the artist's sorrow." So Raphael, the painter, wrote a volume of
sonnets to be seen only by one. Dante, poet of the "Inferno," drew an
angel in memory of the one (of Beatrice). He--Mr. Browning--has only his
verse to offer. But as the fresco painter steals a camel's hair brush to
paint flowerets on his lady's missal--as he who blows through bronze may
also breathe through silver for the purpose of a serenade, so may _he_
lend his talent to a different use. He has completed his volume of "Men"
and "Women." He dedicates it to her to whom this poem is addressed. But
his special offering to her is not the book itself, in which he speaks
with the mouth of fifty other persons, but the word of dedication--the
"One Word More"--in which he speaks to her from his own. The dramatic
turns lyric poet for the _one only_.

And what he says of himself, he in some degree thinks of her. The moon,
he reminds her, presents always the same surface to the world: whether
new-born, waxing, or waning; whether, as they late saw her, radiant
above the hills of Florence; or, as she now appears to them, palely
hurrying to her death over London house-tops. But for the "moonstruck
mortal" she holds another side, glorious or terrible as the case may
be--unknown alike to herdsman and huntsman, philosopher and poet, among
the rest of mankind. So she, who is his moon of poets, has also her
world's side, which he can see and praise with the rest;

       "But the best is when I glide from out them,
       Cross a step or two of dubious twilight,
       Come out on the other side, the novel
       Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,
       Where I hush and bless myself with silence." (vol. iv. p. 305.)

"PROSPICE" (look forward) is a challenge to spiritual conflict, exultant
with the certainty of victory, glowing with the prospective joy of
re-union with one whom death has sent before. We cannot doubt that this
poem, like the preceding, came from the depths of the poet's own heart.

"NUMPHOLEPTOS" (caught by a nymph) is passionately earnest in tone, and
must rank as lyrical in spite of the dramatic, at least fantastic,
circumstance in which the feeling is clothed. It is the almost
despairing cry of a human love, devoted to a being of superhuman purity;
and who does not reject the love, but accepts it on an impossible
condition: that the lover shall complete himself as a man by acquiring
the fullest knowledge of life, and shall emerge unsullied from its
experiences. This woman, more or less than mortal, belongs rather to the
"fairyland of science" than to the realm of mythology. She stands, in
passionless repose, at the starting-point of the various paths of
earthly existence. These radiate from her, many-hued with passion and
adventure, as light rays scattered by a prism; and, in the mocking hopes
with which she invests their course, she seems herself the cold white
light, of which their glow is born, and into which it will also die. She
bids her worshipper travel down each red and yellow ray, bathe in its
hues, and return to her "jewelled," but not smirched; and each time he
returns, not jewelled, but smirched; always to appear monstrous in her
sight; always to be dismissed with the same sad smile: so pitying that
it promises love, so fixed that it bars its possibility. He rebels at
last, but the rebellion is momentary. He renews his hopeless quest.

"PROLOGUE" is a fanciful expression of the ideas of impediment visible
and invisible, which may be raised by the aspect of a brick wall; such a
one, perhaps, as projects at a right angle to the window of Mr.
Browning's study, and was before him when he wrote.

"NATURAL MAGIC" attests the power of love to bring, as by enchantment,
summer with its warmth and blossoms, into a barren life.

"MAGICAL NATURE" is a tribute to the beauty of countenance which
proceeds from the soul, and has therefore a charmed existence defying
the hand of time.

The INTRODUCTION to the "TWO POETS OF CROISIC," (reprinted under the
title of "Apparitions,") recalls the sentiment of "Natural Magic." The
"TALE" with which it concludes is inspired by the same feeling. Its
circumstance is ancient, and the reader is allowed to imagine that it
exists in Latin or Greek; but it is simply a poetic and profound
illustration of what love can do always and everywhere. A famous poet
was singing to his lyre. One of its strings snapped. The melody would
have been lost, had not a cricket (properly, cicada) flown on to the
lyre and chirped the missing note. The note, thus sounded, was more
beautiful than as produced by the instrument itself, and, to the song's
end, the cricket remained to do the work of the broken string. The poet,
in his gratitude, had a statue of himself made with the lyre in his
hand, and the cricket perched on the point of it. They were thus
immortalized together: she, whom he had enthroned, he, whom she had

Love is the cricket which repairs the broken harmonies of life.

The dramatic setting of the majority of the Love poems serves, as I have
said, to bring out the vitality of Mr. Browning's conception of love;
and though anything like labelling a poet's work brings with it a sense
of anomaly, we shall only carry out the spirit of this particular group
by connecting each member of it with the condition of thought or feeling
it is made to illustrate.

It will be seen that the dramatic Lyrics and Dramatic Romances, which
supply so many of the poems of the following and other groups, had been
largely recruited from the first collection of "Men and Women;" having
first, in several instances, contributed to that work.


     "Cristina." (Love as the special gain of life.) "Dramatic
     Lyrics." 1842.

     "Evelyn Hope." (Love as conquering Time.) "Dramatic Lyrics."
     Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "Love among the Ruins." (Love as the one lasting reality.)
     "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "A Lover's Quarrel." (Love as the great harmony which triumphs
     over smaller discords.) "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men
     and Women." 1855.

     "By the Fireside." (Love in its ideal maturity.) "Dramatic
     Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "Any Wife to any Husband." (Love in its ideal of constancy.)
     "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "Two in the Campagna." (Love as an unsatisfied yearning.)
     "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "Love in a Life." (Love as indomitable purpose.) "Dramatic
     Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "Life in a Love." (Love as indomitable purpose.) "Dramatic
     Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "The Lost Mistress." (Love as the completeness of
     self-surrender.) "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.

     "A Woman's last Word." (Love as the completeness of
     self-surrender.) "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.

     "A Serenade at the Villa." (Love as the completeness of
     self-surrender.) "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.

     "One Way of Love." (Love as the completeness of
     self-surrender.) "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.

     "Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli." (Love as the completeness of
     self-surrender.) "Men and Women." Published in "Dramatic
     Lyrics." 1842.

     "In Three Days." (Love as the intensity of expectant hope.)
     "Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.

     "In a Gondola." (Love as the intensity of a precarious joy.)
     "Dramatic Romances." Published in "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.

     "Porphyria's Lover." (Love as the tyranny of spiritual
     appropriation.) "Dramatic Romances." Published in "Dramatic
     Lyrics." 1842.

     "James Lee's Wife." (Love as saddened by the presentiment and
     the consciousness of change.) "Dramatis Personæ." 1864

     "The Worst of it." (Love as the completeness of
     self-effacement.) "Dramatis Personnæ." 1864.

     "Too Late." (Love as the sense of a loss which death has
     rendered irrevocable.) "Dramatis Personæ." 1864.

The two first of these are inspired by the belief in the distinctness
and continuity of the soul's life; and represent love as a condition of
the soul with which positive experience has very little to do; but in
all the others it is treated as part of this experience, and subject for
the time being to its laws. The situation sketched--for it is nothing
more--in "CRISTINA" is that of a man and woman whom a glance has united,
and who both have recognized in this union the predestined object of
their life. The knowledge has only flashed on the woman's mind, to be
extinguished by worldly ambitions and worldly honours; and for her,
therefore, the union remains barren. But the existence of the man is
enriched and perfected by it. She has spiritually lost him, but _he_ has
gained _her_; for though she has drifted away from him, he retains her
soul. (This poetical paradox is the strong point of the poem.) It is
henceforth his mission to test their blended powers; and when that has
been accomplished, he will have done, he says, with this world.

"EVELYN HOPE" is the utterance of a love which has missed its fruition
in this life, but confidently anticipates it for a life to come. The
beloved is a young girl. The lover is three times her age, and was a
stranger to her; she is lying dead. But God, he is convinced, creates
love to reward love: and no matter what worlds must be traversed, what
lives lived, what knowledge gained or lost, before that moment is
reached, Evelyn Hope will, in the end, be given to him.

"LOVE AMONG THE RUINS" depicts a pastoral solitude in which are buried
the remains of an ancient city, fabulous in magnificence and in
strength. A ruined turret marks the site of a mighty tower, from which
the king of that city overlooked his domains, or, with his court,
watched the racing chariots as they encircled it in their course. In
that turret, in the evening grey, amidst the tinkling of the sheep, a
yellow-haired maiden is waiting for him she loves; and as they bury
sight and speech in each other's arms, he bids the human heart shut in
the centuries, with their triumphs and their follies, their glories and
their sins, for "Love is best."

"A LOVER'S QUARREL" describes, not the quarrel itself, but the
impression it leaves on him who has unwittingly provoked it: one of
amazement as well as sorrow, that such a thing could have occurred. The
speaker, apostrophizing his absent love, reminds her how happy they have
been together, with no society but their own; no pleasures but those of
sympathy; no amusements but those which their common fancy supplied; and
he asks her if it be possible that so perfect a union can be destroyed
by a hasty word with which his deeper self has had nothing to do. He
believes this so little that he is sure she will, in some way, come back
to him; and then they will part no more.

A vein of playfulness runs through this monologue, which represents the
lovers before their quarrel as more like children enjoying a long
holiday, than a man and a woman sharing the responsibilities of life. It
conveys, nevertheless, a truth deeply rooted in the author's mind: that
the foundation of a real love can never be shaken.

"BY THE FIRESIDE" is a retrospect, in which the speaker is carried from
middle-age to youth, and from his, probably English, fireside to the
little Alpine gorge in which he confessed his love; and he summons the
wife who received and sanctioned the avowal to share with him the joy of
its remembrance. He describes the scene of his declaration, the
conflict of feeling which its risks involved, the generous frankness
with which she cut the conflict short. He dwells on the blessings which
their union has brought to him, and which make his youth seem barren by
the richness of his maturer years; and he asks her if there exist
another woman, with whom he could thus have retraced the descending path
of life, and found nothing to regret in what he had left behind. He
declares that their mutual love has been for him that crisis in the life
of the soul to which all experience tends--the predestined test of its
quality. It is his title to honour as well as his guarantee of
everlasting joy.

The subtler realities of life and love are reflected throughout the poem
in picturesque impressions often no less subtle, and the whole is
dramatic, i.e., imaginary, as far as conception goes; but the obvious
genuineness of the sentiment is confirmed by the allusion to the
"perfect wife" who,

       "Reading by firelight, that great brow
       And the spirit-small hand propping it," (vol. vi. p. 132.)

is known to all of us.

"ANY WIFE TO ANY HUSBAND" might be the lament of any woman about to die,
who believes that her husband will remain true to her in heart, but will
lack courage to be so in his life. She anticipates the excuses he will
offer for seeking temporary solace in the society of other women; but
these all, to her mind, resolve themselves into a confession of
weakness; and it grieves her that such a confession should proceed from
one, in all other respects, so much stronger than she. "Were she the
survivor, it would be so easy to her to be faithful to the end!" Her
grief is unselfish. The wrong she apprehends will be done to his
spiritual dignity far more than to his love for her, though with a touch
of feminine inconsistency she identifies the two; and she cannot resign
herself to the idea that he whose earthly trial is "three parts"
overcome will break down under this final test. She accepts it, however,
as the inevitable.

"TWO IN THE CAMPAGNA." The sentiment of this poem can only be rendered
in its concluding words:

       "Infinite passion, and the pain
       Of finite hearts that yearn."   (vol. vi. p. 153.)

For its pain is that of a heart both restless and weary: ever seeking to
grasp the Infinite in the finite, and ever eluded by it. The sufferer is
a man. He longs to rest in the affection of a woman who loves him, and
whom he also loves; but whenever their union seems complete, his soul is
spirited away, and he is adrift again. He asks the meaning of it
all--where the fault lies, if fault there be; he begs her to help him to
discover it. The Campagna is around them, with its "endless fleece of
feathery grasses," its "everlasting wash of air;" its wide suggestions
of passion and of peace. The clue to the enigma seems to glance across
him, in the form of a gossamer thread. He traces it from point to point,
by the objects on which it rests. But just as he calls his love to help
him to hold it fast, it breaks off, and floats into the invisible. His
doom is endless change. The tired, tantalized spirit must accept it.

"LOVE IN A LIFE" represents the lover as inhabiting the same house with
his unseen love; and pursuing her in it ceaselessly from room to room,
always catching the flutter of her retreating presence, always sure that
the next moment he will overtake her.

"LIFE IN A LOVE" might be the utterance of the same person, when he has
grasped the fact that the loved one is determined to elude him. She may
baffle his pursuit, but he will never desist from it, though it absorb
his whole life.

"THE LOST MISTRESS" is the farewell expression of a discarded love which
has accepted the conditions of friendship. Its tone is full of manly
self-restraint and of patient sadness.

"A WOMAN'S LAST WORD" is one of moral and intellectual self-surrender.
She has been contending with her husband, and been silenced by the
feeling, not that the truth is on his side, but that it was not worth
the pain of such a contention. What, she seems to ask herself, is the
value of truth, when it is false to her Divinity; or knowledge, when it
costs her her Eden? She begs him whom she worships as well as loves, to
mould her to himself; but she begs also the privilege of a few tears--a
last tribute, perhaps, to her sacrificed conscience, and her lost

"A SERENADE AT THE VILLA" has a tinge of melancholy humour, which makes
it the more pathetic. A lover has been serenading the lady of his
affections through a sultry night, in which Earth seemed to turn
painfully in her sleep, and the silent darkness was unbroken, except by
an occasional flash of lightning, and a few drops of thundery rain. He
wishes his music may have told her that whenever life is dark or
difficult there will be one near to help and guide her: one whose
patience will never tire, and who will serve her best when there are
none to witness his devotion. But her villa looks very dark; its closed
windows are very obdurate. The gate ground its teeth as it let him pass.
And he fears she only said to herself, that if the silence of a thundery
night was oppressive, such noise was a worse infliction.

"ONE WAY OF LOVE." This lover has strewn the roses of a month's
gathering on his lady's path, only for the chance of her seeing them: as
he has conquered the difficulties of the lute, only for the chance of
her liking its sound; thrown his whole life into a love, which is hers
to accept or reject. She cares for none of these things. So the roses
may lie, the lute-string break. The lover can still say, "Blest is he
who wins her."

"RUDEL TO THE LADY OF TRIPOLI" is a pathetic declaration, in which the
lover compares himself to a sunflower, and proclaims it as his badge.
The French poet Rudel loves the "Lady of Tripoli;"[69] and she is dear
to him as is the sun to that foolish flower, which by constant
contemplation has grown into its very resemblance. And he bids a pilgrim
tell her that, as bees bask on the sunflower, men are attracted by his
song; but, as the sunflower looks ever towards the sun, so does he,
disregarding men's applause, look towards the East, and her.

"IN THREE DAYS" is a note of joyful expectation, and doubtless a pure
lyric, though classed as dramatic-lyrical. The lover will see his love
in three days; and his complex sense of the delay, as meaning both _all_
this time, and _only_ this, is leavened by the joyful consciousness that
the reunion will be as absolute as the union has been. He knows that
life is full of chance and change. The possibilities of three days are a
great deal to encounter, very little to have escaped. Unsuspected
dangers may lurk in the coming year. But--he will see her in three days;
and in that thought he can laugh all misgiving and all fear to scorn.

"IN A GONDOLA" is a love scene, beginning with a serenade from a
gondola, and continued by the two lovers in it, after the Venetian
fashion of the olden time. They are escaping, as they think, the
vigilance of a certain "Three"--one of whom we may conjecture to be the
lady's husband or father--and have already regained her home, and fixed
the signal for to-morrow's meeting, when the lover is surprised and
stabbed. As they glide through the canals of the city, by its dark or
illuminated palaces, each concealing perhaps some drama of love or
crime--the sense of danger never absent from them,--the tense emotion
relieves itself in playful though impassioned fancies, in which the man
and the woman vie with each other. But when the blow has fallen, the
light tone gives way, on the lover's side, to one of solemn joy in the
happiness which has been realized.

                        "... The Three, I do not scorn
       To death, because they never lived: but I
       Have lived indeed, and so--(yet one more kiss)--can die!"
                                                        (vol. v. p. 77.)

"PORPHYRIA'S LOVER" is an episode which, with one of the poems of "Men
and Women," "Johannes Agricola in Meditation," first appeared under the
head of "Madhouse Cells."[70] Porphyria is deeply attached to her
"lover," but has not courage to break the ties of an artificial world,
and give herself to him; and when one night love prevails, and she
proves it by a voluntary act of devotion, he murders her in the act,
that her nobler and purer self may be preserved. Such a crime might be
committed in a momentary aberration, or even intense excitement, of
feeling. It is characterized here by a matter-of-fact simplicity, which
is its sign of madness. The distinction, however, is subtle; and we can
easily guess why this and its companion poem did not retain their
title. A madness which is fit for dramatic treatment is not sufficiently
removed from sanity.

"JAMES LEE'S WIFE" is the study of a female character developed by
circumstances, and also impressing itself on them; the circumstances
being those of an unfortunate marriage, in which the love has been
mutual, but the constancy is all on the woman's side. "James Lee" is (as
we understand) a man of shallow nature, whose wife's earnestness repels
him when its novelty has ceased to charm. The "Wife" is keenly alive to
his change of feeling towards her: and even anticipates it, in
melancholy forebodings which probably hasten its course.



Love carries already the seed of doubt. The wife addresses her husband,
who is approaching from outside, in words of anxious tenderness. The
season is changing; coming winter is in the air. Will his love change



The note of apprehension deepens. The fire they are sitting by is
supplied by ship-wood. It suggests the dangers of the sea, the sailor's
longing for land and home. "But the life in port has its dangers too.
There are worms which gnaw the ship in harbour, as the heart in sleep.
Did some woman before her, in this very house perhaps, begin love's
voyage full sail, and then suddenly see the ship's planks start, and
hell open beneath the man she loves?"



She remonstrates with her fear. Winter is drawing nearer: nature
becoming cold and bare. But they two have all the necessaries of life,
and love besides. The human spirit (the spirit of love) was meant by God
to resist change, to put its life into the darkness and the cold. It
should fear neither.



The fear has become a certainty. The wife reasons with her husband as
they walk together. "He wanted her love, and she gave it to him. He has
it, and yet is not content. Why so? She is not blind to his faults, but
she does not love him the less for them. She has taken him as he was,
with the good seed in him and the bad, waiting patiently for the good to
bring its harvest; enduring patiently when the harvest failed. Whether
praiseworthy or blameworthy, he has been her world!"

"That is what condemns her in his eyes: she loves too well; she watches
too patiently. His nature is impatient of bondage. Such devotion as hers
is a bond."



She reflects on the power of love. A cricket and a butterfly settle down
before her: one on a piece of burnt-up turf, one on the dark flat
surface of a rock which the receding tide has left bare. The barren
surfaces are transfigured by their brightness. Just so will love settle
on the low or barren in life, and transform it.



She has reached the transition stage between struggle and resignation.
She accepts change and its disappointments as the law of life. We
discover this in her comment on the book in question, from which some
verses are introduced.[71] The author apostrophizes a moaning wind which
appeals to him as a voice of woe more eloquent than any which is given
to animal or man: and asks it what form of suffering, mental or bodily,
its sighs are trying to convey. James Lee's wife regards the mood here
expressed as characteristic of a youthful spirit, disposed to enlarge
upon the evils of existence by its over-weening consciousness of power
to understand, strength to escape or overcome them. Such a one, she
says, can only learn by sad experience what the wind in its moaning
means: that subtle change which arrests the course of happiness, as the
same wind, stirring however softly in a summer dawn, may annul the
promise of its beauty.

       "Nothing can be as it has been before;
       Better, so call it, only not the same.
       To draw one beauty into our hearts' core,
       And keep it changeless! such our claim;
       So answered,--Never more!"

She who has learnt it, can only ask herself if this old world-sorrow be
cause for rejoicing through the onward impulse ever forced upon the
soul; if it be sent to us in probation. She cannot answer. God alone
knows. The fully realized significance of such death in life gives an
unutterable pathos to her concluding words.



She accepts disappointment as also a purifier of love. A sunny autumn
morning is exercising its genial influence, and the courage of
self-effacement awakens in her. As earth blesses her smallest creatures
with her smile, so should love devote itself to those less worthy beings
who may be ennobled by it. Its rewards must be sought in heaven.



She accepts the duties of life as an equivalent for its happiness, i.e.,
for the happiness of love. She has been drawing from the cast of a
hand--enraptured with its delicate beauty--thinking how the rapture must
have risen into love in the artist who saw it living; when the coarse
(laborious) hand of a little peasant girl reminds her that life, whether
beautiful or not, is the artist's noblest study; and that, as the uses
of a hand are independent of its beauty and will survive it, life with
its obligations will survive love. "She has been a fool to think she
must be loved or die."



She makes the final sacrifice to her husband's happiness, and leaves
him. But in so doing she pays a last tribute to the omnipotence of love.
She knows there is nothing in her that will claim a place in his
remembrance. She knows also that if he had loved her, it might be
otherwise. Love could have transformed her in his sight as it has
transfigured him in hers. Their positions might even have been
reversed. If one touch of such a love as hers could ever come to her in
a thought of his, he might turn into a being as ill-favoured as herself.
She would neither know nor care, since joy would have killed her.

We learn from the two last monologues, especially the last, that James
Lee's wife was a plain woman. This may throw some light on the

"THE WORST OF IT" is the cry of anguish of a man whose wife has been
false to him, and who sees in her transgression only the injury she has
inflicted on herself, and his own indirect part in its infliction. The
strain of suppressed personal suffering betrays itself in his very
endeavour to prove that he has not been wronged: that it was his fault,
not hers, if his love maddened her, and the vows by which he had bound
her were such as she could not keep. But the burden of his lament--"the
worst of it" all--is, that her purity was once his salvation, her past
kindness has for ever glorified his life; that she is dishonoured, and
through him, and that no gratitude of his, no power of his, can rescue
her from that dishonour. In his passionate tenderness he strives to
pacify her conscience, and again, as earnestly to arouse it. "Her
account is not with him who absolves her, but with the world which does
not; with her endangered womanhood, her jeopardized hope of Heaven." He
implores her for her own sake to return to virtue though not to him. For
himself he renounces her even in Paradise. He "will pass nor turn" his
"face" if they meet there.

The pathos of "TOO LATE" is all conveyed in its title. The loved woman
is dead. She was the wife of another man than he who mourns for her. But
so long as there was life there was hope. The lover might, he feels,
have learned to compromise with the obstacles to his happiness. Some
shock of circumstance might have rolled them away. If the loved one
spurned him once, he had of late been earning her friendship. She might
in time have discovered that the so-called poet whom she had preferred
to him was a mere lay-figure whom her fancy had draped. But all this is
at an end. Hope and opportunity are alike gone. He remains to condemn
his own quiescence in what was perhaps not inevitable; in what proved no
more for her happiness than for his. The husband is probably writing her

"Too Late" expresses an attachment as individual as it is complete.
"Edith" was not considered a beauty. She was not one even in her lover's
eyes. This fact, and the manner in which he shows it, give a
characteristic force to the situation.


[Footnote 32: The classification of this poem is open to the obvious
objection that it is not a monologue; but a dialogue or alternation of
monologues, in which the second speaker, Balaustion (who is also the
narrator), is, for the time being, as real as the first. Its conception
is, however, expressed in the first title; and the arguments and
descriptions which Balaustion supplies only contribute to the vividness
with which Aristophanes and his defence are brought before us.
"Aristophanes' Apology" is identical in spirit with the other poems of
this group.]

[Footnote 33: This incident is founded on fact. It is related in
Plutarch's Lives, that after the defeat of Nicias, all those of the
captives who could recite something from Euripides were kindly treated
by the Syracusans.]

[Footnote 34: The name signifies celebration of the festival of the
Thesmophoria. This was held by women only, in honour of Ceres and

[Footnote 35: The chorus of each new play was supplied to its author by
the Government, when considered worth the outlay. Sketches of this and
other plays alluded to in the course of the work may be read in the
first volume of Mahaffy's "History of Classical Greek Literature."]

[Footnote 36: The plays were performed at the lesser and greater
festivals of Bacchus; this, the Lenaia, being the smaller one. Hence,
the presence of priest as well as archon at the ensuing banquet]

[Footnote 37: The failure here alluded to is his Ploutos or Plutus--an
inoffensive but tame comedy written when Aristophanes was advanced in
years, and of which the ill-success has been imputed to this fact. Mr.
Browning, however, treats it as a proof that the author's ingrained
habit of coarse fun had unfitted him for the more serious treatment of
human life.]

[Footnote 38: Figures placed above the entrance of Athenian houses, and
symbolizing the double life. It was held as sacrilege to deface them, as
had been recently and mysteriously done.]

[Footnote 39: Introducing him into the play, as in the disguise of a
disreputable woman.]

[Footnote 40: Aristophanes' comedy of the "Clouds" was written
especially at Socrates, who stood up unconcernedly in the theatre that
the many strangers present might understand what was intended.]

[Footnote 41: Mr. Mahaffy's description of the "Clouds" contains an
account of this defeat, which sets forth the amusing conceit and
sophistry of Aristophanes' explanation of it. He alludes here to the
prevailing custom of several dramatic writers competing for a prize.]

[Footnote 42: Whirligig is a parody of the word "vortex." Vortex itself
is used in derision of Socrates, who is represented in the "Clouds" as
setting up this non-rational force in the place of Zeus--the clouds
themselves being subordinate divinities.]

[Footnote 43: Saperdion was a famous Hetaira, the Empousa, a
mythological monster. Kimberic or Cimberic means transparent.]

[Footnote 44: A pure libel on this play, which is noted for its novel
and successful attempt to represent humour without indecency.
Aristophanes here alludes to the prevailing custom of concluding every
group of three tragedies with a play in which the chorus consisted of
Satyrs: a custom which Euripides broke through.]

[Footnote 45: The inverted commas include here, as elsewhere in the
Apology, only the very condensed substance of Mr. Browning's words.]

[Footnote 46: Tin-islands. Scilly Islands, loosely speaking, Great

[Footnote 47: A demagogue of bad character attacked by Aristophanes: a
big fellow and great coward.]

[Footnote 48: White was the Greek colour of victory. This passage, not
easily paraphrased, is a poetic recognition of the latent sympathy of
Aristophanes with the good cause.]

[Footnote 49: A game said to be of Sicilian origin and played in many
ways. Details of it may be found in Becker's "Charikles," vol. ii.]

[Footnote 50: Thamyris of Thrace, said to have been blinded by the Muses
for contending with them in song. The incident is given in the "Iliad,"
and was treated again by Sophocles, as Aristophanes also relates.]

[Footnote 51: This also is historical.]

[Footnote 52: Grote's "History of Greece," vol. iii. p. 265.]

[Footnote 53: Eidotheé or Eidothea, is the daughter of Proteus--the old
man of the sea. A legend concerning her is found in the 4th book of the

[Footnote 54: There is such a monument at Pornic.]

[Footnote 55: These words are taken from a line in the Prometheus of

[Footnote 56: Mr. Browning desires me to say that he has been wrong in
associating this custom with the little temple by the river Clitumnus
which he describes from personal knowledge. That to which the tradition
refers stood by the lake of Nemi.]

[Footnote 57: The Cardinal himself reviewed this poem, not
disapprovingly, in a catholic publication of the time]

[Footnote 58: This refers to the popular Neapolitan belief that a
crystallized drop of the blood of the patron saint, Januarius, is
miraculously liquefied on given occasions.]

[Footnote 59: The "Iketides" (Suppliants), mentioned in Section XVIII.,
is a Tragedy by Æschylus, the earliest extant: and of which the text is
especially incomplete: hence, halting, and "maimed."]

[Footnote 60: This poem, like "Aristophanes' Apology," belongs in spirit
more than in form to its particular group. Each contains a dialogue, and
in the present case we have a defence, though not a specious one of the
judgment attained]

[Footnote 61: We recognize the _cogito ergo sum_ of Descartes.]

[Footnote 62: The narrator, in a parenthetic statement, imputes a
doctrine to St. John, which is an unconscious approach on Mr. Browning's
part to the "animism" of some ancient and mediæval philosophies. It
carries the idea of the Trinity into the individual life, by subjecting
this to three souls, the lowest of which reigns over the body, and is
that which "Does:" the second and third being respectively that which
"Knows" and "Is." The reference to the "glossa of Theotypas" is part of
the fiction.]

[Footnote 63: The present Riccardi palace in the Via Larga was built by
Cosmo dei Medici in 1430; and remained in the possession of the Medici
till 1659, when it was sold to Marchese Riccardi. The original Riccardi
palace in the Piazza S. S. Annunziata is now (since 1870) Palazzo

In my first edition, the "crime" is wrongly interpreted as the murder of
Alexander, Duke of Florence, in 1536; and the confusion, I regret to
find, increased by a wrong figure (8 for 5), which has slipped into the

[Footnote 64: Mr. Browning possesses or possessed pictures by all the
artists mentioned in this connection.]

[Footnote 65: (Verses 26, 27, 28.) "Bigordi" is the family name of
Domenico called "Ghirlandajo," from the family trade of wreath-making.
"Sandro" stands for Alessandro Botticelli. "Lippino" was son of Fra
Lippo Lippi. Mr. Browning alludes to him as "wronged," because others
were credited with some of his best work. "Lorenzo Monaco" (the monk)
was a contemporary, or nearly so, of Fra Angelico, but more severe in
manner. "Pollajolo" was both painter and sculptor. "Margheritone of
Arezzo" was one of the earlier Old Masters, and died, as Vasari states,
"infastidito" (deeply annoyed), by the success of Giotto and the "new
school." Hence the funeral garb in which Mr. Browning depicts him.]

[Footnote 66: The "magic" symbolized is that of genuine poetry; but the
magician, or "mage," is an historical person; and the special feat
imputed to him was recorded of other magicians in the Middle Ages, if
not of himself.

"Johannes Teutonicus, a canon of Halberstadt in Germany, after he had
performed a number of prestigious feats almost incredible, was
transported by the Devil in the likeness of a black horse, and was both
seen and heard upon one and the same Christmas day to say Mass in
Halberstadt, in Mayntz, and in Cologne" ("Heywood's Hierarchy," bk. iv.,
p. 253).

The "prestigious feat" of causing flowers to appear in winter was a
common one. "In the year 876, the Emperor Lewis then reigning, there was
one Zedechias, by religion a Jew, by profession a physician, but indeed
a magician. In the midst of winter, in the Emperor's palace, he suddenly
caused a most pleasant and delightful garden to appear, with all sorts
of trees, plants, herbs, and flowers, together with the singing of all
sorts of birds, to be seen and heard." (Delrio, "Disquisitio Magicæ,"
bk. i., chap, iv., and elsewhere; and many other authorities.)]

[Footnote 67: "Wine of Cyprus." The quotation heading the poem qualifies
it as 'wine for the superiors in age and station.']

[Footnote 68: Such as Wordsworth assumed to have been in use with

[Footnote 69: This is told in the tales of the Troubadours.]

[Footnote 70: Published, simultaneously, in Mr. Fox's "Monthly
Repository." The song in "Pippa Passes" beginning "A king lived long
ago," and the verses introduced in "James Lee's Wife," were also first
published in this Magazine, edited by the generous and very earliest
encourager of Mr. Browning's boyish attempts at poetry.]

[Footnote 71: These verses were written when Mr. Browning was



The emotions which, after that of love, are most strongly represented in
Mr. Browning's works are the RELIGIOUS and the ARTISTIC: emotions
closely allied in every nature in which they happen to co-exist, and
which are so in their proper degree in Mr. Browning's; the proof of this
being that two poems which I have placed in the Artistic group almost
equally fit into the Religious. But the religious poems impress us more
by their beauty than by their number, if we limit it to those which are
directly inspired by this particular emotion. Religious questions have
occupied, as we have seen, some of Mr. Browning's most important
reflective poems. Religious belief forms the undercurrent of many of the
emotional poems. And it was natural therefore, that religious feeling
should not often lay hold of him in a more exclusive form. It does so
only in three cases; those of

     "Saul." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in part in "Dramatic
     Romances and Lyrics," 1845; wholly, in "Men and Women,"

     "Epilogue." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "Fears and Scruples." ("Pacchiarotto and other Poems." 1876.)

The religious sentiment in "SAUL" anticipates Christianity. It begins
with the expression of an exalted human tenderness, and ends in a
prophetic vision of Divine Love, as manifested in Christ. The speaker is
David. He has been sent into the presence of Saul to sing and play to
him; for Saul is in the agony of that recurring spiritual conflict from
which only David's song can deliver him; and when the boy-shepherd has
crept his way into the darkness of the tent, he sees the monarch with
arms outstretched against its poles, dumb, sightless, and stark, like
the serpent in the solitude of the forest awaiting its transformation.

David tells his story, re-enacting the scene which it describes, in
strong, simple, picturesque words which rise naturally into the language
of prophecy. He tells how first he tried the influence of pastoral
tunes: those which call the sheep back to the pen, and stir the sense of
insect and bird; how he passed to the song of the reapers--their
challenge to mutual help and fellowship; to the warrior's march; the
burial and marriage chants; the chorus of the Levites advancing towards
the altar; and how at this moment Saul sent forth a groan, though the
lights which leapt from the jewels of his turban were his only sign of
motion. Then--the tale continues--David changes his theme. He sings of
the goodness of human life, as attested by the joyousness of youth, the
gratitude of old age. He sings of labour and success, of hope and
fulfilment, of high ambitions and of great deeds; of the great king in
whom are centred all the gifts and the powers of human nature--of Saul
himself. And at these words the tense body relaxes, the arms cross
themselves on the breast. But the eyes of Saul still gaze vacantly
before him, without consciousness of life, without desire for it.

David's song has poured forth the full cup of material existence; he has
yet to infuse into it that draught of "Soul Wine" which shall make it
desirable. In a fresh burst of inspiration, he challenges his hearer to
follow him beyond the grave. "The tree is known by its fruits; life by
its results. Life, like the palm fruit, must be crushed before its wine
can flow. Saul will die. But his passion and his power will thrill the
generations to come. His achievements will live in the hearts of his
people; for whom their record, though covering the whole face of a rock,
will still seem incomplete." And as the "Soul Wine" works, as the vision
of this earthly immortality unfolds itself before the sufferer's sight,
he becomes a king again. The old attitude and expression assert
themselves. The hand is gently laid on the young singer's forehead; the
eyes fix themselves in grave scrutiny upon him.

Then the heart of David goes out to the suffering monarch in filial,
pitying tenderness; and he yearns to give him more than this present
life--a new life equal to it in goodness, and which shall be

And the yearning converts itself into prophecy. What he, as man, can
desire for his fellow-man, God will surely give. What he would suffer
for those he loves, surely God would suffer. Human nature in its power
of love would otherwise outstrip the Divine. He cries for the weakness
to be engrafted upon strength, the human to be manifested in the Divine.
And exulting in the consciousness that his cry is answered, he hails the
advent of Christ. He bids Saul "see" that a Face like his who now speaks
to him awaits him at the threshold of an eternal life; that a Hand like
his hand opens to him its gates.

David's prophecy has rung through the universe; and as he seeks his home
in the darkness, unseen "cohorts" press everywhere upon him. A
tumultuous expectation is filling earth and hell and heaven. The Hand
guides him through the tumult. He sees it die out in the birth of the
young day. But the hushed voices of nature attest the new dispensation.
The seal of the new promise is on the face of the earth.

The EPILOGUE is spoken by three different persons, and embodies as many
phases of the religious life. The "FIRST SPEAKER, _as David_,"
represents the old Testament Theism, with its solemn celebrations, its
pompous worship, and the strong material faith which bowed down the
thousands as one man, before the visible glory of the Lord.

The "SECOND SPEAKER, _as Renan_" represents nineteenth-century
scepticism, and the longing of the heart for the old belief which
scientific reason has dispelled. This belief is symbolized by a "Face"
which once looked down from heights of glory upon men; by a star which
shone down upon them in responsive life and love. The face has vanished
into darkness. The star, gradually receding, has lost itself in the
multitude of the lesser lights of heaven. And centuries roll past while
the forsaken watchers vainly question the heavenly vault for the sign of
love no longer visible there.

This lament assumes that Theism, having grown into Christianity, must
disappear with it; and the pathetic sense of bereavement gives way to
shuddering awe, as the farther significance of the sceptical position
reveals itself. _Man_ becomes the summit of creation; the sole successor
to the vacant throne of God.

The "THIRD SPEAKER," Mr. Browning himself, corrects both the material
faith of the Old Testament, and the scientific doubt of the nineteenth
century, by the idea of a more mystical and individual intercourse
between God and man. Observers have noted in the Arctic Seas that the
whole field of waters seem constantly hastening towards some central
point of rock, to envelope it in their playfulness and their force; in
the blackness they have borrowed from the nether world, or the radiance
they have caught from heaven; then tearing it up by the roots, to sweep
onwards towards another peak, and make _it_ their centre for the time
being. So do the forces of life and nature circle round the individual
man, doing in each the work of experience, reproducing for each the
Divine Face which is inspired by the spirit of creation. And, as the
speaker declares, he needs no "Temple," because the world is that. Nor,
as he implies, needs he look beyond the range of his own being for the
lost Divinity.

       "That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows,
       Or decomposes but to recompose,
       Become my universe that feels and knows!" (vol. vii. p. 255.)

"FEARS AND SCRUPLES" illustrates this personal religion in an opposite
manner. It is the expression of a tender and very simple religious
feeling, saddened by the obscurity which surrounds its object, and still
more by the impossibility of proving to other minds that this object is
a real one. It is described as the devotion to an unseen friend, known
only by his letters and reported deeds, but whom one loves as by
instinct, believes in without testimony, and trusts to as accepting the
allegiance of the smaller being, and sure sooner or later to acknowledge
it In the present case the days are going by. No sign of acknowledgment
has been given. Sceptics assure the believer that his faith rests on
letters which were forged, on actions which others equally have
performed; he can only yearn for some word or token which would enable
him to shut their mouth. But when some one hints that the friend is only
concealing himself to test his power of vision, and will punish him if
he does not see; and another objects that this would prove the friend a
monster; he crushes the objector with a word: "and what if the friend be

The next group is fuller and still more characteristic: for it displays
the love of Art in its special conditions, and, at the same time, in its
union with all the general human instincts in which artistic emotion can
be merged. We find it in its relation to the general love of life in

     "Fra Lippo Lippi." ("Men and Women." 1855.)

In its relation to the spiritual sense of existence in

     "Abt Vogler." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

As a transformation of human tenderness in

     "Pictor Ignotus." ("Men and Women." Published in "Dramatic
     Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

In its directly sensuous effects in

     "The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church." ("Men
     and Women." Published as "The Tomb at Saint Praxed's" in
     "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[72]

In its associative power in

     "A Toccata of Galuppi's." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in
     "Men and Women." 1855.)

In its representative power in

     "The Guardian-Angel: a Picture at Fano." ("Dramatic Lyrics."
     Published in "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "Eurydice to Orpheus: a Picture by Leighton." ("Dramatis
     Personæ." 1864.)

     "A Face." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

"FRA LIPPO LIPPI" is a lively monologue, supposed to be uttered by that
friar himself, on the occasion of a night frolic in which he has been
surprised. Cosmo dei Medici had locked him up in one room of the palace
till some pictures he was painting for him should be finished;[73] and
on this particular night he has found the confinement intolerable. He
has whipped his bed clothes into a rope, scrambled down from his window,
and run after a girlish face which laughingly invited him from the
street; and was about to return from the equivocal neighbourhood into
which the fun had led him, when his monkish dress caught the attention
of the guard, and he was captured and called to account. He proceeds to
give a sketch of his life and opinions, which supplies a fair excuse for
the escapade. The facts he relates are, including this one, historical.

Fra Lippo Lippi had no vocation for the priesthood. He was enticed into
a Carmelite convent when a half-starved orphan of eight years old, ready
to subscribe to any arrangement which promised him enough to eat. There
he developed an extraordinary talent for drawing; and the Prior, glad to
turn it to account, gave him the cloisters and the church to paint. But
the rising artist had received his earliest inspirations in the streets.
His first practice had been gained in scrawling faces in his copybooks,
and expanding the notes of his musical texts into figures with arms and
legs. His conceptions were not sufficiently spiritual to satisfy the
Prior's ideal of Christian art. The men and women he painted were all
true to life. The simpler brethren were delighted as they recognized
each familar type. But the authorities looked grave at so much obtruding
of the flesh; and the Prior clearly laid down his theory that painting
was meant to inspire religious thoughts, and not to stifle them; and
must therefore show no more of the human body than was needed to image
forth the soul.

Fra Lippo Lippi comments freely and quaintly on the absurdity of showing
soul by means of bodies so ill-painted that no one can bear to dwell
upon them, as on the fallacy involved in all contempt for the earthly
life. "He will never believe that the world, with all its life and
beauty, is an unmeaning blank. He is sure, 'it means intensely and means
good.' He is sure, too, that to reproduce what is beautiful in it is
the mission of Art. If anyone objects, that the world being God's work,
Art cannot improve on it, and the painter will best leave it alone: he
answers that some things are the better for being painted; because, as
we are made, we love them best when we see them so. The artist has lent
his mind for us to see with. That is what Art means; what God wills in
giving it to us."

Nevertheless (he continues) he rubbed out his men and women; and though
now, with a Medici for his patron, he may paint as he likes, the old
schooling sticks to him.[74] And he works away at his saints, till
something comes to remind him that life is not a dream, and he kicks the
traces, as he has done now. He ends with a half-joking promise to make
the Church a gainer through his misconduct (supposing that the secret
has been kept from her), by a beautiful picture which he will paint by
way of atonement.

This picture, which he describes very humorously, is that of the
Coronation of the Virgin, now in the "Belle Arti" at Florence.[75]

ABT VOGLER is depicted at the moment when this composer of the last
century has "been extemporizing on the musical instrument of his
invention." His emotion has not yet subsided; and it is that of the
inspired musician, to whom harmonized sound is as the opening of a
heavenly world. His touch upon the keys has been as potent to charm, as
the utterance of that NAME which summoned into Solomon's presence the
creatures of Earth, Heaven, and Hell, and made them subservient to his
will. And the "slaves of the sound," whom he has conjured up, have
built him a palace more evanescent than Solomon's, but, as he describes
it, far more beautiful. They have laid its foundations below the earth.
They have carried its transparent walls up to the sky. They have tipped
each summit with meteoric fire. As earth strove upwards towards Heaven,
Heaven, in this enchanted structure, has yearned downwards towards the
earth. The great Dead came back; and those conceived for a happier
future walked before their time. New births of life and splendour united
far and near; the past, the present, and the to-come.

The vision has disappeared with the sounds which called it forth, and
the musician feels sorrowfully that it cannot be recalled: for the
effect was incommensurate with the cause; they had nothing in common
with each other. We can trace the processes of painting and verse; we
can explain their results. Art, however triumphant, is subject to
natural laws. But that which frames out of three notes of music "not a
fourth sound, but a star" is the Will, which is above law.

And, therefore, so Abt Vogler consoles himself, the music persists,
though it has passed from the sense of him who called it forth: for it
is an echo of the eternal life; a pledge of the reality of every
imagined good--of the continuance of whatever good has existed. Human
passion and aspiration are music sent up to Heaven, to be continued and
completed there. The secret of the scheme of creation is in the
musician's hands.

Having recognized this, Abt Vogler can subside, proudly and patiently,
on the common chord--the commonplace realities, of life.

"PICTOR IGNOTUS" (Florence, 15--), is the answer of an unknown painter
to the praise which he hears lavished on another man. He admits its
justice, but declares that he too could have deserved it; and his words
have all the bitterness of a suppressed longing which an unexpected
touch has set free. He, too, has dreamed of fame; and felt no limits to
his power of attaining it. But he saw, by some flash of intuition, that
it must be bought by the dishonour of his works; that, in order to bring
him fame, they must descend into the market, they must pass from hand to
hand; they must endure the shallowness of their purchasers' comments,
share in the pettiness of their lives. He has remained obscure, that his
creations might be guarded against this sacrilege. "He paints Madonnas
and saints in the twilight stillness of the cloister and the aisle; and
if his heart saddens at the endless repetition of the one heavenward
gaze, at least no merchant traffics in what he loves. There, where his
pictures have been born, mouldering in the dampness of the wall,
blackening in the smoke of the altar, amidst a silence broken only by
prayer, they may 'gently' and 'surely' die." He asks himself, as he
again subsides into mournful resignation, whether the applause of men
may not be neutralized at its best by the ignoble circumstances which it

displays the artistic emotion in its least moral form: the love of the
merely beautiful as such; and it shows also how this may be degraded: by
connecting it in the mind of the given person, with the passion for
luxury, and the pride and jealousies of possession. The Bishop is at the
point of death. His sons (nominally nephews) are about him; and he is
urging on them anxious and minute directions for the tomb they are to
place for him in St. Praxed's church.

This tomb, as the Bishop has planned it, is a miracle of costliness and
beauty; for it is to secure him a double end: the indulgence of his own
tastes, and the humiliation of a former rival who lies modestly buried
in the same church. In the delirium of his weakness, these motives,
which we imagine always prominent, assume the strength of mania. His
limbs are already stiff; he feels himself growing into his own monument;
and his fancy revels in the sensations which will combine the calm of
death with the consciousness of sepulchral magnificence. He pleads, as
for dear life, with those who are to inherit his wealth, and who may at
their pleasure fulfil his last wishes or disregard them: that he may
have jasper for his tomb--basalt (black antique) for its slab--the
rosiest marble for its columns--the richest design for its bronze
frieze! A certain ball of lapis-lazuli (such as never yet was seen) is
to "poise" between his knees; and he gasps forth the secret of how he
saved this from the burning of his church, and buried it out of sight in
a vineyard, as if he were staking his very life on the revelation.

But in his heart he knows that his entreaties are useless: that his sons
will keep all they can; and the tone of entreaty is dashed with all the
petulance of foreseen disappointment. Weakness prevails at last. He
resigns himself to the inevitable; blesses his undutiful sons; and
dismisses them.

Other strongly dramatic details complete the picture.[76]

"A TOCCATA OF GALUPPI'S" is a fantastic little vision of bygone Venice,
evoked by the music of an old Venetian master, and filling us with the
sense of a joyous ephemeral existence, in which the glow of life is
already struck by the shuddering chill of annihilation. This sense is
created by the sounds, as Mr. Browning describes them: and their
directly expressive power must stand for what it is worth. Still, the
supposed effect is mainly that of association; and the listener's fancy
the medium through which it acts.

"A FACE" describes a beautiful head and throat in its pictorial
details--those which painting might reproduce.

"THE GUARDIAN-ANGEL" and "EURYDICE TO ORPHEUS" describe each an actual
picture in the emotions it expresses or conveys.

The former represents an angel, standing with outstretched wings by a
little child. The child is half kneeling on a kind of pedestal, while
the angel joins its hands in prayer: its gaze directed upward towards
the sky, from which cherubs are looking down. The picture was painted by
Guercino, and is now in the church of St. Augustine, at Fano, on the
Italian coast. Mr. Browning relates to an absent friend (who appears in
the "Dramatic Romances" as Waring) how he saw it in the company of his
own "angel;" and how it occurred to him to develop into a poem one of
the thoughts which the picture had "struck out." The thought resolves
itself into a feeling: the yearning for guidance and protection. The
poet dreams himself in the place of that praying child. The angel wings
cover his head: the angel hands upon his eyes press back the excess of
thought which has made his brain too big. He feels how thankfully those
eyes would rest on the "gracious face" instead of looking to the opening
sky beyond it; and how purely beautiful the world would seem when that
healing touch had been upon them.

The second was painted by F. Leighton. It represents Orpheus leading
Eurydice away from the infernal regions, but with an implied variation
on the story of her subsequent return to them. She was restored to
Orpheus on the condition of his not looking at her till they had reached
the upper world; and, as the legend goes, the condition proved too hard
for him to fulfil. But the face of Leighton's Eurydice wears an
intensity of longing which seems to challenge the forbidden look, and
make her responsible for it. The poem thus interprets the expression,
and translates it into words.

"ANDREA DEL SARTO" ("Men and Women," 1855) lays down the principle,
asserted by Mr. Browning as far back as in "Sordello," that the soul of
the true artist must exceed his technical powers; that in art, as in all
else, "a man's reach should exceed his grasp." And on this ground the
poem might be classed as critical. But it is still more an expression of
feeling; the lament of an artist who has fallen short of his ideal--of a
man who feels himself the slave of circumstance--of a lover who is
sacrificing his moral, and in some degree his artistic, conscience to a
woman who does not return his love. It is the harmonious utterance of a
many-sided sadness which has become identified with even the pleasures
of the man's life; and is hopeless, because he is resigned to it.

Andrea del Sarto was called the "faultless painter." His execution was
as easy as it was perfect; and Michael Angelo is reported to have said
to Raphael, of the insignificant little personage Andrea then was: that
he would bring the sweat to his (Raphael's) brow, if urged on in like
manner by popes and kings. But he lacked strength and loftiness of
purpose; and as Mr. Browning depicts him, is painfully conscious of
these deficiencies. He feels that even an ill-drawn picture of
Raphael's--and he has such a one before him--has qualities of strength
and inspiration which he cannot attain. His wife might have incited him
to nobler work; but Lucrezia is not the woman from whom such incentives
proceed; she values her husband's art for what it brings her. Remorse
has added itself in his soul to the sense of artistic failure. He has
not only abandoned the French Court, and, for Lucrezia's sake, broken
his promise to return to it; he has cheated his kind friend and patron,
Francis I., of the money with which he was entrusted by him for the
purchase of works of art. He has allowed his parents to die of want. All
this, and more, reflects itself in the monologue he is addressing to his
wife, but no conscious reproach is conveyed by it. She has consented to
sit by him at their window, with her hand in his, while he drinks in her
beauty, and finds in it rest and inspiration at the same time. She will
leave him presently for one she cares for more; but the spell is
deepening upon him. The Fiesole hills are melting away in the twilight;
the evening stillness is invading his whole soul. He scarcely even
desires to fight against the inevitable. Yet there might be despair in
his concluding words: "another chance may be given to him in heaven,
with Leonardo, Michael Angelo, and Raphael. But he will still have
Lucrezia, and therefore they will still conquer him."

The facts adduced are all matter of history; though a later chronicle
than that which Mr. Browning has used, is more favourable in its verdict
on Andrea's wife.

The fiercer emotions also play a part, though seldom an exclusive one,
in Mr. Browning's work. Jealousy forms the subject of

     "THE LABORATORY." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Dramatic
     Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[77]

     "MY LAST DUCHESS." ("Dramatic Romances." Published as "Italy"
     in "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.)

The first of these shows the passion as distorted love: the frenzy of a
woman who has been supplanted. The jealous wife (if wife she is) has
come to the laboratory to obtain a dose of poison, which she means to
administer to her rival; and she watches its preparation with an eager,
ferocious joy, dashed only by the fear of its being inadequate. The
quantity is minute; and it is (as we guess) the "magnificent" strength
of that other one which has won _him_ away.

In the second we find a jealousy which has no love in it; which means
the exactingness of self-love, and the tyranny of possession. A widowed
Duke of Ferrara is exhibiting the portrait of his former wife, to the
envoy of some nobleman whose daughter he proposes to marry; and his
comments on the countenance of his last Duchess plainly state what he
will expect of her successor. "That earnest, impassioned, and yet
smiling glance went alike to everyone. She who sent it, knew no
distinction of things or persons. Everything pleased her: everyone could
arouse her gratitude. And it seemed to her husband, from her manner of
showing it, that she ranked his gift, the 'gift of a
nine-hundred-years-old name,' with that of everyone else. It was below
his dignity to complain of this state of things, so he put an end to it.
He: 'gave commands;' and the smiles, too evenly dispensed, stopped all
together." He does not fear to admit, as he does parenthetically, that
there may have been some right on her side. This was below his concern.
The Duke touches, in conclusion, on the dowry which he will expect with
his second wife; and, with a suggestive carelessness, bids his guest
remark--as they are about to descend the staircase--a rare work in
bronze, which a noted sculptor has cast for him.

Hatred, born of jealousy, has its fullest expression in the "SOLILOQUY
OF THE SPANISH CLOISTER" ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Bells and
Pomegranates." 1842 to 1845): a venomous outbreak of jealous hatred,
directed by one monk against another whom he is watching at some
innocent occupation. The speaker has no ground of complaint against
Brother Lawrence, except that his life _is_ innocent: that he is orderly
and clean, that he loves his garden, is free from debasing
superstitions, and keeps his passions, if he has any, in check. But
that, precisely, is a rebuke and an exasperation to the fierce, coarse
nature of this other man; and he declares to himself, that if hate could
kill, Brother Lawrence would not live long. Meanwhile, as we also hear,
he spites him when he can, and fondly dreams of tripping him up
somewhere, or somehow, on his way to the better world. He is turning
over some pithy expedients, when the vesper bell cuts short his

WRATH, as inspired by a desperate sense of wrong, finds utterance in
"THE CONFESSIONAL." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Bells and
Pomegranates." 1842 to 1845.) A loved and loving girl has been made the
instrument of her lover's destruction. He held a treasonable secret,
which the Church was anxious to possess; and her priest has assured her
that if this is fully revealed to him, he will, by prayer and fasting,
purge its guilt from the young man's soul. She obtains the desired
knowledge, reveals it, and joyfully anticipates the result. When next
she sees her lover, he is on the scaffold. They have stifled her
denunciations in a prison-cell. Her body is wrenched with torture, as
her soul with anguish. She is scarcely human any more. But she hurls at
them unceasingly a cry which will yet reach the world. "Their Pope and
their saints, their heaven and their hell, their--everything they teach,
and everything they say, is lies, and again lies."

"A FORGIVENESS" ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems," 1876) might serve
equally as a study for jealousy, self-reproach, contempt, and revenge;
the love which is made to underlie these feelings, and the forgiveness
with which it will be crowned.

It is a story told in confession. He who tells it had once a wife, who
was dearer to him than anything else in the world. He had also public
duties, which he discharged with diligence and with success; but it was
the thought of the wife's love which nerved him to the fulfilment of
these duties, and which rewarded it.

One day he discovered that she was unfaithful to him. A man (whose face
was but imperfectly concealed) was stealing away from his house as he
returned to it; and the wife, confronting him at the same moment, bade
him kill her, but spare the man she loved. He did not kill her--then:
for she had turned his love into contempt. He despised her too much to
inflict even a lesser punishment, which should compromise the dignity,
or disturb the outward calmness, of his life. But from that moment their
union was a form; and while he worked as those do who have something to
forget, and she shared the position which his labours procured for him,
an impassable, if unseen, gulf lay between them.

Three years had passed, when suddenly, one night, the wife begged to
speak with her husband alone. Her request was granted; and then the
truth broke forth. She loved--had loved--no one but him; but she was
jealous of his devotion to the State. She imagined herself second to it
in his affections; and it was the jealousy in her which had made her
strive to arouse it in him. That other man had been nothing to her but a
tool. Her secret, she now knew, was killing her. Conscience forbade her
to elude her punishment by death. She therefore spoke.

"Would she write this?" he asked; and he dictated to her the confession
she had just made, in the terms most humiliating to him who was intended
to hear it.

"Could she but write it in her blood!" This, too, was possible. He put
into her hand a dainty Eastern weapon, one prick of which, he said,
would draw so much blood as was required. It did more than this, for it
was poisoned. But, before she died, she knew that her explanation had
raised her husband's contempt into hatred, and that the revenge of which
she was now found worthy had quenched the hatred in forgiveness.

"She lies as erst beloved" (the narrative concludes) "in the church of
him who hears this confession; whom his grate conceals as little as that
cloak once did--whom vengeance overtakes at last."

The poisoned dagger, which was the instrument of revenge--the pledge of
forgiveness--is spoken of as part of a collection preserved in the
so-called study, which was the scene of the interview; and the speaker
dwells at some length on the impression of deadly purpose combined with
loving artistic care, which their varied form and fantastic richness
convey. This collection is actually in Mr. Browning's possession; and he
values it, perhaps, for the reason he imputes to its imagined owner:
that those who are accustomed to the slower processes of thought, like
to play with the suggestions of prompt (if murderous) action; as the
soldier, tired of wielding the sword, will play with paper and pen.


Many of Mr. Browning's poems are founded on fact, whether historical, or
merely of known occurrence; but few of them can be classed by their
historic quality, because it is seldom their most important. In "Prince
Hohenstiel-Schwangau," for instance, we have a chapter in recent
history: but we only read it as an abstract discussion, to which a
chapter in history has given rise; and in "Pacchiarotto, and how he
worked in Distemper," and "Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of
Burial" (published in the same volume), we find two incidents, each of
them true, and each full of historic significance; but which owe all
their vitality to the critical and humorous spirit, in which Mr.
Browning has described them. The small list of poems which are
historical more than anything else, might be recruited from the Dramatic
Idyls; but, for various reasons, this publication must stand alone; and
even here, it is often difficult to disengage the actual fact, from the
imaginary conditions in which it appears. Our present group is therefore
reduced to--

     "Red Cotton Night-Cap Country; or, Turf and Towers." (1873.)
     "The Inn Album." (1875.)
     "The Two Poets of Croisic." (1878.)
     "Cenciaja." ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems." 1876.)

We may also place here, as it is historical in character, "The Heretic's
Tragedy; a Middle Age Interlude" ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men
and Women." 1855.)

The real-life drama which Mr. Browning has reproduced under the title of
"Red Cotton Night-cap Country," was enacted partly in Paris, partly in a
retired corner of Normandy, where he spent the late summer of 1872; and
ended in a trial which had been only a fortnight closed, when he
supposes himself to be relating it. His whole story is true, except that
in it which reality itself must have left to the imagination. Only the
names of persons and places are fictitious.[78]

The principal actor in this drama, Léonce Miranda, was son and heir to a
wealthy Spanish jeweller in the Place Vendôme. He was southern by
temperament as by descent; but a dash of the more mercantile Parisian
spirit had come to him from his French mother; and while keenly
susceptible to the incitements of both religious and earthly passion, he
began life with the deliberate purpose of striking a compromise between
them. At an early age he determined to live for this world now, and for
the other when he was older; and in the meantime to be moderate in his
enjoyments. In conformity with this plan he ran riot on Sunday; but
worked diligently during the rest of the week. He bestowed his fancy on
five women at once; but represented himself, when in their company, as a
poor artist or musician, and wasted no money upon them.

One day, however, he fell in love. The object of his affections, Clara
Mulhausen, or, as she first calls herself, "de Millefleurs," was an
adventuress; but she did not at first allow him to find this out; and
when he did so, her hold upon him had become too strong to be affected
by the discovery. A succession of circumstances, which Mr. Browning
describes, first cemented the bond, then destroyed its secrecy; and
since Clara had a husband, and the position could not be legalized,
Léonce Miranda had no choice but to accept the social interdict, and
with her retire from Paris. He placed a substitute in the business,
which had devolved on him through his father's death; and the pair took
up their abode at Clairvaux, an ancient priory, which the father had
bought. Here Miranda built and improved; indulged his amateur
propensities for painting and music; remained devoted to his love, and
was rewarded by her devotion. For five years they were very happy.

The first interruption to their happiness was a summons to Miranda, from
his mother in Paris, to come and answer for his excessive expenditure.
The immorality of his life she had condoned (a curious proof of this is
given), for she hoped it would be its own cure. But "his architectural
freaks, above all, a Belvedere which he had constructed in his grounds,
were a reckless waste of substance which she could not witness without
displeasure." She had immense influence with her son; and he took her
rebuke so much to heart, that he only left her to fling himself into the
Seine. He was brought out alive; but lay for a month at death's door,
and made no progress towards recovery till he had been restored to
Clara's care; and Clara was painfully winning him back to health, when
the telegraphic wires flashed a second summons upon him. His presence
was again demanded in the maternal home. "The business was urgent. Its
nature he would learn on arrival."

He hastened to his mother's house, to find her a corpse--laid out with
all the ghastly ceremonial which Catholic fancy could devise--and to be
told that his misconduct had killed her. The tribe of cousins, who had
planned the _coup de théâtre_, were there to enjoy its result. This did
not fail them. Miranda fainted away. As soon as consciousness returned,
he made his act of atonement. He foreswore the illegal bond. He willed
away his fortune to his kinsfolk; and would retain of it, from that
moment, only a pittance for himself, and the means of honourable
subsistence for Clara. They were to meet in the same house a week later,
to arrange in what manner that sinful woman should be acquainted with
the facts.

The day came. The cousins arrived. Miranda did not appear. He had broken
down at the funeral in a fresh outburst of frenzied grief; but from this
he had had time to recover. Someone peeped into his room. There he
stood, by a blazing fire, a small empty coffer by his side, engaged in
reading some letters which he had taken from it. Whose they were, and
what the reading had told him, was quickly shown. He replaced them in
the box, plunged this in the fire; and reiterating the words, "Burn,
burn and purify my past!" held it there till both his hands had been
consumed; no sign of pain escaping him. He was dragged away by main
force, protesting against this hindrance to his salvation. "He was not
yet purified. SHE was not yet burned out of him." In his bed he raved
and struggled against the image which again rose before his eyes, which
again grew and formed itself in his flesh.

The delirium was followed by three months of exhaustion. The moment the
sick man could "totter" out of his room, he found his way to her whom he
had abjured, and who was in Paris calmly awaiting his return to her. She
came back with him. He introduced her to his kinsmen. "It was all
right," he said; "Clara would henceforth be--his brother; he would still
fulfil his bond." From this, however, he departed, in so far as not to
content himself with a pittance. He sold his business to the "cousinry,"
and, as they considered, on hard terms. He and Clara then returned to

And now, as Mr. Browning interprets the situation, his experience had
entered on a new phase. He had tested the equal strength of the earthly
and the heavenly powers, and he knew that he could elude neither, and
that neither could be postponed to the other. He no longer strove to
compromise between these opposing realities, but threw his whole being
into the struggle to unite them. He adhered to his unlawful love. His
acts of piety and charity became grotesque in their excessiveness. (Of
these again particulars are given.) Two years went by; and then, one
April morning, Miranda climbed his Belvedere, and was found, soon after,
dead, on the turf below. There seemed no question of accident. The third
attempt at suicide had succeeded.

On this fact, however, Mr. Browning puts a construction of his own. He
asserts the poet's privilege of seeing into the man's mind; and makes
him think before us in a long and impassioned soliloquy, which sets
forth the hidden motive of his deed. As Mr. Browning conceives him, he
did not mean to kill himself. He did so in a final, irresistible impulse
to manifest his faith, and to test the foundations of it. It has had for
its object, not the spiritual truths of Christianity, but its miraculous
powers; and these powers have of late been symbolized to his mind by the
Virgin of the Ravissante.[79] The conflict of despotisms has thus been
waged between the natural woman and the supernatural: each a monarch in
her way. As he looks from his tower towards the Church of the
Ravissante, he apostrophizes her who is enthroned there.

He imagines her to have reproached him for his divided allegiance; and
asserts, in answer, that he has been subject to her all his life. "He
could not part with his soul's treasure. But he has, for her sake,
lavished his earthly goods, burned away his flesh. If his sacrifice has
been incomplete, it was because another power, mysterious and unnamed,
but yet as absolute as she, had cast its spells about him. He would have
resisted the Enchantress, if she, the Despot, had made a sign. But what
token has he ever received, of her acceptance, her approbation? She
exacts from her servants the surrender of both body and soul; the least
deficiency in the offering neutralizes its sum. And what does she give
in exchange for body and soul? Promises? Is a man to starve while the
life-apple is withheld from him, if even husks are within his reach?
Miracles? Will she make a finger grow on his maimed hand? Would he not
be called a madman if he expected it?"

And yet he believes. He summons her to justify his belief. He claims of
her a genuine miracle--a miracle of power, which will silence
scepticism, and re-establish the royalty of the Church--a miracle of
mercy, which will wipe away the past; reconcile duty and love; give
Clara into his hands as his pure and lawful wife. "She is to carry him
through the air to the space before her church as she was herself
conveyed there...." Then come the leap and the catastrophe.

He had by a second will bequeathed all his possessions to the Church,
reserving in them a life-interest for his virtual wife; and when the
cousinry swooped down on what they thought their prey, Madame Mulhausen
could receive them and their condolences with the indignant scorn which
their greed and cruelty deserved. They disputed the will on the alleged
plea of the testator's insanity. The trial was interrupted by the
events of 1870, but finally settled in the lady's favour; the verdict
being uncompromising as to her moral, as well as legal claim to the

Mr. Browning had lately stood outside the grounds of Clairvaux, and seen
its lady pass. She was insignificant in face and expression; and he was
reduced to accounting for the power she had exercised, by that very
fact. She seemed a blank surface, on which a man could inscribe, or
fancy he was inscribing, himself; and it is a matter of fact that,
whether from strength of will, or from the absence of it, she presented
such a surface to her lover's hand. She humoured his every inclination,
complied with his every wish. And because she did no more than this, and
also no less, Mr. Browning pronounces her far from the best of women,
but by no means one of the worst. The two had, after all, up to a
certain point, redeemed each other.

The title of the book arose as follows. The narrative is addressed (as
the volume is dedicated) to Miss Annie Thackeray; and its supposed
occasion is that of a meeting which took place at St. Rambert--actually
St. Aubin--between her and Mr. Browning, in the summer of 1872. She had
laughingly called the district "White Cotton Night-Cap Country," from
its sleepy appearance, and the universal white cap of even its male
inhabitants. Mr. Browning, being acquainted with the tragedy of
Clairvaux, thought "_Red_ Cotton Night-Cap Country" would be a more
appropriate name; and adopted it for his story, as Miss Thackeray had
adopted hers for one which she promised to write. But he represents
himself as playing at first with the idea; and as leading the listener's
mind, from the suggestions of white night-caps to those of the red one:
and null the outward calmness of the neighbouring country, to the tragic
possibilities which that calmness conceals.

The supplementary heading, "Turf and Towers," must have been inspired by
the literal facts of the case; but it supplies an analogy for the
contrasted influences which fought for Miranda's soul. The "tower"
represents the militant or religious life. The "turf," the
self-indulgent; and the figure appears and reappears at every stage of
the man's career. The attempt at compromise is symbolized by a pavilion:
a structure aping solidity, but only planted on the turf. The final
attempt at union is spoken of as an underground passage connecting the
two, and by which the fortress may be entered instead of scaled. The
difficulty of making one's way through life amidst the ruins of old
beliefs and the fanciful overgrowth in which time has clothed them; the
equal danger of destroying too much and clearing away too little; also
find their place in the allegory.

The possible friend and adviser, to whom Miranda is referred at vol.
xii. p. 122, was M. Joseph Milsand, who always at that time passed the
bathing season at St. Aubin.[80]

"THE INN ALBUM" is a tragedy in eight parts or scenes: the dialogue
interspersed with description; and carried on by four persons not named.
It is chiefly enacted in the parlour of a country inn; and the Inn
"Album," in spite of its grotesque or prosaic character, becomes an
important instrument in it.

Four years before the tragedy occurred--so we learn from the dialogue--a
gentlemanly adventurer of uncertain age had won and abused the
affections of a motherless girl, whom he thought too simple to resent
the treachery. He was mistaken in this; for her nature was as proud as
it was confiding; and her indignation when she learned that he had not
intended marriage was such as to surprise him into offering it. She
rejected the offer with contempt. He went his way, mortified and
embittered. A month later she had buried herself in a secluded and
squalid village, as wife of the old, poor, overworked, and hopelessly
narrow-minded clergyman, whose cure it was. She abstained, however, for
his own sake, from making any painful disclosures to her husband; and
the daily and hourly expiation brought no peace with it; for she
remained in her deceiver's power.

Three years went by. The elderly adventurer then fell in with a young,
wealthy, and inexperienced man, who had loved the same woman, and whose
honourable addresses had been declined for his sake; and he acquired
over this youth an influence almost as strong as that which he had
exercised over the young girl. He found him grieving over his
disappointment, and undertook to teach him how to forget it; became his
master in the art of dissipation; helped to empty his pockets while he
filled his own; and finally induced him to form a mercenary engagement
to a cousin whom he did not love. When the story opens, the young man
has come to visit his bride-elect in her country home; and his
Mephistopheles has followed him, under a transparent pretext, to secure
a last chance of winning money from him at cards. The presence of the
latter is to be a secret, because he is too ill-famed a personage to be
admitted into the lady's house; so they have arrived on the eve of the
appointed day, and put up at a village inn on the outskirts of the
cousin's estate. There they have spent the night in play. There also the
luck has turned; and the usual winner has lost ten thousand pounds. His
friend insists on cancelling the debt. He affects to scout the idea.
"The money shall, by some means or other, be paid."

The discussion is renewed with the same result, as they loiter near the
station, at which the younger will presently make a feint of arriving;
and for the first time he asks the elder why, with such abilities as
his, he has made no mark in life. The latter replies that he found and
lost his opportunity four years ago, in a woman, who, he feels more and
more, would have quickened his energies to better ends. He then, with
tolerable frankness, relates his story. The younger follows with his
own. But, for a reason which explains itself at the time, the connection
between the two escapes them.

The woman herself next appears on the scene, and with her, the girl
cousin. They are friends of old; and the married one has emerged from
her seclusion at the entreaty of the betrothed, to pass judgment on her
intended husband. The young girl is not satisfied with her own feeling
towards him whom she has promised to marry; though she has no misgiving
as to his sentiments towards her. She is to bring him for inspection to
the inn. And the friend, entering its parlour alone, is confronted by
her former lover, who has temporarily returned there.

A stormy dialogue ensues. She denounces him as the destroyer, ever lying
in wait for her soul. He taunts her with the malignant hatred with which
for years past from the height of her own prosperity she has been
weighing down his. She retorts in a powerful description of the love
with which he once inspired her, of the living death in which she has
been expiating her mistake. And as he listens, the old feeling in him
revives, and he kneels to her, imploring that she will break her bonds,
and secure their joint happiness by flying with him. She sees nothing,
however, in this, but a second attempt to ensnare her; and is repulsing
the entreaty with the scorn which she believes it to deserve, when the
younger man bursts merrily into the room. A wave of angry pain passes
over him as he recognizes the heroine of his own romance, and hastily
infers from the circumstances in which he finds her, that he has been
the victim of a double deception. The truth gradually shapes itself in
his mind; but meanwhile the older man has grasped the situation, and
determined to make capital of it--to avenge his rebuff and to rid
himself of his debt at the same time. He begs the lady to leave the room
for a few moments, handing her, for her entertainment, the inn "album,"
over which he and his friend were exchanging jokes a few hours ago; and
in which he has, at this moment, inscribed some lines. The purport of
these is that this young man loves her; and that unless she responds to
his advances, the secret of her past life shall be revealed to her

Alone with the younger man, he exhausts himself in coarse libels against
the woman, of whom that morning only he was speaking, as the lost
opportunity of his life; bids him ask of her what he desires, and have
it; and calls on him to admit, that in preserving him from marrying her,
and placing her nevertheless at his disposal, he will have earned his
gratitude, and paid the value of the ten thousand pounds.

When the woman returns, the album in her hand, the calm of death is upon
her. She has lived prepared for this emergency, provided also with the
means of escaping from it. But she will not die without entreating her
young admirer to shake off, before it is too late, the evil influence to
which both, though in different ways, have succumbed; and her dignity,
her kindness, the instinctive reverence, and now chivalrous pity, with
which she has inspired him carry all before them. He renews his
declaration; implores her to accept him as her husband, if she is
free--her friend if she is not; her husband even if the relation she is
living in be something less than marriage; to exact any delay, to impose
any probation, so that in the end she accepts him.

She replies by putting her hand into his, _to remain there_, as she
says, _till death shall part them_. The older man, who has just
re-entered the room, congratulates them on having arrived at so
sensible an understanding. The woman, now very pale, contrives to point
to the fatal entry in the album which she still grasps; and asks her
friend--after quoting the writer's words--how, but in her own way, the
mouth of such a one could have been stopped.

"So," exclaims the youth. And he flies at the man's throat, and
strangles him.

She has only time to thank her deliverer; to tell him why his devotion
is unavailing--to provide for his safety by writing in the album from
which he has torn the fatal page, that he has slain a man who would have
outraged her: and that her last breath is spent in blessing him.

A merry voice is heard; and the young, light-hearted girl comes all
unconscious to the scene of the tragedy. The curtain falls before she
has entered upon it.

The betrayal of the lady, the transaction of which she becomes the
subject, and her consequent suicide, are taken from an episode in
English high life, which occurred in the present century.

"THE TWO POETS OF CROISIC" is an extract from the history of two writers
of verse, whose respective works obtained from circumstances a brilliant
but short-lived renown. It forms part of a reminiscence, supposed to be
conjured up by a wood fire near which the narrator, with his wife, is
sitting. The fire, as he describes it, is made of ship-wood: for it
burns in all the beautiful colours which denote the presence of metallic
substances and salts; and as his fancy reconstructs the ship, it also
raises the vision of a distant coast well known to his companion and to
himself. He sees Le Croisic--the little town it is--the poor village it
was[81]--with its storm-tossed sea--its sandy strip of land, good only
for the production of salt--its solitary Menhir, which recalls, and in
some degree perpetuates, the wild life and the barbarous Druid worship
of old Breton times.[82] And in the bright-hued flames, which leap up
and vanish before his bodily eyes, he sees also the two ephemeral
reputations which flashed forth and expired there.

René Gentilhomme, born 1610, was a rhymer, as his father had been before
him. He became page to the Prince of Condé, and occupied his spare time
by writing complimentary verse. One day, as he was hammering at an ode,
a violent storm broke out; and the lightning shattered a ducal crown in
marble which stood on a pedestal in the room in which he sat. Condé was
regarded as future King of France: for Louis XIII. was childless, and
his brother Gaston believed to be so; in consideration of this fact, men
called him "Duke." René took the incident as an omen, and turned his ode
into a prophecy which he delivered to his master as the utterance of
God. "The Prince's hopes were at an end: a Dauphin would be born in the
ensuing year." A Dauphin was born; and René, who had at first been
terrified at his own boldness, received the title of Royal Poet, and the
honours due to a seer. But he wrote little or no more; and he and the
tiny volume which composed his works soon disappeared from sight.

The narrator, however, judges that this oblivion may not have been
unsought, since one who had believed himself the object of a direct
message from God, would have little taste for intercourse with his
fellow men; and he suspends his story for a moment to ask himself how
such a one would bear the weight of his experience; and how far the
knowledge conveyed by it might be true. He decides (as we should expect)
that a direct Revelation is forbidden by the laws of life; but that life
is full of indirect messages from the unseen world; that all our
"simulated thunder-claps," all our "counterfeited truths," all those
glimpses of beauty which startle while they elude the soul, are messages
of this kind: darts shot from the spirit world, which rebound as they
touch, yet sting us to the consciousness of its existence. And so René
Gentilhomme had had a true revelation, in what reminded him that there
are things higher than rhyming and its rewards.

Paul Desforges Maillard was born nearly a century later, and wrote
society verses till the age of thirty, when the desire for wider fame
took possession of him. He competed for a prize which the Academy had
offered to the poet who should best commemorate the progress made by the
art of navigation during the last reign. His poem was returned. It was
offered, through the agency of a friend, to a paper called "The
Mercury." The editor, La Roque, praised the work in florid terms, but
said he dared not offend the Academy; he, too, returned the MS. Paul,
mistaking the polite fiction for truth, wrote back an angry tirade
against the editor's cowardice; and the latter, retorting in as frank a
fashion, told the writer that his poem was execrable, and that it was
only consideration for his feelings which had hitherto prevented his
hearing so.

At this juncture Paul's sister interposed. He was wrong, she declared,
to proceed in such a point-blank manner. In cases like these, it was
only wile which conquered. He must resume his incognito, and try, this
time, the effect of a feminine disguise. She picked out and copied the
feeblest of his songs or sonnets, and sent it to La Roque, as from a
girl-novice who humbly sued for his literary protection. She was known
by another name than her brother's (Mr. Browning explains why); the
travesty was therefore complete. The poem was accepted; then another and
another. The lady's fame grew. La Roque made her, by letter, a
declaration of love. Voltaire also placed himself at her feet.

Paul now refused to efface himself any longer. The clever sister urged
in vain that it was her petticoats which had conquered, and not his
verse. He went to Paris to claim his honours, and introduce himself as
the admired poetess to La Roque and Voltaire. Voltaire bitterly resented
the joke; La Roque affected to enjoy it; but nevertheless advised its
perpetrator to get out of Paris as fast as possible. The trick had
answered for once. It would not be wise to repeat it. Again Paul
disregarded his sister's advice, and reprinted the poems in his own
name. "They had been praised and more than praised. The world could not
eat its own printed words!"

He discovered, however, that the world _could_ eat its words; or, at
least, forget them. The only fame--the speaker adds--which a great man
cannot destroy, is that which he has had no hand in making. Paul's
light, with his sister's, went out as did that of his predecessor.

Mr. Browning gives, in conclusion, a test by which the relative merit of
any two real poets may be gauged. _The greater is he who leads the
happier life_. To be a poet is to see and feel. To see and feel is to
suffer. His is the truest poetic existence who enslaves his sufferings,
and makes their strength his own. He who yokes them to his chariot shall
win the race.[83]

"CENCIAJA" signifies matter relating to the "Cenci;"[84] and the poem
describes an incident extraneous to the "Cenci" tragedy, but which
strongly influenced its course. This incident was the murder of the
widowed Marchesa dell' Oriolo, by her younger son, Paolo Santa Croce,
who thus avenged her refusal to invest him with his elder brother's
rights. He escaped the hands of justice, though only to perish in some
other disastrous way. But the matricide had been committed on the very
day which closed the trial of the Cenci family for the assassination of
its Head; and it sealed Beatrice's fate. Her sentence seemed about to be
remitted. The Pope now declared that she must die.

                              ... "Paolo Santo Croce
       Murdered his mother also yestereve,
       And he is fled: she shall not flee at least!"
                                                    (vol. xiv. p. 104.)

The elder son of the Marchesa, Onofrio Marchese dell' Oriolo, was
arrested on the strength of an ambiguous scrap of writing, which
appeared to implicate him in his brother's guilt; and subjected in
prison to such a daily and day-long examination on the subject of this
letter, that his mind gave way, and the desired avowal was extracted
from him. He confessed to having implied, under reserves and conditions
which practically neutralized the confession, his assent to his mother's
death. He was beheaded accordingly; and the Governor of Rome, Taverna,
who had conducted the inquisition, was rewarded by a Cardinal's hat.
Other motives were, however, involved in the proceeding than the Pope's
quickened zeal for justice. He had entrusted the case to his nephew,
Cardinal Aldobrandini; and it was known that the Cardinal and the
Marchese had courted the same lady, and the latter unwisely flaunted the
possession of a ring which was his pledge of victory.

This story, with other details which I have not space to give, was taken
from a contemporary Italian chronicle, of which some lines are literally

The heretic of "THE HERETIC'S TRAGEDY" was Jacques du Bourg-Molay, last
Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templars, and against whom
preposterous accusations had been brought. This "Jacques," whom the
speaker erroneously calls "John," and who might stand for any victim of
middle-age fanaticism, was burned in Paris in 1314; and the "Interlude,"
we are told, "would seem to be a reminiscence of this event, as
distorted by two centuries of refraction from Flemish brain to brain."
The scene is carried on by one singer, in a succession of verses, and by
a chorus which takes up the last and most significant words of each
verse; the organ accompanying in a plagal cadence,[85] which completes
its effect. The chant is preceded by an admonition from the abbot, which
lays down its text: that God is unchanging, and His justice as infinite
as His mercy; and singer and chorus both denounce the impious heresy of
"John:" who admitted only the love, and sinned the "Unknown Sin," in his
confidence in it. How the logs are fired; how the victim roasts; amidst
what hideous and fantastic torments the damned soul "flares forth into
the dark" is quaintly and powerfully described.


The prevalence of thought in Mr. Browning's poetry has created in many
minds an impression that he is more a thinker than a poet: that his
poems not only are each inspired by some leading idea, but have grown up
in subservience to it; and those who hold this view both do him
injustice as a poet, and underrate, however unconsciously, the
intellectual value of what his work conveys. For in a poet's
imagination, the thought and the thing--the idea and its image--grow up
at the same time; each being a different aspect of the other.[86] He
sees, therefore, the truths of Nature, as Nature herself gives them;
while the thinker, who conceives an idea first, and finds an
illustration for it afterwards, gives truth only as it presents itself
to the human mind--in a more definite, but much narrower form. Mr.
Browning often _treats_ his subject as a pure thinker might, but he has
always _conceived_ it as a poet; he has always seen in one flash,
everything, whether moral or physical, visible or invisible, which the
given situation could contain.[87] This fact may be recognized in many
of the smaller poems, which, for that reason, I shall find it impossible
to class; but it is best displayed in a couple of longer ones, which I
have placed under the head "Romantic." They are distinct from the
majority of the "Dramatic Romances," although included in them. For with
these the word "romantic" denotes an imaginary experience, which may be
frankly supernatural, as in "The Boy and the Angel;" or only improbable,
as in "Mesmerism;" or semi-historical and local, as in "In a Gondola;"
or simply human, and possible anywhere and anywhen, as in "The Last Ride
Together;" or in "Dîs aliter Visum," and "James Lee's Wife," which might
be classed with them. I am now using it to mark certain cases, in which
the author's imagination has not brought itself to the test of _any_
consistent experience, but simply presents us with certain groups of
material and mental--of real and ideal possibilities, which we may each
interpret for ourselves. They occur in

     "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." ("Dramatic Romances."
     Published in "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "The Flight of the Duchess." ("Dramatic Romances." Published
     in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[88]

The first of these has been taken by some intelligent critics to be a
moralizing allegory; the second, a moralizing fairy-tale. They are,
therefore, a useful type both of Mr. Browning's poetic genius, and of
the misunderstanding, to which its constantly intellectual employment
has exposed him.

"CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME," describes a brave knight
performing a pilgrimage, in which hitherto all who attempted it have
failed. The way through which he struggles is unknown to him; its
features are hideous; a deadly sense of difficulty and danger hangs over
every step; and though Childe Roland's courage is pledged to the
undertaking, the thought of failure at last comes to him as a relief. He
reaches the goal just as failure appears inevitable. The plain has
suddenly closed in; weird and unsightly eminences encompass him on every
side. In one flash he perceives that he is in a trap; in another, that
the tower stands before him; while round it, against the hill-sides, are
ranged the "lost adventurers" who have preceded him--their names and
story clanging loudly and more loudly in his ears--their forms revealed
with ghastly clearness in the last fires of the setting sun.

So far the picture is consistent; but if we look below its surface
discrepancies appear. The Tower is much nearer and more accessible than
Childe Roland has thought; a sinister-looking man, of whom he asked the
way, and who, as he believed, was deceiving him, has really put him on
the right track; and as he describes the country through which he
passes, it becomes clear that half its horrors are created by his own
heated imagination, or by some undefined influence in the place itself.
We are left in doubt whether those who have found failure in this quest,
have not done so through the very act of attainment in it; and when,
dauntless, Childe Roland sounds his slughorn and announces that he has
come, we should not know, but that he lives to tell the tale, whether in
doing this he incurs, or is escaping, the general doom. We can connect
no idea of definite pursuit or attainment with a series of facts so
dreamlike and so disjointed: still less extract from it a definite
moral; and we are reduced to taking the poem as a simple work of fancy,
built up of picturesque impressions which have, separately or
collectively, produced themselves in the author's mind.[89]

But these picturesque impressions had, also, their ideal side, which Mr.
Browning as spontaneously reproduced; and we may all recognize under the
semblance of the enchanted country and the adventurous knight, a poetic
vision of life: with its conflicts, contradictions, and mockeries; its
difficulties which give way when they seem most insuperable; its
successes which look like failures, and its failures which look like
success. The thing we may not do is to imagine that an intended lesson
is conveyed by it.

"THE FLIGHT OF THE DUCHESS" is the adventure of a young girl, who was
brought out of a convent to marry a certain Duke. The Duke was
narrow-hearted, pompous, and self-sufficient; the mother who shared his
home, a sickly woman, as ungenial as himself. The young wife, on the
other hand, was a bright, stirring creature, who would have been the
sunshine of a labourer's home. She pined amidst the dreariness and the
formality of her conjugal existence, and seized the first opportunity
of escape from it. A retainer of the Duke's, whose chivalry her position
had aroused, connived at her escape, and tells the story of it.

The Duke had decreed a hunt. Custom prescribed that his wife should
attend it. She had excused herself on the plea of her ill-health; and he
was riding forth in no amiable mood, when an old gipsy woman, well known
in the neighbourhood, accosted him with the usual prayer for alms. He
was curtly dismissing her, when she mentioned her desire to pay her
respects to the young Duchess. It then occurred to him that the sight of
this ragged crone, and the chronicle of her woes, might be an excellent
medicine for his "froward," ungrateful wife, and teach her to know when
she was well off; and after speaking in confidence with the old woman,
he bade him who recounts the adventure escort her into the lady's
presence. The interview took place. The Duchess accompanied her visitor
to the castle gate, ordered her palfrey to be saddled, mounted it with
the gipsy behind her, and bounded away, never to return. The attendant
had watched and obeyed her as in a dream. She left in his hand, in
gratitude for what she knew he felt for her, a little plait of hair.

These are the real facts of the story. But we have also its ideal
possibilities, as reflected by the imagination of the narrator. He had
seen the gipsy metamorphosed as she received the Duke's command, from a
ragged, decrepit crone into a stately woman, whose clothing bore the
appearance of wealth; and as he mounted guard on the balcony which
commanded the Duchess's room, he saw the wonder grow. A sound as of
music first attracted his attention; and as he looked in at the window
he saw the Duchess sitting at the feet of a real gipsy-queen: her head
upturned--her whole being expanding--as the gipsy's hands waved over
her, and the gipsy's eyes, preternaturally dilated, poured their floods
of life into her own. Then the music broke up into words, and he knew
what hope and promise that fainting spirit was drinking in: for he heard
what the gipsy said. She was telling the young Duchess that she was one
of themselves--that she bore their mystic mark in the two veins which
met and parted on her brow--that after fiery trial she should return to
her tribe, and be shielded by their devotion for evermore. She was
telling her how good a thing is love--how strong and beautiful the
double existence of those whom love has welded together--how full of
restful memories the old age of those who have lived in and for it--how
sure and gentle their awakening into the better world.... Here the words
again lost themselves in music, and he understood no more. When the two
appeared at the castle gate, the gipsy had shrunk back into her original
character; but the Duchess remained transformed. She had become, in her
turn, a queen.

The suggestion of her gipsy origin forms a connecting link between the
real and the ideal aspects of the Duchess's flight. We might imagine her
fervid nature as being affected by the message of deliverance precisely
in the manner described: while the beautified image of her deliverer
transferred itself through some magnetic influence to the spectator's
mind from her own. He does not, however, present himself as a probable
subject for such impressions. He is a jovial, matter-of-fact person, in
spite of the vein of sentiment which runs through him; and the
imaginative part of his narrative was more probably the result of a
huntsman's breakfast which had found its way into his brain. As in the
case of Childe Roland, the poetic truth of the Duchess's romance is
incompatible with rational explanation, and independent of it. Various
dramatic details complete the story.


Humour is a constant characteristic of Mr. Browning's work,[90] and it
sometimes takes the form of direct and intentional satire; but his
sympathy with human beings and his hopeful view of their future destiny,
are opposed to any development of the satirical mood. The impression of
sympathy will even neutralize the satire, in poems in which the latter
is directly and conciously conveyed: as, for instance, in "Caliban upon
Setebos," and "The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church." Of
grim or serious satire, there is, I think, only one specimen among his
works: the first part of

     "Holy-Cross Day." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men and
     Women," 1855.)

We may class as playful satires (which I give in the order of their

     "Pacchiarotto, and how he worked in Distemper." (1876.)

     "Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of Burial."
     ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems." 1876.)

     "Up at a Villa--Down in the City." ("Dramatic Lyrics."
     Published in "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "Another Way of Love." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men
     and Women." 1855.)

We have a purely humorous picture in

     "Garden Fancies, II. Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis." ("Dramatic
     Lyrics." Published in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

"HOLY-CROSS DAY" was the occasion of an "Annual Christian Sermon,"
which the Jews in Rome were forced to attend; and the poem which bears
this title is prefaced by an extract from an imaginary "Diary by a
Bishop's Secretary," dated 1600; and expatiating on the merciful
purpose, and regenerating effect of this sermon. What the assembled Jews
may have really felt about it, Mr. Browning sets forth in the words of
one of the congregation.

This man describes the hustling and bustling, the crowding and
packing--the suppressed stir as of human vermin imprisoned in a small
space; the sham groans, and sham conversions which follow in their due
course; and as he thus dwells on his national and personal degradation,
his tone has the bitter irony of one who has both realized and accepted
it. But the irony recoils on those who have inflicted the
degradation--on the so-called Christians who would throttle the Jew's
creed while they "gut" his purse, and make him the instrument of their
own sins; and is soon lost in the emotion of a pathetic and solemn
prayer; the supposed death-bed utterance of Rabbi Ben Ezra.

The prayer is an invocation to the justice, and to the sympathy of
Christ. It claims His help against the enemies who are also His own. It
concedes, as possible, that He was in truth the Messiah, crucified by
the nation of which He claimed a crown. But it points to His Christian
followers as inflicting on Him a still deeper outrage: a belief which
the lips profess, and which the life derides and discredits. It urges,
in the Jew's behalf, the ignorance, the fear, in which the deed was
done; the bitter sufferings by which it has been expiated. It pleads his
long endurance, as testimony to the fact, that he withstands Barabbas
now, as he withstood Christ "then;" that he strives to wrest Christ's
name from the "Devil's crew," though the shadow of His face be upon him.
The invocation concludes with an expression of joyful confidence in God
and the future.

(Giacomo) "PACCHIAROTTO" was a painter of Siena.[91] His story is told
in the "Commentary on the Life of Sodoma" by the editors of Vasari;
Florence, 1855; and this contains all, or nearly all, the incidents of
Mr. Browning's "Pacchiarotto," as well as others of a similar kind but
of later occurrence, which are not mentioned in it.

This painter was a restless, aggressive personage, with a craze for
reform; and a conspicuous member of the "Bardotti:" a society of
uncommissioned reformers, whose occupation was to cry down abuses, and
prescribe wholesale theoretical measures for removing them. (Hence their
title; which signifies "spare" horses or "freed" ones: they walk by the
side of the waggon while others drudge at, and drag it along). But he
discovered that men would not be reformed; and bethought himself, after
a time, of a new manner of testifying to the truth. He selected a room
in his own house, whitewashed it (we conclude); and, working in
"distemper" or fresco, painted it with men and women of every condition
and kind. He then harangued these on their various shortcomings. They
answered him, as he imagined, in a humble and apologetic manner; and he
then proceeded to denounce their excuses, and strip the mask from their
sophistries and hypocrisies--doing so with every appearance of success.

But he presumed too much on his victory. A famine had broken out in
Siena. The magistrates were, of course, held responsible for it. The
Bardotti assembled, and prescribed the fitting remedies. Everything
would come right if only the existing social order was turned
topsy-turvy, and men were released from every tie. Pacchiarotto was
conspicuous by his eloquence. But when he denounced the chief of the
municipal force, and hinted that if the right man were in the right
place, that officer would be he, all the other "spare horses" rushed
upon him and he was obliged to run for his life. The first hiding-place
which presented itself was a sepulchre, in which a corpse had just been
laid. He squeezed himself into this, and crawled forth from it at at the
end of two days, starving, covered with vermin, and thoroughly converted
to the policy of living and letting live. The authentic part of the
narrative concludes with his admission into a neighbouring convent (the
Osservanza) where he was cleansed and fed. But Mr. Browning allows Fancy
the just employment of telling how the Superior improved the occasion,
and how his lesson was received.

"It is a great mistake," this reverend person assures his guest--though
one from which his own youth has not been free--"to imagine that any one
man can preach another out of his folly. If such endeavours could
succeed, heaven would have begun on earth. Whereas, every man's task is
to leaven earth with heaven, by working towards the end to which his
Master points, without dreaming that he can ever attain it. Man, in
short, is to be not the 'spare horse,' but the 'mill-horse' plodding
patiently round and round on the same spot."

And Pacchiarotto replies that his monitor's arguments are, by his own
account, doomed to be ineffectual: but that he is addressing himself to
one already convinced. He (Pacchiarotto) never was so by living man; but
he has been convinced by a dead one. That corpse has seemed to ask him
by its grin, why he should join it before his time because men are not
all made on the same pattern: "Because, above, one's Jack and
one--John." And the same grin has reminded him that this life is the
rehearsal, not the real performance: just an hour's trial of who is fit,
and who isn't, to play his part; that the parts are distributed by the
author, whose purpose will be explained in proper time; and that when
his brother has been cast for a fool's part, he is no sage who would
persuade him to give it up. He is now going back to his paint-pot, and
will mind his own business in future.

By an easy transition, Mr. Browning turns the laugh against his own
critics, whom he professes to recognize on this May morning, as flocking
into his garden in the guise of sweeps. He does not, he says, grudge
them their fun or their one holiday of the year, the less so that their
rattling and drumming may give him some inkling how music sounds; and he
flings them, by way of a gift, the story he has just told, bidding them
dance, and "dust" his "jacket" for a little while. But that done, he
bids them clear off, lest his housemaid should compel them to do so. He
has her authority for suspecting that in their professional character
they bring more dirt into the house than they remove from it[92].

"FILIPPO BALDINUCCI" was the author of a history of art ("Notizie dei
Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua"); and the incident which Mr.
Browning relates as "a reminiscence of A.D. 1670," appears there in a
notice of the life of the painter Buti. (Vol. iii. p. 422.)

The Jewish burial ground in Florence was a small field at the foot of
the Monte Oliveto. A path ascending the hill skirted its upper end, and
at an angle of this stood a shrine with one side blank, the other
adorned by a painting of the Virgin Mary. The painting was intended to
catch the eye of all believers who approached from the neighbouring
city-gate (Porta San Friano or Frediano); and was therefore so turned
that it overlooked the Jewish cemetery at the same time. The Jews,
objecting to this, negotiated for its removal with the owner of the
ground; and his steward, acting in his name, received a hundred ducats
as the price of his promise that the Virgin should be transferred to the
opposite side of the shrine. The task was undertaken by Buti, but
carried on in the privacy of a curtained scaffolding; and when the
curtains were withdrawn, it was seen that the picture _had_ been
transferred; but that a painting of the Crucifixion occupied its
original place. Four Rabbis, the "sourest and ugliest" of the lot, were
deputed to remonstrate with the steward; but this person coolly replied
that they had no ground of complaint whatever. "His master had amply
fulfilled his bond. Did they fancy their 'sordid' money had bought his
freedom to do afterwards what he thought fit?" And he advised them to
remove themselves before worse befell them. The Jews retired
discomfited; and, as the writer hopes, took warning by what had
happened, never again to tempt with their ill-earned wealth "the
religious piety of good Christians."

Mr. Browning gives this story, with unimportant variations, in the
manner of Baldinucci himself; and does full justice to the hostile and
contemptuous spirit in which the attitude of the Jews is described by
him. But he also heightens the unconscious self-satire of the narrative
by infusing into this attitude a genuine dignity and pathos. He enlists
all our sympathy by the Chief Rabbi's prayer that his people, so sorely
tried in life, may be allowed rest from persecution in their graves; and
he concludes with an imaginary incident which leaves them masters of the
situation. On the day after what the historian calls this "pleasing
occurrence," the son of the High Priest presented himself at Buti's
shop, where he and the so-called "farmer" were still laughing over the
event; and in tones of ominous mildness begged to purchase that pretty
thing--the picture in oils, from which the fresco painting of the Virgin
had been made. He was a Herculean young man, and Buti, who white and
trembling had tried to slip out of his way, was so bewildered by the
offer, that he asked only the proper price for his work. The farmer,
however, broke forth in expressions of pious delight, "Mary had surely
wrought a miracle, and _converted_ the Jew!"

The Jew turned like a trodden worm. "Truly," he replied, "a miracle has
been wrought, by a power which no canvas yet possessed, in that I have
resisted the desire to throttle you. But my purchase of your picture is
not due to a miracle. It means simply that I have been cured of my
prejudices in respect to art. Christians hang up pictures of heathen
gods. Their 'Titians' paint them. A cardinal will value his Leda or his
Ganymede beyond everything else which he possesses. If I express wonder
at this sacrifice of the truth, I am told that the truth of a picture is
in its drawing and painting, and that these are valued precisely because
they _are_ true. Why then should not your Mary take her place among my
Ledas and the rest; be judged as a picture, and, since--as I
fear--Master Buti is not a Titian, laughed at accordingly?"

"So now," the speaker concludes, "Jews buy what pictures they like, and
hang them up where they please, and,"--with an inward groan--"no, boy,
you must not pelt them." This warning, which is supposed to be addressed
by the historian in his old age to a nephew with a turn for throwing
stones, reveals the motive of the story: a sudden remembrance of the
good old pious time, when Jews _might_ be pelted.

"UP AT A VILLA--DOWN IN THE CITY" is a lively description of the
amusements of the city, and the dulness of villa life, as contrasted by
an Italian of quality, who is bored to death in his country residence,
but cannot afford the town. His account of the former gives a genuine
impression of dreariness and monotony, for the villa is stuck on a
mountain edge, where the summer is scorching and the winter bleak, where
a "lean cypress" is the most conspicuous object in the foreground, and
hills "smoked over" with "faint grey olive trees" fill in the back;
where on hot days the silence is only broken by the shrill chirp of the
cicala, and the whining of bees around some adjacent firs. But the other
side of the picture, though sympathetically drawn, is a perfect parody
of what it is meant to convey. For the speaker's ideal "city" might be a
big village, with its primitive customs, and its life all concentrated
in the market-place or square; and it is precisely in the square that he
is ambitious to live. There the church-bells sound, and the diligence
rattles in, and the travelling doctor draws teeth or gives pills; there
the punch-show or the church procession displays itself, and the last
proclamation of duke or archbishop is posted up. It is never too hot,
because of the fountain always plashing in the centre; and the bright
white houses, and green blinds, and painted shop-signs are a perpetual
diversion to the eye.... But alas! the price of food is prohibitive; and
a man must live where he can.

"ANOTHER WAY OF LOVE" is the complement to "One Way of Love," and
displays the opposite mood. The one lover patiently gathers June roses
in case they may catch his lady's eye. The other grows tired of such
patience even when devoted to himself; he tires of June roses, which are
always red and sweet. His lady-love is bantering him on this frame of
mind. It is true, she says, that such monotony is trying to a man's
temper: there is no comfort in anything that can't be quarrelled with;
and the person she addresses is free to "go." She reminds him, however,
that June may repair her bower which his hand has rifled, and the next
time "consider" which of two courses she prefers: to bestow her flowers
on one who will accept their sweetness, or use her lightnings to kill
the spider who is weaving his films about them.

"SIBRANDUS SCHAFNABURGENSIS" is apparently the name of an old pedant
who has written a tiresome book; and the adventures of this book form
the subject of the poem. Some wag relates how he read it a month ago,
having come into the garden for that purpose; and then revenged himself
by dropping it through a crevice in a tree, and enjoying a picnic lunch
and a chapter of "Rabelais" on the grass close by. To-day, in a fit of
compunction, he has raked the "treatise" out; but meanwhile it has
blistered in the sun, and run all colours in the rain. Toadstools have
grown in it; and all the creatures that creep have towzed it and browsed
on it, and devoted bits of it to their different domestic use. It is
altogether a melancholy sight. So the wag thinks his victim has
sufficiently suffered, and carries it back to his book-shelf, to
"dry-rot" there in all the comfort it deserves.


Mr. Browning's poems abound in descriptive passages, and his power of
word-painting is very vivid, as well as frequently employed. But we have
here another instance of a quality diffused throughout his work, yet
scarcely ever asserting itself in a distinct form. The reason is, that
he deals with men and women first--with nature afterwards; and that the
details of a landscape have little meaning for him, except in reference
to the mental or dramatic situation of which they form a part. This is
very apparent in such lyrics or romances as: "By the Fire-side," "In a
Gondola," and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." We find three
poems only which might have been written for the sake of the picturesque
impressions which they convey:

     "De Gustibus--" ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in
     "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "The Englishman in Italy." ("Dramatic Romances." Published as
     "England in Italy" in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)
     And even here we receive the picture with a lyric and dramatic
     colouring, which makes it much less one of facts than of
     associations. It is also to be remarked that, in these poems,
     the associations are of two opposite kinds, and Mr. Browning
     is in equal sympathy with both. He feels English scenery as an
     Englishman does: Italian, as an Italian might be supposed to,
     feel it.

"DE GUSTIBUS--" illustrates the difference of tastes by the respective
attractions of these two kinds of scenery, and of the ideas and images
connected with them. Some one is apostrophizing a friend, whose ghost he
is convinced will be found haunting an English lane, with its adjoining
corn-field and hazel coppice: where in the early summer the blackbird
sings, and the bean-flower scents the air. And he declares at the same
time that Italy is the land of his own love, whether his home there be a
castle in the Apennine, or some house on its southern shore; among
"wind-grieved" heights, or on the edge of an opaque blue sea: amidst a
drought and stillness in which the very cicala dies, and the cypress
seems to rust; and scorpions drop and crawl from the peeling walls ...
and where "a bare-footed girl tumbles green melons on to the ground
before you, as she gives news of the last attack on the Bourbon king."

"HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM ABROAD" is a longing reminiscence of an English
April and May, with their young leaves and their blossoms, their
sunshine and their dew, their song of the chaffinch and their rapturous
music of the thrush. Appreciation is heightened by contrast; and the
buttercup--England's gift to her little children--is pronounced far
brighter than the "gaudy melon-flower" which the exiled Englishman has
at this moment before him.

"THE ENGLISHMAN IN ITALY" is a vivid picture of Italian peasant-life on
the plain of Sorrento: the occasion being an outbreak of the well-known
hot wind--the "scirocco"--which, in this case, has brought with it a
storm of rain. A little frightened peasant girl has taken refuge by the
side of the Englishman, who is apparently lodging in her mother's
cottage. And he is diverting her attention by describing his impressions
of the last twenty-four hours: how everything looked before the rain;
how he knew while yet in bed that the rain had come, by the rattling
down of the quail-nets,[93] which were to be tugged into shelter, while
girls ran on to the housetops to fetch the drying figs; how the black
churning waters forbade the fishermen to go to sea (what strange
creatures they bring home when they do go, and how the brown naked
children, who look like so many shrimps, cling screaming about them at
the sight); how all hands are now employed at the wine-making, and her
brother is at this moment dancing bare-legged in a vat half as high as
the house; how the bigger girls bring baskets of grapes, with eyes
closed to keep out the rain; and how the smaller ones gather snails in
the wet grass, which will appear with fried pumpkin at the labourer's
supper; how, yesterday, he climbed Mount Calvano--that very brother of
hers for his guide--his mule carrying him with dainty steps through the
plain--past the woods--up a path ever wilder and stonier, where sorb
and myrtle fall away, but lentisk and rosemary still cling to the face
of the rock--the head and shoulders of some new mountain ever coming
into view; how he emerged, at last, where there were mountains all
around; below, the green sea; above, the crystal solitudes of heaven;
and, down in that green sea, the slumbering Siren islands: the three
which stand together, and the one which swam to meet them, but has
always remained half-way. These, and other reminiscences, beguile the
time till the storm has passed, and the sun breaks over the great
mountain which the Englishman has just described. He and little "Fortú"
can now go into the village, and see the preparations being made for
to-morrow's feast--that of the Virgin of the Rosary--which primitive
solemnity he also (by anticipation) describes. He concludes with a brief
allusion to the political scirocco which is blackening the English sky,
and will not vanish so quickly as this has done; and thus hints at a
reason, if the reader desires one, for his temporary rustication in a
foreign land.


[Footnote 72: First in "Hood's Magazine."]

[Footnote 73: Two of these are now in the National Gallery; one
presented to it by Sir Charles Eastlake, the other after his death by
Lady Eastlake.]

[Footnote 74: Mr. Browning thus skilfully accounts for the discrepancy
between the coarseness of his life and the refined beauty of much of his

[Footnote 75: The painter spoken of as "hulking Tom" is the celebrated
one known as "Masaccio" (Tommasaccio), who learned in the convent from
Lippo Lippi, and has been wrongly supposed to be his teacher. He is also
one of those who were credited with the work of Lippino, Lippo Lippi's

[Footnote 76: The Bishop's tomb is entirely fictitious; but something
which is made to stand for it is now shown to credulous sight-seers in
St. Praxed's Church.]

[Footnote 77: First in "Hood's Magazine."]

[Footnote 78: These were correctly given in the MS., and appeared so in
the first proofs of the book; but were changed from considerations of

[Footnote 79: A feigned name for one of the three wonder working images
which are worshipped in France.]

[Footnote 80: Mr. Browning allows me to give the true names of the
persons and places concerned in the story.

     Vol. xii. page 5. The Firm Miranda--Mellerio, Brothers.
           "    "   7. St Rambert--St. Aubin.
           "    "   7. Joyeux, Joyous-Gard--Lion, Lionesse.
           "    "   8. Vire-Caen.
           "    "  19. St. Rambertese--St. Aubinese
           "    "  22. Londres--Douvres.
           "    "  22. London--Dover.
           "    "  22. La Roche--Courcelle.
           "    "  22. Monlieu--Bernières.
           "    "  22. Villeneuve--Langrune.
           "    "  22. Pons--Luc.
           "    "  22. La Ravissante--La Délivrande.
           "    "  25. Raimbaux--Bayeux.
           "    "  25. Morillon--Hugonin.
           "    "  25. Mirecourt--Bonnechose.
           "    "  25. Miranda--Mellerio.
           "    "  26. New York--Madrid.
           "    "  30. Clairvaux--Tailleville.
           "    "  31. Gonthier--Bény.
           "    "  31. Rousseau--Voltaire.
           "    "  31. Léonce--Antoine.
           "    "  36. Of "Firm Miranda, London and New York"--"Mellerio
                    Brothers"--Meller, people say.
           "    "  53. Rare Vissante--Dell Yvrande.
           "    "  53. Aldabert--Regnobert.
           "    "  53. Eldebert--Ragnebert.
           "    "  54. Mailleville--Beaudoin.
           "    "  54. Chaumont--Quelen.
           "    "  54. Vertgalant--Talleyrand.
           "    "  59. Ravissantish--Delivrandish.
           "    "  66. Clara de Millefleurs--Anna de Beaupré.
           "    "  67. Coliseum Street--Miromesnil Street.
           "    "  72. Sterner--Mayer.
           "    "  72. Commercy--Larocy.
           "    "  72. Sierck--Metz.
           "    "  73. Muhlhausen--Debacker.
           "    "  73. Carlino Centofanti--Miranda di Mongino.
           "    "  73. Portugal--Italy.
           "    "  88. Vaillant-Mériel.
           "    "  96. Thirty-three--Twenty-five.
           "    "  97. Beaumont--Pasquier.
           "    " 107. Sceaux--Garges.
           "    " 128. Luc de la Maison Rouge--Jean de la Becquetière.
           "    " 128. Claise--Vire.
           "    " 129. Maude--Anne.
           "    " 129. Dionysius--Eliezer.
           "    " 129. Scolastica--Elizabeth.
           "    " 136. Twentieth--Thirteenth.
           "    " 152. Fricquot--Picot.

[Footnote 81: Le Croisic is in the Loire Inférieure, at the south-east
corner of Brittany. It has now a good bathing establishment, and is much
frequented by French people; but sardine-fishing and the crystallizing
of sea-salt are still its standing occupations.]

[Footnote 82: The details of this worship as carried on in the island
opposite Le Croisic, and which Mr. Browning describes, are mentioned by

[Footnote 83: The story of Paul Desforges Maillard forms the subject of
a famous play, Piron's "Métromanie."]

[Footnote 84: It is also, and perhaps chiefly, in this case, a pun on
the meaning of the plural noun "cenci," "rags," or "old rags." The cry
of this, frequent in Rome, was at first mistaken by Shelley for a voice
urging him to go on with his play. Mr. Browning has used it to indicate
the comparative unimportance of his contribution to the Cenci story. The
quoted Italian proverb means something to the same effect: that every
trifle will press in for notice among worthier matters.]

[Footnote 85: That of the Gregorian chant: a cadence concluding on the
dominant instead of the key-note.]

[Footnote 86: We have a conspicuous instance of this in "Pippa Passes."]

[Footnote 87: This spontaneous mode of conception may seem incompatible
with the systematic adherence to a fixed class of subjects referred to
in an earlier chapter. But it by no means is so. With Mr. Browning the
spontaneous creative impulse conforms to the fixed rule.

The present remarks properly belong to that earlier chapter. But it was
difficult to divide them from their illustrations.]

[Footnote 88: First in "Hood's Magazine."]

[Footnote 89: I may venture to state that these picturesque materials
included a tower which Mr. Browning once saw in the Carrara Mountains, a
painting which caught his eye years later in Paris; and the figure of a
horse in the tapestry in his own drawing-room--welded together in the
remembrance of the line from "King Lear" which forms the heading of the

[Footnote 90: Instances of it occur in the "Dramatic Idyls" and
"Jocoseria;" and will be noticed later.]

[Footnote 91: Generally confounded with his contemporary and
fellow-citizen, Girolamo del Pacchia.]

[Footnote 92: The (Baron) Kirkup mentioned at vol. xiv. page 5 was a
Florence friend of Mr. Browning's, and a connoisseur in literature and
art. He was ennobled by the King of Italy for his liberal views and for
his services to Italian literature. It was he who discovered the
portrait of Dante in the Bargello at Florence.]

[Footnote 93: Nets spread to catch quails as they fly to or from the
other side of the Mediterranean. They are slung by rings on to poles,
and stand sufficiently high for the quails to fly into them. This, and
every other detail of the poem, are given from personal observation.]



Even so imperfect, not to say arbitrary, a classification as I have been
able to attempt, excludes a number of Mr. Browning's minor poems; for
its necessary condition was the presence of some distinctive mood of
thought or feeling by which the poem could be classed; and in many, even
of the most striking and most characteristic, this condition does not
exist. In one group, for instance, the prevailing mood is either too
slightly indicated, or too fugitive, or too complex, or even too
fantastic, to be designated by any term but "poetic." Others, again,
such as songs and legends, depict human emotion in too simple or too
general a form, to be thought of as anything but "popular;" and a third
group may be formed of dramatic pictures or episodes, which unite the
qualities of the other two.

In the first of these groups we must place--

     "The Lost Leader." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Dramatic
     Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Nationality in Drinks." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published as
     "Claret and Tokay," without 3rd Part, in "Dramatic Romances
     and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Garden Fancies. I. The Flower's Name." ("Dramatic Lyrics."
     Published in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[94]

     "Earth's Immortalities." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in
     "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Home-Thoughts, from the Sea." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published
     in "Bells and Pomegranates." 1842 or 1845.)

     "My Star." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women."

     "Misconceptions." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "A Pretty Woman." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "In a Year." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women."

     "Women and Roses." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "Before." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women."

     "After." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women."

     "Memorabilia." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "The Last Ride Together." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in
     "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "A Grammarian's Funeral." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in
     "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "Johannes Agricola in Meditation." ("Men and Women." Published
     in "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.)

     "Confessions." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "May and Death." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "Youth and Art." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "A Likeness." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "Appearances." ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems." 1876.)

     "St. Martin's Summer." ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems."

     "Prologue to 'La Saisiaz.'" 1878.

In the second group:--

     "Cavalier Tunes." ("Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.)

     "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." ("Dramatic
     Lyrics." Published in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Song." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Dramatic Romances
     and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Incident of the French Camp." ("Dramatic Romances." Published
     as first part of "Camp and Cloister," in "Dramatic Lyrics."

     "Count Gismond." ("Dramatic Romances." Published as "France"
     in "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.)

     "The Boy and the Angel." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in
     "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[95]

     "The Glove." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Dramatic
     Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "The Twins." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "The Pied Piper of Hamelin; A Child's Story." ("Dramatic
     Romances." Published in "Dramatic Lyrics." 1842.)

     "Gold Hair: A Story of Pornic." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "Hervé Riel." ("Pacchiarotto, and other Poems," written at
     Croisic, 1867. Published in the "Cornhill Magazine." 1871.)

In the third group:--

     "Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr." ("Dramatic Lyrics."

     "Meeting at Night." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published as "Night"
     in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Parting at Morning." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published as
     "Morning" in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics.")

     "The Patriot. An old Story." ("Dramatic Romances." Published
     in "Men and Women." 1855.)

     "Instans Tyrannus." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men
     and Women." 1855.)

     "Mesmerism." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men and
     Women." 1855.)

     "Time's Revenges." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in
     "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "The Italian in England." ("Dramatic Romances." Published as
     "Italy in England" in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

     "Protus." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Men and Women."

     "Apparent Failure." ("Dramatis Personæ." 1864.)

     "Waring." ("Dramatic Romances." Published in "Dramatic
     Lyrics." 1842.) This poem is a personal effusion of feeling
     and reminiscence, which can stand for nothing but itself.

_First Group._

"THE LOST LEADER" is a lament over the defection of a loved and honoured
chief. It breathes a tender regret for the moral injury he has inflicted
on himself; and a high courage, saddened by the thought of lost support
and lost illusions, but not shaken by it. The language of the poem shows
the lost "leader" to have been a poet. It was suggested by Wordsworth,
in his abandonment (with Southey and others) of the liberal cause.

"NATIONALITY IN DRINKS." A fantastic little comment on the distinctive
national drinks--Claret, Tokay, and Beer. The beer is being drunk off
Cape Trafalgar to the health of Nelson, and introduces an authentic and
appropriate anecdote of him. But the laughing little claret flask, which
the speaker has on another occasion seen plunged for cooling into a
black-faced pond, suggests to him the image of a "gay French lady,"
dropped, with straightened limbs, into the silent ocean of death; while
the Hungarian Tokay (Tokayer Ausbruch), in its concentrated strength,
seems to jump on to the table as a stout pigmy castle-warder, strutting
and swaggering in his historic costume, and ready to defy twenty men at
once if the occasion requires.

"THE FLOWER'S NAME. Garden Fancies," I. A lover's reminiscence of a
garden in which he and his lady-love have walked together, and of a
flower which she has consecrated by her touch and voice: its dreamy
Spanish name, which she has breathed upon it, becoming part of the

"EARTH'S IMMORTALITIES." A sad and subtle little satire on the vaunted
permanence of love and fame. The poet's grave falls to pieces. The
words: "love me for ever," appeal to us from a tombstone which records
how Spring garlands are severed by the hand of June, and June's fever is
quenched in winter's snow.

"HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM THE SEA." An utterance of patriotic pride and
gratitude, aroused in the mind of an Englishman, by the sudden
appearance of Trafalgar in the blood-red glow of the southern setting

"MY STAR" may be taken as a tribute to the personal element in love: the
bright peculiar light in which the sympathetic soul reveals itself to
the object of its sympathy.

"MISCONCEPTIONS" illustrates the false hopes which may be aroused in the
breast of any devoted creature by an incidental and momentary acceptance
of its devotion.

"A PRETTY WOMAN" is the picture of a simple, compliant, exquisitely
pretty, and hopelessly shallow woman: incapable of love, though a mere
nothing will win her liking. And the question is raised, whether such a
creature is not perfect in itself, and would not be marred by any
attempt to improve it, or extract from it a different use. The author
decides in the affirmative. A rose is best "graced," not by reproducing
its petals in precious stones for a king to preserve; not by plucking it
to "smell, kiss, wear," and throw away; but by simply leaving it where
it grows. A "pretty" woman is most appropriately treated when nothing is
asked of her, but to be so.

"IN A YEAR" is a wondering and sorrowful little comment on a man's
shallowness and inconstancy.

"WOMEN AND ROSES" is the impression of a dream, and both vague and
vivid, as such impressions are. The author _dreams_ of a "red
rose-tree," with three roses upon it: one withered, the second
full-blown, the third still in the bud; and, floating round each, a
generation of women: those famed in the past; the loved and loving of
the present; the "beauties yet unborn." He casts his passion at the feet
of the dead; but they float past him unmoved. He enfolds in it the
glowing forms of the living; but these also elude him. He pours it into
the budding life, which may thus respond to his own; but the procession
of maidens drifts past him too. They all circle unceasingly round their
own rose.

"BEFORE" and "AFTER" are companion poems, which show how differently an
act may present itself in prospect and in remembrance, whether regarded
in its abstract justification, or in its actual results. The question is
that of a duel; and "BEFORE" is the utterance of a third person to whom
the propriety of fighting it seems beyond a doubt. "A great wrong has
been done. The wronged man, who is also the better one, is bound to
assert himself in defence of the right. If he is killed, he will have
gained his heaven. For his slayer, hell will have begun: for he will
feel the impending judgment, in the earth which still offers its fruits;
in the sky, which makes no sign; in the leopard-like conscience[96]
which leers in mock obeisance at his side, ready to spring on him
whenever the moment comes. There has been enough of delay and
extenuation. Let the culprit acknowledge his guilt, or take its final

The duel is fought, but it is the guilty one who falls; and "AFTER"
gives the words of his adversary--his boyhood's friend--struck with
bitter remorse for what he has done. As the man who wronged him lies
wrapped in the majesty of death, his offence dwindles into
insignificance; and the survivor can only feel how disproportionate has
been the punishment, and above all, how unavailing. "Would," he
exclaims, "that the past could be recalled, and they were boys again
together! It would be so easy then to endure!"

"MEMORABILIA" shows the perspective of memory in a tribute to the poet
Shelley. His fugitive contact with a commonplace life, like the trace of
an eagle's passage across the moor, leaves an illumined spot amidst

"THE LAST RIDE TOGETHER" depicts the emotions of a ride, which a finally
dismissed lover has been allowed to take with his beloved. He has vainly
passed his youth in loving her. But as this boon is granted, she lies
for a moment on his breast. "She might have loved him more; she might
also have liked him less." As they ride away side by side, a sense of
resignation comes over him. His life is not alone in its failure. Every
one strives. Few or none succeed. The best success proves itself to be
shallow. And if it were otherwise--if the goal could be reached on
earth--what care would one take for heaven? Then the peace which is in
him absorbs the consciousness of reality. He fancies himself riding with
the loved one till the end of time; and he asks himself if his destined
heaven may not prove to be this.

"A GRAMMARIAN'S FUNERAL" describes the rendering of the last honours to
one whose life has consumed itself in the pursuit of knowledge. The
knowledge pursued has been pedantic and minute, but for him it
represented a mighty truth; and he has refused to live, in the world's
sense, till he had mastered that truth, co-extensive, as he believed it,
with life everlasting. Like Sordello, though in a different way, he
would KNOW before he allowed himself to BE. He would realize the Whole;
he would not discount it. His disciples are bearing him to a
mountain-top, that the loftiness of his endeavour may be symbolized by
his last resting-place. He is to lie

                       "where meteors shoot, clouds form,
       Lightnings are loosened." (vol. v. p. 159.)

where the new morning for which he waited will figuratively first break
upon him.

"JOHANNES AGRICOLA IN MEDITATION" is a glowing and fantastic description
of the privileges of the "elect," cast in the form of a monologue, and
illustrated in the person of the speaker. Johannes Agricola was a German
reformer of the sixteenth century, and alleged founder of the sect of
the Antinomians: a class of Christians who extended the Low Church
doctrine of the insufficiency of good works, and declared the children
of God to be exempt from the necessity of performing them; absolved from
doing right, because unable to do wrong; because no sin would be
accounted to them as such. Some authorities contend that he personally
rejected only the Mosaic, not the moral law; but Mr. Browning has
credited him with the full measure of Antinomian belief, and makes him
specially exult in the Divine assurance that the concentrated venom of
the worst committed sins can only work in him for salvation. He also
comments wonderingly on the state of the virtuous man and woman, and of
the blameless child, "undone," as he was saved, before the world began;
whose very striving is turned to sin; whose life-long prayer and
sacrifice can only end in damnation. But, as he declares, he praises God
the more that he cannot understand Him; that His ways are inscrutable,
that His love may not be bought.

"CONFESSIONS" is the answer of a dying man to the clergyman's question:
does he "view the world as a vale of tears?" His fancy is living through
a romance of past days, of which the scene comes back to him in the
arrangement of physic-bottles on a table beside him, while the curtain,
which may be green, but to his dying eyes is blue, makes the June
weather about it all. He is seeing the girl he loved, as watching for
him from a terrace near the stopper of that last and tallest bottle in
the row; and he is retracing the path by which he could creep, unseen by
any eyes but hers, to the "rose-wreathed" gate which was their
trysting-place. "No, reverend sir," is the first and last word of his
reply, "the world has been no vale of tears to me."

"MAY AND DEATH" expresses a mourner's wish, so natural to the egotism of
a deep sorrow, that the season which robbed him of his friend's life
should bury all its sweetness with him. The speaker retracts this wish,
in justice to the many pairs of friends who have each their right to
happiness. But there is, he says, one red-streaked plant which their May
might spare, since one wood alone would miss it. For its leaf is dashed
as with the blood of Spring; and whenever henceforth it grows in that
same place, the drop will have been drawn from his heart.[97]

"YOUTH AND ART" is a humorous, but regretful reminiscence of "Bohemian"
days, addressed by a great singer to a sculptor, also famous, who once
worked in a garret opposite to her own. They were young then, as well as
poor and obscure; and they watched and coquetted with each other, though
they neither spoke nor met; and perhaps played with the idea of a more
serious courtship. Caution and ambition, however, prevailed; and they
have reached the summit of their respective professions, and accepted
the social honours which the position insures. But she thinks of all
that might have been, if they had listened to nature, and cast in their
lot with each other; of the sighs and the laughter, the starvation and
the feasting, the despairs and the joys of the struggling artist's
career; and she feels that in its fullest and freest sense, their artist
life has remained incomplete.

"A LIKENESS" describes the feelings which are inspired by the familiar
or indifferent handling of any object sacred to our own mind. They are
illustrated by the idea of a print or picture, bought for the sake of a
resemblance; and which may be hanging against a wall, or stowed away in
a portfolio: and, in either case, provoke comment, contemptuous or
admiring, which will cause a secret and angry pain to its possessor.

"APPEARANCES," a little poem in two stanzas, illustrates the power of
association. Its contents can only be given in its own words.

"ST. MARTIN'S SUMMER" represents a lover, with his beloved, striving to
elude the memory of a former attachment, and finding himself cheated by
it. As the fires of a departed summer will glow once more, in the
countenance of the wintry year, so also has his past life projected
itself into the present, assuming its features as a mask. And when the
ghosts, from whom, figuratively, the young pair are hiding, rise from
their moss-grown graves; and the lover would disregard their remonstrant
procession as only "faint march-music in the air": he becomes suddenly
conscious that the past has withdrawn its gifts, and that the mere mask
of love remains to him.

The poem would seem intended to deny that a second love can be genuine:
were not its light tone and fantastic circumstance incompatible with
serious intention.

PROLOGUE TO "LA SAISIAZ," reprinted as "Pisgah-Sights," III., is a
fantastic little vision of the body and the soul, as disengaged from
each other by death: the soul wandering at will through the realms of
air; the body consigned to the

       "Ferns of all feather,
       Mosses and heather," (vol. xiv. p. 156.)

of its native earth.

_Second Group._

"CAVALIER TUNES" consists of three songs, with chorus, full of rousing
enthusiasm for the cause of King Charles, and of contemptuous defiance
for the Roundheads who are opposing him: I. "Marching Along." II. "Give
a Rouse." III. "Boot and Saddle."

picture, which would gain nothing in force by being true. It is that of
three horsemen galloping to save the life of their town; galloping
without rest, from moonset to sunrise, from sunrise into the blaze of
noon; one horse dropping dead on the way, the second, within sight of
the goal; and the third, Roland, urged on by frantic exertions on his
rider's part--the blood filling his nostrils, and starting in red
circles round his eyes--galloping into the market-place of Aix; to rest
there with his head between his master's knees: while the last measure
of wine which the city contains is being poured down his throat.

"SONG" is a lover's assertion of his lady's transcendent charms, which
he challenges those even to deny who do not love her.

"INCIDENT OF THE FRENCH CAMP." A boy soldier of the army of Napoleon has
received his death wound in planting the Imperial flag within the walls
of Ratisbon. He contrives by a supreme effort to gallop out to the
Emperor--who has watched the storming of the city from a mound a mile or
two away--fling himself from the horse, and, holding himself erect by
its mane, announce the victory. No sign of pain escapes him. But when
Napoleon suddenly exclaims: "You are wounded," the soldier's pride in
him is touched. "I am killed, Sire," he replies; and, smiling, falls
dead at the Emperor's feet. The story is true; but its actual hero was a

"COUNT GISMOND" is an imaginary episode of the days of chivalry. It
relates how a young girl had been chosen queen of a tournament; and how
a false knight, instigated by two cousins who were jealous of her
beauty, accused her, in the open field, of being unfit to bestow a
crown; how a true knight who loved her, killed the lie by a blow struck
at the liar's mouth; and then, mortally wounding him in single combat,
dragged him to retract it at the lady's feet; how he laid his protecting
arm around her, and led her away to the southern home where she is now
his proud and happy wife, with sons growing up to resemble him.

The fearless confidence with which she has awaited the result of the
duel, as bearing God's testimony to the truth, is very characteristic of
the time.

"THE BOY AND THE ANGEL" is an imaginary legend which presents one of Mr.
Browning's deepest convictions in a popular form. Theocrite was a poor
boy, who worked diligently at his craft, and praised God as he did so.
He dearly wished to become Pope, that he might praise Him better, and
God granted the wish. Theocrite sickened and seemed to die. And he awoke
to find himself a priest, and also, in due time, Pope. But God missed
the praise, which had gone up to Him from the boy craftsman's cell; and
the angel Gabriel came down to earth, and took Theocrite's former place.
And God was again not satisfied; for the angelic praise could not
replace for Him the human. "The silencing of that one weak voice had
stopped the chorus of creation." So Theocrite returned to his old self;
and the angel Gabriel became Pope instead of him.

"THE GLOVE" is the well-known story[98] of a lady of the Court of
Francis I., who, in order to test the courage of her suitor, threw her
glove into the enclosure in which a captive lion stood; and describes
the suitor--one De Lorge--as calmly rescuing the glove, but only to
fling it in the lady's face; this protest against her heartlessness and
vanity being endorsed by both the King and Court. But at this point Mr.
Browning departs from the usual version: for he takes the woman's part.
The supposed witness and narrator of the incident, the poet Ronsard,
sees a look in her face which seems to say that the experiment, if
painful, has been worth making; and he gives her the opportunity of
declaring so. She had too long, she explains, been expected to take
words for deeds, and to believe on his mere assertion, that her admirer
was prepared to die for her; and when the sight of this lion brought
before her the men who had risked their lives in capturing it, without
royal applause to sustain them, the moment seemed opportune for
discovering what this one's courage was worth. She marries a youth, so
the poet continues, whose love reveals itself at this moment of her
disgrace; and (he is disposed to believe) will live happily, though away
from the Court. De Lorge, rendered famous by the incident, woos and wins
a beauty who is admired by the King, and acquires practice in seeking
her gloves--where he is not meant to find them--at the moments in which
his presence is superfluous.

"THE TWINS" is a parable told by Luther in his "Table Talk," to show
that charity and prosperity go hand in hand: and that to those who cease
to give it will no longer be given. "Dabitur" only flourishes where
"Date" is well-fed.

"THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN" (Hameln)[99] is the story of a mysterious
piper who is said to have appeared at Hameln in the fourteenth century,
at a moment when the city was infested by rats. According to the legend,
he freed it from this nuisance, by shrill notes of his pipe which lured
the rats after him to the edge of the river Weser, where they plunged
in and were drowned; and then, to punish the corporation, which had
refused him the promised pay, enticed away all its children, by sweet
notes from his pipe; and disappeared with them into the Koppelberg, a
neighbouring mountain, which opened and then closed on them for ever.
The legend also asserts that these facts (to which Mr. Browning has made
some imaginative additions), were recorded on a church window, and in
the name of a street. But the assertion no longer finds belief.

"GOLD HAIR" is a true "Story of Pornic," which may be read in
guide-books to the place. A young girl of good family died there in
odour of sanctity; she seemed too pure and fragile for earth. But she
had one earthly charm, that of glorious golden hair; and one earthly
feeling, which was her apparent pride in it. As she lay on her deathbed,
she entreated that it might not be disturbed; and she was buried near
the high altar of the church of St. Gilles[100] with the golden tresses
closely swathed about her. Years afterwards, the church needed repair.
Part of the pavement was taken up. A loose coin drew attention to the
spot in which the coffin lay. Its boards had burst, and scattered about,
lay thirty double louis, which had been hidden in the golden hair. So
the saint-like maiden was a miser.

"HERVÉ RIEL" commemorates the skill, courage, and singleness of heart of
a Breton sailor, who saved the French squadron when beaten at Cape la
Hogue and flying before the English to St. Malo, by guiding it through
the shallows of the river Rance, in a manner declared impracticable by
the Maloese themselves; being all the while so unconscious of the
service he was rendering, that, when desired to name his reward, he
begged for a _whole day's holiday_, to run home and see his wife. His
home was Le Croisic.

_Third Group._

"THROUGH THE METIDJA TO ABD-EL-KADR" represents a follower of
Abd-el-Kadr hastening through the desert to join his chief. Mystic
fancies crowd upon him as he "rides" and "rides": his pulses quickened
by the end in view, and by the swift unresting motion of a horse which
never needs the spur; and as he describes his experience in his own
excited words, we receive not only the mental picture, but the physical
impression of it. This poem is a strong instance of Mr. Browning's power
of conveying sense by sound, when he sees occasion for doing so.

"MEETING AT NIGHT" is a glimpse of moonlight and repose; and of the
appropriate seclusion in the company of the one woman loved.

"PARTING AT MORNING" asserts the need of "men" and their "world," which
is born again with the sunshine.

"THE PATRIOT" tells, as its second title informs us, "an old story."
Only this day year, the "patriot" entered the city as its hero, amidst a
frenzy of gratitude and joy. To-day he passes out of it through
comparatively silent streets; for those for whom he has laboured last as
first, are waiting for him at the foot of the scaffold. No infliction of
physical pain or moral outrage is spared him as he goes. He is "safer
so," he declares. The reward men have withheld awaits him at the hand of

"INSTANS TYRANNUS"[101] is the confession of a king, who has been
possessed by an unreasoning and uncontrolled hatred for one man. This
man was his subject, but so friendless and obscure that no hatred could
touch, so stupid or so upright that no temptation could lure him into
his enemy's power. The King became exasperated by the very smallness of
the creature which thus kept him at bay; drew the line of persecution
closer and closer; and at last ran his victim to earth. But, at the
critical moment, the man so long passive and cowering threw himself on
the protection of God. The King saw, in a sudden revulsion of feeling,
an Arm thrown out from the sky, and the "wretch" he had striven to
crush, safely enfolded in it Then he in his turn--was "afraid."

"MESMERISM" is a fanciful but vivid description of an act of mesmeric
power, which draws a woman, alone, in the darkness, and through every
natural obstacle, to the presence of the man who loves her.

"TIME'S REVENGES" is also a confession made in the form of a soliloquy.
The speaker has a friend whose devotion is equal to any test, and whose
love he barely repays with liking; and he has a lady-love by whom this
friend is avenged; for he has given up to his passion for her his body
and his soul, his peace and his renown, every laudable ambition, every
rational aim; and he knows she would let him roast by a slow fire if
this would procure her an invitation to a certain ball.

"THE ITALIAN IN ENGLAND" is the supposed adventure of a leading Italian
patriot, told by himself in later years. He tells how he was hiding from
the Austrians, who had put a price upon his head, and were scouring the
country in pursuit of him; how, impelled by hunger, he disclosed his
place of concealment to a peasant girl--the last of a troop of villagers
who were passing by; and how she saved his life at the risk of her own,
and when she would have been paid in gold for betraying him. He relates
also that his first thought was to guard himself against betrayal by not
telling her who he was; but that her loyal eyes, her dignified form and
carriage (perhaps too, the consummate tact with which she had responded
to his signal) in another moment had put the thought to flight, and he
fearlessly placed his own, and his country's destiny in her hands. He is
an exile in England now. Friends and brothers have made terms with the
oppressor, and his home is no longer theirs. But among the wishes which
still draw him to his native land, is one, less acknowledged than the
rest and which perhaps lies deeper, that he may see that noble woman
once more; talk to her of the husband who was then her lover, of her
children, and her home; and, once more, as he did in parting from her,
kiss her hand in gratitude, and lay his own in blessing on her

"PROTUS" is a fragment of an imaginary chronicle: recording in the same
page and under the head of the same year, how the child-Emperor, Protus,
descended from a god, was growing in beauty and in grace, worshipped by
the four quarters of the known world; and how John, the Pannonian
blacksmith's bastard, came and took the Empire; but, as "some think,"
let Protus live--to be heard of later as dependent in a foreign court;
or perhaps to become the monk, whom rumour speaks of as bearing his
name, and who died at an advanced age in Thrace.

A fit comment on this Empire lost and won, is supplied by two busts,
also imaginary, one showing a "rough hammered" coarse-jawed head; the
other, a baby face, crowned with a wreath of violets.

"APPARENT FAILURE" is Mr. Browning's verdict on three drowned men, whose
bodies he saw exposed at the Morgue[103] in Paris, in the summer of
1856. He justly assumes that the death was suicide; and as he reads in
each face its special story of struggle and disappointment,

       "Poor men, God made, and all for that!" (vol. vii. p. 247)

the conviction lays hold of him that their doom is not final, that the
life God blessed in the beginning cannot end accursed of Him; that even
a despair and a death like these, record only a seeming failure.

The poem was professedly written to save the memory of the Morgue, then
about to be destroyed.

The friend, to whom "WARING" refers, is a restless, aspiring, sensitive
person, who has planned great works, though he has completed none: who
feels his powers always in excess of his performance, and who is hurt if
those he loves refuse them credit for being so. He is gone now, no one
knows whither; and the speaker, who is conscious that his own friendship
has often seemed critical or cold, vainly wishes that he could recall
him. His fancy travels longingly to those distant lands, in one of which
Waring may be playing some new and romantic part; and back again to
England, where he tries to think that he is lying concealed, while
preparing to surprise the world with some great achievement in
literature or art. Then someone solves the problem by saying that he has
seen him--for one moment--on the Illyrian coast; seated in a light bark,
just bounding away into the sunset. And the speaker rejoins

                                  "Oh, never star
       Was lost here but it rose afar!" (vol. v. p. 89.)

and, we conclude, takes comfort from the thought.


[Footnote 94: Both of these first in "Hood's Magazine."]

[Footnote 95: First in "Hood's Magazine."]

[Footnote 96: I here use the word "conscience" in its intellectual
rather than its moral sense; as signifying that _consciousness_ of a
wrong done, which may, for a time, be evaded or pushed aside.]

[Footnote 97: This poem was a personal utterance, provoked by the death
of a relative whom Mr. Browning dearly loved.]

[Footnote 98: Told by Schiller and Leigh Hunt.]

[Footnote 99: Written for and inscribed to a little son of the actor,
William Macready.]

[Footnote 100: A picturesque old church which has since been destroyed.]

[Footnote 101: The "Threatening Tyrant." Suggested by some words in
Horace: 8th Ode, ii. Book.]

[Footnote 102: Mr. Browning is proud to remember that Mazzini informed
him he had read this poem to certain of his fellow-exiles in England to
show how an Englishman could sympathize with them.]

[Footnote 103: A small, square building on one of the quays, in which
the bodies of drowned persons were placed for identification.]




The Dramatic Idyls form, like the Dramas, a natural group; and though,
unlike these, they might be distributed under various heads, it would
not be desirable to thus disconnect them; for their appearing together
at this late period of Mr. Browning's career, constitutes them a
landmark in it. They each consist of a nucleus of fact--supplied by
history or by romance, as the case may be--and of material, and in most
cases, mental circumstance, which Mr. Browning's fancy has engrafted on
it; and in both their material and their mental aspect they display a
concentrated power, which clearly indicates what I have spoken of as the
"crystallizing" process Mr. Browning's genius has undergone. A
comparison of these poems with "Pauline," "Paracelsus," or even "Pippa
Passes," will be found to justify this assertion.

The Idyls consist of two series, occupying each a volume. The first,
published 1879, contains:--

     "Martin Relph."
     "Halbert and Hob."
     "Ivàn Ivànovitch."
     "Ned Bratts."

The hero of "MARTIN RELPH" is an old man, whose life is haunted by
something which happened to him when little more than a boy. A girl of
his own village had been falsely convicted of treason, and the guns were
already levelled for her execution, when Martin Relph, who had stolen
round on to some rising ground behind the soldiers and villagers who
witnessed the scene, saw what no one else could see: a man, about a
quarter of mile distant, rushing onwards in staggering haste, and waving
a white object over his head. He knew this was Vincent Parkes, Rosamond
Page's lover, bearing the expected proofs of her innocence. He knew also
that by a shout he might avert her doom. But something paralyzed his
tongue, and the girl fell. The man who would have rescued her but for
delays and obstacles, which no power of his could overcome, was found
dead where Martin Relph had seen him.

The remembrance of these two deaths leaves Martin Relph no rest; for
conscience tells him that his part in them was far worse than it
appeared. It tells him that what struck him dumb at that awful moment
was not, as others said, the simple cowardice of a boy: he loved in
secret the girl whom Vincent Parkes was coming to save; and if _he_ had
saved her, it would have been for that other man. But that thought could
only flash on him in one second of fiery consciousness; he had no time
to recognize it as a motive; and he clings madly to the hope that his
conscience is mistaken, and it was not that which silenced him. Every
year, at the same spot, he re-enacts the scene, striving to convince
himself--with those who hear him--that he has been a coward, but not a
murderer; and in the moral and physical reaction from the renewed agony,
half-succeeds in doing so.

The story, thus told in Martin Relph's words, is supposed to have been
repeated to the present narrator by a grandfather, who heard them. It
embodies a vague remembrance of something read by Mr. Browning when he
was himself a boy.

The facts related in "PHEIDIPPIDES" belong to Greek legendary history,
and are told by Herodotus and other writers. When Athens was threatened
by the invading Persians, she sent a running messenger to Sparta, to
demand help against the foreign foe. The mission was unsuccessful. But
the "runner," Pheidippides, fell in on his return, with the god Pan; and
though alone among Greeks the Athenians had refused to honour him, he
promised to fight with them in the coming battle. Pheidippides was
present, when this battle--that of Marathon--was fought and won. He
"ran" once more, to announce the victory at Athens; and fell, dead, with
the words, "Rejoice, we conquer!" on his lips. This death followed
naturally on the excessive physical strain; but Mr. Browning has used it
as a connecting link between the historic and the imaginary parts of the
idyl. According to this, Pheidippides himself tells his first adventure,
to the assembled rulers of Athens: depicting, in vivid words, the
emotions which winged his course, and bore him onwards over mountains
and through valleys, with the smooth swiftness of running fire; and he
also relates that Pan promised him a personal reward for his "toil,"
which was to consist in release from it. This release he interprets as
freedom to return home, and to marry the girl he loves. It meant a
termination to his labours, more tragic, but far more glorious: to die,
proclaiming the victory which they had helped to secure.

Pan is also made to present him with a sprig of fennel--symbol of
Marathon, or the "fennel-field"--as pledge of his promised assistance.

"HALBERT AND HOB" is the story of a fierce father and son who lived
together in solitude, shunned by their fellow-men. One Christmas night
they drifted into a quarrel, in the course of which the son seized his
father, and was about to turn him out of doors: when the latter, with
unaccustomed mildness, bade him stay his hand. Just so, he said, in his
youth, had he proceeded against his own father; and at just this stage
of the proceeding had a voice in his heart bidden him desist.... And the
son thus appealed to desisted also.

This fact is told by Aristotle[104] as an instance of the hereditary
nature of anger. But Mr. Browning sees more in it than that. If, he
declares, Nature creates hard hearts, it is a power beyond hers which
softens them; and in his version of "Halbert and Hob" this supernatural
power completes the work it has begun. The two return in silence to
their fireside. The next morning the father is found dead. The son has
become a harmless idiot, to remain so till the end of his life.

"IVAN IVANOVITCH" is the reproduction, with fictitious names and
imaginary circumstances, of a popular Russian story, known as "The
Judgment of God." A young woman travelling through the forest on a
winter's night, is attacked by wolves, and saves her own life by
throwing her children to them. But when she reaches her village, and
either confesses the deed or stands convicted of it, one of its
inhabitants, by trade a carpenter and the Ivàn Ivànovitch of the idyl,
lifts the axe which he is plying, and strikes off her head: this
informal retribution being accepted, by those present, as in conformity
with the higher law.

Mr. Browning has raised the mother's act out of the sphere of vulgar
crime, by the characteristic method of making her tell her story: and
show herself, as she may easily have been, not altogether bad; though a
woman of weak maternal instincts, and one whose nature was powerless
against the fear of pain, and the impulse to self-preservation. She
describes with appalling vividness the experiences of the night: the
moonlit forest--the snow-covered ground--the wolves approaching with a
whispering tread, which seems at first but the soughing of a gentle
wind--the wedge-like, ever-widening mass, which emerges from the trees;
then the flight, and the pursuit: the latter arrested for one moment by
the sacrifice of each victim; to be renewed the next, till none is left
to sacrifice: one child dragged from the mother's arms; another shielded
by her whole body, till the wolf's teeth have fastened in her flesh; and
though she betrays, in the very effort to conceal it, how little she has
done to protect her children's lives, we realize the horror of her
situation, and pity even while we condemn, her. But some words of
selfish rejoicing at her own deliverance precede the fatal stroke, and
in some degree challenge it. And Mr. Browning farther preserves the
spirit of the tradition, by giving to her sentence the sanction of the
village priest or "pope," into whose presence the decapitated body has
been conveyed. The secular authorities are also on the spot, and condemn
the murder as contrary both to justice and to law. But the pope declares
that the act of Ivàn Ivànovitch has been one of the higher justice which
is above law. He himself is an aged man--so aged, he says, that he has
passed through the clouds of human convention, and stands on the firm
basis of eternal truth. Looking down upon the world from this
vantage-ground, he sees that no gift of God is equal to that of life; no
privilege so high as that of reproducing its "miracle;" and that the
mother who has cast away her maternal crown, and given over to
destruction the creatures which she has borne, has sinned an "unexampled
sin," for which a "novel punishment" was required. No otherwise than did
Moses of old, has Ivàn Ivànovitch interpreted the will--shown himself
the servant--of God.

How Mr. Browning's Ivàn Ivànovitch himself judges the case, is evidenced
by this fact, that after wiping the blood from his axe, he betakes
himself to playing with his children; and that when the lord of the
village has--reluctantly--sent a deputation to inform him that he is
free, the words, "how otherwise?" are his only answer.

"TRAY" describes an instance of animal courage and devotion which a
friend of Mr. Browning's actually witnessed in Paris. A little girl had
fallen into the river. None of the bystanders attempted to rescue her.
But a dog, bouncing over the balustrade, brought the child to land;
dived again, no one could guess why; and after battling with a dangerous
current, emerged with the child's doll; then trotted away as if nothing
had occurred.

This "Tray" is made to illustrate Mr. Browning's ideal of a hero, in
opposition to certain showy and conventional human types; and the little
narrative contains some scathing reflections on those who talk of such a
creature as merely led by instinct, or would dissect its brain alive to
discover how the "soul" is secreted there.

"NED BRATTS" was suggested by the remembrance of a passage in John
Bunyan's "Life and Death of Mr. Badman." Bunyan relates there that some
twenty years ago, "at a summer assizes holden at Hertford, while the
judge was sitting on the Bench," a certain old Tod came into the Court,
and declared himself "the veriest rogue that breathes upon the earth"--a
thief from childhood, &c., &c.; that the judge first thought him mad,
but after conferring with some of the justices, agreed to indict him "of
several felonious actions;" and that as he heartily confessed to all of
these, he was hanged, with his wife, at the same time. Mr. Browning has
turned Hertford into Bedford; made the time of the occurrence coincide
with that of Bunyan's imprisonment; and supposed the evident conversion
of this man and woman to be among the many which he effected there. The
blind daughter of Bunyan, who plays an important part in "Ned Bratts,"
is affectingly spoken of in her father's work; and the tag-laces, which
have subserved the criminal purposes of Bratts and his wife, represent
an industry by which he is known to have supported himself in prison.
Mr. Browning, finally, has used the indications Bunyan gives, of the
incident taking place on a very hot day, so as to combine the sense of
spiritual stirring with one of unwholesome and grotesque physical
excitement; and this, as he describes it, is the genuine key-note of the

The character of Ned Bratts is made a perfect vehicle for these
impressions. His "Tab" (Tabitha) has had an interview with John Bunyan,
and been really moved by his majestic presence, and warning, yet
hope-inspiring words. But he himself has been principally worked upon by
the reading of the "Pilgrim's Progress;" and we see in him throughout,
an unregenerate ruffian, whose carnal energies have merely transferred
themselves to another field; and whose blood is fired to this act of
martyrdom both by yesterday's potations, and to-day's virtuously endured
thirst. "A mug," he cries, in the midst of his confessions; or, "no
(addressing his wife), a prayer!"

       "Dip for one out of the Book!..." (vol. xv. p. 67.)

The precarious nature of his conversion is, indeed, vividly present to
his own mind. It is borne in upon him that he is "Christmas," and must
escape from the City of Destruction. He would like nothing better, in
his present mood, than to undertake the whole Pilgrimage, and, as it
were, cudgel his way through; and since it is late in the day for this,
he chooses the short cut by the gallows, as the next best thing. But he
is, above all, desirous to be taken while the penitent fit is on him:
and urgently sets forth those past misdeeds, which constitute his and
his wife's claim to a speedy despatch, such as will place them beyond
the danger of backsliding. Already, he declares, Satan is whispering to
him of the pleasures he is leaving behind; and the seductions of
to-morrow's brawl and bear-baiting are threatening to turn the scale.
Another moment, and instead of going up to heaven, like Faithful, in a
chariot and pair, he will be the Lost Man in the Iron Cage!

When the two have had their wish, and been hanged "out of hand," the
bystanders are edified to tears. But the loyalty of the Chief Justice
forbids any imputing of the act of grace to the influence of John
Bunyan. Its cause lies rather, he asserts, in the twelve years' pious
reign of the restored Charles.

The second series of the "Dramatic Idyls" was published in 1880, and

     "Pietro of Abano."
     "Doctor ----"
     "Pan and Luna."

It has also a little prologue and epilogue: the former satirizing the
pretension to understand the Soul, which we cannot see, while we are
baffled by the workings of the bodily organs, which we can see; the
latter directed against the popular idea that the more impressible and
more quickly responsive natures are the soil of which "song" is born.
The true poet, it declares, is as the pine tree which has grown out of a

"ECHETLOS" (holder of the ploughshare) is another legend of the battle
of Marathon. It tells, in Mr. Browning's words, how one with the
goat-skin garment, and the broad bare limbs of a "clown," was seen on
the battle-field ploughing down the enemy's ranks: the ploughshare
flashing now here, now there, wherever the Grecian lines needed
strengthening; how he vanished when the battle was won; and how the
oracle, of which his name was asked, bade the inquirers not care for it:

     "Say but just this: We praise one helpful whom we call
     The Holder of the Ploughshare. The great deed ne'er grows small."
                                                       (vol. xv. p. 87.)

Miltiades and Themistocles had shown that a great name could do so.[105]

The anecdote which forms the basis of "CLIVE," was told to Mr. Browning
in 1846 by Mrs. Jameson, who had shortly before heard it at Lansdowne
House, from Macaulay. It is cursorily mentioned in Macaulay's "Essays."

When Robert Clive was first in India, a boy of fifteen, clerk in a
merchant's office at St. David's, he accused an officer with whom he was
playing, of cheating at cards, and was challenged by him in consequence.
Clive fired, as it seems, prematurely, and missed his aim. The officer,
at whose mercy he had thus placed himself, advanced to within arm's
length, held the muzzle of his pistol to the youth's forehead, and
summoned him to repeat his accusation. Clive did repeat it, and with
such defiant courage that his adversary was unnerved. He threw down the
weapon, confessed that he had cheated, and rushed out of the room. A
chorus of indignation then broke forth among those who had witnessed the
scene. They declared that the "wronged civilian" should be righted; and
that he who had thus disgraced Her Majesty's Service should be
drummed--if needs be, kicked--out of the regiment. But here Clive
interposed. Not one, he said, of the eleven, whom he addressed by name
and title, had raised a finger to save his life. He would clear scores
with any or all among them who breathed a word against the man who had
spared it. Nor, as the narrative continues, and as the event proved, was
such a word ever spoken.

Clive is supposed to relate this experience, a week before his
self-inflicted death, to a friend who is dining with him; and who,
struck by his depressed mental state, strives to arouse him from it by
the question: which of his past achievements constitutes, in his own
judgment, the greatest proof of courage. He gives the moment in which
the pistol was levelled at his head, as that in which he felt, not most
courage, but most fear. But, as he explains to his astonished listener,
it was not the almost certainty of death, which, for one awful minute,
made a coward of him; it was the bare possibility of a reprieve, which
would have left no appeal from its dishonour. His opponent refused to
fire. He might have done so with words like these:

     "Keep your life, calumniator!--worthless life I freely spare:
     Mine you freely would have taken--murdered me and my good fame
     Both at once--and all the better! Go, and thank your own bad aim
     Which permits me to forgive you!..."          (vol. xv. p. 105.)

What course would have remained to him but to seize the pistol, and
himself send the bullet into his brain? This tremendous mental situation
is, we need hardly say, Mr. Browning's addition to the episode.

The poem contains also some striking reflections on the risks and
responsibilities of power; and concludes with an expression of reverent
pity for the "great unhappy hero" for whom they proved too great.

"MULÉYKEH" is an old Arabian story. The name which heads it is that of a
swift, beautiful mare, who was Hóseyn--her owner's, "Pearl." He loved
her so dearly, that, though a very poor man, no price would tempt him to
sell her; and in his fear of her being stolen, he slept always with her
head-stall thrice wound round his wrist: and Buhéyseh, her sister,
saddled for instantaneous pursuit. One night she was stolen; and Duhl,
the thief, galloped away on her and felt himself secure: for the Pearl's
speed was such that even her sister had never overtaken her. She chafed,
however, under the strange rider, and slackened her pace. Buhéyseh,
bearing Hóseyn, gained fast upon them; the two mares were already "neck
by croup." Then the thought of his darling's humiliation flashed on
Hóseyn's mind. He shouted angrily to Duhl in what manner he ought to
urge her. And the Pearl, obeying her master's voice, no less than the
familiar signal prescribed by him, bounded forward, and was lost to him
forever. Hóseyn returned home, weeping sorely, and the neighbours told
him he had been a fool. Why not have kept silence and got his treasure

     "'And--beaten in speed!' wept Hóseyn: 'You never have loved
          my Pearl.'"
                                           (vol. xv. p. 116.)

The man who gives his name to "PIETRO OF ABANO" was the greatest Italian
philosopher and physician of the thirteenth century.[106] He was also an
astrologer, pretending to magical knowledge, and persecuted, as Mr.
Browning relates. But the special story he tells of him has been told of
others also.

Pietro of Abano had the reputation of being a wizard; and though his
skill in curing sickness, as in building, star-reading, and yet other
things, conferred invaluable services on his fellow-men, he received
only kicks and curses for his reward. His power seemed, nevertheless, so
enviable, that he was one day, in the archway of his door, accosted by a
young Greek, who humbly and earnestly entreated that the secret of that
power might be revealed to him. He promised to repay his master with
loving gratitude; and hinted that the bargain might be worth the
latter's consideration, since nature, in all else his slave, forbade his
drinking milk (this is told of the true Pietro): in other words, denied
him the affection which softens and sweetens the dry bread of human
life. Pietro pretended to consent, and began, to utter, by way of
preface, the word "benedicite." The young Greek lost consciousness at
its second syllable; and awoke to find himself alone, and with a first
instalment of Peter's secret in his mind. "Good is product of evil, and
to be effected through it." Acting upon this doctrine, he traded on the
weaknesses of his fellow-creatures wherever the opportunity occurred;
and attained by this means, first, wealth; next temporal, and then
spiritual, power; rising finally to the dignity of Pope. At each stage
of this progress, Peter came to him in apparent destitution, and claimed
the promised gratitude in an urgent, but very modest prayer for
assistance. And each time Peter's presence infused into him a fresh
power of unscrupulousness, and sent him a step farther on his way. But
each time also the pupil postponed his obligation, till he at last
disclaimed it; and--enthroned in the Lateran--was dismissing his
benefactor with insult: when the closing syllables--"dicite"--sounded in
his ear; and he became conscious of Peter's countenance smiling back at
him over his shoulder, and Peter's door being banged in his face. And he
then knew that he had lived a lifetime in the fraction of a minute, and
that the magician, by means of whom he had done so, justly declined to
trust him.

Mr. Browning, however, bids the young Greek persevere; since he might
ransack Peter's books, without discovering a better secret for gaining
power over the masses, than the "cleverness uncurbed by conscience,"
which he perhaps already possesses.[107]

"DOCTOR ----" is an old Hebrew legend, founded upon the saying that a
bad wife is stronger than death. Satan complains, in his character of
Death, that man has the advantage of him: since he may baffle him,
whenever he will, by the aid of a bad woman; and he undertakes to show
this in his own person. He comes to earth, marries, and has a son, who
in due time must be supplied with a profession. This son is too cowardly
to be a soldier, and too lazy to be a lawyer; Divinity is his father's
sphere. So Satan decides that he shall be a doctor; and endows him with
a faculty which will enable him to practise Medicine, without any
knowledge of it at all. The moment he enters a sick room, he will see
his father spiritually present there; and unless he finds him seated at
the sick's man's head, that man is not yet doomed. Thus endowed, Doctor
----can cure a patient who was despaired of, with a dose of penny-royal,
and justly predict death for one whose only ailment is a pimple. His
success carries all before it. One day, however, he is summoned to the
emperor, who lies sick; and the emperor offers gold, and power, and,
lastly, his daughter's hand, as the price of his recovery. But this time
Satan sits at the head of the bed, and not even such an appeal to his
pride and greed will induce him to grant the patient even a temporary
reprieve. The son, thus driven to bay, pretends to be struck by a sudden
thought. "He will try the efficacy of the mystic Jacob's staff." He
whispers to an attendant to bid his mother bring it; and as Satan's Bad
Wife enters the room, Satan vanishes through the ceiling, leaving a
smell of sulphur behind him. The Emperor gets well; but Doctor
----renounces the promised gold: for it was to be the Princess's dowry;
and he is too wise to accept it on the condition of saddling himself
with a wife.

"PAN AND LUNA" describes a mythical adventure of Luna--the moon, given
by Virgil in the Georgics; and has for its text a line from them (III.

       "Si credere dignum est."[108]

According to the legend, Luna was one night entrapped by Pan who lay in
wait for her in the form of a cloud, soft and snowy as the fleece of a
certain breed of sheep; and, Virgil continues, followed him to the
woodland, "by no means spurning him." But Mr. Browning tells the story
in a manner more consonant with the traditional modesty of the
"Girl-Moon." She was, he says, distressed by the exposure of her
full-orbed charms, as she flew bare through the vault of heaven: the
protecting darkness ever vanishing before her; and she took refuge for
concealment in the cloud of which the fleecy billows were to close and
contract about her, in the limbs of the goat-god. How little she
accepted this her first eclipse, may be shown, he thinks, by the fact
that she never now lingers within a cloud longer than is necessary to
"rip" it through.


The volume so christened (grave and gay), published 1883, shows a
greater variety of subject and treatment than do the Dramatic Idyls, and
its contents might be still more easily broken up; but they are also
best given in their original form. They are--

     "Wanting is--what?"
     "Solomon and Balkis."
     "Cristina and Monaldeschi."
     "Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli."
     "Adam, Lilith, and Eve."
     "Jochanan Hakkadosh."
     "Never the Time and the Place."

"WANTING IS--WHAT?" is an invocation to Love, as the necessary
supplement to whatever is beautiful in life. It may equally be addressed
to the spirit of Love, or to its realization in the form of a beloved

"DONALD" is a true story, repeated to Mr. Browning by one who had heard
it from its hero the so-called Donald, himself. This man, a fearless
sportsman in the flush of youth and strength, found himself one day on a
narrow mountain ledge--a wall of rock above, a precipice below, and the
way barred by a magnificent stag approaching from the opposite side.
Neither could retrace his steps. There was not space enough for them to
pass each other. One expedient alone presented itself: that the man
should lie flat, and the stag (if it would) step over him. And so it
might have been. Donald slipped sideways on to his back. The stag,
gently, cautiously, not grazing him with the tip of a hoof, commenced
the difficult transit; the feat was already half accomplished. But the
lifted hind legs laid bare the stomach of the stag; and Donald, who was
sportsman first, and man long afterwards, raised himself on his elbow,
and stabbed it. The two rolled over into the abyss. The stag, for the
second time, saved its murderer's life; for it broke his fall. He came
out of the hospital into which he had been carried, a crippled,
patched-up wretch, but able to crawl on hands and knees to wherever his
"pluck" might be appreciated, and earn a beggar's livelihood by telling
how it was last displayed.

These facts are supposed to be related in a Scotch bothie, to a group of
young men already fired by the attractions of sport; and are the
narrator's comment on the theory, that moral soundness as well as
physical strength, is promoted by it.

"SOLOMON AND BALKIS" is the Talmudic version[109] of the dialogue, which
took place between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, on the occasion of
her visit to the wise King. They begin by talking for effect: and when
questioned by each other as to the kind of persons they most readily
admit to their respective courts, Solomon answers that he welcomes the
Wise, whatever be their social condition; and Balkis declares that her
sympathies are all with the Good. But a chance (?) movement on her part
jostles the hand of Solomon; and the ring it bears slips round, so that
the truth-compelling Name is turned outwards instead of in. Then he
confesses that he loves the Wise just so long as he is the object of
their appreciation; she that she loves the Good so long as they bear the
form of young and handsome men.

He acknowledges, with a sigh, that the soul, which will soar in heaven,
must crawl while confined to earth; she owns, with a laugh and a blush,
that she has not travelled thus far to hold mental communion with

"CRISTINA[111] AND MONALDESCHI" gives the closing scene of the life of
Monaldeschi, in what might be Cristina's own words. She is addressing
the man whom she has convicted of betraying her, and at whose murder she
is about to assist; and the monologue reflects the outward circumstance
of this murder, as well as the queen's deliberate cruelty, and her
victim's cowardice. They are in the palace of Fontainebleau. Its
internal decorations record the loves of Diane de Poitiers and the
French king, in their frequent repetition of the crescent and the
salamander,[112] and of the accompanying motto, "Quis separabit;" and
Cristina, with ghastly irony, calls her listener's attention to the
appropriateness of these emblems to their own case. Then she plays with
the idea that his symbol is the changing moon, hers the fire-fed
salamander, dangerous to those only who come too close. Changing the
metaphor, she speaks of herself as a peak, which Monaldeschi has chosen
to scale, and which he wrongly hoped to descend when he should be weary
of the position, by the same ladder by which he climbed; and her
half-playful words assume a still more sinister import, as she depicts
the whirling waters, the frightful rocky abyss, into which a moment's
giddiness on his part, a touch from her, might precipitate him. She bids
him cure the dizziness, ward off the danger, by kneeling, even
crouching, at her feet; act the lover, though he no longer is one. And
all the while she is drawing him towards the door of that "Gallery of
the Deer," where the priest who is to confess, the soldiers who are to
slay, are waiting for him.

Cristina's last words are addressed, in vindication of her deed, to the
priest (Lebel), who is aghast at its ferocity. He, she says, has
received the culprit's confession, and would not divulge it for a crown.
The church at Avon[113] must tell how _her_ secrets have been guarded by
him to whom she had entrusted them.

"MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND FUSELI" is the mournful yet impassioned
expression of an unrequited love.

"ADAM, LILITH, AND EVE" illustrates the manner in which the typical man
and woman will proceed towards each other: the latter committing herself
by imprudent disclosures when under the influence of fear, and turning
them into a joke as soon as the fear is past; the former pretending that
he never regarded them as serious.

"IXION" is an imaginary protest of this victim of the anger of Zeus,
wrung from him by his torments, as he whirls on the fiery wheel.[114] He
has been sentenced to this punishment for presuming on the privileges
which Zeus had conferred upon him, and striving to win Heré's[115] love;
and he declares that the punishment is undeserved: "he was encouraged to
claim the love of Heré, together with the friendship of Zeus; he has
erred only in his trust in their professions. And granting that it were
otherwise--that he had sinned in arrogance--that, befriended by the
gods, he had wrongly fancied himself their equal: one touch from them of
pitying power would have sufficed to dispel the delusion, born of the
false testimony of the flesh!" He asks, with indignant scorn, what need
there is of accumulated torment, to prove to one who has recovered his
sight, that he was once blind; and in this scorn and indignation he
denounces the gods, whose futile vindictiveness would shame the very
nature of man; he denounces them as hollow imitations of him whom they
are supposed to create: as mere phantoms to which he imparts the light
and warmth of his own life. Then rising from denunciation to prophecy,
he bids his fellow-men take heart. "Let them struggle and fall! Let them
press on the limits of their own existence, to find only human passions
and human pettiness in the sphere beyond; let them expiate their
striving in hell! The end is not yet come. Of his vapourized flesh, of
the 'tears, sweat, and blood' of his agony, is born a rainbow of hope;
of the whirling wreck of his existence, the pale light of a coming joy.
Beyond the weakness of the god his tormenter he descries a Power,
unobstructed, all-pure.

       "Thither I rise, whilst thou--Zeus, keep the godship and sink!"

If any doubt were still possible as to Mr. Browning's attitude towards
the doctrine of eternal punishment, this poem must dispel it.

"JOCHANAN HAKKADOSH" relates how a certain Rabbi was enabled to extend
his life for a year and three months beyond its appointed term, and what
knowledge came to him through the extension. Mr. Browning professes to
rest his narrative on a Rabbinical work, of which the title, given by
him in Hebrew, means "Collection of many lies;" and he adds, by way of
supplement, three sonnets, supposed to fantastically illustrate the old
Hebrew proverb, "From Moses to Moses[116] never was one like Moses," and
embodying as many fables of wildly increasing audacity. The main story
is nevertheless justified by traditional Jewish belief; and Mr. Browning
has made it the vehicle of some poetical imagery and much serious

Jochanan Hakkadosh was at the point of death. He had completed his
seventy-ninth year. But his faculties were unimpaired; and his pupils
had gathered round him to receive the last lessons of his experience;
and to know with what feelings he regarded the impending change.
Jochanan Hakkadosh had but one answer to give: his life had been a
failure. He had loved, learned, and fought; and in every case his object
had been ill-chosen, his energies ill-bestowed. He had shared the common
lot, which gives power into the hand of folly, and places wisdom in
command when no power is left to be commanded. With this desponding
utterance he bade his "children" farewell.

But here a hubbub of protestation arose. "This must not be the Rabbi's
last word. It need not be so;" for, as Tsaddik, one of the disciples,
reminded his fellows, there existed a resource against such a case.
Their "Targums" (commentaries) assured them that when one thus combining
the Nine Points of perfection was overtaken by years before the fruits
of his knowledge had been matured, respite might be gained for him by a
gift from another man's life: the giver being rewarded for the wisdom to
which he ministered by a corresponding remission of ill-spent time. The
sacrifice was small, viewed side by side with the martyrdoms endured in
Rome for the glory of the Jewish race.[117] "Who of those present was
willing to make it?" Again a hubbub arose. The disciples within, the
mixed crowd without, all clamoured for the privilege of lengthening the
Rabbi's life from their own. Tsaddik deprecated so extensive a gift.
"Their teacher's patience should not be overtaxed, like that of Perida
(whose story he tells), by too long a spell of existence." He accepted
from the general bounty exactly one year, to be recruited in equal
portions from a married lover, a warrior, a poet, and a statesman; and,
the matter thus settled, Jochanan Hakkadosh fell asleep.

Four times the Rabbi awoke, in renewed health and strength: and four
times again he fell asleep: and at the close of each waking term Tsaddik
revisited him as he sat in his garden--amidst the bloom or the languors,
the threatenings or the chill, of the special period of the year--and
questioned him of what he had learned. And each time the record was like
that of the previous seventy-nine years, one of disappointment and
failure. For the gift had been drawn in every case from a young life,
and been neutralized by its contact with the old. As a lover, the Rabbi
declares, he has dreamed young dreams, and his older self has seen
through them. He has known beforehand that the special charms of his
chosen one would prove transitory, and that the general attraction of
her womanhood belonged to her sex and not to her. As a warrior, he has
experienced the same process of disenchantment. For the young believe
that the surest way to the Right and Good, is that, always, which is cut
by the sword: and that the exercise of the sword is the surest training
for those self-devoting impulses which mark the moral nature of man. The
old have learned that the most just war involves, in its penalties, the
innocent no less than the guilty; that violence rights no wrong which
time and patience would not right more fully; and that for the purposes
of self devotion, unassisted love is more effective than hate.
(Picturesque illustrations are made to support this view.) As poet, he
has recalled the glow of youthful fancy to feel it quenched by the
experience of age: to see those soaring existences whose vital
atmosphere is the future, frozen by their contact with a dead past. As
statesman, he has looked out upon the forest of life, again seeing the
noble trees by which the young trace their future path. And, seeing
these, he has known, that the way leads, not by them, but among the
brushwood and briars which fill the intervening space; that the
statist's work is among the mindless many who will obstruct him at every
step, not among the intellectual few by whom his progress would be

As he completes his testimony another change comes over him; and
Tsaddik, kissing the closing eyelids, leaves his master to die.

The rumour of a persecution scatters the Jewish inhabitants of the city.
Not till three months have expired do they venture to return to it; and
when Tsaddik and the other disciples seek the cave where their master
lies, they find him, to their astonishment, alive. Then Tsaddik
remembers that even children urged their offering upon him, and
concludes that some urchin or other contrived to make it "stick;" and he
anxiously disclaims any share in the "foisting" this crude fragment of
existence on the course of so great a life. Hereupon the Rabbi opens his
eyes, and turns upon the bystanders a look of such absolute relief, such
utter happiness, that, as Tsaddik declares, only a second miracle can
explain it. It is a case of the three days' survival of the "Ruach" or
spirit, conceded to those departed saints whose earthly life has
anticipated the heavenly; who have died, as it were, half in the better

Tsaddik has, however, missed the right solution of the problem. Jochanan
Hakkadosh can only define his state as one of _ignorance confirmed by
knowledge_; but he makes it very clear that it is precisely the gift of
the child's consciousness, which has produced this ecstatic calm. The
child's soul in him has reconciled the differing testimony of youth and
manhood: solving their contradictions in its unquestioning faith and
hope. It has lifted him into that region of harmonized good and evil,
where bliss is greater than the human brain can bear. And this is how he
feels himself to be dying; bearing with him a secret of perfect
happiness, which he vainly wishes he could impart.[119]

"NEVER THE TIME AND THE PLACE" is a fanciful expression of love and
longing, provoked by the opposition of circumstances.

The name of "PAMBO" or "Pambus" is known to literature,[120] as that of
a foolish person, who spent months--Mr. Browning says years--in
pondering a simple passage from Psalm xxxix.; and remained baffled by
the difficulty of its application. The passage is an injunction that man
look to his ways, so that he do not offend with his tongue. And Pambo
finds it easy to practise the first part of this precept, but not at all
so the second. Mr. Browning declares himself in the same case. "He also
looks to his ways, and is guided along them by the critic's torch. But
he offends with his tongue, notwithstanding."


[Footnote 104: Ethics, VII. vi. 2.]

[Footnote 105: The story is told in Pausanias. A painting of Echetlos
was to be seen in the Poecile at Athens.]

[Footnote 106: Petrus Aponensis: author of a work quoted in the Idyl:
Conciliator Differentiarum. Abano is a village near Padua.]

[Footnote 107: Some expressions in this Idyl may require explaining.
"Salomo si nôsset" (novisset) (p. 136). "Had Solomon but known this."
"Teneo, vix" (p. 136). "I scarcely contain myself." "Hact[=e]nus" (p.
136). The "e" is purposely made long. "Hitherto." "Peason" (p. 138). The
old English plural of "pea." "Pou sto" (p. 138). "Where I may stand:"
The alleged saying of Archimedes--"I could move the world had I a place
for my _fulcrum_--'where I might stand' to move it." "Tithon" (p. 141).
Tithonus--Aurora's lover: for whom she procured the gift of eternal
life. "Apage, Sathanas!" (p. 143). "Depart Satan." Customary adjuration.

The term "Venus," as employed in the postscript to the Idyl, signified
in Roman phraseology, the highest throw of the dice. It signified,
therefore the highest promise to him, who, in obedience to the oracle,
had tested his fortunes at the fount at Abano, by throwing golden dice
into it. The "crystal," to which Mr. Browning refers, is the water of
the well or fount, at the bottom of which, as Suetonius declared, the
dice thrown by Tiberius, and their numbers, were still visible. The
little air which concludes the post-script reflects the careless or
"lilting" mood in which Mr. Browning had thrown the "fancy dice" which
cast themselves into the form of the poem.]

[Footnote 108: "If it is proper to be credited."]

[Footnote 109: This version is more crudely reproduced by the Persian
poet Jami.]

[Footnote 110: The word "conster," which rhymes in the poem with
"monster," is Old English for "construe."]

[Footnote 111: Daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, and Queen of Sweden.]

[Footnote 112: Some confusion has here arisen between Francis I., whose
emblem was the salamander, and Henry II., the historic lover of Diane de
Poitiers. But Francis was also said to have been, for a short time,
attached to her; and the poetic contrast of the frigid moon and the
fiery salamander was perhaps worth the dramatic sacrifice of Cristina's

[Footnote 113: A village close to Fontainebleau, in the church of which
Monaldeschi was buried.]

[Footnote 114: "Winged" or "fiery:" fiery from the rapidity of its

[Footnote 115: Juno.]

[Footnote 116: That is, to Moses Maimonides.]

[Footnote 117: The names and instances given are, as well as the main
fact, historical.]

[Footnote 118: A Talmudic doctrine still held among the Jews. The
"Halaphta," with whom Mr. Browning connects it, was a noted Rabbi.]

[Footnote 119: The "Bier" and the "three daughters" was a received
Jewish name for the Constellation of the Great Bear. Hence the simile
derived from this (vol. xv. pp. 217-244).

The "Salem," mentioned at p. 218, is the mystical New Jerusalem to be
built of the spirits of the great and good.]

[Footnote 120: "Chetw. Hist. Collect.," cent. I., p. 17. Quoted by Nath.
Wanley, "Wonders of the Little World," p. 138.]



The idea of "FERISHTAH'S FANCIES" grew out of a fable by Pilpay, which
Mr. Browning read when a boy. He lately put this into verse; and it then
occurred to him to make the poem the beginning of a series, in which the
Dervish, who is first introduced as a learner, should reappear in the
character of a teacher. Ferishtah's "fancies" are the familiar
illustrations, by which his teachings are enforced. Each fancy or fable,
with its accompanying dialogue, is followed by a Lyric, in which the
same or cognate ideas are expressed in an emotional form; and the effect
produced by this combination of moods is itself illustrated in a
Prologue by the blended flavours of a favourite Italian dish, which is
fully described there. An introductory passage from "King Lear" seems to
tell us what we soon find out for ourselves, that Ferishtah's opinions
are in the main Mr. Browning's own.

Fancy 1. "THE EAGLE," contains the lesson which determined Ferishtah,
not yet a Dervish, to become one. He has learned from the experience
which it describes, that it is man's mission to feed those hungry ones
who are unable to feed themselves. "The soul often starves as well as
the body. He will minister to the hunger of the soul. And to this end
he will leave the solitude of the woods in which the lesson came to him,
and seek the haunts of men."

The Lyric deprecates the solitude which united souls may enjoy, by a
selfish or fastidious seclusion from the haunts of men.

2. "THE MELON-SELLER," records an incident referred to in a letter from
the "Times'" correspondent, written many years ago. It illustrates the
text--given by Mr. Browning in Hebrew--"Shall we receive good at the
hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?" and marks the second stage
in Ferishtah's progress towards Dervish-hood.

The Lyric bids the loved one be unjust for once if she will. "The
lover's heart preserves so many looks and words, in which she gave him
more than justice."

3. "SHAH ABBAS" shows Ferishtah, now full Dervish, expounding the
relative character of belief. "We wrongly give the name of belief to the
easy acquiescence in those reported facts, to the truth of which we are
indifferent; or the name of unbelief to that doubting attitude towards
reported facts, which is born of our anxious desire that they may be
true. It is the assent of the heart, not that of the head, which is
valued by the Creator."

Lyric. Love will guide us smoothly through the recesses of another's
heart. Without it, as in a darkened room, we stumble at every step,
wrongly fancying the objects misplaced, against which we are stumbling.

4. "THE FAMILY" again defends the heart against the head. It defends the
impulse to pray for the health and safety of those we love, though such
prayer may imply rebellion to the will of God. "He, in whom anxiety for
those he loves cannot for the moment sweep all before it, will sometimes
be more than man, but will much more often be less."

Lyric. "Let me love, as man may, content with such perfection as may
fill a human heart; not looking beyond it for that which only an angel's
sense can apprehend."

5. "THE SUN" justifies the tendency to think of God as in human form.
Life moves us to many feelings of love and praise. These embrace in an
ascending scale all its beneficent agencies, unconscious and conscious,
and cannot stop short of the first and greatest of all. This First Cause
must be thought of as competent to appreciate our praise and love, and
as moved by a beneficent purpose to the acts which have inspired them.
The sun is a symbol of this creative power--by many even imagined to be
its reality. But that mighty orb is unconscious of the feelings it may
inspire; and the Divine Omnipotence, which it symbolizes, must be no
less incompetent to earn them. For purpose is the negation of power,
implying something which power has not attained; and would imply
deficiency in an existence which presents itself to our intelligence as
complete. Reason therefore tells us that God can have no resemblance
with man; but it tells us, as plainly, that, without a fiction of
resemblance, the proper relation between Creator and creature, between
God and man, is unattainable.[121] If one exists, for whom the fiction
or fancy has been converted into fact--for whom the Unknowable has
proved itself to contain the Knowable: the ball of fire to hold within
it an earthly substance unconsumed; he deserves credit for the
magnitude, not scorn for the extravagance, of his conception.

Lyric. "Fire has been cradled in the flint, though its Ethereal
splendours may disclaim the association."

6. "MIHRAB SHAH" vindicates the existence of physical suffering as
necessary to the consciousness of well-being; and also, and most
especially, as neutralizing the differences, and thus creating the one
complete bond of sympathy, between man and man.

Lyric. "Your soul is weighed down by a feeble body. In me a strong body
is allied to a sluggish soul. You would fitly leave me behind. Impeded
as you also are, I may yet overtake you."

7. "A CAMEL-DRIVER" declares the injustice of punishment, in regard to
all cases in which the offence has been committed in ignorance; and
shows also that, while a timely warning would always have obviated such
an offence, it is often sufficiently punished by the culprit's too tardy
recognition of it. "God's justice distinguishes itself from that of man
in the acknowledgment of this fact."

The Lyric deals specially with the imperfections of human judgment. "You
have overrated my small faults, you have failed to detect the greater

8. "TWO CAMELS" is directed against asceticism. "An ill-fed animal
breaks down in the fulfilment of its task. A man who deprives himself of
natural joys, not for the sake of his fellow-men, but for his own, is
also unfitted for the obligations of Life. For he cannot instruct others
in its use and abuse. Nor, being thus ignorant of earth, can he conceive
of heaven."

The Lyric shows how the Finite may prefigure the Infinite, by
illustrations derived from science and from love.

9. "CHERRIES" illustrates the axiom that a gift must be measured, not by
itself, but by the faculty of the giver, and by the amount of loving
care which he has bestowed upon it. Man's general performance is to be
judged from the same point of view.

The Lyric connects itself with the argument less closely and less
seriously in this case than in the foregoing ones. The speaker has
striven to master the art of poetry, and found life too short for it.
"He contents himself with doing little, only because doing nothing is
worse. But when he turns from verse-making to making love, or, as the
sense implies, seeks to express in love what he has failed to express in
poetry, all limitations of time and power are suspended; every moment's
realization is absolute and lasting."

10. "PLOT-CULTURE" is a distinct statement of the belief in a purely
personal relation between God and man. It justifies every experience
which bears moral fruit, however immoral from human points of view; and
refers both the individual and his critic to the final harvest, on which
alone the Divine judgment will be passed.

The Lyric repeats the image in which this idea is clothed, more directly
than the idea itself. A lover pleads permission to love with his whole
being--with Sense as well as with Soul.

11. "A PILLAR AT SEBZEVAR" lays down the proposition that the pursuit of
knowledge is invariably disappointing: while love is always, and in
itself, a gain.

The Lyric modifies this idea into the advocacy of a silent love: one
which reveals itself without declaration.

12. "A BEAN-STRIPE: ALSO APPLE-EATING" is a summary of Mr. Browning's
religious and practical beliefs. We cannot, it says, determine the
prevailing colour of any human life, though we have before us a balanced
record of its bright and dark days. For light or darkness is only
absolute in so far as the human spirit can isolate or, as it were, stand
still within, it. Every living experience, actual or remembered, takes
something of its hue from those which precede or follow it: now catching
the reflection of the adjoining lights and shades; now brighter or
darker by contrast with them. The act of living fuses black and white
into grey; and as we grasp the melting whole in one backward glance, its
blackness strikes most on the sense of one man, its whiteness on that of

Ferishtah admits that there are lives which seem to be, perhaps are,
stained with a black so deep that no intervening whiteness can affect
it; and he declares that this possibility of absolute human suffering is
a constant chastener to his own joys. But when called upon to reconcile
the avowed optimism of his views with the actual as well as sympathetic
experience of such suffering, he shows that he does not really believe
in it. One race, he argues, will flourish under conditions which another
would regard as incompatible with life; and the philosophers who most
cry down the value of life are sometimes the least willing to renounce
it. He cannot resist the conviction that the same compensating laws are
at work everywhere.

In explanation of the fact, that nothing given in our experience affords
a stable truth--that the black or white of one moment is always the
darker or lighter grey of another--Ferishtah refers his disciples to the
will of God. Our very scheme of goodness is a fiction, which man the
impotent cannot, God the all-powerful does not, convert into reality.
But it is a fiction created by God within the human mind, that it may
work for truth there; so also is it with the fictitious conceptions
which blend the qualities of man with those of God. To the objection

       "A power, confessed past knowledge, nay, past thought,
       --Thus thought and known!"   (vol. xvi. p. 84.)

Ferishtah replies that to know the power by its operation, is all we
_need_ in the case of a human benefactor or lord: all we _can_ in the
case of those natural forces which we recognize in every act of our
life. And when reminded that the sense of indebtedness implies a
debtor--one ready to receive his due: and that we need look no farther
for the recipient than the great men who have benefited our race: his
answer is, that such gratitude to his fellow-men would be gratitude to
himself, in whose perception half their greatness lies. "He might as
well thank the starlight for the impressions of colour, which have been
supplied by his own brain."

The Lyric disclaims, in the name of one of the world's workers, all
excessive--_i.e._, loving recognition of his work. The speaker has not
striven for the world's sake, nor sought his ideals there. "Those who
have done so may claim its love. For himself he asks only a just
judgment on what he has achieved."

Mr. Browning here expresses for the first time his feeling towards the
"Religion of Humanity;" and though this was more or less to be inferred
from his general religious views, it affords, as now stated, a new, as
well as valuable, illustration of them. The Theistic philosophy which
makes the individual the centre of the universe, is, perhaps, nowhere in
his works, so distinctly set forth as in this latest of them. But
nowhere either has he more distinctly declared that the fullest
realization of the individual life is self-sacrifice.

       "Renounce joy for my fellows sake? That's joy
       Beyond joy;"
                                (_Two Camels_, vol. xvi p. 50.)

The lyrical supplement to Fancy 12 somewhat obscures the idea on which
it turns, by presenting it from a different point of view. But here, as
in the remainder of the book, we must regard the Lyric as suggested by
the argument, not necessarily as part of it.

The EPILOGUE is a vision of present and future, in which the woe and
conflict of our mortal existence are absorbed in the widening glory of
an eternal day. The vision comes to one cradled in the happiness of
love; and he is startled from it by a presentiment that it has been an
illusion created by his happiness. But we know that from Mr. Browning's
point of view, Love, even in its illusions, may be accepted as a
messenger of truth.

Index to names and titles in "Ferishtah's Fancies;"--

     P. 12. "Shah Abbas." An historical personage used

     P. 15. "Story of Tahmasp." Fictitious.

     P. 16. "Ishak son of Absal." Fictitious.

     P. 20. "The householder of Shiraz." Fictitious.

     P. 32. "Mihrab Shah." Fictitious.

     P. 36. "Simorgh." A fabulous creature in Persian mythology.

     P. 40. The "Pilgrim's soldier-guide." Fictitious.

     P. 41. "Raksh." Rustum's horse in the "Shah Nemeh."
     (Firdausi's "Epic of Kings.")

     P. 50. (_Anglicé_), "Does Job serve God for nought?" Hebrew
     word at p. 51, line 2, "M[=e] El[=o]h[=i]m": "from God."

     P. 54. "Mushtari." The planet Jupiter.

     P. 65. "Hudhud." Fabulous bird of Solomon.

     P. 68. "Sitara." Persian for "a star."

     P. 85. "Shalim Shah." Persian for "King of kings."

     P. 86. "Rustem," "Gew," "Gudarz," "Sindokht," "Sulayman,"
     "Kawah." Heroes in the "Shah Nemeh."

     P. 87. The "Seven Thrones." Ursa Major. "Zurah." Venus.
     "Parwin." The Pleiades. "Mubid." A kind of mage.

     P. 88. "Zerdusht." "Zoroaster."


This volume occupies, even more than its predecessor, a distinctive
position in Mr. Browning's work. It does not discard his old dramatic
methods, but in a manner it inverts them; Mr. Browning has summoned his
group of men not for the sake of drawing their portraits, but that they
might help him to draw his own. It seems as if the accumulated
convictions which find vent in the "parleyings" could no longer endure
even the form of dramatic disguise; and they appear in them in all the
force of direct reiterated statement, and all the freshness of novel
points of view. And the portrait is in some degree a biography; it is
full of reminiscences. The "people" with whom Mr. Browning parleys,
important in their day, virtually unknown in ours, are with one
exception his old familiar friends: men whose works connect themselves
with the intellectual sympathies and the imaginative pleasures of his
very earliest youth. The parleyings are:

       I.  "With Bernard de Mandeville."
      II.  "With Daniel Bartoli."
     III.  "With Christopher Smart."
      IV.  "With George Bubb Dodington."
       V.  "With Francis Furini."
      VI.  "With Gerard de Lairesse."
     VII.  "With Charles Avison."

They are enclosed between a Prologue and an Epilogue both dramatic and
fanciful, but scarcely less expressive of the author's mental
personality than the body of the work.

     "Apollo and the Fates."
     "Fust and his Friends."

In "Apollo and the Fates" the fanciful, or rather fantastic element
preponderates. It represents Apollo as descending into the realms of
darkness and pleading with the Fate Sisters for the life of Admetus, the
thread of which Atropos is about to clip; and shows how he obtained for
him a conditional reprieve by intoxicating the sisters with wine. The
sequel to this incident has been given in Mr. Browning's transcript from
"Alkestis"; and the present poem is introduced by references to that
work of Euripides, to the "Eumenides" of Æschylus and to Homer's "Hymn
to Mercury": the general sense of the passages indicated being this:--

Euripides.--"Admetus--whom, cheating the fates, I saved from death."

Æschylus (to Apollo).--"Aye, such were your feats in the house of
Pheres, where you persuaded the fates to make a mortal immortal: you it
was destroyed the ancient arrangement and deceived the goddesses with

Homer.--"The Fates are three virgin sisters,--winged and
white-haired,--dwelling below Parnassus: they feed on honey, and so get
drunk, and readily tell the truth. If deprived of it they delude."

Mr. Browning, however, varies the legend, first by making the Fates find
truth in the fumes of wine; and, secondly, by assuming that they never
knew an inspiring drunkenness until they tasted it: profoundly
intoxicating as their (fermented) honey must have been.

Apollo urges his request that Admetus, now threatened with premature
death, may live out the appointed seventy years. The Fates retort on
him by exclamations on the worthlessness of such a boon. They enumerate
the follies and miseries which beset the successive stages of man's
earthly career, and maintain that its only brightness lies in the
delusive sunshine, the glamour of hope, with which he (Apollo) gilds it.
Apollo owns that human happiness may rest upon illusion, but undertakes
to show that man holds the magic within himself; and to that end
persuades the sisters to drain a bowl of wine which he has brought with
him. In the moment's intoxication the scales fall from their eyes, and
they see that life is good. They see that if its earlier course means
conflict, old age is its recorded victory. They see it enriched by the
joys which are only remembered as by the good which only might have
been. They praise the Actual and still more the Potential--the infinite
possibilities to which Man is born and which imagination alone can
anticipate; and joining hands with Apollo in a delirious dance, proclaim
the discovery of the lost secret: _Fancy compounded with Fact._

This philosophy is, however, ill-suited to the dark ministers of fate;
and an oracular explosion from the earth's depths startles them back
into sobriety; in which condition they repudiate the new knowledge which
has been born of them, flinging it back on their accomplice with various
expressions of disgust. They admit, nevertheless, that the web of human
destiny often defeats their spinning; its intended good and evil change
places with each other; the true significance of life is only revealed
by death; and though they still refuse to yield to Apollo's demand, they
compromise with it: Admetus shall live, if someone else will voluntarily
die for him. It is true they neutralize their concession by deriding the
idea of such a devoted person being found; and Apollo also shows himself
a stranger to the decrees of the higher powers by making wrong guesses
as to the event; but the whole episode is conceived in a humorous and
very human spirit which especially reveals itself in the attitude of
the contending parties towards each other. The Fates display throughout
a proper contempt for what they regard as the showy but unsubstantial
personality of the young god; and the natural antagonism of light and
darkness, hope and despair, is as amusingly parodied in the mock
deference and ill-disguised aversion with which he approaches them.
Apollo finally vindicates Mr. Browning's optimistic theism by claiming
the gifts of Bacchus, youngest of the gods, for the beneficent purpose
and anterior wisdom of Zeus.

The one serious idea which runs through the poem is conveyed in its
tribute to the power of wine: in other words, to the value of
imagination as supplement to and interpreter of fact. Its partial,
tentative, and yet efficient illumining of the dark places of life is
vividly illustrated by Apollo: and he only changes his imagery when he
speaks of Reason as doing the same work. It is the imaginative, not the
scientific "reason" which Mr. Browning invokes as help in the
perplexities of experience;[122] as it is the spiritual, and not
scientific "experience" on which, in the subsequent discussions, he will
so emphatically take his stand.[123]

In the first "parleying" Mr. Browning invokes the wisdom of BERNARD DE
MANDEVILLE on certain problems of life: mainly those of the existence of
evil and the limitations of human knowledge; and the optimistic views in
which he believes Dr. Mandeville to concur with him are brought to bear
on the more gloomy philosophy of Carlyle, some well-known utterances of
whom are brought forward for confutation. The chief points of the
argument are as follows:--

Carlyle complains that God never intervenes to check the tyranny of
evil, so that it not only prevails in the present life, but for any sure
indications which exist to the contrary may still do so in the life to
come. It would be something, he thinks, if even triumphant wrong were
checked, although (here we must read between the lines) this would be
tantamount to the condoning of evil in all its less developed forms;
better still if he who has the power to do so habitually crushed it at
the birth.

Mr. Browning (alias Mandeville) replies by the parable of a garden in
which beneficent and noxious plants grow side by side. "You must
either," he declares, "admit--which you do not--that both good and evil
were chance sown, or refer their joint presence to some necessary or
pre-ordained connection between them. In the latter case you may use
your judgment in pruning away the too great exuberance of the noxious
plant, but if you destroy it once for all, you have frustrated the
intentions of him who placed it there."

Carlyle reminds his opponent of that other parable, according to which
it was an enemy who surreptitiously sowed the tares of evil, and these
grow because no one can pull them out. Divine power and foresight are,
in his opinion, incompatible with either theory, and both of these
mistaken efforts on man's part to "cram" the infinite within the limits
of his own mind and understand what passes understanding. He deprecates
the folly of linking divine and human together on the strength of the
short space which they may tread side by side, and the anthropomorphic
spirit which subjects the one to the other by presenting the illimitable
in human form.

Mr. Browning defends his position by an illustration of the use (as also
abuse) of symbols spiritual and material; Carlyle retorts somewhat
impatiently that in thinking of God we have no need of symbolism; we
know Him as Immensity, Eternity, and other abstract qualities, and to
fancy Him under human attributes is superfluous; and Mr. Browning
dismisses this theology, with the intellectual curiosities and
intellectual discontents which he knows in the present case to have
accompanied it, in a modification of the Promethean myth--such a one as
the more "human" Euripides might have imagined. "When the sun's light
first broke upon the earth, and everywhere in and on this there was
life, man was the only creature which did not rejoice: for he said, I
alone am incomplete in my completeness; I am subject to a power which I
alone have the intellect to recognize, hence the desire to grasp. I do
not aspire to penetrate the hidden essence, the underlying mystery of
the sun's force; but I crave possession of one beam of its light
wherewith to render palpable to myself its unseen action in the
universe. And Prometheus then revealed to him the 'artifice' of the
burning-glass, through which henceforward he might enslave the sun's
rays to his service while disrobing them of the essential brilliancy
which no human sight could endure."

In the material uses of the burning-glass we have a parallel for the
value of an intellectual or religious symbol. This too is a gathering
point for impressions otherwise too diffuse; or, inversely conceived, a
sign guiding the mental vision through spaces which would otherwise be
blank. Its reduced or microcosmic presentment of facts too large for
man's mental grasp suggests also an answer to those who bemoan the
limitations of human knowledge. Characteristic remarks on this subject
occur at the beginning of the poem.

Bernard de Mandeville figures throughout the "parleying" as author of
"The Fable of the Bees"; and it is in this work that Mr. Browning
discovers their special ground of sympathy. "The Fable of the Bees,"
also entitled "Private Vices Public Benefits," and again "The Grumbling
Hive, or Knaves turned Honest," is meant to show that self-indulgence
and self-seeking carried even to the extent of vice are required to
stimulate the activities and secure the material well-being of a
community. The doctrine, as originally set forth, had at least an
appearance of cynicism, and is throughout not free from conscious or
unconscious sophistry; and though the theological condemnation evoked by
it was nothing short of insane, we cannot wonder that the morality of
the author's purpose was impugned. He defends this, however, in
successive additions to the work, asserting and re-asserting, by
statement and illustration, that his object has been to expose the vices
inherent to human society--in no sense to justify them; and Mr. Browning
fully accepts the vindication and even regards it as superfluous. He
sees nothing, either in the fable itself or the commentary first
attached to it, which may not equally be covered by the Christian
doctrine of original sin, or the philosophic acceptance of evil as a
necessary concomitant, or condition, of good: and finds fresh guarantees
for a sound moral intention in the bright humour and sound practical
sense in which the book abounds. This judgment was formed (as I have
already implied) very early in Mr. Browning's life, even before the
appearance of "Pauline," and supplies a curious comment on any
impression of mental immaturity which his own work of that period may
have produced.

Bernard de Mandeville was a Dutch physician, born at Dort in the second
half of the last century, but who settled in England after taking his
degree. He published, besides "The Fable of the Bees," some works of a
more professional kind. His name, as we know it, must have been

DANIEL BARTOLI was a Jesuit and historian of his order. Mr. Browning
characterizes him in a footnote as "a learned and ingenious writer," and
while acknowledging his blindness in matters of faith would gladly
testify to his penetration in those of knowledge;[124] but the Don's
editor, Angelo Cerutti, declares in the same note that his historical
work so overflows with superstition and is so crammed with accounts of
prodigious miracles as to make the reading it an infliction; and the
saint-worship involved in this kind of narrative is the supposed text of
the "parleying." Mr. Browning claims Don Bartoli's allegiance for a
secular saint: a woman more divine in her non-miraculous virtues than
some at least of those whom the Church has canonized, and whose
existence has the merit of not being legendary. The saint in question
was Marianne Pajot, daughter of the apothecary of Gaston Duke of
Orleans; and her story, as Mr. Browning relates it, a well-known episode
in the lives of Charles IV., Duke of Lorraine, and the Marquis de

Charles of Lorraine fell violently in love with Marianne Pajot, whom he
met at the "Luxembourg" when visiting Madame d'Orleans, his sister. She
was "so fair, so modest, so virtuous, and so witty" that he did not
hesitate to offer her his hand; and they were man and wife so far as
legal formalities could make them when the Monarch (Louis XIV.)
intervened. Charles had by a recent treaty made Louis his heir. This
threatened no obstacle to his union, since a clause in the marriage
contract barred all claims to succession on the part of the children who
might be born of it. But "Madame" resented the mésalliance; she joined
her persuasions with those of the Minister le Tellier; and the latter
persuaded the young King, not absolutely to prevent the marriage, but to
turn it to account. A paper was drawn up pledging the Duke to fresh
concessions, and the bride was challenged in the King's name to obtain
his signature to it. On this condition she was to be recognized as
Duchess with all the honours due to her rank; failing this, she was to
be banished to a convent. The alternative was offered to her at the
nuptial banquet, at which le Tellier had appeared--a carriage and
military escort awaiting him outside. She emphatically declined taking
part in so disgraceful a compact:[125] and after doing her best to allay
the Duke's wrath (which was for the moment terrible), calmly allowed the
Minister to lead her away, leaving all the bystanders in tears. A few
days later Marianne returned the jewels which Charles had given her,
saying, it was not suitable that she should keep them "since she had not
the honour of being his wife." He seems to have resigned her without
farther protest.

De Lassay was much impressed by this occurrence, though at the time only
ten years old. He too conceived an attachment for Marianne Pajot, and
married her, being already a widower, at the age of twenty-three. Their
union, dissolved a few years later by her death, was one of unclouded
happiness on his part, of unmixed devotion on hers; and the moral
dignity by which she had subjugated this somewhat weak and excitable
nature was equally attested by the intensity of her husband's sorrow and
by its transitoriness. The military and still more amorous adventures of
the Marquis de Lassay make him a conspicuous figure in the annals of
French Court life. He is indirectly connected with our own through a
somewhat pale and artificial passion for Sophia Dorothea, the young
Princess of Hanover, whose husband became ultimately George I. Mr.
Browning indicates the later as well as earlier stages of de Lassay's
career; he only follows that of the Duke of Lorraine into an imaginary
though not impossible development. Charles had shown himself a being of
smaller spiritual stature than his intended wife; and it was only too
likely, Mr. Browning thinks, that the diamonds which should have graced
her neck soon sparkled on that of some venal beauty whose challenge to
his admiration proceeded from the opposite pole of womanhood.
Nevertheless he feels kindly towards him. The nobler love was not
dishonoured by the more ignoble fancy, since it could not be touched by
it. Duke Charles was still faithful as a man may be.

With CHRISTOPHER SMART is an interrogative comment on the strange mental
vicissitudes of this mediocre poet, whose one inspired work, "A Song to
David," was produced in a mad-house[126]. Of this "Song" Rossetti has
said (I quote the "Athenæum" of Feb. 19, 1887) in a published letter to
Mr. Caine, "This wonderful poem of Smart's is the only great
_accomplished_ poem of the last century. The _un_accomplished ones are
Chatterton's--of course I mean earlier than Blake or Coleridge, and
without reckoning so exceptional a genius as Burns. A masterpiece of
rich imagery, exhaustive resources, and reverberant sound." How Mr.
Browning was impressed by such a work of genius, springing up from the
dead level of the author's own and his contemporary life, he describes
in a simile.

He is exploring a large house. He goes from room to room, finding
everywhere evidence of decent taste and sufficient, but moderate,
expenditure: nothing to repel and nothing to attract him in what he
sees. He suddenly enters the chapel; and here all richness is massed,
all fancy is embodied, art of all styles and periods is blended to one
perfection. He passes from it into another suite of rooms, half fearful
of fresh surprise; and decent mediocrity, respectable commonplace again
meet him on every side. Thus, it seems to him, was the imagination of
Christopher Smart for one moment transfigured by the flames of madness
to resume for ever afterwards the prosaic character of its sanity; and
he now asks the author of "A Song to David" how one who had thus touched
the absolute in art could so decline from it. He assumes that the
madness had but revealed the poet: whether or not the fiery outbreak was
due to force suppressed or to particles of brain substance disturbed.
Why was he after as before silent?

It might be urged in answer that the full glory of that vision did not
return--that the strength and beauty of the universe never came to him
again with so direct a message for the eye and ear of his fellow men.
But, Mr. Browning continues, impressions of strength and beauty are only
the materials of knowledge. They contain the lesson of life. And that
lesson is not given in the reiterated vision of what is beautiful, but
in the patient conversion into knowledge and motive of such impressions
of beauty--in other words, of strength or power--as Man's natural
existence affords. The poet's privilege, as the poet's duty, is not
merely to impart the pleasure, but to aid the process of instruction. He
only suggests the explanation to disclaim it in Smart's name.

These arguments are very typical of Mr. Browning's philosophy of Art: of
his conviction that Art has no mission, its intuitions have no
authority, distinct from moral and intellectual truth. He concludes the
little sermon by denouncing that impatience of Fancy which would grasp
the end of things before the beginning, and scale the heights of
Knowledge, while rejecting Experience, through which, as by a ladder, we
scale them step by step.

The lines in "Paracelsus," vol. ii., p. 36, which are in this view so
appropriate to the case of Christopher Smart, bore reference to him. The
main facts of his life may be found in any biographical dictionary.

With GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON is a lesson in the philosophy of intrigue, or
the art of imposing on our fellow men. It is addressed to Bubb
Dodington[127] as to an ambitious, obsequious, unscrupulous, and only
partially successful courtier; and undertakes to show that, being (more
or less) a knave, his conduct also proclaimed him a fool, and lost him
the rewards of knavery. Mr. Browning does not concern himself with the
moralities of the case; these, for the time being, are put out of court.
He assumes, for the purposes of the discussion, that everyone is selfish
and no one need be sincere, and that "George" was justified in labouring
for his own advancement and cheating others, if possible, into
subservience to it; but he argues that the aim being right, the means
employed were wrong, and could only result in failure.

The argument begins and ends in the proposition, in itself a truism but
which receives here a novel significance, that nothing in creation obeys
its like, and that he who would mount by the backs of his fellow men
must show some reason why they should lend them. In the olden time, we
are reminded, such reasons were supplied by physical force; later, force
was superseded by intelligence, _i.e._, wit or cunning; and this must
now be supplemented by something deeper, because it has become the
property of so many persons as to place no one person at an advantage.
Bubb Dodington's methods have been those of simple cunning, and
therefore they have not availed him. The multitude whom he cajoled have
seen through his cajoleries, and have resented in these both the attempt
to deceive them and the pretension--unfounded as it proved--to exalt
himself at their expense.

How then can the multitude be deceived into subservience?--By the
pretence of indifference to them. An impostor is always supposed to be
in earnest. The commonplace impostor is so: he has staked everything on
the appearance of being sincere. He, on the other hand, who is reckless
in mendacity, who cheats with a laughing eye; who, while silently
strenuous in a given cause, appears to take seriously neither it,
himself, nor those on whom both depend, irresistibly strikes the vulgar
as moved by something greater than himself or they. A "quack" he may be,
but like the spiritualistic quack, he invokes the belief in the
Supernatural, and perhaps shares it. He has the secret which Bubb
Dodington had not.

It may be wondered why Mr. Browning treats the shallower political
cunning as merely a foil to the deeper, instead of opposing to it
something better than both: but he finds the natural contrast to the
half-successful schemer in the wholly triumphant one: and the second
picture, like the first, has been drawn from life. It is that of the
late Lord Beaconsfield--as Mr. Browning sees him.

With FRANCIS FURINI is a defence of the study of the nude, based on the
life and work of this Florentine painter (born 1600), who at the age of
forty also became a priest. According to his biographer, Filippo
Baldinucci,[128] Furini was not only a skilful artist, but a
conscientious priest, and a good man. No reproach attached to him but
that he attained a special charm of colouring through the practice of
painting very young women undraped; and we may infer that he repented
this from the current report that when he felt himself dying he
entreated those about him to have his pictures burnt. But Baldinucci
also relates that he had a specious answer ready for whoever
remonstrated with him on thus endangering his soul. The answer, which he
frankly quotes, is by no means "specious" in the sense in which it is
made; and Mr. Browning cannot believe that a man so inspired by the true
artistic passion as those words imply, could in any circumstances become
ashamed of the acts to which they refer. "If," Furini says, "those
scrupulous persons only knew what is the agony of endeavour with which
the artist strives at faithfully imitating what he sees, they would also
know how little room this leaves in him for the intrusion of alien"
(immoral) "thoughts." Mr. Browning goes farther still. He asserts not
only the innocence, but the religiousness, of the painter's art when
directed towards the marvels of the female form. He declares its
exercise, so directed, to be a subject, not of shame in the sight of the
Creator, but of thanksgiving to Him, and also the best form in which
human thanks can be conveyed; and he employs all the vividness of his
illustration and all the force of his invective against the so-called
artist who sees in the Divineness of female beauty only incitement to
low desires; in the art which seeks to reproduce it only a cloak for
their indulgence. His argument is very strong, and would be
unanswerable, but for the touch of speciousness which Baldinucci by
anticipation detects in it: Mr. Browning--as did Furini--regards the
breach of formal chastity exclusively from the artist's point of view.
But he may also argue that this will in the long run determine that of
the spectator and that the model herself is from the first amenable to

Mr. Browning lays stress upon the technical skill which results from the
close copying of nature, and by virtue of which Furini must be styled a
good painter, whether or not a great one: and though he has never
underrated the positive value of technical skill, we do not feel that in
this third page of the "parleyings" he gives to the inspiring thought as
high a relative place as in his earlier works. The old convictions
reappear at pages 182-3 of vol. xvi., when he asserts the danger in
which the skilled hand may involve the artistic soul, by stifling its
insight into the spiritual essence of fleshly things or silencing its
testimony to it; when, too, he admits that not the least worthy of the
"sacred" ones have been thus betrayed. He still, however, maintains that
the true offender against Art will ever be the mock artist--the
Philistine--who sees cause of offence in it.

After proclaiming the religiousness of Art, Furini is called upon to
unfold his theology: and he then passes to a confession of faith in
which Mr. Browning's known personal Theism is contrasted with the
scientific doctrines of Evolution. The Scientist and the Believer would
as he distinguishes them join issue on the value of the artistic study
of man, since man is for both of them the one essential object of
knowledge; but the study (artistic or scientific) is, Mr. Browning
considers, unrepaying in the one case, while it yields all necessary
results in the other. According to the scientist, Man reigns supreme by
his intelligence; according to the Believer, he is subject to all the
helplessness of his ignorance. In reasoning, therefore, each from his
own consciousness, the one finds his starting point at the summit of
creation, the other virtually at the bottom of it. The Scientist
acknowledges no mind beyond that of man; he seeks the impulse to life
within itself, and can therefore only track it through the descending
scale of being into the region of inorganic atoms and blind force. The
_believer_ refers that impulse to a conscious external First Cause, and
is content to live surrounded by its mystery, entrenched within the
facts of his own existence, guided (i.e., drawn upwards) by the
progressive revelations which these convey to him.

It is so that Furini has lived and learned. He has found his lesson in
the study of the human frame. There, as on a rock of experience, he has
planted his foot, finding confusion and instability wherever he
projected this beyond it; striking out sparks of knowledge at every
stamp on the firm ground. He has learned that the Cause of Life is
external, because he has seen how the soul permeates and impels the
body, how it makes it an instrument of its own raptures and a sharer in
them; and he believes that that which caused the soul and thus gifted it
will ultimately silence the spiritual conflict with Evil and perfect Its
own creation. He believes this because Evil has revealed itself to him
as the necessary complement of Good--the antitype through which alone
the type defines itself; as a condition of knowledge; as a test of what
is right; as a motive to life and virtue so indispensable that it must
exist as illusion if it did not exist as fact; because, therefore, its
existence cannot detract from the goodness of the First Cause or the
promise which that contains.

This constant assertion of the necessity of evil would land Mr. Browning
in a dilemma, if the axiom were presented by him in any character of
dogmatic truth: since it claims priority for certain laws of thought
over a Being which, if Omnipotent, must have created them. But the
anomaly disappears in the more floating outlines of a poetic personal
experience; and Mr. Browning (alias Furini) once more assures us that
what he "knows" of the nature and mode of action of the First Cause he
knows for himself only. How it operates for others is of the essence of
the mystery which enfolds him. Whether even the means of his own
instruction is reality or illusion, fiction or fact, is beyond his ken;
he is satisfied that it should be so.

Mr. Browning reverts to his defence of the nude in the description of a
picture--exhibited last year at the Grosvenor Gallery--the subject of
which he offers to Furini for treatment in the manner described.[129]

With GERARD DE LAIRESSE is a critical reminiscence of the unreal and
mythological in art, and its immediate subject a Belgian painter, born
at Liege, but who nourished at Amsterdam in the second half of the
seventeenth century. De Lairesse was a man of varied artistic culture as
well as versatile skill; but he was saturated with the pseudo-classical
spirit of the later period of the renaissance; and landscape itself
scarcely existed for him but as a setting for mythological incident or a
subject for embellishment by it. This is curiously apparent in a
treatise on the Art of Painting, which he composed, and, by a form of
dictation, also illustrated, when at the age of fifty he had lost his
sight. An English version of this fell into Mr. Browning's hands while
he was yet a child, and the deep and, at the time, delightful impression
which it made upon him is the motive of the present poem. Foremost in
his memory is an imaginary "Walk,"[130] in which the exercise of fancy
which the author practises and, Mr. Browning tells us, enjoins, is
strikingly displayed by his "conjecturing" Phaeton's tomb from the
evidence of a carved thunderbolt in an empty sepulchre, and the remains
of the "Chariot of the Sun" from a piece of broken wheel and some
similar fragment buried in the adjoining ground.

The remembrance converts itself into a question: the poet's fancy no
longer peoples the earth with gods and goddesses; has his insight become
less vivid? has the poetic spirit gone back? The answer is unwavering;
retrogression is not in the creative plan. The poet does not go back. He
is still as of yore a seer; he has only changed in this, that his chosen
visions are of the soul; their objects are no longer visible
unrealities, but the realities which are unseen. He can still, if he
pleases, evoke those as these, and Mr. Browning proceeds to show it by
calling up a series of dissolving views representing another "walk."

A majestic and varied landscape unfolds before us in the changing lights
of a long summer's day; and at each appropriate artistic moment becomes
the background of a mythological, idyllic, or semi-mythical scene. In
the early dawn we see Prometheus amidst departing thunders chained to
his rock:[131] the glutted, yet still hungering vulture cowering beside
him; in the dews of morning, Artemis triumphant in her double character
of huntress-queen and goddess of sudden death; in the heats of noon,
Lyda and the Satyr, enacting the pathetic story of his passion and her
indifference;[132] in the lengthening shadows, the approaching shock of
the armies of Darius and Alexander;[133]--in the falling night, a dim,
silent, deprecating figure: in other words, a ghost.

And here Mr. Browning bids the "fooling" stop; for he has touched the
point of extreme divergence between the classic spirit and his own. The
pallid vision which he repels speaks dumbly of pagan regret for what is
past, of pagan hopelessness of the to-come. _His_ religion, as we are
again reminded, is one of hope. Let us, he says, do and not dream, look
forward and not back; ascend the tree of existence into its ripening
glory, not hastening over leaf or blossom, not dallying with them; leave
Greek lore buried in its own ashes, and accept the evidence of life
itself that extinction is impossible; that death--mystery though it is,
calamity though it may be--ends nothing which has once begun. We may
then greet the spring which we do not live to see in other words than
those of the Greek bard; and the words suggested are those of a dainty
lyric, in which the note of gladness seems to break with a little sob,
and rings, perhaps, on that account the truer.[134]

With CHARLES AVISON might be called a reverie on music and musicians,
but for the extraordinary vividness of the images and emotions which it
conveys. It was induced, Mr. Browning tells us, by a picturesque little
incident which set his thoughts vibrating to the impressions of the word
"March": and supplies a parable for their instinctive flight into a
discredited and forgotten past. They have been feeling for a piece of
march-music; they have bridged the gulf which separates the school of
Wagner and Brahms from that of Handel or Buononcini; they alight on
Charles Avison's "Grand March."[135] It is a simple continuous air,
such as hearts could beat to in the olden time, though flat and somewhat
thin, and unrelieved by those caprices of modulation which are essential
to modern ears; and as it repeats itself in Mr. Browning's brain, the
persistent melody gains force from its very persistence: till it fills
with the sound, as it were glows with the aerial clashings, of many
martial instruments, till it strides in the lengthening,
drum-accentuated motion of many marching feet. He ponders the fact that
such melody has lost its power, and asks himself why this must be: since
the once perfected can never be surpassed, and the music of Charles
Avison was in its own day as inspiring and inspired--in other words, as
perfect--as that for which it has been cast aside.

He finds his answer in the special relation of this art to the life of
man. Music resembles painting and poetry in the essential characteristic
that her province is not Mind but Soul--the swaying sea of emotion which
underlies the firm ground of attainable, if often recondite, fact. All
three have this in common with the activities of Mind that they strive
for the same result; they aim at recording feeling as science registers
facts. The two latter in some measure attain this end, because they deal
with those definite moments of the soul's experience which share the
nature of fact. But music dredges deeper in the emotional sea. She draws
forth and embodies the more mysterious, more evanescent, more fluid
realities of the soul's life; and so, effecting more than the sister
arts, she yet succeeds less. Her forms remain; the spirit ebbs away from
them. As, however, Mr. Browning's own experience has shown, the departed
spirit may return--

                                "... Off they steal--
       How gently, dawn-doomed phantoms! back come they
       Full-blooded with new crimson of broad day--
       Passion made palpable once more."              (P. 232.)

The revived passion may breathe under the name of another man; it may
stir again in the utterance of one dead and forgotten; and Mr. Browning,
borrowing the language of chemistry, invokes the reactive processes
through which its many-coloured flamelets may spring to life.[136] He
then passes by an insensible--because to him very natural--transition
from the realities of feeling to those of thought, and to the underlying
truth from which both series derive: and combats the idea that in
thought, any more than in feeling, the present can disprove the past,
the once true reveal itself as delusion. Time--otherwise growth--widens
the range as it complicates the necessities of musical, _i.e._ emotional
expression. It destroys the enfolding fictions which shield without
concealing the earlier stages of intellectual truth. But the emotions
were in existence before music began; and Truth was potentially "at
full" within us when as it were reborn to grow and bud and blossom for
the mind of man.[137] Therefore, he has said, addressing Avison's March,
"Blare it forth, bold C Major!" and "Therefore," he continues, in a
swift return of fancy:--

                            "... Bang the drums,
       Blow the trumps, Avison! March-motive? That's
       Truth which endures resetting. Sharps and flats,
       Lavish at need, shall dance athwart thy score
       When ophicleide and bombardon's uproar
       Mate the approaching trample, even now
       Big in the distance--or my ears deceive--
       Of federated England, fitly weave
       March-music for the future!"                   (P. 237.)

The musical transformation is for a moment followed back to the days of
Elizabethan plain-song, and then arrested at those of Avison, where he
may be imagined as joining chorus with Bach in celebrating the struggle
for English liberty. The closing stanzas are written to the music of
Avison's March, which is also given[138] at the end of the poem, and
throws a helpful light on its more technical parts.

FUST AND HIS FRIENDS is based on a version of the Faust legend which
identifies the inventor of printing with Dr. Faust, and contains
allusions to some of the incidents of Goethe's double poem: the magical
drinking bout of the first part, and the appearance of the Grecian Helen
in the second; but whereas the popular tradition makes Fust's great
discovery the fruit of his alliance with the powers of Evil, Mr.
Browning represents it as an act of atonement for the figurative
devil-worship which was involved in a disorderly and ostentatious life.
Fust has by his own admission sinned to this extent.[139] He has obeyed
the father of lies. He has also accepted with thankfulness the chance of
redeeming his soul by a signal service rendered to the cause of Truth.
The process of engraving on gold, furtively witnessed in a Tuscan
workshop, has suggested to him the manufacture of metallic types, and he
has been for years secluded with the conception of his printing-press,
and glowing visions of that winged word which should one day fly forth
at his command. Complacent ignorance and stupidity have buzzed freely
about him as he sat unaided and alone in what Mr. Browning poetically
depicts as the prolonged travail of a portentous mental birth; and, as
we are led to imagine, much well-meant remonstrance and advice rebounded
from his closed door. But at the moment in question the door is open,
for the work of Fust is complete. Seven "Friends" present themselves
prepared to lecture him for his good and for that of their city
(Mayence) which is endangered by his compact with the Devil; and the
ensuing intensely humorous colloquy supplies him with the fitting
occasion for distributing specimens of his new art and displaying the
mechanism through which its apparent magic is achieved. He then pours
forth his soul in an impassioned utterance, half soliloquy, half prayer,
in which gratitude for his own redemption tempers the sense of triumph
in the world-wide intellectual deliverance he has been privileged to
effect, and becomes a tribute of adoration to that Absolute of Creative
Knowledge, the law of which he has obeyed; which stirs in the
unconsciousness of the ore and plant, and impels man to Its realization
step by step in the ever-receding, ever-present vision of his own

He owns, however, when the talk is resumed, that his happiness is not
free from cloud: since the wings which he has given to truth will also
aid the diffusion of falsehood; and the note of humour returns to the
situation when this contingency asserts itself in the mind of some of
the "friends." These worthies have passed through the descending scale
of feeling proper to such persons on such an occasion. They have
received Fust's invention as diabolical--as wonderful--as very simple
after all; and now the fact stares them in the face that, printing being
so simple, the Hussite may publish his heresies as well as the Churchman
his truth, and the old sure remedy of burning him and his talk together
will no longer avail. One of the two Divines on whom this impresses
itself had indeed "been struck by it from the first."

The poem concludes with a joke on the name of Huss, which (I am told) is
the Bohemian equivalent for "goose," and his reported prophecy of the
advent and the triumph of Luther: which prophecy Fust re-echoes.[140]


[Footnote 121: We must remark that these arguments are not directed
against Atheism and its naturalistic philosophy, which supplies, in Mr.
Browning's judgment, a consistent, if erroneous, solution of the
problem. They only attack the position of those who would retain the
belief in a personal God, and yet divest Him of every quality which
makes such a Being thinkable.]

[Footnote 122: It has been wrongly inferred from the passage in question
that Mr. Browning admits the pretensions of science to solve the
problems of the universe.]

[Footnote 123: The "goddess-sent plague" woven by Lachesis into the
destiny of Admetus was a vengeance of Artemis which befell him on the
day of his marriage. He had slighted her by omitting the usual
sacrifice, and in punishment of this she sent a crowd of serpents to
meet him in the nuptial chamber; but Apollo effected a reconciliation
between them.]

[Footnote 124: He had, as a young man, so great an admiration for one of
Bartoli's works, "De' Simboli trasportati al Morale," that when he
travelled he always carried it with him.]

[Footnote 125: Her reply was that if she possessed any influence over M.
de Lorraine she would never use it to make him do anything so contrary
to his honour and to his interests; she already sufficiently reproached
herself for the marriage to which his friendship for her had impelled
him; and would rather be "Marianne" to the end of her days than become
Duchess on such conditions The reply has been necessarily modified in
Mr. Browning's more poetic rendering of the scene]

[Footnote 126: Indented,--for want of writing materials,--with a key on
the wainscot of his cell.]

[Footnote 127: Created Lord Melcombe a year before his death:
sufficiently known by his diary from March, 1748, to Feb., 1761. See its
character in the Preface to the original edition by his relation, Henry
Penruddocke Wyndham, 1784. Other notices will be found in "Edgeworth on
Education," Belsham's "George II.," and Hawkins' "Life of Johnson."]

[Footnote 128: Furini is also honourably mentioned in Pilkington's
"Dictionary of Painters," revised by Fuseli, and till the middle of the
present century the authoritative work on the subject. It is stated in
the edition of 1805 that "many of his paintings are in Florence, which
are deemed to add honour to the valuable collections of the nobility of
that city."]

[Footnote 129: The allusion in vol. xvi. p. 195, to the old artificer
who could make men "believe" instead of merely "fancy" that what he
presented to them was real, refers especially to the Greek painter
Zeuxis; but it is suggested by the generally realistic character of
Greek art.]

[Footnote 130: Described at p. 253 and onwards under the heading
"Painter-like Beauty in the Open Air."]

[Footnote 131: The last line and a half of the eighth stanza was
directly suggested by the tragedy of Æschylus; the thunderstorm by
another version of the Promethean myth.]

[Footnote 132: See Shelley's translation from Moschus.]

[Footnote 133: Battle of Arbela.]

[Footnote 134: These lines were published in 1886 in the little volume
entitled "The New Amphion."]

[Footnote 135: Organist of Newcastle about 1750; author of "An Essay on
Musical Expression" and other works.]

[Footnote 136: The "Relfe" spoken of in this connection was Mr.
Browning's music-master: a learned contrapuntist.]

[Footnote 137: In interpreting this passage I have somewhat exceeded the
letter, but only to emphasize the spirit of Mr. Browning's words.]

[Footnote 138: From an MS. copy formerly in the possession of Mr.
Browning's father.]

[Footnote 139: The wealth to which he alludes was justly imputed to him,
as the real Fust was a goldsmith's son.]

[Footnote 140: The relation of John Fust to the popular legend is
pleasantly set forth in Mr. Sutherland Edwards' little book, "The Faust
Legend: Its Origin and Development."]


The following note shows Mr. Browning in a more pronounced attitude
towards the opponents of the new Greek spelling than does that which, by
his desire, I inserted in my first edition; but the last mood was in
this case only a natural development of the first:--

"I have just noticed in this month's 'Nineteenth Century' that it is
inquired by a humorous objector to the practice of spelling (under
exceptional conditions) Greek proper names as they are spelt in Greek
literature, why the same principle should not be adopted by
'Ægyptologists, Hebraists, Sanscrittists, Accadians, Moabites, Hittites,
and Cuneiformists?' Adopt it, by all means, whenever the particular
language enjoyed by any fortunate possessor of these shall, like Greek,
have been for about three hundred years insisted upon in England as an
acquisition of paramount importance, at school and college, for every
aspirant to distinction in learning, even at the cost of six or seven
years' study--a sacrifice considered well worth making for even an
imperfect acquaintance with 'the most perfect language in the world.'
Further, it will be adopted whenever the letters substituted for those
in ordinary English use shall do no more than represent to the
unscholarly what the scholar accepts without scruple when, for the
hundredth time, he reads the word which, for once, he has occasion to
write in English, and which he concludes must be as euphonic as the rest
of a language renowned for euphony. And, finally, the practice will be
adopted whenever the substituted letters effect no sort of organic
change so as to jostle the word from its pride of place in English verse
or prose. 'Themistokles' fits in quietly everywhere, with or without
the _k_: but in a certain poetical translation I remember, by a young
friend, of the Anabasis, beginning thus felicitously, '_Cyrus the Great
and Artaxerxes (Whose temper bloodier than a Turk's is) Were children
both of the mild, pious, And happy monarch, King Darius_,'--who fails to
see that, although a correct 'Kuraush' may pass, yet 'Darayavush'
disturbs the metre as well as the rhyme? It seems, however, that
'Themistokles' may be winked at: not so the 'harsh and subversive
Kirke.' But let the objector ask somebody with no knowledge to subvert,
how he supposes 'Circe' is spelt in Greek, and the answer will be 'with
a soft _c_.' Inform him that no such letter exists, and he guesses,
'Then with _s_, if there be anything like it' Tell him that, to eye and
ear equally, his own _k_ answers the purpose, and you have, at all
events, taught him that much, if little enough--and why does he live
unless to learn a little?"

"R. B."

_Jan. 4, 1866._


1833. PAULINE; A FRAGMENT OF A CONFESSION. 8vo. Saunders and Otley,
1833. Dated at the end "Richmond, Oct. 22, 1832." Reprinted in the six
vol. editions of the _Poetical Works_, 1868, and later. Also reprinted
from the original edition and edited by T. J. Wise, 1886.

1834. SONNET, "Eyes calm beside thee (Lady couldst thou know!") Dated
Aug. 17, 1834, and signed "Z." _Monthly Repository_, vol. viii., N.S.,
1834, p. 712. Not reprinted by Mr. Browning.

1835. PARACELSUS. By Robert Browning. 8vo. Effingham Wilson, 1835.
Reprinted in _Poems_, 2 vols. 1849, and in _Poetical Works_ later, but
without Preface, dated 15th March, 1835.

1835. THE KING. "A king lived long ago." 54 lines signed "Z," in the
_Monthly Repository_, vol. ix., N.S., 1835, pp. 707-8. Afterwards given
in _Pippa Passes_ (sc. I, act iii.) with six additional lines.

1836. PORPHYRIA. "The rain set early in to-night." Sixty lines signed
"Z," in _Monthly Repository_, vol. x., N.S., 1836, pp. 43-4. Afterwards
appeared in _Bells and Pomegranates_ under the heading "Madhouse Cells
II." Was called "Porphyria's Lover" in the _Works_, 1863 and after.

1836. JOHANNES AGRICOLA. "There's Heaven above; and night by night."
Sixty lines signed "Z," in _Monthly Repository_, vol. x., N.S., 1836,
pp. 45-6. Reprinted in _Bells and Pomegranates_ under the heading
"Madhouse Cells I."

1836. LINES. "Still ailing, wind? wilt be appeased or no?" Six stanzas
signed "Z," in the _Monthly Repository_, vol. x., N.S., 1836, pp.
270-71. Reappeared in _Dramatis Personæ_ (1864) as the first six stanzas
of section vi. of "James Lee."

1837. STRAFFORD: AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY. By Robert Browning. 8vo.
Longmans, 1837. Acted at Covent Garden Theatre, May 1, 1837. Reprinted
without preface in _Poetical Works_, 863, and later. Acting edition, for
the North London Collegiate School for Girls, 1882, 8vo. An edition
(including preface of 1837) with notes and preface by Miss E. H. Hickey,
and introduction by S. R. Gardiner, LL.D., 1884, 8vo.

1840. SORDELLO. By Robert Browning. 8vo. E. Moxon, 1840. Revised edition
with prefatory letter to J. Milsand, in _Poetical Works_, 3 vols. 1863,
and later.

1841-6. BELLS AND POMEGRANATES. Eight numbers in wrappers, Rl. 8vo.,
1841-46, as follows:--

1841. No. 1. PIPPA PASSES. By Robert Browning. London, E. Moxon, 1841.

1842. No. 2. KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES. By Robert Browning. London,
E. Moxon, 1842.

1842. No. 3. DRAMATIC LYRICS. By Robert Browning, London, E. Moxon,


     _Cavalier Times._ I. _Marching Along_, p. 3.--II. _Give a
     Rouse_, p. 3.--III. _My Wife Gertrude_, p. 3. [III.
     afterwards "Boot and Saddle."]

     _Italy and France._ I. _Italy_ ["My last Duchess."]--II.
     _France_ ["Count Gismond"], p. 4.

     _Camp and Cloister._ I. _Camp_ (_French_), p. 5.--II.
     _Cloister (Spanish)_, p. 6.

     _In a Gondola_, p. 7.

     _Artemis Prologuizes_, p. 9.

     _Waring._ I. "What's becomes of Waring?"--II. "When I last saw
     Waring," p. 10.

     _Queen Worship._ I. _Rudel and the Lady of Tripoli._--II.
     _Cristina_, p. 12.

     _Madhouse Cells._ I. _Johannes Agricola_ [of 1836.] II.
     _Porphyria_ [of 1836], p. 13.

     _Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr_, p. 14.

     _The Pied Piper of Hamelin_, p. 14.

1843. No. 4. THE RETURN OF THE DRUSES. A Tragedy in five acts. By Robert
Browning. London, E. Moxon, 1843.

1843. No. 5. A BLOT IN THE 'SCUTCHEON. A Tragedy in three acts. By
Robert Browning. London, E. Moxon, 1843. Acted at Drury Lane Theatre,
Feb. 11, 1843.

1844. No. 6. COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY; A Play in five acts. By Robert
Browning. London, E. Moxon, 1844. Acted at the Haymarket, April 25,

1845. No. 7. DRAMATIC ROMANCES AND LYRICS By Robert Browning. London, E.
Moxon, 1845.


     _How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix_, p. 3.

     _Pictor Ignotus._ _Florence_, 15--, p. 4.

      _Italy in England._ [Called "The Italian in England" in the
     _Poems_, 1849], p. 4.

     _England in Italy._ [Called "The Englishman in Italy" in
     _Poems_, 1849], p. 5.

     _The Lost Leader_, p. 8.

     _The Lost Mistress_, p. 8.

     _Home Thoughts from Abroad._ I. "Oh, to be in England."--II.
     "Here's to Nelson's Memory." [Put after _Claret and Tokay_, in
     _Poet. Works_, 1863, under "Nationality in Drinks."]--III.
     "Nobly, nobly Cape St. Vincent," p. 8. ["Home Thoughts from
     the Sea."]

     _The Tomb at St. Praxed's_, p. 9.

     _Garden Fancies._ I. _The Flower's Name._--II. _Sibrandus
     Schafnaburgensis_, p. 10.

     _France and Spain._ I. _The Laboratory_ (_Ancien
     Régime_).--II. _The Confessional_, p. 11.

     _The Flight of the Duchess_, p. 12.

     _Earth's Immortalities._ I. "See, as the prettiest
     graves."--II. "So the year's done with," p. 19.

     _Song._ "Nay, but you, who do not love her," p. 19.

     _The Boy and the Angel._ [A fresh couplet added on
     republication in _Poet. Works_, 1868,] p. 19.

     _Night and Morning._ I. _Night._--II. _Morning._ [Called
     "Meeting at Night" and "Parting at Morning" in 1863], p. 20.

     _Claret and Tokay._ I. "My heart sunk with our Claret-flask."
     II. "Up jumped Tokay on our table." [These grouped together,
     with "Here's to Nelson's Memory," as "Nationality in Drinks,"
     No. 37 in _Poet. Works_, 1863,] p. 20.

     _Saul_ [Part the First, only; completed in _Men and Women_,
     1855,] p. 21.

     _Time's Revenges_, p. 22.

     _The Glove._ (Peter Ronsard _loquitur_), p 23.

1846. No. 8, and Last. LURIA; and A SOUL'S TRAGEDY. By Robert Browning.
London, E. Moxon, 1846.

     _Luria._ A Tragedy in five acts, p. 2.

     _A Soul's Tragedy._ Part First, being what was called the
     Poetry of Chiappino's Life; and Part Second, its Prose. [With
     Preface to _A Soul's Tragedy_ not reprinted], p. 21.

1844. THE LABORATORY (Ancien Régime). By Robert Browning, in _Hood's
Magazine_, vol. i., 1844, pp. 513-14. Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances
and Lyrics_ (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. 7), 1845, as the first of two
poems called _France and Spain_.

1844. CLARET AND TOKAY. By Robert Browning. ["My heart sunk with our
Claret-flask," and "Up jumped Tokay on our table"], in _Hood's
Magazine_, vol. i., 1844, p. 525. Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances and
Lyrics_ (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. 7), 1845.

1844. GARDEN FANCIES. By Robert Browning. I. _The Flower's Name._--II.
_Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis._ In _Hood's Magazine_, vol. ii., pp.
140-42, 1844. Revised and enlarged in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_
(_Bells and Pom._, No. 7), 1845.

1844. THE BOY AND THE ANGEL. By Robert Browning. In _Hood's Magazine_,
vol. ii., pp. 140-42. Enlarged in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (_Bells
and Pomegranates_, No. 7), 1845.

1845. THE TOMB AT ST. PRAXED'S (ROME 15--). By Robert Browning. In
_Hood's Magazine_, vol. iii., pp. 237-9, 1845. Enlarged in _Dramatic
Romances and Lyrics_ (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. 7) in same year.
Reappeared in _Works_, 1863, and after, with the title "The Bishop
Orders his Tomb in St. Praxed's Church."

1845. THE FLIGHT OF THE DUCHESS. By Robert Browning. Part the first, in
_Hood's Magazine_, vol. iii., pp. 313-18, 1845. Part II. appeared when
the first part was reprinted in _Bells and Pomegranates_, No. 7, in the
same year, _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_.

1849. POEMS BY ROBERT BROWNING. A New Edition [but the first collection
under a collective title]. 2 vols., 8vo. Chapman and Hall, 1849.

     _Contents_: vol. i. Paracelsus, p. 1. Pippa Passes, a Drama,
     p. 163. King Victor and King Charles, a Tragedy, p. 231.
     Colombe's Birthday, a Play, p. 302.

     Vol. ii. A Blot in the 'Scutcheon, a Tragedy, p. 1. The Return
     of the Druses, a Tragedy, p. 61. Luria, a Tragedy, p. 139. A
     Soul's Tragedy, p. 211. Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, p. 253;
     38 of the 41 pieces in _Bells and Pomegranates_, Nos. 3 and 7,
     the three omitted being _Claret_, _Tokay_, and _Here's to
     Nelson's Memory_.

1850. CHRISTMAS-EVE AND EASTER-DAY. A Poem. By Robert Browning. 8vo.
Chapman and Hall, 1850. Reprinted in _Works_, 1863, and after.

1852. Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. With an Introductory ESSAY BY
ROBERT BROWNING. London, E. Moxon, 1852. 8vo. [The Essay is on
Shelley--not on the "Letters," which were afterwards discovered to be
spurious, with one exception.] The Essay was reprinted in the _Browning
Society's Papers_, Part I., 1881. Edited by Dr. F. J. Furnivall. Another
reprint, edited by W Tyas Harden, appeared in 1888, 8vo.

1854. Two POEMS. By Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. 8vo. London,
Chapman and Hall, 1854. Price Sixpence. The poem by Robert Browning
here is "The Twins," and is dated "Rome, March 30th, 1854." Reprinted in
_Men and Women_, 1855, and in _Works_, 1863 and after. The "Two Poems"
were printed by Miss Arabella Barrett for sale at a bazaar in aid of a
"Refuge for Young Destitute Girls." Mrs. Browning's contribution was "A
Plea for the Ragged Schools of London."

1855. MEN AND WOMEN. By Robert Browning. In two vols. 8vo. London,
Chapman and Hall.

     Contents: Vol. I.--

     _Love Among the Ruins_, p. 1.
     _A Lover's Quarrel_, p. 17.
     _Evelyn Hope_, p. 19.
     _Up at a Villa--Down in the City_, p. 23.
     _A Woman's Last Word_, p. 31.
     _Fra Lippo Lippi_, p. 35.
     _A Toccata of Galuppi's_, p. 56.
     _By the Fire-side_, p. 63.
     _Any Wife to Any Husband_, p. 81.
     _An Epistle concerning the strange Medical Experience of
       Karshish the Arab Physician_, p. 90.
     _Mesmerism_, p. 107.
     _A Serenade at the Villa_, p. 117.
     _My Star_, p. 122.
     _Instans Tyrannus_, p. 123.
     _A Pretty Woman_, p. 128.
     "_Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came_," p. 134.
     _Respectability_, p. 149.
     _A Light Woman_, p. 151.
     _The Statue and the Bust_, p. 156.
     _Love in a Life_, p. 173
     _Life in a Love_, p. 175.
     _How it Strikes a Contemporary_, p. 177
     _The Last Ride together_, p. 184.
     _The Patriot._ An Old Story, p. 191.
     _Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha_, p. 194.
     _Bishop Blougram's Apology_, p. 205.
     _Memorabilia_, p. 259.

     Contents of Vol. II.:

     _Andrea del Sarto_, p. 1.
     _Before_, p. 15.
     _After_, p. 19.
     _In Three Days_, p. 21.
     _In a Year_, p. 24.
     _Old Pictures in Florence_, p. 30.
     _In a Balcony_, p. 49.
     _Saul_, p. 111.
     "_De Gustibus_," p. 147.
     _Women and Roses_, p. 150.
     _Protus_, p. 154.
     _Holy-Cross Day_, p. 158.
     _The Guardian Angel_, p 167.
     _Cleon_, p. 171.
     _The Twins_, p. 190.
     _Popularity_, p. 193.
     _The Heretic's Tragedy_, p. 198.
     _Two in the Campagna_, p. 205.
     _A Grammarian's Funeral_, p. 210.
     _One Way of Love_, p. 218.
     _Another Way of Love_, p. 220.
     "_Transcendentalism_" p. 223.
     _Misconceptions_, p. 227.
     _One Word More._ _To E. B. B._, p. 229.

1856. BEN KARSHOOK'S WISDOM. By Robert Browning. Twenty lines in _The
Keepsake_ for 1856, edited by Miss Power. Never reprinted by Mr.
Browning. The poem seems to be alluded to in "One Word More."

1857. MAY AND DEATH. By Robert Browning. In _The Keepsake_ for 1857.
Reprinted in _Dramatis Personæ_, 1864, and in _Works_ 1868, and after.

1863. THE POETICAL WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING. Third edition. Three vols.,
8vo. London, Chapman and Hall, 1863. No new poems in this collection. It
was re-issued as "Fourth Edition" in 1865.

     Contents: Vol. I.


     _Cavalier  Times_:--
         I. _Marching Along_, p. 1.
        II. _Give a Rouse_, p. 2.
       III. _Boot and Saddle_, p. 3.
     _The Lost Leader_, p. 4.
     _How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix_, p. 6.
     _Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kader,_ p. 9.
     _Nationality in  Drinks_:--
         I. _Claret_, p. 11.
        II. _Tokay_, p. 11.
       III. _Beer_ (_Nelson_), p. 12.
     _Garden  Fancies_:--
         I. _The Flower's Name_, p. 13.
        II. _Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis_, p. 15.
       III. _Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister_, p. 18.
     _The Laboratory_, p. 21.
     _The Confessional_, p. 24.
     _Cristina_, p. 27.
     _The Lost Mistress_, p. 30
     _Earth's Immortalities_, p. 31.
     _Meeting at Night_, p. 32.
     _Parting at Morning_, p. 33.
     _Song_ ("_Nay but you_"), p. 33.
     _A Woman's Last Word_, p. 34.
     _Evelyn Hope_, p. 36.
     _Love Among the Ruins_, p. 38.
     _A Lover's Quarrel_, p. 42.
     _Up at a Villa--Down in the City_, p. 49
     _A Toccata of Galuppi's_, p. 54.
     _Old Pictures in Florence_, p. 58.
     "_De Gustibus_ ----" p. 70.
     _Home Thoughts, from Abroad_, p. 72.
     _Home Thoughts, from the Sea_, p. 73.
     _Saul_, p. 74.
     _My Star_, p. 98.
     _By the Fireside_, p. 98.
     _Any Wife to any Husband_, p. 110.
     _Two in the Campagna_, p. 116.
     _Misconceptions_, p. 119.
     _A Serenade at the Villa_, p. 119.
     _One Way of Love_, p. 122.
     _Another Way of Love_, p. 123.
     _A Pretty Woman_, p. 125.
     _Respectability_, p. 129.
     _Love in a Life_, p. 130.
     _Life in a Love_, p. 131.
     _In Three Days_, p. 132.
     _In a Year_, p. 133.
     _Women and Roses_, p. 137.
     _Before_, p. 139.
     _After_, p. 141.
     _The Guardian Angel_--A Picture at Fano, p. 142.
     _Memorabilia_, p. 145.
     _Popularity_, p. 146.
     _Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha_, p. 149.


     _Incident of the French Camp_, p. 156
     _The Patriot._ An Old Story, p. 158.
     _My Last Duchess._ Ferrara, p. 159.
     _Count Gismond._ Aix in Provence, p. 162.
     _The Boy and the Angel_, p. 167.
     _Instans Tyrannus_, p. 171.
     _Mesmerism_, p. 174.
     _The Glove_, p. 180.
     _Time's Revenge_, p. 187.
     _The Italian in England_, p. 189.
     _The Englishman in Italy_--Piano di Sorrento, p. 195.
     _In a Gondola_, p. 205.
     _Waring_, p. 215.
     _The Twins_, p. 225.
     _A Light Woman_, p. 226.
     _The Last Ride together_, p. 229.
     _The Pied Piper of Hamelin; a Child's Story_, p. 234.
     _The Flight of the Duchess_, 246.
     _A Grammarian's Funeral_, p. 278.
     _Johannes Agricola in Meditation_, p. 284.
     _The Heretic's Tragedy_--A Middle-Age Interlude, p. 286.
     _Holy-Cross Day_, p. 291.
     _Protus_, p. 297.
     _The Statue and the Bust_, p. 299.
     _Porphyria's Lover_, p. 310.
     "_Child Roland to the Dark Tower came_," p. 312.

     Contents of Vol. II.


     _Pippa Passes--A Drama_, p. 1.
     _King Victor and King Charles--A Tragedy_, p. 68.
     _The Return of the Druses--A Tragedy_, p. 140.
     _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon--A Tragedy_, p. 216.
     _Colombe's Birthday--A Play_, p. 275.
     _Luria--A Tragedy_, p. 357.
     _A Soul's Tragedy_, p. 428.
     _In a Balcony--A Scene_, p. 468.
     _Strafford--A Tragedy_, p. 503.

     Contents of Vol. III.

     _Paracelsus_, p. 1.
     _Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day_, p. 163.
     _Sordello_, p. 252.

London, Chapman and Hall, 1863. The editors of this first selection were
John Foster and B. W. Procter ("Barry Cornwall"). The volume was
re-issued in 1869 with the imprint of Smith, Elder & Co.

1864. DRAMATIS PERSONÆ. By Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Chapman and
Hall, 1864. Second edition published same year.


     _James Lee_, p. 3. [This appears as "James Lee's Wife" in the
       _Poetical Works_, 1868 and after.]
     _Gold Hair: a Legend of Pornic_, p. 27.
     _The Worst of it_, p. 37.
     _Dîs aliter visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours_, p. 47.
     _Too Late_, p. 57.
     _Abt Vogler_, p. 67.
     _Rabbi ben Ezra_, p. 77.
     _Death in the Desert_, p. 91.
     _Caliban upon Setebos; or, Natural Theology in the Island_, p.
     _Confessions_, p. 139.
     _May and Death_, p. 145.
     _Prospice_, p. 149.
     _Youth and Art_, p. 153.
     _A Face_, p. 161.
     _A Likeness_, p. 165.
     _Mr. Sludge_, "_the Medium_," p. 171.
     _Apparent Failure_, p. 239.
     _Epilogue_, p. 245.

Three of the above poems were reprinted from advance sheets in the
_Atlantic Monthly_ (Boston, U. S.), vol. xiii., 1864, viz., _Gold Hair_,
May, pp. 596-599; _Prospice_, May, p. 694; _Under the Cliff_ (part of
_James Lee_), May, pp. 737-8.

1864. ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. Eight lines in the Royal Academy Catalogue
for 1864, in F. Leighton's (now P.R.A.) picture so named. First
collected in _Poetical Works_, 1868, under the title of "Eurydice to
Orpheus, a Picture by Fred Leighton, A.R.A."

1864. POETICAL WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING. Fourth edition. A reprint of
the Third edition (which see under "1863").

"Moxon's Miniature Poets," E. Moxon & Co., 1865. With Dedication to
Alfred Tennyson; and a photographic portrait of Robert Browning.

1866. A Selection from the Poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 8vo.
London, Chapman and Hall, 1866. EDITED by Robert Browning, and has a
PREFACE signed "R. B.," and dated "London, November, 1865."

1866. Last Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 8vo. London, Chapman &
Hall, 1862. THE DEDICATION ("To Grateful Florence," etc.), and
"ADVERTISEMENT" (dated "London, February, 1862"), written by Robert
Browning. See _Browning Soc. Papers_ [additions to Bibliography], Parts
I. and II., 1881, pp. 111, 162.

Elder and Co., 1868. There is only one new piece in this collection,
viz., _Deaf and Dumb_; written for a marble group of two children by T.
Woolner in the International Exhibition of 1862.

     Contents of Vol. I.

     _Pauline_, p. 1.
     _Paracelsus_, p. 43.
     _Strafford_, p. 207.

     Contents of Vol. II.

     _Sordello_, p. 1.
     _Pippa Passes_, p. 219.

     Contents of Vol. III.

     _King Victor and King Charles_, p. 1.
     _Dramatic  Lyrics_:--
       _Cavalier Tunes,_ p. 75.
       _The Lost Leader_, p. 78.
       _How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix_, p. 80.
       _Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr_, p. 83.
       _Nationality in Drinks_, p. 85.
       _Garden Fancies_, p. 87.
       _Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister_, p. 92.
       _The Laboratory_, p. 95.
       _The Confessional_, p. 98.
       _Cristina_, p. 101.
       _The Lost Mistress_, p. 104.
       _Earth's Immortalities_, p. 105.
       _Meeting at Night_, p, 106.
       _Parting at Morning_, p. 107.
       _Song_ ("Nay but you "), p. 107.
       _A Woman's last Word_, p. 108.
       _Evelyn Hope_, p. 110.
       _Love among the Ruins_, p. 112.
       _A Lovers' Quarrel_, 115.
       _Up at a Villa-Down in the City_, p. 122.
       _A Toccata of Galuppi's_, p. 127.
       _Old Pictures in Florence_, p. 131.
       "_De Gustibus_ ----" p. 143.
       _Home Thoughts from Abroad_, p. 145.
       _Home Thoughts from the Sea_, p. 146.
       _Saul_, p. 146.
       _My Star_, p. 170.
       _By the Fire-side_, p. 170.
       _Any Wife to any Husband_, p. 182
       _Two in the Campagna_, p. 188.
       _Misconceptions_, p. 191.
       _A Serenade at the Villa_, p. 191.
       _One Way of Love_, p. 194.
       _Another Way of Love_, p. 195.
       _A Pretty Woman_, p. 197.
       _Respectability_, p. 201.
       _Love in a Life_, p. 202.
       _Life in a Love_, p. 203.
       _In Three Days_, p. 204.
       _In a Year_, p. 205.
       _Women and Roses_, p. 209.
       _Before_, p. 211.
       _After_, p. 213.
       _The Guardian Angel_, p. 214.
       _Memorabilia_, p. 217.
       _Popularity_, p. 218.
       _Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha_, p. 221.
     _The Return of the Druses_, p. 229.

     Contents of Vol. IV.

     _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon_, 1.
     _Colombe's Birthday_, p. 61.
     _Dramatic  Romances_:--
       _Incident of the French Camp_, p. 147.
       _The Patriot_, p. 149.
       _My Last Duchess_, p. 150.
       _Count Gismond_, p. 153.
       _The Boy and the Angel_, p. 158.
       _Instans Tyrannus_, p. 162.
       _Mesmerism_, p. 165.
       _The Glove_, p. 171.
       _Time's Revenges_, p. 178.
       _The Italian in England_, p. 180.
       _The Englishman in Italy_, p. 186.
       _In a Gondola_, p. 196.
       _Waring_, p. 206.
       _The Twins_, p. 216.
       _A Light Woman_, p. 217.
       _The Last Ride together_, p. 220.
       _The Pied Piper of Hamelin_, p. 225.
       _The Flight of the Duchess_, 237.
       _A Grammarian's Funeral_, p. 270.
       _The Heretic's Tragedy_, p. 275.
       _Holy-Cross Day_, p. 280.
       _Protus_, p. 286.
       _The Statue and the Bust_, p. 288.
       _Porphyria's Lover_, p. 299.
       "_Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came_," p. 301.

     Contents of Vol. V.

     _A Soul's Tragedy_, p. 1.
     _Luria_, p. 43.
     _Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day_, p. 115.
     _Men and  Women:--
       "Transcendentalism; a Poem in Twelve Books_," p. 207.
       _How it strikes a Contemporary_, p. 209.
       _Artemis Prologizes_, p. 213.
       _An Epistle (Karshish)_, p. 218.
       _Johannes Agricola in Meditation_, p. 229.
       _Pictor Ignotus_, p. 231.
       _Fra Lippo Lippi_, p. 234.
       _Andrea del Sarto_, p. 248.
       _The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed's Church_, p. 257.
       _Bishop Blougram's Apology_, p. 262.
       _Cleon_, p. 299.
       _Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli_, p. 311.
       _One Word More_, p. 313.

     Contents of Vol. VI.

     _In a Balcony_, p. 1.
     _Dramatis  Personæ_:--
       _James Lee's Wife_, p. 41.
       _Gold Hair; a Story of Pornic_, p. 62.
       _The Worst of it_, p. 70.
       _Dîs aliter visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours_, p. 77.
       _Too Late_, p. 85.
       _Abt Vogler_, p. 92.
       _Rabbi ben Ezra_, p. 99.
       _A Death in the Desert_, p. 110.
       _Caliban upon Setebos_, p. 136.
       _Confessions_, p. 148.
       _May and Death_, p. 150.
       _Deaf and Dumb: a group by Woolner_, p. 151
       _Prospice_, p. 152.
       _Eurydice to Orpheus; a Picture by Leighton_, p. 153.
       _Youth and Art_, p. 154.
       _A Face_, p. 158.
       _A Likeness_, p. 159.
       _Mr. Sludge_, "_the Medium_," p. 162.
       _Apparent Failure_, p. 219.
       _Epilogue_ (Three Speakers) p. 222.

1868-9. THE RING AND THE BOOK. By Robert Browning. In four vols., 8vo.
London, Smith, Elder & Co., vols. i., ii., 1868; vols. iii., iv., 1869.
The volumes were issued one by one, between November 1868 and February
1869. A "second edition," four volumes, appeared 1869.

1871. HERVÉ RIEL. In the _Cornhill Magazine_, March, 1871, pp. 257-60.
Is dated "Croisic, Sept. 30th, 1867." Reprinted in _Pacchiarotto_, &c.,

Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1871. With dedication
to the Countess Cowper dated July 22, 1871. A third edition appeared in
1881. _The Last Adventure of Balaustion_, in _Aristophanes' Apology_,
&c., 1875, in a sequel to this work.

Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1871.

1872. FIFINE AT THE FAIR. By Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder
& Co. 1872.

Smith, Elder & Co., 1872. With a preface dated "London, May 14th, 1872."
"Dedicated to Alfred Tennyson."

1872. THE POETICAL WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING. (The Tauchnitz selection).
Two vols., 8vo. Leipzig; "Collection of British Authors." As this is a
"copyright edition," the selection must have been either made or
sanctioned by Mr. Browning.

1872-4. COMPLETE WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING. A reprint from the latest
English edition. 8vo. Chicago. Nos. 1-19 of the "Official Guide of the
Chicago and Alton R.R. and Monthly Reprint and Advertiser." Edited by
the manager of the railway, Mr. James Charlton. A copy is in the British

Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1873. Dated at the end
"January 23, 1873." Dedicated "To Miss Thackeray."

Smith, Elder & Co., 1875. The "Transcript" is "Herakles."

1875. THE INN ALBUM. By Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder &
Co., 1875.

A translation of this work into German by E. Leo: "Das Fremdenbuch,"
Hamburg, 1877.

Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1876.


     _Prologue._ ("O the old wall here.") [Called "A Wall" in the
       selection of 1880], p. 1.
     _Of Pacchiarotto and how he worked in Distemper_, p. 4.
     _At the_ "_Mermaid_," p. 47.
     _House_, p. 60.
     _Shop_, p. 64.
     _Pisgah-Sights_, I., p. 75.
     _Pisgah-Sights_, II., p. 78.
     _Fears and Scruples_, p. 83.
     _Natural Magic_, p. 88.
     _Magical Nature_, p. 90.
     _Bifurcation_, p. 91.
     _Numpholeptos_, p. 95.
     _Appearances_, p. 106.
     _St. Martin's Summer_, p. 108
     _Hervé Riel_, p. 117.
     _A Forgiveness_, p. 131.
     _Cenciaja_, p. 162.
     _Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of Burial_, p. 184
     _Epilogue_ ["'The Poets pour us wine,'"] p. 223.

Smith, Elder & Co., 1877, with preface dated London, October 1st, 1877.

1877. FAVOURITE POEMS. By Robert Browning. [A selection]. Illustrated,
pp. 96, 16mo. Boston, James R. Osgood & Co., 1877. [The Vest-Pocket
Series of Standard and Popular Authors].

1878. LA SAISIAZ: THE TWO POETS OF CROISIC. By Robert Browning. 8vo.
Smith, Elder & Co., 1878. "Dedicated to Mrs. Sutherland Orr." _La
Saisiaz_ is dated "November 9th, 1877," and _The Two Poets of Croisic_,
"January 15th, 1878." The Proem to the _Two Poets of Croisic_ was named
"Apparitions" in the _Selections_ of 1880.

1879. "OH LOVE, LOVE." _Two Stanzas--eighteen lines translated from the
Hippolytus of Euripides_, contributed to Mr. J. P. Mahaffy's
_Euripides_, p. 115, Macmillan, 1879. Not included in any collection of
Robert Browning's Poems. Reprinted in _Browning Soc. (Bibliography)
Papers_, pt. 1, 1881, p. 69.

1879. DRAMATIC IDYLS. By Robert Browning. Post 8vo. London, Smith, Elder
& Co., 1879.


     _Martin Relph_, p. 1.
     _Pheidippides_, p. 27.
     _Halbert and Hob_, p. 45.
     _Ivàn Ivànovitch_, p. 57.
     _Tray_, p. 101.
     _Ned Bratts_, p. 107.

1879. "THE BLIND MAN TO THE MAIDEN SAID." Poem, twenty lines, in "The
Hour Will Come," by Wilhelmine von Hillern, translated from the German
by Mrs. Clara Bell (vol. ii., p. 174). London, 8vo. Quoted in _Whitehall
Review_, March 1, 1883, with statement that the English version of the
poem is by Mr. Browning. Reprinted with some particulars in the
_Browning Society's Papers_, pt. ii., p. 410, 1883.

1880. DRAMATIC IDYLS. Second Series. By Robert Browning. Post 8vo.
London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1880.


     [_Proem_] ("You are sick, that's sure"), p. vii.
     _Echetlos_, p. 1.
     _Clive_, p. 9.
     _Muléykeh_, p. 43.
     _Pietro of Abano_, p. 61.
     _Doctor_ ----, p. 113.
     _Pan and Luna_, p. 137.
     [_Epilogue_], ("Touch him ne'er so lightly"), p. 149.

Ten additional lines to this epilogue have been published--"Thus I wrote
in London, musing," &c. These lines appeared in the _Century Magazine_
(Scribner's), vol. 25, 1882, pp. 159, 160, and were there said to have
been written in an autograph album, October 14th, 1880. They were
reprinted in the _Browning Society's Papers_, pt. iii., p. 48*,
November, 1882, but have been withdrawn from the Society's later issues.

Series. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1880. The First Series appeared
in 1872. Both were reprinted in 1884.

the Author, and explanatory notes, by F. H. Ahn, 8vo. Berlin, 1882. This
is vol. viii. of Ahn's _Collection of British and American Standard

1883. JOCOSERIA. By Robert Browning. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co.,


     _Wanting is--What?_ p. 1.
     _Donald_, p. 5.
     _Solomon and Balkis_, p. 25.
     _Cristina and Monaldeschi_, p. 33.
     _Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli_, p. 45.
     _Adam, Lilith, and Eve_, p. 51.
     _Ixion_, p. 55.
     _Jochanan Hakkadosh_, p. 71.
     _Never the Time and the Place_, p. 133.
     _Pambo_, p. 137.

BROWNING. Edited by E. T. Mason. 8vo. New York, 1883.

Introduction by R. G. White, 8vo. New York.

1883. SONNET ON GOLDONI. Dated "Venice, Nov. 27, 1883," and written for
the Album of the Committee of the Goldoni Monument at Venice, where it
appears upon the first page. Printed in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, Dec. 8,
1883, and in the _Browning Society's Papers_, pt. v., p. 98*, 1884.

1883. PARAPHRASE FROM HORACE. (On Singers). [Horace's "_Omnibus hoc
vitium est cantoribus_," etc.] Four lines written impromptu for Mr.
Felix Moscheles. Published in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, Dec. 12, 1883,
and in the _Browning Society's Papers_, pt. v. p. 99*, 1884.

1884. SONNET ON RAWDON BROWN. Dated Nov. 28. 1883, and published in the.
_Century Magazine_, vol. 27, Feb. 1884, p. 640. Reprinted in the
_Browning Society's Papers_, pt. v., p. 132*, 1884.

1884. THE FOUNDER OF THE FEAST.--A Sonnet. Inscribed by Mr. Browning in
the Album presented to Mr. Arthur Chappell, director of the St. James's
Hall Popular Concerts, etc. (_The World_, April 16, 1884). Reprinted in
the _Browning Society's Papers_, pt. vii., p. 18*, 1884. The sonnet is
dated "April 5th, 1884."

1884. THE NAMES. Sonnet on Shakspeare. On page 1 of the "Shaksperian
Show Book" of the Shaksperian Show held at the Albert Hall, May 29-31,
1884. The poem is dated "March 12, '84," and was published in the _Pall
Mall Gazette_, May 29, 1884, and in the _Browning Society's Papers_, pt.
v., p. 105*.

1884. "The Divine Order, and other Sermons and Addresses. By the late
Thomas Jones." Edited by Brynmor Jones; with a short INTRODUCTION by
Robert Browning. London, 1884, 8vo.

1884. FERISHTAH'S FANCIES. By Robert Browning 8vo. Smith, Elder & Co.,


         _Prologue_ ("Pray Reader"), p 1.
      1. _The Eagle_, p. 5.
      2. _The Melon-Seller_, p. 9.
      3. _Shah Abbas_, p 13.
      4. _The Family_, p. 25.
      5. _The Sun_, p. 33.
      6. _Mihrab Shah_, p. 46.
      7. _A Camel-Driver_, p. 59,
      8. _Two Camels_, p. 69.
      9. _Cherries_, p. 78.
     10. _Plot-Culture_, p. 87.
     11. _A Pillar at Sebzevah_, p. 93.
     12. _A Bean-Stripe_; _also Apple-eating_, p. 105.
         _Epilogue_ ["Oh, Love--no Love!"] p. 140.

2 vols. 8vo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1884. A reprint of the two
series, which appeared respectively in 1872 and 1880.

1884. THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN. By Robert Browning. London, Robert
Dunthorne, 1884. Small 4to. Not published for sale, but printed by Mr.
Browning's permission "to accompany Mr. Macbeth's Etchings, after the
late G. J. Pinwell's drawings illustrating its subject."

ROBERT BROWNING. With Introduction and Notes by John Munro Gibson. New
York, 1885, 8vo.

1885. WHY I AM A LIBERAL. Sonnet contributed to "Why I am a Liberal,"
edited by Andrew Reid. London, Cassell & Co., n.d. [1885]. Not collected
by Mr. Browning, but reprinted in _Browning Society's Papers_, October,
1885, p. 89*, and in "Sonnets of the Century," edited by W. Sharp, 1886.

1886. Spring Song ("Dance, yellows and whites and reds!") contributed to
_The New Amphion: being the Book of the_ Edinburgh University Union
_Fancy Fair_. Edinburgh University Press, 1886, p. 1. (Reappeared in
_Lairesse_ in _Parleyings_, &c., p. 189).

1886. SELECT POEMS OF ROBERT BROWNING, with notes by W. J. Rolfe and
H. E. Mersey. New York, 1886, 8vo.


     _Bernard de Mandeville_,
     _Daniel Bartoli_,
     _Christopher Smart_,
     _George Bubb Dodington_,
     _Francis Furini_,
     _Gerard de Lairesse_, and
     _Charles Avison_.

Introduced by _A Dialogue between Apollo and The Fates_; concluded by
another between _John Fust and his Friends_. By Robert Browning. London,
Smith, Elder & Co., 1887, 8vo. Dedicated "In Memoriam J. Milsand, obit.
iv. Sept. MDCCCLXXXVI. _Absens absentem auditque videtque._"

1888-9. THE POETICAL WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING. Sixteen vols. 8vo. Smith,
Elder & Co., 1888-9. All the works collected by the author, excepting
only _Asolando_.


     _Pauline_, vol. i., p. 1.
     _Sordello_, vol. i., p. 47.
     _Paracelsus_, vol. ii., p. 1.
     _Strafford_, vol. ii., p. 187.
     _Pippa Passes_, vol. iii., p. 1
     _King Victor and King Charles_, vol. iii., p. 81.
     _Return of the Druses_, vol. iii., p. 167.
     _A Soul's Tragedy_, vol. iii., p. 257.
     _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon_, vol. iv., p. 1.
     _Colombe's Birthday_, vol. iv., p. 71.
     _Men and Women_, vol. iv., p. 171.
     _Dramatic Romances_, vol. v., p. 1.
     _Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day_, vol. v., p. 209.
     _Dramatic Lyrics_, vol. vi., p. 1.
     _Luria_, vol. vi., p. 209.
     _In a Balcony_, vol. vii., p. 1.
     _Dramatis Personæ_, vol. vii., p. 45.
     _The Ring and the Book._ Books 1 to 4, vol. viii., p. 1.
            "           "     Books 5 to 8, vol. ix., p. 1.
            "           "     Books 9 to 12, vol. x., p. 1.
     _Balaustion's Adventure_, vol xi., p. 1.
     _Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau,_ vol. xi., p. 123.
     _Fifine at the Fair_, vol. xi., p. 211.
     _Red Cotton Night-Cap Country_, vol. xii., p. 1.
     _The Inn Album_, vol. xii., p. 179.
     _Aristophanes' Apology_, including a Transcript from
       Euripides, being the _Last Adventure of Balaustion_, vol.
       xiii., p. 1.
     _The Agamemnon of Æschylus_, vol. xiii., p. 259.
     _Pacchiarotto, and how he worked in Distemper_; with other
       Poems, vol. xiv., p. 1.
     _La Saisiaz_: and _The Two Poets of Croisic_, vol. xiv., p.
     _Dramatic Idyls._ First series, vol. xv., p. 1.
         "       "     Second series, vol. xv., p. 85.
     _Jocoseria_, vol. xv., p. 165.
     _Ferishtah's Fancies_, vol. xvi., p. 1.
     _Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day_, vol.
        xvi., p. 93.

[1889]. THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN. By Robert Browning. With 35
illustrations by Kate Greenaway. Pp. 64, Routledge & Sons, 4to.

1889. FIVE LINES (beginning "Wind wafted from the sunset"), on a picture
by Mr. Felix Moscheles, "The Isle's Enchantress." Printed in the _Pall
Mall Gazette_ for March 26, 1889.

1889-90. The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In six
volumes. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1889-90. 8vo. Vol. i. contains a
PREFATORY NOTE signed "R. B.," and dated "29, De Vere Gardens, W.,
December 10, 1887" ["1887" must be a misprint for 1888, as the
"Prefatory Note" mentions a Memoir of E. B. Browning by John H. Ingram,
which was published in September, 1888].

1890. ASOLANDO: FANCIES AND FACTS. By Robert Browning. 8vo. Smith, Elder
& Co., 1890. With dedication "To Mrs. Arthur Bronson." Now (1891) in its
eighth edition. The dedication is dated "Asolo, October 15, 1889." The
volume was published on the day of the poet's death, December 12, 1889.


     _Prologue_ ("The Poet's age is sad; for why?") p. 1.
     _Rosny_, p. 5.
     _Dubiety_, p. 8.
     _Now_, p. 10.
     _Humility_, p. 11.
     _Poetics_, p. 12.
     _Summum Bonum_, p. 13.
     _A Pearl, a Girl_, p. 14.
     _Speculative_, p. 15.
     _White Witchcraft_, p. 17.
     _Bad Dreams_, I., II., III., IV., p. 19.
     _Inapprehensiveness_, p. 34.
     _Which?_ p. 37.
     _The Cardinal and the Dog_, p. 40.
     _The Pope and the Net_, p. 42
     _The Bean-Feast_, p. 46.
     _Muckle-Mouth Meg_, p. 52.
     _Arcades ambo_, p. 56.
     _The Lady and the Painter_, p. 58.
     _Ponte dell' Angelo_, _Venice_, p. 61.
     _Beatrice Signorini_, p. 76.
     _Flute Music, with an Accompaniment_, p. 99.
     "_Imperante Augusto natus est_ ----," p. 112.
     _Development_, p. 123.
     _Rephan_, p. 131.
     _Reverie_, p. 141.
     _Epilogue_ ("At the midnight, in the silence of the sleep-time"),
       p. 156.

1890. Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. With PREFATORY NOTE by R. B.
16mo. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1890.

BROWNING. London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1890, 16mo.

*** In the "Bibliography" attached to Mr. William Sharp's "Life of
Robert Browning" (London, W. Scott, 1890), under Section II., "Single
Works," appear the following entries:--

     (1) "Cleon. Moxon: London, 1855. 8vo. Reprinted in _Men and

     (2) "Gold Hair: a Legend of Pornic. [London], 1864. 8vo.
     Reprinted in _Dramatis Personæ_."

     (3) "The Statue and the Bust. Moxon: London, 1855. 8vo.
     Reprinted in _Men and Women_."

     (4) Mr. Sharp also (p. 173) mentions a leaflet containing

Pamphlets bearing the titles of the first and third certainly exist, and
this may also be the case with regard to the second and fourth; but as
nothing is known of the history of any one of the four, all are excluded
from the foregoing Bibliography.


EDITIONS OF 1868 AND 1889-90.

Page of                                  In 6 vols.   In 16 vols.
Bibliography.      Title.        Date.   edit. 1868   edit. 1889-90
                                         vol. & page. vol. & page.

367 ABD-EL-KADR, Through the
  Metidja to                     1842    iii.  83       vi.  13
377 Abt Vogler                   1864     vi.  92      vii. 101
387 Adam, Lilith, and Eve        1883                   xv. 197
384 Æschylus, The Agamemnon of   1877                 xiii. 259
372 After                        1855    iii. 213       vi. 186
384 Agamemnon of Æschylus, The   1877                 xiii. 259
386 Ahn, F. H., Selections by    1882
367 Aix in Provence. _See_
  Count Gismond                  1842     iv. 153        v.  11
382 Alkestis, Euripides', a
  translation from. _See_
  Balaustion's Adventure         1871                   xi.   1
383 Amphibian (Prol. to
  _Fifine_)                      1872                   xi. 215
389 Amphion, The New Contribution
  to, "Spring Song"              1886                  xvi. 219
372 Andrea del Sarto             1855      v. 248       iv. 221
372 Another Way of Love          1855    iii. 195       vi. 161
371 Any Wife to any Husband      1855    iii. 182       vi. 142
390 Apollo and the Fates,
  Dialogue between               1887                  xvi.  97
377 Apparent Failure             1864     vi. 219      vii. 246
385 Apparitions (Proem,
  _Two Poets of Croisic_)        1878                  xiv. 207
384 Appearances                  1876                  xiv.  70
388 Apple-eating                 1884                  xvi.  69
392 Arcades ambo                 1890
383 Aristophanes' Apology        1875                 xiii.   1
367 Artemis Prologuizes          1842      v. 213       iv. 181
377 _Atlantic Monthly_,
  _see_ "Dramatis Personæ"       1864
392 Asolando: Fancies and Facts  1890
384 At the "Mermaid"             1876                  xiv.  31
390 Avison, Charles, Parleying
  with                           1887                  xvi. 221
393 "At the midnight" (Epilogue
  to Asolando)                   1890

372 B., E. B. (Mrs. Browning),
  To ["One Word More"]           1855      v. 313       iv. 296
392 Bad Dreams                   1890
383 Balaustion, The Last Adventure
  of. _See_ Aristophanes'
  Apology.                       1875                 xiii.   1
382 Balaustion's Adventure       1871                   xi.   1
389 Bartoli, Daniel, Parleying
  with                           1887                  xvi. 132
392 Bean-Feast, The              1890
388 Bean-stripe, A               1884                  xvi.  69
392 Beatrice Signorini           1890
368 Beer, Nationality in Drinks  1845    iii.  85       vi.  16
372 Before                       1855    iii. 211       vi. 183
366 Bells and Pomegranates       1841-46
372 Ben Karshook's Wisdom        1856
384 Bifurcation                  1876                  xiv.  61
372 Bishop Blougram's Apology    1855      v. 262       iv.  71
369 Bishop (The) orders his
  Tomb at St. Praxed's           1845      v. 257       iv. 232
385 "Blind man (The) to the maiden
  said" (translation)            1879
367 Blot (A) in the Scutcheon    1843     iv.   1       iv.   1
367 Boot and Saddle ["My Wife,"
  etc.]                          1842    iii.  75       vi.   6
369 Boy and the Angel, The       1844     iv. 158        v.  19
387 Brown, Rawdon, Sonnet on     1884
372 B[rowning], E. B., To        1855      v. 313       iv. 296
377 Browning, Mrs. Selection from
  her Poetry. Edited by R. B.    1866
378 ---- Last Poems.  Edited by
  R. B.                          1866
391 ---- Edition of the Poems of
  (6 vols.)                      1889-90
384 Burial, The Privilege of. _See_
  Filippo Baldinucci             1876                  xiv. 117
371 By the Fire-side             1855    iii. 170       vi. 126
376 Byron (Le) de nos Jours      1864     vi.  77      vii.  85

377 Caliban upon Setebos         1864     vi. 136      vii. 149
388 Camel-Driver, A              1884                  xvi.  40
367 Camp and Cloister            1842     iv. 147        v.   3
392 Cardinal (The) and the Dog   1890
367 Cavalier Tunes               1842    iii.  75       vi.   3
384 Cenciaja                     1876                  xiv. 104
387 Chappell, (Arthur,) Sonnet
  to                             1884
388 Cherries                     1884                  xvi.  53
371 "Childe Roland to the Dark
  Tower came"                    1855     iv. 301        v. 194
370 Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day 1850      v. 115        v. 209
369 Claret and Tokay             1844    iii.  85       vi.  16
372 Cleon                        1855      v. 299       iv. 279
386 Clive                        1880                   xv.  88
367 Cloister (Spanish)           1842    iii.  92       vi.  26
367 Colombe's Birthday           1844     iv.  61       iv.  71
368 Confessional, The            1845    iii.  98       vi.  34
377 Confessions                  1864     vi. 148      vii. 162
367 Count Gismond, Aix in
  Provence                       1842     iv. 153        v.  11
367 Cristina                     1842    iii. 101       vi.  39
387 Cristina and Monaldeschi     1883                   xv. 188
385 Croisic, The Two Poets of    1878                  xiv. 219
382 _Cornhill Magazine_,
  contribution to. _See_
  Hervé Riel                     1871
377 David, etc. (Epil. to
  _Dram. Personæ_)               1864     vi. 222      vii. 250
378 Deaf and Dumb                1868     vi. 151      vii. 167
377 Death in the Desert, A       1864     vi. 110      vii. 120
372 "De Gustibus ----"           1855    iii. 143       vi.  92
393 Development                  1890
376 Dîs aliter Visum; or, Le Byron
  de nos Jours                   1864     vi.  77      vii.  85
388 "Divine Order," Introduction
  to                             1884
386 Doctor ----                  1880                   xv. 146
390 Dodington, George Bubb,
  Parleying with                 1887                  xvi. 160
387 Donald                       1883                   xv. 169
385 Dramatic Idyls [First
  Series]                        1879                   xv.   1
386 ---- Second Series           1880                   xv.  85
366 Dramatic Lyrics              1842    iii.  73       vi.   1
367 Dramatic Romances and Lyrics 1845  { iii.  73        v.   3
                                       {  iv. 145       vi.   1
376 Dramatis Personæ             1864     vi.  41      vii.  45
368 Drinks, Nationality in       1844    iii.  85       vi.  16
392 Dubiety                      1890
370 Duchess, Flight of the       1845     iv. 237        v. 116

388 Eagle, The                   1884                   xv.   6
368 Earth's Immortalities        1845    iii. 105       vi.  45
386 Echetlos                     1880                   xv.  85
368 England in Italy             1845     iv. 180        v.  47
368 "England, Oh to be in,"      1845    iii. 145       vi.  95
368 Englishman in Italy, The     1845     iv. 180        v.  54
377 Epilogue ("_Dram.
  Personæ_")                     1864     vi. 222      vii. 250
384 ---- (_Pacchiarotto_)        1876                  xiv. 141
385 ---- (_La Saisiaz_)          1878                  xiv. 273
386 ---- (_Dramatic Idyls II._)  1880                   xv. 164
388 ---- (_Ferishtah's Fancies_) 1884                  xvi.  90
390 ---- (_Parleyings_, _etc._)  1887                  xvi. 241
393 ---- (_Asolando_)            1890
371 Epistle (An) concerning the
  strange Medical Experience
  of Karshish, etc.              1855      v. 218       iv. 186
377 Eurydice to Orpheus          1864     vi. 153      vii. 170
382 Euripides, A Transcript from
  (Alkestis). _See_ Balaustion's
  Adventure                      1871                   xi.   1
383 ---- A Transcript from (Herakles
  Mainomenos)                    1875                 xiii. 147
385 ---- two stanzas from
  Hippolytus                     1879
371 Evelyn Hope                  1855    iii. 110       vi.  51
365 "Eyes calm beside thee"
  (Sonnet)                       1834

377 Face, A                      1864     vi. 158      vii. 176
368 Fame and Love. _See_
  Earth's Immortalities          1845    iii. 105       vi.  45
388 Family, The                  1884                  xvi.  19
384 Fears and Scruples           1876                  xiv.  54
388 Ferishtah's Fancies          1884                  xvi.   1
383 Fifine at the Fair           1872                   xi. 211
384 Filippo Baldinucci           1876                  xiv. 117
371 Fireside, By the             1855    iii. 170       vi. 126
370 Flight of the Duchess, The   1845     iv. 237        v. 116
369 Flower's Name, The           1844    iii.  87       vi.  19
392 Flute-Music, with an
  Accompaniment                  1890
384 Forgiveness, A               1876                  xiv.  86
387 Founder of the Feast, The    1884
371 Fra Lippo Lippi              1855      v. 234       iv. 205
367 France [Italy and France]    1842     iv. 153        v.  11
368 France and Spain. _See_
  "Confessional" and "Laboratory"
367 French Camp, Incident of the 1842     iv. 147        v.   3
390 Furini (Francis), Parleying
  with                           1887                  xvi. 175
370 Furnivall, Dr. F. J., his edition
  of Browning's essay on Shelley 1881
387 Fuseli, M. Wollstonecraft
  and                            1883                   xv. 195
390 Fust and his Friends, Dialogue
  between                        1887                  xvi. 241

366 Gardiner, S. R., and Miss E. H.
  Hickey, Edition of
  _Strafford_ by                 1884
369 Garden Fancies               1844    iii.  87       vi.  19
367 Ghent to Aix, How they brought
  the good news from             1845    iii.  80       vi.   9
389 Gibson, J. M., Selection by  1885
367 Give a Rouse                 1842    iii.  75       vi.   5
368 Glove, The                   1845     iv. 171        v.  36
376 Gold Hair: a Legend of
  Pornic                         1864     vi.  62      vii.  69
387 Goldoni, Sonnet on           1883
367 Gondola, In a                1842     iv. 196        v.  66
385 "Good to forgive" (Prol. to
  _La Saisiaz_)                  1878                  xiv. 155
372 Grammarian's Funeral, A      1855     iv. 270        v. 154
391 Greenaway, Miss Kate, illustrated
  edition of the Pied Piper     [1889]
372 Guardian-Angel, The          1855    iii. 214       vi. 187

385 Halbert and Hob              1879                   xv.  26
383 Herakles. _See_
  Aristophanes' Apology          1875                 xiii. 147
368 "Here's to Nelson's Memory"  1845    iii.  85       vi.  16
372 Heretic's Tragedy, The       1855     iv. 275        v. 161
389 Hersey, H. E., and Rolfe,
  W .J., Selection by            1880
382 Hervé Riel                   1871                  xiv.  77
366 Hickey, Miss E. H., and
  Gardiner, S. R., Edit. of
  _Strafford_ by                 1884
383 Hohenstiel-Schwangau
 (Prince)                        1871                   xi. 123
372 Holy-Cross Day               1855     iv. 280        v. 167
368 Home-Thoughts, from Abroad   1845    iii. 145       vi.  95
368 Home Thoughts, from the Sea  1845    iii. 146       vi.  97
    _Hood's Magazine_, contributions to
369 ---- (_The Laboratory_)      1844    iii.  95       vi.  30
369 ---- (_Claret, etc._)        1844    iii.  85       vi.  16
369 ---- (_Garden Fancies_)      1844    iii.  87       vi.  19
369 ---- (_Boy and the Angel_)   1844     iv. 158        v.  19
369 ---- (_Tomb at St.
  Praxed's_)                     1845      v. 257       iv. 232
370 ---- (_Flight of the
  Duchess_)                      1845     iv. 237        v. 116
387 Horace, Paraphrase from      1883
385 "Hour Will Come, The,"
  translation in                 1879
384 House                        1876                  xiv.  39
383 Householder, The (Epil. to
  _Fifine_)                      1872                   xi. 342
372 How it strikes a
  Contemporary                   1855      v. 209       iv. 176
367 "How they brought the Good
  News from Ghent to Aix"        1845    iii.  80       vi.   9
372 Hugues (Master) of
  Saxe-Gotha                     1855    iii. 221       vi. 196
392 Humility                     1890
385 Hippolytus, Two Stanzas
  from                           1879

370 Introduction [On Shelley]    1852
388 Introduction to the "Divine
  Order"                         1884
393 "Imperante Augusto natus
  est--"                         1890
372 In a Balcony                 1855     vi.   1      vii.   1
367 In a Gondola                 1842     iv. 196        v.  66
372 In a Year                    1855    iii. 205       vi. 175
372 In Three Days                1855    iii. 204       vi. 172
392 Inapprehensiveness           1890
367 Incident in the French Camp  1842     iv. 147        v.   3
383 Inn Album, The               1875                  xii. 179
384 ---- Translation of, by Leo  1875
371 Instans Tyrannus             1855     iv. 162        v.  24
368 Italian in England, The      1845     iv. 180        v.  47
367 Italy [Italy and France]     1842     iv. 150        v.   8
368 Italy in England             1845     iv. 180        v.  47
385 Ivàn Ivànovitch              1879                   xv.  32
387 Ixion                        1883                   xv. 199

376 James Lee [James Lee's
  Wife]                          1864     vi.  41      vii.  45
387 Jochanan Hakkadosh           1883                   xv. 209
366 Johannes Agricola            1836      v. 229       iv. 199
386 Jocoseria                    1883                   xv. 165
388 Jones's "Divine Order."
  Introduction to                1884

371 Karshish, the Arab
  Physician                      1855      v. 218       iv. 186
372 Karshook's (Ben) Wisdom      1856
372 _Keepsake, The_,
      contribution to            1856
373 ---- ----                    1857     vi. 150      vii. 165
367 "Kentish Sir Byng."
  ["Marching along"]             1842    iii.  75       vi.   3
365 King, The (_Pippa
  Passes_)                       1835     ii. 219      iii.   1
366 King Victor and King
  Charles                        1842    iii.   1      iii.  81
367 "King Charles, and who'll
  do him right now?" ["Give a
  rouse"]                        1842    iii.  75       vi.   5

385 La Saisiaz                   1878                  xiv. 153
369 Laboratory, The              1844    iii.  95       vi.  30
392 Lady (The) and the Painter   1890
365 "Lady, could'st thou know!"  1834
390 Lairesse, Gerard de,
  ("Parleying")                  1887                  xvi. 201
372 Last Ride Together, The      1855     iv. 220        v.  96
377 Leighton, A Picture by Fred.
  _See_ Orpheus and
  Eurydice                       1864     vi. 153      vii. 170
384 Leo, E., translation of the
  _Inn Album_                    1877
372 Life in a Love               1855    iii. 203       vi. 171
371 Light Woman, A               1855     iv. 217        v.  92
377 Likeness, A                  1864     vi. 151      vii. 178
368 Lost Leader, The             1845    iii.  78       vi.   7
368 Lost Mistress, The           1845    iii. 104       vi.  43
372 Love, Another Way of         1855    iii. 195       vi. 161
368 Love and Fame. _See_
  Earth's Immortalities          1845    iii. 105       vi.  45
371 Love among the Ruins         1855    iii. 112       vi.  54
371 Love in a Life               1855    iii. 202       vi. 170
372 Love, One Way of             1855    iii. 194       vi. 159
371 Lovers' Quarrel, A           1855    iii. 115       vi.  58
369 Luria                        1846      v.  43       vi. 209

389 Macbeth's etchings,
  _Pied Piper_                   1884
367 Madhouse Cells               1842      v. 229       iv. 199
384 Magical Nature               1876                  xiv.  60
389 Mandeville, Bernard de,
  Parleying with                 1887                  xvi. 117
367 Marching Along               1842    iii.  75       vi.   3
385 Martin Relph                 1879                   xv.   3
387 Mason, E. T., Selection by   1883
372 Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha  1855    iii. 221       vi. 196
373 May and Death                1857     vi. 150      vii. 165
368 Meeting at Night             1845    iii. 106       vi.  46
388 Melon-Seller, The            1884                  xvi.   9
372 Memorabilia                  1855    iii. 217       vi. 190
371 Men and Women                1855      v. 205       iv. 171
384 "Mermaid," At the            1876                   xi.  31
371 Mesmerism                    1855     iv. 165        v.  28
388 Mihrab Shah                  1884                  xvi.  32
372 Misconceptions               1855    iii. 191       vi. 154
368 Morning [Night and Morning]  1845    iii. 107       vi.  46
391 Moscheles, F., Lines on a
  Picture by                     1889
377 Mr. Sludge, the "Medium"     1864     vi. 162      vii. 182
365 _Monthly Repository_,
  Poem in                        1834
365 ---- _See_ "A King lived
  long ago" (in _Pippa
  Passes_)                       1835     ii. 219      iii.   1
365 ----- "Porphyria"            1836     iv. 299        v. 191
366 ----- "_Johannes
  Agricola_"                     1836      v. 229       iv. 199
366 ----- "Still ailing, wind?"
  _See_ James Lee                1836     vi.  41      vii.  45
392 Muckle-mouth Meg             1890
386 Muléykeh                     1880                   xv. 108
367 My Last Duchess              1842     iv. 150        v.   8
371 My Star                      1855    iii. 170       vi. 125
367 "My Wife Gertrude" (afterwards
  _Boot and Saddle_)             1842    iii.  75       vi.   6

388 Names, The (Sonnet)          1884
368 Nationality in Drinks        1844    iii.  85       vi.  16
384 Natural Magic                1876                  xiv.  58
377 Natural Theology (_Caliban
  upon Setebos_)                 1864     vi. 136      xiv.  58
368 "Nay, but you who do not love
  her"                           1845    iii. 107       vi.  47
385 Ned Bratts                   1879                   xv.  60
368 "Nelson's Memory, Here's to" 1845    iii.  85       vi.  16
387 Never the Time and the Place 1883                   xv. 256
368 Night [Night and Morning]    1845    iii. 106       vi.  46
368 "Nobly Cape St. Vincent"     1845    iii. 145       vi.  97
392 Now                          1890
384 Numpholeptos                 1876                  xiv.  63

385 "Oh Love, Love"              1879
388 "Oh, Love--no, Love!"        1884                  xvi.  90
368 "Oh to be in England"        1845    iii. 145       vi.  95
372 Old Pictures in Florence     1855    iii. 131       vi.  77
372 One Way of Love              1855    iii. 194       vi. 159
372 One Word more                1855      v. 313       iv. 296
377 Orpheus and Eurydice         1864     vi. 153      vii. 170
384 "O the old wall here"        1876                  xiv.   3

384 Pacchiarotto                 1876                  xiv.   1
387 Pambo                        1883                   xv. 258
386 Pan and Luna                 1880                   xv. 159
365 Paracelsus                   1835      i.  43       ii.   1
389 Parleyings with Certain People
  of Importance                  1887                  xvi.  93
368 Parting at Morning           1845    iii. 107       vi.  46
372 Patriot, The                 1855     iv. 149        v.   6
365 Pauline                      1833      i.   1        i.   1
392 Pearl (A), a Girl            1890
385 Pheidippides                 1879                   xv.  17
367 Pictor Ignotus               1845      v. 231       iv. 222
367 Pied Piper of Hamelin        1842     iv. 225        v. 102
389 ---- (separate reprint)      1884
391 ---- (with illustrations)    1889
386 Pietro of Abano              1880                   xv. 117
388 Pillar (A) at Sebzevah       1884                   vi.  62
389 Pinwell and Macbeth's illustrations
  to _Pied Piper_                1884
366 Pippa Passes                 1841     ii. 219      iii.   1
384 Pisgah-Sights, I. and II.    1876                  xiv.  49
388 Plot-Culture                 1884                  xvi.  58
    Poems and Poetical Works. _See under_
      "Works," also "Selections"
392 Poetics                      1890
384 "Poets, (The), pour us
  wine"                          1876                  xiv. 141
389 Pomegranates (Selections by
  Gibson)                        1885
392 Ponte dell' Angelo, Venice   1890
372 Popularity                   1855    iii. 218       vi. 192
392 Pope (The) and the Net       1890
376 Pornic. Gold Hair, a
  Legend of                      1864     vi.  62      vii.  69
365 Porphyria ["Porphyria's
  Lover"]                        1836     iv. 299        v. 191
371 Pretty Woman, A              1855    iii. 197       vi. 163
383 Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau  1871                   xi. 123
388 "Pray, Reader, have you eaten
  ortolans?" (Prologue)          1884                  xvi.   3
383 Prologue (_Fifine at the
  Fair_)                         1872                   xi. 115
384 ---- (_Pacchiarotto_)        1876                  xiv.   3
385 ---- (_La Saisiaz_)          1878                  xiv. 155
385 ---- (_Two Poets_)           1878                  xiv. 207
386 ---- (_Dramatic Idyls
  II._)                          1880                   xv.  83
386 ---- (_Jocoseria_)           1883                   xv. 167
388 ---- (_Ferishtah's
  Fancies_)                      1884                  xvi.   3
389 ---- (_Parleyings_, _etc._)  1887                  xvi.  97
392 ---- (_Asolando_)            1890
377 Prospice                     1864     vi. 152      vii. 168
372 Protus                       1855     iv. 286        v. 175

367 Queen Worship [Rudel, etc.]  1842      v. 311       iv. 294

377 Rabbi Ben-Ezra               1864     vi.  99      vii. 109
383 Red Cotton Night-Cap Country 1873                  xii.   1
393 Rephan                       1890
371 Respectability               1855    iii. 201       vi. 168
367 Return of the Druses, The    1843    iii. 229      iii. 167
393 Reverie                      1890
382 Ring and the Book, The       1868-9            viii. ix. x.
389 Rolfe, W. J., and Hersey, H. E.,
  Selections by                  1886
392 Rosny                        1890
367 Rudel and the Lady of
  Tripoli                        1842      v. 311       iv. 294

384 St. Martin's Summer          1876                  xiv.  71
369 St. Praxed's, The Tomb at    1845      v. 257       iv. 232
368 "St. Vincent, Nobly Cape"    1845    iii. 145       vi.  97
385 Saisiaz, La                  1878                  xiv. 153
368 Saul, Part I.                1845    iii. 146       vi.  98
372 ---- Part II.                1855    iii. 146       vi.  98
376 Selections from Browning's
  Works                          1863
377 ---- (Moxon's)               1865
383 ---- (Tauchnitz, Leipzig)    1872
383 ---- [First Series]          1872 and 1884
384 ---- (Boston, U. S.)         1877
386 ---- Second Series           1880 and 1884
386 ---- by F. H. Ahn            1882
387 ---- by E. T. Mason          1883
387 ---- by R. G. White          1883
389 ---- by J. M. Gibson         1885
389 ---- by Rolfe and Hersey     1886
393 ---- Pocket Volume           1890
371 Serenade (A) at the Villa    1855    iii. 191       vi. 155
388 Shah Abbas                   1884                  xvi.  12
388 Shakespeare, Sonnet on       1884
370 Shelley, Essay on            1852
384 Shop                         1876                  xiv.  42
369 Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis   1844    iii.  87       vi.  19
377 Sludge, Mr., the "Medium"    1864     vi. 162      vii. 182
390 Smart, Christopher, Parleying
  with                           1887                  xvi. 148
387 Solomon and Balkis           1883                   xv. 182
367 Soliloquy of the Spanish
  Cloister                       1842    iii.  92       vi.  26
368 Song, "Nay but," etc         1845    iii. 107       vi.  47
365 Sonnet ("Eyes calm besides
  thee")                         1834
366 Sordello                     1840     ii.   1        i.  47
369 Soul's Tragedy, A            1846      v.   1      iii. 257
392 Speculative                  1890
389 Spring Song                  1886                  xvi. 219
371 Statue and the Bust, The     1855     iv. 288        v. 178
366 "Still ailing, wind?"
  (_James Lee_)                  1836     vi.  41       vii. 45
366 Strafford                    1837      i. 207       ii. 187
385 "Such a starved bank of moss"
  [Proem to _Two Poets of
  Croisic_]                      1878                  xiv. 207
392 Summum Bonum                 1890
388 Sun, The                     1884                  xvi.  24

392 "The Poet's age is sad"      1890
367 Through the Metidja to
  Abd-el-Kadr                    1842    iii.  83       vi.  13
368 Time's Revenges              1845     iv. 178        v.  44
371 Toccata (A) of Galuppi's     1855    iii. 127       vi.  72
369 Tokay, Claret and            1844    iii.  85       vi.  16
369 Tomb (The) at Saint Praxed's 1845      v. 257       iv. 232
377 Too Late                     1864     vi.  85      vii.  94
386 "Touch him ne'er so lightly" 1880                   xv. 164
372 "Transcendentalism"          1855      v. 207       iv. 173
385 Tray                         1879                   xv.  57
371 Twins, The                   1854     iv. 216        v.  90
388 Two Camels                   1884                  xvi.  47
372 Two in the Campagna          1855    iii. 188       vi. 150
370 Two Poems. _See_ "The Twins"
385 Two Poets of Croisic         1878                  xiv. 209

371 Up at a Villa--Down in the
  City                           1855    iii. 122       vi.  66

384 Wall, A. (Prologue)          1876                  xiv.   3
387 Wanting is--What?            1883                   xv. 167
367 Waring                       1842     iv. 206        v.  78
385 "What a pretty tale you told me"
  [Epil. to _Two Poets of
  Croisic_]                      1878                  xiv. 273
392 Which?                       1890
387 White, R. G., Selections by  1883
392 White Witchcraft             1890
389 Why I am a Liberal           1885
391 "Wind wafted from the
  sunset"                        1889
365 Wise, T. J., edition of
  _Pauline_                      1886
371 Woman, A Pretty              1855    iii. 197       vi. 163
371 Woman's Last Word, A         1855    iii. 108       vi.  48
372 Women and Roses              1855    iii. 209       vi. 180
387 Wollstonecraft (Mary) and
  Fuseli                         1883                   xv. 195
378 Woolner, A Group by.
  _See_ Deaf and Dumb            1868     vi. 220      vii. 250
370 Works  (Collective  Editions),
  2 vols                         1849
373 ---- 3 vols                  1863
377 ---- 3 vols                  1864
378 ---- 6 vols                  1868
383 ---- (Chicago)               1872-74
390 ---- 16 vols                 1888-89
    ---- _See also_ Selections.
376 Worst of It, The             1864     vi.  70       vi.  78

386 "You are sick" (Prologue)    1880                   xv.  83
377 Youth and Art                1864     vi. 154      vii. 171

  "Z," Poems so signed.  _See_
  "Monthly Repository,"



A certain neighbour lying sick to death                 xvi.  19
A Rabbi told me: On the day allowed                      xv. 146
Ah, but how each loved each, Marquis!                    xv. 188
Ah, did you once see Shelley plain                       vi. 190
Ah, Love, but a day                                     vii.  45
All I believed is true!                                   v.  28
All I can say is--I saw it!                             xiv.  58
All June I bound the rose in sheaves                     vi. 159
All's over, then: does truth sound bitter                vi.  43
All that I know                                          vi. 125
Among these latter busts we count by scores               v. 175
And so you found that poor room dull                    xiv.  70
"And what might that bold man's announcement be"        xvi.  24
Anyhow, once full Dervish, youngsters came              xvi.  12
As I ride, as I ride                                     vi.  13
"As like as a Hand to another Hand!"                    vii.  62
"Ay, but, Ferishtah,"--a disciple smirked               xvi.  58

Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!                           vi.  51
Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!                        vi.   6
But do not let us quarrel any more                       iv. 221
But give them me, the mouth, the eyes, the brow!        vii. 170

Christ God who savest man, save most                      v.  11
Cleon the poet (from the sprinkled isles)                iv. 279
Could I but live again                                  xiv.  51

Dear and great Angel, wouldst thou only leave            vi. 187
Dear, had the world in its caprice                       vi. 168
Dervish--(though yet un-dervished, call him so          xvi.   6

Escape me?                                               vi. 171

Fear death?--to feel the fog in my throat               vii. 168
Fee, faw, fum! bubble and squeak!                         v. 167
First I salute this soil of the blessed, river and rock! xv.  17
Flower--I never fancied, jewel--I profess you!          xiv.  60
Fortù, Fortù, my beloved one                              v.  54

Going his rounds one day in Ispahan                     xvi.   9
Grand rough old Martin Luther                             v.  90
Grow old along with me!                                 vii. 109
Gr-r-r--there go, my heart's abhorrence!                 vi.  26

Had I but plenty of money, money enough and to spare     vi.  66
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick                               v. 102
"Heigho!" yawned one day King Francis                     v.  36
Here is a story shall stir you! Stand up, Greeks dead
  and gone                                               xv.  85
Here is a thing that happened. Like wild beasts whelped,
  for den                                                xv.  26
Here's my case. Of old I used to love him               xiv.  54
Here's the garden she walked across                      vi.  19
Here was I with my arm and heart                        vii.  94
High in the dome, suspended, of Hell, sad triumph,
  behold us!                                             xv. 199
Hist, but a word, fair and soft!                         vi. 196
How of his fate, the Pilgrims' soldier-guide            xvi.  40
How very hard it is to be                                 v. 264
How well I know what I mean to do                        vi. 126

I and Clive were friends--and why not? Friends! I think
  you laugh, my lad                                      xv.  88
I am a goddess of the ambrosial courts                   iv. 181
I am indeed the personage you know                      xiv.  86
I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!                  iv. 205
I could have painted pictures like that youth's          iv. 202
I dream of a red-rose tree                               vi. 180
I know a Mount, the gracious Sun perceives               iv. 294
I leaned on the turf                                    vii.  54
I--"Next Poet?" No, my hearties                         xiv.  31
I only knew one poet in my life                          iv. 176
I said--Then, dearest, since 't is so                     v.  96
I send my heart up to thee, all my heart                  v.  66
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he               vi.   9
I've a Friend, over the sea                               v.  44
I will be quiet and talk with you                       vii.  51
I wish that when you died last May                      vii. 165
I wonder do you feel to-day                              vi. 150
If a stranger passed the tent of Hóseyn, he cried "A
  churl's!"                                              xv. 108
If one could have that little head of hers              vii. 176
Is all our fire of shipwreck wood                       vii.  47
It is a lie--their Priests, their Pope                   vi.  34
It once might have been, once only                      vii. 171
It was roses, roses, all the way                          v.   6

June was not over                                        vi. 161
Just for a handful of silver he left us                  vi.   7

Karshish, the picker up of learning's crumbs             iv. 186
Kentish Sir Byng stood for his King                      vi.   3
King Charles, and who'll do him right now?               vi.   5
"Knowledged deposed, then!"--groaned whom that most
  grieved                                               xvi.  62

Let them fight it out, friend! things have gone too far  vi. 183
Let's contend no more, Love                              vi.  48
Let us begin and carry up this corps                      v. 154
"Look, I strew beans"                                   xvi.  69

May I print, Shelley, how it came to pass               xiv. 104
Morning, evening, noon and night                          v.  19
Moses the Meek was thirty cubits high                    xv. 254
My first thought was, he lied in every word               v. 194
My grandfather says he remembers he saw, when a
  youngster long ago                                     xv.   3
My heart sank with our claret-flask                      vi.  16
My love, this is the bitterest, that thou                vi. 142

Nay but you, who do not love her                         vi.  47
Never any more                                           vi. 175
Never the time and the place                             xv. 256
Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-west died
  away                                                   vi.  97
"No boy, we must not"--so began                         xiv. 117
No, for I'll save it! Seven years since                 vii. 246
No more wine? then we'll push back chairs and talk       iv. 238
No protesting, dearest!                                 xiv.  71
Now, don't, sir! Don't expose me! Just this once!       vii. 182
Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly                 vi.  30

O the old wall here! How I could pass                   xiv.   3
O worthy of belief I hold it was                         xv. 159
Of the million or two, more or less                       v.  24
Oh but is it not hard, Dear?                             xv. 195
Oh Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very sad to find!        vi.  72
Oh, good gigantic smile o' the brown old earth          vii.  61
Oh, Love--no, Love! All the noise below, Love           xvi.  90
Oh, the beautiful girl, too white                       vii.  69
Oh, to be in England                                     vi.  95
Oh, what a dawn of day!                                  vi.  58
On the first of the Feast of Feasts                     vii. 250
On the sea and at the Hogue, sixteen hundred ninety two xiv.  77
One day it thundered and lightened                       xv. 197
Only the prism's obstruction shows aright               vii. 167
Out of the little chapel I burst                          v. 209
Over the ball of it                                     xiv.  49

_Petrus Aponensis_--there was a magician!                xv. 117
Plague take all your pedants, say I!                     vi.  22
Pray, Reader, have you eaten ortolans                   xvi.   3

Query: was ever a quainter                              xiv.   5
Quoth an inquirer, "Praise the Merciful!"               xvi.  32
Quoth one: "Sir, solve a scruple! No true sage          xvi.  47

Room after room                                          vi. 170
Round the cape of a sudden came the sea                  vi.  46

Said Abner, "At last that art come! Ere I tell, ere
  thou speak                                             vi.  98
See, as the prettiest graves will do in time             vi.  45
Shall I sonnet-sing you about myself?                   xiv.  39
She should never have looked at me                       vi.  39
Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst                         xv.  57
So far as our story approaches the end                    v.  92
So, friend, your shop was all your house!               xiv.  42
So, I shall see her in three days                        vi. 172
Solomon King of the Jews and the Queen of Sheba Balkis   xv. 182
Some people hang portraits up                           vii. 178
Stand still, true poet that you are!                     vi. 192
Still ailing, Wind? Wilt be appeased or no?             vii.  56
Still you stand, still you listen, still you smile!     xiv.  63
Stop, let me have the truth of that!                    vii.  85
Stop playing, poet! May a brother speak?                 iv. 173
Suppose that we part (work done, comes play)             xv. 258
[Supposed of Pamphylax the Antiochene                   vii. 120

Take the cloak from his face, and at first               vi. 186
That fawn-skin-dappled hair of hers                      vi. 163
That second time they hunted me                           v.  47
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall                v.   8
That was I, you heard last night                         vi. 155
The grey sea and the long black land                     vi.  46
The Lord, we look to once for all                         v. 161
The morn when first it thunders in March                 vi.  77
"The poets pour us wine--"                              xiv. 141
The rain set early in to-night                            v. 191
The swallow has set her six young on the rail           vii.   4
There is nothing to remember in me                      vii.
There's a palace in Florence, the world knows well        v. 178
There's heaven above, and night by night                 iv. 199
There they are, my fifty men and women                   iv. 296
"They tell me, your carpenters," quoth I to my friend
  the Russ                                               xv.  32
This is a spray the Bird clung to                        vi. 154
This now, this other story makes amends                  xv. 209
Touch him ne'er so lightly, into song he broke           xv. 164
'Twas Bedford Special Assize, one Daft Midsummer's Day   xv.  60

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!                      iv. 232

Wanting is--what?                                        xv. 167
We were two lovers; let me lie by her                   xiv.  61
What, I disturb thee at thy morning-meal                xvi.  53
What is he buzzing in my ears?                          vii. 162
What's become of Waring                                   v.  78
Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles           vi.  54
'Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best          vii. 149
Will you hear my story also                              xv. 169
Would it were I had been false, not you!                vii.  78
Would that the structure brave, the manifold music
  I build                                               vii. 101

"You are sick, that's sure"--they say                    xv.  83
You know, we French stormed Ratisbon                      v.   3
Your ghost will walk, you lover of trees                 vi.  92
You're my friend                                          v. 116


Abt Vogler, 244.

Adam, Lilith and Eve, 325.

After, 294-5.

Andrea del Sarto, 249.

Another Way of Love, 284.

Any Wife to Any Husband, 227.

Apparent Failure, 307.

Appearances, 298.

Aristophanes' Apology; or, the Last Adventure of Balaustion, with the
"Herakles," 123-27.

Artemis Prologizes, 119.

At the "Mermaid," 213.

Balaustion's Adventure, with the "Alkestis," 123.

Before, 294.

Bifurcation, 217.

Bishop Blougram's Apology, 172.

Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church, The, 246.

Blot in the 'Scutcheon A, 62.

Boy and the Angel, The, 301.

By the Fireside, 226.

Caliban upon Setebos; or, Natural Theology in the Island, 195.

Cavalier Tunes, 299.

Cenciaja, 269.

"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, 273.

Christmas Eve and Easter-Day, 179.

Cleon, 193.

Clive, 316.

Colombe's Birthday, 65.

Confessional, The, 252.

Confessions, 297.

Count Gismond, 300.

Cristina, 225.

Cristina and Monaldeschi, 324.

Deaf and Dumb: a group by Woolner, 204.

Death in the Desert, A, 198.

"De Gustibus ----" 286.

Dîs aliter Visum; or, Le Byron de Nos Jours, 217.

Doctor ----, 320.

Donald, 322.

Earth's Immortalities, 293.

Echetlos, 315.

Englishman in Italy, The, 287.

Epilogue to "Dramatic Idyls," 2nd series, 315.

Epilogue to "Dramatis Personæ," 240.

Epilogue to "Pacchiarotto and other Poems," 213, 215.

Epilogue to "The Two Poets of Croisic" (a tale), 222.

Epistle, An, 194.

Eurydice to Orpheus: a picture by Leighton, 248.

Evelyn Hope, 225.

Face, A, 247.

Fears and Scruples, 241.

Ferishtah's Fancies, 331.

Fifine at the Fair, 150.

Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of Burial, 281.

Flight of the Duchess, The, 274.

Flower's Name, The, (Garden Fancies, I.), 293.

Forgiveness, A, 252.

Fra Lippo Lippi, 242.

Glove, The, 301.

Gold Hair: a Story of Pornic, 303.

Grammarian's Funeral, A, 296.

Guardian-Angel, The: a picture at Fano, 248

Halbert and Hob, 310.

Heretic's Tragedy, The; a Middle-Age Interlude, 270.

Hervé Kiel, 303.

Holy-Cross Day, 277.

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad, 286.

Home-Thoughts, from the Sea, 293.

House, 216.

How it strikes a Contemporary, 212.

"How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," 300.

In a Balcony, 73.

In a Gondola, 230.

Incident of the French Camp, 300.

Inn Album, The, 262.

Instans Tyrannus, 304.

In Three Days, 230.

Introduction to "The Two Poets of Croisic" (Apparitions), 222.

Italian in England, The, 305.

Ivàn Ivànovitch, 311.

Ixion, 325.

James Lee's Wife, 232.

Jochanan Hakkadosh, 326.

Johannes Agricola in Meditation, 296.

King Victor and King Charles, 58.

Laboratory, The, 250.

La Saisiaz, 188.

Last Ride Together, The, 295.

Life in a Love, 228.

Light Woman, A, 216.

Likeness, A, 298.

Lost Leader, The, 292.

Lost Mistress, The, 229.

Love among the Ruins, 225.

Love in a Life, 228.

Love, one Way of, 229.

Lover's Quarrel, A, 226.

Luria, 70.

Magical Nature, 222.

Martin Relph, 309.

Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli, 325.

Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha, 210.

May and Death, 297.

Meeting at Night, 304.

Memorabilia, 295.

Mesmerism, 305.

Misconceptions, 293.

Mr. Sludge, "The Medium," 175.

Muléykeh, 317.

My Last Duchess, 250.

My Star, 293.

Nationality in Drinks, 292.

Natural Magic, 222.

Ned Bratts, 313.

Never the Time and the Place, 330.

Numpholeptos, 221.

Old Pictures in Florence, 208.

One Word More. To E. B. B., 219.

Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper, 279.

Pambo, 330.

Pan and Luna, 321.

Paracelsus, 22.

Parleyings with Certain People of importance in their Day, 339.

Parting at Morning, 304.

Patriot, The; an Old Story, 304.

Pauline, 18.

Pheidippides, 310.

Pictor Ignotus, 245.

Pied Piper of Hamelin, The; a Child's Story, 302.

Pietro of Abano, 318.

Pippa Passes, 55.

Pisgah-Sights, I., 218.

Pisgah-Sights, II., 218.

Popularity, 212.

Porphyria's Lover, 231.

Pretty Woman, A, 293.

Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society, 161.

Prologue to "Dramatic Idyls," 2nd series, 315.

Prologue to "Pacchiarotto and other Poems," 222.

Prologue to "La Saisiaz" (Pisgah-Sights, III.), 299.

Prospice, 221.

Protus, 306.

Rabbi Ben Ezra, 203.

Red Cotton Night-Cap Country; or, Turf and Towers, 255.

Respectability, 216.

Return of the Druses, The, 60.

Ring and the Book, The, 75.

Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli, 230.

Saul, 238.

Serenade at the Villa, A, 229.

Shop, 216.

Sibrandus Schafnaburgens's (Garden Fancies, II.), 284.

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, 251.

Solomon and Balkis, 323.

Song, 300.

Sordello, 28.

Soul's Tragedy, A, 68.

Statue and the Bust, The, 205.

St. Martin's Summer, 299.

Strafford, 53.

Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr, 304.

Time's Revenges, 305.

Toccata of Galuppi's, A, 247.

Too Late, 236.

"Transcendentalism: a Poem in Twelve Books," 212.

Transcripts from the Greek, 118.

Tray, 313.

Twins, The, 302.

Two in the Campagna, 228.

Two Poets of Croisic, The, 266.

Up at a Villa--Down in the City, 283.

Wanting is--what? 322.

Waring, 307.

Woman's Last Word, A, 229.

Women and Roses, 294.

Worst of it, The, 236.

Year, In a, 294.

Youth and Art, 298.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)" ***

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