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An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's Poetry

by Hiram Corson


Letter | Preface | Note | Contents: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Poems


V. Arguments of the Poems.
* It has not been thought necessary, in these Arguments, to use quotation marks wherever expressions from the poems are incorporated; and especially where they are adapted in construction to the place where they are introduced.

Wanting is -- What?


"Love, the soul of soul, within the soul", the Christ-spirit, the spirit of the "Comer" (o` e'rxo/menos, Matt. 11:3), completes incompletion, reanimates that which without it is dead, and admits to a fellowship with the soul of things; `Ubi caritas, ibi claritas'. See passage from `Fifine at the Fair', quoted under `My Star'.


My Star.

The following passage from `Fifine at the Fair', section 55, is an expansion of the idea involved in `My Star', and is the best commentary which can be given on it: --

"I search but cannot see
What purpose serves the soul that strives, or world it tries
Conclusions with, unless the fruit of victories
Stay, one and all, stored up and guaranteed its own
For ever, by some mode whereby shall be made known
The gain of every life. Death reads the title clear --
What each soul for itself conquered from out things here:
Since, IN THE SEEING SOUL, ALL WORTH LIES, I ASSERT, --
AND NOUGHT I' THE WORLD, WHICH, SAVE FOR SOUL THAT SEES, INERT
WAS, IS, AND WOULD BE EVER, -- STUFF FOR TRANSMUTING -- NULL
AND VOID UNTIL MAN'S BREATH EVOKE THE BEAUTIFUL --
BUT, TOUCHED ARIGHT, PROMPT YIELDS EACH PARTICLE, ITS TONGUE
OF ELEMENTAL FLAME, -- no matter whence flame sprung
From gums and spice, or else from straw and rottenness,
So long as soul has power to make them burn, express
What lights and warms henceforth, leaves only ash behind,
Howe'er the chance: if soul be privileged to find
Food so soon that, at first snatch of eye, suck of breath,
It shall absorb pure life:" etc.


The Flight of the Duchess.


In `The Flight of the Duchess' we are presented with a generous soul-life, as exhibited by the sweet, glad Duchess, linked with fossil conventionalism and mediaevalsim, and an inherited authority which brooks no submissiveness, as exhibited by the Duke, her husband, "out of whose veins ceremony and pride have driven the blood, leaving him but a fumigated and embalmed self". The scene of the poem is a "rough north land", subject to a Kaiser of Germany. The story is so plainly told that no prose summary of it could make it plainer. Its deeper meaning centres in the incantation of the old gypsy woman, in which is mystically shadowed forth the long and painful discipline through which the soul must pass before being fully admitted to the divine arcanum, "how love is the only good in the world".

The poem is one which readily lends itself to an allegorical interpretation. For such an interpretation, the reader is referred to Mrs. Owen's paper, read before the Browning Society of London, and contained in the Society's Papers, Part IV., pp. 49* et seq. It is too long to be given here.


The Last Ride Together.

"The speaker is a man who has to give up the woman he loves; but his love is probably reciprocated, however inadequately, for his appeal for `a last ride together' is granted. The poem reflects his changing moods and thoughts as `here we are riding, she and I'. `Fail I alone in words and deeds? Why, all men strive, and who succeeds?' Careers, even careers called `successful', pass in review -- statesmen, poets, sculptors, musicians -- each fails in his ideal, for ideals are not attainable in this life of incompletions. But faith gains something for a man. He has loved this woman. That is something gained. If this life gave all, what were there to look forward to? `Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.' Again, -- and this is his closing reflection, --

"`What if heaven be, that, fair and strong'", etc.

-- Browning Soc. Papers, V., 144*.


By the Fireside.


Perhaps in no other of Mr. Browning's poems are the spiritual uses of "the love of wedded souls" more fully set forth than in the poem, `By the Fireside'.

The Monologue is addressed by a happy husband to his "perfect wife, my Leonor". He looks forward to what he will do when the long, dark autumn evenings come -- the evenings of declining age, when the pleasant hue of his soul shall have dimmed, and the music of all its spring and summer voices shall be dumb in life's November. In his "waking dreams" he will "live o'er again" the happy life he has spent with his loved and loving companion. Passing out where the backward vista ends, he will survey, with her, the pleasant wood through which they have journeyed together. To the hazel-trees of England, where their childhood passed, succeeds a rarer sort, till, by green degrees, they at last slope to Italy, and youth, -- Italy, the woman-country, loved by earth's male-lands. She being the trusted guide, they stand at last in the heart of things, the heaped and dim woods all around them, the single and slim thread of water slipping from slab to slab, the ruined chapel perched half-way up in the Alpine gorge, reached by the one-arched bridge where the water is stopped in a stagnant pond, where all day long a bird sings, and a stray sheep drinks at times. Here, where at afternoon, or almost eve, the silence grows conscious to that degree, one half feels it must get rid of what it knows, they walked side by side, arm in arm, and cheek to cheek; cross silent the crumbling bridge, pity and praise the sweet chapel, read the dead builder's date, 'five, six, nine, recross the bridge, take the path again -- but wait! Oh moment one and infinite! the west is tender, with its one star, the chrysolite! the sights and sounds, the lights and shades, make up a spell; a moment after, and unseen hands are hanging the night around them fast, but they know that a bar has been broken between life and life, that they are mixed at last in spite of the mortal screen.

"The forests had done it; there they stood;
We caught for a moment the powers at play:
They had mingled us so, for once and for good,
Their work was done -- we might go or stay,
They relapsed to their ancient mood."

Browning everywhere lays great stress on those moments of exalted feeling, when the soul has an unchecked play and is revealed to itself. See in the section of the Introduction on Personality and Art, the passage quoted from the Canon's Monologue in `The Ring and the Book', and the remarks on conversion.

Mr. Nettleship, in his `Essays on Browning's Poetry', has traced somewhat minutely the symbolical meaning which he sees in the scenery and circumstances of `By the Fireside'. Readers are referred to these Essays.


Prospice.

The speaker in this noble monologue is one who, having fought a good fight and finished his course, lived and wrought thoroughly in sense, and soul, and intellect, is now ready and eager to encounter the `Arch-Fear', Death; and then he will clasp again his Beloved, the soul of his soul, who has gone before. He leaves the rest to God.

With this monologue should be read the mystical description, in `The Passing of Arthur' (Tennyson's Idylls of the King), of "the last, dim, weird battle of the west", beginning, --

"A deathwhite mist slept over sand and sea."


Amphibian.


This poem is the Prologue to `Fifine at the Fair'.

Amphibian is one who unites both lives within himself, the material and the spiritual, in complete concord and mutual subservience -- one who "lives and likes life's way", and can also free himself of tether, leave the solid land, and, unable to fly, swim "in the sphere which overbrims with passion and thought", -- the sphere of poetry. Such an one may be said to be Browning's ideal man. "The value and significance of flesh" is everywhere recognized in his poetry. "All good things are ours," Rabbi Ben Ezra is made to say, "nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul." The full physical life, in its relation to the spiritual, was never more beautifully sung than it is sung by David, in the poem of `Saul'. See the passage beginning, "Oh! our manhood's prime vigor!" and the passage in `Balaustion's Adventure', descriptive of Hercules, as he returns, after his conflict with Death, leading back Alkestis.


James Lee's Wife.


The original title in `Dramatis Personae' (first published in 1864) was `James Lee'.

The poem consists of a succession of soliloquies (rather than monologues*), separated, it must be supposed, by longer or shorter intervals of time, and expressive of subjective states induced in a wife whose husband's love, if it ever were love, indeed, gradually declines to apathy and finally entire deadness. What manner of man James Lee was, is only faintly intimated. The interest centres in, is wholly confined to, the experiences of the wife's heart, under the circumstances, whatever they were.

--
* For the distinction between the soliloquy and the monologue, see the passage given in a note, from Rev. Prof. Johnson's paper on `Bishop Blougram's Apology', under the treatment of the monologue, p. 85 {part III of Intro.}.
--

The scene is a cottage on a "bitter coast of France".

I. `James Lee's Wife speaks at the Window'. -- The first misgivings of her heart are expressed; and these misgivings are responded to by the outer world. Summer has stopped. Will the summer of her husband's love stop too, and be succeeded by cheerless winter? The revolt of her heart against such a thought is expressed in the third stanza.

II. `By the Fireside'. -- Here the faintly indefinite misgiving expressed in the first soliloquy has become a gloomy foreboding of ill; "the heart shrinks and closes, ere the stroke of doom has attained it."

The fire on the hearth is built of shipwreck wood, which tells of a "dim dead woe befallen this bitter coast of France", and omens to her foreboding heart the shipwreck of their home. The ruddy shaft of light from the casement must, she thinks, be seen by sailors who envy the warm safe house and happy freight. But there are ships in port which go to ruin,

"All through worms i' the wood, which crept,
Gnawed our hearts out while we slept:
That is worse."

Her mind reverts to the former occupants of their house, as if she felt an influence shed within it by some unhappy woman who, like herself, in Love's voyage, saw planks start and open hell beneath.

III. `In the Doorway'. -- As she looks out from the doorway, everything tells of the coming desolation of winter, and reflects the desolation which, she feels, is coming upon herself. The swallows are ready to depart, the water is in stripes, black, spotted white with the wailing wind. The furled leaf of the fig-tree, in front of their house, and the writhing vines, sympathize with her heart and her spirit: --

"My heart shrivels up and my spirit shrinks curled."

But there is to them two, she thinks, no real outward want, that should mar their peace, small as is their house, and poor their field. Why should the change in nature bring change to the spirit which should put life in the darkness and cold?

"Oh, live and love worthily, bear and be bold!
Whom Summer made friends of, let Winter estrange."

IV. `Along the Beach'. -- It does not appear that she anywhere in the poem addresses her husband, face to face. It is soliloquy throughout. In this section it does appear, more than in the others, that she is directly addressing him; but it's better to understand it as a mental expostulation. He wanted her love, and got it, in its fulness; though an expectation of all harvest and no dearth was not involved in that fulness of love.

Though love greatens and even glorifies, she knew there was much in him waste, with many a weed, and plenty of passions run to seed, but a little good grain too. And such as he was she took him for hers; and he found her his, to watch the olive and wait the vine of his nature; and when rivers of oil and wine came not, the failure only proved that he was her whole world, all the same. But he has been averse to, and has resented, the tillage of his nature to which she has lovingly devoted herself, feeling it to be a bondage;

"And 'tis all an old story, and my despair
Fit subject for some new song:"

such as the one with which she closes this soliloquy, representing a love which cares only for outside charms (which, later in the poem, we learn she has not) and looks not deeper.

V. `On the Cliff'. -- Leaning on the barren turf, which is dead to the roots, and looking at a rock, flat as an anvil's face, and left dry by the surf, with no trace of living thing about it (Death's altar by the lone shore), she sees a cricket spring gay, with films of blue, upon the parched turf, and a beautiful butterfly settle and spread its two red fans, on the rock. And then there is to her, wholly taken up, as she is, with their beauty,

"No turf, no rock; in their ugly stead,
See, wonderful blue and red!"

and they symbolize to her, Love settling unawares upon men, the level and low, the burnt and bare, in themselves (as are the turf and the rock).

VI. `Reading a Book, under the Cliff'. -- The first six stanzas of this section she reads from a book. *

--
* They were composed by Mr. Browning when in his 23d year, and published in 1836, in `The Monthly Repository', vol. x., pp. 270, 271, and entitled simply `Lines'. They were revised and introduced into this section of `James Lee', which was published in `Dramatis Personae' in 1864.
--

Her experiences have carried her beyond what these Lines convey, and she speaks of them somewhat sarcastically and ironically. This "young man", she thinks, will be wiser in time,

"for kind
Calm years, exacting their accompt
Of pain, mature the mind:"

and then the wind, when it begins among the vines, so low, so low, will have for him another language; such as this: --

"Here is the change beginning, here the lines
Circumscribe beauty, set to bliss
The limit time assigns."

This is the language SHE has learned: We cannot draw one beauty into our hearts' core, and keep it changeless. This is the old woe of the world; the tune, to whose rise and fall we live and die. RISE WITH IT, THEN! REJOICE THAT MAN IS HURLED FROM CHANGE TO CHANGE UNCEASINGLY, HIS SOUL'S WINGS NEVER FURLED! To this philosophy of life has she been brought. But she must still sadly reflect how bitter it is for man not to grave, on his soul, one fair, good, wise thing just as he grasped it! For himself death's wave; while time washes (ah, the sting!) o'er all he'd sink to save.

This reflection must be understood, in her own case, as prompted by her unconquerable wifely love. It is this which points the sting.

VII. `Among the Rocks'. -- The brown old earth, in autumn, when all the glories of summer are fading, or have faded, wears a good gigantic smile, looking not backward, but forward, with his feet in the ripples of the sea-wash, and listening to the sweet twitters of the `white-breasted sea-lark'. The entire stanza has a mystical meaning and must be interpreted in its connection.

She has reached, in this soliloquy, high ground: --

"If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
GIVE EARTH YOURSELF, GO UP FOR GAIN ABOVE!"

The versification of the first stanza of this section is very lovely, and subtly responsive to the feeling. It exhibits the completest inspiration. No mere metrical skill, nor metrical sensibility even, could have produced it.

VIII. `Beside the Drawing-Board'. -- She is seated at her drawing-board, and has turned from the poor coarse hand of some little peasant girl she has called in as a model, to work, but with poor success, after a clay cast of a hand by Leonardo da Vinci, who

"Drew and learned and loved again,
While fast the happy moments flew,
Till beauty mounted into his brain
And on the finger which outvied
His art, he placed the ring that's there,
Still by fancy's eye descried,
In token of a marriage rare:
For him on earth his art's despair,
For him in heaven his soul's fit bride."

Her effort has taught her a wholesome lesson: "the worth of flesh and blood at last!" There's something more than beauty in a hand. Da Vinci would not have turned from the poor coarse hand of the little girl who has been standing by in wondering patience. He, great artist as he was, owed all he achieved to his firm grasp upon, and struggle with, and full faith in, the real. She imagines him saying: --

"Shall earth and the cramped moment-space
Yield the heavenly crowning grace?
Now the parts and then the whole! *
Who art thou with stinted soul
And stunted body, thus to cry
`I love, -- shall that be life's strait dole?
I must live beloved or die!'
This peasant hand that spins the wool
And bakes the bread, why lives it on,
Poor and coarse with beauty gone, --
What use survives the beauty? Fool!"

--
* "On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round."
-- Abt Vogler.
--

She has been brought to the last stage of initiation into the mystery of Life. But, as is shown in the next and final section of the poem, the wifely heart has preserved its vitality, has, indeed, grown in vitality, and cherishes a hope which shows its undying love, and is not without a touch of pathos.

IX. `On Deck'. -- In Sections V.-VIII. the soliloquies are not directed to the husband, as they are in I.-IV. In this last, he is again mentally addressed. She is on board the vessel which is to convey, or is conveying, her to her English home, or somewhere else. As there is nothing in her for him to remember, nothing in her art efforts he cares to see, nothing she was that deserves a place in his mind, she leaves him, sets him free, as he has long shown to her he has wished to be. She, conceding his attitude toward her, asks him to concede, in turn, that such a thing as mutual love HAS been. There's a slight retaliation here of the wounded spirit. But her heart, after all, MUST have its way; and it cherishes the hope that his soul, which is now cabined, cribbed, confined, may be set free, through some circumstance or other, and she may then become to him what he is to her. And then, what would it matter to her that she was ill-favored? All sense of this would be sunk in the strange joy that he possessed her as she him, in heart and brain. Hers has been a love that was life, and a life that was love. Could one touch of such love for her come in a word of look of his, why, he might turn into her ill-favoredness, she would know nothing of it, being dead to joy.


A Tale.

(The Epilogue to `The Two Poets of Croisic'.)


The speaker in this monologue is the wife of a poet,
and she tells the story to her husband, of the little cricket
that came to the aid of the musician who was contending for a prize,
when one of the strings of his lyre snapped. So he made a statue
for himself, and on the lyre he held perched his partner in the prize.
If her poet-husband gain a prize in poetry, she asks, will some ticket
when his statue's built tell the gazer 'twas a cricket helped
his crippled lyre; that when one string which made "love" sound soft,
was snapt in twain, she perched upon the place left vacant
and duly uttered, "Love, Love, Love", whene'er the bass
asked the treble to atone for its somewhat sombre drone?


Confessions.


The speaker is a dying man, who replies very decidedly in the negative
to the question of the attendant priest as to whether he views
the world as a vale of tears. The memory of a past love,
which is running through his mind, still keeps the world bright.
Of the stolen interviews with the girl he loved he makes confession,
using the physic bottles which stand on a table by the bedside
to illustrate his story.

The monologue is a choice bit of grotesque humor touched with pathos.


Respectability.


By the title of the poem is meant respectability according to
the standard of the beau monde.

The speaker is a woman, as is indicated in the third stanza.
The monologue is addressed to her lover.

Stanza 1 shows that they have disregarded the conventionalities
of the beau monde. Had they conformed to them, many precious months
and years would have passed before they found out the world
and what it fears. One cannot well judge of any state of things
while in it. It must be looked at from the outside.

Stanza 2. The idea is repeated in a more special form
in the first four verses of the stanza; and in the last four
their own non-conventional and Bohemian life is indicated.

Stanza 3, vv. 1-4. The speaker knows that this beau monde
does not proscribe love, provided it be in accordance with
the proprieties which IT has determined upon and established.
v. 5. "The world's good word!" a contemptuous exclamation:
what's the world's good word worth? "the Institute!" (the reference is,
of course, to the French Institute), the Institute! with all its
authoritative, dictatorial learnedness! v.6. Guizot and Montalembert
were both members of the Institute, and being thus in the same boat,
Guizot conventionally receives Montalembert. vv. 7 and 8. These two
unconventional Bohemian lovers, strolling together at night,
at their own sweet will, see down the court along which
they are strolling, three lampions flare, which indicate some big place
or other where the "respectables" do congregate; and the woman
says to her companion, with a humorous sarcasm, "Put forward
your best foot!" that is, we must be very correct passing along here
in this brilliant light.

By the two lovers are evidently meant George Sand (the speaker)
and Jules Sandeau, with whom she lived in Paris, after she left
her husband, M. Dudevant. They took just such unconventional
night-strolls together, in the streets of Paris.


Home-Thoughts from Abroad.


An Englishman, in some foreign land, longs for England,
now that April's there, with its peculiar English charms;
and then will come May, with the white-throat and the swallows, and,
most delightful of all, the thrush, with its rapturous song!
And the buttercups, far brighter than the gaudy melon-flower
he has before him!


Home-Thoughts from the Sea.


A paean, inspired by the sight, from the sea, of Cape Trafalgar
and Gibraltar, both objects of patriotic pride to an Englishman;
the one associated with the naval victory gained by the English fleet,
under Nelson, over the combined French and Spanish fleets; the other,
England's greatest stronghold.

The first four verses make a characteristic Turner picture.


Old Pictures in Florence.


The speaker in the monologue is looking down upon Florence,
in the valley beneath, from a villa on one of the surrounding heights.
The startling bell-tower Giotto raised more than startles him.
(For an explanation of this, see note under Stanza 2.)
Although the poem presents a general survey of the old
Florentine masters, the THEME of the poem is really Giotto,
who received the affectionate homage of the Florentines,
in his own day, and for whom the speaker has a special love.
The poem leads up to the prophesied restoration of Freedom to Florence,
the return of Art, that departed with her, and the completion
of the Campanile, which will vindicate Giotto and Florence together,
and crown the restoration of freedom to the city, and its liberation
from the hated Austrian rule.

Mrs. Browning's `Casa Guidi Windows' should be read in connection with
this monologue. The strong sympathy which is expressed
in the last few stanzas of the monologue, with Italian liberty,
is expressed in `Casa Guidi Windows' at a white heat.

"We find," says Professor Dowden, "a full confession
of Mr. Browning's creed with respect to art in the poem entitled
`Old Pictures in Florence'. He sees the ghosts of the early
Christian masters, whose work has never been duly appreciated,
standing sadly by each mouldering Italian Fresco; and when
an imagined interlocutor inquires what is admirable in such work
as this, the poet answers that the glory of Christian art lies
in its rejecting a limited perfection, such as that of the art
of ancient Greece, the subject of which was finite, and the lesson
taught by which was submission, and in its daring to be incomplete,
and faulty, faulty because its subject was great with infinite fears
and hopes, and because it must needs teach man not to submit
but to aspire."


Pictor Ignotus.

[Florence, 15--.]


An unknown painter reflects, but without envy, upon the praise which
has been bestowed on a youthful artist, -- what that praise involves.
He himself was conscious of all the power, and more,
which the youth has shown; no bar stayed, nor fate forbid,
to exercise it, nor would flesh have shrunk from seconding his soul.
All he saw he could have put upon canvas;

"Each face obedient to its passion's law,
Each passion clear proclaimed without a tongue."

And when he thought how sweet would be the earthly fame which his work
would bring him, "the thought grew frightful, 'twas so wildly dear!"
But a vision flashed before him and changed that thought. Along with
the loving, trusting ones were cold faces, that begun to press on him
and judge him. Such as these would buy and sell his pictures for
garniture and household-stuff. His pictures, so sacred to his soul,
would be the subject of their prate, "This I love, or this I hate,
this likes me more, and this affects me less!" To avoid such sacrilege,
he has chosen his portion. And if his heart sometimes sinks,
while at his monotonous work of painting endless cloisters
and eternal aisles, with the same series, Virgin, Babe, and Saint,
with the same cold, calm, beautiful regard, at least no merchant
traffics in his heart. Guarded by the sanctuary's gloom,
from vain tongues, his pictures may die, surely, gently die.

"O youth, men praise so, -- holds their praise its worth?
Tastes sweet the water with such specks of earth?"


Andrea del Sarto.

(Called "The Faultless Painter".)


In this monologue, "the faultless painter" (Andrea Senza Errori,
as he was surnamed by the Italians) is the speaker.
He addresses his worthless wife, Lucrezia, upon whom he weakly dotes,
and for whom he has broken faith with his royal patron,
Francis I. of France, in order that he might meet her demands
for money, to be spent upon her pleasures. He laments that he
has fallen below himself as an artist, that he has not realized
the possibilities of his genius, half accusing, from the better side
of his nature, and half excusing, in his uxoriousness,
the woman who has had no sympathy with him in the high ideals which,
with her support, he might have realized, and thus have placed himself
beside Angelo and Rafael. "Had the mouth then urged
`God and the glory! never care for gain. The present by the future,
what is that? Live for fame, side by side with Angelo --
Rafael is waiting. Up to God all three!' I might have done it for you."

In his `Comparative Study of Tennyson and Browning'*,
Professor Edward Dowden, setting forth Browning's doctrines
on the subject of Art, remarks: --

--
* Originally a lecture, delivered in 1868, and published in
`Afternoon Lectures on Literature and Art' (Dublin), 5th series, 1869;
afterwards revised, and included in the author's `Studies in Literature,
1789-1877'. It is one of the best criticisms of Browning's poetry
that have yet been produced. Every Browning student should make
a careful study of it.
--

"The true glory of art is, that in its creation there arise desires
and aspirations never to be satisfied on earth, but generating
new desires and new aspirations, by which the spirit of man
mounts to God Himself. The artist (Mr. Browning loves to insist
on this point) who can realize in marble or in color, or in music,
his ideal, has thereby missed the highest gain of art.
In `Pippa Passes' the regeneration of the young sculptor's work turns
on his finding that in the very perfection which he had attained
lies ultimate failure. And one entire poem, `Andrea del Sarto',
has been devoted to the exposition of this thought.
Andrea is `the faultless painter'; no line of his drawing ever goes astray;
his hand expressed adequately and accurately all that his mind conceives;
but for this very reason, precisely because he is `the faultless painter',
his work lacks the highest qualities of art: --

"`A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a Heaven for? all is silver-grey,
Placid and perfect with my art -- the worse.'

"And in the youthful Raphael, whose technical execution fell so far
below his own, Andrea recognizes the true master: --

"`Yonder's a work, now, of that famous youth', etc.

"In Andrea del Sarto," says Vasari, "art and nature combined to show
all that may be done in painting, where design, coloring, and invention
unite in one and the same person. Had this master possessed
a somewhat bolder and more elevated mind, had he been
as much distinguished for higher qualifications as he was for genius
and depth of judgment in the art he practised, he would,
beyond all doubt, have been without an equal. But there was
a certain timidity of mind, a sort of diffidence and want of force
in his nature, which rendered it impossible that those evidences
of ardor and animation which are proper to the more exalted character,
should ever appear in him; nor did he at any time display
one particle of that elevation which, could it but have been added to
the advantages wherewith he was endowed, would have rendered him
a truly divine painter: wherefore the works of Andrea are wanting
in those ornaments of grandeur, richness, and force,
which appear so conspicuously in those of many other masters.
His figures are, nevertheless, well drawn, they are entirely
free from errors, and perfect in all their proportions,
and are for the most part simple and chaste: the expression
of his heads is natural and graceful in women and children,
while in youths and old men it is full of life and animation.
The draperies of this master are beautiful to a marvel,
and the nude figures are admirably executed, the drawing is simple,
the coloring is most exquisite, nay, it is truly divine."


Mr. Ernest Radford, quoting this passage, in the Browning Society's
`Illustrations to Browning's Poems', remarks that "nearly the whole
POEM of `Andrea del Sarto' is a mere translation into
the SUBJECTIVE Mood (if I may so say) of this passage in which
the painter's work is criticised from an external standpoint. . . .

"Recent researches into Andrea's life throw doubt upon a good deal
that Vasari has written concerning the unhappiness of his marriage
and the manner of his death. And the biographer himself modifies,
in his second edition, the account he had given of the fair Lucrezia.
Vasari, it should be said, was a pupil of Andrea, and therefore must,
in this instance, have had special opportunities of knowledge,
though he may, on the same account, have had some special `animus'
when he wrote. For the purposes of his poem, Browning is content
to take the traditional account of the matter, which, after all,
seems to substantially accurate. The following is from
the first edition: --


"At that time there was a most beautiful girl in Via di San Gallo,
who was married to a cap-maker, and who, though born of a poor
and vicious father, carried about her as much pride and haughtiness,
as beauty and fascination. She delighted in trapping the hearts
of men, and amongst others ensnared the unlucky Andrea,
whose immoderate love for her soon caused him to neglect the studies
demanded by his art, and in great measure to discontinue the assistance
which he had given to his parents.

"Certain pictures of Andrea's which had been painted for
the King of France were received with much favor, and an invitation
to Andrea soon followed their delivery, to `go and paint
at the French Court'. He went accordingly, and `painted proudly',
as Browning relates, and prospered every way. But one day,
being employed on the figure of a St. Jerome doing penance,
which he was painting for the mother of the King, there came to him
certain letters from Florence; these were written him by his wife;
and from that time (whatever may have been the cause) he began
to think of leaving France. He asked permission to that effect
from the French King accordingly, saying that he desired to
return to Florence, but that, when he had arranged his affairs
in that city, he would return without fail to his Majesty; he added,
that when he came back, his wife should accompany him, to the end that
he might remain in France the more quietly; and that he would bring
with him pictures and sculptures of great value. The King,
confiding in these promises, gave him money for the purchase of
those pictures and sculptures, Andrea taking an oath on the gospels
to return within the space of a few months, and that done
he departed to his native city.

"He arrived safely in Florence, enjoying the society
of his beautiful wife, and that of his friends, with the sight
of his native city, during several months; but when the period
specified by the King, and that at which he ought to have returned,
had come and passed, he found himself at the end, not only of
his own money, but, what with building" (the "melancholy little house
they built to be so gay with") "indulging himself with
various pleasures, and doing no work, of that belonging to
the French monarch also, the whole of which he had consumed.
He was, nevertheless, determined to return to France, but the prayers
and tears of his wife had more power than his own necessities,
or the faith which he had pledged to the King."


"And so for a pretty woman's sake, was a great nature degraded.
And out of sympathy with its impulses, broad, and deep,
and tender as only the greatest can show, `Andrea del Sarto',
our great, sad poem, was written."

The monologue exhibits great perfection of finish. Its composition
was occasioned, as Mr. Furnivall learned from the poet himself
(see `Browning Society's Papers', Part II., p. 161),
by the portrait of Andrea del Sarto and his wife, painted by himself,
and now in the Pitti Palace, in Florence. Mr. Browning's friend,
and his wife's friend, Mr. John Kenyon (the same to whom Mrs. Browning
dedicated `Aurora Leigh'), had asked the poet to buy him a copy
of Andrea del Sarto's picture. None could be got, and so Mr. Browning
put into a poem what the picture had said to himself, and sent it
to Mr. Kenyon. It was certainly a worthy substitute.


Fra Lippo Lippi.


The Italian artist, Lippi, is the speaker. Lippi was one
of the representatives of the protest made in the fifteenth century
against the conventional spiritualization in the art of his time.
In the monologue he gives expression to his faith in the real,
in the absolute spiritual significance of the lineaments
of the human face, and in the forms of nature. The circumstances
under which this faith is expressed, are somewhat droll.
Lippi was a wild fellow and given to excesses of various kinds.
When a boy he took refuge against starvation in the convent
of the Carmelites, in Florence, and became a monk; but he proved
unfaithful to his religious vows, and, impelled by his genius for art,
made his escape from the convent, having first profited by the work
of Masaccio, and devoted himself to painting. After many
romantic experiences, and having risen to distinction in his art,
he returned to Florence and became known to Cosimo de' Medici,
in whose employ he is at the time he is presented to us
in the monologue. It appears he had been shut up by his patron,
for three weeks, in order to be kept at work, "a-painting for
the great man, saints and saints and saints again. I could not paint
all night -- Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air.
There came a hurry of feet, and little feet, a sweep of lutestrings,
laughs, and whifts of song," -- etc. In his eagerness
to join in the fun, he tears into shreds curtain, and counterpane,
and coverlet, makes a rope, descends, and comes up with the fun
hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well met. On his way back
toward daybreak, he is throttled by the police, and it is to them
the monologue is addressed. He ingratiates himself with them
by telling his history, and by his talk on art, and a most interesting
and deeply significant talk it is, the gist of it being well expressed
in a passage of Mrs. Browning's `Aurora Leigh', "paint a body well,
you paint a soul by implication, like the grand first Master. . . .
Without the spiritual, observe, the natural's impossible; --
no form, no motion! Without sensuous, spiritual is inappreciable; --
no beauty or power! And in this twofold sphere the two-fold man
(and still the artist is intensely a man) holds firmly by the natural,
to reach the spiritual beyond it, -- fixes still the type
with mortal vision, to pierce through, with eyes immortal,
to the antetype, some call the ideal, -- better called the real,
and certain to be called so presently when things shall have
their names."

Browning has closely followed, in the monologue, the art-historian,
Giorgio Vasari, as the following extracts will show (the translation
is that of Mrs. Jonathan Foster, in the Bohn Library): --


"The Carmelite monk, Fra Filippo di Tommaso Lippi (1412-1469) *1*
was born at Florence in a bye-street called Ardiglione,
under the Canto alla Cuculia, and behind the convent of the Carmelites.
By the death of his father he was left a friendless orphan at the age
of two years, his mother having also died shortly after his birth.
The child was for some time under the care of a certain Mona Lapaccia,
his aunt, the sister of his father, who brought him up
with very great difficulty till he had attained his eighth year, when,
being no longer able to support the burden of his maintenance,
she placed him in the above-named convent of the Carmelites.
Here, in proportion as he showed himself dexterous and ingenious
in all works performed by hand, did he manifest the utmost dulness
and incapacity in letters, to which he would never apply himself,
nor would he take any pleasure in learning of any kind. The boy continued
to be called by his worldly name of Filippo, *2* and being placed
with others, who like himself were in the house of the novices,
under the care of the master, to the end that the latter might see
what could be done with him; in place of studying, he never did
anything but daub his own books, and those of the other boys,
with caricatures, whereupon the prior determined to give him
all means and every opportunity for learning to draw.
The chapel of the Carmine had then been newly painted by Masaccio,
and this being exceedingly beautiful, pleased Fra Filippo greatly,
wherefore he frequented it daily for his recreation, and,
continually practising there, in company with many other youths,
who were constantly drawing in that place, he surpassed all the others
by very much in dexterity and knowledge. . . . Proceeding thus,
and improving from day to day, he had so closely followed
the manner of Masaccio, and his works displayed so much similarity
to those of the latter, that many affirmed the spirit of Masaccio
to have entered the body of Fra Filippo. . . .

--
*1* The date of birth differs in the biographies, it being variously given
as 1400, 1406, 1410, and 1412. But the latter appears to be the one
generally accepted.
*2* It was customary, on entering a convent, to change the baptismal name
for some other.
--

"It is said that Fra Filippo was much addicted to the pleasures
of sense, insomuch that he would give all he possessed to secure
the gratification of whatever inclination might at the moment
be predominant; . . . It was known that, while occupied
in the pursuit of his pleasures, the works undertaken by him
received little or none of his attention; for which reason
Cosimo de' Medici, wishing him to execute a work in his own palace,
shut him up, that he might not waste his time in running about;
but having endured this confinement for two days, he then made ropes
with the sheets of his bed, which he cut to pieces for that purpose,
and so having let himself down from a window, escaped,
and for several days gave himself up to his amusements.
When Cosimo found that the painter had disappeared, he caused him
to be sought, and Fra Filippo at last returned to his work,
but from that time forward Cosimo gave him liberty to go in and out
at his pleasure, repenting greatly of having previously shut him up,
when he considered the danger that Fra Filippo had incurred by
his folly in descending from the window; and ever afterwards laboring
to keep him to his work by kindness only, he was by this means
much more promptly and effectually served by the painter,
and was wont to say that the excellencies of rare genius
were as forms of light and not beasts of burden."


A Face.


The speaker imagines the head of a beautiful girl he knows,
"painted upon a background of pale gold, such as the Tuscan's
early art prefers", and details the picture as he would have it.


The Bishop orders his Tomb.
The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed's Church. *
[Rome, 15--.]

--
* First published in `Hood's Magazine', March, 1845, No. III., vol. iii.,
pp. 237-239, under the title `The Tomb at St. Praxed's (Rome, 15--)'.

"This poem and `The Flight of the Duchess' were sent by Browning
to help make up the numbers of the magazine while Hood lay dying."
-- Furnivall's `Bibliography of Robert Browning', p. 48.
--


The dying Bishop pleads with his natural sons that they give him
the sumptuous tomb they stand pledged to, -- such a tomb
as will excite the envy of his old enemy Gandolf, who cheated him out
of a favorite niche in St. Praxed's Church, by dying before him,
and securing it for his tomb.

It is not necessary to suppose that the natural sons are present.
His, perhaps, delirious mind is occupied with the precious
marbles and stones and other luxuries he has loved to much,
and with his old rival and enemy, Gandolf.

John Ruskin, in his `Modern Painters' (Vol. IV., chap. XX.,
Section 32), remarks: --


"Robert Browning is unerring in every sentence he writes
of the Middle Ages; always vital, right, and profound;
so that in the matter of art, . . .there is hardly a principle
connected with the mediaeval temper, that he has not struck upon
in those seemingly careless and too rugged rhymes of his.
There is a curious instance, by the way, in a short poem *1*
referring to this very subject of tomb and image sculpture;
all illustrating just one of those phases of local human character
which, though belonging to Shakespeare's own age, he [Shakespeare]
never noticed, because it was specially Italian and un-English;
connected also closely with the influence of mountains on the heart,
and therefore with our immediate inquiries.*2* I mean the kind
of admiration with which a southern artist regarded the STONE he worked in;
and the pride which populace or priest took in the possession of precious
mountain substance, worked into the pavements of their cathedrals,
and the shafts of their tombs.

--
*1* `The Bishop orders his Tomb in St. Praxed's Church'.
*2* `The Mountain Glory', the subject of the chapter from which
this is taken.
--

"Observe, Shakespeare, in the midst of architecture and tombs of wood,
or freestone, or brass, naturally thinks of GOLD as the best
enriching and ennobling substance for them; in the midst also
of the fever of the Renaissance he writes, as every one else did,
in praise of precisely the most vicious master of that school --
Giulio Romano*; but the modern poet, living much in Italy,
and quit of the Renaissance influence, is able fully to enter into
the Italian feeling, and to see the evil of the Renaissance tendency,
not because he is greater than Shakespeare, but because he is in
another element, and has seen other things. . . .

--
* `Winter's Tale', V. 2. 106.
--

"I know no other piece of modern English, prose or poetry,
in which there is so much told, as in these lines [`The Bishop orders
his Tomb'], of the Renaissance spirit, -- its worldliness,
inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art,
of luxury, and of good Latin. It is nearly all that I said
of the Central Renaissance in thirty pages of the `Stones of Venice'
put into as many lines, Browning's being also the antecedent work.
The worst of it is that this kind of concentrated writing needs
so much SOLUTION before the reader can fairly get the good of it,
that people's patience fails them, and they give the thing up
as insoluble; though, truly, it ought to be to the current
of common thought like Saladin's talisman, dipped in clear water,
not soluble altogether, but making the element medicinable."


Professor Dowden, in regard to Mr. Browning's doctrines on
the subject of art, remarks: --


"It is always in an unfavorable light that he depicts the virtuoso
or collector, who, conscious of no unsatisfied aspirations
such as those which make the artist's joy and sorrow,
rests in the visible products of art, and looks up to nothing
above or beyond them. . . . The unbelieving and worldly spirit
of the dying Bishop, who orders his tomb at St. Praxed's,
his sense of the vanity of the world simply because the world
is passing out of his reach, the regretful memory of the pleasures
of his youth, the envious spite towards Gandolf, who robbed him of
the best position for a tomb, and the dread lest his reputed sons
should play him false and fail to carry out his designs,
are united with a perfect appreciation of Renaissance art,
and a luxurious satisfaction, which even a death-bed cannot destroy,
in the splendor of voluptuous form and color. The great lump
of lapis lazuli,

"`Big as a Jew's head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o'er the Madonna's breast',

must poise between his sculptured knees; the black basalt
must contrast with the bas-relief in bronze below: --

"`St. Praxed in a glory, and one Pan
Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off';

the inscription must be `choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully's every word'."


A Toccata of Galuppi's.


The speaker is listening to a Toccata of Galuppi's, and the music tells him
of how they lived once in Venice, where the merchants were the kings.
He was never out of England, yet it's as if he SAW it all,
through what is addressed to the ear alone.

But the music does more than reflect the life of mirth and folly
which was led in the gay and voluptuous city. It has an undertone
of sadness; its lesser thirds so plaintive, its sixths diminished,
sigh on sigh, tell the votaries of pleasure something;
its suspensions, its solutions, its commiserating sevenths,
awaken in them the question of their hold on life. That question
the music answers.


Abt Vogler.

(After he has been extemporizing upon the musical instrument
of his invention.)


The Abbe Georg Joseph Vogler was born at Wuerzburg (Bavaria),
June 15, 1749; appointed Kappelmeister to the King of Sweden,
in 1786. While in this capacity, the "musical instrument
of his invention", called the Orchestrion, was constructed; *
went to London with his organ, in 1790, and gave a series
of successful concerts, realizing some 1200 Pounds,
and making a name as an organist; commissioned to reconstruct
the organ of the Pantheon on the plan of his Orchestrion; and later,
received like commissions at Copenhagen and at Neu Ruppin in Prussia;
founded a school of music at Copenhagen, and published there
many works; in 1807 was appointed by the Grand Duke, Louis I.,
Kappelmeister at Darmstadt; founded there his last school,
two of his pupils being Weber and Meyerbeer; died in 1814.
Browning presents Vogler as a great extemporizer, in which character
he appears to have been the most famous. For a further account,
see Miss Eleanor Marx's paper on the Abbe Vogler, from which
the above facts have been derived (`Browning Soc. Papers', Pt. III.,
pp. 339-343). Her authorities are Fetis's `Biogr. Univ. des Musiciens'
and Nisard's `Vie de l'Abbe Vogler'.

--
* "This was a very compact organ, in which four key-boards
of five octaves each, and a pedal board of thirty-six keys,
with swell complete, were packed into a cube of nine feet.
See Fetis's `Biographie Universelle des Musiciens'. -- G. Grove."
`Note to Miss Marx's Art. on Vogler'.
--

Mrs. Turnbull, in her paper on `Abt Vogler' (`Browning Soc. Papers',
Pt. IV., pp. 469-476), has so well traced the argument
of the monologue, that I cannot do better than quote the portion
of her paper in which she presents it: --


"Abt Vogler has been extemporizing on his instrument,
pouring out through it all his feelings of yearning and aspiration;
and now, waking from his state of absorption, excited,
and trembling with excess of emotion, he breaks out into the wish,
`Would it might tarry!' In verses [stanzas] one and two
he compares the music he has made to a palace, which Solomon
(as legends of the Koran relate) summoned all creatures,
by the magic name on his ring, to raise for the princess he loved;
so all the keys, joyfully submitting to the magic power of the master,
combine to aid him, the low notes rushing in like demons to give him
the base on which to build his airy structure; the high notes
like angels throwing decoration of carving and tracery on pinnacle
and flying buttress, till in verse three its outline, rising ever
higher and higher, shows in the clouds like St. Peter's dome,
illuminated and towering into the vasty sky; and it seems
as if his soul, upborne on the surging waves of music,
had reached its highest elevation. But no. Influences from without,
inexplicable, unexpected, join to enhance his own attempts;
the heavens themselves seem to bow down and to flash forth
inconceivable splendors on his amazed spirit, till the limitations
of time and space are gone -- `there is no more near nor far'.

". . .In this strange fusion of near and far, of heaven and earth,
presences hover, spirits of those long dead or of those yet to be,
lured by the power of music to return to life, or to begin it.
Figures are dimly descried in the fervor and passion of music,
even as of old in the glare and glow of the fiery furnace.

"Verses four and five are a bold attempt to describe the indescribable,
to shadow forth that strange state of clairvoyance when the soul
shakes itself free from all external impressions, which Vogel tells us
was the case with Schubert, and which is true of all great composers --
`whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot say'.

"In the sixth verse we come to a comparison of music with
the other arts. Poetry, painting, and sculpture deal with actual form,
and the tangible realities of life. They are subject to laws,
and we know how they are produced; can watch the painting grow
beneath the artist's touches, or the poem take shape line by line.

"True it needs the soul of the artist to combine and to interfuse
the elements with which he wishes to create any true work of art,
but music is almost entirely independent of earthly element in which
to clothe and embody itself. It does not allow of a realistic conception,
but without intermediate means is in a direct line from God,
and enables us to comprehend that Power which created all things
out of nothing, with whom TO WILL and TO DO are one and the same.

"Schopenhauer says, `There is no sound in Nature fit to serve
the musician as a model, or to supply him with more than
an occasional suggestion for his sublime purpose. He approaches
the original sources of existence more closely than all other artists,
nay, even than Nature herself.'

"Heine has also noticed this element of miracle, which coincides exactly
with Browning's view expressed in the lines: --

"`Here is the finger of God, a flash of the will that can,
Existent behind all laws, that made them, and, lo, they are!'

Now, these seven verses contain the music of the poem;
in the remaining ones we pass to Browning's Platonic philosophy.

"In the eighth verse a sad thought of the banished music obtrudes --
`never to be again'. So wrapt was he in the emotions evoked,
he had no time to think of what tones called them up, and now
all is past and gone. His magic palace, unlike that of Solomon,
has `melted into air, into thin air', and, `like the baseless fabric
of a vision', only the memory of it is left. . . . And, depressed by
this saddest of human experiences, . . .he turns away impatient from
the promise of more and better, to demand from God the same --
the very same. Browning with magnificent assurance answers,
`yes, you shall have the same'.

"`Fool! all that is at all,
Lasts ever, past recall.'

"`Ay, what was, shall be.'

". . .the ineffable Name which built the palace of King Solomon,
which builds houses not made with hands -- houses of flesh
which souls inhabit, craving for a heart and a love to fill them,
can and will satisfy their longings; . . .I know no other words
in the English language which compresses into small compass
such a body of high and inclusive thought as verse nine.
(1) God the sole changeless, to whom we turn with passionate desire
as the one abiding-place, as we find how all things suffer loss
and change, ourselves, alas! the greatest. (2) His power and love
able and willing to satisfy the hearts of His creatures --
the thought expatiated on by St. Augustine and George Herbert
here crystallized in one line: -- `Doubt that Thy power can fill the
heart that Thy power expands?' (3) Then the magnificent declaration,
`There shall never be one lost good' -- the eternal nature of goodness,
while its opposite evil. . .is a non-essential which shall one day
pass away entirely, and be swallowed up of good. . . .

"Now follows an announcement, as by tongue of prophet or seer,
that we shall at last find all our ideals complete in the mind of God,
not put forth timorously, but with triumphant knowledge --
knowledge gained by music whose creative power has for the moment
revealed to us the permanent existence of these ideals.

"The sorrow and pain and failure which we are all called upon
to suffer here, . . .are seen to be proofs and evidences of
this great belief. Without the discords how should we learn
to prize the harmony?

"Carried on the wings of music and high thought, we have ascended one
of those Delectable mountains -- Pisgah-peaks from which

"`Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither';

and whence we can descry, however faintly, the land that is very far off
to which we travel, and we would fain linger, nay, abide, on the mount,
building there our tabernacles.

"But it cannot be. That fine air is difficult to breathe long,
and life, with its rounds of custom and duty, recalls us.
So we descend with the musician, through varying harmonies
and sliding modulations. . .deadening the poignancy of the minor third
in the more satisfying reassuring chord of the dominant ninth,
which again finds its rest on the key-note -- C major --
the common chord, so sober and uninteresting that it well symbolizes
the common level of life, the prosaic key-note to which unfortunately
most of our lives are set.

"We return, however, strengthened and refreshed, braced to endure
the wrongs which we know shall be one day righted, to acquiesce
in the limited and imperfect conditions of earth, which we know
shall be merged at last in heaven's perfect round, and to accept
with patience the renunciation demanded of us here, knowing

"`All we have willed, or hoped, or dreamed of good shall exist.'"


In his `Introductory Address to the Browning Society',
the Rev. J. Kirkman, of Queen's College, Cambridge, says of
`Abt Volger': --


"The spiritual transcendentalism of music, the inscrutable relation
between the seen and the eternal, of which music alone unlocks the gate
by inarticulate expression, has never had an articulate utterance
from a poet before `Abt Vogler'. This is of a higher order
of composition, quite nobler, than the merely fretful rebellion
against the earthly condition imposed here below upon heavenly things,
seen in `Master Hughes' [of Saxe-Gotha]. In that and other places,
I am not sure that persons of musical ATTAINMENT,
as distinguished from musical SOUL AND SYMPATHY, do not rather find
a professional gratification at the technicalities. . .than get
conducted to `the law within the law'. But in `Abt Vogler',
the understanding is spell-bound, and carried on the wings
of the emotions, as Ganymede in the soft down of the eagle,
into the world of spirit. . . .

"The beautiful utterances of Richter alone approach to the value
of Browning's on music. Well does he deserve remembrance for the remark,
that `Music is the only language incapable of expressing anything impure',
and for many others. They all [the poets quoted in the passage
omitted above], comparatively, speak FROM OUTSIDE;
Browning speaks FROM INSIDE, as if an angel came to give all the hints
we could receive,

"`Of that imperial palace when we came.'

He speaks of music as Dante does of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory,
because he has been there. Even the musical Milton,
whose best line is, `In linked sweetness long drawn out',
whose best special treatment of music is in the occasional poem,
`At a solemn music', has given us nothing of the nature of
`Abt Vogler'. It should be perfectly learnt by heart;
and it will be ever whispering analogies to the soul in daily life.
Because, of course, the mystery of life and the mystery of music
make one of the most fundamental transcendental harmonies
breathed into our being."


`Touch him ne'er so lightly', etc.


In the first stanza some one describes admiringly a writer
of mushroom poems. In the second stanza another gives the genesis
of a poem which becomes a nation's heritage.


Memorabilia.


The speaker is one to whom Shelley is an almost ideal being.
He can hardly think of him as a man of flesh and blood.
He meets some one who has actually seen him and talked with him;
and it's all so strange to him, and he expresses so much surprise
at it, that it moves the laughter of the other, and he breaks off
and speaks of crossing a moor. Only a hand's breadth of it
shines alone 'mid the blank miles round about; for there he picked up,
and put inside his breast, a moulted feather, an eagle-feather.
He forgets the rest. There is, in fact, nothing more for him
to remember. The eagle-feather causes an isolated flash
of association with the poet of the atmosphere, the winds,
and the clouds,

"The meteoric poet of air and sea."


How it strikes a Contemporary.


The speaker, a Spaniard, it must be supposed, describes to his companion
the only poet he knew in his life, who roamed along the promenades
and through the by-streets and lanes and alleys of Valladolid,
an old dog, bald and blindish, at his heels. He appeared interested
in whatever he looked on, and his looks went everywhere,
taking in the cobbler at his trade, the man slicing lemons into drink,
the coffee-roaster's brazier, and the boys turning its winch;
books on stalls, strung-up fly-leaf ballads, posters by the wall;

"`If any beat a horse, you felt he saw;
If any cursed a woman, he took note.'
Yet stared at nobody, -- you stared at him,
And found, less to your pleasure than surprise,
He seemed to know you, and expect as much."

Popular imagination is active as to who and what he is; perhaps a spy,
or it may be "a recording chief-inquisitor, the town's true master
if the town but knew", who by letters keeps "our Lord the King"
well informed "of all thought, said, and acted"; but of the King's
approval of these letters there has been no evidence of any kind.

The speaker found no truth in one of the popular reports, namely,
that this strange man lived in great luxury and splendor.
On the contrary, he lived in the plainest, simplest manner;
played a game of cribbage with his maid, in the evening, and,
when the church clock struck ten, went straight off to bed.
It seems that while the belief of the people was, that this man
kept up a correspondence with their earthly Lord, the King,
noting all that went on, the speaker, in the monologue is aware
that it was the Heavenly King with whom he corresponded.
In the last paragraph of his monologue he expresses the wish
that he might have looked in, yet had haply been afraid,
when this man came to die, and seen, ministering to him,
the heavenly attendants, --

"who line the clean gay garret sides,
And stood about the neat low truckle-bed
With the heavenly manner of relieving guard.
Here had been, mark, the general-in-chief,
Thro' a whole campaign of the world's life and death,
Doing the King's work all the dim day long,
* * * * *
And, now the day was won, relieved at once!"

He then adds that there was

"`No further show or need of that old coat,
You are sure, for one thing! Bless us, all the while
How sprucely WE are dressed out, you and I!'"

we who are so inferior to that divine poet; but,

"A second, and the angels alter that."


"Transcendentalism".

A poem in twelve books.


This monologue is addressed by a poet to a brother-poet whom
he finds fault with for speaking naked thoughts instead of
draping them in sights and sounds. If boys want images and melody,
grown men, you think, want abstract thought. Far from it.
The objects which throng our youth, we see and hear, quite as a matter
of course. But what of it, if you could tell what they mean?
The German Boehme, with his affinities for the abstract,
never cared for plants until, one day, he noticed they could speak;
that the daisy colloquized with the cowslip on SUCH themes!
themes found extant in Jacob's prose. But when life's summer passes
while reading prose in that tough book he wrote, getting some sense
or other out of it, who helps, then, to repair our loss?
Another Boehme, say you, with a tougher book and subtler
abstract meanings of what roses say? Or some stout Mage like
John of Halberstadt, who MADE THINGS Boehme WROTE THOUGHTS about?
Ah, John's the man for us! who instead of giving us the wise talk
of roses, scatters all around us the roses themselves,
pouring heaven into this shut house of life. So come,
the harp back to your heart again, instead of speaking dry words
across its strings. Your own boy-face bent over the finer chords,
and following the cherub at the top that points to God
with his paired half-moon wings, is a far better poem than your poem
with all its naked thoughts.


Apparent Failure.


The poet, it appears, speaks here in his own person.
Sauntering about Paris, he comes upon the Doric little Morgue,
the dead-house, where they show their drowned. He enters,
and sees through the screen of glass, the bodies of three men
who committed suicide, the day before, by drowning themselves in the Seine.

In the last stanza, he gives expression to his hopeful philosophy,
which recognizes "some soul of goodness, in things evil"; *
which sees in human nature, "potentiality of final deliverance
from the evil in it, given only time enough for the work".
In this age of professed and often, no doubt, affected,
agnosticism and pessimism, Browning is the foremost apostle of Hope.
He, more than any other great author of the age, whether philosopher,
or poet, or divine, has been inspired with the faith that

"a sun will pierce
The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
That, after Last, returns the First,
Though a wide compass round be fetched;
That what began best, can't end worst,
Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst."

--
* `Henry V.', IV. 1. 4.
--

Compare with this, the following stanzas from Tennyson's `In Memoriam',
Section 54: --

"Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood.

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete.

* * * * *

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last -- far off -- at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring."


Rabbi Ben Ezra.


Accompany me, my young friend, in my survey of life from youth
to old age.

The present life does not rise to its best and then decline
to its worst; "the best is yet to be, the last of life,
for which the first was made."

The indecisions, perplexities, and yearnings, the hopes and fears
of youth, I do not remonstrate against. They are the conditions
of vitality and growth, distinguish man's life from
the limited completeness of the "low kinds" of creation,
"finished and finite clods untroubled by a spark"; and should be prized
as inseparable from his high rank in existence.

Life would have nothing to boast of, were man formed but to experience
an unalloyed joy, to find always and never to seek. Care irks not
the crop-full bird, and doubt frets not the maw-crammed beast.
But man is disturbed by a divine spark which is his title to
a nearer relationship with God who gives than with his creatures
that receive.

The rebuffs he meets with should be welcomed. Life's true success
is secured through obstacles, and seeming failures,
and unfulfilled aspirations. He is but a brute whose soul is conformed
to his flesh, whose spirit works for the play of arms and legs.
The test of the body's worth should be, the extent to which
it can project the soul on its lone way.

But we must not calculate soul-profits all the time.
Gifts of every kind which belong to our nature should prove their use,
their own good in themselves. I own that the past was for me
profuse of power on every side, of perfection at every turn,
which my eyes and ears took in, and my brain treasured up.
The heart should beat in harmony with this life, and feel how good
it is to live and learn, and see the whole design. I who once
saw only Power, now see Love perfect also, and am thankful that I
was a man, and trust what my Maker will do with me.

This flesh is pleasant, and the soul can repose in it,
after its own activities. It is the solid land to which it can return
when wearied with its flights; and we often wish, in our yearnings
for rest, that we might hold some prize to match those manifold
possessions of the brute, might gain most as we should do best;
but the realization of such a wish is not compatible with the dignity
of our nature.

Flesh and soul must be mutually subservient; one must not be
merely subjected to the other, not even the inferior to the superior.
Let us cry, "All good things are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now,
than flesh helps soul."

Let, then, youth enter into its heritage, and use and enjoy it;
let it then pass into an approved manhood, "for aye removed from
the developed brute; a God, though in the germ"; let it pass
fearless and unperplexed as to what weapons to select,
what armor to indue for the battle which awaits that approved manhood.

Youth ended, let what it has resulted in, be taken account of;
wherein it succeeded, wherein it failed; and having proved the past,
let it face the future, satisfied in acting to-morrow
what is learned to-day.

As it was better that youth should awkwardly strive TOWARD making,
than repose in what it found made, so is it better that age,
exempt from strife, should know, than tempt further. As in youth,
age was waited for, so in age, wait for death, without fear,
and with the absolute soul-knowledge which is independent of
the reasoning intellect of youth. It is this absolute soul-knowledge
which severs great minds from small, rather than intellectual power.

Human judgments differ. Whom shall my soul believe?
One conclusion may, at least, be rested in: a man's true success
must not be estimated by things done, which had their price
in the world; but by that which the world's coarse thumb and finger
failed to plumb; by his immature instincts and unsure purposes
which weighed not as his work in the world's estimation,
yet went toward making up the main amount of his real worth;
by thoughts which could not be contained in narrow acts,
by fancies which would not submit to the bonds of language;
by all that he strived after and could not attain, by all that was
ignored by men with only finite and realizable aims: such are
God's standards of his worth.

All the true acquisitions of the soul, all the reflected results
of its energizing after the unattainable in this life,
all that has truly BEEN, belong to the absolute, and are permanent
amid all earth's changes. It is, indeed, through these changes,
through the dance of plastic circumstance, that the permanent
is secured. They are the machinery, the Divine Potter's wheel,
which gives the soul its bent, tries it, and turns it forth
a cup for the Master's lips, sufficiently impressed.

"So take and use Thy work!
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same."

The following account of Rabbi Ben Ezra, I take from
Dr. F. J. Furnivall's `Bibliography of Rober Browning'
(`Browning Soc. Papers', Part II., p. 162): --


"Rabbi Ben Ezra, or Ibn Ezra, was a learned Jew, 1092-1167 A.D.
Ibn Ezra and Maimonides, whom he is said to have visited in Egypt,
were two of the four great Philosophers or Lights of the Jews
in the Middle Ages. Ibn Ezra was born at Toledo in Spain,
about 1092 or 1093 A.D., or in 1088 according to Graetz,
`Geschichte der Juden', vi. 198. He was poor, but studied hard,
composed poems wherewith to `Adorn my own, my Hebrew nation',
married, had a son Isaac (a poet too), travelled to Africa,
the Holy Land, Rome in 1140, Persia, India, Italy, France, England.
He wrote many treatises on Hebrew Grammar, astronomy, mathematics,
&c., commentaries on the books of the Bible, &c. -- many of them
in Rome -- and two pamphlets in England `for a certain Salomon
of London'. Joseph of Maudeville was one of his English pupils.
He died in 1167, at the age of 75, either in Kalahorra,
on the frontier of Navarre, or in Rome. His commentary on Isaiah
has been englished by M. Friedlaender, and published by
the Society of Hebrew Literature, Truebner, 1873.
>From the Introduction to that book I take these details.
Ibn Ezra believed in a future life. In his commentary on Isaiah 55:3,
`AND YOUR SOUL SHALL LIVE', he says, `That is, your soul shall live
forever after the death of the body, or you will receive new life
through Messiah, when you will return to the Divine Law.'
See also on Isaiah 39:18. Of the potter's clay passage, Isaiah 29:16,
he has only a translation, `Shall man be esteemed as the potter's clay',
and no comment that could ever have given Browning a hint
for his use of the metaphor in his poem, even if he had ever seen
Ibn Ezra's commentary. See Rabbi Ben Ezra's fine `Song of Death'
in stanzas 12-20 of the grimly humorous Holy-Cross Day."


A Grammarian's Funeral.

--
* "Grammarian" mustn't be understood here in its restricted modern sense;
it means rather one devoted to learning, or letters, in general.
--

Shortly after the revival of learning in Europe.


The devoted disciples of a dead grammarian are bearing his body up
a mountain-side for burial on its lofty summit, "where meteors shoot,
clouds form, lightnings are loosened, stars come and go!
Lofty designs must close in like effects: loftily lying, leave him, --
still loftier than the world suspects, living and dying".

This poem is INFORMED throughout with the poet's iterated doctrine
in regard to earth life, -- to the relativity of that life.
The grammarian, in his hunger and thirst after knowledge and truth,
thought not of time. "What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes!
Man has Forever." "Oh, if we draw a circle premature,
heedless of far gain, greedy for quick returns of profit,
sure bad is our bargain!"

The poem "exhibits something of the life of the Scaligers and
the Casaubons, of many an early scholar, like Roger Bacon's friend,
Pierre de Maricourt, working at some region of knowledge,
and content to labor without fame so long as he mastered thoroughly
whatever he undertook" (`Contemporary Rev.', iv., 135).

But the grammarian was true to one side only of Browning's
philosophy of life. He disregarded the claims of the physical life,
and became "soul-hydropic with a sacred thirst". *

--
* "Every lust is a kind of hydropic distemper, and the more we drink
the more we shall thirst." -- Tillotson, quoted in `Webster'.
--

The lyrico-dramatic verse of this monologue is especially noticeable.
There is a march in it, exhibiting the spirit with which the bearers
of the corpse are conveying it up the mountain-side.


An Epistle containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish,
the Arab Physician.


Karshish, the Arab physician, has been journeying in quest of knowledge
pertaining to his art, and writes to his all-sagacious master, Abib,
ostensibly about the specimens he has gathered of medicinal plants
and minerals, and the observations he has made; but his real interest,
which he endeavors to conceal by passing to matters of
greater import to him, as he would have his sage at home believe,
is in what he pronounces "a case of mania, subinduced by epilepsy".
His last letter brought his journeyings to Jericho. He is now on his
way to Jerusalem, and has reached Bethany, where he passes the night.

The case of mania which so interests him, -- far more than he is
willing to admit, -- is that of Lazarus, whose firm conviction rests
that he was dead (in fact they buried him) and then restored to life
by a Nazarene physician of his tribe, who afterwards perished
in a tumult. The man Lazarus is witless, he writes, of the relative
value of all things. Vast armaments assembled to besiege his city,
and the passing of a mule with gourds, are all one to him;
while at some trifling fact, he'll gaze, rapt with stupor,
as if it had for him prodigious import. Should his child sicken
unto death, why look for scarce abatement of his cheerfulness,
or suspension of his daily craft; while a word, gesture, or glance
from that same child at play or laid asleep, will start him to
an agony of fear, exasperation, just as like! The law of the life,
it seems, to which he was temporarily admitted, has become to him
the law of this earthly life; his heart and brain move there,
his feet stay here. He appears to be perfectly submissive
to the heavenly will, and awaits patiently for death to restore
his being to equilibrium. He is by no means apathetic,
but loves both old and young, affects the very brutes and birds
and flowers of the field. This man, so restored to life,
regards his restorer as, who but God himself, Creator and Sustainer
of the world, that came and dwelt in flesh on it awhile, taught,
healed the sick, broke bread at his own house, then died!
Here Karshish breaks off and asks pardon for writing of such
trivial matters, when there are so important ones to treat of,
and states that he noticed on the margin of a pool blue-flowering
borage abounding, the Aleppo sort, very nitrous. But he returns again
to the subject, and tries to explain the peculiar interest, and awe,
indeed, the man has inspired him with. Perhaps the journey's end,
and his weariness, he thinks, may have had something to do with it.
He then relates the weird circumstances under which he met him,
and concludes by saying that the repose he will have at Jerusalem
shall make amends for the time his letter wastes, his master's
and his own. Till when, once more thy pardon and farewell!

But in spite of himself, his suppressed interest in the strange case
MUST have full expression, and he gives way to all reserve
and ejaculates in a postscript: --

"The very God! think, Abib; dost thou think?
So, the All-Great, were the All-Loving too --
So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, `O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself.
Thou hast no power nor may'st conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,
And thou must love me who have died for thee!'
The madman saith He said so: it is strange."

See before, p. 41 {about one-fifth into Part II of the Introduction},
some remarks on the psychological phase of the monologue.


"The monologue is a signal example of `emotional ratiocination'.
There is a flash of ecstasy through the strangely cautious description
of Karshish; every syllable is weighed and thoughtful,
everywhere the lines swell into perfect feeling." -- Robert Buchanan.

"As an example of our poet's dramatic power in getting right at
the heart of a man, reading what is there written, and then looking
through his eyes and revealing it all in the man's own speech,
nothing can be more complete in its inner soundings and outer-keeping,
than the epistle containing the `Strange Medical Experience
of Karshish, the Arab Physician', who has been picking up
the crumbs of learning on his travels in the Holy Land,
and writes to Abib, the all-sagacious, at home. It is so solemnly real
and so sagely fine." -- N. Brit. Rev., May, 1861.


A Martyr's Epitaph.


A wonderfully effective expression, effective through
its pathetic simplicity, of the peaceful spirit of a Christian,
who has triumphed over persecution and death, and passed to his reward.


Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.


The speaker in this monologue is a Spanish monk, whose jealousy toward
a simple and unoffending brother has, in the seclusion of the cloister,
developed into a festering malignity. If hate, he says,
could kill a man, his hate would certainly kill Brother Laurence.
He is watching this brother, from a window of the cloister,
at work in the garden. He looks with contempt upon his honest toil;
repeats mockingly to himself, his simple talk when at meals,
about the weather and the crops; sneers at his neatness,
and orderliness, and cleanliness; imputes to him his own libidinousness.
He takes credit to himself in laying crosswise, in Jesu's praise,
his knife and fork, after refection, and in illustrating the Trinity,
and frustrating the Arian, by drinking his watered orange-pulp
in three sips, while Laurence drains his at one gulp. Now he notices
Laurence's tender care of the melons, of which it appears the good man
has promised all the brethren a feast; "so nice!" He calls to him,
from the window, "How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?" Laurence, it must be understood,
kindly answers him in the negative, and then he chuckles to himself,
"Strange! -- and I, too, at such trouble, keep 'em close-nipped
on the sly!" He thinks of devising means of causing him to trip on
a great text in Galatians, entailing "twenty-nine distinct damnations,
one sure, if another fails"; or of slyly putting his
"scrofulous French novel" in his way, which will make him
"grovel hand and foot in Belial's gripe". In his malignity,
he is ready to pledge his soul to Satan (leaving a flaw
in the indenture), to see blasted that rose-acacia Laurence is
so proud of. Here the vesper-bell interrupts his filthy
and blasphemous eructations, and he turns up his eyes and folds his
hands on his breast, mumbling "Plena gratia ave Virgo!"
and right upon the prayer, his disgust breaks out, "Gr-r-r -- you swine!"

This monologue affords a signal illustration of the poet's skill
in making a speaker, while directly revealing his own character,
reflect very distinctly the character of another. This has been seen
in `My Last Duchess', given as an example of the constitution
of this art-form, in the section of the Introduction on
`Browning's Obscurity'.


"The `Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister', is a picture
(ghastly in its evident truth) of superstition which has survived religion;
of a heart which has abandoned the love of kindred and friends,
only to lose itself in a wilderness of petty spite, terminating in an abyss
of diabolical hatred. The ordinary providential helps to goodness
have been rejected; the ill-provided adventurer has sought to scale
the high snow-peaks of saintliness, -- he has missed his footing, --
and the black chasm which yawns beneath, has ingulfed him."
-- E. J. H[asell], in St. Paul's Magazine, December, 1870.


An able writer in `The Contemporary Review', Vol. IV., p. 140,
justly remarks: --


"No living writer -- and we do not know any one in the past who
can be named, in this respect, in the same breath with him [Browning]
-- approaches his power of analyzing and reproducing the morbid forms,
the corrupt semblances, the hypocrisies, formalisms, and fanaticisms of
man's religious life. The wildness of an Antinomian predestinarianism
has never been so grandly painted as in `Johannes Agricola
in Meditation'; the white heat of the persecutor glares on us,
like a nightmare spectre, in `The Heretic's Tragedy'.
More subtle forms are drawn with greater elaboration.
If `Bishop Blougram's Apology', in many of its circumstances
and touches, suggests the thought of actual portraiture,
recalling a form and face once familiar to us, . . .it is also
a picture of a class of minds which we meet with everywhere.
Conservative scepticism that persuades itself that it believes,
cynical acuteness in discerning the weak points either
of mere secularism or dreaming mysticism, or passionate eagerness
to reform, avoiding dangerous extremes, and taking things as they are
because they are comfortable, and lead to wealth, enjoyment,
reputation, -- this, whether a true account or not of the theologian
to whom we have referred. . .is yet to be found under many
eloquent defences of the faith, many fervent and scornful denunciations
of criticism and free thought. . . . In `Calaban upon Setebos',
if it is more than the product of Mr. Browning's fondness for
all abnormal forms of spiritual life, speculating among other things
on the religious thoughts of a half brute-like savage, we must see
a protest against the thought that man can rise by himself
to true thoughts of God, and develop a pure theology out of
his moral consciousness. So far it is a witness for the necessity
of a revelation, either through the immediate action of the Light
that lighteth every man, or that which has been given to mankind
in spoken or written words, by The WORD that was in the beginning.
In the `Death in the Desert', in like manner, we have another
school of thought analyzed with a corresponding subtlety. . . .
The `Death in the Dessert' is worth studying in its bearing upon
the mythical school of interpretation, and as a protest,
we would fain hope, from Mr. Browning's own mind against the thought
that because the love of God has been revealed in Christ,
and has taught us the greatness of all true human love, therefore,

"`We ourselves make the love, and Christ was not.'

"In one remarkable passage at the close of `The Legend of Pornic',
Mr. Browning, speaking apparently in his own person,
proclaims his belief in one great Christian doctrine,
which all pantheistic and atheistic systems formally repudiate,
and which many semi-Christian thinkers implicitly reject: --

"`The candid incline to surmise of late
That the Christian faith may be false, I find,
For our `Essays and Reviews'*1* debate
Begins to tell on the public mind,
And Colenso's*2* words have weight.

"`I still, to suppose it true, for my part,
See reasons and reasons: this, to begin --
'Tis the faith that launched point-blank her dart
At the head of a lie, -- taught Original Sin,
The Corruption of Man's Heart.'"

--
*1* A volume which appeared in 1860, made up of essays and reviews,
the several authors having "written in entire independence of each other,
and without concert or comparison". These essays and reviews offset
the extreme high church doctrine of the Tracts for the Times.
*2* John W. Colenso, Bishop of Natal, in South Africa;
he published works questioning the inspiration and historical accuracy
of certain parts of the Bible, among which was `The Pentateuch,
and the Book of Joshua critically examined'.
--


Holy-Cross Day.

On which the Jews were forced to attend an annual Christian sermon
in Rome.


The argument is sufficiently shown by what is prefixed to this poem.
The `Diary by the Bishop's Secretary, 1600', is presumably imaginary.


Saul.


This is, in every respect, one of Browning's grandest poems; and in all
that is included in the idea of EXPRESSION, is quite perfect.

The portion of Scripture which is the germ of the poem,
and it is only the germ, is contained in the First Book of Samuel 16:14-23.

To the present consolation which David administers to Saul,
with harp and song, and the Scripture story does not go beyond this,
is added the assurance of the transmission of his personality,
and of the influence of his deeds; first, through those who have been
quickened by them, and who will, in turn, transmit that quickening --
"Each deed thou hast done, dies, revives, goes to work in the world:
. . .each ray of thy will, every flash of thy passion and prowess,
long over, shall thrill thy whole people, the countless, with ardor,
till they too give forth a like cheer to their sons: who, in turn,
fill the South and the North with the radiance thy deed was the germ of";
and, then, through records that will give unborn generations their due
and their part in his being.

The consolation is, moreover, carried beyond that afforded by
earthly fame and influence. David's yearnings to give Saul
"new life altogether, as good, ages hence, as this moment, --
had love but the warrant, love's heart to dispense", pass into
a prophecy, based on his own loving desires, of the God-Man
who shall throw open to Saul the gates of that new life.

With this prophecy, David leaves Saul. On his way home, in the night,
he represents himself as attended by witnesses, cohorts to left
and to right. At the dawn, all nature, the forests, the wind,
beasts and birds, even the serpent that slid away silent,
appear to him aware of the new law; the little brooks, witnessing,
murmured with all but hushed voices, "E'en so, it is so!"


A Death in the Desert.


`A Death in the Desert' appears to have been inspired by
the controversies in regard to the historical foundations
of Christianity, and, more especially, in regard to the character
and the authorship of the Fourth Gospel -- controversies which
received their first great impulse from the `Leben Jesu'
of David Friedrich Strauss, first published in 1835.
An English translation of the fourth edition, 1840, by Marian Evans
(George Eliot), was published in London, in 1846.

The immediate occasion of the composition of `A Death in the Desert'
was, perhaps, the publication, in 1863, of Joseph Ernest Renan's
`Vie de Jesus'. `A Death in the Desert' was included in the poet's
`Dramatis Personae', published in the following year.

"In style, the poem a little recalls `Cleon'; with less of
harmonious grace and clear classic outline, it possesses
a certain stilled sweetness, a meditative tenderness,
all its own, and beautifully appropriate to the utterance
of the `beloved disciple'." -- Arthur Symons.

During a persecution of the Christians, the aged John of Patmos
has been secretly conveyed, by some faithful disciples,
to a cave in the desert, where he is dying. Revived temporarily
by the tender ministrations of his disciples, he is enabled
to tell over his past labors in the service of his beloved Master,
to refute the Antichrist already in the world, and to answer
the questions which, with his far-reaching spiritual vision,
he foresees will be raised in regard to Christ's nature, life,
doctrine, and miracles, as recorded in the Gospel he has written.
These services he feels to be due from him, in his dying hour,
as the sole survivor of Christ's apostles and intimate companions.

This is the only composition in which Browning deals directly
with historical Christianity; and its main purpose may, in brief,
be said to be, to set forth the absoluteness of Christianity,
which cannot be affected by any assaults made upon its external,
historical character.

The doctrine of the trinal unity of man (the what Does, what Knows,
what Is) ascribed to John (vv. 82-104), and upon which his discourse
may be said to proceed, leads up the presentation of the final stage
of the Christian life on earth -- that stage when man has won his way
to the kingdom of the "what Is" within himself, and when he
no longer needs the outward supports to his faith which he needed
before he passed from the "what Knows". Christianity is a religion
which is only secondarily a doctrine addressed to the "what Knows".
It is, first of all, a religion whose fountain-head is a Personality
in whom all that is spiritually potential in man, was realized,
and in responding to whom the soul of man is quickened and regenerated.
And the Church, through the centuries, has been kept alive,
not by the letter of the New Testament, for the letter killeth,
but by a succession of quickened and regenerated spirits,
"the noble Living and the noble Dead", through whom the Christ
has been awakened and developed in other souls.

 


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