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 world.”
To the second class of these poems, which are of the nature of reflections, belong—taking them in the order of their importance:—
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 Personae.) (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.