A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 488 pages of information about A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.).

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 glow-worm.



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

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A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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