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.).
he is failing through the hopeless disunion of the two.  He silences his better humanity, and retains the worst; for he is more and more determined to succeed at whatever cost.  Yet failure meets him on every side.  He is too large for his public, but he is also too small for it.  Every question raised even in talk carries him into the infinite.  Every man of his audience has a practical answer ready before he has.  Naddo plies him with common sense.  “He is to speak to the human heart—­he is not to be so philosophical—­he is not to seem so clever.”  Shallow judges pull him to pieces.  Shallow rivals strive to sing him down.[15] He loses his grasp of the ideal.  He cannot clutch the real.  His imagination dries up.

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

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

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


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

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

He has dreamed of love, of revel, and of adventure; but he has let pass the time when such dreams could be realized; and worst of all, the sacrifice has been useless.  He has sacrificed the man in him to the poet; and his poetic existence has been impoverished by the act.  He has rejected experience that he might be his fullest self before living it; and only living, in other words, experience, could have made that self complete.  His later years have been paving the way for this discovery; it bursts on him all at once.  He has been under a long strain.  The reaction at length has come.  He yearns helplessly for the “blisses strong and soft” which he has known he was passing by, but of which the full meaning never reached him until

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