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.).

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

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

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

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

But he will not be beaten.  He tries once more.  We see the blood leap to his brain, the heart into his purpose, as he challenges Salinguerra to bow before the royalty of song.  He owns himself its unworthy representative:  for he has frittered away his powers.  He has identified himself with existing forms of being, instead of proving his kingship by a new spiritual birth—­by a supreme, as yet unknown revelation of the power of human will.  He has resigned his function.  He is a self-deposed king.  He acknowledges the man before him as fitter

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