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

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 381 pages of information about A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.).

These arguments are often just, even profound; they might also have been sincere in this special case; for there was something to be said in favour of accepting the opportunities which offered themselves, and of guiding the course of events, instead of engaging in a probably fruitless opposition to it.  But they are not sincere.  Sordello is at best deceiving himself, and Mr. Browning intends us to to see this.  He is struggling, if unconsciously, to evade the very trials which he thinks so good for other men.  His true object soon stands revealed in a first and last effort at compromise.  “The people’s good is in the future.  His is in the present.  Can he not speed the one, and yet enjoy the other?” ...  The present rises up, in its new-found richness, in its undisguised temptation.  The joys which lure him become gigantic; the price of renunciation shrinks to nothing; and at last, the pent up passion breaks forth—­that passion for life, for sheer life, which inspired his imagination as a boy, which nerved his ambition as a man; to which his late-found humanities have given voice and shape; which now gathers itself to a supreme utterance in the grasp of death.  “The earthly existence now:  the transcendent hereafter, if Fate will.  A man’s opportunities—­a man’s powers—­a man’s self-consciousness of joy and conflict—­these things he craves while he may yet possess them.”

Then a sudden revulsion.  “He would drink the very dregs of life!  How many have sacrificed it whilst its cup was full, because a better still seemed behind it.”

                                      “... the death I fly, revealed
       So oft a better life this life concealed,
       And which sage, champion, martyr, through each path
       Have hunted fearlessly—....”
                                                  (vol. i. p. 272.)

“But they had a belief which he has not.  They knew what ‘masters life.’  For him the paramount fact is that of his own being....”

This is the last protest of the flesh within him.  Sordello is dying, and probably feels that he is so; and he lapses into a calm contemplation, which reveals to him the last secret of his mistaken career.  He already knew that he had ignored the bodily to the detriment of his spiritual existence.  He now feels that he has destroyed his body by forcing on it the exigencies of the spirit.  He has striven to obtain infinite consciousness, infinite enjoyment, from finite powers.  He has broken the law of life.  He has missed (so we interpret Mr. Browning’s conclusion) the ideal of that divine and human Love which would have given the freest range to his spirit and yet accepted that law.  Eglamor began with love.  Will Sordello find it, meeting that gentle spirit on his course?

We know at least that the soul in him has conquered.  His stamp upon the floor has brought Palma and Salinguerra to him in anxious haste.  They find him dead: 

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