An Introduction to the Study of Browning eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about An Introduction to the Study of Browning.
few, such superabounding wealth of thought and imagery.  Browning is famed for his elaborate and original similes; but I doubt if he has conceived any with more originality, or worked them out with richer elaboration, than those of the Swimmer, of the Carnival, of the Druid Monument, of Fifine herself.  Nor has he often written more original poetry than some of the more passionate or imaginative passages of the poem.  The following lines, describing an imaginary face representing Horror, have all the vivid sharpness of an actual vision or revelation:—­

                           “Observe how brow recedes,
      Head shudders back on spine, as if one haled the hair,
      Would have the full-face front what pin-point eye’s sharp stare
      Announces; mouth agape to drink the flowing fate,
      While chin protrudes to meet the burst o’ the wave; elate
      Almost, spurred on to brave necessity, expend
      All life left, in one flash, as fire does at its end.”

Just as good in a different style, is this quaint and quiet landscape:—­

“For, arm in arm, we two have reached, nay, passed, you see,
The village-precinct; sun sets mild on Saint-Marie—­
We only catch the spire, and yet I seem to know
What’s hid i’ the turn o’ the hill:  how all the graves must glow
Soberly, as each warms its little iron cross,
Flourished about with gold, and graced (if private loss
Be fresh) with stiff rope-wreath of yellow, crisp bead-blooms
Which tempt down birds to pay their supper, mid the tombs,
With prattle good as song, amuse the dead awhile,
If couched they hear beneath the matted camomile.”

The poem is written in Alexandrine couplets, and is, I believe, the only English poem of any length written in this metre since Drayton’s Polyolbion.  Browning’s metre has scarcely the flexibility of the best French verse, but he allows himself occasionally two licenses not used in French since the time of Marot:  (1) the addition of an unaccented syllable at the end of the first half of the verse, as:—­

      “’Twas not for every Gawain to gaze upon the Grail!”—­

(2) the addition of two syllables, making seven instead of six beats.

      “What good were else i’ the drum and fife?  O pleasant
          land of France!”

FOOTNOTES: 

[Footnote 47:  Handbook, p. 148.]

[Footnote 48:  J.T.  Nettleship on “Fifine at the Fair” (Browning Society’s Papers, Part II. p. 223).  Mr. Nettleship’s elaborate analysis of the poem is a most helpful and admirable piece of work.]

21.  RED COTTON NIGHT-CAP COUNTRY; OR, TURF AND TOWERS.

    [Published in 1873 (Poetical Works, 1889, Vol XII. pp.
    1-177).]

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