2. Charge of Obscurity. But we have heard of great scholars who could only communicate a plentiful lack of ideas in many languages, of very learned men who were simply Dryasdusts, of people with keen perceptiveness and tenacious memories whose minds or no-minds were of the Dame Quickly order, though I do not remember any combination of both the scholar and the keen retentive observer with the dullard. The heaped-up knowledge is as heaped-up fuel : the questions occur, Is the fire intense enough to kindle the whole mass through and through into clear glow of light and heat ? or but strong enough to smoulder smokily under it? or so relatively weak as to be crushed out by it? Here the admirers of Browning directly join issue with the common critics, and the public led or misled by them, who assert that his fire is of the second or smoky species. As he himself puts it with humorous contempt in the Pacchiarotto (1876)

" Then he who directed the measure--
An old friend-put leg forward nimbly,
* We critics as sweeps out your chimbly!
Much soot to remove from your flue, sir,
Who spares coals in kitchen, an't you, sir,
And neighbours complain it's no joke, sir,
- You ought to consume your own smoke, sir.'

• Ah, rogues, but my housemaid suspects you,
Is confident oft she detects you
In bringing more filth into my house
Than ever you found there !-I'm pious,

However : 'twas God made you dingy.' I shall not attempt to argue this issue here, as Mr. Swinburne in his excellent Critical Essay on George Chapman has discussed it with admirable power and eloquence, and to my mind conclusively, in general vindication of the great poet against the small critics as sweeps out his chimbly.” I will venture to add but one remark of my own on this matter. Many years since, in 1864 or '5, I wrote: “Robert Browning, a true and splendid genius, though his vigorous and restless talents often overpower and run away with his genius, so that some of his creations are left but half-retrieved from chaos.” This now seems to me put much too strongly, save perhaps in reference to Sordello and a very few of the minor poems; but I still think that it points to a real fault in his art—a fault, however, be it observed, of overplus, not of insufficiency. Such overpowering talents are almost as rare as the sometimes overpowered genius. Landor, writing it is true about twenty years earlier, said similarly of Browning: “I only wish he would atticise a little. Few of the Athenians had such a quarry on their property, but they constructed better roads for the conveyance of the material.” And such comments but mark what Coleridge has noted in a certain stage of

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the development of Shakspere : “The intellectual power and the creative energy wrestle as in a war-embrace.” And the wrestling is mighty when both the athletes are Titanic.

Admitting that Sordello is very hard, if not obscure, I would observe that the difficulty is not so much in the mere language, as in the abrupt transitions, the rapid discursions, and the continual recondite allusions to matters with which very few readers can be familiar. The yet young fire, struggling with its enormous mass of gnarled and intertangled fuel, burns murkily with fitful sheets of splendid flame, and the mass of metal is not thoroughly fused for the mould ; the result differing herein decisively from the magnificent Sordello of the Purgatorio (VI.), defined, solid, massive, as if cast colossal in bronze, the most superb figure, I think, in all Dante; him who leaps from his haughty impassibility to embrace Virgil at the one word ‘Mantuan,' kindling the Florentine to the fulgurant invective Ahi serva Italia ; the Sordello of that noble passage, not to be rendered into English :

Ma vedi un anima che posta

Sola soletta versa noi riguarda ;
Quella ne'nsegnerà la via più tosta.
Venimmo a lei : O anima Lombarda,

Come ti stavi altera e disdegnosa,
E nel mover degli occhj onesta e tarda !
Ella non ci diceva alcuna cosa,

Ma laciavene gir, solo guardando
A guisa di leon quando si posa.
“But look and mark that spirit posted there

Apart, alone, who gazes as we go ;
He will instruct us how we best may fare.
We came to him: 0 Lombard spirit, lo,

What pride and scorn thy bearing then expressed,
The movement of thine eyes how firm and slow!
No word at all he unto us addressed,

But let us pass, only regarding still
In manner of a lion when at rest.”


Yet no good judge who watched how strenuously this still youthful genius was wrestling with the difficult and almost indomitable subjectmatter of Sordello, could help foreseeing its triumphant mastery over whatever it might undertake when its slow strong growth should be fully mature. To my mind this thorough maturity was reached in the two volumes of Men and Women, published in 1855. There had been previous poems mature as well as great; but in this collection, distributed under various headings in the 6 vol. edition of 1868, I found, and find, all the leading pieces mature; the fire burns intensely clear,

Mr. J. T. Nettleship gives a very careful analysis of the poem in his volume.



II. A. Poems not strictly dramatic in form, but which deal with the history, or some incident in the history, of the souls of two or more individuals, mutually acting on each other towards (1) progress, or (2) arrest, in development.

1. Progress in development, from right action at a critical moment, and right disregard of social or religious surroundings. Pippa Passes (1841), Vol. 2. Ed. '68 Halbert and Hob (1879)

| Ivan Ivanovitch (1879)

Ned Bratts (1879) 2. Arrest in development, from failure or mistake in action, and wrong regard for social or religious surroundings. Statue and Bust (1855) Le Byron de nos Jours (1864) Youth and Art (1864)

3. Progress and arrest in two or more souls, from their influence on each other, and as governed by social, domestic or religious surroundings. The Glove (1845)

Ring and Book (1868-9) James Lee (1864)

Red Cotton Night-Cap Country (1873) The Worst of it (1864)

Inn Album (1875) II. B. The like history or incident as regards (1) progress, (2) arrest, in development of the soul of one individual.

1. Progress in development caused by (a) the individual acting on or using circumstances; (6) his or her being acted on by them.

Clive (1880)
Pauline (1833)
Paracelsus (1835)

b. Waring (1842)

Sordello (1840) A Grammarian's Funeral (1855) Flight of the Duchess (1845). (IV. 5.) At the Mermaid (1876)

Hohenstiel-Schwangau (1871) 2. Arrest in development caused by (a) like action on, or (6) being acted on by circumstances.

b. Lost Leader (1845)

Protus (1855)

Sludge (1864) Gold Hair (1864)

Martin Relph (1879) III. The spiritual element in man, and the attributes of his soul; these subjects being treated (1) historically, or in narrative; (2) philosophically, or by way of speculation ; (3) in connection with the idea of, or faith in, God as a radical element in man's nature; (4) in reference to that quality in man's nature which demands and believes in a continuity of life before and after physical death.

1. Historically, or in narrative. 2. Philosophically, or by way of Ben Karshook (1856)

speculation. Pacchiarotto (1876)

Cleon (1855) House (1876)

Fifine at the Fair (1872) Shop (1876)

Pisgah-Sights I & II (1876) Filippo Baldinucci on the Privilege of Bifurcation (1876) purial (1876)

Lines preluding 2d Series of Dramatic f Abano (1880)

Idylls (1880)



3. In connection with the idea of, or faith in, God. Saul (1845-55)

Karshish (1855) The Patriot (1855) (? VI)

Johannes Agricola (1836) Boy and Angel (1844)

Blougram (1855) The Twins (1854)

Death in the Desert (1864) Heretic's Tragedy (1855) (? IV. 5) Caliban (1864) Holy-Cross-Day (1855) (? IV.5) Epilogue to Dramatis Personæ (1864) Christmas Ere (1850)

Fears and Scruples (1876) Easter Day (1850) 4. In reference to that quality in man's nature which demands and believes in a

continuity of life before and after physical death.
Evelyn Hope (1855)

Vol. 3, Works, Ed. 1868, p. 110
Rabbi Ben Ezra (1864)


99 Prospice (1864)


153 Apparent Failure (1864)

La Saisiaz, and lines preceding it (1878) IV. Poems dealing with some play of human emotion, caused by,1. Love; 2. Hate; 3. Love and Hate; 4. Love of Animals ; 5. Humour. 1. Love.

Magical Nature (1876) a. Husband and wife.

Poem following two Poets of Croisic By the Fireside (1855)

e. One sided or incomplete love. Any Wife to any Husband (1855) Cristina (1812) Count Gismond (1842)

Two in the Campagna (1855) One Word More (1855)

A Serenade at the Villa (1855) b. Mutual love.

Another way of Love (1855) Meeting at Night (1845)

In a Year (18+5) Parting at Morning (18+5)

Time's Revenges (1845) A Woman's Last Word (1855)

A Light Woman (1855) Love among the Ruins (1855)

Porphyria's Lover (1836) A Lover's Quarrel (1855)

Too Late (1864) Respectability (1855)

A Face (1864) In 3 Days (1855)

A Likeness (1864) Mesmerism (1855)

Numpholeptos (1876) In a Gondola (1842)

Appearances (1876) Confessions (1864)

St. Martin's Summer (1876) May and Death (1867)

f. Ephemeral love.

Earth's Immortalities. (1) Love (1845) c. Self-Renunciation, The Lost Mistress (1845)

A Pretty Woman (5?) (1855) One Way of Love (1855)

2. Hate. The Last Ride Together (1855)

Soliloquy of Spanish Cloister (5?) (1842) d. Worship or endeavour-ennobling

Instans Tyrannus (1855) influence of Love.

3. Love and Hate acting on each other. Garden fancies. (1) The Flowers Name (a) From man to woman. (6) From (1844)

Noman to man. (c) Between men. Song (1845) My Star (1855)

My Last Duchess (1842) Misconceptions (1855)

A Forgiveness (1876) Love in a Life (1855)

b. Life in a Love (1855)

The Laboratory (1844)
Women and Roses (1855)

The Confessional (1845)
Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli (1842)
Prologue to Pacchiarotto (1876)

Before (1855)
Natural Magic (1876)

After (1855)


4. Lore for or in animals.

5. Humour or Satire. How they brought the Good News from Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis (1844) Ghent to Aix (1845)

Up at a Villa-Down in the City (1855) Tray (1879)

Doctor (1880) Muléykeh (1880)

V. Art, Plastic and otherwise. 1. Poetry ; 2. Music; 3. Painting; 4. Sculpture, and Architecture. 1. Poetry and Poets.

Abt Vogler (1864) Popularity (1855)

3. Painting and Painters. Memorabilia (1855)

Old Pictures in Florence (1855) Transcendentalism (1855)

Pictor Ignotus (1845) How it Strikes a Contemporary (1855) Fra Lippo Lippi (1855) Two Poets of Croisic (1878)

Guardian Angel (1855) Epilogue to Pacchiarotto (1876)

Andrea del Sarto (1855) * Touch him ne'er so lightly,' 2nd Dram. Eurydice (1864) Idylls (1880)

4. Sculpture, and Architecture. 2. Music and Musicians.

The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. A Toccata of Galuppi's (1855)

Praxed's (1845)
Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha (1855) Deaf and Dumb (1868)
VI. The expression of some (1) national or (2) political feeling.

Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr Cavalier Tunes (1842)

(1842) Nationality in Drinks (1844-5)

Incident of the French Camp (1842) De Gustibus (1855)

2. Home Thoughts from Abroad (1845) Italian in England (1845) Home Thoughts from the Sea (1845) Englishman in Italy (1845)

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VII. Hero Poems.

Hervé Riel (1871) Pheidippides (1879) Echetlos (1880) VIII. (1) Stories, or (2) Myths. 1.

2. Pied Piper of Hamelin (IV, 5 ?) (1842) Artemis Prologizes (1842) Childe Roland (1855)

Pan and Luna (1880)
Cenciaja (1864)

IX. Greek Poems.
Balaustion's Adventure (1871)

Aristophanes' Apology (1875)
Agamemnon (1877)

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