(Poem #65) Home Thoughts From Abroad
Oh, to be in England Now that April's there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England--now! And after April, when May follows, And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows! Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge Leans to the field and scatters on the clover Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent spray's edge-- That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture The first fine careless rapture! And though the fields look rough with hoary dew, All will be gay when noontide wakes anew The buttercups, the little children's dower --Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
About time we had some Browning, methinks :) I wouldn't call his poetry 'great', but it's often beautiful, and never less than enjoyable. While noted mostly for his longer pieces, Browning has written a number of short poems of surprising beauty. The one above is a nice example - it captures the feel of the English countryide perfectly, and has some wonderfully lyrical phrases. I like the somewhat irregular rhyme scheme and metre too - they lend the poem a 'natural' air that fits in well with the imagery. If 'Song' was an etching, 'Home Thoughts' is a watercolour; at once vivid and muted, detailed and impressionistic. (I'm just waiting for the flood of emails telling me I know even less about art than I do about poetry, but you get the picture.) Someone remind me not to post at 6am again <g>.  hi thomas :)  no pun intended. honest. Biographical Notes: Robert Browning, 1812 - 1889 English poet and dramatist, whose most ambitious work was The Ring and the Book (1868-69): a verse narrative in ten parts based on a real murder trial conducted in Florence. Tennyson had no admirer more generous than Robert Browning. At the end of their lives the reputation of these fellow-poets was about equal but divergent. Tennyson was the people's poet, Browning the poet of esoterics, real or aspiring. Browning was, he himself confesses, a "supremely passionate, unluckily precocious" youngster. [...] Pauline, his first published poem, he wrote at twenty-one, and afterwards rejected. It recounts something of his novitiate as a poet; for, like the greatest, he early knew himself elect to poetry, and resolved "to look and learn / Mankind, its cares, hopes, fears, its woes and joys." Late in life, in his Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day, he recalls men whose books and ideas and music had held a leading part in his formative years. But the dominant infuence early and late was the poetry of Shelley, especially m its idealism and its straining for a vision of the perfect beyond the imperfect. His feeling for Shelley dictated Memorabilia. Somehow young Browning suffered little of the misery of body and soul so often the lot of young poets... A certain cheerful buoyancy about him, a balance between his abundant physical and spiritual health saved him and his poetry, as it had saved Fielding and Scott. It lay at the base of his life-long optimism, and was so constant that he exhibits no marked "phases" of development, but is much the same Browning to the end. His work accordingly defies sharp classification. If any one event marked a change in his work, it was his famous marriage with Elizabeth Barrett in 1846. Everyone knows the romantic story of the dreary household in that "long, unlovely" Wimpole Street, the narrow father ruling his large household with a hand that had ruled slaves in the West Indies, slowly forcing his daughter into invalidism, part imaginary, part real; and how, like a miracle, the hearty, sanguine young Robert, first attracted by her poetry, had sought her out loved her at once, inspired her with the purpose of recovery, married her secretly, and bore her off, pet spaniel and all, in triumph to Italy. He was thirty-four, she was forty. When his wife died Browning was forty-nine. In profound grief he left his beloved Italy as a home forever. How deeply he felt his loss, and what intimations it gave him, one may guess from his Prospice and such other poems in the volume, Dramatis Personae of 1864, as Abt Vogler and Rabbi Ben Ezra. Ever since his suppressed Pauline he had been averse to autobiographical revelations in his poetry; but the courage and characteristic balance and faith which sustained him through the twenty-seven years in which his wife was a memory shine cloudless in one of his last poems, the Epilogue to Asolando. Assessment: Though not a national poet like Tennyson, Browning became the unwitting, and at heart unwilling, father of such a cult in his lifetime as never bored another English poet. Browning societies sprang up on both sides of the water, graciously accepted by the poet, while he protested that he himself was "no Browningite." This cult is not hard to explain. The poet's optimism and energy attracted many a mind weary of the forlorn struggle against defeat of spirit. His difficulty and supposed subtlety flattered the aspirations of blue-stockings, would-be esoterics, and other aspirants to "culture." It appealed to the multitude who do not value what they get too easily, but enjoy the exercise of earning it, and prize it more when won. In America Browning's energy and cheerful relish for everything made him a Victorian favorite. But now that the cult has subsided, even his advocates find themselves slipping into the habit of noting his failings--what he is not rather than what he is: he is no stylist, they admit, he is not clear, he is not tuneful, he is no reasoner, no philosopher, to some he is hardly civilized. Yet no poet, not even Homer, was ever more nearly omnivorous in his poetic appetite. Everything stirred poetic excitement in him till his great brain was stuffed and overflowing: insects, animals, flowers, every object touched with human life---books, walls, clothes, textures, marbles, houses, pictures, musical instruments, arms, drugs, and drinking-cups. Every poet is tortured with the necessity of fitting matter to form. With Browning the matter so abounds and crowds for utterance that it strains, distorts, and overflows the form. His language like his mind becomes congested, and weak but useful members--articles, conjunctions, relative pronouns, copu-las-are crowded out, and sentences get crushed to mere absolute phrases. And not content with one word or phrase for one thing, his very abundance repeats it, once, twice, thrice, in synonymous words, phrases, sentences, accumulating like the kennings in Old English poetry. -- Excerpted from <http://britishliterature.com/era/victoria-brownings.html>; again, do go and read the whole thing. m.