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The Lost Leader -- Robert Browning

Sorry about the 'Arz kiya hai.....' post, people - it was, as you've
doubtless deduced, someone forging Thomas's address. Anyway, on with the
poem...
(Poem #130) The Lost Leader
 Just for a handful of silver he left us,
   Just for a riband to stick in his coat--
 Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
   Lost all the others she lets us devote;
 They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
   So much was theirs who so little allowed:
 How all our copper had gone for his service!
   Rags--were they purple, his heart had been proud!
 We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
   Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
 Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
   Made him our pattern to live and to die!
 Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
   Burns, Shelley, were with us,--they watch from their graves!
 He alone breaks from the van and the free-men,
   --He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

 We shall march prospering,--not thro' his presence;
   Songs may inspirit us,--not from his lyre;
 Deeds will be done,--while he boasts his quiescence,
   Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
 Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
   One task more declined, one more foot-path untrod,
 One more devils'-triumph and sorrow for angels,
   One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
 Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!
   There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
 Forced praise on our part--the glimmer of twilight,
   Never glad confident morning again!
 Best fight on well, for we taught him--strike gallantly,
   Menace our heart ere we master his own;
 Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
   Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!
-- Robert Browning
Note: The Dover Thrift Edition offers the note, presumably from the editor,
  Shane Weller, that the poem refers to "William Wordsworth, who, a
  political radical in his early years, became increasingly conservative and
  was named Poet Laureate in 1843."

This is a wonderfully declaimable poem - flowing rhythms, strong masculine
rhymes, a predominantly triple metre, and just enough variation to prevent
monotony. Browning's verse has an energy reminiscent of Kipling's - like the
latter, he attempted to capture the somewhat irregular rhythms of speech,
and integrate them smoothly with the demands of metrical poetry. With, IMHO,
considerable success - his poetry is a joy both to read and to recite.

Background:

  It is generally accepted that the quality of [Wordsworth's] verse fell off
  as he grew more distant from the sources of his inspiration and as his
  Anglican and Tory sentiments hardened into orthodoxy. Today many readers
  discern two Wordsworths, the young Romantic revolutionary and the aging
  Tory humanist, risen into what John Keats called the "Egotistical
  Sublime." Little of Wordsworth's later verse matches the best of his
  earlier years.

        -- EB

Postscripts:

- The theme can be carried another step: see
  <http://library.utoronto.ca/www/utel/rp/poems/stephen8.html>

- There have been other poems in tribute to poets on Minstrels ere this -
  Auden's "In memory of W.B.Yeats" poem #50 and what is surely the
  greatest of the lot, Keat's sublime "On First Looking into Chapman's
  Homer", poem #12

m.

17 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Cséfalvay Kristóf said...

please, if you hava a german translation of this poem, send it me ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANX

hilaryhollow said...

I was at a wedding once and the Best Man quoted the first lines of the poem at the beginning of his speech - very embarrassing most inappropriate . Cheers

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