(Poem #1117) Home-thoughts, from the Sea
Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-west died away; Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay; Bluish 'mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay; In the dimmest North-east distance dawn'd Gibraltar grand and gray; 'Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?'--say, Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray, While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
Today's poem is vintage Browning, from the effortlessly flowing rhythm to the intensity and sheer energy of the imagery. It's a rare poet who can get away with a line as florid as Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz bay but Browning unquestionably does, sweeping the reader along with his vivider-than-life visions. True, the poem does falter a bit towards the end, where the transition in mood from beauty-struck to contemplative isn't quite as smooth as one might have wished, but that is a minor detail that it soon recovers from. It's also impressive that the entire poem is written with a single end-rhyme, without the fact becoming at any time obtrusive (except at the end, where Africa no longer rhymes with 'pray'). The metre makes the poem fall naturally and fairly tightly into couplets, so that the fact that successive couplets have the same rhyme does not push itself forth as the main feature of the verse. (Compare 'Sonnet With a Different Letter at the End of Every Line' [Poem #194], where the whole point of the poem was the aaaaaaaaaaaaaa rhyme scheme; here it is just an incidental detail). Another wonderful thing about the poem is its metre, a strong, confident set of trochaics in what UTEL calls "the old 'fifteener' line of fifteen syllables". Browning made use of it in several of his poems; I do not know of anyone who does it better.  I'm assuming it did at one point, since I can't really see Browning deliberately spoiling the rhyme.  in the commentary to Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" martin