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Home-thoughts, from the Sea -- Robert Browning

       
(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.
-- Robert Browning
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'[1]). 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[2] "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.

[1] I'm assuming it did at one point, since I can't really see Browning
deliberately spoiling the rhyme.
[2] in the commentary to Tennyson's "Locksley Hall"

martin

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thesis sample acknowledgment said...

True, the poem does falter a bit towards the
end,

Jen said...

For my part, I like the ending, and don't feel it ruins the rhyme scheme. I'd like to know what "Jove's planet" is, though!

Jen said...

OK, now I get it's Jupiter. I wasn't aware Jupiter could be seen from earth w/o a telescope.

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