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My Star -- Robert Browning

(Poem #352) My Star
 All that I know
       Of a certain star
 Is, it can throw
       (Like the angled spar)
 Now a dart of red,
       Now a dart of blue;
 Till my friends have said
       They would fain see, too,
 My star that dartles the red and the blue!
 Then it stops like a bird; like a flower hangs furled:
       They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
 What matter to me if their star is a world?
       Mine has opened its soul to me, therefore I love it.
-- Robert Browning
A highly uncharacteristic poem by Browning - so much so, in fact, that I
would not have guessed it for one of his. Absent is the sheer energy that
spills out from so many of his poems - 'My Star' is an altogether quieter,
more reflective, almost mystical poem of the sort far more characteristic of
Blake[1] or possibly one of the Romantics in an abstract mood. There is also
a rather charming naivete about it - the use of the diminutive 'dartle', the
easy enthusiasm, the ingenuousness inherent in 'what matter to me if their
star is a world?', the pathetic fallacy[2] - that is, again, so
uncharacteristic of Browning that I have to wonder if the poem was mainly a
stylistic experiment.

Experiment or not, though, it is a perfectly nice poem - the word 'pretty'
springs to mind. It also displays, in full measure, Browning's almost
uncanny ear for rhythm - the combination of irregularity and flawlessness,
the seamless way in which the transitions between different metrical
patterns are handled is truly amazing; and the last four lines are pure

[1] indeed, the first time I read this poem I took it for one of his, though
that probably bespeaks nothing more than my unfamiliarity with Blake's work

[2]Pathetic fallacy: A term used by John Ruskin to decry the ascription of
human attributes, traits, feelings, and so forth to nonhuman objects. Such
ascriptions, he argues, "produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of
external things." The term is also used nonpejoratively to denote a common
feature of descriptive poetry; it is related to but somewhat less formal
than the rhetorical trope of prosopopoeia, or personification.


Never has Bierce's summation seemed apter: poem #148

We've had a number of Browning poems appear on Minstrels -
[broken link]

And for the biography, see poem #65

41 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Thus spake Martin Julian DeMello :

>A highly uncharacteristic poem by Browning - so much so, in fact, that I
>would not have guessed it for one of his. Absent is the sheer energy that

Try reading his "Pippa Passes" - the one that ends with "God's in his
heaven and all's right with the world". It shows the same kind of
childlike outlook this poem has. IMHO, this sounds more like Christina
Rossetti - not much of Blake's layer within layer mysticism.

OTOH, there ~are~ poems like "Prospice" which are much more energetic, and
even combative .. in fact, Prospice was the favorite poem of Rash Behari
Bose, the founder of the India Intelligence League - which later became
the INA under Subhas Bose).

Amit Chakrabarti said...

...Absent is the sheer energy that spills out from so many of his poems
- 'My Star' is an altogether quieter, more reflective, almost mystical

I disagree. I read (past tense) this poem as energetic, at least the
first half of it, which contains the words ``thorw'' and ``dart''.
I think the narrator in this poem is trying to say that he sees energy
and vitality in that which fails to impress his ``friends.''

Anonymous said...

what dose this poem mean

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