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ALL the poems contained in the present volume appeared in Bells and Pomegranates, the Dramatic Lyrics being contained in the third number, and the series concluded with the eighth number, which contained Luria and A Soul's LYRICS. Tragedy. None of the poems had been previously published, with the exception of a half dozen of the lyrics, which were given to Thomas Hood for his magazine, at a time when he was ill. The Dramatic Lyrics were prefaced with the following:
Such poems as the following come properly enough, I suppose, under the title of "Dramatic Pieces;" being, though for the most part Lyric in expression, always Dramatic in principle, and so many utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine.
The poems contained in this number of the Bells were Cavalier Tunes: I. Marching Along. II. Give a Rouse. III. My Wife Gertrude; Italy and France: I. Italy. II. France; Camp and Cloister: I. Camp (French). II. Cloister (Spanish; In a Gondola; Artemis Prologizes; Waring: I. “What is become of Waring?" II. "When I last saw Waring;' Queen Worship: I. Rudel and the Lady of Tripoli. II. Cris tina; Madhouse Cells: I. "There's Heaven above." II. "The rain set early in to-night; " Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr, 1842; The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a Child's Story.
As will be seen, several poems were added later, and some of those printed here were subsequently put into other collections of the shorter poems. The titles of single poems were changed, and their groupings were altered to some extent. These changes
were for the most part made in the Poetical Works of 1863, the first complete edition of Browning's works. The third of the Cavalier Tunes was entitled My Wife Gertrude, in Bells and Pomegranates. The poems published under the general title of Italy and France were My Lost Duchess, called Italy; and Count Gismond appeared as France. The two poems grouped as Camp and Cloister were Incident of the French Camp and Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister. The sub titles to Waring were omitted on republication. head of Queen-Worship were grouped Rudel and the Lady | of Tripoli and Cristina. Madhouse Cells included Johannes Agricola in Meditation (now in Men and Women), and Porphyria's Lover.
In the fourth number of the Bells and Pomegranates appeared The Return of the Druses. The first mention of this tragedy was in a letter to a friend, written at the time when he was completing Sordello. "I want a subject of the most wild and passionate love, to contrast with the one I mean to have ready in a short time [King Victor and King Charles]. I have many half-conceptions, floating fancies: give me your notion of a thorough self-devotement, self-forgetting; should it be a woman who loves thus, or a man? What circumstances will best draw out, set forth, this feeling?" The title he first chose was Mansoor, the Hierophant. Mrs. Orr relates that some years later the London Browning Society was proposing to bring one of Browning's plays before the public: when "a friend told him she had been seriously occupied with the possibility of producing the Eastern play, he assented to the idea with a simplicity that was almost touching. 'It was written for the stage,' he said, ' and has only one scene.'"
The war between the Druses and the Christians, which took place in the Lebanon during the year 1842, evidently drew Browning's attention to this subject. He studied the historical settings of the subject carefully, without doubt; but, as was usually the case with him, he used them in a manner to vindicate his own poetical inspiration, and not to satisfy or to justify history. In some of the chief incidents of his plot he violated the conditions of historical fact, but what he was aiming at was
the presentation of "a wild and passionate love," one full of "self-devotement and self-forgetting."
The fifth number of Bells and Pomegranates was occupied with the play called A Blot in the 'Scutcheon. It was written at the request of William Macready, who proposed to put it at once upon the stage, and to take the leading part himself. It was written in the space of five days, so strongly had the actor impressed the poet with his wish to have the play in hand immediately. It was brought out in February, 1843, at Drury Lane Theatre. Macready seems not to have liked the play, and he put various obstacles in the way of its success; but it was produced to crowded houses until Macready's theatrical arrangements failed from financial
The history of the production of this play has been told in detail by Mr. Edmund Gosse in his Personalia, and also in Mrs. Orr's biography of the poet. Reports having gone abroad that the play was a failure, Browning gave to a friend, in a letter, the full details of its production; but only years after, when Macready's journals were published, did he understand the financial causes for the manner in which he was dealt with by the actor. The hasty printing of the play, within twenty-four hours, was done to prevent its being mutilated by Macready in its production on the stage.
Almost at the same time was written Colombe's Birthday, which filled the sixth number of Bells and Pomegranates. The play was not put upon the stage until 1853, when COLOMBE'S Miss Helen Faucit produced it at the Haymarket BIRTHDAY. Theatre. When it was published, it was called on the title-page "A Play, in five Acts. By Robert Browning, author of Paracelsus." In his Personalia Mr. Gosse gives this account of the play and its first production :
“Fired with the memory of so many plaudits, Mr. Browning set himself to the composition of another actable play, and this also had its little hour of success, though not until many years afterward. Colombe's Birthday, which formed number six of Bells and Pomegranates, appeared in 1843. I have before me at the present moment a copy of the first edition, marked for
acting by the author, who has written: 'I made the alterations in this copy to suit some I forget what projected stage representation; not that of Miss Faucit, which was carried into effect long afterward.' The stage directions are numerous and minute, showing the science which the dramatist had gained since he first essayed to put his creations on the boards. Some of the suggestions are characteristic enough. For instance, 'unless a very good Valence is found,' this extremely fine speech, perhaps the jewel of the play, is to be left out. In the present editions the verses run otherwise." Mr. Gosse refers to the speech of Valence in the fourth act, in which he describes Berthold to the Duchess.
In the seventh number of Bells and Pomegranates was pub lished Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, which contained the following poems: How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix (16-); Pictor Ignotus, Florence, (15—); Italy in England; England in Italy; The Lost Leader; The Lost Mistress; Home Thoughts from Abroad: I. "Oh to be in England." II. "Here's to Nelson's Memory." III. "Nobly Cape St. Vincent; " The Tomb at St. Praxed's; Garden Fancies: I. The Flower's Name. II. Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis; France and Spain: I. The Laboratory (Ancien Régime). II. The Confessional; The Flight of the Duchess; Earth's Immortalities: I. "See, as the prettiest graves." II. "So, the year's done with;" Song; The Boy and the Angel; Night and Morning: I. Night. II. Morning; Claret and Tokay: I. "My heart sunk with our claret flask.” II. " Up jumped Tokay on our table; " Saul (first part); Time's Revenges; The Glove (Peter Ronsard loquitur).
The poems grouped under the general title of Home Thoughts from Abroad were, first, the poem now bearing that name; second, the second part of the present Nationality of Drinks; third, the present Home-Thoughts, from the Sea. The poems grouped as Night and Morning now appear as Meeting at Night and Parting at Morning. The Claret and Tokay group included the first two now having the title of Nationality of Drinks. Saul appeared only in its first part, ending with the ninth section, the last four lines being as follows: —
"On one head the joy and the pride, even rage like the throe
The rest of Saul was written in Rome, in 1853–54; and the completed poem first appeared in Men and Women, 1855.
As in the case of Dramatic Lyrics the titles of these poems were in several instances changed when prepared for the collected edition of 1863, and the arrangement was made more strictly in harmony with the titles of the several collections. The lyrics were put together in Dramatic Lyrics, and only the romantic or story-poems appeared under the title of Dramatic Romances. Into both these collections were placed later poems, some of those published as Men and Women, as well as those of a still more recent date.
It is evident from his letters to Miss Barrett that Browning was not satisfied with A Soul's Tragedy, that concluded the eighth and last number of Bells and Pomegranates.
In writing her under date of February 11, 1846, he ASOUL'S said: "For the Soul's Tragedy - that will surprise
There is no trace of you there it is all sneering and disillusion—and shall not be printed but burned if you say the wordnow wait and see, and then say! I will bring the first of the two parts next Saturday."
On Friday morning he wrote: "Two nights ago I read the Soul's Tragedy once more, and though there were not a few points which still struck me as successful in design and execution, yet on the whole I came to a decided opinion, that it will be better to postpone the publication of it for the present. It is not a good ending, an auspicious wind-up of this series; subject-matter and style are alike unpopular even for the literary grex that stands aloof from the purer plebs, and uses that privilege to display and parade an ignorance which the other is altogether unconscious of,—so that, if Luria is clearish, the Tragedy would be an unnecessary troubling of the waters. Whereas, if I printed it first in order, my readers, according to custom, would make the (comparatively) little they did not see into, a full excuse for shutting their eyes at the rest, and we