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That he dared her with one little ship and Light among the vanished ages; star that

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When a wind from the lands they had ruined awoke from sleep,

And the water began to heave and the weather to moan,

And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew,

And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew,

115 Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and their flags,

And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shattered navy of Spain,

And the little Revenge herself went down by the island crags

To be lost evermore in the main.



Roman Virgil, thou that singest Ilion's lofty temples robed in fire, Ilion falling, Rome arising, wars, and filial faith, and Dido's pyre;

Landscape-lover, lord of language more than he that sang the 'Works and Days,' All the chosen coin of fancy flashing out from many a golden phrase;

Thou that singest wheat and woodland, tilth

and vineyard, hive and horse and herd; 5 All the charm of all the Muses often flowering in a lonely word;

Poet of the happy Tityrus piping underneath his beechen bowers;

Poet of the poet-satyr whom the laughing shepherd bound with flowers;

Chanter of the Pollio, glorying in the blissful years again to be,

gildest yet this phantom shore; Golden branch amid the shadows, kings and realms that pass to rise no more;

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Summers of the snakeless meadow, unla- Raving politics, never at rest—as this poor

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earth's pale history runs,

What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns?

Lies upon this side, lies upon that side, truthless violence mourned by the wise, 5

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Vows that will last to the last death-ruckle, and vows that are snapped in a moment of fire;

He that has lived for the lust of the minute, and died in the doing it, flesh without mind;

He that has nailed all flesh to the Cross, till Self died out in the love of his kind;

Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter, and all these old revolutions of earth;

All new-old revolutions of Empire - change of the tide what is all of it worth? 30 What the philosophies, all the sciences, poesy, varying voices of prayer? All that is noblest, all that is basest, all that is filthy with all that is fair?

What is it all, if we all of us end but in being our own corpse-coffins at last? Swallowed in Vastness, lost in Silence, drowned in the deeps of a meaningless Past?

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ROBERT BROWNING (1812-1889).

Browning, born in Camberwell, a London suburb, was the son of a clerk in the Bank of England, who gave him a good education and encouraged his youthful inclination towards poetry. His first poem, Pauline, the Fragment of a Confession, was published anonymously in 1833; it is strongly marked by the influence of Shelley, and gives only a hint of its author's later style. After a visit to Russia, he produced Paracelsus (1835), which shows a considerable advance in artistic power, especially in the delineation of character. It brought about an invitation from Macready, the leading actor-manager of the day, to write a play, and in response Strafford was written and acted in 1837, with only moderate success. Browning wrote other plays, some for the stage and others for the study, A Blot in the 'Scutcheon being his best tragedy, and Colombe's Birthday his best comedy. Meanwhile he was working at a long narrative poem, Sordello, discussing the philosophic issues raised in connection with the life of a medieval troubadour; for the historical background he made elaborate studies in the British Museum and in Italy, to which he paid his first visit in 1838. Sordello was published in 1840, and had an unfavorable reception, owing to its extraordinarily concise and allusive style, which made it exceedingly difficult to understand. Browning was compelled to issue his next volumes in very cheap form at his own expense; the early numbers of the Bells and Pomegranates series, as he called it, could be bought for a few cents. The first issue, a dramatic poem entitled Pippa Passes, at once became popular, but many years elapsed before the injury done to the poet's reputation by Sordello was over


The crucial event in Browning's life and in his poetic career was his marriage in 1846 to the most gifted of English poetesses, Elizabeth Barrett: owing partly to the state of her health and partly to her father's disapproval of the match, they lived in Italy, chiefly at Florence, till Mrs. Browning's death in 1861. During his married life Browning produced his best work the dramatic monologues included in the volume known as Men and Women (1855). His wife's influence is also to be discerned in another collection of shorter poems, Dramatis Persona (1864), and in his longest narrative poem, The Ring and the Book (1868-9), an elaborate treatment of a Roman murder trial, of which Browning found the pleadings in an old book he picked up from a second-hand book stall at Florence. He did not return to Florence after the death of his wife, but resided in London, and slowly won for himself a leading place in public esteem along with Tennyson, with whom he was on very friendly terms. His later work is marred by an excessive tendency to philosophical speculation and psychological analysis as well as grotesqueness of expression, but these defects are naturally most noticeable in his longer poems. He continued to produce beautiful lyrics and dramatic monologues of unsurpassed power and intensity until his death at Venice in 1889. It is probably by his shorter rather than by his longer poems that Browning will hold his place among the leading English poets. He is unsurpassed as a master of the dramatic monologue- -a short poem in which the speaker reveals his soul at some critical moment by telling his thoughts or his story to someone else. Although Browning had unusual metrical facility, he indulged at times in abrupt transitions and grotesque rimes which give to his work an appearance of oddity and sometimes of obscurity. The charge of intentional obscurity sometimes leveled against him is, of course, absurd. He wrote to an admirer who drew attention to this accusation: I can have little doubt that my writing has been in the main too hard for many I should have been pleased to communicate with; but I never designedly tried to puzzle people, as some of my critics have supposed. On the other hand, I never pretended to offer such literature as should be a substitute for a cigar or a game at dominoes to an idle man. So, perhaps, on the whole I get my deserts, and something over not a crowd, but a few I value more.' Swinburne's comment was that Browning is something too much the reverse of obscure; he is too brilliant and subtle for the ready reader of a ready writer to follow with any certainty the track of an intelligence which moves with such incessant rapidity. . He never thinks but at full speed; and the rate of his thought is to that of another man's as the speed of a railway to that of a waggon, or the speed of a telegraph to that of a railway.' Fortunately for the ordinary reader, his best poems are not his most difficult ones, and the patient student will find that even his worst are marked by extraordinary intellectual vigor and insight into character. While his reputation has hardly kept the supreme place given to it by his admirers at the close of the Victorian era, he remains one of the greatest figures in English poetry, remarkable alike for his message to his time and for the skill and power with which he delivered it.

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