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The Poet's Poet

The Poet's Poet

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY William A. Quayle.
BY William A. Quayle.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 17, 2013
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06/20/2014

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The Poet's Poet
BY William A. Quayle.Robert Browning is the poet's poet. Andit is a tonic to the soul to recall what sort of man he was. Robert Browning was himself apoem. Pure, virile, versatile, balanced, pro-found, erudite, unsullied with base desire orimpure motive; in aspiration outsoaring eagles;in love beautiful as an)^ idyl ever dreamed;with singleness of purpose to be a poet, a poetonly; in amplitude of thought swinging acrossthe world; in labors abundant beyond Shake-speare; in character Christian; in faith tri-umphant, and dwelling"igh to heaven, and loved of loftiest stars," — these are set down as main truths which cer-tify Robert Browning to be both poet andpoem. And he is the poet's poet because heis a mine from whose exhaustless store gener-ations of poets may dig treasure. He dealt inhints. His poems, says Lowell, "were germsof wholesome ferment for other minds." His78 The Poet's Poet and Other EssaysUtterances were seeds, a tree's bulk in anacorn's cup. Poets shall sit before him aspainters before a Raphael, and drink inspira-tion which shall prove"A joy forever,Whose loveliness increases, and will neverPass into nothingness; but still will keepA bower quiet for us, and a sleepFull of sweet dreams and health and quiet breath-ing.The genius of Browning is no more a sub-
 
 ject for debate than the genius of Shake-speare. That contemporaries were so slow toappreciate his might is one of the enigmas of our generation. "Here was the greatest Eng-lish poet since Shakespeare," says EdwardBerdoe, "pouring out treasures of thought, andwe would have none of him." But failure onour part to appreciate this gift of God makesnothing against his genius. Landor was rightin saying:"Shakespeare is not our poet; but the world's.Therefore for him no speech ! and brief for thee,Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,o man hath walked along our roads with stepSo active, so inquiring eye, or tongueSo varied in discourse."The Poet's Poet 9Mabie was right: "Since Shakespeare, nomaker of EngHsh verse has seen life on somany sides, entered into it with such intensityof sympathy and imagination, and pierced itto so many centers of its energy and motive."Professor Corson was right: "Browningis the most like Shakespeare in his deep in-terest in human nature, in all its varieties of good and evil;" "and he has worked with athought-and-passion capital greater than thecombined thought-and-passion capital of therichest of his contemporaries."Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who loved herpoet and wrote, celebrative of that love. Son-nets from the Portuguese, has said:"Thou hast thy calling to some palace floor.Most gracious singer of high poems.Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart IUnlike our uses and our destinies.Our ministering two angels look surpriseOn one another, as they strike athwartTheir wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
 
A guest for queens to social pageantriesWith gazes from a hundred brighter eyesThan tears can ever make mine, to ply thy part,Of chief musician. What hast thou to doWith looking from the lattice lights at me,A poor, tired, wandering singer?"lO The Poet's Poet and Other EssaysI repeat, I do no more argue the genius of Browning than the genius of Shakespeare.Raise this question, What is Browning'sweakness? And allow him to have blemishes.We render no service in denying truth. Suchchampionship is treason. o artist is perfect.o poet can claim infallibility in technique.So allow he has faults, such as a lack of senseof proportion, involved thought and treat-ment, infelicitous captions, and apparent cru-dity of style.Browning's lack of sense of proportiongrows out of his surprising affluence of thought. He sees all, and will tell all. Thisis the fault of sunlight. It transcribes thewhole landscape. It goes into details, forgetsnothing. Have you seen a forest mirrored inthe quiet of an autumn stream? Did the lightforget anything? The sky, gray as a tired face,lay sleeping in the stream. The banks withviolet leaves huddled together; with sumacs,stout color-bearers holding up their bannersof flame which the morrow would tear to tat-ters; with broken branches lying where thewind had thrown them down and forgottenthem; with a patch of grass still green, thoughall but covered with leaves whose beauty wasThe Poef s Poet 1 1a memory — the bank lay anchored in thestream like a boat. And the tall trees girt

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