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poet who has no stage. They are single-character pieces. The poet has no aid from the actor, and we get no help in the making out from the usual stage directions to the lookers-on, and from the shows and circumstances of action. The poet
has to dispense with the old stage machinery. Also he has to rely more on the quick apprehension of his readers. He requires that all their mental powers be awake. To follow him fully in all his ramifications of remote character the reader should be able to meet him halfway at the outset. If it be a loss, however, for this writer to be limited to dramatic fragments which have to be presented under these more difficult conditions, he has his compensations. He is able to make points in various directions where he could not have shaped out complete plays. He can thus portray much that is of intense interest to us in our modern days. There are dramas of mental conflict, such as could not be shown on the stage in action; tragedies and farces that occur in the intellectual sphere, as well as in the world of feeling, to be witnessed by God and his angels rather than by men. Mr. Browning has taken advantage of this liberty. He has thus given us such a daring delineation of the struggles of some solitary soul, as we find in Paracelsus; thrown off a most wonderful series of sketches and portraits of character in attitude ; produced things sometimes totally unlike anything called ' poems' hitherto, but remarkable works of art 'nevertheless.
Ve allude now more particularly to Mr. Sludge, the Medium,' and • Bishop Blougram's Apology. This dramatic latitude has permitted Mr. Browning to indulge his taste for the untrodden paths, his tendency to prefer such forms of character and such mental conflicts as afford the more startling contrast, the swifter movement of thought, the far-off foreign colour, showing everywhere the subtlest intuition in following nature through some of her most secret windings. Also it has allowed him free scope amongst his favourite subjects-painting and music. He has portrayed the inner man and outer relationships of characters, which in the hands of biography have so often lacked interest because the life was uneventful. For example, if we turn to that reproduction of the painter · Lippo Lippi,' we shall see how he has set before us, with his surroundings, the very man of a sensuous southern soul, compelled to wear a shaven crown and a monk's serge garb,—the merry eye twinkling from under the cowl,—the painter who so conscientiously felt the value and significance of flesh,' doomed by circumstances, and the monks, to be preached to in this style :
*Your business is not to catch men with show,
Make them forget there's such a thing as flesh.
With wonder at hues, colours, and what not?' The humour of the contrast is capital, and the painter, his art, the art of his time, the local scenery, are all rendered with the most faithful exactness, It has been pointed out with what truth Mr. Browning writes of the Middle Ages being, as he is, always vital, right and profound.' Mr. Ruskin remarks that there is hardly a principle connected with the mediæval temper that he has not struck upon. He says, “I know no other piece of modern English prose or poetry, in which there is so much told, as in these lines (the Bishop orders his tomb at St. Praxed's Church), of the Renaissance spirit, its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art, luxury, and of good Latin.' The Bishop is on his death-bed, and he has come to the conclusion that Solomon was right after all, and all is vanity. So drawing his sons--if they be his sons, for he is not sure that their mother may not have played him false—round his bed; he gives directions for his sumptuous tomb which they are to erect in the church. It must be rich and costly, and prominent enough for Gandolf, his old dead enemy, who probably had his wife's heart, to
• See and burst for envy;' and of
Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe,
Rosy and flawless.
'No gaudy ware like Gandolf's second line
Tully, my masters ? Ulpian serves his need.' Then he will be able to rest in peace beneath his tabernacle amongst the tall pillars, just in sight of the very dome where the angels live and a sunbeam is sure to lurk ;' there he can
· Watch at leisure if he leers-
As still he envied me, so fair she was !' The chief cause of the complaint which we hear, that Mr. Browning's poetry is wanting in common human warmth and personal nearness, undoubtedly arises from his genius being more intellectual than emotional; and the intellect, unless drawn down,
as it were, by the heart, and made to brood in a domestic way, is apt to dwell aloof, and remain remote. The higher the intellectual range, the larger and more genial the humanity necessary to bring the poet home to the mass of men. Impersonal as Sbakspeare is, we do not feel that to be the result of his remoteness from us. He is hidden by his nearness, rather than lost in the distance. We lose him through interfusion, not in isolation. He has passed into invisibility. We feel!his presence through his sympathy with his subject. He floats the profoundest thoughts on a warm tide of human feeling. He is able to waft us within reach of lofty things—of all that inay be uncommon with us, in virtue of his wealth of those feelings which we share in common with him. Lack of this human quality, which, like personal love, melts all barriers, fuses down all difficulties, will for long, if not for ever, keep the poetry of Mr. Browning an arm's-length farther from the popular heart. In despite of this constitutional defect, however, he has shown a power quite capable of moving the common human heart in portraying various characters and conflicts of emotion. In addition to such proofs as may be adduced from the dramas, there are certain little poems, special favourites of ours, in which the intellect is more than usually domesticated, and the poetry breathes the most fragrant warmth of affection in the shyest of ways. One of these is a happy reverie by the fireside, in which the husband looks back with brimming heart and eyes to the hour—the very moment-when, at a touch of the woodland time,' two livessubtly as two drops of dew-closed together in one,
BY THE FIRE-SIDE.
The water slips o'er stock and stone;
How grey at once is the evening grown-
But each by each, as each knew well:
The lights and the shades made up a spell
And the little less, and what worlds away!
Or a breath suspend the blood's best play,
Had she willed it, still had stood the screen
So slight, so sure, 'twixt my love and her:
And find her soul as when friends confer,
Oh, you might have turned and tried a man,
Set him a space to weary and wear,
And filled my empty heart at a word.
They are one and one, with a shadowy third ;
Were hanging the night around us fast ;
Life and life: we were mixed at last
We caught for a second the powers at play ;
Their work was done—we might go or stay,
They relapsed to their ancient mood." Another, entitled ' Any Wife to any Husband,' is a poem full of quiet beauty and a most searching pathos. The subject is a dying woman, or, at least, one who is gradually fading awaya true wife, who offers up the last of her life in an incense of love for the husband. He loves her, too; loves her with all manly fervour; would, if she lived, love her to the end. This knowledge is sweet to her; but then, measuring his love by her own great feeling, dilated to its present height through nearness to death, this is the bitterness' to know that, with all his truth and love, he will marry again when she is gone. He thinks such a thing impossible, but she knows it will be. When they loose hands, and she arises to go, he will sink; he will grope; he will take another hand in his, and she must see from where she sits watching
‘My own self sell myself, my hand attach
'Re-issue looks and words from the old mint,
Image and superscription once they bore !
'Since mine thou wast, mine art, and mine shall be,
any kiss of pardon on thy brow ?
Might I die last and show thee!' How much the woman's wedded love transcends the man's, in ranges out of sight! The poent contains a true statement of one of those facts of life that make so much of the tragedy of the human lot, the pathos of which is so intensely human.
Here, again, is a touching little interior' from married life. There has been a quarrel, and, in the tearful calm that follows, the wife steals closer into her husband's bosom with aówoman's last word;' and, if women must have the proverbial last word, they will seldom find one more apposite or beautiful under the circumstances. The poem should be read slowly, the music being helped out with thoughtful pauses, that are filled up with meaning :
· Let's contend no more, Love; strive nor weep-