Robert Browning quotes

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Robert Browning

Birthdate: 7. May 1812
Date of death: 12. December 1889

Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of the dramatic monologue made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax.

Browning's early career began promisingly, but was not a success. The long poem Pauline brought him to the attention of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and was followed by Paracelsus, which was praised by William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens, but in 1840 the difficult Sordello, which was seen as wilfully obscure, brought his poetry into disrepute. His reputation took more than a decade to recover, during which time he moved away from the Shelleyan forms of his early period and developed a more personal style.

In 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett, who at the time was considerably better known than himself. So started one of history's most famous literary marriages. They went to live in Italy, a country he called "my university", and which features frequently in his work. By the time of her death in 1861, he had published the crucial collection Men and Women. The collection Dramatis Personae and the book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book followed, and made him a leading British poet. He continued to write prolifically, but his reputation today rests largely on the poetry he wrote in this middle period.

When Browning died in 1889, he was regarded as a sage and philosopher-poet who through his writing had made contributions to Victorian social and political discourse – as in the poem Caliban upon Setebos, which some critics have seen as a comment on the theory of evolution, which had recently been put forward by Darwin and others. Unusually for a poet, societies for the study of his work were founded while he was still alive. Such Browning Societies remained common in Britain and the United States until the early 20th century.

Browning's admirers have tended to temper their praise with reservations about the length and difficulty of his most ambitious poems, particularly The Ring and the Book. Nevertheless, they have included such eminent writers as Henry James, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, G. K. Chesterton, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, and Vladimir Nabokov. Among living writers, Stephen King's The Dark Tower series and A. S. Byatt's Possession refer directly to Browning's work.

Today Browning's critically most esteemed poems include the monologues Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea Del Sarto, and My Last Duchess. His most popular poems include Porphyria's Lover, How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, the diptych Meeting at Night, the patriotic Home Thoughts from Abroad, and the children's poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin. His abortive dinner-party recital of How They Brought The Good News was recorded on an Edison wax cylinder, and is believed to be the oldest surviving recording made in the United Kingdom of a notable person.

Photo: Unknown author / Public domain

Works

The Ring and the Book
The Ring and the Book
Robert Browning
Men and Women
Robert Browning
Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Robert Browning
Rabbi ben Ezra
Robert Browning
Sordello
Robert Browning
Pippa Passes
Pippa Passes
Robert Browning
Colombe's Birthday
Robert Browning
By the Fireside
Robert Browning
Cleon
Robert Browning
Memorabilia
Robert Browning
After
Robert Browning
In a Balcony
In a Balcony
Robert Browning
Citát „My sun sets to rise again.“

„Who hears music feels his solitude
Peopled at once.“

—  Robert Browning

Balaustion's Adventure, line 323 (1871).
Source: The complete poetical works of Browning

„Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!“

—  Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra

Source: Dramatis Personae (1864), Rabbi Ben Ezra, Line 121.
Context: Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!
Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, I that: whom shall my soul believe?

„He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.“

—  Robert Browning, Colombe's Birthday

Valence of Prince Berthold, in Act IV.
Colombe's Birthday (1844)
Context: p>He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.
One great aim, like a guiding-star, above—
Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, to lift
His manhood to the height that takes the prize;
A prize not near — lest overlooking earth
He rashly spring to seize it — nor remote,
So that he rest upon his path content:
But day by day, while shimmering grows shine,
And the faint circlet prophesies the orb,
He sees so much as, just evolving these,
The stateliness, the wisdom and the strength,
To due completion, will suffice this life,
And lead him at his grandest to the grave.
After this star, out of a night he springs;
A beggar's cradle for the throne of thrones
He quits; so, mounting, feels each step he mounts,
Nor, as from each to each exultingly
He passes, overleaps one grade of joy.
This, for his own good: — with the world, each gift
Of God and man, — reality, tradition,
Fancy and fact — so well environ him,
That as a mystic panoply they serve —
Of force, untenanted, to awe mankind,
And work his purpose out with half the world,
While he, their master, dexterously slipt
From such encumbrance, is meantime employed
With his own prowess on the other half.
Thus shall he prosper, every day's success
Adding, to what is he, a solid strength —
An aery might to what encircles him,
Till at the last, so life's routine lends help,
That as the Emperor only breathes and moves,
His shadow shall be watched, his step or stalk
Become a comfort or a portent, how
He trails his ermine take significance, —
Till even his power shall cease to be most power,
And men shall dread his weakness more, nor dare
Peril their earth its bravest, first and best,
Its typified invincibility.Thus shall he go on, greatening, till he ends—
The man of men, the spirit of all flesh,
The fiery centre of an earthly world!</p

„Fear had long since taken root
In every breast, and now these crushed its fruit,
The ripe hate, like a wine“

—  Robert Browning, book Sordello

Book the First
Sordello (1840)
Context: But, gathering in its ancient market-place,
Talked group with restless group; and not a face
But wrath made livid, for among them were
Death's staunch purveyors, such as have in care
To feast him. Fear had long since taken root
In every breast, and now these crushed its fruit,
The ripe hate, like a wine: to note the way
It worked while each grew drunk! men grave and grey
Stood, with shut eyelids, rocking to and fro.
Letting the silent luxury trickle slow
About the hollows where a heart should be;
But the young gulped with a delirious glee
Some foretaste of their first debauch in blood
At the fierce news

„Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!“

—  Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra

Source: Dramatis Personae (1864), Rabbi Ben Ezra, Line 121.
Context: Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!
Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, I that: whom shall my soul believe?

„I do what many dream of, all their lives,
— Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing.“

—  Robert Browning, Men and Women

"Andrea del Sarto", line 70
"Less is more" is often misattributed to architects Buckminster Fuller or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is something of a motto for minimalist philosophy. It was used in 1774 by Christoph Martin Wieland.
Men and Women (1855)
Context: I do what many dream of, all their lives,
— Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive — you don't know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat —
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) — so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
There burns a truer light of God in them,
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.

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„On our Pompilia, faultless to a fault,
Law bends a brow maternally severe,
Implies the worth of perfect chastity,
By fancying the flaw she cannot find.“

—  Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book

Book IX : Juris Doctor Johannes-Baptista Bottinius, Fisci et Rev. Cam. Apostol. Advocatus.
The Ring and the Book (1868-69)
Context: Forgive me this digression — that I stand
Entranced awhile at Law's first beam, outbreak
O' the business, when the Count's good angel bade
"Put up thy sword, born enemy to the ear,
"And let Law listen to thy difference!"
And Law does listen and compose the strife,
Settle the suit, how wisely and how well!
On our Pompilia, faultless to a fault,
Law bends a brow maternally severe,
Implies the worth of perfect chastity,
By fancying the flaw she cannot find.

„Thus shall he go on, greatening, till he ends—
The man of men, the spirit of all flesh,
The fiery centre of an earthly world!“

—  Robert Browning, Colombe's Birthday

Valence of Prince Berthold, in Act IV.
Colombe's Birthday (1844)
Context: p>He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.
One great aim, like a guiding-star, above—
Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, to lift
His manhood to the height that takes the prize;
A prize not near — lest overlooking earth
He rashly spring to seize it — nor remote,
So that he rest upon his path content:
But day by day, while shimmering grows shine,
And the faint circlet prophesies the orb,
He sees so much as, just evolving these,
The stateliness, the wisdom and the strength,
To due completion, will suffice this life,
And lead him at his grandest to the grave.
After this star, out of a night he springs;
A beggar's cradle for the throne of thrones
He quits; so, mounting, feels each step he mounts,
Nor, as from each to each exultingly
He passes, overleaps one grade of joy.
This, for his own good: — with the world, each gift
Of God and man, — reality, tradition,
Fancy and fact — so well environ him,
That as a mystic panoply they serve —
Of force, untenanted, to awe mankind,
And work his purpose out with half the world,
While he, their master, dexterously slipt
From such encumbrance, is meantime employed
With his own prowess on the other half.
Thus shall he prosper, every day's success
Adding, to what is he, a solid strength —
An aery might to what encircles him,
Till at the last, so life's routine lends help,
That as the Emperor only breathes and moves,
His shadow shall be watched, his step or stalk
Become a comfort or a portent, how
He trails his ermine take significance, —
Till even his power shall cease to be most power,
And men shall dread his weakness more, nor dare
Peril their earth its bravest, first and best,
Its typified invincibility.Thus shall he go on, greatening, till he ends—
The man of men, the spirit of all flesh,
The fiery centre of an earthly world!</p

„Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry —
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.“

—  Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book

Book I : The Ring and the Book.
The Ring and the Book (1868-69)
Context: Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry —
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.

„My times be in thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!“

—  Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra

Source: Dramatis Personae (1864), Rabbi Ben Ezra, Line 187.
Context: So, take, and use thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

„That low man seeks a little thing to do,
Sees it and does it.
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
Dies ere he knows it.“

—  Robert Browning, Men and Women

"A Grammarian's Funeral", line 115.
Men and Women (1855)
Context: That low man seeks a little thing to do,
Sees it and does it.
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one,—
His hundred's soon hit;
This high man, aiming at a million,
Misses an unit.
That has the world here—should he need the next,
Let the world mind him!
This throws himself on God, and unperplexed
Seeking shall find him.

„Thus shall he prosper, every day's success
Adding, to what is he, a solid strength —
An aery might to what encircles him,
Till at the last, so life's routine lends help,
That as the Emperor only breathes and moves,
His shadow shall be watched, his step or stalk
Become a comfort or a portent, how
He trails his ermine take significance, —
Till even his power shall cease to be most power,
And men shall dread his weakness more, nor dare
Peril their earth its bravest, first and best,
Its typified invincibility.“

—  Robert Browning, Colombe's Birthday

Valence of Prince Berthold, in Act IV.
Colombe's Birthday (1844)
Context: p>He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.
One great aim, like a guiding-star, above—
Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, to lift
His manhood to the height that takes the prize;
A prize not near — lest overlooking earth
He rashly spring to seize it — nor remote,
So that he rest upon his path content:
But day by day, while shimmering grows shine,
And the faint circlet prophesies the orb,
He sees so much as, just evolving these,
The stateliness, the wisdom and the strength,
To due completion, will suffice this life,
And lead him at his grandest to the grave.
After this star, out of a night he springs;
A beggar's cradle for the throne of thrones
He quits; so, mounting, feels each step he mounts,
Nor, as from each to each exultingly
He passes, overleaps one grade of joy.
This, for his own good: — with the world, each gift
Of God and man, — reality, tradition,
Fancy and fact — so well environ him,
That as a mystic panoply they serve —
Of force, untenanted, to awe mankind,
And work his purpose out with half the world,
While he, their master, dexterously slipt
From such encumbrance, is meantime employed
With his own prowess on the other half.
Thus shall he prosper, every day's success
Adding, to what is he, a solid strength —
An aery might to what encircles him,
Till at the last, so life's routine lends help,
That as the Emperor only breathes and moves,
His shadow shall be watched, his step or stalk
Become a comfort or a portent, how
He trails his ermine take significance, —
Till even his power shall cease to be most power,
And men shall dread his weakness more, nor dare
Peril their earth its bravest, first and best,
Its typified invincibility.Thus shall he go on, greatening, till he ends—
The man of men, the spirit of all flesh,
The fiery centre of an earthly world!</p

„Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.“

—  Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra

Source: Dramatis Personae (1864), Rabbi Ben Ezra, Line 142.
Context: All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:
Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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