Robert browning the laboratory essay

The Brownings lived happily in Italy for 15 years. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s weak health improved dramatically, and the couple had a son in 1849. She published her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, in 1850. The sonnets chronicled the couple’s courtship and marriage. In 1857, her blank-verse novel Aurora Leigh became a bestseller, despite being rejected by critics. During her lifetime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation as a poet overshadowed that of her spouse, who was sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Browning’s husband,” but his work later gained recognition by critics. Elizabeth died in her husband’s arms in 1861. He returned to England with their son, where he became an avid socialite. In 1868, he published The Ring and the Book, a 12-volume poem about a real 17th-century murder trial in Rome. Browning died in 1889.

Many twentieth-century critics had a problem with Men and Women , particularly the expanded monologues, since they rarely conformed to the discrete requirements of New Critical aesthetics—the poem as icon, neatly structured as a complete and fixed object, defined by its spatial form and with all parts cohering within an organic whole.  But Browning’s developing art in 1855 is more attuned to Hegelian bacchanalia than to painting or organic metaphors of unity: it is a poetry of process, of speech in action, of form as movement where music is the aesthetic paradigm rather than painting, where the poetic art is to capture the momentary articulation of a reflection, or anxiety, or fragment of human narrative.  Poetic formalism remains in terms of traditional devices of rhythm and sound, but form as the shape of articulated contemplation emerges from his growing emphasis, against contemporary expectations of poetry as a private art, on human expression as a social action.  Hence many speakers are caught engaging with a social scene—talking to a journalist, explaining a dalliance with “sportive ladies” to the local police, persuading a wife to tarry a while before she meets her “cousin,” addressing a correspondent or a lover, assuming the audience of an interested friend, or imagining what they might say if their partner returned after a spat or were beside their fireside in life’s autumn.  The articulations emerging from these engagements portray the politics of feeling and argument, and because such momentary acts are inseparable from a passing temporality, they are rarely concluded and rarely lead therefore to a fixed formalised object like a well-wrought urn.  New Critical expectations of poetic formalism may well miss the subtleties of verbal process that lie at the heart of Browning’s texts.

It's worth noting the implications of secrecy in the poem. First, the journey and reunion happen at night, suggesting a veil of transgression that in the Victorian age would likely be linked to sexuality. Perhaps there is autobiographical impetus in exploring the theme from this angle, considering that Browning had only recently wed Elizabeth Barrett Browning after a courtship that they had to keep secret from her oppressive father. Many scholars see in it a representation of this courtship, though Browning's general eschewal of autobiography in his poetry makes it hard to imagine he would pursue that so explicitly. Regardless, the sexuality does add a certain sense of danger to the poem. Not only is sexuality implied in the clandestine meeting, but the image of the boat charging into the beach, where it can "quench its speed I' the slushy sand" is easy to interpret as a metaphor along these lines.

He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade,
The man who slices lemons into drink,
The coffee-roaster's brazier , and the boys
That volunteer to help him turn its winch.
He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye,
And fly-leaf ballads on the vendor's string,
And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall.
He took such cognizance of men and things,
If any beat a horse, you felt he saw;
If any cursed a woman, he took note;
Yet stared at nobody--you stared at him,
And found, less to your pleasure than surprise,
He seemed to know you and expect as much.

Robert browning the laboratory essay

robert browning the laboratory essay

He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade,
The man who slices lemons into drink,
The coffee-roaster's brazier , and the boys
That volunteer to help him turn its winch.
He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye,
And fly-leaf ballads on the vendor's string,
And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall.
He took such cognizance of men and things,
If any beat a horse, you felt he saw;
If any cursed a woman, he took note;
Yet stared at nobody--you stared at him,
And found, less to your pleasure than surprise,
He seemed to know you and expect as much.

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