of her book,” his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless

The answer given involves the great Browning idea of the quickening power of personality: "Let essence, whatsoe'er it be, extend -- never contract!"

of her book,” his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless

By "essence" we must understand that which "constitutes man's self, is what Is", as the dying John, in `A Death in the Desert', expresses it -- that which backs the active powers and the conscious intellect, "subsisting whether they assist or no".

of her book,” his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless

"Let essence, whatsoe'er it be, extend -- never contract!" Sordello says. "Already you include the multitude"; that is, you gather up in yourself, in an effective fulness and harmony, what lies scattered and ineffective in the multitude; "then let the mulitude include yourself"; that is, be substantiated, essenced with yourself; "and the result were new: themselves before, the multitude turn YOU" (become yourself). "This were to live and move and have, in them, your being, and secure a diadem you should transmit (because no cycle yearns beyond itself, but on itself returns) when the full sphere in wane, the world o'erlaid long since with you, shall have in turn obeyed some orb still prouder, some displayer, still more potent than the last, of human will, and some new king depose the old."

of her book,” his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless

This is a most important passage to get hold of in studying Browning. It may be said to gather up Browning's philosophy of life in a nutshell.

There's a passage to the same effect in `Balaustion's Adventure', in regard to the transmission of the poet's essence. The enthusiastic Rhodian girl, Balaustion, after she has told the play of Euripides, years after her adventure, to her four friends, Petale, Phullis, Charope, and Chrusion, says: --

"I think I see how. . . you, I, or any one, might mould a new Admetos, new Alkestis. Ah, that brave bounty of poets, the one royal race that ever was, or will be, in this world! They give no gift that bounds itself, and ends i' the giving and the taking: theirs so breeds i' the heart and soul of the taker, so transmutes the man who only was a man before, that he grows god-like in his turn, can give -- he also: share the poet's privilege, bring forth new good, new beauty from the old. As though the cup that gave the wine, gave too the god's prolific giver of the grape, that vine, was wont to find out, fawn around his footstep, springing still to bless the dearth, at bidding of a Mainad."

3. Art as an Intermediate Agency of Personality.

If Browning's idea of the quickening, the regeneration, the rectification of personality, through a higher personality, be fully comprehended, his idea of the great function of Art, as an intermediate agency of personality, will become plain. To emphasize the latter idea may be said to be the ultimate purpose of his masterpiece, `The Ring and the Book'.

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