A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily

Such datives are very frequent, and scarcely need illustration. The poet has simply carried the use of them beyond the present general usage of the language. But there's a noticeable one in the Pope's Monologue, in `The Ring and the Book', vv. 1464-1466: The Archbishop of Arezzo, to whom poor Pompilia has applied, in her distress, for protection against her brutal husband, thinks it politic not to take her part, but send her back to him and enjoin obedience and submission. The Pope, in his Monologue, represents the crafty Archbishop as saying, when Pompilia cries, "Protect me from the wolf!" "No, thy Guido is rough, heady, strong, Dangerous to disquiet: let him bide! He needs some bone to mumble, help amuse The darkness of his den with: so, the fawn Which limps up bleeding to my foot and lies, -- Come to me daughter! -- thus I throw him back!" i.e., thus I throw back [to] him the fawn which limps up bleeding to my foot and lies. The parenthesis, "Come to me, daughter", being interposed, and which is introduced as preparatory to his purpose, adds to the difficulty of the construction.

A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily

There are, after all, but comparatively few instances in Browning's poetry, where these features of his diction can be fairly condemned. They often impart a crispness to the expressions in which they occur.

A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily

The contriving spirit of the poet's language often results in great complexity of construction. Complexity of construction may be a fault, and it may not. It may be justified by the complexity of the thought which it bears along. "Clear quack-quack is easily uttered." But where an author's thought is nimble, far-reaching, elliptical through its energy, and discursive, the expression of it must be more or less complex or involved; he will employ subordinate clauses, and parentheses, through which to express the outstanding, restricting, and toning relations of his thought, that is, if he is a master of perspective, and ranks his grouped thoughts according to their relative importance.

A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily

The poet's apostrophe to his wife in the spirit-world, which closes the long prologue to `The Ring and the Book' (vv. 1391-1416), and in which he invokes her aid and benediction, in the work he has undertaken, presents a greater complexity of construction than is to be met with anywhere else in his works; and of this passage it may be said, as it may be said of any other having a complex construction, supposing this to be the only difficulty, that it's hard rather than obscure, and demands close reading. But, notwithstanding its complex structure and the freight of thought conveyed, the passage has a remarkable LIGHTSOMENESS of movement, and is a fine specimen of blank verse. The unobtrusive, but distinctly felt, alliteration which runs through it, contributes something toward this lightsomeness. The first two verses have a Tennysonian ring: -- "O lyric Love, half-angel and half-bird And all a wonder and a wild desire, -- Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun, Took sanctuary within the holier blue, 5 And sang a kindred soul out to his face, -- Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart -- When the first summons from the darkling earth Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue, And bared them of the glory -- to drop down, 10 To toil for man, to suffer or to die, -- This is the same voice: can thy soul know change? Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help! Never may I commence my song, my due To God who best taught song by gift of thee, 15 Except with bent head and beseeching hand -- That still, despite the distance and the dark, What was, again may be; some interchange Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought, Some benediction anciently thy smile: 20 -- Never conclude, but raising hand and head Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn For all hope, all sustainment, all reward, Their utmost up and on, -- so blessing back In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home, 25 Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud, Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!"


-- * In the last three verses of `The Ring and the Book' the poet again addresses his "Lyric Love" to express the wish that the Ring, which he has rounded out of the rough ore of the Roman murder case, might but lie "in guardianship" outside hers, "Thy rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised) Linking our England to his Italy." The reference is to the inscription on Casa Guidi, Via Maggiore, 9. Florence: QUI SCRISSE E MORI ELISABETTA BARRETT BROWNING CHE IN CUORE DI DONNA CONCILIAVA SCIENZA DI DOTTO E SPIRITO DI POETA E FECE DEL SUO VERSO AUREO ANELLO FRA ITALIA E INGHILTERRA PONE QUESTO MEMORIA FIRENZE GRATA 1861. --

"his", v. 5, the sun's. "Yet human", v. 6: though `kindred' to the sun, yet proved `human'. . .`when the first summons', etc. "This is the same voice", v. 11, i.e., a voice of the same import as was "the first summons" -- one invoking help. The nouns "interchange", "splendour", "benediction", vv. 17, 18, 19, are appositives of "what", v. 17. "Never conclude", v. 20, to be construed with "commence", v. 13: "Never [may I] conclude". "Their utmost up and on", v. 23, to be construed with "yearn", v. 21. "so", v. 23, looks back to "raising hand and head", etc. "Some whiteness" . . . v. 25, "Some wanness" . . . v. 26, to be construed with "blessing back".

See an elaborate analysis of this Invocation, by Dr. F. J. Furnivall, read at the forty-eighth meeting of the Browning Society, February 25, 1887, being No. 39 of the Society's Papers.

But, after all, the difficulties in Browning which result from the construction of the language, be that what it may, are not the main difficulties, as has been too generally supposed. THE MAIN DIFFICULTIES ARE QUITE INDEPENDENT OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE LANGUAGE.

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