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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.

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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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Many readers, especially those who take an intellectual attitude toward all things, in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, suppose that they are prepared to understand almost anything which is understandable if it is only PUT right. This is a most egregious mistake, especially in respect to the subtle and complex spiritual experiences which the more deeply subjective poetry embodies. What De Quincey says in his paper on Kant,* of the comprehension of the higher philosophical truths, can, with still better reason, be said of the responsiveness to the higher spiritual truths: "No complex or very important truth was ever yet transferred in full development from one mind to another: truth of that character is not a piece of furniture to be shifted; it is a seed which must be sown, and pass through the several stages of growth. No doctrine of importance can be transferred in a matured shape into any man's understanding from without: it must arise by an act of genesis within the understanding itself."

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-- * `Letters to a Young Man'. Letter V. --

And so it may be said in regard to the responsiveness to the higher spiritual truths -- I don't say COMPREHENSION of the higher spiritual truths (that word pertains rather to an intellectual grasp), but RESPONSIVENESS to the higher spiritual truths. Spiritual truths must be spiritually responded to; they are not and cannot be intellectually comprehended. The condition of such responsiveness it may require a long while to fulfil. New attitudes of the soul, a meta/noia, may be demanded, before such responsiveness is possible. And what some people may regard in the higher poetry as obscure, by reason of the mode of its presentation on the part of the poet, may be only relatively so -- that is, the obscurity may be wholly due to the wrong attitudes, or the no attitudes, of their own souls, and to the limitations of their spiritual experiences. In that case "the patient must minister to himself".

While on the subject of "obscurity", I must notice a difficulty which the reader at first experiences in his study of Browning's poetry -- a difficulty resulting from the poet's favorite art-form, the dramatic or psychologic monologue.* The largest portion of his voluminous poetry is in this form. Some speaker is made to reveal his character, and, sometimes, by reflection, or directly, the character of some one else -- to set forth some subtle and complex soul-mood, some supreme, all-determining movement or experience of a life; or, it may be, to RATIOCINATE subtly on some curious question of theology, morals, philosophy, or art. Now it is in strictly preserving the monologue character that obscurity often results. A monologue often begins with a startling abruptness, and the reader must read along some distance before he gathers what the beginning means. Take the monologue of Fra Lippo Lippi for example. The situation is necessarily left more or less unexplained. The poet says nothing `in propria persona', and no reply is made to the speaker by the person or persons addressed. Sometimes a look, a gesture, or a remark, must be supposed on the part of the one addressed, which occasions a responsive remark. Sometimes the speaker IMPUTES a question; and the reader is sometimes obliged to stop and consider whether a question is imputed by the speaker to the one he is addressing, or is a direct question of his own. This is often the case throughout `The Ring and the Book'. But to the initiated, these features of the monologue present little or no difficulty, and they conduce to great compactness of composition -- a closeness of texture which the reader comes in time to enjoy, and to prefer to a more loosely woven diction.

-- * The dramatic monologue differs from a soliloquy in this: while there is but one speaker, the presence of a silent second person is supposed, to whom the arguments of the speaker are addressed. Perhaps such a situation may be termed a novelty of invention in our Poet. It is obvious that the dramatic monologue gains over the soliloquy in that it allows the artist greater room in which to work out his conception of character. We cannot gaze long at a solitary figure on a canvas, however powerfully treated, without feeling some need of relief. In the same way a soliloquy (comp. the great soliloquies of Shakespeare) cannot be protracted to any great length without wearying the listener. The thoughts of a man in self-communion are apt to run in a certain circle, and to assume a monotony. The introduction of a second person acting powerfully upon the speaker throughout, draws the latter forth into a more complete and varied expression of his mind. The silent person in the background, who may be all the time master of the situation, supplies a powerful stimulus to the imagination of the reader. -- Rev. Prof. E. Johnson's "Paper on `Bishop Blougram's Apology'" (`Browning Soc. Papers', Pt. III., p. 279). --

The monologue entitled `My Last Duchess. Ferrara' is a good example of the constitution of this art-form. It is one of the most perfect in artistic treatment, and exhibits all the features I have just noticed. Originally, this monologue and that now entitled `Count Gismond. Aix in Provence', had the common title, `Italy and France', the former being No. I. Italy; the latter, No. II. France. The poet, no doubt, afterward thought that the Duke of the one monologue, and the Count of the other, could not justly be presented as representatives, respectively, of Italy and France. In giving the monologues new titles, `My Last Duchess' and `Count Gismond', he added to the one, `Ferrara', and to the other, `Aix in Provence', thus locally restricting the order of character which they severally represent.

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