regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal.”

Perhaps the most comprehensive passage in Browning's poetry, expressive of his ideal of a complete man under the conditions of earth-life, is found in `Colombe's Birthday', Act IV. Valence says of Prince Berthold: --

regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal.”

"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 rests 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."

regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal.”

Browning fully recognizes, to use an expression in his `Fra Lippo Lippi', fully recognizes "the value and significance of flesh." A healthy and well-toned spiritual life is with him the furthest removed from asceticism. To the passage from his `Rabbi Ben Ezra' already quoted, "all good things are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul", should be added what David sings to Saul, in the poem entitled `Saul'. Was the full physical life ever more beautifully sung?

regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal.”

"Oh! our manhood's prime vigour! no spirit feels waste, Not a muscle is stopped in its playing, nor sinew unbraced. Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock, The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver shock Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt of the bear, And the sultriness showing the lion is couched in his lair. And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with gold dust divine, And the locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, the full draught of wine, And the sleep in the dried river-channel where bulrushes tell That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well. How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ All the heart and the soul and the senses for ever in joy!"

Though this is said in the person of the beautiful shepherd-boy, David, whoever has lived any time with Browning, through his poetry, must be assured that it is also an expression of the poet's own experience of the glory of flesh. He has himself been an expression of the fullest physical life: and now, in his five and seventieth year, since the 7th of last May, he preserves both mind and body in a magnificent vigor. If his soul had been lodged in a sickly, rickety body, he could hardly have written these lines from `Saul'. Nor could he have written `Caliban upon Setebos', especially the opening lines: "Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best, flat on his belly in the pit's much mire, with elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin. And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush, and feels about his spine small eft-things course, run in and out each arm, and make him laugh: and while above his head a pompion-plant, coating the cave-top as a brow its eye, creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard, and now a flower drops with a bee inside, and now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch, -- he looks out o'er yon sea which sunbeams cross and recross till they weave a spider-web (meshes of fire, some great fish breaks at times), and talks to his own self, howe'er he please, touching that other, whom his dam called God."

There's a grand passage in `Balaustion's Adventure: including a transcript from Euripides', descriptive of Herakles as he returns, after his conflict with Death, leading back Alkestis, which shows the poet's sympathy with the physical. The passage is more valuable as revealing that sympathy, from the fact that it's one of his additions to Euripides: -- "there stood the strength, Happy as always; something grave, perhaps; The great vein-cordage on the fret-worked brow, Black-swollen, beaded yet with battle-drops The yellow hair o' the hero! -- his big frame A-quiver with each muscle sinking back Into the sleepy smooth it leaped from late. Under the great guard of one arm, there leant A shrouded something, live and woman-like, Propped by the heart-beats 'neath the lion-coat. When he had finished his survey, it seemed, The heavings of the heart began subside, The helping breath returned, and last the smile Shone out, all Herakles was back again, As the words followed the saluting hand."

It is not so much the glory of flesh which Euripides represents in Herakles, as the indulgence of appetite, at a time, too, when that indulgence is made to appear the more culpable and gross.

This idea of "the value and significance of flesh", it is important to note, along with the predominant spiritual bearing of Browning's poetry. It articulates everywhere the spiritual, so to speak -- makes it healthy and robust, and protects it against volatility and from running into mysticism.

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