given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of

A reiterated lesson in Browning's poetry, and one that results from his spiritual theory, is, that the present life is a tabernacle-life, and that it can be truly lived only as a tabernacle-life; for only such a life is compatible with the ever-continued aspiration and endeavor which is a condition of, and inseparable from, spiritual vitality.

given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of

Domizia, in the tragedy of `Luria', is made to say: -- "How inexhaustibly the spirit grows! One object, she seemed erewhile born to reach With her whole energies and die content, -- So like a wall at the world's edge it stood, With naught beyond to live for, -- is that reached? -- Already are new undream'd energies Outgrowing under, and extending farther To a new object; -- there's another world!"

given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of

The dying John in `A Death in the Desert', is made to say: -- "I say that man was made to grow, not stop; That help he needed once, and needs no more, Having grown up but an inch by, is withdrawn: For he hath new needs, and new helps to these. This imports solely, man should mount on each New height in view; the help whereby he mounts, The ladder-rung his foot has left, may fall, Since all things suffer change save God the Truth. Man apprehends him newly at each stage Whereat earth's ladder drops, its service done; And nothing shall prove twice what once was proved."

given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of

And again: -- "Man knows partly but conceives beside, Creeps ever on from fancies to the fact, And in this striving, this converting air Into a solid he may grasp and use, Finds progress, man's distinctive mark alone, Not God's, and not the beasts': God is, they are, Man partly is and wholly hopes to be. Such progress could no more attend his soul Were all it struggles after found at first And guesses changed to knowledge absolute, Than motion wait his body, were all else Than it the solid earth on every side, Where now through space he moves from rest to rest. Man, therefore, thus conditioned, must expect He could not, what he knows now, know at first; What he considers that he knows to-day, Come but to-morrow, he will find misknown; Getting increase of knowledge, since he learns Because he lives, which is to be a man, Set to instruct himself by his past self: First, like the brute, obliged by facts to learn, Next, as man may, obliged by his own mind, Bent, habit, nature, knowledge turned to law. God's gift was that man should conceive of truth And yearn to gain it, catching at mistake, As midway help till he reach fact indeed. The statuary ere he mould a shape Boasts a like gift, the shape's idea, and next The aspiration to produce the same; So, taking clay, he calls his shape thereout, Cries ever, `Now I have the thing I see': Yet all the while goes changing what was wrought, From falsehood like the truth, to truth itself. How were it had he cried, `I see no face, No breast, no feet i' the ineffectual clay'? Rather commend him that he clapped his hands, And laughed, `It is my shape and lives again!' Enjoyed the falsehood touched it on to truth, Until yourselves applaud the flesh indeed In what is still flesh-imitating clay. Right in you, right in him, such way be man's! God only makes the live shape at a jet. Will ye renounce this fact of creatureship? The pattern on the Mount subsists no more, Seemed awhile, then returned to nothingness, But copies, Moses strove to make thereby Serve still and are replaced as time requires: By these make newest vessels, reach the type! If ye demur, this judgment on your head, Never to reach the ultimate, angels' law, Indulging every instinct of the soul There where law, life, joy, impulse are one thing."

Browning has given varied and beautiful expressions to these ideas throughout his poetry.

The soul must rest in nothing this side of the infinite. If it does rest in anything, however relatively noble that thing may be, whether art, or literature, or science, or theology, even, it declines in vitality -- it torpifies. However great a conquest the combatant may achieve in any of these arenas, "striding away from the huge gratitude, his club shouldered, lion-fleece round loin and flank", he must be "bound on the next new labour, height o'er height ever surmounting -- destiny's decree!"


-- * `Aristophanes' Apology', p. 31, English ed. --

"Rejoice that man is hurled From change to change unceasingly, His soul's wings never furled!"


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