an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth

`A Death in the Desert' appears to have been inspired by the controversies in regard to the historical foundations of Christianity, and, more especially, in regard to the character and the authorship of the Fourth Gospel -- controversies which received their first great impulse from the `Leben Jesu' of David Friedrich Strauss, first published in 1835. An English translation of the fourth edition, 1840, by Marian Evans (George Eliot), was published in London, in 1846.

an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth

The immediate occasion of the composition of `A Death in the Desert' was, perhaps, the publication, in 1863, of Joseph Ernest Renan's `Vie de Jesus'. `A Death in the Desert' was included in the poet's `Dramatis Personae', published in the following year.

an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth

"In style, the poem a little recalls `Cleon'; with less of harmonious grace and clear classic outline, it possesses a certain stilled sweetness, a meditative tenderness, all its own, and beautifully appropriate to the utterance of the `beloved disciple'." -- Arthur Symons.

an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth

During a persecution of the Christians, the aged John of Patmos has been secretly conveyed, by some faithful disciples, to a cave in the desert, where he is dying. Revived temporarily by the tender ministrations of his disciples, he is enabled to tell over his past labors in the service of his beloved Master, to refute the Antichrist already in the world, and to answer the questions which, with his far-reaching spiritual vision, he foresees will be raised in regard to Christ's nature, life, doctrine, and miracles, as recorded in the Gospel he has written. These services he feels to be due from him, in his dying hour, as the sole survivor of Christ's apostles and intimate companions.

This is the only composition in which Browning deals directly with historical Christianity; and its main purpose may, in brief, be said to be, to set forth the absoluteness of Christianity, which cannot be affected by any assaults made upon its external, historical character.

The doctrine of the trinal unity of man (the what Does, what Knows, what Is) ascribed to John (vv. 82-104), and upon which his discourse may be said to proceed, leads up the presentation of the final stage of the Christian life on earth -- that stage when man has won his way to the kingdom of the "what Is" within himself, and when he no longer needs the outward supports to his faith which he needed before he passed from the "what Knows". Christianity is a religion which is only secondarily a doctrine addressed to the "what Knows". It is, first of all, a religion whose fountain-head is a Personality in whom all that is spiritually potential in man, was realized, and in responding to whom the soul of man is quickened and regenerated. And the Church, through the centuries, has been kept alive, not by the letter of the New Testament, for the letter killeth, but by a succession of quickened and regenerated spirits, "the noble Living and the noble Dead", through whom the Christ has been awakened and developed in other souls.

Wanting is -- what? Summer redundant, Blueness abundant, -- Where is the spot? Beamy the world, yet a blank all the same, [5] -- Framework which waits for a picture to frame: What of the leafage, what of the flower? Roses embowering with nought they embower! Come then, complete incompletion, O Comer, Pant through the blueness, perfect the summer! [10] Breathe but one breath Rose-beauty above, And all that was death Grows life, grows love, Grows love! [15]

-- 4. spot: defect, imperfection.

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