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Old 01-07-2002, 08:35 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
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Yes, I know it is in all the anthologies... but was just reading it again today and it cracked me up afresh, so thought I should share. Is there any other poet in English who is capable of painting such characters? (Or rather, letting them paint themselves?)

Ezra Pound apparently called Robert Browning "Old Hippety-Hop o' the accents", and the meter here is (deliberately) jerky, and to me well suits the tension here--internal bursts of venom versus a strained polite exterior.

True, it helps to have footnotes about the various Church heresies, etc. But you can still get the (gleefully malicious) gist...

(consider odd lines indented)


Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

1.
Gr-r-r--there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flowerpots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims--
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

2.
At the meal we sit together:
Salve tibi? I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork crop: scarcely
Dare we hop oak-galls, I doubt:
What's the Latin name for "parsely"?

What's the Greek name for Swine's Snout?

3.
Whew! We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrifical
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps--
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

4.
Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
--Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbaray corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)

5.
When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu's praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange pulp--
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp.

6.
Oh, those melons? If he's able
We're to have a feast! So nice!
One goes to the Abbot's table,
All of us each get a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!--And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

7.
There's a great text in Galations,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

8.
Or, my scrofulous French novel
On gray paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's grip:
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?

9.
Or, there's Satan!--one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine . . .
'St, there's Vespers! Plena gratia
Ave, Virgo!
Gr-r-r--you swine!

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  #2  
Old 01-07-2002, 12:16 PM
ChrisW ChrisW is offline
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Thanks for posting this, Alicia! I loved it-- spiteful and delightful. It may be in all the anthologies, but so are a lot of other things competing for my attention -- or simply daunting me.
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Old 01-08-2002, 03:06 PM
Golias Golias is offline
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It probably was not with this or any other of RB's dramatic monologues in mind that Wilde observed:

"Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning."

G.

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Old 01-09-2002, 05:43 PM
Gail White's Avatar
Gail White Gail White is offline
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This seems like a good place to share with you readers one
of my favorite Browning poems. (You must imagine every line
capitalized & every other line indented.)
I've always admired this poem for its skillful use of a very complex rhyme scheme, as well as its emotional power.
The speaker is a young woman.

IN A YEAR

Never any more
while I live,
need I hope to see his face
as before.
Once his love grown chill,
mine may strive--
bitterly we re-embrace,
single still.

Was it something said,
something done,
vexed him? was it touch of hand,
turn of head?
Strange! that very way
love begun.
I as little understand
love's decay.

When I sewed or drew,
I recall
how looked as if I sang
-sweetly too.
If I spoke a word,
first of all
up his cheek the color sprang,
then he heard.

Sitting by my side,
at my feet,
so he breathed the air I breathed,
satisfied!
I, too, at love's brim
touched the sweet:
I would die if death bequeathed
sweet to him.

"Speak, I love thee best!"
he exclaimed.
"Let thy love my own foretell,--"
I confessed:
"Clasp my heart on thine,
now unblamed,
since upon thy soul as well
hangeth mine!"

Was it wrong to own,
being truth?
Why should all the giving prove
his alone?
I had wealth and ease,
beauty, youth--
since my lover gave me love,
I gave these.

That was all I meant
-to be just,
and the passion I had raised
to content.
Since he chose to change
gold for dust,
if I gave him what he praised,
was it strange?

Would he loved me yet,
on and on,
while I found some way undreamed
-paid my debt!
Gave more life and more,
till, all gone,
he should smile, "She never seemed
mine before."

"What - she felt the while,
must I think?
Love's so different with us men,"
he should smile.
"Dying for my sake -
white and pink!
Can't we touch these bubbles then
but they break?"

Dear, the pang is brief.
Do thy part,
have thy pleasure. How perplext
grows belief!
Well, this cold clay clod
was man's heart.
Crumble it - and what comes next?
Is it God?
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Old 01-09-2002, 09:30 PM
Golias Golias is offline
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Since it's often desirable to indent lines, may I suggest using the HTML hard space tag, or rather a string of five or six of them, depending on the depth of indention you want.

The tag is (here I put a space between charactrers, but when you use it there should be none) & n b s p ; (being sure to use the semicolon with each iteration.

Here's an example with five iterations of the tag typed immediately before alternate lines:

Dear, the pang is brief.
BANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTDo thy part,
have thy pleasure. How perplext
BANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTgrows belief!
Well, this cold clay clod
BANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTwas man's heart.
Crumble it - and what comes next?
BANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTBANNED POSTIs it God?

To save typing all those tags, copy the first string of them and paste it before each line to be indented.

G.




[This message has been edited by Golias (edited January 09, 2002).]
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Old 01-10-2002, 09:07 AM
Jan D. Hodge Jan D. Hodge is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Golias:
It probably was not with this or any other of RB's dramatic monologues in mind that Wilde observed:

"Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning."

Guess there's just no satisfying some tastes. Of another undisputed master of metrics, Wilde observed: "There are two ways to dislike poetry. One is to dislike poetry. The other is to read Pope."

I'll toss in a plug for another RB tour de force I have always liked, "The Glove"--his retelling of the story of Leigh Hunt's "The Glove and the Lions." Among its elements of technical wit is the fact that [I use the now sometimes disparaged technical terms aptly] the entire poem of 190 lines is written in couplets of feminine rhyme--except for the 34 lines the lady speaks, in emphatically masculine rhyme.

Jan
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Old 01-11-2002, 10:42 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
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Gail,

A VERY fascinating poem, and not one I was familiar with before. The short lines are stilted, but seem to reflect her perplexity. He is quite amazing at getting under the skin of his characters. If I didn't know the author, I would assume it was actually written by a woman. (Though a woman of the time might not have felt comfortable writing such.)

Victorian poets are often accused of being staid and formulaic, but again and again one finds the opposite--that they were quite experimental, particularly regarding nonce stanza forms, meter, and points of view.

Jan, interesting observation about "The Glove". Regarding the Wilde quote, however, I must confess I am sympathetic with him on the subject of Pope, though I would readily grant (as would Wilde, I think), his metrical and rhetorical mastery.
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  #8  
Old 01-12-2002, 06:03 AM
Gail White's Avatar
Gail White Gail White is offline
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Yes, I think the Victorians are under-rated. My secret vice is that I love Tennyson, & re-read "In Memoriam" about once every 10 years. I think the decline in Tennyson's reputation was due to the fact that his verse is so euphonious that he makes writing poetry look easy, whereas the rougher sound of Browning makes you think that writing
that way must have been hard (actually, of course, it's a challenge either way.)

Browning was definitely a master of psychology and I love
all of his dramatic monologues, especially "Andrea Del
Sarto." Unfortunately, they're all so long that I can only
urge the reader to get hold of MEN AND WOMEN and read them
all.

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Old 01-12-2002, 06:34 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
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Speaking of In Memoriam Gail, this piece by Browning, written shortly after the death of his wife, has long been
a work I've admired.

Prospice.

Fear death?--to feel the fog in my throat,
. The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
. I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
. The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
. Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
. And the barriers fall,
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
. The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
. The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore,
. And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
. The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
. Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
. The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
. Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
. Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
. And with God be the rest!


Jim Hayes



[This message has been edited by Jim Hayes (edited January 12, 2002).]
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