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A Day with Browning by Anonymous and Browning

[Illustration: A Day with Browning]

"The Palazzo Giustiniani Recanati was a place of historical association and fifteenth-century traditions.... At three o'clock regularly, a friend's gondola, which was always at hand to convey him, came and carried him, usually, to the Lido,--his favourite spot."

[Illustration: _Painting by E. W. Haslehust._ BROWNING'S HOUSE IN VENICE.]

[Illustration: A DAY WITH THE POET BROWNING NEW YORK HODDER & STOUGHTON]

_In the same Series._

_Longfellow._ _Tennyson._ _Keats._ _Wordsworth._ _Burns._ _Scott._ _Byron._ _Shelley._

A DAY WITH BROWNING.

From his bed-room window in the Palazzo Giustiniani Recanati, every morning in 1885, Robert Browning watched the sunrise. "My window commands a perfect view," he wrote, "the still, grey lagoon, the few seagulls flying, the islet of San Giorgio in deep shadow, and the clouds in a long purple rack, from behind which a sort of spirit of rose burns up, till presently all the rims are on fire with gold.... So my day begins."

The Palazzo, in which a suite of rooms had been placed by Mrs. Bronson at the disposal of the poet and his sister, was a place of historical association and fifteenth-century traditions. And no more appropriate abiding-place than Venice could have been selected for a man of Browning's temperament. The Venetian colouring was a perpetual feast to his eye: its mediaeval glories were a source of continual inspiration. And if much of his heart still remained with his native land, so that the London daily papers were a necessity of existence, and a certain sense of exile occasionally obtruded itself, we must needs be grateful to that fact for its result in certain immortal lines:

Oh, to be in England Now that April's there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brush-wood sheaf Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England--now!

And after April, when May follows, And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows! Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge Leans to the field and scatters on the clover Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent-spray's edge-- That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture The first fine careless rapture! And though the fields look rough with hoary dew, All will be gay when noontide wakes anew The buttercups, the little children's dower, --Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

But there had always been a frankly cosmopolitan spirit in Browning,--no touch of parochialism or insularity. In the magnificent gallery of portrait studies, no two alike, which his poems present to us, the nationalities are legion. Yet Italian scenes predominate; for Browning could gauge, with the unerring instinct of genius, all the subtleties of the Italian temperament. So we come, at every turn, across some ardent vision of the South,--here, Waring sailing out of Trieste under the furled lateen-sail; and there, Fra Lippo Lippi tracking "lutestrings, laughs, and whifts of song" down the darkling streets of Florence. The "Patriot," riding into Brescia, "roses, roses all the way," and the Duke of Ferrara,--that "typical representative of a whole phase of civilisation," discussing _My Last Duchess_ and her foolishness.


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