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A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)

And a few drops of thundery rain


"TWO IN THE CAMPAGNA." The sentiment of this poem can only be rendered in its concluding words:

"Infinite passion, and the pain Of finite hearts that yearn." (vol. vi. p. 153.)

For its pain is that of a heart both restless and weary: ever seeking to grasp the Infinite in the finite, and ever eluded by it. The sufferer is a man. He longs to rest in the affection of a woman who loves him, and whom he also loves; but whenever their union seems complete, his soul is spirited away, and he is adrift again. He asks the meaning of it all--where the fault lies, if fault there be; he begs her to help him to discover it. The Campagna is around them, with its "endless fleece of feathery grasses," its "everlasting wash of air;" its wide suggestions of passion and of peace. The clue to the enigma seems to glance across him, in the form of a gossamer thread. He traces it from point to point, by the objects on which it rests. But just as he calls his love to help him to hold it fast, it breaks off, and floats into the invisible. His doom is endless change. The tired, tantalized spirit must accept it.

"LOVE IN A LIFE" represents the lover as inhabiting the same house with his unseen love; and pursuing her in it ceaselessly from room to room, always catching the flutter of her retreating presence, always sure that the next moment he will overtake her.

justify;"> "LIFE IN A LOVE" might be the utterance of the same person, when he has grasped the fact that the loved one is determined to elude him. She may baffle his pursuit, but he will never desist from it, though it absorb his whole life.

"THE LOST MISTRESS" is the farewell expression of a discarded love which has accepted the conditions of friendship. Its tone is full of manly self-restraint and of patient sadness.

"A WOMAN'S LAST WORD" is one of moral and intellectual self-surrender. She has been contending with her husband, and been silenced by the feeling, not that the truth is on his side, but that it was not worth the pain of such a contention. What, she seems to ask herself, is the value of truth, when it is false to her Divinity; or knowledge, when it costs her her Eden? She begs him whom she worships as well as loves, to mould her to himself; but she begs also the privilege of a few tears--a last tribute, perhaps, to her sacrificed conscience, and her lost liberty.

"A SERENADE AT THE VILLA" has a tinge of melancholy humour, which makes it the more pathetic. A lover has been serenading the lady of his affections through a sultry night, in which Earth seemed to turn painfully in her sleep, and the silent darkness was unbroken, except by an occasional flash of lightning, and a few drops of thundery rain. He wishes his music may have told her that whenever life is dark or difficult there will be one near to help and guide her: one whose patience will never tire, and who will serve her best when there are none to witness his devotion. But her villa looks very dark; its closed windows are very obdurate. The gate ground its teeth as it let him pass. And he fears she only said to herself, that if the silence of a thundery night was oppressive, such noise was a worse infliction.

"ONE WAY OF LOVE." This lover has strewn the roses of a month's gathering on his lady's path, only for the chance of her seeing them: as he has conquered the difficulties of the lute, only for the chance of her liking its sound; thrown his whole life into a love, which is hers to accept or reject. She cares for none of these things. So the roses may lie, the lute-string break. The lover can still say, "Blest is he who wins her."

"RUDEL TO THE LADY OF TRIPOLI" is a pathetic declaration, in which the lover compares himself to a sunflower, and proclaims it as his badge. The French poet Rudel loves the "Lady of Tripoli;"[69] and she is dear to him as is the sun to that foolish flower, which by constant contemplation has grown into its very resemblance. And he bids a pilgrim tell her that, as bees bask on the sunflower, men are attracted by his song; but, as the sunflower looks ever towards the sun, so does he, disregarding men's applause, look towards the East, and her.


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