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

Published in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics


"THIRD SPEAKER," Mr. Browning himself, corrects both the material faith of the Old Testament, and the scientific doubt of the nineteenth century, by the idea of a more mystical and individual intercourse between God and man. Observers have noted in the Arctic Seas that the whole field of waters seem constantly hastening towards some central point of rock, to envelope it in their playfulness and their force; in the blackness they have borrowed from the nether world, or the radiance they have caught from heaven; then tearing it up by the roots, to sweep onwards towards another peak, and make _it_ their centre for the time being. So do the forces of life and nature circle round the individual man, doing in each the work of experience, reproducing for each the Divine Face which is inspired by the spirit of creation. And, as the speaker declares, he needs no "Temple," because the world is that. Nor, as he implies, needs he look beyond the range of his own being for the lost Divinity.

"That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows, Or decomposes but to recompose, Become my universe that feels and knows!" (vol. vii. p. 255.)

"FEARS AND SCRUPLES" illustrates this personal religion in an opposite manner. It is the expression of a tender and very simple religious feeling, saddened by the obscurity which surrounds its object, and still more by the impossibility of proving to other minds that this object

is a real one. It is described as the devotion to an unseen friend, known only by his letters and reported deeds, but whom one loves as by instinct, believes in without testimony, and trusts to as accepting the allegiance of the smaller being, and sure sooner or later to acknowledge it In the present case the days are going by. No sign of acknowledgment has been given. Sceptics assure the believer that his faith rests on letters which were forged, on actions which others equally have performed; he can only yearn for some word or token which would enable him to shut their mouth. But when some one hints that the friend is only concealing himself to test his power of vision, and will punish him if he does not see; and another objects that this would prove the friend a monster; he crushes the objector with a word: "and what if the friend be GOD?"

The next group is fuller and still more characteristic: for it displays the love of Art in its special conditions, and, at the same time, in its union with all the general human instincts in which artistic emotion can be merged. We find it in its relation to the general love of life in

"Fra Lippo Lippi." ("Men and Women." 1855.)

In its relation to the spiritual sense of existence in

"Abt Vogler." ("Dramatis Personae." 1864.)

As a transformation of human tenderness in

"Pictor Ignotus." ("Men and Women." Published in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)

In its directly sensuous effects in

"The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church." ("Men and Women." Published as "The Tomb at Saint Praxed's" in "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." 1845.)[72]

In its associative power in

"A Toccata of Galuppi's." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.)

In its representative power in

"The Guardian-Angel: a Picture at Fano." ("Dramatic Lyrics." Published in "Men and Women." 1855.)

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