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

So the wag thinks his victim has sufficiently suffered


"So

now," the speaker concludes, "Jews buy what pictures they like, and hang them up where they please, and,"--with an inward groan--"no, boy, you must not pelt them." This warning, which is supposed to be addressed by the historian in his old age to a nephew with a turn for throwing stones, reveals the motive of the story: a sudden remembrance of the good old pious time, when Jews _might_ be pelted.

"UP AT A VILLA--DOWN IN THE CITY" is a lively description of the amusements of the city, and the dulness of villa life, as contrasted by an Italian of quality, who is bored to death in his country residence, but cannot afford the town. His account of the former gives a genuine impression of dreariness and monotony, for the villa is stuck on a mountain edge, where the summer is scorching and the winter bleak, where a "lean cypress" is the most conspicuous object in the foreground, and hills "smoked over" with "faint grey olive trees" fill in the back; where on hot days the silence is only broken by the shrill chirp of the cicala, and the whining of bees around some adjacent firs. But the other side of the picture, though sympathetically drawn, is a perfect parody of what it is meant to convey. For the speaker's ideal "city" might be a big village, with its primitive customs, and its life all concentrated in the market-place or square; and it is precisely in the square that he is ambitious to live. There the church-bells sound, and the diligence rattles

in, and the travelling doctor draws teeth or gives pills; there the punch-show or the church procession displays itself, and the last proclamation of duke or archbishop is posted up. It is never too hot, because of the fountain always plashing in the centre; and the bright white houses, and green blinds, and painted shop-signs are a perpetual diversion to the eye.... But alas! the price of food is prohibitive; and a man must live where he can.

"ANOTHER WAY OF LOVE" is the complement to "One Way of Love," and displays the opposite mood. The one lover patiently gathers June roses in case they may catch his lady's eye. The other grows tired of such patience even when devoted to himself; he tires of June roses, which are always red and sweet. His lady-love is bantering him on this frame of mind. It is true, she says, that such monotony is trying to a man's temper: there is no comfort in anything that can't be quarrelled with; and the person she addresses is free to "go." She reminds him, however, that June may repair her bower which his hand has rifled, and the next time "consider" which of two courses she prefers: to bestow her flowers on one who will accept their sweetness, or use her lightnings to kill the spider who is weaving his films about them.

"SIBRANDUS SCHAFNABURGENSIS" is apparently the name of an old pedant who has written a tiresome book; and the adventures of this book form the subject of the poem. Some wag relates how he read it a month ago, having come into the garden for that purpose; and then revenged himself by dropping it through a crevice in a tree, and enjoying a picnic lunch and a chapter of "Rabelais" on the grass close by. To-day, in a fit of compunction, he has raked the "treatise" out; but meanwhile it has blistered in the sun, and run all colours in the rain. Toadstools have grown in it; and all the creatures that creep have towzed it and browsed on it, and devoted bits of it to their different domestic use. It is altogether a melancholy sight. So the wag thinks his victim has sufficiently suffered, and carries it back to his book-shelf, to "dry-rot" there in all the comfort it deserves.


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