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

Drew the line of persecution closer and closer


"MEETING AT NIGHT" is a glimpse of moonlight and repose; and of the appropriate seclusion in the company of the one woman loved.

"PARTING AT MORNING" asserts the need of "men" and their "world," which is born again with the sunshine.

"THE PATRIOT" tells, as its second title informs us, "an old story." Only this day year, the "patriot" entered the city as its hero, amidst a frenzy of gratitude and joy. To-day he passes out of it through comparatively silent streets; for those for whom he has laboured last as first, are waiting for him at the foot of the scaffold. No infliction of physical pain or moral outrage is spared him as he goes. He is "safer so," he declares. The reward men have withheld awaits him at the hand of God.

"INSTANS TYRANNUS"[101] is the confession of a king, who has been possessed by an unreasoning and uncontrolled hatred for one man. This man was his subject, but so friendless and obscure that no hatred could touch, so stupid or so upright that no temptation could lure him into his enemy's power. The King became exasperated by the very smallness of the creature which thus kept him at bay; drew the line of persecution closer and closer; and at last ran his victim to earth. But, at the critical moment, the man so long passive and cowering threw himself on the protection of God. The King saw, in a sudden revulsion of feeling, an Arm thrown out from the sky,

and the "wretch" he had striven to crush, safely enfolded in it Then he in his turn--was "afraid."

"MESMERISM" is a fanciful but vivid description of an act of mesmeric power, which draws a woman, alone, in the darkness, and through every natural obstacle, to the presence of the man who loves her.

"TIME'S REVENGES" is also a confession made in the form of a soliloquy. The speaker has a friend whose devotion is equal to any test, and whose love he barely repays with liking; and he has a lady-love by whom this friend is avenged; for he has given up to his passion for her his body and his soul, his peace and his renown, every laudable ambition, every rational aim; and he knows she would let him roast by a slow fire if this would procure her an invitation to a certain ball.

"THE ITALIAN IN ENGLAND" is the supposed adventure of a leading Italian patriot, told by himself in later years. He tells how he was hiding from the Austrians, who had put a price upon his head, and were scouring the country in pursuit of him; how, impelled by hunger, he disclosed his place of concealment to a peasant girl--the last of a troop of villagers who were passing by; and how she saved his life at the risk of her own, and when she would have been paid in gold for betraying him. He relates also that his first thought was to guard himself against betrayal by not telling her who he was; but that her loyal eyes, her dignified form and carriage (perhaps too, the consummate tact with which she had responded to his signal) in another moment had put the thought to flight, and he fearlessly placed his own, and his country's destiny in her hands. He is an exile in England now. Friends and brothers have made terms with the oppressor, and his home is no longer theirs. But among the wishes which still draw him to his native land, is one, less acknowledged than the rest and which perhaps lies deeper, that he may see that noble woman once more; talk to her of the husband who was then her lover, of her children, and her home; and, once more, as he did in parting from her, kiss her hand in gratitude, and lay his own in blessing on her head.[102]


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