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

Was found dead where Martin Relph had seen him


97: This poem was a personal utterance, provoked by the death of a relative whom Mr. Browning dearly loved.]

[Footnote 98: Told by Schiller and Leigh Hunt.]

[Footnote 99: Written for and inscribed to a little son of the actor, William Macready.]

[Footnote 100: A picturesque old church which has since been destroyed.]

[Footnote 101: The "Threatening Tyrant." Suggested by some words in Horace: 8th Ode, ii. Book.]

[Footnote 102: Mr. Browning is proud to remember that Mazzini informed him he had read this poem to certain of his fellow-exiles in England to show how an Englishman could sympathize with them.]

[Footnote 103: A small, square building on one of the quays, in which the bodies of drowned persons were placed for identification.]




The Dramatic Idyls form, like the Dramas, a natural group; and though, unlike these, they might be distributed under various heads, it would not be desirable to thus disconnect them; for their appearing together at this late period of Mr. Browning's career, constitutes them a landmark in it. They each

consist of a nucleus of fact--supplied by history or by romance, as the case may be--and of material, and in most cases, mental circumstance, which Mr. Browning's fancy has engrafted on it; and in both their material and their mental aspect they display a concentrated power, which clearly indicates what I have spoken of as the "crystallizing" process Mr. Browning's genius has undergone. A comparison of these poems with "Pauline," "Paracelsus," or even "Pippa Passes," will be found to justify this assertion.

The Idyls consist of two series, occupying each a volume. The first, published 1879, contains:--

"Martin Relph." "Pheidippides." "Halbert and Hob." "Ivan Ivanovitch." "Tray." "Ned Bratts."

The hero of "MARTIN RELPH" is an old man, whose life is haunted by something which happened to him when little more than a boy. A girl of his own village had been falsely convicted of treason, and the guns were already levelled for her execution, when Martin Relph, who had stolen round on to some rising ground behind the soldiers and villagers who witnessed the scene, saw what no one else could see: a man, about a quarter of mile distant, rushing onwards in staggering haste, and waving a white object over his head. He knew this was Vincent Parkes, Rosamond Page's lover, bearing the expected proofs of her innocence. He knew also that by a shout he might avert her doom. But something paralyzed his tongue, and the girl fell. The man who would have rescued her but for delays and obstacles, which no power of his could overcome, was found dead where Martin Relph had seen him.

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