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

The Lyric shows how the Finite may prefigure the Infinite


"Fire has been cradled in the flint, though its Ethereal splendours may disclaim the association."

6. "MIHRAB SHAH" vindicates the existence of physical suffering as necessary to the consciousness of well-being; and also, and most especially, as neutralizing the differences, and thus creating the one complete bond of sympathy, between man and man.

Lyric. "Your soul is weighed down by a feeble body. In me a strong body is allied to a sluggish soul. You would fitly leave me behind. Impeded as you also are, I may yet overtake you."

7. "A CAMEL-DRIVER" declares the injustice of punishment, in regard to all cases in which the offence has been committed in ignorance; and shows also that, while a timely warning would always have obviated such an offence, it is often sufficiently punished by the culprit's too tardy recognition of it. "God's justice distinguishes itself from that of man in the acknowledgment of this fact."

The Lyric deals specially with the imperfections of human judgment. "You have overrated my small faults, you have failed to detect the greater ones."

8. "TWO CAMELS" is directed against asceticism. "An ill-fed animal breaks down in the fulfilment of its task. A man who deprives himself of natural joys, not for the sake of his fellow-men, but for his own, is also unfitted for the obligations of Life.

For he cannot instruct others in its use and abuse. Nor, being thus ignorant of earth, can he conceive of heaven."

The Lyric shows how the Finite may prefigure the Infinite, by illustrations derived from science and from love.

9. "CHERRIES" illustrates the axiom that a gift must be measured, not by itself, but by the faculty of the giver, and by the amount of loving care which he has bestowed upon it. Man's general performance is to be judged from the same point of view.

The Lyric connects itself with the argument less closely and less seriously in this case than in the foregoing ones. The speaker has striven to master the art of poetry, and found life too short for it. "He contents himself with doing little, only because doing nothing is worse. But when he turns from verse-making to making love, or, as the sense implies, seeks to express in love what he has failed to express in poetry, all limitations of time and power are suspended; every moment's realization is absolute and lasting."

10. "PLOT-CULTURE" is a distinct statement of the belief in a purely personal relation between God and man. It justifies every experience which bears moral fruit, however immoral from human points of view; and refers both the individual and his critic to the final harvest, on which alone the Divine judgment will be passed.

The Lyric repeats the image in which this idea is clothed, more directly than the idea itself. A lover pleads permission to love with his whole being--with Sense as well as with Soul.

11. "A PILLAR AT SEBZEVAR" lays down the proposition that the pursuit of knowledge is invariably disappointing: while love is always, and in itself, a gain.

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