I wish I had ordered two sets of Robert Browning’s poetry so I could rip the pages out of one set and roll around in them like a villain in a pile of money.
Mmm, Robert Browning. He wrote poetry for the prose lover. His best poems are puzzles with intricate settings, characters and plot twists. In his most famous poem, My Last Duchess, an Italian nobleman talks to a marriage broker. While contemplating a painting of his last wife, he inadvertently reveals his possessive and controlling nature. Or does he do it on purpose to ensure that the marriage broker advises the new wife to never arouse any slight feeling of jealousy in the Duke? I dunno, but I sure enjoy speculating.
I see Browning’s poems as precursors to Modern stream of consciousness novels. He takes readers on brief journeys into the minds of medieval monks, Renaissance painters, and mad lovers. He uses psychological intimacy to tell stories and I love it. Yes, please, I would like to read a monologue by a monk who has been arrested for drunkenness, and all the other dramatic monologues you have for me, Robert. I’ll read them all.
Browning is a unique poet. His wife, Elizabeth Barret Browning, asked him to write from his own point of view. She valued “true” expressions of a poet’s thoughts and personal reactions to the world. But, Robert wasn’t into that. He wrote characters with complex personalities. He envisioned dramatic events and romantic scenery. He imagined psychological responses to places and events he never experienced. You will find no Romantic odes to daffodils among his poems. Instead, he offers twisted love stories; brilliant lives stifled by outward circumstances; humorous and exotic anecdotes.
I really don’t have that much else to tell you about Robert Browning. He’s one of my absolute favorite poets, if not my very favorite. His poetry isn’t exactly easy, but it’s definitely fun. You should read some, you won’t regret it. I feel a little bad that I’m not writing more about him, but my feelings are simple. He’s wonderful! One of the greatest. There’s no one like him.
Here is a partial list of my favorite Robert Browning poems:
- Fra Lippo Lippi
- My Last Duchess
- Andrea del Sarto
- Soliloquy of a Spanish Cloister
- Porphyria’s Lover
- In a Gondola
- The Statue and the Bust
You might like Robert Browning’s poetry if:
- you understand what things are good in this world
- you’re a history nerd
- you like puzzles
You might not like Robert Browning’s poetry if:
- you’re foolish
Final Thoughts: All of those poems fill my heart with joy and make me glad to be alive on this earth. Don’t get me wrong, they are mostly tragedies, but tragedies so beautifully executed they make you exult in your existence.
Congratulations! You are a literate human living after Robert Browning wrote poems. You can read them. You can read them right now! Go forth, appreciate the glory of his words! I’m excited for you.