The Life of Robert Browning and Themes He Used in His Poems
Robert Browning was born in South London and lived from 1812 – 1889. He was born into a well-to-do family, his mother was a well known musician and his father was a collector of rare literary books and they encouraged their children to explore literature and the arts. Browning was a self taught author who never enjoyed schooling. He was tutored from the age of 14-16 and was fluent in French, Greek, and Italian. He discovered an appreciation of romantic poets early on a friend gave him a collection of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry and it helped fuel his passion for the art.
He attended college for one year and lived at home until he was 34 years of age. His family supported the publications of his early poems and he relied on them for financial support as well until his marriage to another poet, Elizabeth Barrett. Much of Browning’s early work was considered a failure until he received critical acclaim with The Ring and the Book. Robert Browning’s use of death, madness, love and dramatic monologue placed him as one of the most famous and studied poets of the Victorian Period.
Browning tackles death in A Death in the Desert where he writes about arrangements being made for a dying man, St. John. And in The Dance of Death, “My spirit lives on the hectic glow” and “Heard the last quick gasp and saw him die” he writes one friend watch another go through the stages of death from a fever.
Again in The Dance of Death we see Browning’s use of dramatic monologue to write about madness; “Hear ye the wild cry of grief and pain; Hark! ‘Tis a shriek as from fiends of hell; As the crocodiles’ when crouched in the stream; In India’s sultry land…As the flow of the sullen river.” Browning paints a vivid picture using diction and symbols to outline the fate of a person imprisoned in treacherous surroundings and we feel him succumbing to madness because of it.
Browning uses love as a theme in many of his poems. In Live in a Love his first line is “Escape me?” and later “Me the loving and you the loth, While the one eludes, must the other pursue.” He writes about his devotion to love regardless if the effort is paid off in the end. Love is in the chase and if the outcome is not what is desired one starts over in their pursuit. In Love Among the Ruins Browning writes about choosing between the complicated and the simple settings. In the ruins of a complicated city that once had; “All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades, Colonnades, All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts, and then-all the men! A setting that had all one could desire and what transpires through others wanting to take it away.
He then compares that setting to the simple pastoral setting of today. He is reminded of his love that awaits him and he uses rhythm and rhyme to the beat of love; “Melt away; That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair, Waits me there……Love is best.” In the end he tells us he chooses love is best and goes for the pastoral simple life and the love that waits for him. Some of Browning’s best work was a collection of poems, Men and Women, which he dedicated to the love of his life, his wife Elizabeth.
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Robert Browning was born in South London and lived from 1812 – 1889. He was born into a well-to-do family, his mother was a well known musician and his father […]