Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning
This dramatic monologue is narrated by Renaissance painter Andrea del Sarto to his wife Lucrezia. They live in Florence. Andrea begs Lucrezia that they end a quarrel over whether the painter should sell his paintings to a friend of his wife’s. He acquiesces to her wish and promises he will give her the money if she will only hold his hand and sit with him by the window from which they can survey Florence. He admits to feeling a deep melancholy, in which “a common grayness silvers everything” (line 35), and hopes she can pull him from it.
He tells her that if she were to smile for him, he would be able to pull himself from such sadness. Andrea considers himself a failure as an artist, both because Lucrezia has lost her “first pride” (line 37) in him and because he has only one talent: the ability to create faultless paintings. Though many praise him for creating flawless reproductions, which he admits he does easily, with “no sketches first, no studies” (line 68), Andrea is aware that his work lacks the spirit and soul that bless his contemporaries Rafael and Michel Agnolo (Michelangelo).
Considering himself only a “craftsman” (line 82), he knows they are able to glimpse heaven whereas he is stuck with earthly inspirations. He surveys a painting that has been sent to him and notes how it has imperfections he could easily fix, but a “soul” (line 108) he could never capture. He begins to blame Lucrezia for denying him the soul that could have made him great, and while he forgives her for her beauty, he accuses her of not having brought a “mind” (line 126) that could have inspired him.
He wonders whether what makes his contemporaries great is their lack of a wife. Andrea then reminisces on their past. Long before, he had painted for a year in France for the royal court, producing work of which both he and Lucrezia were proud. But when she grew “restless” (line 165), they set off for Italy, where they bought a nice house with the money and he became a less inspired artist. However, he contemplates that it could have gone no other way, since fate intended him to be with Lucrezia, and he hopes future generations will forgive him his choices.
As evidence of his talent, he recalls how Michelangelo once complimented his talent to Rafael, but quickly loses that excitement as he focuses on the imperfections of the painting in front of him and his own failings. He begs Lucrezia to stay with him more often, sure that her love will inspire him to greater achievements, and he could thereby “earn more, give [her] more” (line 207). Lucrezia is called from outside, by her cousin, who is implicitly her lover, and Andrea begs her to stay. He notes that the cousin has “loans” (line 221) that need paying, and says he will pay those if she stays.
She seems to decline the offer and to insist she will leave. In the poem’s final section, Andrea grows melancholy again and insists he does “regret little… would change still less” (line 245). He justifies having fled France and sold out his artistic integrity and praises himself for his prolific faultless paintings. He notes again that Lucrezia is a part of his failure, but insists that she was his choice. Finally, he gives her leave to go to her cousin. Analysis “Andrea del Sarto” is unique in Browning’s dramatic monologue oeuvre because of its incredibly melancholic tone and pessimistic view of art.
The voice, as well-drawn as usual, falls into blank verse, unrhymed, mostly iambic lines, but lacks the charisma of most of Browning’s speakers. It’s a fitting choice, since the character’s basic approach to his dilemma is a rational, dialectical one – he follows several lines of thought in trying to find who or what is to blame for his unhappiness, reasoning through each option until he wears himself out. The piece veers between extreme moods and thoughts without any clear separations, suggesting the rhythm of depressive, desperate thought.
The irony is that his ability to rationalize does not mean he gets anywhere closer to truth, or that he is free from severe psychological hang-ups. First, a bit of history is useful. As with this poem’s companion piece, “Fra Lippo Lippi,” Browning was inspired towards this subject by Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, which tells of how Andrea was famous in his day for his ability to paint faultless work, though he was later eclipsed in greatness by his contemporaries, compared with whose work his looked vacuous.
The other historical detail Browning draws upon is the painter’s artistic life: he had painted for the French king for a while, until he and his wife Lucrezia took their bounty and went to Florence, where they used that money to buy a wonderful house. Andrea’s basic dilemma can be boiled down to one that still resonates with artists today: should he pursue high art or commercial art? Obviously, the two are not mutually exclusive, but the pursuit of the former demands great ambition and a willingness to ail, whereas the latter can be produced according to more easily categorizable formula. Andrea acknowledges that an artist ought be drawn towards the demands of high art, which pushes him to reach for the heavens: “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? ” (lines 97-98). And yet he repeatedly chooses to stay Earth-bound, choosing to create paintings for money, to stay within his comfort realm (in which he can create faultless paintings without any difficulty) and thereby maintain a high standard of living. He spends the monologue seeking the cause of his choice.
The most common cause he returns to is his wife, so much so that he wonders whether his more acclaimed contemporaries have perhaps gained in ambition by lacking a wife. It’s clear that he is under Lucrezia’s thumb, both at the beginning – in which he acquiesces to painting for the sake of her “friend’s friend” (line 5) even as it bothers him – and at the end, when he sends her off to a ‘cousin’ who is more than likely a lover, and whose debts Lucrezia forces her husband to work in order to pay. And yet, for all the ammunition he has to despise her, Andrea consistently pulls his punches.
He accuses her of infidelity, of lack of faith in his art, of not having a “mind,” but each time retreats and forgives her everything. Time and time again, he comes back to himself, insisting that he chose her. One question that then emerges is: does his refusal to directly confront her reveal a kindness in him or a weakness, a fear of recognizing his own inability to confront her and by extension himself? His idea of ambition and great art seems well-founded and falls into a philosophy Browning often espoused, the doctrine of the imperfect.
Like many artists before and after him, Browning believed that great art has to be willing to fail, whereas an artist like Andrea, who refuses to compromise his ability for faultless work, can only produce pretty pictures that reveal no depths of humanity. Perhaps the most telling irony of the poem comes in the speaker’s continual return to the painting that sits in the room; he constantly notes how its arm is imperfect and how he could fix it, even as he notes that it reveals great soul in its artistry.
In other words, while Andrea endeavors to discover the cause of his unhappiness, he reveals to the reader that his inability to take risks lies deep within himself. It is here that the basic arc of the poem is revealed: ultimately, through his struggle to blame fate and Lucrezia for his unhappiness, Andrea constantly returns to himself as the villain. The dramatic irony is uncharacteristically light in this poem, because Andrea basically knows the answer to his query. Not only did he choose Lucrezia in the first place, but he also chose to escape France with her.
Further, he chooses to let her go off to her lover, whom she refers to as her “cousin,” and he chooses to continue painting in a way he despises. The deep fear at the heart of the poem is a fear of having no inspired purpose, of having talent but no direction. The heart of such despair is so deep that Andrea will use his every rational facility to avoid looking into that question, and so he instead convinces himself that all will be okay. His greatest weakness is that he barely asks the hardest question: what if all of this means nothing?
Perhaps were he to fully confront that question, he would create work that resonated in a deeper way than his current paintings. But he is unwilling or unable to do so, and convinces himself that he chooses the material over the heavenly world, hoping he will be forgiven for future generations for the choice, even as he is deep-down certain that will not be the case.
Dover Beach by Robert Browning
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) wrote “Dover Beach” during or shortly after a visit he and his wife made to the Dover region of southeastern England, the setting of the poem, in 1851. They had married in June of that year.
A draft of the first two stanzas of the poem appears on a sheet of paper he used to write notes for another another work, “Empedocles on Etna,” published in 1852. The town of Dover is closer to France than any other port city in England. The body of water separating the coastline of the town from the coast of France is the Strait of Dover, north of the English ChanneThe person addressed in the poem—lines 6, 9, and 29—is Matthew Arnold’s wife, Frances Lucy Wightman. However, since the poem expresses a universal message, one may say that she can be any woman listening to the observations of any man.
Arnold and his wife visited Dover Beach twice in 1851, the year they were married and the year Arnold was believed to have written “Dover Beach. ” At that time Arnold was inspector of schools in England, a position he held until 1886. l and south of the North Sea. “Dover Beach” is a poem with the mournful tone of an elegy and the personal intensity of a dramatic monologue. Because the meter and rhyme vary from line to line, the poem is said to be in free verse–that is, it is unencumbered by the strictures of traditional versification.
However, there is cadence in the poem, achieved through the following: Alliteration Examples: to-night, tide; full, fair; gleams, gone; coast, cliff (first stanza) Parallel Structure Example: The tide is full, the moon lies fair (first stanza); So various, so beautiful, so new (fourth stanza); Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light / Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain (fourth stanza) Rhyming Words Examples: to-night, light; fair, night-air; stand, land; bay, spray; fling, bring; begin, in (first stanza) Words Suggesting Rhythm Examples: draw back, return; Begin, and cease, then begin again (first stanza); turbid ebb and flow (second stanza) Year of Publication Although Matthew Arnold completed “Dover Beach” in 1851 or 1852, the poem was not published until 1867.
It appeared in a collection entitled New Poems, published in London. The sea is calm to-night. The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand; Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land, Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in 14 Notes, Stanza 1 on straits: The water reflects the image of the moon. A strait is a narrow body of water that connects two larger bodies of water. In this poem, straits refers to the Strait of Dover (French: Pas de Calais), which connects the English Channel on the south to the North Sea on the north. The distance between the port cities of Dover, England, and Calais, France, is about twenty-one miles via the Strait of Dover. light gone: This clause establishes a sense of rhythm in that the light blinks on and off. In addition, the clause foreshadows the message of later lines–that the light of faith in God and religion, once strong, now flickers.
Whether an observer at Dover can actually see a light at Calais depends on the height of the lighthouse and the altitude at which the observer sees the light (because of the curvature of the earth), on the brightness of the light, and on the weather conditions. cliffs vast: These are white cliffs, composed of chalk, a limestone that easily erodes. Like the light from France, they glimmer, further developing the theme of a weakening of the light of faith. The fact that they easily erode supports this theme. moon-blanched: whitened by the light of the moon. grating pebbles: Here, grating (meaning rasping, grinding, or scraping) introduces conflict between the sea and the land and, symbolically, between long-held religious beliefs and the challenges against them. However, it may be an exaggeration that that pebbles cause a grating roar. strand: shoreline 2 Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea 20 Notes, Stanza 1 Sophocles Aegean: Arnold alludes here to a passage in the ancient Greek play Antigone, by Sophocles, in which Sophocles says the gods can visit ruin on people from one generation to the next, like a swelling tide driven by winds. it: “the eternal note of sadness” (line 14). Aegean: The sea between Greece and Turkey. In the time of Sophocles, the land occupied by Turkey was known as Anatolia. turbid: muddy, cloudy Find hought: In the sound of the sea, the poet “hears” a thought that disturbs him as did the one heard by Sophocles. 3 The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world 28 Notes, Stanza 3 Sea full: See theme, above, for an explanation. girdle: sash, belt; anything that surrounds or encircles I only hear: I alone hear shingles: gravel on the beach Interpretation There was a time when faith in God was strong and comforting.
This faith wrapped itself around us, protecting us from doubt and despair, as the sea wraps itself around the continents and islands of the world. Now, however, the sea of faith has become a sea of doubt. Science challenges the precepts of theology and religion; human misery makes people feel abandoned, lonely. People place their faith in material things. 4 Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night 37 Notes, Stanza 4 neither pain: The world has become a selfish, cynical, amoral, materialistic battlefield; there is much hatred and pain, but there is no guiding light. darkling: dark, obscure, dim; occurring in darkness; menacing, threatening, dangerous, ominous. Where night: E. K. Brown and J. O. Bailey suggest that this line is an allusion to Greek historian Thucydides’ account of the Battle of Epipolae (413 BC), a walled fortress near the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. In that battle, Athenians fought an army of Syracusans at night. In the darkness, the combatants lashed out blindly at one another.
Brown and Bailey further observe that the line “suggests the confusion of mid-Victorian values of all kinds…” (Brown, E. K, and J. O. Bailey, eds. Victorian Poetry. 2nd ed. New York: Ronald Press, 1962, page 831). Interpretation Let us at least be true to each other in our marriage, in our moral standards, in the way we thnk; for the world will not be true to us. Although it presents itself to us as a dreamland, it is a sham. It offers nothing to ease our journey through life. The Poet, Mathew Arnold is standing by the seashore and watching the gentle waves splashing the sandy shores of the Straits. There is a weak breeze that blows gently and the sea looks calm for the night.
The tide is full of potential yet under self control and the moon looks bright as it shines its beams on the quiet sea. From the French Coast across the English Channel to the high sea cliffs of England, the light shines pleasantly and softly, and gets weakened towards the tranquil bay of England. The poet tells his companion to come to the window of his cabin and enjoy the sweet aroma of the night air. Watching the seashore from this height, one can only witness the waters of the sea that acts as a catalyst when they touch the moonlit blended Colour of the sands. Sometimes they hear the roar of the sea when the pebbles cross over to the high sandy beaches and move back suddenly with the withdrawing waves.
This phenomenon continues every evening throughout the night with a slow trembling note and the presence of melancholy is felt. The poet makes his reference to ‘Sophocles’ a famous Greek dramatist long ago, of the 5th Century B. C. to a passage in his play ‘Antigone’(line-583). Here the same eternal note of sadness can be heard on the ‘Aegaean’: an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea, between Southern Balkans and Anatolia. This brought to the dramatist’s mind the muddy movement of the tide away from the land and its flow, the tide of misfortune that rules human misery. That same similar sound can be heard in the thoughts from the distant sea in the north.
The mighty sea was once a beholder of faith with its vastness that touches all the shores of the earth around the globe, lay folded like a bright girdle cord worn around the waist and rolled up fastened and firm. Yet now, the sounds of the waves in the sea are only notes of melancholy; long drawn; advancing and retreating at the breath of the night wind that blows down the vast yet dull and gloomy edges of the bare shingles of the world. The beaches that are covered with coarse sand and large stones. The poet finally appeals to his beloved companion to be honest with each other, for the world that they live in, which looks so beautiful and new, and lay before them like a land of dreams, does not have joy, love or spiritual light. There is no certainty for help in times of trouble and peace. All the mortals live in this world in a dark state of mind and the struggle for survival is no less different from ignorant armies that fight throughout the night.
The Blessed Damozel by Roseeti
Summary of “The Blessed Damozel” Dante Gabriel Rossetti was only 18 when he wrote “The Blessed Damozel. ” Although Rossetti was still young, the images and themes in his poem have caught the attention of many critics throughout the years. “The Blessed Damozel” is a beautiful story of how two lovers are separated by the death of the Damozel and how she wishes to enter paradise, but only if she can do so in the company of her beloved. “The Blessed Damozel” is one of Rossetti’s most famous poems and has been dissected and explicated many times by many different people.
Even so, they all revolve around the same ideas and themes. The theme of Rossetti’s poem is said to have been taken from Vita Nuova, separated lovers are to be rejoined in heaven, by Dante. Many people say his young vision of idealized love was very picturesque and that the heavens Rossetti so often painted and those which were in his poems were much like Dante. The heaven that Rossetti painted in “The Blessed Damozel” was warm with physical bodies and beautiful angels full of love. This kind of description of heaven was said to have been taken from Dante’s ideas. Others said that Rossetti’s heaven was described so in “The Blessed Damozel” because he was still young and immature about such matters.
In other words, he had not yet seen the ugliness and despair that love can bring, which he experienced later in his life after the death of his true love Elizabeth Siddal. “The Blessed Damozel” is beautiful in that if flows so easily from one line to the next and it seems, although it is not very apparent, that Rossetti filled it with symbolism and references to his own personal feelings and future life. The first few stanzas tell of how the Damozel is in heaven overlooking earth and thinking of her lover. Rossetti writes in stanza three of how time to the Damozel seemed to last forever because she was without her love. “To one it is ten years of years… There are a few stanzas in the poem where the narrative jumps to her lover. In stanza four, it is the lover on earth talking about his beloved. The next few stanzas describe heaven, where it lies, and other lovers reuniting around her as she sits and watches… alone. In stanzas ten and eleven, her earthbound lover describes the sound of her voice like a bird’s song which tells the reader that not only is he thinking of her, but it hints he can hear her and feel her about him. Of course, she can not understand why she must be miserable in heaven when all others are with their loves, after all, “Are not two prayers a perfect strength? ” (stanza 12).
In stanza thirteen, she dreams of the day that they will be together and present themselves in the beauty and glory of God. It is also in this stanza that Rossetti lets the reader know that she has not yet entered heaven. She is at the outer gates of the kingdom of heaven. Through the second half of the poem, the Damozel refers to herself and her lover as “we two” and describes how they will be together again someday in heaven. The Damozel even says she will teach him the songs that she sings… and she dreams of them together. It is in the next stanza, (stanza 17), that the narrative changes again back to the lover. He says that she keeps on saying “we two” but when and will they ever really be together like they used to be.
Rossetti is using the Damozel in these few stanzas to describe how the Damozel would want her ideal and perfect love to be, but could that really be with her in heaven and him on earth? The two worlds separating them doesn’t keep them apart in thought, but it is not possible to be together. In stanza twenty-two, she once again says that she will want their love to be as it was on earth with the approval of Christ the Lord. Near the end of the poem, in the last couple of stanzas, the Damozel finally realizes that she can have none of this until the time comes. The Damozel suddenly becomes peaceful and lets the light take her in stanza twenty-three. It is there that the reader also realizes that she will enter heaven without her love.
Her lover on earth, of course, knows this and it is there in the last stanza that “I saw her smile… I hear her tears. ” Apart, but together in hearts, the two are separated by two worlds so great that there is nothing that can be done but hope and pray. And that is why the Damozel “laid her face between her hands, And wept. ” Dante Gabriel Rossetti used the ideas of Christian belief in order to write his poem. His poem explores if two lovers, or anyone will be reunited once again in heaven. In many ways this poem is both optimistic and idealistic. That is why so many people said Rossetti was immature on the subject of love when he wrote this.
To read Rossetti’s poetry starting with some of his earliest, “The Blessed Damozel”, and ending with his later, “The Orchard Pit”, it is apparent how his feelings and ideas changed. As many times as “The Blessed Damozel” has been read and explicated, it is no wonder it has been said that so many ideas lie in his famous piece, but who doesn’t want to believe, like Rossetti did in his younger years that love, no matter what, would always live in the spirit of soul and memory.
Snake by Lawrence
On a very hot day, the narrator in his pajamas, headed towards his water trough to drink some cool and refreshing water, in order to beat the heat. Little did he know that a wild snake from the neighboring jungle had crawled towards the water-trough too. The two are about to encounter each other in a subtle way. In the deep strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-trees, the narrator came down the steps with his pitcher. He suddenly saw the snake, stopped and waited, for there the snake was at the trough before him. The snake reached down from a fissure: a narrow opening, cleft or crevice; a splitting apart or break; cleavage; to crack, split or cleave; in the earth wall in the gloom; a dark place: and trailed its yellow brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the store trough and it rested its throat upon the stone bottom.
The water had dripped from the tap in a small clearness. The snake sipped with its clear mouth and softly drank through its straight gums into his slack long body, very silently. Someone was before the narrator at his water trough and he is waiting like a second comer. The snake lifted its head from its drinking and starred at the narrator very vaguely, in some manner as the cattle do. It flickered its two forked tongue from its lips and mused a moment, and stooped and drank a little more. Its appearance is earth brown, earth golden from the burning bowels of the earth on the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking: a very active volcano in Sicily, Italy.
The voice of the narrator’s education said to him that the snake must be killed: for in Sicily, the black snakes are considered to be innocent while the golden colored are considered to be venomous. The inner voice instigated him by reminding him that if he were a man, he would take a stick and break it now to finish the snake off. However, the narrator must confess how he liked the snake. How he was glad that it had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at his water-trough. The snake then departed peacefully, pacified: peaceful and thankless, while he returned into the burning bowels of this earth. Was it cowardice that the narrator dared not kill the snake? Was it perversity that he longed to talk to it? Was it humility to feel so honored?
Yet the narrator felt so honored. Those voices that spoke to him saying that if he was not afraid, he would kill it, and truly he was afraid and was most afraid. But even so, honored still more that the snake should seek his hospitality from out of the dark door of the secret earth. | The snake drank enough and lifted its head dreamily as one who is intoxicated and drunk, while flickering his tongue like a forked night on the air so black. It seemed to lick its lips and looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air, and very slowly turning its head as if thrice a dream proceeded to draw its slow length curving round and climb again the broken bank of its wall face.
As the snake put its head into that dreadful hole and as it slowly drew up, snake easing its shoulders and entered farther, a sort of horror and protest against its withdrawing into that horrid black hole. It deliberately entered into the blackness and slowly drew itself after, overcoming the narrator, now that its back was turned. The narrator looked round, put his pitcher down, picked up a clumsy log and threw it at the water trough with a clatter. But it did not hit the snake. But suddenly that part of the snake that was left behind convulsed: to affect with violent movements; agitate violently: in an undignified haste. He writhed: twist or distort the body: like lightning, and was gone into the black hole.
The earth lipped fissure in the wall, in the front at which, in the intense still noon, the narrator starred with fascination. Immediately, the narrator regretted it. He thought how paltry: Neither having little or no worth nor value: how vulgar and quite a mean art. He despised himself and the voices of his accursed human education. So he thought of albatross: a large web-footed sea-bird with long narrow wings and a hooked beak: and wished for the snake to come back. For the snake seemed to the narrator again like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld but now due to be crowned again. So he missed his chance with one of the lords of life and he has something to expiate: to atone for: a pettiness.