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HELPS TO STUDY
Biographical and Historical: Robert Browning was born in a suburb of London in 1812. His four grandparents were respectively of English, German, Scotch, and Creole birth. After his marriage with the poet, Elizabeth Barrett, he lived in Italy, where in the old palace Casa Guidi, in Florence, they spent years of rare companionship and happiness. After her death he returned to England, but spent most of his summers abroad. On the Grand Canal, in Venice, the gondoliers point out a palace where at his son's home, Browning died in 1889. He was buried in the Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.
Browning’s poems are not easy to read, because he condenses so much into a word or phrase and he often leaves large gaps to be filled in by the reader's imagination. Any one can make selections of lines and even entire poems from Tennyson, Poe, Southey, and Lanier, in which the poet has created for us verbal music and beauty. Browning, however, is not so much concerned with this side of poetry as he is with portraying correctly the varied emotions of the human soul.
“Love in the largest sense, as the divine principle working through all nature, is at the very center of Browning’s creed. His is the heartiest, happiest, most beautiful poetic voice that his age has read. He stands apart from most others of his kind and age in the positiveness of his religious faith, a faith that is based upon a conviction of the conquering universality of love and self-sacrifice.”
‘‘How They Brought the Good News” is without historical basis; the ride occurred only in the imagination of the poet. The inspiration came from Browning’s longing for a horseback gallop over the English downs.
Notes and Questions Find Ghent and Aix la Chapelle on | What does the fifth stanza tell your map. you? What was probably the nature of | Who' tells you the praise given the “good news” carried by the Roland?
messengers? The rhythm suggests the gallop of How many messengers were the horses. In which lines is there? this suggestion most marked? What makes you think so? Indicate the rhythmic movement. Words and Phrases for Discussion “postern” “pique” ‘‘askance” ‘‘ burgesses” “stirrup” “twilight.” ‘‘haunches” ‘‘ holster’?
“Good speed! cried the watch as the gate-bolts undrew’’
INCIDENT OF THE FRENCH CAMP
YoU know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
Just as perhaps he mused, “My plans
Then off there flung in smiling joy,
“Well,” cried he, “Emperor, by God's grace,
The marshal’s in the market-place,
To see your flag-bird flap his vans
Perched him " The chief's eye flashed; his plans
The chief's eye flashed; but presently
HELPS TO STUDY Notes and Questions On your map find Ratisbon on the Tell the story of the boy rider.
Danube River. What was the mission of the boy What picture have you of Na- who rode alone?
poleon from reading this poem? | Was his heroism greater because he What word used figuratively tells was alone?
ON the sea and at the Hogue, sixteen hundred ninety-two, Did the English fight the French—woe to France! And the thirty-first of May, helter-skelter through the blue, Like a crowd of frightened porpoises a shoal of sharks pursue, 5 Came crowding ship on ship to St. Malo on the Rance, With the English fleet in view.
’Twas the squadron that escaped, with the victor in full chase;
First and foremost of the drove, in his great ship, Damfreville; Close on him fled, great and small, Twenty-two good ships in all; And they signalled to the place, “Help the winners of a racel Get us guidance, give us harbor, take us quick—or, quicker still, Here's the English can and will !”
Then the pilots of the place put out brisk and leapt on board;
Then was called a council straight.
“Give the word l’” But no such word
Was ever spoke or heard:
A captain a lieutenant? a mate,_first, second, third P
No such man of mark, and meet
With his betters to compete'
But a simple Breton sailor, pressed by Tourville for the fleet, A poor coasting-pilot, he, Hervé Riel, the Croisickese.
And “What mockery or malice have we here?” cried Hervé Riel.
Not a minute more to wait.
“Steer us in, then, small and great!
Captains, give the sailor place'
Still the north-wind, by God’s graces
See the noble fellow’s face
As the big ship, with a bound,