Robert Browning

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Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be...

Robert Browning (7 May 181212 December 1889) was an English poet and husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


The lark's on the wing…
The snail's on the thorn…
Truth, that's brighter than gem,
Trust, that's purer than pearl, —
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe, — all were for me
In the kiss of one girl.
  • Rats!
    They fought the dogs and killed the cats
    And bit the babies in the cradles,
    And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
    And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
    Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
    Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
    And even spoiled the women's chats
    By drowning their speaking
    With shrieking and squeaking
    In fifty different sharps and flats.
  • Kiss me as if you made believe
    You were not sure, this eve,
    How my face, your flower, had pursed
    It's petals up.
    • "In a Gondola", line 49 (1842).
  • The lie was dead
    And damned, and truth stood up instead.
    • Bells and Pomegranates No. III: Dramatic Lyrics: Count Gismond (1842), xiii.
  • Over my head his arm he flung
    Against the world.
    • Bells and Pomegranates No. III: Dramatic Lyrics: Count Gismond (1842), xix.
  • There's a woman like a dewdrop, she's so purer than the purest.
    • Bells and Pomegranates No. V: A Blot in the 'Scutcheon (1843), Act i, scene iii.
  • I trust in Nature for the stable laws
    Of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant
    And Autumn garner to the end of time.
    I trust in God,—the right shall be the right
    And other than the wrong, while he endures.
    I trust in my own soul, that can perceive
    The outward and the inward,—Nature's good
    And God's.
    • A Soul's Tragedy (1846), Act. i.
  • I judge people by what they might be,—not are, nor will be.
    • A Soul's Tragedy (1846), Act ii.
  • Sing, riding's a joy! For me I ride.
  • It is so horrible,
    I dare at times imagine to my need
    Some future state revealed to us by Zeus
    • From Cleon; regarding death and afterlife
  • Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
    Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
    • "The Last Ride Together", line 67 (1859).
  • We loved, sir — used to meet:
    How sad and bad and mad it was —
    But then, how it was sweet!
    • "Confessions", line 34 (1864).
  • Who hears music feels his solitude
    Peopled at once.
    • Balaustion's Adventure, line 323 (1871).
  • Womanliness means only motherhood;
    All love begins and ends there.
    • The Inn Album (1875).
  • Have you found your life distasteful?
    My life did and does smack sweet.

    Was your youth of pleasure wasteful?
    Mine I save and hold complete.
    Do your joys with age diminish?
    When mine fail me, I'll complain.
    Must in death your daylight finish?
    My sun sets to rise again.
    • "At the 'Mermaid'"(1876)
  • I find earth not gray but rosy;
    Heaven not grim but fair of hue.

    Do I stoop? I pluck a posy; Do I stand and stare? All's blue.
    • "At the 'Mermaid'"(1876).
  • Never the time and the place
    And the loved one all together!
    • "Never the Time and the Place" (1883).
  • What Youth deemed crystal,
    Age finds out was dew.
    • "Jochanan Hakkadosh" (1883).
  • A minute's success pays the failure of years.
    • "Apollo and the Fates", line 210 (1887).
  • All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
    All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem
    In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
    Breath and bloom, shade and shine, — wonder, wealth, and — how far above them —
Truth, that's brighter than gem,
Trust, that's purer than pearl, —
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe, — all were for me
In the kiss of one girl.
  • "Summum Bonum" (1889).
  • The moment eternal — just that and no more —
    When ecstasy's utmost we clutch at the core
    While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!
    • "Now", line 12 (1889).
  • One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
    Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
    Sleep to wake.
    • Asolando, "Epilogue" (1889).
  • Strive and thrive!
    • Asolando, "Epilogue" (1889).

Paracelsus (1835)[edit]

  • Autumn wins you best by this its mute
    Appeal to sympathy for its decay.
    • Part 1.
  • That we devote ourselves to God, is seen
    In living just as though no God there were.
    • Part 1.
  • Be sure that God
    Ne'er dooms to waste the strength he deigns impart.
    • Part 1.
  • I see my way as birds their trackless way.
    I shall arrive,—what time, what circuit first,
    I ask not; but unless God send his hail
    Or blinding fire-balls, sleet or stifling snow,
    In some time, his good time, I shall arrive:
    He guides me and the bird. In his good time.
    • Part 1.
  • Truth is within ourselves.
    • Part 1.
    • Are there not, dear Michal,
      Two points in the adventure of the diver,—
      One, when a beggar he prepares to plunge;
      One, when a prince he rises with his pearl?
      Festus, I plunge.
    • Part 1.
  • God is the perfect poet,
    Who in his person acts his own creations.
    • Part 2.
  • Strange secrets are let out by Death
    Who blabs so oft the follies of this world.
    • Part 2, line 112.
  • Error has no end.
    • Part 3.
  • The sad rhyme of the men who proudly clung
    To their first fault, and withered in their pride.
    • Part 4.
  • Every joy is gain
    And gain is gain, however small.
    • Part 4.
  • Jove strikes the Titans down
    Not when they set about their mountain-piling
    But when another rock would crown the work.
    • Part 4.
  • The peerless cup afloat
    Of the lake-lily is an urn some nymph
    Swims bearing high above her head.
    • Part 4.
  • I give the fight up: let there be an end,
    A privacy, an obscure nook for me.
    I want to be forgotten even by God.
    • Part 5.
  • Progress is
    The law of life: man is not Man as yet.
    • Part 5.

Sordello (1840)[edit]

  • But, gathering in its ancient market-place,
    Talked group with restless group ; and not a face
    But wrath made livid, for among them were
    Death's staunch purveyors, such as have in care
    To feast him. Fear had long since taken root
    In every breast, and now these crushed its fruit,
    The ripe hate, like a wine
    : to note the way
    It worked while each grew drunk ! men grave and grey
    Stood, with shut eyelids, rocking to and fro.
    Letting the silent luxury trickle slow
    About the hollows where a heart should be;
    But the young gulped with a delirious glee
    Some foretaste of their first debauch in blood
    At the fierce news
    • Book the First
  • over zealous in the feat
    And stumbling on a peril unaware.
    Was captive, "trammelled in his proper snare,"
    They phrase it, "taken by his own intrigue"
    • Book the First
  • The hill-cat boasts some cunning of her own,
    Some stealthy tricks to better beasts unknown
    That quick with prey enough her hunger blunts
    And feeds her fat while gaunt the lion hunts.
    • Book the First
  • [...]his back is fairly turned?
    The pair of goodly palaces are burned,
    The gardens ravaged, and your Guelf is drunk
    A week with joy ; the next, his laughter sunk
    In sobs of blood, for he found, some strange way,
    Old Salinguerra back again; I say
    Old Salinguerra in the town once more
    Uprooting, overturning, flame before
    Blood fetlock-high beneath him; Azzo fled;
    Who scaped the carnage followed; then the dead
    Were pushed aside from Salinguerra's throne.
    He ruled once more Ferrara, all alone.
    Till Azzo, stunned awhile, revived, would pounce;
    Coupled with Boniface, like lynx and ounce.
    • Book the First
  • So men believe
    And worship what they know not, nor receive
    Delight from.
    • Book the Second
  • Have they fancies — slow, perchance,
    Not at their beck, which indistinctly glance
    Until by song each floating part be linked
    To each, and all grow palpable, distinct?
    He pondered this.
    • Book the Second
  • Deeds let escape are never to be done.
    • Book the Third
  • Each a God's germ, but doomed remain a germ
    In unexpanded infancy
    • Book the Third
  • Any nose
    May ravage with impunity a rose.
    • Book the Sixth

Pippa Passes (1841)[edit]

  • Say not "a small event!" Why "small"?
    Costs it more pain that this ye call
    A "great event" should come to pass
    From that? Untwine me from the mass
    Of deeds which make up life, one deed
    Power shall fall short in or exceed!
    • Introduction.
  • The year's at the spring,
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn;
    God's in His heaven—
    All's right with the world!
    • Part I, line 221.
  • Some unsuspected isle in the far seas,—
    Some unsuspected isle in far-off seas.
    • Part II.
  • In the morning of the world,
    When earth was nigher heaven than now.
    • Part III.
  • All service ranks the same with God,—
    With God, whose puppets, best and worst,
    Are we: there is no last nor first.
    • Part IV.

Colombe's Birthday (1844)[edit]

He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.
  • When is man strong until he feels alone?
    • Act III.
  • The heavens and earth stay as they were; my heart
    Beats as it beat: the truth remains the truth.
    • Valence, in Act IV.
  • He gathers earth's whole good into his arms;
    Standing, as man now, stately, strong and wise,
    Marching to fortune, not surprised by her.

    One great aim, like a guiding-star, above—
    Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, to lift
    His manhood to the height that takes the prize;
    A prize not near — lest overlooking earth
    He rashly spring to seize it — nor remote,
    So that he rest upon his path content:
    But day by day, while shimmering grows shine,
    And the faint circlet prophesies the orb,
    He sees so much as, just evolving these,
    The stateliness, the wisdom and the strength,
    To due completion, will suffice this life,
    And lead him at his grandest to the grave.
    After this star, out of a night he springs;
    A beggar's cradle for the throne of thrones
    He quits; so, mounting, feels each step he mounts,
    Nor, as from each to each exultingly
    He passes, overleaps one grade of joy.
    This, for his own good: — with the world, each gift
    Of God and man, — reality, tradition,
    Fancy and fact — so well environ him,
    That as a mystic panoply they serve —
    Of force, untenanted, to awe mankind,
    And work his purpose out with half the world
    While he, their master, dexterously slipt
    From such encumbrance, is meantime employed
    With his own prowess on the other half.
    Thus shall he prosper, every day's success
    Adding, to what is he, a solid strength —
    An aery might to what encircles him,
    Till at the last, so life's routine lends help,
    That as the Emperor only breathes and moves,
    His shadow shall be watched, his step or stalk
    Become a comfort or a portent, how
    He trails his ermine take significance, —
    Till even his power shall cease to be most power,
    And men shall dread his weakness more, nor dare
    Peril their earth its bravest, first and best,
    Its typified invincibility.

    Thus shall he go on, greatening, till he ends—
    The man of men, the spirit of all flesh,
    The fiery centre of an earthly world!

    • Valence of Prince Berthold, in Act IV.

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845)[edit]

  • What's a man's age? He must hurry more, that's all;
    Cram in a day, what his youth took a year to hold:
    • "The Flight of the Duchess", line 881.
  • Oh, to be in England
    Now that April's there
    And whoever wakes in England
    Sees, some morning, unaware,
    That the lowest boughs and the brush-wood sheaf
    Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf.
    • "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad", line 1.
  • That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
    Lest you should think he never could recapture
    The first fine careless rapture!
    • "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad", line 14.
  • God made all the creatures, and gave them our love and our fear,
    To give sign we and they are his children, one family here.
    • "Saul", vi.
  • How good is man's life, the mere living!
    How fit to employ
    All the heart and the soul and the senses
    Forever in joy!
    • "Saul", ix.
  • 'Tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do!
    • "Saul", xviii.

Men and Women (1855)[edit]

  • I do what many dream of, all their lives,
    — Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
    And fail in doing.
    I could count twenty such
    On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
    Who strive — you don't know how the others strive
    To paint a little thing like that you smeared
    Carelessly passing with your robes afloat —
    Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
    (I know his name, no matter) — so much less!
    Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.

    There burns a truer light of God in them,
    In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
    Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
    This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
  • Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
    Or what's a heaven for?
    • "Andrea del Sarto", line 98.
  • If you get simple beauty and naught else,
    You get about the best thing God invents.
    • "Fra Lippo Lippi", line 217.
  • You should not take a fellow eight years old
    And make him swear to never kiss the girls.
    • "Fra Lippo Lippi", line 224.
  • I count life just a stuff
    To try the soul's strength on.
    • "In a Balcony", line 651.
  • What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?
    • "A Toccata of Galuppi's", line 42.
  • Progress, man's distinctive mark alone,
    Not God's, and not the beasts': God is, they are,
    Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.
    • "De Gustibus", line 586.
  • Italy, my Italy!
    Queen Mary's saying serves for me
    (When fortune's malice
    Lost her Calais):
    "Open my heart, and you will see
    Graved inside of it ‘Italy.'"
    • "De Gustibus", ii.
  • Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
    The honest thief, the tender murderer,
    The superstitious atheist.
    • "Bishop Blougram’s Apology", line 395; cited by Graham Greene as the epigraph he would choose for his novels.
  • When the fight begins within himself,
    A man's worth something.
    • "Bishop Blougram's Apology", line 693.
  • He said true things, but called them by the wrong names.
    • "Bishop Blougram's Apology", line 996.
  • That low man seeks a little thing to do,
       Sees it and does it.
    This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
       Dies ere he knows it.

    That low man goes on adding one to one,—
       His hundred's soon hit;
    This high man, aiming at a million,
       Misses an unit.
    That has the world here—should he need the next,
       Let the world mind him!
    This throws himself on God, and unperplexed
       Seeking shall find him.
    • "A Grammarian's Funeral", line 115.
  • Lofty designs must close in like effects.
    • "A Grammarian's Funeral".

One Word More (1855)[edit]

  • Rafael made a century of sonnets.
    • Stanza ii.
  • Other heights in other lives, God willing.
    • Stanza xii.
  • God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
    Boasts two soul-sides,—one to face the world with,
    One to show a woman when he loves her!
    • Stanza xvii.
  • Oh their Rafael of the dear Madonnas,
    Oh their Dante of the dread Inferno,
    Wrote one song—and in my brain I sing it;
    Drew one angel—borne, see, on my bosom!
    • Stanza xix.

A Death in the Desert (1864)[edit]

  • Stung by the splendour of a sudden thought.
    • Line 59.
  • For life, with all it yields of joy and woe,
    And hope and fear (believe the aged friend),
    Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love,—
    How love might be, hath been indeed, and is.
  • The body sprang
    At once to the height, and stayed; but the soul,—no!
  • What? Was man made a wheel-work to wind up,
    And be discharged, and straight wound up anew?
    No! grown, his growth lasts; taught, he ne'er forgets:
    May learn a thousand things, not twice the same.
  • For I say this is death and the sole death,—
    When a man's loss comes to him from his gain,
    Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance,
    And lack of love from love made manifest.
  • Progress, man's distinctive mark alone,
    Not God's, and not the beasts': God is, they are;
    Man partly is, and wholly hopes to be.
  • The ultimate, angels' law,
    Indulging every instinct of the soul
    There where law, life, joy, impulse are one thing!

Dramatis Personae (1864)[edit]

Rabbi Ben Ezra[edit]

  • Grow old along with me!
    The best is yet to be,
    The last of life, for which the first was made:

    Our times are in his hand
    Who saith, "A whole I planned,
    Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
    • Line 1.
  • Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!
    Not for such hopes and fears
    Annulling youth's brief years,
    Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
    Rather I prize the doubt
    Low kinds exist without,
    Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

    Poor vaunt of life indeed,
    Were man but formed to feed
    On joy, to solely seek and find and feast;
    Such feasting ended, then
    As sure an end to men.
    • Line 12.
  • Let us cry, "All good things
    Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!
    • Line 70.
  • Be there, for once and all,
    Severed great minds from small,
    Announced to each his station in the Past!

    Was I, the world arraigned,
    Were they, my soul disdained,
    Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!

    Now, who shall arbitrate?
    Ten men love what I hate,
    Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
    Ten, who in ears and eyes
    Match me: we all surmise,
    They this thing, I that: whom shall my soul believe?
    • Line 121.
  • All instincts immature,
    All purposes unsure,
    That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:
    Thoughts hardly to be packed
    Into a narrow act,
    Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
    All I could never be,
    All, men ignored in me,
    This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
    • Line 142.
  • Fool! All that is, at all,
    Lasts ever, past recall;
    Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
    What entered into thee,
    That was, is, and shall be:
    Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.
    • Line 157.
  • Look not thou down but up!
    To uses of a cup.
    • Line 175.
  • Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what needst thou with earth's wheel?
    But I need, now as then,
    Thee, God, who mouldest men.
    • Line 180.
  • So, take, and use thy work:
    Amend what flaws may lurk,
    What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
    My times be in thy hand!
    Perfect the cup as planned!

    Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
    • Line 187.

The Ring and the Book (1868-69)[edit]

Full text online at Wikisource
  • Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
    Prime nature with an added artistry —
    No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.

    What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
    A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
  • A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
    Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
    And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
    Give it me back! The thing's restorative
    I'the touch and sight.
    • Book I : The Ring and the Book.
  • A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
    • Book I : The Ring and the Book.
  • O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
    And all a wonder and a wild desire
    , —
    Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
    Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
    And sang a kindred soul out to his face, —
    Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
    When the first summons from the darkling earth
    Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
    And bared them of the glory — to drop down,
    To toil for man, to suffer or to die, —
    This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
    Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
    • Book I : The Ring and the Book .
  • In the great right of an excessive wrong.
    • Book III: The Other Half-Rome, line 1055.
  • Was never evening yet
    But seemed far beautifuller than its day.
  • Forgive me this digression — that I stand
    Entranced awhile at Law's first beam, outbreak
    O' the business, when the Count's good angel bade
    "Put up thy sword, born enemy to the ear,
    "And let Law listen to thy difference!"
    And Law does listen and compose the strife,
    Settle the suit, how wisely and how well!
    On our Pompilia, faultless to a fault,
    Law bends a brow maternally severe,
    Implies the worth of perfect chastity,
    By fancying the flaw she cannot find.
  • Oh child that didst despise thy life so much
    When it seemed only thine to keep or lose,
    How the fine ear felt fall the first low word
    "Value life, and preserve life for My sake!"
  • What wonder if the novel claim had clashed
    With old requirement, seemed to supersede
    Too much the customary law? But, brave,
    Thou at first prompting of what I call God,
    And fools call Nature, didst hear, comprehend,
    Accept the obligation laid on thee,
    Mother elect, to save the unborn child,
    As brute and bird do, reptile and the fly,
    Ay and, I nothing doubt, even tree, shrub, plant
    And flower o' the field, all in a common pact
    To worthily defend the trust of trusts,
    Life from the Ever Living
    : — didst resist —
    Anticipate the office that is mine —
    And with his own sword stay the upraised arm,
    The endeavour of the wicked, and defend
    Him who, — again in my default, — was there
    For visible providence: one less true than thou
    To touch, i' the past, less practised in the right,
    Approved less far in all docility
    To all instruction, — how had such an one
    Made scruple "Is this motion a decree?"
    • Book X : The Pope.
  • The curious crime, the fine
    Felicity and flower of wickedness.
    • Book X: The Pope, line 590.
  • Why comes temptation, but for man to meet
    And master and make crouch beneath his foot,
    And so be pedestaled in triumph?
    • Book X: The Pope, line 1185.
  • White shall not neutralize the black, nor good
    Compensate bad in man, absolve him so:
    Life's business being just the terrible choice.
    • Book X: The Pope.
  • Inscribe all human effort with one word,
    Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
    • Book XI, line 1560.
  • It is the glory and good of Art
    That Art remains the one way possible
    Of speaking truth,—to mouths like mine, at least.
  • Thy rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised)
    Linking our England to his Italy.
    • Book XII: The Book and the Ring, line 873.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)[edit]

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The sprinkled isles,
    Lily on lily, that o'erlace the sea.
    • Cleon.
  • And I have written three books on the soul,
    Proving absurd all written hitherto,
    And putting us to ignorance again.
    • Cleon.
  • Just my vengeance complete,
    The man sprang to his feet,
    Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed!
    So, I was afraid!
    • Instans Tyrannus, vii.
  • Oh never star
    Was lost here but it rose afar.
    • Waring, ii.
  • When the liquor's out, why clink the cannikin?
    • The Flight of the Duchess, xvi.
  • The sin I impute to each frustrute ghost
    Is—the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin,
    Though the end in sight was a vice, I say.
    • The Statue and the Bust.
  • Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
    • Childe Roland to the dark Tower came, xxxiii.
  • Just for a handful of silver he left us,
    Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
    • The lost Leader, i.
  • We shall march prospering,—not thro' his presence;
    Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre;
    Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
    Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire.
    • The lost Leader, ii.
  • They are perfect; how else?—they shall never change:
    We are faulty; why not?—we have time in store.
    • Old Pictures in Florence, xvi.
  • What's come to perfection perishes.
    Things learned on earth we shall practise in heaven;
    Works done least rapidly Art most cherishes.
    • Old Pictures in Florence, xvii.
  • O woman-country! wooed not wed,
    Loved all the more by earth's male-lands,
    Laid to their hearts instead.
    • By the Fireside, vi.
  • That great brow
    And the spirit-small hand propping it.
    • By the Fireside, xxiii.
  • If two lives join, there is oft a scar.
    They are one and one, with a shadowy third;
    One near one is too far.
    • By the Fireside, xlvi.
  • Only I discern
    Infinite passion, and the pain
    Of finite hearts that yearn.
    • Two in the Campagna, xii.
  • Round and round, like a dance of snow
    In a dazzling drift, as its guardians, go
    Floating the women faded for ages,
    Sculptured in stone on the poet's pages.
    • Women and Roses.
  • How he lies in his rights of a man!
    Death has done all death can.
    And absorbed in the new life he leads,
    He recks not, he heeds
    Nor his wrong nor my vengeance; both strike
    On his senses alike,
    And are lost in the solemn and strange
    Surprise of the change.
    • After.
  • Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
    And did he stop and speak to you,
    And did you speak to him again?
    How strange it seems, and new!
    • Memorabilia, i.
  • He who did well in war just earns the right
    To begin doing well in peace.
    • Luria, Act ii.
  • And inasmuch as feeling, the East's gift,
    Is quick and transient,—comes, and lo! is gone,
    While Northern thought is slow and durable.
    • Luria, Act v.
  • A people is but the attempt of many
    To rise to the completer life of one;
    And those who live as models for the mass
    Are singly of more value than they all.
    • Luria, Act v.
    • I count life just a stuff
      To try the soul's strength on.
    • In a Balcony.
  • Was there nought better than to enjoy?
    No feat which, done, would make time break,
    And let us pent-up creatures through
    Into eternity, our due?
    No forcing earth teach heaven's employ?
    • Dis aliter visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours.
  • There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
    The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
    What was good shall be good, with for evil so much good more;
    On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.
    • Abt Vogler, ix.
  • Then welcome each rebuff
    That turns earth's smoothness rough,
    Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
    Be our joys three-parts pain!
    Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
    Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!
    • Rabbi Ben Ezra.
  • What I aspired to be,
    And was not, comforts me.
    • Rabbi Ben Ezra.
  • How sad and bad and mad it was!
    But then, how it was sweet!
    • Confessions, ix.
  • So may a glory from defect arise.
    • Deaf and Dumb.
  • This could but have happened once,—
    And we missed it, lost it forever.
    • Youth and Art, xvii.
  • Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
    The mist in my face.
    . . . . . . .
    No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
    The heroes of old;
    Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears

Of pain, darkness, and cold.

    • Prospice.
  • It's wiser being good than bad;
    It's safer being meek than fierce;
    It's fitter being sane than mad.
    My own hope is, a sun will pierce
    The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
    That after Last returns the First,
    Though a wide compass round be fetched;
    That what began best can't end worst,
    Nor what God blessed once prove accurst.
    • Apparent Failure, vii.
  • But how carve way i' the life that lies before,
    If bent on groaning ever for the past?
    • Balaustion's Adventure.
  • Better have failed in the high aim, as I,
    Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed,—
    As, God be thanked! I do not.
    • The Inn Album, iv.
  • "With this same key
    Shakespeare unlocked his heart" once more!
    Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!
    • House, x.
  • God's justice, tardy though it prove perchance,
    Rests never on the track until it reach


    • Cenciaja.
  • Good, to forgive;
    Best, to forget!
    Living, we fret;
    Dying, we live.
    • Dedication to La Saisiaz.
  • Can we love but on condition that the thing we love must die?
    • La Saisiaz.
  • Sky—what a scowl of cloud
    Till, near and far,
    Ray on ray split the shroud:
    Splendid, a star!
    • The two Poets of Croisic.
    • As if true pride
      Were not also humble!
    • In an Album.
  • Wanting is—what?
    Summer redundant,
    Blueness abundant,
    Where is the blot?
    • Wanting—is what?
  • But little do or can the best of us:
    That little is achieved through Liberty.
    • Why I am a Liberal.
  • There is no truer truth obtainable
    By Man than comes of music.
    • Charles Avison.


  • Love is energy of life.
    • As quoted in Love's Way (1918) by Orison Swett Marden, p. 175; no earlier citation of this to Browning has been located.


  • Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.
    • Sometimes ascribed to Robert Browning, this is in fact a misquotation from Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): "They [i.e. ambitious men] may not cease, but as a dog in a wheel, a bird in a cage, or a squirrel in a chain, so Budaeus compares them; they climb and climb still, with much labour, but never make an end, never at the top".
  • Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.
    • Not Browning, but a misquotation from Pearl Buck's China, Past and Present: "Ah well, perhaps one has to be very old before one learns how to be amused rather than shocked".

Quotes about Browning[edit]

  • He concentrated on the special souls of men; seeking God in a series of personal interviews.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913) [University of Notre Dame Press, 1963], Ch. I: The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies (p. 19).
  • He is called an optimist; but the word suggests a calculated contentment which was not in the least one of his vices. What he really was was a romantic. He offered the cosmos as an adventure rather than a scheme. He did not explain evil, far less explain it away: he enjoyed defying it. He was a troubadour even in theology and metaphysics: like the Jongleurs de Dieu of St. Francis. He may be said to have serenaded heaven with a guitar, and even, so to speak, tried to climb there with a rope ladder.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913), Ch. III: The Great Victorian Poets (p. 89).
  • If Browning were less difficult to read, he would surely be the dominant poet in this century. I feel the ecstasy with which he exclaims, “Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth this autumn morning!" And how he sets my brain going when he says, because there is imperfection, there must be perfection; completeness must come of incompleteness; failure is an evidence of triumph for the fulness of the days. Yes, discord is, that harmony may be; pain destroys, that health may renew; perhaps I am deaf and blind that others likewise afflicted may see and hear with a more perfect sense! From Browning I learn that there is no lost good, and that makes it easier for me to go at life, right or wrong, do the best I know, and fear not. My heart responds proudly to his exhortation to pay gladly life's debt of pain, darkness and cold. Lift up your burden, it is God's gift, bear it nobly.

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