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passages or phrases, which seem crabbed or obscure, require only the knowledge of some unfamiliar fact in science or in history, or it may be something not readily thought of, and yet within easy range of a keen enough observation, to light them up and reveal unsuspected strength or beauty.

Before leaving the subject of the rough and often tough exterior of Browning's work, it may be interesting to refer to the characteristic illustration of it he has lately given us in the prologue to “Ferishtah's Fancies,” his most recent work. He begins by asking the reader whether he has ever eaten ortolans in Italy," and then goes on to describe the preparation of them. The following lines will show the use he makes of the illustration :

“First comes plain bread, crisp, brown, a toasted square ;

Then, a strong sage-leaf ;
(So we find books with flowers dried here and there

Lest leaf engage leaf.)
First, food—then, piquancy-and last of all

Follows the thirdling ;
Through wholesome hard, sharp soft, your tooth must bite

Ere reach the birdling.
Now, were there only crust to crunch, you'd wince :

Unpalatable !
Sage-leaf is bitter-pungent-so's a quince ;

Eat each who's able !
But through all three bite boldly-lo, the gust!

Flavour-no fixture-
Flies permeating flesh and leaf and crust

In fine admixture.
So with your meal, my poem ; masticate

Sense, sight and song there !
Digest these, and I praise your peptics' state,

Nothing found wrong there."

This extract also furnishes an example of the strange rhymes in which the poet sometimes indulges, with what appears too little refinement of taste.

The themes of Browning's poetry are the very greatest that can engage the thought of man. He ranges over a vast variety of topic; but, wherever his thought may lead him, he never

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loses sight of that which is to him the centre of all, the human soul, with its infinite wants and capabilities. In the preface to Sordello” he says

“ The historical decoration was purposely of no more importance than a background requires ; and my stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul : little else is worth study. 1, at least, always thought so.” To this principle he has kept true through all his work ; and hence it is that, whether the particular subject be love, or home, or country ; poetry, painting, or music; life, death, or immortality; it is dealt with in its relation to “the development of a soul.” Hence it is that hịs poetry is so thoroughly and profoundly spiritual, and so exceedingly valuable as a counteractive to the materialism of the age, which ever tends to merge the soul in the body, and swallow up the real in mere phenomena.

As might be expected of one who deals so profoạndly with all that he touches, the great reality of the universe to him is God. Agnosticism has little mercy at his hands ; if a man knows anything at all, he knows God. And the God whom he knows is not a God apart, looking down from some infinite or indefinite height upon the world, but one in whom all live and move and have their being. Out of this springs, of course, the hope of imm lity, and also that bright and cheerful view of life so completely opposed to the dark pessimism to which much of the unbelieving speculation of the present day so painfully tends. The dark things of human life and destiny are by no means ignored ; rather are they dwelt on with a painful and sometimes frightful realism ; but even amid deepest darkness the light above is never quite extinguished, and some little “ Pippa passes " singing :

“The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn ;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled ;
The lark's on the wing ;
The snail's on the thorn :
God's in his heaven-
All's right with the world."

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There has been much discussion as to Browning's personal attitude to Christianity. The profoundly Christian tone of his writings is, of course, universally acknowledged ; but attempts are sometimes made to evade the force of those numerous passages in which he speaks of the Incarnation, and Death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, in a way which seems to imply his hearty acceptance of the substance of what is known as evangelical truth. Much has been made in this connection of the way in which, in one of his prefaces, he characterises his work as “poetry always dramatic in principle, and so many utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine;" and it has been asserted that it is as unwarrantable to consider him to be speaking his own sentiments in a poem like “ Christmas Eve," as in one like “Johannes Agricola,” or “ Bishop Blougram's Apology." The obvious answer is that this profound sympathy with the Christ of God and His salvation is not found in some solitary production, but appears and reappears, often when least expected, all through his works. In that remarkable little poem, entitled “House,” in which more strongly than anywhere else he claims personal privacy, while he declines to be regarded as having furnished his publishers with tickets to view his own soul's dwelling, he admits that whoso desires to penetrate deeper” may do so " by the spirit sense ;” and accordingly some of his admirers, who dissent from him most strongly on this point, are the most ready to acknowledge that his Christian faith is no stage suit, but the very garment of his soul. As illustration of this we may refer to the admirable essay by the late James Thomson, published in Part II. of the Browning Society's Papers, in which, after expressing his amazement that a great mind like Browning's could be Christian, he asserts the, to him, remarkable but quite undeniable fact in these words: “The devout and hopeful Christian faith, explicitly or implicity affirmed in such poems as Saul, Kharshish, Cleon, Caliban upon Setebos, A Death in the Desert, Instans Tyrannus, Rabbi Ben Ezra,

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Prospice, the Epilogue, and throughout that stupendous monumental work, The Ring and the Book, must surely be as clear as noonday to even the most purblind vision.”

That a great Christian poet, in an age when so many of the intellectual magnates of the time are hostile or simply silent, should remain unknown or little known to any large proportion of Christian readers, is certainly very much to be regretted. Surely the admiration which is freely and generously accorded to his work by many who are constrained to it in spite of his faith in a Christ whom they reject, is a rebuke to the indifference of those who, sharing his faith, do not give themselves the trouble to inquire what he has to say about it. There are not so many avowed and outspoken Christians in the highest walks of literature that we can afford to pay only slight attention to the utterances of one who has the ear of the deepest thinkers in every school of thought all the world over.


The immediate object of this selection is to supply an introduction to the study of Browning for the benefit of the readers of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle ; but it is hoped that many others, inspired with similar aims, and who have not had such advantages that they can dispense with all assistance in the study of a difficult author, may find help from this little book. It is, of course, better to read for one's self than to follow the guidance of another; and yet it may be necessary to open a path far enough to lead within sight of the treasures in store. This is all that has been attempted here-only the indication of a few veins near the surface of a rich mine, which the reader is strongly recommended to explore for himself.

The selection has been arranged on the principle of beginning with that which is simple, and proceeding gradually to the more complex, with some regard also to variety and progress in subjects, and at the same time to appropriateness for the use of those younger readers for whom this selection mainly is intended.

The notes are meant to serve only as a guide to beginners ;


and as guides are proverbially an annoyance when their services are imposed unsought, these are disposed at the end of each poem, and without reference marks to mar the pages, so that the selection may be read, if desired, without any interference rom the notes.

Within the limits of a volume like this, only the shorter poems could find a place. Most valuable extracts from the longer works might have been given ; but this is always a questionable method of dealing with the best writers, with those especially whose thought is strictly consecutive, while the effect of particular passages depends to a large extent on their setting and their relation to the work as a whole. The only* exception to this is the treatment of“ Christmas Eve and Easter Day," with extracts from which this volume closes. That remarkable work occupies a middle position between the shorter and the longer poems of our author ; and, though too long for insertion entire, is yet so important, that it seemed very desirable to give some idea of it. In furnishing a series of extracts from this work, an attempt has been made to reduce the disadvantage above referred to by supplying along with them a slight sketch or.

argument,” so as to give some idea, to those unacquainted with it, of the course of thought throughout.

It is right to say that Mr. Browning has given his kind permission for the publication in the United States of this Selection, and also of the Notes, for which, however, as for the selection itself, he is in no wise responsible.

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* It has been found necessary also to give only the latter part of the noble poem "Saul.” A slight sketch of the part omitted is given, and the poem is continued without interruption to its close.

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