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Depending nestled in the leaves—and just
The girl, thus addressed, feels the wings budding within her, that shall upbear her from the birth-place of pollution in whose mud her young feet have been imprisoned. Still, her first words reveal to the proud, passionate, confiding genius the horrible de. ception that has been practised on him. After his first anguish, one of Pippa's songs steals in to awaken consoling thoughts. He feels that only because his heart was capable of noble trust could it be so deceived ; feels too that the beauty which had enchanted him could not be a mere mask, but yet might be vivified by a soul worthy of it, and finds the way to soar above his own pride and tne opinions of an often purblind world.
Another song, with which Pippa passes, contains, in its first stanza, this grand picture :
A king lived long ago,
In the morning of the world,
And the King's locks curled
As the milk-white space 'twixt horn and horn
For he has got to a sleepy mood,
So safe from all decrepitude.
(The gods so loved him while he dreamed)
That, having lived thus long there seemed
Among the rocks his city was;
Before his palace, in the sun,
And judge them every one,
This picture is as good as the Greeks. Next came a set of Dramatic Lyrics, all more or less good, from which we select
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
CRISTINA. To this volume succeeded “King Victor and King Charles,' “The Return of the Druses,” “ A Blot in the 'Scutcheon,” and “Colombe's Birthday."
The first we do not so much admire, but the other three have all the same originality of conception, delicate penetration into the mysteries of human feeling, atmospheric individuality, and skill in picturesque detail. All four exhibit very high and pure ideas of Woman, and a knowledge very rare in man of the ways in which what is peculiar in her office and nature works. Her loftiest elevation does not, in his eyes, lift her out of nature. She becomes not a mere saint, but the goddess-queen of nature. Her purity is not cold like marble, but the healthy, gentle energy of the flower, instinctively rejecting what is not fit for it, with no need of disdain to dig a gulf between it and the lower forms of creation. Her office to man is that of the Muse, inspiring him to all good thoughts and deeds. The passions that sometimes agitate these maidens of his verse, are the surprises of noble hearts, unprepared for evil, and even their mistakes cannot cost bitter tears to their attendant angels.
The girl in the “ Return of the Druses” is the sort of nature Byron tried to paint in Myrrha. But Byron could only paint women as they were to him. Browning can show what they are in themselves.
In “ A Blot in the 'Scutcheon” we see a lily, storm-struck, half broken, but still a lily. In “Colombe's Birthday” a queenly rosebud, which expands into the full glowing rose before our eyes. This is marvelous in this drama, how the characters are unfolded before us by the crisis, which not only exhibits, but calls to life, the higher passions and thoughts which were latent within them.
We bless the poet for these pictures of women, which, however the common tone of society, by the grossness and levity of the remarks bandied from tongue to tongue, would seem to say the contrary, declare there is still in the breasts of men a capacity for pure and exalting passion,—for immortal tenderness.
But we must hasten to conclude with some extracts from another number of “ Dramatic Lyrics” lately received. These seem to show that Browning is attaining a more masterly clearness in expression, without seeking to popularize, or omitting to heed the faintest whisper of his genius. He gains without losing as he advances—a rare happiness.
In the former number was a poem called “ The Cloister,” and in this are two, “ The Confessional" and the “ Tomb at St. Prax. ed's," which are the keenest yet a wisely true satire on the forms that hypocrisy puts on in the Romish church. This hateful weed grows rank in all cultivated gardens, but it seems to hide itself, with great care and adroitness, beneath the unnumbered forms and purple gauds of that elaborate system. Accordingly, the hypocrites do not seem so bad, individually, as in other churches, and the satire is continually softening into humour in the “ Tomb of St. Praxed's,” with its terrible naturalness as to a life-long deception. Tennyson has described the higher kind with a force that will not be surpassed in his Simeon Stylites, but in this piece of Browning's, we find the Flemish school of the same vice.
The "Flight of the Duchess,” in its entrancing revelations of the human heart, is a boon to think of. We were, however, obliged to forbear further extracts, with the exception of two from the “ Garden Fancies." We regret that these poems, with several others which have been circulated in “ The Tribune,” could not find room in the present volume.