Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8

Before we begin our round of letters today I want to link to the very few articles that were published on May 7, 2012 to commemorate Browning's 200th birthday anniversary, in case you missed them.

From the Guardian UK: Robert Browning-A Poet Worth Remembering : "The Victorian didn't have the flash and dash of Dickens, but he was a great and brave writer"

From The Scotsman.com: Remembering Robert Browning - Victorian Britain’s greatest poet   

And now for our daily business:
We have a letter from Browning on May 8, 1846 responding to Miss Barrett's birthday letter from May 7th urging him to look down on her from his place in the constellation of the Lyre and the Crown:

" 'Look down on you'--my Ba? I would die for you, with triumphant happiness, God knows,--at a signal from your hand! But that,--look down,--never, tho' you bade me again and again, and in such words! I look up,--always up,--my Ba. When I indulge in my deepest luxury, I make you stand..do you not know that? I sit, and my Ba chooses to let me sit, and stands by,--understanding all the same how the relation really is between us,--how I would, and do, kiss her feet,--my Queens feet!"

Okay, now that seems a bit over the top to my sensibilities, but hey, who wouldn't like some genius poet practicing his craft on them? But there is more:

"Do you feel for me so, my love? I seldom dare to try and speak to you of your love for me..my love I am allowed to profess..I could not steadily (I have tried, whether you you noticed it or no, and could not) say aloud 'and you love me' ! Because it is altogether a blessing of your gift,--irrespective of my love to you,--however it may go to increase it--Here are the words however. Human conviction is weak enough, no doubt,--but, when I forget these words, and this answer of my heart to them,--I cannot say it--"

How he struggles to find words. To make his thoughts clear. Always trying to play out the root of the thought. He does better when he has a concrete story to tell:

"My God bless you, dearest dearest,--my Ba! I was at Mrs. Jameson's this morning--she spoke of you so as to make my heart tremble with very delight--I never liked her so much...I may say, never liked her before by comparison. She read me your three translations [of the section of Homer's Odyssey-regarding the daughters of Pandarus],--clearly feeling their rare beauty--and now,--let me clap hands, my Ba, and ask you who knows best? She means to print BOTH versions--the blank verse and the latter rhymed one. Of course, of course! But she said so many things--I must tell you to-morrow,--if you remind me. She felt such gratifications, too, at your thinking her etching of St. Cecilia worthy to hang by your chair, in your sight. Do you know, Ba, at the end,--a propos of her breakfast, I fairly took her by both hands, and shook them with a cordiality which I reflect, tardily, may subject the Literary Character to a possible misconstruction. 'He must have wanted a breakfast'--she will say!

I am going to the museum on Monday with her, to see Italian prints. I like her very much....

And I, too, look over the grave, to follow you, my own hearts love-Let Mrs. Jameson repeal those acts [the septennial act],--limit the seven years to seven days or less,--what matters? If the seven days have to be endured because of law,--then I see the weariness of course: but in our case, if a benevolent Legislature should inform me, now, that if I choose, I may decline visiting you to-morrow--
Ah, nefandum [not to be spoken of, impious], --kiss me, my own Ba, and let the world legislate and decree and relieve and be otherwise notable--so they let me be your own for ever R."

Browning was feeling it the day after his birthday, however, I have a suspicion that all this praise and gallantry will not go over well with Miss Barrett. She probably fears being overpraised believing that the bubble of happiness that she has been dwelling in will burst and she will be left with ashes as she was with her brother. Tomorrow is the day of their scheduled visit, so hopefully this will work itself out before the next round of letters begins on May 10.

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