Men and Women

Robert Browning
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Title: Men and Women
Author: Robert Browning
Release Date: December 26, 2005 [eBook #17393]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
This eBook was produced by Dick Adicks.
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Introduction (by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke)

"Transcendentalism: A Poem in Twelve Books"
How It Strikes a
Artemis Prologizes
An Epistle Containing the
Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician

Johannes Agricola in Meditation
Pictor Ignotus
Fra Lippo Lippi

Andrea del Sarto
The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's
Bishop Blougram's Apology
Rudel to the Lady of
One Word More
Thirteen years after the publication, in 1855, of the Poems, in two
volumes, entitled "Men and Women," Browning reviewed his work and
made an interesting re- classification of it. He separated the simpler
pieces of a lyric or epic cast-- such rhymed presentations of an
emotional moment, for example, as "Mesmerism" and "A Woman's
Last Word," or the picturesque rhymed verse telling a story of an
experience, such as "Childe Roland" and "The Statue and the
Bust"--from their more complex companions, which were almost
altogether in blank verse, and, in general, markedly personified a
typical man in his environment, a Cleon or Fra Lippo, a Rudel or a
Blougram. These boldly sculptured figures he set apart from the others
as the fit components of the more closely related group which ever
since has constituted the division now known as "Men and Women."
Possibly the poet took some pleasure in thus bringing to confusion

those critics who, beginning first to take any notice of his work after
the issue of these volumes of 1855, discovered therein poems they
praised chiefly by means of contrasting them with foregoing work they
found unnoticeable and later work they declared
inscrutable. Their
bland discrimination, at any rate, in favor of "Men and Women"
became henceforth inapplicable, since the poet not only cast out from
the division they elected to honor the little lyrical pieces that caught
their eye, but also brought to the front, from his earlier neglected work
of the same kind as the monologues retained, his Johannes Agricola of
1836, Pictor Ignotus of 1845, and Rudel of 1842. Later criticism,
moreover, that even yet assumes to ring the old changes of
discrimination against everything but "Men and Women," is made not
merely inapplicable by this re-arrangement, but uninformed, a
meaningless echo of a borrowed opinion which has had the very ground
from under it shifted.
The self-criticism of which this re-arrangement gives a hint is more
All the shorter poems accumulated up to this period, various as they are
in theme and metrical form, are uniform in the fashioning of their
contour and color. As soon as this underlying uniformity of make is
recognized it may be seen to be the coloring and relief belonging to any
sort of poetic material, whether ordinarily accounted dramatic material
or not, which is imaginatively
externalized and made concrete. This
peculiarity of make Browning early acknowledged in his estimate of
his shorter poems as
characteristic of his touch, when he called his
lyrics and romances dramatic. He became consciously sensitive later to
slight variations effected by his manipulation in shape and shade which
it yet takes a little thought to discern, even after his own re- division of
his work has given the clew to his self-judgments.
Not only events, deeds, and characters--the usual subject-matter
moulded and irradiated by dramatic power--but thoughts, impressions,
experiences, impulses, no matter how spiritualized or complex or
mobile, are transfused with the enlivening light of his creative energy
in his shorter poems. Perhaps the very path struck out through them by

the poet in his re-division may be traced between the leaves silently
closing together again behind him if it be noticed
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