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And strive and strain to be good again,

And a place in the other world ensure,
All glass and gold, with God for its sun.

So, "Rabbi Ben Ezra," with its stimulating strains:

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."

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!

The heart of Browning's theory of life lies in such lines as these, in which he insists that struggle, discipline, disappointment, and occasional defeat are an essential part of the divine order, but that victory will come at last, and, if not here, then hereafter:

What I aspire to be,

And was not, comforts me.

In the same collection are the fine lyrics, "Abt Vogler," "Too Late," "Prospice," written just after Mrs. Browning's death, and "Apparent Failure," closing with the expressive teaching:

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 blest once prove accurst.

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Other lyric collections still follow, such as "Pachiarotto," with Other Poems. Dramatic Idylls," "Ferishtah's Fancies," and his last production, "Asolando: Fancies and Facts," with its characteristic summons to hope and courage and conflict, as we read in the "Epilogue:"

One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward, Never doubted clouds would break,

Never dreamed, tho' right were worsted, wrong would triumph,

Held, we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,

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Sleep to wake.

This is what Mr. Berdoe would call Browning's

Message to his Time," a message of faith and hope and patient endurance, tersely embodied in one of the songs of "Pippa Passes: "

God's in his heaven

All's right with the world.

One of the great charms of Browning's verse is that "there is no record in it of a personally skeptical stage," no semblance of the prevailing pessimism of the time. As he reflects on God and the soul and the life beyond he insists that these, after all, are the fundamental facts of all history, on which all other truths rest, and by which the earthly life is enriched and glorified. Nowhere are

these beliefs more fully stated and enforced than in his meditative lyrics, where, for all time, the purely intellectual element of his verse is in abeyance, and the soul is given free range in its yearnings after light and certainty and God. Browning had his own way, as Emerson had, of expressing his deepest religious sentiments and beliefs, but that he held them firmly and did express them cannot for a moment be questioned. In fact, had he employed throughout a simpler English diction, and, in his dramas and narrative verse, been as intelligible and sympathetic as in his lyrics, his poetic power would have been immeasurably increased. As it is, however, he is one of the great Victorian masters of song, and of lyric song, and never more inspiring than when musing on the great themes of the soul-"the one poet," as Dr. Furnivall states it, "needing earnest study, and the one most worthy of it." With all his faults and limitations, we feel, as we read him, and to the degree in which we understand and appreciate him, that he is a tremendous ethic force in the heart of modern English letters, a great meditator on man and God. To those who fail to appreciate his message he writes with characteristic candor, as he once wrote to a neglectful British public:

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God love you, whom I have labored for.

A

CHAPTER IX

The Lyrics of Mrs. Browning

S in American verse, so in British, and, indeed,

in the literature of every people, the lyric form of poetic expression is the one in which the poetess as such reveals her soul and art most naturally. It is here, in the sphere of sentiment and personal experience and subjective conditions, that she feels. thoroughly at home, and nowhere more at home than in that special type of lyric we are considering -the meditative. There is something in its subdued, reserved, and delicate nature, as the lyric of love and faith and joy and sorrow and inward peace and struggle and hope that coordinates it well with all the amenities and gentle expressions of human life. Though not necessarily or even historically characterized by any special degree of intellectual strength, it has in marked degree that "sweetness and light" of which Swift and Arnold speak, and often carries its message thereby more effectively to the human heart. As Stedman states it, "The voices of the female poets, if not the best trained, certainly are as natural and independent as any."

Great poetesses are rare in any literature, but, in a sense, on that account are all the more appreciated, while what is called good, average poetic talent in the authoress seems to have an influence quite be

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