Dramatis Personæ, Robert Browning
Dramatis Personæ
Robert Browning
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Dramatis Personae is a poetry collection by Robert Browning. It was published in 1864. The poems in Dramatis Personae are dramatic, with a wide range of narrators. The narrator is usually in a situation that reveals to the reader some aspect of his personality. Instead of speeches that are intended for others' ears, most are soliloquies. They are generally darker than the poems found in Men and Women, his previous collection, and along with The Ring and the Book these poems embody a turning point in Browning's style. Browning's poetry after this point most notably touches on religion and marital distress, two potent issues of his time period.

Dramatis Personæ

by
Robert Browning


Dramatis Personæ

Introduction

The volume bearing the title Dramatis Personæ was published in 1864 and the contents remained unchanged in subsequent editions except that two short poems were added in the edition of 1868. The first poem was however originally entitled James Lee. The first six stanzas of the sixth section of the poem were first printed in 1836 in Mr. Fox’s The Monthly Repository, and bore the title merely Lines, with the signature Z.


James Lee’s Wife

I
James Lee’s Wife Speaks at the Window

Ah, Love, but a day
And the world has changed!
The sun’s away,
And the bird estranged;
The wind has dropped,
And the sky’s deranged:
Summer has stopped.

Look in my eyes!
Wilt thou change too?
Should I fear surprise?
Shall I find aught new
In the old and dear,
In the good and true,
With the changing year?

Thou art a man,
But I am thy love.
For the lake, its swan;
For the dell its dove;
And for thee — (oh, haste!)
Me, to bend above,
Me, to hold embraced.


II
By the Fireside

Is all our fire of shipwreck wood,
Oak and pine?
Oh, for the ills half-understood,
The dim dead woe
Long ago
Befallen this bitter coast of France!
Well, poor sailors took their chance;
I take mine.

A ruddy shaft our fire must shoot
O’er the sea:
Do sailors eye the casement — mute
Drenched and stark,
From their bark —
And envy, gnash their teeth for hate
O’ the warm safe house and happy freight —
Thee and me?

God help you, sailors, at your need!
Spare the curse!
For some ships, safe in port indeed,
Rot and rust,
Run to dust,
All through worms i’ the wood, which crept,
Gnawed our hearts out while we slept:
That is worse.

Who lived here before us two?
Old-world pairs.
Did a woman ever — would I knew! —
Watch the man
With whom began
Love’s voyage full-sail, — (now gnash your teeth!)
When planks start, open hell beneath
Unawares?


III
In the Doorway

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