Jocoseria, Robert Browning
Robert Browning
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Jocoseria is a collection of short poems by Robert Browning, first published in 1883. The prologue, which has no official title but is usually referred to by its first line, "Wanting is—what?", became one of Browning's favourite short lyrics and is a standard fixture in anthologies. Jocoseria—whose title comes from a 1598 collection of jokes and anecdotes, referring to its jocose and serious contents—was released in late 1883, and enjoyed decent sales despite the lack of critical plaudits, to such an extent that Browning's already-completed follow-up Ferishtah's Fancies was delayed for nearly a year so as not to crowd it out of the shops.


Robert Browning


This collection of poems was published in 1883. The title of the volume is mentioned in a foot-note to the Note at the end of Paracelsus, where the poet speaks of “such rubbish as Melander’s Jocoseria.” In a letter, accompanying a copy of the volume, sent to a friend, Browning wrote: “The title is taken from the work of Melander (Schwartzmann), reviewed, by a curious coincidence, in the Blackwood of this month [February, 1883]. I referred to it in a note to Paracelsus. The two Hebrew quotations [in the note to Jochanan Hakkadosh] (put in to give a grave look to what is mere fun and invention) being translated amount to (1) ‘A Collection of Lies’; and (2), an old saying, ‘From Moses to Moses arose none like Moses.’”

Wanting is. What?

This is in the nature of a prelude to the entire group of poems.

Wanting is — what?
Summer redundant,
Blueness abundant,
— Where is the blot?
Beamy the world, yet a blank all the same,
— Framework which waits for a picture to frame:
What of the leafage, what of the flower?
Roses embowering with naught they embower!
Come then, complete incompletion, O comer,
Pant through the blueness, perfect the summer!
Breathe but one breath
Rose-beauty above,
And all that was death
Grows life, grows love,
Grows love!


This story which Browning had from the lips of the hero has also been told in prose by Sir Walter Scott.

“Will you hear my story also,
— Huge Sport, brave adventure in plenty?”
The boys were a band from Oxford,
The oldest of whom was twenty.

The bothy we held carouse in
Was bright with fire and candle;
Tale followed tale like a merry-go-round
Whereof Sport turned the handle.

In our eyes and noses — turf-smoke:
In our ears a tune from the trivet,
Whence “Boiling, boiling,” the kettle sang,
“And ready for fresh Glenlivet.”

So, feat capped feat, with a vengeance:
Truths, though, — the lads were loyal:
Grouse, five-score brace to the bag!
Deer, ten hours’ stalk of the Royal!”

Of boasting, not one bit, boys!
Only there seemed to settle
Somehow above your curly heads,
— Plain through the singing kettle,

Palpable through the cloud,
As each new-puffed Havana
Rewarded the teller’s well-told tale, —
This vaunt “To Sport — Hosanna!

“Hunt, fish, shoot,
Would a man fulfil life’s duty!
Not to the bodily frame alone
Does Sport give strength and beauty,

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