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mental endowment in the poet, normally and faithfully applied, is not better than the extreme and abnormal presence of rationality in song.


This special feature of our author's poetry is so prominent as to justify an accurate study. In fullest keeping with that intellectuality of which we have spoken, critics have referred to the presence in his verse of "the psychologic monologue." We note his dramatic tendency and spirit in "Paracelsus" and subsequent work. Mr. Cooke pronounces a high eulogium when he calls him "an original interpreter of life," and is never weary of confirming his tribute by a reference to Shakespeare and the Elizabethan dramatists. Mr. Stedman, with a true literary insight, writes: "In the original sense of the term, Robert Browning is not a dramatist at all." By the "original sense of the term " Mr. Stedman refers to the essentially objective nature of dramatic art as distinct from the personal and subjective. It is a representation of character as revealed in the race, and not as found in the poet or in his preferred conception of what it is or ought to be. Masters of histrionic art must be capable of dispossessing them


selves of themselves. Browning's mental activity was too introspective to admit of such mastery. Hence, it is eminently natural that when we come to the study of the six or eight specific dramatic poems of our author we find them to be monodramatic" rather than dramatic; monologues rather than dialogues; soliloquies in verse rather than the objective expression of a mind keenly alive to human interests and needs. Browning has more than once ventured upon the analysis of his own mind and art. In this connection, he calls himself "a writer of plays," evincing meanwhile some ignorance as to just what is meant by the phrase, as he says of one of his collections, "Such poems come properly enough, I suppose, under the head of Dramatic Pieces, though, for the most part, lyric in expression, being always dramatic in principle." This is to say, what we find to be the truth, that in "Strafford," Sordello," and other poems, the author was not quite sure where he was working. He simply knew that the poems were "dramatic in principle," and as such should be classified with "Othello" and "Athalie.”


When we descend to the last analysis, we find that Browning's creative genius was not profound or spacious enough to meet the demands of a great


dramatic work; that his impassioned nature was not sufficiently potent or expressive for it; that his analysis of character and motive was not acute enough for it, nor his imagination constructive enough for it; in fine, that the order of his dramatic gift was not Shakespearean enough to be imposing and to command success. More realistic than imaginative, the era in which he moves is too limited for the largest endeavor and effort. Critics have spoken of his dramas "subdramas" or "closet-dramas," as if produced in the old cloisters of Italy. A close study of "Luria," "The Return of the Druses," and "A Blot in the 'Scutcheon " will reveal this lack of incident, progress, and motive which make all able representation. The characters are not sufficiently characteristic. Local scenes rather than general are presented, so that as we read we feel that we are shut in by the very terms of the poem to a definitely prescribed era of experience and observation. It is especially here that Browning stands at a wide remove from the leading dramatists of literature from Goethe; Shakespeare, Racine, and Lope de Vega, Æschylus and Euripides. That his poems have not been successful on the English stage is no more strange than that

they have failed of wide success in English reading-rooms and parlors. As Mr. Devey remarks, "Without the progressive development of human action, there can be no such thing as dramatic representation. A drama is something to be performed, not a quality to be illustrated or a set of speeches to be spoken." We look in vain in "Pippa Passes," in "The Soul's Tragedy," in "Andrea del Sarto," and in similar monologues, for that continuity and increase of power, for that climacteric sequence of idea and form, which, to an extent, marks all high literary product, and which, in dramatic verse, is essential. We express our main objection to Browning's dramatic efforts. when we say that they are mere efforts; that there is no one of them that is thoroughly finished and, as such, satisfactory. As we close their reading, we are inclined to adopt the title of one of the author's poems as we ask, "Wanting is What?" and answer in biblical terms, Much, every way." Dramatic grasp; deep dramatic passion and imagination; dramatic sequence of plot and action, scene and character, are wanting; so that the best we can do is to say, in the words of the same poem, "Complete incompletion," "yet a blank all the same." We may allow the higher claim of the


poet himself, and call them "dramatic in principle," as they are not in plan, purposes, and results.

In speaking of Browning's dramatic quality, a word is needed as to the lyrical element in his poetry. Of his dramatic pieces he states that "they are, for the most part, lyric in expression." One of the earliest volumes of his collected poems bears the double name of Dramatic Romances


and Lyrics." From these and other indications it would seem as if he preferred to be called a dramatist to being called a lyrist, or, in so far as he was a lyrist, to have his character as such identified with his dramatic personality. There is, beyond question, a distinct idyllic element in the drama; a pronounced emotive element common to the ode and the play which makes it possible to combine them as dramatic lyrics or lyrical dramas or dramatic idylls. So clearly is this union illustrated in the verse before us that it may safely be Isaid that the best feature of it as dramatic is the lyrical one. It is not creative function of a high order, nor constructive imagination and power of presentation, that is visible, but a good degree of verbal and illustrative excellence; of dignified sentiment and pathos. While he has not enough sensibility and passion for the high drama, he has

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