Robert Browning

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Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be...

Robert Browning (1812-05-071889-12-12) was an English poet and husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


  • Autumn wins you best by this its mute
    Appeal to sympathy for its decay.
    • Paracelsus, Part 1 (1835)
  • God is the perfect poet,
    Who in his person acts his own creations.
    • Paracelsus, Part 2
  • Strange secrets are let out by Death

Who blabs so oft the follies of this world.

    • Paracelsus, Part 2, l. 112
  • And gain is gain, however small.
    • Paracelsus, Part 4
  • Deeds let escape are never to be done.
  • The year's at the spring,
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn;
    God's in His heaven—
    All's right with the world!
  • Rats!
    They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
    And bit the babies in the cradles,
    And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
    And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
    Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
    Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
    And even spoiled the women's chats
    By drowning their speaking
    With shrieking and squeaking
    In fifty different sharps and flats.
  • Kiss me as if you made believe
    You were not sure, this eve,
    How my face, your flower, had pursed
    It's petals up.
    • "In a Gondola", line 49 (1842)
  • Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
    Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
    • "The Last Ride Together", line 67 (1859)
  • Stung by the splendour of a sudden thought.
    • "A Death in the Desert", line 59 (1864)
  • We loved, sir — used to meet:
    How sad and bad and mad it was —
    But then, how it was sweet!
    • "Confessions", line 34 (1864)
  • Who hears music feels his solitude
    Peopled at once.
    • Balaustion's Adventure, line 323 (1871)
  • Womanliness means only motherhood;
    All love begins and ends there.
    • The Inn Album (1875)
  • My sun sets to rise again.
    • "At the 'Mermaid'", line 80 (1876)
  • Never the time and the place
    And the loved one all together!
    • "Never the Time and the Place" (1883)
  • What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew.
    • "Jochanan Hakkadosh" (1883)
  • A minute's success pays the failure of years.
    • "Apollo and the Fates", line 210 (1887)
  • All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
    All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:
    In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
    Breath and bloom, shade and shine, — wonder, wealth, and — how far above them —
Truth, that's brighter than gem,
Trust, that's purer than pearl, —
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe, — all were for me
In the kiss of one girl.
  • "Summum Bonum" (1889)
  • The moment eternal - just that and no more -
    When ecstasy's utmost we clutch at the core
    While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!
    • "Now", line 12 (1889)
  • One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
    Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
    Sleep to wake.
    • Asolando, "Epilogue" (1889)

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845)

  • What's a man's age? He must hurry more, that's all;
    Cram in a day, what his youth took a year to hold:
    • "The Flight of the Duchess", line 881
  • Oh, to be in England
    Now that April's there.
    • "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad", line 1
  • That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
    Lest you should think he never could recapture
    The first fine careless rapture!
    • "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad", line 14
  • How good is man's life, the mere living!
    How fit to employ
    All the heart and the soul and the senses
    Forever in joy!
    • "Saul"
  • 'Tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do!
    • "Saul"

Men and Women (1855)

  • I do what many dream of, all their lives,
    --Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
    And fail in doing.
    I could count twenty such
    On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
    Who strive--you don't know how the others strive
    To paint a little thing like that you smeared
    Carelessly passing with your robes afloat--
    Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
    (I know his name, no matter)--so much less!
    Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.

    There burns a truer light of God in them,
    In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
    Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
    This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
  • Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
    Or what's a heaven for?
    • "Andrea del Sarto", line 98
  • If you get simple beauty and naught else,
    You get about the best thing God invents.
    • "Fra Lippo Lippi", line 217
  • You should not take a fellow eight years old
    And make him swear to never kiss the girls.
    • "Fra Lippo Lippi", line 224
  • I count life just a stuff
    To try the soul's strength on.
    • "In a Balcony", line 651
  • What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?
    • "A Toccata of Galuppi's", line 42
  • Progress, man’s distinctive mark alone,
    Not God’s, and not the beasts’: God is, they are,
    Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.
    • "De Gustibus", line 586
  • Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
    The honest thief, the tender murderer,
    The superstitious atheist.
    • "Bishop Blougram’s Apology", line 395
    • Cited by Graham Greene as the epigraph he would choose for his novels.

Rabbi Ben Ezra (from Dramatis Personae, 1864)

  • 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!"
    • Line 1
  • Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!
    Not for such hopes and fears
    Annulling youth's brief years,
    Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
    Rather I prize the doubt
    Low kinds exist without,
    Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

    Poor vaunt of life indeed,
    Were man but formed to feed
    On joy, to solely seek and find and feast;
    Such feasting ended, then
    As sure an end to men.
    • Line 12
  • Let us cry, "All good things
    Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"
    • Line 70
  • Be there, for once and all,
    Severed great minds from small,
    Announced to each his station in the Past!

    Was I, the world arraigned,
    Were they, my soul disdained,
    Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!
    Now, who shall arbitrate?
    Ten men love what I hate,
    Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
    Ten, who in ears and eyes
    Match me: we all surmise,
    They this thing, I that: whom shall my soul believe?
    • Line 121
  • All instincts immature,
    All purposes unsure,
    That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:
    Thoughts hardly to be packed
    Into a narrow act,
    Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
    All I could never be,
    All, men ignored in me,
    This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
    • Line 142
  • Fool! All that is, at all,
    Lasts ever, past recall;
    Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
    What entered into thee,
    That was, is, and shall be:
    Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.
    • Line 157
  • Look not thou down but up!
    To uses of a cup.
    • Line 175
  • Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what needst thou with earth's wheel?
    But I need, now as then,
    Thee, God, who mouldest men.
    • Line 180
  • So, take, and use thy work:
    Amend what flaws may lurk,
    What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
    My times be in thy hand!
    Perfect the cup as planned!
    Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
    • Line 187

The Ring and the Book (1868-69)

  • O lyric Love, half-angel and half-bird
    And all a wonder and a wild desire.
    • Book 1, line 1391 (1868-69)
  • Go practise if you please
    With men and women: leave a child alone
    For Christ's particular love's sake!
    • Book 3, line 88
  • Faultless to a fault.
    • Book 9, line 1177
  • Of what I call God,
    And fools call Nature.
    • Book 10, line 1073
  • White shall not neutralize the black, nor good
    Compensate bad in man, absolve him so:
    Life’s business being just the terrible choice.
    • Book 10, line 1235
  • Inscribe all human effort with one word,
    Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
    • Book 11, line 1560


  • Love is energy of life.

About Robert Browning

  • He concentrated on the special souls of men; seeking God in a series of personal interviews.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913) [University of Notre Dame Press, 1963], Ch. I: The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies (p. 19)
  • He is called an optimist; but the word suggests a calculated contentment which was not in the least one of his vices. What he really was was a romantic. He offered the cosmos as an adventure rather than a scheme. He did not explain evil, far less explain it away: he enjoyed defying it. He was a troubadour even in theology and metaphysics: like the Jongleurs de Dieu of St. Francis. He may be said to have serenaded heaven with a guitar, and even, so to speak, tried to climb there with a rope ladder.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913), Ch. III: The Great Victorian Poets (p. 89)


  • Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.
    • Sometimes ascribed to Robert Browning, this is in fact a misquotation from Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): "They [i.e. ambitious men] may not cease, but as a dog in a wheel, a bird in a cage, or a squirrel in a chain, so Budaeus compares them; they climb and climb still, with much labour, but never make an end, never at the top."
  • Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.
    • Not Browning, but a misquotation from Pearl Buck's China, Past and Present: "Ah well, perhaps one has to be very old before one learns how to be amused rather than shocked."

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