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Home » » Browning as a love poet

Love has been a major theme in poetry. Robert Browning is one of the greatest love poets in English literature. But he is a love poet with a specialty of his own. His love poetry has a range and realism which are different from those of his great predecessors. His love poems do not deal with love of truth or love of mankind or of one's motherland. Browning's love is a passion that draws a man to a woman or a woman to a man. For him love unites not only a man and a woman, it unites God and man. It is the supreme principal both of morality and religion. In his love poems Browning describes the passion and treats it from intellectual point of view. He places his lovers in various situations and examines their psychological implications. A study of his major love poems will reveal the nature and quality of his art as a poet of love.

In some of his poems, Browning treats love dramatically. Thus his poem "Andrea del Sarto" begins with the following words:

             But do not let us quarrel any more,No, my Lucrezia, bear with me for once:

The poem starts in a dramatic fashion. Again, in "Fra Lippo Lippi", Friar Lippo is a monk who once rejected worldly pleasure. Yet,he feels the urge of mixing with girls. In all these poems, Browning treats love dramatically.

In " Browning shows that physical love is one of the basic human instincts. If society attempts to deny it there will be perversion. Fra Lippo Lippi was made a monk at the age of eight. A monk is supposed to renounce worldly pleasure including sensuous love. But as he confesses to the watchmen:

       You should not take a fellow of eight years old,And make him swear to never kiss the girls.

Although Browning strongly believes in God and life after death, he does not advocate strict asceticism. Rather he suggests that man can attain fulfilment by accepting the pleasure and pain of this physical world.

In "Andrea del Sarto", Browning shows how love is debased to the level of sensuous slavery. Although Andrea and Lucrezia are married, there is no normal love relation between them. Lucrezia is interested only in Andrea's money. She does not understand the true worth of an artist. She cannot inspire Andrea to be a great artist like Raphael or Michael Angelo. Again, Andrea's fondness for his wife blinds him of his social and professional duties. He exploits the money of the king of France to make a house for Lucrezia. He even neglects his parents. Thus his irrational love brings about his ruin.

Thus, we see now Browning's love poems deal with countless phases and varieties of love in all classes of people. They show how deep his search of the human mind was. We are astonished to realize his power to watch and store up human motives and reproduce them in poetry. His strong faith in the ennobling power of love and the multiplicity and variety of its treatment entitle him a place of distinction among the love poets.


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