Robert Browning

Ian Jack and Robert Inglesfield (eds), The Poetical Works of Robert Browning, Vol. 5: Men and Women

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  • ii.
  • Editor’s Note6My star, God's glow-worm! Why extend
  • 7  That loving hand of his which leads you,
  • pg 436Editor’s Note8Yet locks you safe from end to end
  • 9  Of this dark world, unless he needs you,
  • 10Just saves your light to spend?
  • vi.
  • Editor’s Note26Who has not heard how Tyrian shells
  • 27  Enclosed the blue, that dye of dyes
  • 28Whereof one drop worked miracles,
  • Editor’s Note29  And coloured like Astarte's eyes
  • 30Raw silk the merchant sells?
  • viii.
  • Editor’s Note36Yet there's the dye, in that rough mesh,
  • Editor’s Note37  The sea has only just o'erwhispered!
  • Critical Apparatus38Live whelks, each lip's beard dripping fresh,
  • 39  As if they still the water's lisp heard
  • 40Through foam the rock-weeds thresh.
  • ix.
  • Editor’s Note41Enough to furnish Solomon
  • Editor’s Note42  Such hangings for his cedar-house,
  • 43That, when gold-robed he took the throne
  • pg 439Editor’s Note44  In that abyss of blue, the Spouse
  • 45Might swear his presence shone
  • x.
  • 46Most like the centre-spike of gold
  • 47  Which burns deep in the blue-bell's womb,
  • Editor’s Note48What time, with ardours manifold,
  • 49  The bee goes singing to her groom,
  • Editor’s Note50Drunken and overbold.
  • xi.
  • Editor’s Note51Mere conchs! not fit for warp or woof!
  • Critical Apparatus52  Till cunning come to pound and squeeze
  • 53And clarify,—refine to proof
  • 54  The liquor filtered by degrees,
  • 55While the world stands aloof.
  • xii.
  • Editor’s Note56And there's the extract, flasked and fine,
  • 57  And priced and saleable at last!
  • 58And Hobbs, Nobbs, Stokes and Nokes combine
  • Editor’s Note59  To paint the future from the past,
  • Editor’s Note60Put blue into their line.
  • pg 440xiii.
  • Editor’s Note61Hobbs hints blue,—straight he turtle eats:
  • 62  Nobbs prints blue,—claret crowns his cup:
  • 63Nokes outdares Stokes in azure feats,—
  • Editor’s Note64  Both gorge. Who fished the murex up?
  • Editor’s Note65What porridge had John Keats?

Notes Settings

Notes

Critical Apparatus
1 1855P56 are,
Editor’s Note
1 Stand still: 'Does this mean: literally—stand still? or where was the poet figuratively going—and why couldn't he be drawn as he went?' Ruskin. Browning replied: 'For the reason indicated in the verse, to be sure,—to let me draw him—& because he is at: present going his way & fancying nobody notices him,—& moreover, "going on" (as we say) against the injustice of that,—& lastly, in as much as one night he'll fail us, as a star is apt to drop out of heaven, in authentic astronomic records, & I want to make the most of my time. So much may be in "stand still" and how much more was (for instance) in that "stay!" of Samuel's (i. xv. 16)'. The Samuel passage begins: 'Stay, and I will tell thee'.
Critical Apparatus
3 1855P56 us.When
Editor’s Note
3 Some night you'll fail us: 'Why some night?—rather than some day?—"Fail us." Now? Die?': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
3–4 when afar / You Rise: 'Where?—Now?': Ruskin. Cf. 'Waring', 259–60: 'Oh, never star / Was lost here but it rose afar!'
Editor’s Note
4 remember: 'very good—I understand.': Ruskin.
Critical Apparatus
5 1855P56 star.
Editor’s Note
5 named a star!: acclaimed him as a great poet. Cf. Adonais, 494–5: 'The soul of Adonais, like a star, / Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are'.
Editor’s Note
6 My star, God's glow-worm!: so much more important to me than to God. 'Very fine. I understand and like that': Ruskin, who continues: 'Why ‸ "extend that loving hand." Grammatically, this applies to the Poet. the ellipsis of "Should He" at ‸ throws one quite out—like a step in a floor which one doesn't expect.'
Editor’s Note
8 Yet locks you safe: 'How does God's hand lock him; do you mean—keeps him from being seen?—and how does it make him safe [?]Why is a poet safer or more locked up than anybody else? I go on—in hope': Ruskin. Line 10 explains.
Critical Apparatus
11 1855P That clenched
Editor’s Note
11 His clenched hand . . . and let out all the beauty : 'very good.—but I don't understand why the hand should have held close so long—which is just the point I wanted to be explained. Why the poet had to be locked up': Ruskin. God will need the poet in the future, unappreciated as he is in the present.
Critical Apparatus
12 1855P56 beauty.
Editor’s Note
13 My poet holds the future fast: 'How? Do you mean he anticipates it in his mind—trusts in it—I don't know if you mean that, because I don't know if poets do that. If you mean that—I wish you had said so plainly': Ruskin. The meaning is that when God opens his hand the poet's light will shine forth, and accept the praises of future men.
Critical Apparatus
15 1855P That present
Editor’s Note
16 the earth's feast-master's brow: 'Who is the earths F.? An Angel? a [sic] Everybody?': Ruskin. The word 'feast-maisters' occurs in J[ohn] H[ealey]'s translation of St Augustine's De Civitate Dei (1610), 521. The Gk. original,' ‎, occurs in John 2: 9.
Editor’s Note
17 the chalice raising: 'This, grammatically, agrees with "brow", and makes me uncomfortable': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
18 Others give best at first: a reference to Christ's turning the water into wine: John 2, particularly 9–10. Ruskin comments: 'very pretty I like that'.
Critical Apparatus
20 1855P56 now."
Editor’s Note
21 Meantime, I'll draw you: 'Do you mean—his Cork?—we have not had anything about painting for ever so long—very well. Do draw him then: I should like to have him drawn very much': Ruskin.
Critical Apparatus
22 1855P56 wonder.
Editor’s Note
22 With few or none: cf. Wordsworth, 'Song' ('She dwelt among th'untrodden ways'), 3–4: 'A Maid whom there were none to praise / And very few to love'.
Critical Apparatus
23 1855P56 (on
Editor’s Note
23 I'll say: 'Now, where are you going to—this is, I believe pure malice against me, for having said that painters should always grind their own colours': Ruskin. 'I'll say' means 'I'll put it like this'.
Critical Apparatus
24 1855P56 Old) his ocean-plunder,
Editor’s Note
24 Tyre: in ancient times, the most famous city of Phoenicia, celebrated for its production of purple from certain shellfish.
Editor’s Note
25 netful: the first occurrence of the word in OED2.
Editor’s Note
26 Who has not heard: on this stanza Ruskin asks, 'Do you mean—the silk that the merchant sells Raw—or what do you want with the merchant at all[?]'
Tyrian shells: certain gastropod molluscs secrete a liquid from which costly purple or crimson dyes were made, above all at Tyre. In Æneid, iv. 262–3 we hear how a cloak hung from the shoulders of Æneas 'ablaze with Tyrian purple—a gift which wealthy Dido had wrought, interweaving the web with thread of gold'. Turner suggests that Browning has 'blue' instead of 'purple' for reasons of rhythm, or 'because of Keats's sonnet to blue eyes, beginning 'Blue! 'Tis the life of heaven': neither hypothesis seems convincing.
Editor’s Note
29 Astarte's eyes: Astarte was 'a powerful divinity of Syria, the same as the Venus of the Greeks': Lemprière.
Editor’s Note
31 And each bystander: 'Who are these bystanders—I didn't hear of any before—Are they people who have gone to see the fishing?': Ruskin.
Critical Apparatus
32 1856 tradition;
Editor’s Note
32 Could criticize, and quote tradition: 'Criticise what? the fishing?—and why should they—what was wrong in it?—Quote tradition. Do you mean about purple? But if they made purple at the time, it wasn't tradition merely—but experience.—You might as well tell me you heard the colourmen in Long-Acre, quote tradition touching their next cargo of Indigo, or cochineal': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
33 sublimed: 'I don't know what you mean by "sublimed". Made sublime?—if so—it is not English. To sublime means to evaporate dryly, I believe and has participle "Sublimated" ': Ruskin. Johnson gives 'To exalt; to heighten; to improve' as one meaning of the verb.
Editor’s Note
35 Worth sceptre, crown and ball: 'Indeed. Was there ever such a fool of a King?—You ought to have put a note saying who': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
36 Yet there's: 'Well. I understand that, & it's very pretty': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
37 only just: only now.
o'erwhisper'd: no doubt Browning's coinage, for the rhyme.
Critical Apparatus
38 1855P56 whelks, the lip's-beard
Editor’s Note
41 Enough to furnish Solomon: 'I don't think Solomons spouse swore.—at least not about blue-bells. I understand this bit, but fear most people won't. How many have noticed a blue-bells stamen?': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
42 his cedar-house: 1 Kgs. 5: 5–6; 7: 2–3.
Editor’s Note
44 abyss of blue: cf. 33.
the Spouse: 1 Kgs. 7: 7–8; Song of Solomon 4: 8, etc.
Editor’s Note
48 What time: while.
Editor’s Note
50 The bee: 'I don't understand. I thought there was only one Queen-bee and she never was out o'nights—nor came home drunk or disorderly. Besides if she does, unless you had told me what o'clock in the morning she comes home at, the simile is of no use to me': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
51 Mere conchs: 'Well,' Ruskin asks, 'but what has this to do with the Poet. Who 'Pounds" him?—I don't understand. World stand[s] aloof—yes—from the purple manufactory, but from Pounding of Poets?—does it?—and if so—who distils—or fines, & bottles them.' The mere shells have to be pounded and treated further before the valuable purple extract is produced.
Critical Apparatus
52 1855P56 Till art comes,— comes to 1863 cunning comes to
Editor’s Note
56 flasked and fine: 'Now is that what you call painting a poet. Under the whole & sole image of a bottle of Blue, with a bladder over the cork? The Arabian fisherman with his genie was nothing to this': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
59 To paint the future: 'Why the future. Do you mean in the future': Ruskin.
Editor’s Note
60 Put blue into their line: 'I don't understand;—do you mean Quote the Poet, or write articles upon him—or in his style? And if so—was this what God kept him safe for? to feed Nobbs with Turtle. Is this what you call Accepting the future ages duty.—I don't understand'. The meaning is that these poetasters enrich their verse with valuable new colours or qualities discovered by the 'true poet'. Hobbs and Nobbs are fictitious names, like Stokes and Nokes, which occur in models of legal documents. The latter pair occur in Browning's letter to Domett denying that he is 'difficult on System': Correspondence, iv. 261.
Editor’s Note
61 he turtle eats: i.e. he is successful, in the worldly sense.
Editor’s Note
64Who fished the murex up?: i.e. none of these poetasters.
murex: cf. 26 n., above.
Editor’s Note
65 What porridge: 'Porridge is a Scotch dish, I believe; typical of bad fare. Do you mean that Keats had bad fare? But if he had—how was he kept safe to the worlds end? I don't understand at all!!!!!!!': Ruskin. The meaning is that whereas the derivative poetasters lived well, the genius had poor fare.
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