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Robert Browning

Date de naissance: 7. mai 1812
Date de décès: 12. décembre 1889

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Robert Browning, né à Camberwell, Surrey, le 7 mai 1812 et mort à Venise le 12 décembre 1889, est un poète et dramaturge britannique, reconnu comme l'un des deux plus grands créateurs poétiques de l'Angleterre victorienne, l'égal, quoique dans un style tout différent, de Tennyson.

Il passe son enfance et sa jeunesse dans une famille éprise des lettres et des arts. L'accès illimité à des ouvrages de haut niveau et sa grande curiosité intellectuelle lui permettent d'acquérir un immense savoir et de cultiver son goût pour la poésie. Comme il ne supporte pas d'être scolarisé, ses tentatives d'études secondaires puis supérieures laissent vite place à un parcours intellectuel éclectique.

Toutes ses œuvres sont ambitieuses, souvent longues et écrites en une langue parfois difficile. Le public, comme la critique, sont, à l'occasion, déroutés par son originalité, qui se manifeste aussi dans sa vie personnelle. Ébloui par la lecture de poèmes publiés par Elizabeth Barrett, cloîtrée en sa chambre, il lui écrit pour lui dire son admiration. Ainsi commence une correspondance amoureuse qui se termine en 1846 par un enlèvement, un mariage et une fuite en Italie où le couple voyage et publie pendant quinze ans jusqu'à la mort d'Elizabeth en 1861. À son retour en Angleterre, Browning retrouve les cercles littéraires et les clubs où se réunit l'intelligentsia londonienne.

Ses œuvres les plus importantes sont les recueils Dramatic Lyrics, Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, Men and Women, selon Margaret Drabble, le chef-d'œuvre de sa maturité , et Dramatis Personae, et le poème narratif The Ring and the Book. Robert Browning y utilise la technique du monologue dramatique, adressé à un auditeur silencieux mais non inerte. La personnalité du locuteur se creuse peu à peu par son seul discours. Sa prise de parole fait apparaître une situation, parvenue à un état de crise présente ou passée, et un ou plusieurs protagonistes, leurs conflits et la résolution, souvent dramatique ou tragique.

Au cours de ses dernières années, Browning publie quinze nouveaux volumes, souvent très longs, quelquefois polémiques, et voyage en France et en Italie où réside son fils, critique, sculpteur et peintre, chez qui il meurt à Venise en 1889. Il repose aux côtés d'Alfred, Lord Tennyson dans le Coin des poètes de l'abbaye de Westminster.

Robert Browning tient une place à part dans la littérature victorienne, essentiellement parce qu'il a privilégié l'oralité, non pas de manière euphonique comme Tennyson, mais en restituant le grain de la voix et créant, « entre les différentes voix qui résonnent, un réseau signifiant ». Cette originalité marque et inspire la poésie de certains de ses jeunes contemporains et successeurs, en particulier Ezra Pound et T. S. Eliot.

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Citations Robert Browning

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„Who hears music feels his solitude
Peopled at once.“

—  Robert Browning, The complete poetical works of Browning
Balaustion's Adventure, line 323 (1871).

„Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats“

—  Robert Browning
Context: 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. The Pied Piper of Hamelin, line 10 (1842).

„All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!“

—  Robert Browning
Context: Let us cry, "All good things Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!" Line 70.

„Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!“

—  Robert Browning
Context: 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.

„I find earth not gray but rosy;
Heaven not grim but fair of hue.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: I find earth not gray but rosy; Heaven not grim but fair of hue. Do I stoop? I pluck a posy; Do I stand and stare? All's blue. "At the 'Mermaid'"(1876).

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„Inscribe all human effort with one word“

—  Robert Browning
Context: Inscribe all human effort with one word, Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete! Book XI, line 1560.

„O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire“

—  Robert Browning
Context: O lyric Love, half angel and half bird And all a wonder and a wild desire, — Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun, Took sanctuary within the holier blue, And sang a kindred soul out to his face, — Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart— When the first summons from the darkling earth Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue, And bared them of the glory — to drop down, To toil for man, to suffer or to die, — This is the same voice: can thy soul know change? Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help! Book I : The Ring and the Book <!-- line 1391 -->.

„A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore: Prime nature with an added artistry — No carat lost, and you have gained a ring. What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say; A thing's sign: now for the thing signified. Book I : The Ring and the Book.

„Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry —
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore: Prime nature with an added artistry — No carat lost, and you have gained a ring. What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say; A thing's sign: now for the thing signified. Book I : The Ring and the Book.

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„But, brave,
Thou at first prompting of what I call God,
And fools call Nature, didst hear, comprehend,
Accept the obligation laid on thee,
Mother elect, to save the unborn child,
As brute and bird do, reptile and the fly,
Ay and, I nothing doubt, even tree, shrub, plant
And flower o' the field, all in a common pact
To worthily defend the trust of trusts,
Life from the Ever Living“

—  Robert Browning
Context: What wonder if the novel claim had clashed With old requirement, seemed to supersede Too much the customary law? But, brave, Thou at first prompting of what I call God, And fools call Nature, didst hear, comprehend, Accept the obligation laid on thee, Mother elect, to save the unborn child, As brute and bird do, reptile and the fly, Ay and, I nothing doubt, even tree, shrub, plant And flower o' the field, all in a common pact To worthily defend the trust of trusts, Life from the Ever Living: — didst resist — Anticipate the office that is mine — And with his own sword stay the upraised arm, The endeavour of the wicked, and defend Him who, — again in my default, — was there For visible providence: one less true than thou To touch, i' the past, less practised in the right, Approved less far in all docility To all instruction, — how had such an one Made scruple "Is this motion a decree?" Book X : The Pope.

„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.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: 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.

„Life’s business being just the terrible choice.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: White shall not neutralize the black, nor good Compensate bad in man, absolve him so: Life’s business being just the terrible choice. Book X: The Pope.<!-- line 1235 -->

„I do what many dream of, all their lives,
— Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing.“

—  Robert Browning
Context: 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. "Andrea del Sarto", line 70 "Less is more" is often misattributed to architects Buckminster Fuller or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is something of a motto for minimalist philosophy. It was used in 1774 by Christoph Martin Wieland.

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