After watching the old movie – “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” – I wanted more of Robert Browning, the exuberant Victorian who loved and saved Elizabeth from a dreary spinsterly life with her overbearing father. Famous for writing The Pied Piper of Hamlin, Browning celebrated his bicentenary in May – although few noticed. His birthday falls on May 7th, but the celebration at Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner is scheduled for December – but then so many other important events have overtaken Britain this year (including Charles Dickens).
His poetry could be obscure; in the movie Browning cannot satisfy Elizabeth’s plea to explain his meaning in “Sordello.” Only Browning and God knew his meaning when he wrote it and now only God knew. His dramatic monologues and long narratives (My Last Duchess) are credited as the precursors of Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost – and possibly Eminem in music.
Yet, he may be best remembered for his love for Elizabeth, their years together in Italy, and the poetry they inspired in each other.
How do I love thee, let me count the ways…Elizabeth Barrett Browning – from “Sonnets from the Portuguese”
Grow old along with me! the best is yet to be…Robert Browning – from “Rabbi Ben Ezra”
Clasped Hands of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer