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Monday, March 4, 2013

Thoughts on Robert Browning's Poetry

This is a short essay that I wrote last semester for my English Literature class.  Throughout the semester we were to write responses to what we were reading.  These are some thoughts I had upon reading Robert Browning's poetry. 

Robert Browning was a poet who was not understood or appreciated in his lifetime.  His contemporaries thought that he was too difficult to read and understand.  While it is true that his poems are not as easy reading as other poets, such as his wife, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, Robert Browning’s poems are rich and deep with meaning, full of beautiful imagery and symbolism.  His poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a perfect example of this.  The eighteenth stanza of this poem in particular stood out to me:

Better this present than a past like that;
Back therefore to my darkening path again!
No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain. (NAEL 2067)

            The feeling expressed in this stanza is one that deeply
resonates with me.  Often when I am stressed or overwhelmed, feeling alone and wishing for simpler times, I find myself caught up in looking to the past, remembering who I used to be.  My past is complex, filled with ups and downs, good times, bad times, and some in between.  It is so easy for me to dwell on thoughts of the past.  Remembrances of the good times usually.  Hanging out with my friends, starting to study for a test with my best friend and ending up goofing off all night, a birthday party, and a concert.  That one night when everything in my life seemed to be perfect – the night that I still remember as the happiest night of my life - the night before my whole world came crashing down.  When I get caught up in reminisces of the good times in the past, sometimes God has to step in and remind me about the not so great parts.  All the stupid choices I made; the sins that I committed in my heart while I was pursuing the world, pushing God away.  I am reminded of the darkness of heart that I lived in, the pain and emptiness that I felt.  Pain and emptiness that nothing and no one, no matter what I tried, could fill.  When I remember that aspect of my past, how my life was before I started following Christ, Childe Roland’s words strike a chord in my heart, for I can say the same thing.  No matter how difficult my present life is it is better to live in the present than to live in the past. 
            When it comes to living life, there are a couple of extremes one can live in.  One can live in the past; constantly dwelling on what one has done, never able to move on.  One can live in the present, never looking ahead nor looking back, all focus on here and now. The best way to live however is a balance.  One cannot fully know and appreciate where one is in life if one does not know where one has come from.  However, one must be careful not to dwell too much on the past, for if one is constantly looking behind, one will never move forward.  Therefore, the best way to live life is to balance one’s focus between history and the present, with the goal of growing and expanding one’s horizons.  

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