English poet and playwright Robert Browning was born on 7 May 1812.
He was one of the foremost Victorian poets, famous for his mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues.
When he married poet Elizabeth Barrett, in 1846 the couple came to Italy first in Pisa and then in Florence, until Elizabeth’s death,
In Italy they had their only child Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, who was to become a painter. He was nicknamed “Pen”, because, when he was a little child, he used to mispronounce his name Wiedeman (after his paternal grandmother’s maiden name).
Out of your whole life give but a moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it, – so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present, condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense,
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me –
Me, sure that, despite of time future, time past,
This tick of life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet,
The moment eternal – just that and no more –
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core,
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut, and lips meet
In these very intense lines Robert Browning beautifully expresses his desire for a perfect union with his wife Elizabeth.
Aware that ideal love can only exist for a fleeting moment he attempts to isolate that very special state of perfection : that moment gives him a sense of something lasting in his life.
The use of temporal language (time, moment, present, past, future…) creates a lexical field of time, reminding the lover and the reader that time is finite and it is always necessary to seize the moment (carpe diem).
Di tutta la tua vita, dammi solo un attimo!
Di tutta la vita che è venuta prima
e quella che verrà dopo e che quindi ignori
Perciò rendi perfetto il presente, condensa
in un’ondata di ardore, dono di perfezione,
pensiero e sensazioni, anima e sensi.
Fusi in quell’attimo che finalmente per una volta
mi dona te intorno a me, sotto di me, sopra di me –
e mi rende certo che, nonostante il tempo futuro e quello passato,
in questo attimo fugace della vita tu ami me!
Quanto tempo può durare questa sospensione? Ah, Amore,
l’attimo eterno – solo quello e nient’altro –
Quando l’estasi è al culmine, ci aggrappiamo alla sua essenza,
mentre le guance bruciano, le braccia si aprono, gli occhi si chiudono e le labbra si incontrano!
Image: Gustav Klimt (1907-1908) The Kiss (detail)