Robert Browning: “Now”

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).

Now


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).


Adesso

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!
(L.Z.)

Image: Gustav Klimt (1907-1908) The Kiss (detail)

38 thoughts on “Robert Browning: “Now”

  1. Love this poem. I only read “The Duchess” before by Browning and I don’t really like it. Now since you point out, I should read more of his love poem. I even see a little bit of T. S. eliot in it. Probably T S Eliot read browning too. LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In my opinion, you should reread ” My Last Duchess” with a different eye . I think it is a wonderful dramatic monologue: you can understand the soul of the duke, and also his movements, only through his words which reveal what he would like to keep secret 🌹🌼🌹

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post took me back to my college days and my English Literature Honors Course of 3 years! Robert Browning was part of the syllabus. This poem is beautiful in the way it captures the beauty of the perfect present moment of love, notwithstanding its evanescence…Thanks, I enjoyed that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right! This poem reminds us that we should grasp the present and make it eternal. Unfortunately often the regrets of the past and the fears for the future do not make us appreciate what we have, at the present moment.

      Liked by 1 person

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