'Confessions' by Robert Browning

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What is he buzzing in my ears?
"Now that I come to die,
Do I view the world as a vale of tears?"
Ah, reverend sir, not I!

What I viewed there once, what I view again
Where the physic bottles stand
On the table's edge, -is a suburb lane,
With a wall to my bedside hand.

That lane sloped, much as the bottles do,
From a house you could descry
O'er the garden-wall: is the curtain blue
Or green to a healthy eye?

To mine, it serves for the old June weather
Blue above lane and wall;
And that farthest bottle labelled "Ether"
Is the house o'ertopping all.

At a terrace, somewhere near the stopper,
There watched for me, one June,
A girl; I know, sir, it's improper,
My poor mind's out of tune.

Only, there was a way... you crept
Close by the side, to dodge
Eyes in the house, two eyes except:
They styled their house "The Lodge".

What right had a lounger up their lane?
But, by creeping very close,
With the good wall's help, -their eyes might strain
And stretch themselves to Oes,

Yet never catch her and me together,
As she left the attic, there,
By the rim of the bottle labelled "Ether",
And stole from stair to stair,

And stood by the rose-wreathed gate. Alas,
We loved, sir -used to meet:
How sad and bad and mad it was -
But then, how it was sweet!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Confessions by Robert Browning: A Deep Dive into the Human Psyche

As I delved into Robert Browning's Confessions, I couldn't help but feel a rush of excitement at the sheer depth and complexity of the work. In this epic poem, Browning delves into the depths of the human psyche, exploring the innermost thoughts and emotions of the narrator, who is grappling with the guilt and shame of a past sin.

The Confessions is a tour de force of poetic technique, featuring a range of stylistic devices that serve to heighten the emotional intensity of the work. From the use of dramatic monologue to the use of highly symbolic imagery, Browning masterfully weaves together a tapestry of words that captures the essence of human experience.

The Power of the Dramatic Monologue

One of the most striking features of the Confessions is Browning's use of the dramatic monologue form. The entire poem is essentially a monologue, with the narrator addressing an unnamed listener who serves as a sort of confidante. Through this technique, Browning is able to convey the raw emotions and innermost thoughts of the narrator in a way that is both intimate and powerful.

One example of the dramatic monologue in action can be seen in the opening lines of the poem:

"What is he buzzing in my ears?

'Now that I come to die,

Do I view the world as a vale of tears?'"

Here, the narrator is speaking directly to his listener, expressing his frustration with the listener's constant questioning of his outlook on life. The use of the second-person pronoun "you" in the first line creates a sense of intimacy between the narrator and his listener, drawing the reader into the poem and making us feel as if we are a part of the conversation.

The Use of Symbolism

Another powerful tool in Browning's poetic arsenal is his use of highly symbolic imagery throughout the Confessions. From the "black hound" that haunts the narrator to the "long, light hair" of the woman he wronged, the poem is awash in imagery that serves to deepen the emotional impact of the work.

Perhaps the most striking example of this can be seen in the description of the narrator's sin, which is depicted as a "corpse" that has been "buried for aye" but still haunts him:

"As you look, you conceive my soul's

Sorrow: a body that has been pierced

Through by a shaft, but, painfullest of doles,

No death ensued."

Here, the sin is given physical form as a corpse, which serves as a powerful symbol of the guilt and shame that the narrator feels. The fact that the corpse has not died but continues to haunt the narrator is a testament to the enduring power of guilt and the difficulty of overcoming it.

The Theme of Guilt and Redemption

At its core, the Confessions is a deeply meditative work that grapples with the theme of guilt and redemption. Throughout the poem, the narrator is consumed with feelings of shame and remorse for his past misdeeds, and he longs for a way to be forgiven and find peace.

This theme is perhaps most powerfully expressed in the following lines:

"And all through the winter, when the winds blew cold,

And the snowflakes covered my breast,

And never a friend in the world could behold

The corpse laid out in its rest."

Here, the narrator is expressing his deep desire for absolution and forgiveness, which he feels is impossible to achieve. The fact that he is alone and isolated, with no one to share his burden or offer him comfort, only serves to heighten his sense of despair.


In conclusion, Robert Browning's Confessions is a masterpiece of poetic technique and emotional depth. Through the use of the dramatic monologue form and highly symbolic imagery, Browning is able to capture the essence of human experience in a way that is both intimate and profound. The theme of guilt and redemption that runs throughout the poem serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring power of sin and the difficulty of finding true forgiveness. Overall, the Confessions is a work that will linger in the mind long after the final page has been turned, and one that is worthy of the highest praise and admiration.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Confessions: A Masterpiece by Robert Browning

Robert Browning, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, is known for his dramatic monologues that explore the complexities of human nature. Among his many works, Poetry Confessions stands out as a masterpiece that delves into the psyche of a poet and his relationship with his art. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in Poetry Confessions to understand its significance in the canon of English literature.

The poem opens with the speaker, a poet, confessing his love for poetry. He describes how poetry has been his constant companion since childhood and how it has shaped his worldview. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker's passion for poetry is palpable in every word. He says,

"Oh, I could still, like old Æsop's crow, Fly with what strength I have, but lack the wit To use it for a feather, and fly now Swifter than ever to the peaks of song, And there find out what life alone can bring, What is truth, what is falsehood, what is neither, What we must love, what we must hate, what pity Is, what deceit, wherefore up and down It goes, what makes it stay, what makes it vanish."

In these lines, the speaker expresses his desire to soar to the "peaks of song" and discover the truths of life through poetry. He acknowledges that he may not have the wit to use his poetic talent to its fullest potential, but his passion for the art is unwavering.

The second stanza of the poem takes a more introspective turn, as the speaker reflects on the challenges of being a poet. He describes how his love for poetry has often led him to neglect other aspects of his life, such as his relationships and responsibilities. He says,

"But I, alas, have loved the thing so well, That I have lost myself; and yet I swear I cannot help it; love will do its work, And even a coward cannot run away."

Here, the speaker acknowledges the sacrifices he has made for his art, but also admits that he cannot help but love it. He compares his love for poetry to a force that cannot be resisted, even by a coward.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker confronts the darker aspects of his relationship with poetry. He describes how his love for the art has often led him to become self-absorbed and narcissistic. He says,

"And yet, and yet, this love of mine for song Has made me selfish, cruel, and arrogant; Has made me scornful of the common joys And sorrows of my fellow-men; has made Me think that I alone am wise and good, And all the rest are fools and knaves."

In these lines, the speaker acknowledges the dangers of becoming too consumed by one's art. He admits that his love for poetry has made him arrogant and dismissive of others, and that he has often neglected the "common joys and sorrows" of his fellow human beings.

The fourth and final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the speaker's relationship with his own poetry. He describes how his poems are a reflection of his own experiences and emotions, and how they have helped him to understand himself better. He says,

"But still I love my songs, and still I sing, And still I hope that men will hear and know The truth that lies within them, and will feel The passion and the pain that gave them birth; For in my songs I find myself, my soul, And all the secrets of my heart revealed."

In these lines, the speaker expresses his love for his own poetry, and how it has helped him to understand himself better. He hopes that others will be able to connect with his poems and feel the same passion and pain that he felt when writing them.

The structure of Poetry Confessions is that of a dramatic monologue, a form that Browning is famous for. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker is addressing an imaginary audience. The use of the dramatic monologue allows Browning to explore the complexities of the speaker's psyche in a way that would not be possible in a more traditional form of poetry.

The themes of Poetry Confessions are universal and timeless. The poem explores the relationship between an artist and his art, and the sacrifices that must be made in order to create something truly great. It also delves into the dangers of becoming too consumed by one's art, and the importance of maintaining a connection with the world outside of oneself. Finally, the poem is a reflection on the power of poetry to reveal the secrets of the human heart and soul.

Browning uses a variety of literary devices in Poetry Confessions to convey his message. The use of imagery is particularly effective, as the speaker's love for poetry is often compared to the act of flying. This metaphorical language helps to convey the speaker's passion and desire to soar to new heights through his art. Browning also uses repetition to great effect, particularly in the final stanza, where the repetition of the word "still" emphasizes the speaker's unwavering love for his own poetry.

In conclusion, Poetry Confessions is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that explores the complexities of the artist's relationship with his art. Through the use of a dramatic monologue, Browning is able to delve deep into the psyche of the speaker and explore the universal themes of love, sacrifice, and self-discovery. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to reveal the secrets of the human heart and soul, and its message is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

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