'Andrea del Sarto' by Robert Browning

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But do not let us quarrel any more,
No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once:
Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
You turn your face, but does it bring your heart?
I'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear,
Treat his own subject after his own way,
Fix his own time, accept too his own price,
And shut the money into this small hand
When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly?
Oh, I'll content him,--but to-morrow, Love!
I often am much wearier than you think,
This evening more than usual, and it seems
As if--forgive now--should you let me sit
Here by the window with your hand in mine
And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole,
Both of one mind, as married people use,
Quietly, quietly the evening through,
I might get up to-morrow to my work
Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try.
To-morrow, how you shall be glad for this!
Your soft hand is a woman of itself,
And mine the man's bared breast she curls inside.
Don't count the time lost, neither; you must serve
For each of the five pictures we require:
It saves a model. So! keep looking so--
My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds!
--How could you ever prick those perfect ears,
Even to put the pearl there! oh, so sweet--
My face, my moon, my everybody's moon,
Which everybody looks on and calls his,
And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn,
While she looks--no one's: very dear, no less.
You smile? why, there's my picture ready made,
There's what we painters call our harmony!
A common greyness silvers everything,--
All in a twilight, you and I alike
--You, at the point of your first pride in me
(That's gone you know),--but I, at every point;
My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down
To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole.
There's the bell clinking from the chapel-top;
That length of convent-wall across the way
Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside;
The last monk leaves the garden; days decrease,
And autumn grows, autumn in everything.
Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape
As if I saw alike my work and self
And all that I was born to be and do,
A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God's hand.
How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead;
So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!
I feel he laid the fetter: let it lie!
This chamber for example--turn your head--
All that's behind us! You don't understand
Nor care to understand about my art,
But you can hear at least when people speak:
And that cartoon, the second from the door
--It is the thing, Love! so such things should be--
Behold Madonna!--I am bold to say.
I can do with my pencil what I know,
What I see, what at bottom of my heart
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep--
Do easily, too--when I say, perfectly,
I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge,
Who listened to the Legate's talk last week,
And just as much they used to say in France.
At any rate 'tis easy, all of it!
No sketches first, no studies, that's long past:
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
--Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive--you don't know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,--
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)--so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
There burns a truer light of God in them,
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me,
Enter and take their place there sure enough,
Though they come back and cannot tell the world.
My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here.
The sudden blood of these men! at a word--
Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too.
I, painting from myself and to myself,
Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks
Morello's outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey,
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
I know both what I want and what might gain,
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
"Had I been two, another and myself,
"Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt.
Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth
The Urbinate who died five years ago.
('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.)
Well, I can fancy how he did it all,
Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see,
Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him,
Above and through his art--for it gives way;
That arm is wrongly put--and there again--
A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines,
Its body, so to speak: its soul is right,
He means right--that, a child may understand.
Still, what an arm! and I could alter it:
But all the play, the insight and the stretch--
(Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out?
Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul,
We might have risen to Rafael, I and you!
Nay, Love, you did give all I asked, I think--
More than I merit, yes, by many times.
But had you--oh, with the same perfect brow,
And perfect eyes, and more than perfect mouth,
And the low voice my soul hears, as a bird
The fowler's pipe, and follows to the snare --
Had you, with these the same, but brought a mind!
Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged
"God and the glory! never care for gain.
"The present by the future, what is that?
"Live for fame, side by side with Agnolo!
"Rafael is waiting: up to God, all three!"
I might have done it for you. So it seems:
Perhaps not. All is as God over-rules.
Beside, incentives come from the soul's self;
The rest avail not. Why do I need you?
What wife had Rafael, or has Agnolo?
In this world, who can do a thing, will not;
And who would do it, cannot, I perceive:
Yet the will's somewhat--somewhat, too, the power--
And thus we half-men struggle. At the end,
God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.
'Tis safer for me, if the award be strict,
That I am something underrated here,
Poor this long while, despised, to speak the truth.
I dared not, do you know, leave home all day,
For fear of chancing on the Paris lords.
The best is when they pass and look aside;
But they speak sometimes; I must bear it all.
Well may they speak! That Francis, that first time,
And that long festal year at Fontainebleau!
I surely then could sometimes leave the ground,
Put on the glory, Rafael's daily wear,
In that humane great monarch's golden look,--
One finger in his beard or twisted curl
Over his mouth's good mark that made the smile,
One arm about my shoulder, round my neck,
The jingle of his gold chain in my ear,
I painting proudly with his breath on me,
All his court round him, seeing with his eyes,
Such frank French eyes, and such a fire of souls
Profuse, my hand kept plying by those hearts,--
And, best of all, this, this, this face beyond,
This in the background, waiting on my work,
To crown the issue with a last reward!
A good time, was it not, my kingly days?
And had you not grown restless... but I know--
'Tis done and past: 'twas right, my instinct said:
Too live the life grew, golden and not grey,
And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt
Out of the grange whose four walls make his world.
How could it end in any other way?
You called me, and I came home to your heart.
The triumph was--to reach and stay there; since
I reached it ere the triumph, what is lost?
Let my hands frame your face in your hair's gold,
You beautiful Lucrezia that are mine!
"Rafael did this, Andrea painted that;
"The Roman's is the better when you pray,
"But still the other's Virgin was his wife--"
Men will excuse me. I am glad to judge
Both pictures in your presence; clearer grows
My better fortune, I resolve to think.
For, do you know, Lucrezia, as God lives,
Said one day Agnolo, his very self,
To Rafael . . . I have known it all these years . . .
(When the young man was flaming out his thoughts
Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see,
Too lifted up in heart because of it)
"Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub
"Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how,
"Who, were he set to plan and execute
"As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings,
"Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!"
To Rafael's!--And indeed the arm is wrong.
I hardly dare . . . yet, only you to see,
Give the chalk here--quick, thus, the line should go!
Ay, but the soul! he's Rafael! rub it out!
Still, all I care for, if he spoke the truth,
(What he? why, who but Michel Agnolo?
Do you forget already words like those?)
If really there was such a chance, so lost,--
Is, whether you're--not grateful--but more pleased.
Well, let me think so. And you smile indeed!
This hour has been an hour! Another smile?
If you would sit thus by me every night
I should work better, do you comprehend?
I mean that I should earn more, give you more.
See, it is settled dusk now; there's a star;
Morello's gone, the watch-lights show the wall,
The cue-owls speak the name we call them by.
Come from the window, love,--come in, at last,
Inside the melancholy little house
We built to be so gay with. God is just.
King Francis may forgive me: oft at nights
When I look up from painting, eyes tired out,
The walls become illumined, brick from brick
Distinct, instead of mortar, fierce bright gold,
That gold of his I did cement them with!
Let us but love each other. Must you go?
That Cousin here again? he waits outside?
Must see you--you, and not with me? Those loans?
More gaming debts to pay? you smiled for that?
Well, let smiles buy me! have you more to spend?
While hand and eye and something of a heart
Are left me, work's my ware, and what's it worth?
I'll pay my fancy. Only let me sit
The grey remainder of the evening out,
Idle, you call it, and muse perfectly
How I could paint, were I but back in France,
One picture, just one more--the Virgin's face,
Not yours this time! I want you at my side
To hear them--that is, Michel Agnolo--
Judge all I do and tell you of its worth.
Will you? To-morrow, satisfy your friend.
I take the subjects for his corridor,
Finish the portrait out of hand--there, there,
And throw him in another thing or two
If he demurs; the whole should prove enough
To pay for this same Cousin's freak. Beside,
What's better and what's all I care about,
Get you the thirteen scudi for the ruff!
Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he,
The Cousin! what does he to please you more?

I am grown peaceful as old age to-night.
I regret little, I would change still less.
Since there my past life lies, why alter it?
The very wrong to Francis!--it is true
I took his coin, was tempted and complied,
And built this house and sinned, and all is said.
My father and my mother died of want.
Well, had I riches of my own? you see
How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot.
They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died:
And I have laboured somewhat in my time
And not been paid profusely. Some good son
Paint my two hundred pictures--let him try!
No doubt, there's something strikes a balance. Yes,
You loved me quite enough. it seems to-night.
This must suffice me here. What would one have?
In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance--
Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
Meted on each side by the angel's reed,
For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo and me
To cover--the three first without a wife,
While I have mine! So--still they overcome
Because there's still Lucrezia,--as I choose.

Again the Cousin's whistle! Go, my Love.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Andrea del Sarto" by Robert Browning: A Masterful Work of Artistic Expression

Robert Browning's "Andrea del Sarto" is a masterpiece of poetic expression, telling the story of the eponymous Italian Renaissance painter in a way that is both nuanced and emotionally evocative. Through a careful exploration of the character's internal struggles, Browning paints a portrait of the artist as a tragic figure, caught between his own creative ambitions and the limitations imposed on him by his society and his relationships. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the many layers of meaning contained within this powerful poem, and examine how Browning uses language, imagery, and structure to bring his vision to life.

The Tragic Figure of Andrea del Sarto

The poem begins with the speaker addressing Andrea directly, describing him as "the faultless painter," a master of his craft who has achieved great success in his career. However, even in these opening lines, there is a sense of melancholy and regret that hangs over the character, as the speaker notes that "the faultless painter grew a man too fast" – suggesting that despite his professional accomplishments, Andrea has not been able to enjoy the fullness of life that he deserves.

As the poem unfolds, we learn more about the inner turmoil that plagues Andrea, as he struggles to reconcile his artistic ambitions with the demands of his patron, his wife, and his own conscience. Browning depicts the painter as a man consumed by doubts and insecurities, who feels that he has failed to live up to his own potential. In one particularly poignant passage, he laments:

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

Here, Browning captures the essence of Andrea's dilemma – he is a man who has achieved great things, but who is haunted by the fear that he could have done more. His artistic vision is limitless, but the realities of his life and his society have conspired to hold him back, leaving him feeling unfulfilled and frustrated.

The Limitations of Society and Relationships

One of the key themes of "Andrea del Sarto" is the idea that the creative spirit is often stifled by the constraints of society and personal relationships. Browning portrays Andrea as a man who is constantly torn between his own desires and the expectations of others, whether it be his patron who demands certain subjects and styles of painting, or his wife who is jealous of his talent and seeks to control him. As Andrea himself puts it:

God and the painter alike I appeal to – I aspire to be God, I find it hard; but, count who wins, ye will say, "She." because no one beats his wife, you know – So, what I choose to paint, behold and see!

Here, Browning captures the sense of frustration and resignation that Andrea feels, as he realizes that his artistic vision must always be tempered by the demands of those around him. He longs to be free to express himself fully, but is constantly held back by the expectations and limitations of his society and his relationships.

The Power of Language and Imagery

One of the most striking things about "Andrea del Sarto" is the way in which Browning uses language and imagery to create a vivid and emotionally charged portrait of the character. Throughout the poem, he employs a range of poetic devices – from metaphor and simile to allusion and symbolism – to convey the complex emotions and experiences of the painter.

Perhaps the most powerful example of this is in the repeated use of the image of light and darkness throughout the poem, which serves as a powerful metaphor for the contrast between Andrea's artistic vision and the realities of his life. In one particularly striking passage, Browning writes:

"Italia, oh, Italia, I too am thine!" ...this chills my hand; the blind walls say, "Ciò che fa il fabbro." "Forge thyself!" in plainer words, "Turn round and love me, or I die."

Here, the darkness of the "blind walls" serves as a stark contrast to the beauty and light of Italy, symbolizing the limitations that Andrea feels are imposed on him by his society and his relationships.

Similarly, the use of the metaphor of the "heart's wound" throughout the poem serves as a powerful symbol of the emotional pain and turmoil that Andrea experiences. The image of the "wound" suggests both the depth of his suffering and the sense of vulnerability and fragility that he feels as an artist.


In "Andrea del Sarto," Robert Browning has created a truly masterful work of poetic expression, one that explores the complex emotions and experiences of a tragic figure caught between his own artistic ambitions and the limitations of his society and relationships. Through his use of language, imagery, and structure, Browning brings his vision to life in a way that is both nuanced and emotionally evocative, leaving a lasting impression on the reader. For anyone interested in the power of language and the depths of human emotion, "Andrea del Sarto" is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Andrea del Sarto: A Masterpiece of Browning's Poetry

Robert Browning's "Andrea del Sarto" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the Renaissance period and the life of a great artist. The poem is a dramatic monologue that tells the story of Andrea del Sarto, a famous Florentine painter, and his relationship with his wife, Lucrezia.

The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which gives it a rhythmic flow that is pleasing to the ear. The use of enjambment and caesura adds to the musicality of the poem. The language used is simple and straightforward, yet it is rich in meaning and symbolism. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with ten lines.

The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the character of Andrea del Sarto. The speaker, who is Andrea himself, describes his life as a painter and his relationship with his wife. He speaks of his love for Lucrezia and his desire to please her. He also speaks of his frustration with his own limitations as an artist and his inability to achieve greatness.

The second stanza is a reflection on the past. Andrea speaks of his youth and his apprenticeship with the great painter, Fra Bartolommeo. He speaks of his early success as an artist and his rise to fame. He also speaks of his meeting with Lucrezia and his love for her.

The third stanza is a turning point in the poem. Andrea speaks of his frustration with his wife and his realization that he has been living a lie. He speaks of his desire to leave Lucrezia and pursue his art without the distractions of marriage. He also speaks of his fear of being alone and his need for companionship.

The fourth and final stanza is a reflection on the future. Andrea speaks of his desire to achieve greatness as an artist and his hope for a better life. He speaks of his regret for not leaving Lucrezia and pursuing his art earlier in life. He also speaks of his fear of death and his hope for immortality through his art.

The poem is a powerful commentary on the human condition. It speaks of the struggle between love and ambition, between passion and reason. It speaks of the limitations of the human spirit and the desire for greatness. It speaks of the fear of death and the hope for immortality.

The character of Andrea del Sarto is a complex one. He is a man torn between his love for his wife and his desire for greatness as an artist. He is a man who is frustrated with his own limitations and his inability to achieve his dreams. He is a man who is afraid of being alone and who seeks companionship and love.

The character of Lucrezia is also complex. She is a woman who is beautiful and charming, but who is also selfish and manipulative. She is a woman who uses her beauty to control her husband and to get what she wants. She is a woman who is jealous of her husband's talent and who fears that he will leave her.

The poem is also a commentary on the art of painting. It speaks of the struggle of the artist to achieve greatness and to capture the essence of life in his art. It speaks of the limitations of the human spirit and the desire for immortality through art.

In conclusion, "Andrea del Sarto" is a masterpiece of Browning's poetry. It is a powerful commentary on the human condition and the struggle between love and ambition. It is a reflection on the art of painting and the desire for greatness. It is a poem that has stood the test of time and that continues to inspire and move readers today.

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