Robert Browning: Poems

Robert Browning: Poems Summary

"My Last Duchess" is narrated by the duke of Ferrara to the envoy of his new intended bride. The duke shows the envoy a painting of his former wife, whom he had killed for having been so flirtatious.

"Porphyria's Lover" is narrated by a man who has murdered his lover Porphyria in order to capture a moment in which they were both happy in love.

"Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister" is a resentful narration by a monk who watches his professed enemy, Brother Lawrence, as the latter plants flowers.

"Home-Thoughts, From Abroad" is a British expatriate's nostalgic thoughts of England, especially of how it must be beautiful in the newly arrived spring.

"Love Among the Ruins" is a contemplation of how a pastoral landscape, where the narrator's beloved is currently waiting for him, was once the setting of a great empire that has since fallen.

"Meeting at Night" is a description of a man's intense travel over land and sea to rendezvous with his beloved.

"My Star" is a lover's contemplation of how he loves a particular star even though others do not see in it the beauty he does.

"The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's Church" is a rambling dramatic monologue in which a dying bishop speaks to young men he calls his "sons," asking them to build him a great tomb so that he can shame his rival who is buried nearby.

"Prospice" is a contemplation of impending death, in which the narrator bravely anticipates the journey to and through death so that he can be reunited with his beloved.

"Fra Lippo Lippi" is the narration of a Renaissance painter and monk whose talent is admired by the Church, but whose interest in naturalism – in painting the world as it really looks – is repudiated by the Church in favor of more moral, religious subjects. Lippo has been apprehended by some authority figures while prowling the red light district of Vienna, and defends both his behavior and his artistic aesthetic in the monologue.

"Two in the Campagna" is a contemplation of how a man cannot fully unite with his beloved because time constantly changes his feelings. As he contemplates the fall of Rome and how their bodies keep their souls from joining together, he finds the strength to persevere.

"A Toccata of Galuppi's" is spoken to Renaissance composer Galuppi. The narrator considers how Galuppi's music once brought pleasure to Venetians who later died, as everyone does. Considering the disconnect between pleasant art and impending death brings melancholy to the speaker.

"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" is a deeply symbolist poem that follows a traveling knight in search of a Dark Tower, which he knows will bring disappointment and probably death, but which he seeks nevertheless. In his search for the Dark Tower, Roland travels through a deserted landscape, a terrible setting almost as bad as Roland's own memories.

"Memorabilia" recounts a meeting between the narrator and another man who had once met the Romantic poet Shelley. The narrator is very excited about hearing the story and reflects on how small moments can stay with us forever.

"Andrea del Sarto" is narrated by a Renaissance painter renowned for creating "faultless" paintings, but who laments the lack of "soul" in his work. He blames his wife Lucrezia for not inspiring him to the soulful works of the other Renaissance greats, but ultimately changes his tone to accept his faults as his own doing.

"Caliban Upon Setebos" is a monologue spoken by Caliban, the humanoid creature from Shakespeare's The Tempest, about Setebos, whom he believes is his creator. He considers the apathy and resentment of God, and wonders how he can make the most of life without bringing Setebos's wrath down upon himself.

"Rabbi Ben Ezra" is a theological monologue spoken by a historical theologian about how one ought to exercise patience in life in preparation for greater quests to come. He praises old age as having the understanding that escapes youth, which attempts to constantly seize the day.

"Life in a Love" is a contemplation of love as fate, which the speaker must accept. No matter what happens, he knows he cannot help but continue to pursue his beloved.

"The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is a delightful adaptation of the classic folk tale, in which a flutist with the power to attract anyone to his music is hired to help a town overrun with rats get rid of its rodents. When the Mayor and Corporation of the town refuse him his promised fee, he uses his music to rob the town of its children.

"The Laboratory" is narrated by a young lady-in-waiting to an old apothecary who is preparing a poison for her to use on her romantic rivals at court.

"How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix" follows several horsemen as they rush between the titular towns to bring important news. Only the narrator survives; he celebrates his horse for surviving the intense journey.

"Evelyn Hope" is narrated by a middle-aged man to the corpse of a young girl he had patiently loved from afar. He anticipates rejoining her in the afterlife.

"A Grammarian's Funeral" is narrated by a disciple of a grammarian who had renounced normal life in favor of a life fully devoted to lonely scholarship. The grammarian has died, and his body is being carried to a worthy resting place as his memory is celebrated by the speaker.

"Death in the Desert" is a recounting of the last days of St. John, who wrote the Fourth Gospel, and who has been accused of inventing details about Christ's life. John admits to having lied in order to relate the more important truth: people should accept faith based on the wonders of life rather than on rational observation.