Browning: Poetry, Politics and Personality

Reading how Pacchiarotto “Worked in Distemper”
Is a puzzling not an enlightening adventure:
                The rhymes Browning wrote at his low desk
                Are clever but awkward and grotesque
And his ideas too obscure to remember.                                                            

That’s just the first impression. Patient study, though,
Reveals, behind the joko-serious outward show,
                A disappointed bitterness
                That careless critics, hit or miss,
Scorn and dismiss his metaphoric manifesto.

Pacchiarotto was misunderstood.
His frescoes didn’t mend the world, nor could,
                So he took to haranging
                And hid, to escape hanging,
Where corpse couldn’t kill as his blunders would.

Crept out of charnel house he sheltered in
Cloisters, whose abbot’s advice belted in
                World’s indifference, “Don’t look!”,
                Though Browning cocked a snook
At toes twitchy to test lakes he weltered in.

His palette was earth, his paints colours of mind,
Not discernible through them his spirit behind
                The undismantled house walls
                He’d ivy-wreathed: if mouse mauls
Wainscot, it finds not there his features intertwined.

Brian S. Lee

If you have any comments on this poem, Brian S. Lee  would be pleased to hear from you.

The complete text of Robert  Browning's Pacchiarotto and how He Worked in Distemper: With Other Poems can be found online here.