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
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.