BrowningOliver St. J. Gogarty
"What an extraordinary fellow," I said to Austin. "One is never allowed to get a word in."
"No, nor the books one wants."
"Why should one be? I thought the fellow most amusing: saving engineers by Kipling; budding bankers by bad verse; suspended priests by heresies. He calls it snatching brands from the burning. I heard you whisper that it would be better to snatch the bank clerks from Browning."
"I did not quite say that. Why are you so hard on Browning?"
"Because he didn't keep on banking. He introduced jazz, into English verse, on account of his mixed blood no doubt. There is black blood in him somewhere, that is why he was called Browning --- it comes out in the tom-tom of his verse.
Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead,
Rumptity, rum pity; don't look dour!
This was her table, that was her bed;
And here her last leaf of geranium flower."
"I rather like it. The economy with which he makes a scene is amazing."
"But, then, the cross-word puzzles of his poems. He anticipated cross-words. He kept so many people guessing that he got a reputation for depth and for poetry out of all proportion to the beauty he evoked in words. Instead of "fundamental brainwork," there is only something foundered beneath the surface. What porridge!
"The nearest he got to poetry was 'A chorus-ending of Euripides' --- and Mrs Browning. He depends for half his effect on our associations of ideas with the Greek; for the rest on his wife. His inspiration is rarely original. It is literature begotten on literature, Caliban upon Mrs Browning. Where is his equivalent to what is created out of nothing:
Come unto these yellow sands
"His muse is as much invalid as his wife was invalide. I much prefer Longfellow, who does not turn your mind into a war dance, but he leaves it cool and smooth.
As he leaned upon the railing,
And his ships came sailing, sailing,
Northward into Drontheim fjord.
"And smoothness is one of the three indispensables of poetry. Yes. Browning is only suited for reading in banks. There is a Browning Society in England whose members assure each other that they understand him. When I read his translation of Æschylus, I find it very useful to have the Greek beside me so that I may find out what the English means. He does not write poetry, but his prose pulsates.
"Then those medical students for whom he has prescribed a course of medieval quackery! And his priest studying heresy! What an amusing fellow!"
I never listened to more suave and childlike irreverence in my life."
"I saw nothing irreverent in it."
"You would not be likely to, being irreverent yourself."--- From As I Was
Going Down Sackville Street
©1937 Penguin Books