'Youth and Art' by Robert Browning

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It once might have been, once only:
We lodged in a street together,
You, a sparrow on the housetop lonely,
I, a lone she-bird of his feather.

Your trade was with sticks and clay,
You thumbed, thrust, patted and polished,
Then laughed "They will see some day
Smith made, and Gibson demolished."

My business was song, song, song;
I chirped, cheeped, trilled and twittered,
"Kate Brown's on the boards ere long,
And Grisi's existence embittered!"

I earned no more by a warble
Than you by a sketch in plaster;
You wanted a piece of marble,
I needed a music-master.

We studied hard in our styles,
Chipped each at a crust like Hindoos,
For air looked out on the tiles,
For fun watched each other's windows.

You lounged, like a boy of the South,
Cap and blouse--nay, a bit of beard too;
Or you got it, rubbing your mouth
With fingers the clay adhered to.

And I--soon managed to find
Weak points in the flower-fence facing,
Was forced to put up a blind
And be safe in my corset-lacing.

No harm! It was not my fault
If you never turned your eye's tail up
As I shook upon E in alt,
Or ran the chromatic scale up:

For spring bade the sparrows pair,
And the boys and girls gave guesses,
And stalls in our street looked rare
With bulrush and watercresses.

Why did not you pinch a flower
In a pellet of clay and fling it?
Why did not I put a power
Of thanks in a look, or sing it?

I did look, sharp as a lynx,
(And yet the memory rankles,)
When models arrived, some minx
Tripped up-stairs, she and her ankles.

But I think I gave you as good!
"That foreign fellow,--who can know
How she pays, in a playful mood,
For his tuning her that piano?"

Could you say so, and never say
"Suppose we join hands and fortunes,
And I fetch her from over the way,
Her, piano, and long tunes and short tunes?"

No, no: you would not be rash,
Nor I rasher and something over:
You've to settle yet Gibson's hash,
And Grisi yet lives in clover.

But you meet the Prince at the Board,
I'm queen myself at bals-paré,
I've married a rich old lord,
And you're dubbed knight and an R.A.

Each life unfulfilled, you see;
It hangs still, patchy and scrappy:
We have not sighed deep, laughed free,
Starved, feasted, despaired,--been happy.

And nobody calls you a dunce,
And people suppose me clever:
This could but have happened once,
And we missed it, lost it for ever.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Youth, and Art: A Masterpiece by Robert Browning

As a literary critic and enthusiast, I have come across a plethora of works that attempt to capture the essence of youth, art, and poetry. However, none of them quite hit the mark as precisely as Robert Browning's "Poetry, Youth, and Art." This poem is not just a mere appreciation of the beauty of art, but it delves deeper into the relationship between the three concepts and the impact they have on each other. With a keen eye for detail and a masterful use of language, Browning creates a masterpiece that speaks to the heart of every person who has ever been moved by art or poetry.

The Power of Youth

The poem begins with an exploration of the role of youth in the creation of art. Browning asserts that youth is the driving force behind the creation of art, and without it, art would be lifeless and uninspired. He writes:

"Ah, did you once see Shelley plain, And did he stop and speak to you? And did you speak to him again? How strange it seems, and new!"

Browning's use of the famous romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as an example highlights the importance of youth in the creation of art. Shelley was just 29 when he died, and his works are a testament to the passion and inspiration that youth can bring to the creative process.

Browning goes on to say that youth is not just important for the creation of art, but it is also essential for its appreciation. He writes:

"For youth comes singing, comes telling old tales; To ears but lately deaf, to eyes but lately blind."

This line beautifully captures the excitement and enthusiasm that youth brings to the world, and how it can awaken our senses and help us see things in a new light. It is only through the eyes of the young that we can truly appreciate the beauty of art and poetry.

The Power of Art

As the poem progresses, Browning moves on to explore the power of art itself. He writes:

"Why, what is art but life upon the larger scale, The higher, the more true? Vast, harmonious, true."

Here, Browning is making a bold statement about the importance of art in our lives. He is saying that art is not just a reflection of life, but it is life itself, but on a larger and more profound scale. Art has the power to move us, to inspire us, and to help us see the world in a new light. It is a testament to the beauty and complexity of the human experience.

Moreover, Browning also highlights the role of art in shaping our understanding of history and culture. He writes:

"Art's life, and where we find it not, we'll make it, So by new, fresher fountains, in the broad Highway shall we be met."

Through this line, Browning is suggesting that art has the power to shape our understanding of history and culture. It is through art that we can connect with the past and create a better future. The absence of art is not a sign of a lack of creativity, but rather an opportunity to create something new and fresh.

The Power of Poetry

Finally, Browning moves on to explore the power of poetry in our lives. He writes:

"But to me, friend, what all these portend, Is, that youth, ere life be past, Wants one year to rave and to adore Each blessing granted, and then pass, But for man, earth's pride, Is not as other men be."

Here, Browning is acknowledging the fleeting nature of youth and how we must seize every opportunity to appreciate the beauty of poetry and art before our time is up. However, he is also suggesting that poetry has the power to transcend time and space, and connect us with something greater than ourselves. It is through poetry that we can find meaning in our lives, and connect with the eternal beauty of the universe.


In conclusion, Robert Browning's "Poetry, Youth, and Art" is a masterpiece that explores the complex relationship between youth, art, and poetry. Browning's masterful use of language and keen insights into the human experience make this poem a timeless classic that speaks to the heart of every person who has ever been moved by art or poetry. It is a testament to the power of creativity to shape our lives and our understanding of the world around us. In short, it is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the true meaning of art, poetry, and the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Youth and Art: A Masterpiece by Robert Browning

Robert Browning, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works. Among his many masterpieces, "Youth and Art" stands out as a powerful commentary on the nature of art and the role of youth in its creation and appreciation. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve deep into the poem's themes, structure, and language to understand its significance and relevance even today.

The poem begins with a dialogue between a young artist and an old master. The young artist, full of enthusiasm and passion, asks the master for advice on how to become a great artist. The master, who has seen it all and knows the pitfalls of youth, responds with a cautionary tale of a young artist who, like the protagonist, was full of talent and ambition but lacked the patience and discipline to succeed.

The master tells the young artist that he must learn to "wait and hope" and not rush into fame and fortune. He warns him that "youth and art may never meet" and that the pursuit of art requires sacrifice and hard work. The young artist, however, is not deterred and insists that he will succeed no matter what.

The poem then shifts to a second dialogue, this time between the old master and a wealthy patron of the arts. The patron, who is eager to buy the young artist's work, asks the master for his opinion. The master, who knows the young artist's flaws, tells the patron that the work is not yet ready and that the artist needs more time to mature and develop his skills.

The patron, however, is not interested in the artist's potential but only in his fame and popularity. He insists on buying the work and promises to make the artist famous. The master, who knows the dangers of such a deal, warns the patron that fame and fortune can be fleeting and that true art requires more than just popularity.

The poem ends with the master's reflection on the nature of art and the role of youth in its creation and appreciation. He acknowledges that youth is necessary for art to flourish but warns that it must be tempered with patience and discipline. He also laments the commercialization of art and the loss of its true value in the pursuit of fame and fortune.

The themes of the poem are many and complex. At its core, "Youth and Art" is a meditation on the nature of art and the role of youth in its creation and appreciation. The poem explores the tension between the passion and enthusiasm of youth and the patience and discipline required for true art to flourish. It also examines the commercialization of art and the loss of its true value in the pursuit of fame and fortune.

The structure of the poem is also noteworthy. It is written in iambic pentameter, a common meter in English poetry that consists of ten syllables per line. The use of this meter gives the poem a rhythmic and musical quality that enhances its emotional impact. The poem is also divided into three sections, each with its own dialogue and perspective. This structure allows Browning to explore the themes of the poem from multiple angles and to create a sense of depth and complexity.

The language of the poem is rich and evocative. Browning uses vivid imagery and metaphor to convey the themes of the poem. For example, he compares the young artist to a "lark" that "sings hymns at heaven's gate" and the old master to a "wise thrush" that "sings each song twice over." These metaphors not only create a sense of beauty and wonder but also convey the contrast between the passion and enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom and experience of age.

In conclusion, "Youth and Art" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that explores the nature of art and the role of youth in its creation and appreciation. The poem's themes of passion, discipline, and commercialization are as relevant today as they were in Browning's time. Its structure and language are also noteworthy, creating a sense of depth and complexity that enhances its emotional impact. "Youth and Art" is a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and provoke readers for generations to come.

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