'Time 's Revenges' by Robert Browning

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I've a Friend, over the sea;
I like him, but he loves me.
It all grew out of the books I write;
They find such favour in his sight
That he slaughters you with savage looks
Because you don't admire my books.
He does himself though,---and if some vein
Were to snap to-night in this heavy brain,
To-morrow month, if I lived to try,
Round should I just turn quietly,
Or out of the bedclothes stretch my hand
Till I found him, come from his foreign land
To be my nurse in this poor place,
And make my broth and wash my face
And light my fire and, all the while,
Bear with his old good-humoured smile
That I told him ``Better have kept away
``Than come and kill me, night and day,
``With, worse than fever throbs and shoots,
``The creaking of his clumsy boots.''
I am as sure that this he would do
As that Saint Paul's is striking two.
And I think I rather ... woe is me!
---Yes, rather would see him than not see,
If lifting a hand could seat him there
Before me in the empty chair
To-night, when my head aches indeed,
And I can neither think nor read
Nor make these purple fingers hold
The pen; this garret's freezing cold!

And I've a Lady---there he wakes,
The laughing fiend and prince of snakes
Within me, at her name, to pray
Fate send some creature in the way
Of my love for her, to be down-torn,
Upthrust and outward-borne,
So I might prove myself that sea
Of passion which I needs must be!
Call my thoughts false and my fancies quaint
And my style infirm and its figures faint,
All the critics say, and more blame yet,
And not one angry word you get.
But, please you, wonder I would put
My cheek beneath that lady's foot
Rather than trample under mine
The laurels of the Florentine,
And you shall see how the devil spends
A fire God gave for other ends!
I tell you, I stride up and down
This garret, crowned with love's best crown,
And feasted with love's perfect feast,
To think I kill for her, at least,
Body and soul and peace and fame,
Alike youth's end and manhood's aim,
---So is my spirit, as flesh with sin,
Filled full, eaten out and in
With the face of her, the eyes of her,
The lips, the little chin, the stir
Of shadow round her month; and she
---I'll tell you,---calmly would decree
That I should roast at a slow fire,
If that would compass her desire
And make her one whom they invite
To the famous ball to-morrow night.

There may be heaven; there must be hell;
Meantime, there is our earth here---well!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Time's Revenges by Robert Browning

"Oh, how good it is to be among people who are reading." - Rainer Maria Rilke

Robert Browning's Time's Revenges is a poem that explores the concept of time and its effects on human emotions and relationships. The poem is structured in five stanzas, each containing its own distinct message and theme. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the intricacies of the poem, analyzing its language, structure, and meaning, and providing my personal interpretation of the work.

Analysis of the Poem

The poem opens with the line, "I've a Friend, over the sea," setting the tone for a reflective and contemplative piece. The speaker then proceeds to describe the titular "friend" in great detail, using vivid and descriptive language. The first stanza is primarily focused on the theme of nostalgia, as the speaker reminisces on their past experiences with their friend.

The second stanza shifts the focus to time's power to destroy relationships, as the speaker laments the distance and time that has separated them from their friend. The imagery in this stanza is particularly striking, as Browning uses the metaphor of the ocean to represent the vastness and depth of time that has come between the speaker and their friend.

The third stanza introduces the theme of regret, as the speaker reflects on missed opportunities to connect with their friend. The language in this stanza is particularly poignant, with phrases such as "Oh, the vows we then could utter!" and "Oh, the truths that then came upper!"

The fourth stanza brings a sense of acceptance and resignation, as the speaker acknowledges the inevitability of time's effects on their relationship. The language here is more subdued, with phrases such as "Sighing, I sit and think," and "Yet the hours pass, reminding."

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, as the speaker returns to the theme of nostalgia and reflects on the memories of their friend. The language here is particularly evocative, with phrases such as "But in dreams, I'm with thee still," and "And again we meet, as then, only soul mates, no more sever'd."

Interpretation of the Poem

At its core, Time's Revenges is a meditation on the passage of time and its effects on human relationships. The poem is a reflection on the past, present, and future, and the ways in which time shapes our perceptions of these different periods. The speaker's "friend over the sea" represents a symbol of lost time and missed opportunities, a reminder of the ways in which time can separate us from those we care about.

One interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on the fleeting nature of human connection. Relationships are fragile and transitory, and time has the power to tear them apart. The ocean metaphor in the second stanza represents the vastness of time and its ability to swallow up even the strongest connections. The regrets expressed in the third stanza are a reminder of the importance of making the most of our time with those we love, as we never know when we might lose them.

Another interpretation of the poem is that it is an exploration of the power of memory. The speaker's vivid recollections of their friend and their past experiences together are a testament to the ways in which memories can sustain us even in the face of time's relentless march. The dreams referenced in the final stanza represent the power of memory to transport us back in time and relive past experiences even when they are long gone.

Overall, Time's Revenges is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the universal experiences of nostalgia, regret, and the passage of time. Browning's use of vivid language and striking imagery creates a sense of longing and melancholy that is sure to resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.


In conclusion, Robert Browning's Time's Revenges is a testament to the power of poetry to explore complex and universal themes. Through its vivid language and striking imagery, the poem delves into the complexities of human relationships and the ways in which time shapes our perceptions of them. Whether read as a commentary on the fleeting nature of connection or an exploration of the power of memory, the poem is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who read it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Time's Revenges: A Masterpiece by Robert Browning

Robert Browning, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, is known for his dramatic monologues that explore the complexities of human nature. His poem, Poetry Time's Revenges, is a perfect example of his mastery of the form. In this poem, Browning takes on the persona of a poet who seeks revenge against the critics who have dismissed his work. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful language, and a cleverly crafted narrative, Browning creates a compelling and thought-provoking work that speaks to the struggles of all artists.

The poem begins with the poet addressing his critics, who he refers to as "Time's revenges." He accuses them of being blind to the beauty of his work and of being motivated by jealousy and spite. He declares that he will have his revenge on them by creating a work of art that will outlast them all. This sets the stage for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the nature of art and the artist's relationship to society.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. Browning employs a wide range of metaphors and similes to convey the poet's emotions and ideas. For example, he compares the critics to "gnats that fret the stream" and "flies that haunt the heifer's ear." These images suggest that the critics are insignificant and annoying, but also that they have the power to distract and irritate the artist. The poet's revenge, then, is not just about proving them wrong, but about freeing himself from their influence.

Browning also uses powerful language to convey the intensity of the poet's emotions. He describes the poet's desire for revenge as a "passion" and a "fury," and he uses words like "wrath" and "vengeance" to underscore the seriousness of his intent. This language creates a sense of urgency and drama that draws the reader into the poem and makes them feel the poet's anger and frustration.

The narrative structure of the poem is also worth noting. Browning uses a series of rhetorical questions to guide the reader through the poet's thought process. He asks, "What is art but life upon the larger scale?" and "What is our failure here but a triumph's evidence?" These questions force the reader to consider the relationship between art and life, and to question the value of success and failure. By framing the poem in this way, Browning invites the reader to engage with the ideas he presents and to draw their own conclusions.

Ultimately, the poem is a meditation on the nature of art and the artist's relationship to society. Browning suggests that art is not just a form of self-expression, but a way of engaging with the world and shaping it. He argues that the artist's struggle for recognition is not just about personal validation, but about asserting the value of art in a society that often dismisses it as frivolous or irrelevant. The poet's revenge, then, is not just about proving his critics wrong, but about asserting his own worth and the worth of his art.

In conclusion, Poetry Time's Revenges is a masterful work of poetry that explores the complexities of the artist's struggle for recognition. Through its use of vivid imagery, powerful language, and a cleverly crafted narrative, Browning creates a compelling and thought-provoking work that speaks to the struggles of all artists. The poem is a testament to Browning's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in his work. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the power of art and the role of the artist in society.

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