'Popularity' by Robert Browning

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Stand still, true poet that you are!
I know you; let me try and draw you.
Some night you'll fail us: when afar
You rise, remember one man saw you,
Knew you, and named a star!


My star, God's glow-worm! Why extend
That loving hand of his which leads you
Yet locks you safe from end to end
Of this dark world, unless he needs you,
just saves your light to spend?


His clenched hand shall unclose at last,
I know, and let out all the beauty:
My poet holds the future fast,
Accepts the coming ages' duty,
Their present for this past.


That day, the earth's feast-master's brow
Shall clear, to God the chalice raising;
``Others give best at first, but thou
``Forever set'st our table praising,
``Keep'st the good wine till now!''


Meantime, I'll draw you as you stand,
With few or none to watch and wonder:
I'll say---a fisher, on the sand
By Tyre the old, with ocean-plunder,
A netful, brought to land.


Who has not heard how Tyrian shells
Enclosed the blue, that dye of dyes
Whereof one drop worked miracles,
And coloured like Astarte's<*1> eyes
Raw silk the merchant sells?


And each bystander of them all
Could criticize, and quote tradition
How depths of blue sublimed some pall
---To get which, pricked a king's ambition
Worth sceptre, crown and ball.


Yet there's the dye, in that rough mesh,
The sea has only just o'erwhispered!
Live whelks, each lip's beard dripping fresh,
As if they still the water's lisp heard
Through foam the rock-weeds thresh.


Enough to furnish Solomon
Such hangings for his cedar-house,
That, when gold-robed he took the throne
In that abyss of blue, the Spouse
Might swear his presence shone


Most like the centre-spike of gold
Which burns deep in the blue-bell's womb,
What time, with ardours manifold,
The bee goes singing to her groom,
Drunken and overbold.


Mere conchs! not fit for warp or woof!
Till cunning come to pound and squeeze
And clarify,---refine to proof
The liquor filtered by degrees,
While the world stands aloof.


And there's the extract, flasked and fine,
And priced and saleable at last!
And Hobbs, Nobbs, Stokes and Nokes combine
To paint the future from the past,
Put blue into their line.


Hobbs hints blue,---Straight he turtle eats:
Nobbs prints blue,---claret crowns his cup:
Nokes outdares Stokes in azure feats,---
Both gorge. Who fished the murex<*2> up?
What porridge had John Keats?

* 1The Syrian Venus.
* 2Molluscs from which the famous Tyrian
*purple dye was obtained.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Literary Criticism and Interpretation of "Popularity" by Robert Browning

Oh boy, where do we even start with this one? Robert Browning's "Popularity" is a poem that tackles the fickle nature of fame and the art of self-promotion. Written in 1855, this piece is just as relevant today as it was over a century and a half ago.

Let's dive right in, shall we?

The Structure and Form

First off, let's take a look at the structure and form of the poem. "Popularity" is written in 12 stanzas, each containing 4 lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB, which gives the poem a playful and almost sing-song-like quality.

What's interesting about the structure, however, is that the first and last stanzas mirror each other, as do the second and eleventh stanzas, the third and tenth stanzas, and so on. This creates a sense of symmetry and balance within the poem, almost as if Browning is highlighting the cyclical nature of fame and popularity.

The poem is also written in iambic tetrameter, with each line consisting of four iambs (a metrical foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). This gives the poem a steady rhythm and flow, making it easy to read aloud and listen to.

The Theme

As mentioned earlier, the main theme of "Popularity" is the fickleness of fame and the art of self-promotion. Browning explores the idea that popularity is something that is fleeting and can easily be lost. He also suggests that popularity is not necessarily indicative of true talent or worth, but rather a result of clever marketing and public relations.

Throughout the poem, Browning uses a variety of metaphors and images to convey his message. In the first stanza, he compares popularity to a "bubble blown i' the spirit of man," suggesting that it is fragile and easily burst. He also compares it to a "flower that dies when summer's dead," emphasizing the transience of fame.

In the fifth stanza, Browning introduces the idea of self-promotion as a means of achieving popularity. He describes the process as "blowing one's own trumpet," and suggests that it is a necessary evil in order to gain recognition. However, he also warns that this can be a dangerous game, as one can easily become too focused on self-promotion and lose sight of the true purpose of their work.

The Tone

The tone of "Popularity" is somewhat satirical and tongue-in-cheek. Browning pokes fun at the idea of popularity and the lengths people will go to achieve it. He also takes a slightly cynical view of the whole concept, suggesting that it is not something to be taken too seriously.

However, there is also a sense of melancholy and sadness in the poem. Browning seems to be lamenting the fact that true talent and worth can often be overlooked in favor of surface-level popularity. He also seems to be mourning the loss of innocence and purity in the creative process, as artists are forced to focus more on marketing and self-promotion than on their actual work.

The Imagery

Browning's use of imagery in "Popularity" is particularly effective in conveying his message. He uses a variety of metaphors and similes to create vivid and memorable images.

For example, in the second stanza, he compares popularity to a "cloud that comes and goes with the wind," emphasizing its fleeting nature. In the fourth stanza, he describes the pursuit of popularity as "chasing a rainbow," suggesting that it is a futile and ultimately unattainable goal.

Perhaps the most powerful image in the poem, however, is the final stanza. Browning compares the pursuit of popularity to a "beaten path" that has been trodden so many times that it has lost all meaning and significance. This image suggests that the constant quest for popularity has led to a homogenization of art and culture, with everyone following the same well-worn path rather than striking out on their own.

The Interpretation

So, what does all of this mean? Well, "Popularity" is ultimately a critique of the culture of celebrity and the commodification of art. Browning suggests that popularity is not a reliable measure of worth or talent, and that the pursuit of it can lead to the loss of integrity and authenticity.

However, he also seems to be acknowledging the reality of the situation. In order to succeed in the world of art and culture, one must be able to navigate the tricky waters of self-promotion and marketing. But he warns that this should not become the sole focus, and that true creativity and innovation should always be the ultimate goal.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, "Popularity" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that still resonates with readers today. Browning's use of structure, form, tone, and imagery all work together to create a nuanced and complex critique of the culture of celebrity.

This poem challenges us to consider the true value of popularity and the importance of maintaining authenticity and integrity in our creative endeavors. It is a reminder that true art is not about pleasing the masses, but about expressing oneself in a genuine and meaningful way.

So, take a lesson from Browning and don't worry too much about being popular. Just focus on creating something that is true and honest, and let the rest take care of itself.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Popularity: A Classic Analysis

Robert Browning's "Poetry Popularity" is a poem that has stood the test of time. It is a classic that has been studied and analyzed by scholars and poetry enthusiasts alike. This poem is a reflection on the nature of popularity and how it affects the world of poetry. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the themes and motifs of the poem and explore the reasons why it has remained relevant even after all these years.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing the reader directly, asking them if they have ever wondered why some poets are more popular than others. The speaker then goes on to describe the different types of poets and their respective levels of popularity. He talks about the poets who are "read by moonlight" and those who are "read by day." He also mentions the poets who are "read by women" and those who are "read by men." The speaker then concludes that popularity is a fickle thing and that it is not necessarily a measure of a poet's talent or worth.

One of the main themes of the poem is the idea that popularity is not a reliable indicator of quality. The speaker suggests that there are many factors that contribute to a poet's popularity, such as their subject matter, their style, and their ability to appeal to a particular audience. However, these factors do not necessarily reflect the poet's true talent or worth. The poem suggests that true poetry is not about pleasing the masses or conforming to popular tastes, but rather about expressing one's own unique voice and vision.

Another theme of the poem is the idea that poetry is a form of communication that transcends time and space. The speaker suggests that even though some poets may be more popular than others in their own time, their work can still resonate with readers long after they are gone. The poem suggests that true poetry is timeless and that it can speak to people across generations and cultures.

The poem also explores the relationship between poetry and gender. The speaker suggests that there are poets who are more popular with women and those who are more popular with men. This suggests that there may be different expectations and preferences when it comes to poetry depending on one's gender. However, the poem also suggests that these gendered expectations are not necessarily fixed or universal. The speaker suggests that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to poetry and that each poet must find their own unique voice and style.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery and metaphor. The speaker uses vivid and evocative language to describe the different types of poets and their respective levels of popularity. For example, he describes the poets who are "read by moonlight" as being mysterious and romantic, while those who are "read by day" are more practical and down-to-earth. He also uses the metaphor of a "poppy" to describe the fleeting nature of popularity, suggesting that it is as fragile and ephemeral as a flower that blooms and fades quickly.

The poem also has a playful and ironic tone that adds to its overall impact. The speaker seems to be poking fun at the idea of popularity and the way that it can distort our perceptions of what is truly valuable. He suggests that popularity is a kind of illusion that can distract us from the deeper truths that poetry can reveal. The poem is a reminder that true poetry is not about pleasing the masses or conforming to popular tastes, but rather about expressing one's own unique voice and vision.

In conclusion, Robert Browning's "Poetry Popularity" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It explores the themes of popularity, gender, and the nature of poetry itself. The poem suggests that popularity is not a reliable indicator of quality and that true poetry is timeless and universal. The poem's use of vivid imagery and playful irony adds to its impact and makes it a joy to read. Even after all these years, "Poetry Popularity" remains a relevant and insightful reflection on the world of poetry and the human condition.

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