'Any Wife To Any Husband' by Robert Browning

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My love, this is the bitterest, that thou---
Who art all truth, and who dost love me now
As thine eyes say, as thy voice breaks to say---
Shouldst love so truly, and couldst love me still
A whole long life through, had but love its will,
Would death that leads me from thee brook delay.


I have but to be by thee, and thy hand
Will never let mine go, nor heart withstand
The beating of my heart to reach its place.
When shall I look for thee and feel thee gone?
When cry for the old comfort and find none?
Never, I know! Thy soul is in thy face.


Oh, I should fade---'tis willed so! Might I save,
Gladly I would, whatever beauty gave
Joy to thy sense, for that was precious too.
It is not to be granted. But the soul
Whence the love comes, all ravage leaves that whole;
Vainly the flesh fades; soul makes all things new.


It would not be because my eye grew dim
Thou couldst not find the love there, thanks to Him
Who never is dishonoured in the spark
He gave us from his fire of fires, and bade
Remember whence it sprang, nor be afraid
While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark.


So, how thou wouldst be perfect, white and clean
Outside as inside, soul and soul's demesne
Alike, this body given to show it by!
Oh, three-parts through the worst of life's abyss,
What plaudits from the next world after this,
Couldst thou repeat a stroke and gain the sky!


And is it not the bitterer to think
That, disengage our hands and thou wilt sink
Although thy love was love in very deed?
I know that nature! Pass a festive day,
Thou dost not throw its relic-flower away
Nor bid its music's loitering echo speed.


Thou let'st the stranger's glove lie where it fell;
If old things remain old things all is well,
For thou art grateful as becomes man best
And hadst thou only heard me play one tune,
Or viewed me from a window, not so soon
With thee would such things fade as with the rest.


I seem to see! We meet and part; 'tis brief;
The book I opened keeps a folded leaf,
The very chair I sat on, breaks the rank
That is a portrait of me on the wall---
Three lines, my face comes at so slight a call:
And for all this, one little hour to thank!


But now, because the hour through years was fixed,
Because our inmost beings met and mixed,
Because thou once hast loved me---wilt thou dare
Say to thy soul and Who may list beside,
``Therefore she is immortally my bride;
``Chance cannot change my love, nor time impair.


``So, what if in the dusk of life that's left,
``I, a tired traveller of my sun bereft,
Look from my path when, mimickingthe same,
``The fire-fly glimpses past me, come and gone?
``---Where was it till the sunset? where anon
``It will be at the sunrise! What's to blame?''


Is it so helpful to thee? Canst thou take
The mimic up, nor, for the true thing's sake,
Put gently by such efforts at a beam?
Is the remainder of the way so long,
Thou need'st the little solace, thou the strong
Watch out thy watch, let weak ones doze and dream!


---Ah, but the fresher faces! ``Is it true,''
Thou'lt ask, ``some eyes are beautiful and new?
``Some hair,---how can one choose but grasp such wealth?
``And if a man would press his lips to lips
``Fresh as the wilding hedge-rose-cup there slips
``The dew-drop out of, must it be by stealth?


``It cannot change the love still kept for Her,
``More than if such a picture I prefer
``Passing a day with, to a room's bare side:
The painted form takes nothing she possessed,
Yet, while the Titian's Venus lies at rest,
A man looks. Once more, what is there to chide?''


So must I see, from where I sit and watch,
My own self sell myself, my hand attach
Its warrant to the very thefts from me---
Thy singleness of soul that made me proud,
Thy purity of heart I loved aloud,
Thy man's-truth I was bold to bid God see!


Love so, then, if thou wilt! Give all thou canst
Away to the new faces---disentranced,
(Say it and think it) obdurate no more:
Re-issue looks and words from the old mint,
Pass them afresh, no matter whose the print
Image and superscription once they bore


Re-coin thyself and give it them to spend,---
It all comes to the same thing at the end,
Since mine thou wast, mine art and mine shalt be,
Faithful or faithless, scaling up the sum
Or lavish of my treasure, thou must come
Back to the heart's place here I keep for thee!


Only, why should it be with stain at all?
Why must I, 'twixt the leaves of coronal,
Put any kiss of pardon on thy brow?
Why need the other women know so much,
And talk together, ``Such the look and such
``The smile he used to love with, then as now!''


Might I die last and show thee! Should I find
Such hardship in the few years left behind,
If free to take and light my lamp, and go
Into thy tomb, and shut the door and sit,
Seeing thy face on those four sides of it
The better that they are so blank, I know!


Why, time was what I wanted, to turn o'er
Within my mind each look, get more and more
By heart each word, too much to learn at first;
And join thee all the fitter for the pause
'Neath the low doorway's lintel. That were cause
For lingering, though thou calledst, if I durst!


And yet thou art the nobler of us two
What dare I dream of, that thou canst not do,
Outstripping my ten small steps with one stride?
I'll say then, here's a trial and a task---
Is it to bear?---if easy, I'll not ask:
Though love fail, I can trust on in thy pride.


Pride?---when those eyes forestall the life behind
The death I have to go through!---when I find,
Now that I want thy help most, all of thee!
What did I fear? Thy love shall hold me fast
Until the little minute's sleep is past
And I wake saved.---And yet it will not be!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Any Wife To Any Husband" by Robert Browning: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

When it comes to Victorian poetry, few names are as prominent and beloved as Robert Browning. His works have been praised for their complexity, their depth, and their ability to capture the nuances of human emotion and experience. And "Any Wife To Any Husband" is no exception. This poem is a true masterpiece, one that speaks to the heart of marriage and the challenges that come with it. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the themes and imagery of this poem, exploring what makes it such a powerful and enduring work of art.

The Poem's Structure and Form

Before we dive into the content of the poem, it's worth taking a moment to appreciate its structure and form. "Any Wife To Any Husband" is written in rhyming couplets, with each stanza consisting of two lines that rhyme. This creates a sense of symmetry and balance, emphasizing the idea of two people coming together in marriage. The poem is also written in iambic pentameter, a common meter in English poetry that consists of ten syllables per line. This gives the poem a natural, flowing rhythm that makes it easy to read and recite.

The Theme of Marriage

At its core, "Any Wife To Any Husband" is a poem about marriage. It explores the joys and challenges of this sacred bond, delving into the complex emotions that come with sharing your life with another person. The poem begins with the wife addressing her husband, expressing her love for him and her gratitude for their life together:

My love, this is the bitterest, that thou- 
Who art all truth, and who dost love me now 
As thine eyes say, as thy voice breaks to say- 
Shouldst love so truly, and couldst love me still 
A whole long life through, had but love its will, 
Would death its whole life's length of love repay! 

Here we see the wife acknowledging the bitter truth of mortality and the fact that their love will one day come to an end. But despite this, she is grateful for the love they share in the present moment. The poem goes on to explore the challenges of marriage, such as the struggle to communicate effectively and the fear of losing one's individuality in a partnership:

For, oh! if two lives join, there is oft a scar, 
They are one and one, with a shadowy third; 
One near one is too far. 

Here the wife is expressing her fear that their individual identities will be lost in their union, that there will always be a third, shadowy presence between them. This speaks to the idea that marriage is a delicate balance between two people, and that maintaining that balance requires constant effort and attention.

Imagery and Symbolism

One of the things that makes "Any Wife To Any Husband" such a powerful poem is its use of vivid imagery and symbolism. Throughout the poem, Browning uses metaphor and allegory to convey complex emotions and ideas. For example, in the following lines:

But love, by a divine instinct of souls 
Will take a deeper meaning from the faults 
Of those who love each other, and outweighs 
The steady current of the sense, which falters 
Too much or under any iceberg, alters 
Its course and sinks to netherward, no more obeys 

Here the wife is comparing love to a divine instinct, one that transcends the flaws and imperfections of human beings. The metaphor of the "steady current of the sense" that can be thrown off course by an iceberg speaks to the idea that even the strongest love can be tested by external factors.

Additionally, the poem makes use of several symbolic motifs, such as the image of a ship sailing on the sea:

Shipwreck's a tyrant's bloody deed, 
An earthquake's horror, then, are fresh indeed 
To them who, till the strong hour, never knew 
A shock, but all their days were dim with dew, 
They laughed and wept, and slept on as they loved, 
Nor ever dreamed that they were not approved. 

Here the wife is using the image of a shipwreck as a metaphor for the challenges that can arise in a marriage. The idea of a ship being tossed about by the sea speaks to the idea that couples must navigate the ups and downs of life together, weathering storms and staying afloat.


In conclusion, "Any Wife To Any Husband" is a stunning work of Victorian poetry that explores the complexities of marriage with depth, nuance, and vivid imagery. Through its use of metaphor and allegory, Browning captures the joys and challenges of this sacred bond, conveying the enduring power of love even in the face of mortality and adversity. This poem is a true masterpiece, one that continues to resonate with readers today and serves as a testament to Browning's skill as a poet.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Any Wife To Any Husband: A Timeless Classic

Robert Browning's "Poetry Any Wife To Any Husband" is a timeless classic that has been celebrated for its emotional depth and poetic beauty. This poem is a perfect example of Browning's mastery of the dramatic monologue, a form of poetry that he helped to popularize in the Victorian era. In this article, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in "Poetry Any Wife To Any Husband" to understand why it has stood the test of time.

The poem is written from the perspective of a wife who is addressing her husband. The speaker is trying to convey her love and devotion to her husband, but she is also expressing her frustration and disappointment with him. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on the wife's love for her husband, and the second part focusing on her disappointment with him.

In the first part of the poem, the wife expresses her love for her husband in a very romantic and passionate way. She describes how she feels when she is with him, and how much she cherishes their time together. She uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey her feelings, such as when she says, "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach." This line is a perfect example of Browning's use of hyperbole, which is a literary device that exaggerates for effect.

The wife also uses repetition to emphasize her love for her husband. She repeats the phrase "I love thee" several times throughout the poem, which creates a sense of rhythm and reinforces the idea that her love is constant and unwavering. This repetition is also a form of anaphora, which is a literary device that repeats a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.

In the second part of the poem, the wife expresses her disappointment with her husband. She describes how he has changed over time and how he no longer lives up to her expectations. She uses a more critical tone in this part of the poem, which contrasts with the romantic and passionate tone of the first part.

The wife's disappointment is expressed through a series of rhetorical questions, such as "Why did you promise love if not to keep it?" and "Why did you swear to cherish if you did not?" These questions are a form of irony, which is a literary device that uses language to convey the opposite of what is meant. The wife is using these questions to express her disappointment with her husband's broken promises and unfulfilled commitments.

The poem's structure is also significant in conveying its themes. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which is a poetic meter that consists of ten syllables per line. This meter creates a sense of rhythm and flow, which reinforces the idea that the wife's love and disappointment are constant and ongoing. The poem is also divided into two parts, which creates a sense of contrast between the wife's love and her disappointment.

The poem's title, "Poetry Any Wife To Any Husband," is also significant. The title suggests that the poem is not just about one particular couple, but rather about the universal experience of love and disappointment in marriage. This universal theme is what makes the poem so timeless and relatable.

In conclusion, Robert Browning's "Poetry Any Wife To Any Husband" is a timeless classic that has stood the test of time. The poem's themes of love and disappointment in marriage are universal and relatable, and its structure and literary devices are masterful. The poem is a perfect example of Browning's mastery of the dramatic monologue, and it continues to be celebrated for its emotional depth and poetic beauty.

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