A Poem by Robert Browning on His Birthday

Robert Browning born on May 7, 1812 in Camberwell, a middle-class suburb of London. He was the only son of Robert Browning, a clerk in the Bank of England, and a devoutly religious German-Scotch mother, Sarah Anna Wiedemann Browning, who loved music. Browning’s father had amassed a personal library of some 6,000 volumes, many of them collections of arcane lore and historical anecdotes that the poet plundered for poetic material, including the source of “The Pied Piper.”

Browning has come to be regarded as a major Victorian poet, and his approach to dramatic monologue has influenced countless poets for almost a century. However, he is at least as famous for falling in love with Elizabeth Barrett, who began writing poetry at age 11, but by age 15, was suffering from intense head and spinal pain, and remained in frail health for the rest of her life. They met in 1845. She was six years his senior, and living as a semi-invalid in her father’s house. They wrote to each other frequently, and the romance led to their marriage in 1846 and a journey to Italy for Elizabeth’s health. Her domineering father disapproved of the marriage and disinherited Elizabeth.

After a promising start, Browning’s reputation as a poet suffered under harsh criticism, and interest in his work faded as the Brownings remained in Italy. It wasn’t until he returned to England after Elizabeth’s death in 1861 that his work began to be re-evaluated.

“Home-Thoughts, from Abroad” was written during the years they spent in Italy. To read this poem by Robert Browning click:

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad

by Robert Browning

Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!


Robert Browning – by Michele Gordigiani
Pear blossoms

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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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