James Kepple Presents “Robert Browning, Ezra Pound and the Modernists.”

Date Wednesday, March17, 2021
Time 1:00– 2:00PM

“Robert Browning, Ezra Pound and the Modernists.”

by Laura Clarke

We hope that you will be able to join us for James Kepple’s talk, “Robert Browning, Ezra Pound and the Modernists.” From our President:

St. Patrick’s Day calls forth a Lecture of Red Hair! A Testament to both Poets’ insatiable designs! Ezra has Robert Browning on his mind all throughout the Cantos as well as in his work with Yeats and Joyce. Celebrate a pint with the President of the New York Browning Society as he presents: Browning, Pound & a Pint. Sláinte!

The influence of Browning’s poetry on the modernists is a particularly interesting study because it illuminates what the modernists appropriated and rejected from Victorian poetry. While the modernists may have left behind Browning’s Christian values and metaphysical ideas, they experimented with the dramatic monologue and admired his emphasis on the psychology of his individual speakers.

A letter written by Thomas Hardy to Edmund Gosse on April 6, 1899 reveals the conflicted response to Browning. Hardy exclaims to Gosse: “The longer I live the more does B’s character seem the literary puzzle of the 19th century. How could smug Christian optimism worthy of a dissenting grocer find a place inside a man who was so vast a seer & feeler when on neutral ground?” He admits that: “One day I had a theory which you will call horrible—that perceiving he would obtain in a stupid nation no hearing if he gave himself in his entirety, he professed a certain mass of commonplace opinion as a bait to get the rest of him taken.”
Despite his skepticism about Browning’s “smug Christian optimism,” Hardy, who knew Browning personally from literary gatherings in the 1880s, made a serious study of his poetry for over sixty years. Hardy owned fived editions of Browning’s poetry, saved reviews of Browning’s poetry, and transcribed lines from Browning’s poetry into his notebooks.

One of Hardy’s favorite poems by Browning was “The Statue and the Bust,” which tells the story of the unrequited love between Duke Ferdinand and a woman who is married to the head of the Riccardi family. She watches him as he rides through the town square and he admires her through the window. Growing older, the lady has a youthful bust placed of her in the window while the duke places an equestrian statue of himself in the town square. Never acting on their love, their inactive passivity is translated into frozen statues. It is not surprising that Hardy loved this particular poem of Browning’s, as he was also a writer who lingered on the tragedy of lost chances and postponed fulfillment.

We look forward to seeing you at James’ talk.

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