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Title: Browning and the Dramatic Monologue

Author: S. S. Curry

Release Date: April 29, 2011 [EBook #35989]

Language: English

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WORKS OF S. S. CURRY, Ph.D., Litt.D.

Of eminent value.Dr. Lyman Abbott.

Both method and spirit practically without precedent.J. M. Leveque, Editor Morning World, New Orleans.

PROVINCE OF EXPRESSION. A study of the general problems regarding delivery and the principles underlying its development. $1.50; to teachers, $1.20.

The work of a highly intellectual man who thinks and feels deeply, who is in earnest and whose words are entitled to the most thoughtful consideration.—William Winter.

LESSONS IN VOCAL EXPRESSION. Study of the modulations of the voice as caused by action of the mind.

It is the best book on expression I ever read, far ahead of anything published.—Prof. George A. Vinton, Chicago.

IMAGINATION AND DRAMATIC INSTINCT. Creative action of the mind, insight, sympathy, and assimilation in vocal expression.

The best book ever published on elocution.—A prominent teacher and public reader.


Deserves the attention of everyone.—The Scotsman, Edinboro.

Will serve to abolish “hardshell” reading where “hardshell” preaching is no longer tolerated.—Dr. Lyman Abbott.

FOUNDATIONS OF EXPRESSION. Principles and fundamental steps in the training of the mind, body, and voice in speaking.

“By its aid I have accomplished double the usual results.”

BROWNING AND THE DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE. Introduction to Browning’s poetry and dramatic platform art. Studies of some later phases of dramatic expression. $1.25; to teachers, $1.10 postpaid.

CLASSICS FOR VOCAL EXPRESSION. $1.25; to teachers, $1.10 postpaid.


Join the Expression League by sending the names of three persons interested, and information will be Sent you regarding all these books. Address


Room 308, Pierce Building, Copley Sq. Boston, Mass.






S. S. CURRY, Ph.D., Litt.D.
President of the School of Expression


Pierce Building, Copley Square



Copyright, 1908
By S. S. Curry






Part I
I.A New Literary Form1
II.The Speaker12
III.The Hearer30
IV.Place or Situation64
V.Time and Connection78
VII.The Monologue as a Form of Literature100
VIII.History of the Monologue113
Part II
IX.Necessity of Oral Rendition133
X.Actions of Mind and Voice147
XI.Actions of Mind and Body172
XII.The Monologue and Metre195
XV.Faults in Rendering a Monologue241
XVI.Importance of the Monologue248
XVII.Some Typical Monologues from Browning265



[Pg 1]





Why were the poems of Robert Browning so long unread? Why was his real message or spirit understood by few forty years after he began to write?

The story is told that Douglas Jerrold, when recovering from a serious illness, opened a copy of “Sordello,” which was among some new books sent to him by a friend. Sentence after sentence brought no consecutive thought, and at last it dawned upon him that perhaps his sickness had wrecked his mental faculties, and he sank back on the sofa, overwhelmed with dismay. Just then his wife and sister entered and, thrusting the book into their hands, he eagerly demanded what they thought of it. He watched them intently, and when at last Mrs. Jerrold exclaimed, “I do not understand what this man means,” Jerrold uttered a cry of relief, “Thank God, I am not an idiot!” Browning, while protesting that he was not obscure, used to tell this story with great enjoyment.

What was the chief cause of the almost universal failure to understand Browning? Many reasons are assigned. His themes were such as had never before been found in poetry, his allusions and illustrations so unfamiliar as to presuppose wide knowledge on the part of the reader; he had a very concise and abrupt way of stating things.

[Pg 2]Yet, after all, were these the chief causes? Was he not obscure because he had chosen a new or unusual dramatic form? Nearly every one of his poems is written in the form of a monologue, which, according to Professor Johnson, “may be termed a novelty of invention in Browning.” Hence, to the average man of a generation ago, Browning’s poems were written in almost a new language.

This secret of the difficulty of appreciating Browning is not even yet fully realized. There are many “Introductions” to his poems and some valuable works on his life, yet nowhere can we find an adequate discussion of his dramatic form, its nature, and the influence it has exerted upon modern poetry.

Let us endeavor to take the point of view of the average man who opened one of Browning’s volumes when first published; or let us imagine the feeling of an ordinary reader to-day on first chancing upon such a poem as “The Patriot.”

The average man beginning to read, “It was roses, roses,” fancies he is reading a mere story and waits for the unfolding of events, but very soon becomes confused. Where is he? Nothing happens. Somebody is talking, but about what?

One who looks for mere effects and not for causes, for facts and not for experiences, for a mere sequence of events, and not for the laying bare of the motives and struggles of the human heart, will be apt soon to throw the book down and turn to his daily paper to read the accounts of stocks, fires, or murders, disgusted with the very name of Browning, if not with poetry.

If he look more closely, he will find a subtitle, “An Old Story,” but this confuses him still more.[Pg 3] “Story” is evidently used in some peculiar sense, and “old” may be used in the sense of ancient, familiar, or oft-repeated; it may imply that certain results always follow certain conditions. If a careful



It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.

The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels—
But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
They had answered “And afterward, what else?”

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Naught man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.

There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.

Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
“Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
Me?”—God might question; now instead,
’Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.

[Pg 4]student glance through the poem, he will find that the Patriot is one who entered the city a year before, and who during this time has done his best to secure reforms, but at the end of the year is led forth to the scaffold. The poem pictures to us the thoughts that stir his mind on the way to his death. He recognizes the same street, he remembers the roses, the myrtle, the house-roofs so crowded that they seem to heave and sway, the flags on the church spires, the bells, the willingness of the multitude to give him even the sun; but he it is who aimed at the impossible—to give his friends the sun. Having done all he could, now comes his reward. There is nobody on the house-tops, and only a few too old to go to the scaffold have crept to the windows. The great crowd is at the gate or at the scaffold’s foot. He goes in the rain, his hands tied behind him, his forehead bleeding from the stones that are hurled at him. The closing thought, so abruptly expressed, the most difficult one in the poem, is a mere hint of what might have happened had he triumphed in the world’s sense of the word. He might have fallen dead,—dead in a deeper sense than the loss of life; his soul might have become dead to truth, to noble ideals, and to aspiration. Had he done what men wanted him to do, he would have been paid by the world. He has certainly not done the world’s bidding, and in a few short words he reveals his resignation, his heroism, and his sublime triumph.

“Now instead,
’Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.”

The first line of the last stanza in the first edition of the poem contained the word “Brescia,” [Pg 5]suggesting a reference to the reformer Arnold. But Browning later omitted “Brescia,” because the poem was not meant to be in any sense historical, but rather to represent the reformer of every age whose ideals are misunderstood and whose noblest work is rewarded by death. “History,” said Aristotle, “tells what Alcibiades did, poetry what he ought to have done.” “The Patriot” is not a matter-of-fact narrative, but a revelation of human experience.

The reader must approach such a poem as a work of art. Sympathetic and contemplative attention must be given to it as an entirety. Then point after point, idea after idea, will become clear and vivid, and at last the whole will be intensely realized.

For another example of Browning’s short poems take “A Woman’s Last Word.”

Suppose one tries to read this as if it were an ordinary lyric. One is sure to be greatly confused as to its meaning. What is it all about? The words are simple enough, and while the ordinary man recognizes this, he is all the more perplexed. Perceiving certain merits, he exclaims, “If a man can write such beautiful individual lines, why does he not make his whole story clear and simple?”

If, however, one will meditate over the whole, take hints here and there and put them together, a distinct picture is slowly formed in the mind. A wife, whose husband demands that she explain to him something in her past life, is speaking. She has perhaps loved some one before him, and his curiosity or jealousy is aroused. The poem really constitutes her appeal to his higher nature and her insistence upon the sacredness of their present [Pg 6]relation, which she fears words may profane. She does not even fully understand the past herself. To explain would be false to him, hence with love and tenderness she pleads for delay. Yet she promises to speak his “speech,” but “to-morrow, not to-night.” Perhaps she hopes that his mood will change; possibly she feels that he is not now in the right attitude of mind to understand or sympathize with her experiences.


Let’s contend no more, Love,
Strive nor weep:
All be as before, Love,
—Only sleep!

What so wild as words are?
I and thou
In debate, as birds are,
Hawk on bough!

See the creature stalking
While we speak!
Hush and hide the talking,
Cheek on cheek.

What so false as truth is,
False to thee?
Where the serpent’s tooth is,
Shun the tree—

Where the apple reddens,
Never pry—
Lest we lose our Edens,
Eve and I.

Be a god and hold me
With a charm!
Be a man and fold me
With thine arm!

Teach me, only teach, Love!
As I ought
I will speak thy speech, Love,
Think thy thought—

Meet, if thou require it,
Both demands
Laying flesh and spirit
In thy hands.

That shall be to-morrow,
Not to-night:
I must bury sorrow
Out of sight:

—Must a little weep, Love,
(Foolish me!)
And so fall asleep, Love,
Loved by thee.

In this poem a most delicate relation between two human beings is interpreted. Short though it is, it yet goes deeper into motives, concentrates attention more energetically upon one point of view,[Pg 7] and is possibly more impressive than if the theme had been unfolded in a play or novel. It turns the listener or reader within himself, and he feels in his own breast the response to her words.

All great art discharges its function by evoking imagination and feeling, but it is not always the intellectual meaning which first appears.

However far apart these two poems may be in spirit or subject, there are certain characteristics common to them; they are both monologues.

The monologue, as Browning has exemplified it, is one end of a conversation. A definite speaker is conceived in a definite, dramatic situation. Usually we find also a well-defined listener, though his character is understood entirely from the impression he produces upon the speaker. We feel that this listener has said something and that his presence and character influence the speaker’s thought, words, and manner. The conversation does not consist of abstract remarks, but takes place in a definite situation as a part of human life.

We must realize the situation, the speaker, the hearer, before the meaning can become clear; and it is the failure to do this which has caused many to find Browning obscure.

For example, observe Browning’s “Confessions.”


What is he buzzing in my ears?
“Now that I come to die,
Do I view the world as a vale of tears?”
Ah, reverend sir, not I!

What I viewed there once, what I view again
Where the physic bottles stand
On the table’s edge,—is a suburb lane,
With a wall to my bedside hand.
[Pg 8]
That lane sloped, much as the bottles do,
From a house you could descry
O’er the garden-wall: is the curtain blue
Or green to a healthy eye?

To mine, it serves for the old June weather
Blue above lane and wall;
And that farthest bottle labelled “Ether”
Is the house o’er-topping all.

At a terrace, somewhere near the stopper,
There watched for me, one June,
A girl: I know, sir, it’s improper,
My poor mind’s out of tune.

Only, there was a way ... you crept
Close by the side, to dodge
Eyes in the house, two eyes except:
They styled their house “The Lodge.”

What right had a lounger up their lane?
But, by creeping very close,
With the good wall’s help,—their eyes might strain
And stretch themselves to Oes,

Yet never catch her and me together,
As she left the attic, there,
By the rim of the bottle labelled “Ether,”
And stole from stair to stair,

And stood by the rose-wreathed gate. Alas,
We loved, sir—used to meet:
How sad and bad and mad it was—
But then, how it was sweet!

Here, evidently, the speaker, who has “come to die,” has been aroused by some “reverend sir,” who has been expostulating with him and uttering conventional phrases about the vanity of human life. Such superficial pessimism awakens protest, and the dying man remonstrates in the words of the poem.

[Pg 9]The speaker is apparently in bed and hardly believes himself fully possessed of his senses. He even asks if the curtain is “green or blue to a healthy eye,” as if he feared to trust his judgment, lest it be perverted by disease.

An abrupt beginning is very characteristic of a monologue, and when given properly, the first words arrest attention and suggest the situation.

After the speaker’s bewildered repetition of the visitor’s words and his blunt answer “not I,” which says such views are not his own, he talks of his “bedside hand,” turns a row of bottles into a street, and tells of the sweetest experience of his life. He refuses to say that it was not sweet; he will not allow an abnormal condition such as his sickness to determine his views of life. The result is an introspection of the deeper hope found in the heart of man.

The poem is not an essay or a sermon, it is not the lyric expression of a mood; it portrays the conflict of individual with individual and reveals the deepest motives of a character. It is not a dialogue, but only one end of a conversation, and for this reason it more intensely and definitely focuses attention. We see deeper into the speaker’s spirit and view of life, while we recognize the superficiality of the creed of his visitor. The monologue thus is dramatic. It interprets human experience and character.

No one who intelligently reads Browning can fail to realize that he was a dramatic poet; in fact he was the first, if not the only, English dramatic poet of the nineteenth century. With his deep insight into the life of his age, as well as his grasp of character, he was the one master whose writing[Pg 10] was needed for the drama of that century; yet he early came into conflict with the modern stage and ceased to write plays before he had mastered the play as a work of art.

He was, however, by nature so dramatic in his point of view that he could never be anything else than a dramatic poet. Hence, he was led to invent, or adopt, a dramatic form different from the play. From the midst of the conflict between poet and stage, between writer and stage artist, the monologue was evolved, or at least recognized and completed as an objective dramatic form.

Any study of the monologue must thus centre attention upon Browning. As Shakespeare reigns the supreme master of the play, so Browning has no peer in the monologue. Others have followed him in its use, but his monologues remain the most numerous, varied, and expressive.

The development of the monologue, in some sense, is connected with the struggles of the modern stage to express the conditions of modern life. A great change has taken place in human experience. In modern civilization the conflicts and complex struggles of human character are usually hidden. Men and women now conceal their emotions. Self-control and repression form a part of the civilized ideal. Men no longer shed tears in public as did Homer’s heroes. In our day, a man who is injured does not avenge himself, or if he does he rarely retains the sympathy of his fellow-men. On the contrary, the person wronged now turns over his wronger to the law; conflicts of man with man are fought out in the courts, and a well-ordered government inflicts punishment and rights wrongs.

All modern life and experience have become more[Pg 11] subjective; hence, it is natural that dramatic art should change its form. Let no one suppose, however, that this change marks the death of dramatic representation. Dramatic art in some shape is necessary as a means of expression in every age. It has become more subtle and suggestive, but it is none the less dramatic.

An important phase of the changes in the character of dramatic art is the recognition of the monologue. The adoption of this form shows the tendency of dramatic art to adapt itself to modern times.

The dramatic monologue, however, did not arise in opposition to the play, but as a new and parallel aspect of dramatic art. It has not the same theme as the play, does not deal with the expression of human life in movement or the complex struggles of human beings with each other, but it reveals the struggle in the depths of the soul. It exhibits the dramatic attitude of mind or the point of view. It is more subjective, more intense, and also more suggestive than the play. It reveals motives and character by a flash to an awakened imagination.

However this new dramatic form may be explained, whatever may be its character, there is hardly a book of poetry that has appeared in recent years that does not contain examples. Many popular writers, it may be unconsciously, employ this form almost to the exclusion of all others. The name itself occurs rarely in English books; but the name is nothing,—the monologue is there.

The presence of the form of the monologue before its full recognition is a proof that it is natural and important. Forms of art are not invented; they are rather discovered. They are direct languages;[Pg 12] each expresses something no other can say. If the monologue is a distinct literary form, then it possesses certain possibilities in expressing the human spirit which are peculiar to itself. It must say something that nothing else can say so well. Its use by Browning, and the greater and greater frequency of its adoption among recent writers, seems to prove the necessity of a careful study of its peculiarities, possibilities, and rendition.




What is there peculiar about the monologue? Can its nature or structure be so explained that a seemingly difficult poem, such as a monologue by Browning, may be made clear and forcible?

In the first place, one should note that the monologue gets its unity from the character of the speaker. It is not merely an impersonal thought, but the expression of one individual to another. It was Hegel, I think, who said that all art implies the expression of a truth, of a thought or feeling, to a person.

In nature we find everywhere a spontaneous unfolding, as in the blooming of a flower. There is no direct presentation of a truth to the apprehension of some particular mind; no modification of it by the character, the prejudice, or the feeling of the speaker. The lily unfolds its loveliness, but does not adapt the time or the direction of its blooming to dominate the attention of some indifferent observer, or express its message so definitely and pointedly as to be more easily understood.

[Pg 13]Man, however, rarely, if ever, expresses a truth without a personal coloring due to his own character and the character of the listener. The same truth uttered by different persons appears different. Occasionally a little child, or a man with a childlike nature, may think in a blind, natural way without adapting truth to other minds; but such direct, spontaneous, and truthful expression is extremely rare. It is one of the most important functions of art to teach us the fact that there is always “an intervention of personality,” which needs to be realized in its specific interpretation.

The monologue is a study of the effect of mind upon mind, of the adaptation of the ideas of one individual to another, and of the revelation this makes of the characters of speaker and listener.

The nature of the monologue will be best understood by comparing it with some of the literary forms which it resembles, or with which it is often unconsciously confused.

On account of the fact that there is but one speaker, it has been confused with oratory. A monologue is often conceived as a kind of stilted conversational oration; and the word monologue is apt to call to mind some talker, like Coleridge, who monopolized the whole conversation.

A monologue, however, is not a speech. An oration is the presentation of truth to an audience by a personality. There is some purpose at stake; the speaker must strengthen convictions and cause decisions on some point at issue. But a monologue is not an address to an audience; it is a study of character, of the processes of thinking in one individual as moulded by the presence of some other personality. Its theme is not merely the[Pg 14] thought uttered, but primarily the character of the speaker, who consciously or unconsciously unfolds himself.

Again, the monologue has been confused with the lyric poem. Browning called one of his volumes “Dramatic Lyrics”; another, “Dramatic Idyls”; and another, “Dramatic Romances and Lyrics.” Though many monologues are lyric in spirit, they are more frequently dramatic.

A lyric is the utterance of an individual intensely realizing a specific situation, and implies deep feeling. But the monologue may or may not be emotional. No doubt it may result from as intense a realization as the lyric poem. It resembles a lyric in being simple and in being usually short, but is unlike it in that its theme is chiefly dramatic, its interest indirect, and that it lays bare to a far greater degree human motives in certain situations and under the ruling forces of a life.

The monologue is like a lyric also in that it must be recognized as a complete whole. Each clause must be understood in relation to others as a part of the whole. An essay can be understood sentence after sentence. A story gives a sequence of events for their own sake. A discussion may consist of a mere recital or succession of facts. In all these the whole is built up part by part. But the monologue differs from all these in that the whole must be felt from the beginning.

Further, in the monologue ideas are not given directly, as in the story or essay, but usually the more important points are suggested indirectly. The attention of the reader or hearer is focussed upon a living human being. What is said is not necessarily a universal and impersonal truth, it is[Pg 15] the opinion of a certain type of man. We judge what is said by the character of the speaker, by the person to whom he speaks, and by the occasion.

Mr. Furnivall may prefer to have every man speak directly from the shoulder and may write slightingly of such an indirect way of stating a truth as we find in the monologue. We may all prefer, or think we do, the direct way of speaking,—a sermon or lecture, for example,—and dislike what Edmund Spenser called a “dark conceit”; but soon or late we shall agree with Spenser, the master of allegory, that the artistic method is “more interesting,” and that example is better than precept.

The monologue is one of the examples of the indirect method common to all art—a method which is necessary on account of the peculiarities of human nature. One person finds it difficult to explain a truth directly to another. Nine-tenths of every picture is the product, not of perception, but of apperception. Hence, without the aid of art, we express in words only half truths. The monologue makes human expression more adequate. It is like a nut; the shell must be penetrated before we can find the kernel. The real truth of the monologue comes only after comprehension of the whole. It reserves its truth until the thought has slowly grown in the mind of the hearer. It holds back something until all parts are co-ordinated and “does the thing shall breed the thought.” Accordingly, there are many things to settle in a monologue before the truth it contains can possibly be realized.

In the first place, we must decide who the speaker is, what is his character, and the specific attitude[Pg 16] of his mind. It is not merely the thought uttered that makes the impression. As a picture is something between a thought and a thing, not an idea on the one hand nor an object on the other, but a union of the two, so the monologue unites a truth or idea with the personality that utters it. An idea, a fact, may be valuable, but it becomes clear and impressive to some human consciousness only by being united with a human soul, and stated from one point of view and with the force of an individual life.

The story of Count Gismond, for example, is told by the woman he saved from disgrace, who loves him of all men, and who is now his wife. We feel the whole story colored by her gratitude, devotion, and tenderness. The reader must conceive the character of the speaker, and enter into the depths of her motives, before understanding the thought; but after he has done so, he receives a clearer and more forcible impression than is otherwise possible.

The stories of Sam Lawson by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe are essentially monologues. In Professor Churchill’s rendering of them the peculiarities of this Yankee were truly shown to be the chief centre of interest. As we realize the spirit of these stories, we easily imagine ourselves on the “shady side of a blueberry pasture,” listening to Sam talking to a group of boys, or possibly to only one boy, and our interest centres in the revelation of the working of his mind. His repose, his indifference to work, his insight into human nature, his quaint humor and sympathy, are the chief causes of the pleasure given by these stories.

Possibly the letter is the literary form nearest to[Pg 17] the monologue. We can easily see why. A good letter writer is dominated by his attention to one individual. The peculiar character of that individual is ever before him. The intimacy and abandon of the writer in pouring out his deepest thoughts is due to the sympathetic, confidential, conversational attitude of one human being to another.

“Blessed be letters!” said Donald G. Mitchell. “They are the monitors, they are also the comforters, they are the only true heart-talkers.” There is, however, a great difference between letters and conversation. In conversation “your truest thought is modified during its utterance by a look, a sign, a smile, or a sneer. It is not individual; it is not integral; it is social, and marks half of you and half of others. It bends, it sways, it multiplies, it retires, it advances, as the talk of others presses, relaxes, or quickens.”

This effect of others upon the speaker is especially expressed in the monologue, particularly in examples of a popular and humorous character.

While the monologue is the accentuation of some specific attitude of one human being as modified by contact with another, in a letter the attitude toward the other person is usually prolonged, due to past relationship; is more subjective, and expressed without any change caused by the presence of the person addressed. In some very animated letters, however, the attitude of the future reader’s mind is anticipated or realized by the writer, and there is more or less of an approximation to the monologue. At any rate, this realization of what the other will think colors the composition. Letters are animated in proportion as they possess this[Pg 18] dramatic character, and are at times practically monologues.

The skilful writer of a monologue omits obscure references in words to the sneers and looks of the hearer, except those which directly change the current of the speaker’s thought. All must centre in the impression made upon the character speaking. In conversation, at times, a talker becomes more or less oblivious of his companion, yet the presence of his listener all the time affects the attitude of his mind.

If we render a letter artistically to a company of people, we necessarily turn it into a monologue. We read the letter with the person in our mind, as a listener, to whom it is directed. We do not give its deeper ideas and personal or dramatic suggestions to a company as a speech.

It is not surprising to find many monologues in epistolary form. Browning’s “Cleon,” in which is so truly presented the spirit of the Greeks,—to whom Paul spoke and wrote and among whom he worked,—is a letter written by Cleon, a Greek poet, to King Protus, his friend. Protus has written to Cleon concerning the opinions held by one Paulus, a rumor of whose preaching of the doctrine of immortality has reached him. “An epistle containing the strange Medical Experiments of Karshish, the Arab Physician,” is a letter from Karshish to his old teacher describing the strange case of Lazarus with an account of an interview with him after he had risen from the dead.

This poem illustrates also the fact that a monologue may not be on the personal plane. Browning is seemingly the only writer in English who has been able to present a character completely [Pg 19]negative, or one without personal relations to the events. The character in this poem has a purely scientific attribute of mind and looks upon this event from a purely neutral point of view. It is only to him a curious case. By this method, the deeper significance may be given to the events while at the same time accentuating a peculiar type of mind, or it may be a rare moment in the life of nearly every individual. This poem is accordingly very interesting from a psychological point of view. It illustrates the scientific temper. The French have many examples of such writers, but Browning gives the best,—in fact almost the only illustration in English literature.

“The Biglow Papers,” by Lowell, though in the form of letters, are really dramatic monologues. Each character is made to speak dramatically or in his own peculiar way. The chief interest of every one of these poems centres in the character speaking. The mental action is sustained consistently; the dramatic completeness, the definite point of view, and the dialect, enable us to picture the peculiar characters who think and feel, live and move, talk and act for our enjoyment.

The monologue, accordingly, is nearer to the dialogue than to a letter. The differences between the dialogue and the monologue are the chief differences between the monologue and the play. In a dialogue there is a constant and immediate effect of another personality upon the speaker. The same is true of the monologue. The speaker of the monologue must accentuate the effect of his interlocutor as flexibly and freely as in the case of the dialogue. In the dialogue, however, the speaker and the listener change places; the monologue has[Pg 20] but one speaker, and can only suggest the views or character of a listener by revealing some impression produced upon the speaker while in the act of speaking. This makes pauses and expressive modulations of the voice even more necessary in the monologue than in the dialogue.

Yet the mere fact that a poem or literary work has but one speaker does not make it a monologue; it may be a speech. Burns’s “For A’ That and A’ That” is a speech. Matthew Arnold may not be quite fair when he says that it is mere preaching, that Burns was not sincere, and that we find the real Burns in “The Jolly Beggars.” Still, all must feel in reading it that Burns is exhorting others and railing a little at the world, but not revealing a character unconsciously or indirectly, through contact with either a man of another type, or through the exigencies of a given situation. Burns is boasting a little and asserting his independence.

The monologue demands not only a speaker, but a speaker in such a situation as will cause him to reveal himself unconsciously and indirectly, and such a moment as will lay bare his deepest motives. He must speak also in a natural, lifelike way. There must be no suggestion of a platform, no conscious presentation of truth for a definite end, as with the orator.

It is a peculiar fact that the most difficult of all things is to tell the truth. Every man “knows a good many things that are not so.” For every affirmation of importance, we demand witnesses. Whenever a man speaks, we look into his character, into the living, natural languages which are unconscious witnesses of the depth of his earnestness and sincerity. Even in every-day life men judge of[Pg 21] truth by character. What a man is, always colors, if it does not determine, what he says. But the essence of the monologue is to bring what a man says and what he is into harmony.

The interpreter of a monologue must be true to the character of the speaker. He must faithfully portray, not his own, but the attitude and bearing, feelings and impression, of this character. Every normal person would greatly admire the beauties of “the villa,” but the “Italian person of quality,” in Browning’s monologue, feels for it great contempt.

In Browning’s “Youth and Art” we feel continually the point of view, the feeling, and the character of the speaker.


It once might have been, once only:
We lodged in a street together,
You, a sparrow on the housetop lonely,
I, a lone she-bird of his feather.

Your trade was with sticks and clay,
You thumbed, thrust, patted, and polished,
Then laughed, “They will see, some day,
Smith made, and Gibson demolished.”

My business was song, song, song;
I chirped, cheeped, trilled, and twittered,
“Kate Brown’s on the boards ere long,
And Grisi’s existence imbittered!”

I earned no more by a warble
Than you by a sketch in plaster:
You wanted a piece of marble,
I needed a music-master.
[Pg 22]
We studied hard in our styles,
Chipped each at a crust like Hindoos,
For air, looked out on the tiles,
For fun, watched each other’s windows.

You lounged, like a boy of the South,
Cap and blouse—nay, a bit of beard, too;
Or you got it, rubbing your mouth
With fingers the clay adhered to.

And I—soon managed to find
Weak points in the flower-fence facing,
Was forced to put up a blind
And be safe in my corset-lacing.

No harm! It was not my fault
If you never turned your eye’s tail up
As I shook upon E in alt.,
Or ran the chromatic scale up;

For spring bade the sparrows pair,
And the boys and girls gave guesses,
And stalls in our street looked rare
With bulrush and water-cresses.

Why did not you pinch a flower
In a pellet of clay and fling it?
Why did not I put a power
Of thanks in a look, or sing it?

I did look, sharp as a lynx
(And yet the memory rankles)
When models arrived, some minx
Tripped up stairs, she and her ankles.

But I think I gave you as good!
“That foreign fellow—who can know
How she pays, in a playful mood,
For his tuning her that piano?”

Could you say so, and never say,
“Suppose we join hands and fortunes,
And I fetch her from over the way,
Her, piano, and long tunes and short tunes?”
[Pg 23]
No, no; you would not be rash,
Nor I rasher and something over:
You’ve to settle yet Gibson’s hash,
And Grisi yet lives in clover.

But you meet the Prince at the Board.
I’m queen myself at bals-parés,
I’ve married a rich old lord,
And you’re dubbed knight and an R. A.

Each life’s unfulfilled, you see;
It hangs still patchy and scrappy;
We have not sighed deep, laughed free,
Starved, feasted, despaired,—been happy.

And nobody calls you a dunce,
And people suppose me clever;
This could but have happened once,
And we missed it, lost it forever.

The theme is the dream and experience of two lovers. The speaker is married to a rich old lord, and her lover of other days, a sculptor, is “dubbed knight and an R. A.” Stirred by her youthful dreams, or it may be by the meeting of her lover in society, or possibly in imagination,—as a queen of “bals-parés” would hardly talk to a “knight and an R. A.” in this frank manner,—it is the woman who breaks forth suddenly with the dream of her old love—

“It once might have been, once only,”—

and relates the story of the days when they were both young students, she of singing and he of sculpture, and describes, or lightly caricatures, their experience. Is her laughter, as she goes on in such a playful mood describing the different events of their lives, an endeavor to conceal a hidden pain? Has she grown worldly minded, sneering at every[Pg 24] youthful dream, even her own, or is she awakening from this worldly point of view to a realization at last of “life unfulfilled”?

Browning, instead of an abstract discussion, presents in an artistic form an important truth, that he who lives for the world does not live at all. By introducing this woman to us in a serious attitude of mind, reflecting on the one hand a worldly mood, on the other the deep, abiding love of a true woman, he makes the desired impression. The last line throbs with deep emotion, and we feel how slowly and sadly she would acknowledge the failure of life:

“And we missed it, lost it forever.”

Browning’s “Caliban upon Setebos” furnishes a forcible illustration of the importance of the speaker and the necessity of preserving his character and point of view in the monologue. “’Will sprawl” begins a long parenthesis which implies the first intention of Caliban to lie flat in “the pit’s much mire.” He describes definitely the position he likes “in the cool slush.” The words express Caliban’s feelings at his noonday rest and the position he takes for enjoyment. He has not yet risen to the dignity of the consciousness of the ego. He does not use the pronoun “I” or the possessive “my.” His verbs are impersonal,—“’Will sprawl,” not “I will sprawl,”—and he

“Talks to his own self, howe’er he please,
Touching that other whom his dam called God.”

He lies down in this position to have a good “think” regarding his “dam’s God, Setebos.” Notice the continual recurrence of the impersonal “thinketh”[Pg 25] without any subject. Here we have a most humorous but really profound meditation of such a creature with all the elements of “natural theology in the island.” The subheading before the monologue, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself,” indicates the current of Browning’s ideas.

When we have once pictured Caliban definitely in our minds with his “saith” and “thinketh,” we perceive the analogy which he establishes after the manner of men between his own low nature and that of deity.

To read such a work without a definite conception of the character talking, makes utter nonsense of the reading. Every sentiment and feeling in the poem regarding God is dramatic. However deep or profound the lesson conveyed, it is entirely indirect.

How different is the story of the glove and King Francis, as treated by Leigh Hunt, from its interpretation by Browning! Leigh Hunt centres everything in the sequence of events and the simple statement of facts.

“King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport,
And one day as his lions fought, sat looking on the court.”

But Browning! He chooses a distinct character, Peter Ronsard, a poet, to tell the story, and adopts a totally different point of view, centring all in the speaker’s justification of the woman who threw the glove. Practically the same facts are told; even the King’s words are almost identical with those given by Hunt:

“’Twas mere vanity,
Not love, set that task to humanity!”

[Pg 26]and he gives the ordinary point of view:

“Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing
From such a proved wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

But human character and motive is given a deeper interpretation and the poet does not accept their views:

“Not so, I; for I caught the expression
In her brow’s undisturbed self-possession
Amid the court’s scoffing and merriment;—
As if from no pleasing experiment,
She rose, yet of pain not much heedful
So long as the process was needful.”

The poet followed her and asked what it all meant, and if she did not wish to recall her rash deed.

“For I, so I spoke, am a poet,
Human nature,—behooves that I know it!”

So he tells you she explained that he had vowed and boasted what he would do, and she felt that she would put him to the test. Browning represents her as rejecting Delorge, whose admiration was shown by this incident to be superficial, and as marrying a humble but true-hearted lover.

“The Ring and the Book” illustrates possibly more amply than any other poem the peculiar dramatic force of the monologue.

The story, out of which is built a poem twice as long as “Paradise Lost,” can be told in a few words. Guido, a nobleman of Arezzo, poor, but of noble family, has sought advancement at the Papal Court. Embittered by failure, he resolves to establish himself by marriage with an heiress, and makes an offer for Pompilia, an innocent girl of sixteen, the only child of parents supposed to be[Pg 27] wealthy. The father, Pietro, refuses the offer, but the mother arranges a secret marriage, and Pietro accepts the situation. The old couple put all their property into the hands of the son-in-law and go with him to Arezzo. The marriage proves unhappy, and Guido robs and persecutes the old people until they return poor to Rome. The mother then makes the unexpected revelation that Pompilia is not her child. She had bought her, and Pietro and the world believe that she was her own. On this account they seek to recover Pompilia’s dowry. Pompilia suffers outrageous treatment from her husband, who wishes to be rid of her and yet keep her property, and lays all kinds of snares in the endeavor to drive her away. She at length flees, and is aided in so doing by a noble-hearted priest. On the road they are overtaken by the husband, who starts proceedings for a divorce at Rome. The divorce is refused, but the wife is placed in mild imprisonment, though later she is allowed to return to her so-called parents, in whose home she gives birth to a son. Guido now tries to get possession of the child, as, by this means he secures all rights to the property. With some hirelings he goes to the lonely house, and murders Pompilia and her parents. Pompilia does not die immediately, but lives to give her testimony against her husband. Guido flees, is arrested on Roman territory, and is tried and condemned to death. An appeal is made to the Pope, who confirms the sentence.

This story is told ten or twelve times, all interest centring in the characters of the speakers, in their points of view and attitudes of mind. More fully, perhaps, than any other poem, “The Ring and the[Pg 28] Book” shows that every one in relating the simplest events or facts gives a coloring to the truth of his character.

In Book I Browning speaks in his own character, and states the facts and how the story came into his hands. In Book II, called “Half-Rome,” a Roman, more or less in sympathy with the husband, tells the story. In Book III, styled “The Other Half-Rome,” one in sympathy with the wife tells the story. In Book IV, called “Tertium Quid,” a society gentleman, who prides himself on his critical acumen, tells the story in a drawing-room. Each speaker in these monologues has a character of his own, and the facts are strongly colored according to his nature and point of view. In Book V Guido makes his defence before the judges. He is a criminal defending himself, and puts facts in such a way as to justify his actions. In Book VI the priest who assisted Pompilia to escape passionately proclaims the lofty motives which actuated Pompilia and himself. In Book VII Pompilia, on her deathbed, gives her testimony, telling the story with intense pathos. In Book VIII a lawyer, with all the ingenuity of his profession, speaks in defence of Guido, but without touching upon the merits of the case. In Book IX Pompilia’s advocate, endeavoring to display his fine cultured style, gives a legal justification of her course. In Book X the Pope decides against Guido, and gives the reasons for this decision. Book XI is Guido’s last confession as a condemned man; here his character is still more definitely unfolded. He tries to bribe his guards; though still defiant, he shows his base, cowardly nature at the close, and ends his final weak and chaotic appeal[Pg 29] by calling on Pompilia, thus giving the highest testimony possible to the purity and sweetness of the woman he murdered:

“Don’t open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke’s—no, I am the Pope’s!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, ...
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?”

In his defence he was concealing his real deeds and character, and justifying himself. In this book he reveals himself with great frankness.

In Book XII the case is given as it fades into history, and the poem closes with a lesson regarding the function or necessity of art in telling truth.

“The Ring and the Book” affords perhaps the highest example of the value of the monologue as a form of art. Men who have only one point of view are always “cranks,”—able, that is, to turn only one way. A preacher who can appreciate only the point of view of his own denomination will never get very near the truth. The statesman who declares “there is but one side to a question” may sometime by his narrowness assist in plunging his country into a great war. No man can help his fellows if unable to see things from their point of view. “The Ring and the Book” shows every speaker coloring the truth unconsciously by his own character, and Browning, by putting the same facts in the mouths of different persons, enables us to discover the personal element.

This is the specific function of the monologue. It artistically interprets truth by interpreting the soul that realizes it. This excites interest in the speaker and shows its dramatic character.

Browning, by its aid, interprets peculiarities of[Pg 30] human nature before unnoticed. Dramatic instinct is given a new literary form and expression. Human nature receives a profounder interpretation. We are made more teachable and sympathetic. The monologue exhibits one person drawing quick conclusions, another meeting doubt with counter-doubt, or still another calmly weighing evidences; it occupies many points of view, thus giving a clearer perception of truth through the mirror of human character.




To comprehend the spirit of the monologue demands a clear conception, not only of the character of the speaker, but also of the person addressed. The hearer is often of as great importance to the meaning of a monologue as is the person speaking.

It is a common blunder to consider dramatic instinct as concerned only with a speaker. Nearly every one regards it as the ability to “act a character,” to imitate the action or the speech of some particular individual. But this conception is far too narrow. The dramatic instinct is primarily concerned with insight into character, with problems of imagination, and with sympathy. By it we realize another’s point of view or attitude of mind towards a truth or situation, and identify ourselves sympathetically with character.

Dramatic instinct is necessary to all human endeavor. It is as necessary for the orator as it is for the actor. While it is true that the speaker must be himself and must succeed by the vigor of his[Pg 31] own personality, and that the actor must succeed through “fidelity of portraiture,” still the orator must be able not only to say the right word, but to know when he says it, and this ability results only from dramatic instinct. The actor needs more of the personating instinct or insight into motives of character; the speaker, more insight into the conditions of human thought and feeling.

While one function of dramatic instinct is the ability to identify one’s self with another, it is much easier to identify one’s self with the speaker than with the listener. Even on the stage the most difficult task for the actor is to listen in character; that is, to receive impressions from the standpoint of the character he is representing.

Possibly the fundamental element in dramatic instinct is the ability to occupy a point of view, to see a truth as another sees it. This shows why dramatic instinct is the foundation of success. It enables a teacher to know whether his student is at the right point of view to apprehend a truth, or in the proper attitude of mind towards a subject. It tells him when he has made a truth understood. It gives the speaker power to adapt and to illustrate his truth to others, and to see things from his hearers’ point of view. It gives the writer power to impress his reader. Even the business man must intuitively perceive the point of view and the mental attitude of those with whom he deals.

Dramatic instinct as applied to listening on the stage, and everywhere, is apt to be overlooked. It is comparatively easy when quoting some one to stand at his point of view and to imitate his manner, or to contrast the differences between a number of speakers; but a higher type of dramatic power[Pg 32] is exhibited in the ability to put ourselves in the place and receive the impressions of some specific type of listener.

The speeches of different characters are given formally and successively in a drama. Hence, the writer of a play, or the actor, is apt to centre attention, when speaking, upon the character, without reference to the shape his thought takes from what the other character has said, and especially from those attitudes or actions of the other character which are not revealed by words. The same is true in the novel, and even in epic poetry. True dramatic instinct in any form demands that the speaker show not only his own thought and motive by his words, but that of the character he is portraying, and the influence produced upon him at the instant by the thought and character of the listener.

While the dialogue is not the only form of dramatic art, still its study is required for the understanding of the monologue, or almost any aspect of dramatic expression. The very name “dialogue” implies a listener and a speaker who are continually changing places. The listener indicates by his face and by actions of the body his impression, his attention, the effect upon him of the words of the speaker, his objection or approval. Thus he influences the speaker in shaping his ideas and choosing his words.

In the monologue the speaker must suggest the character of both speaker and listener and interpret the relation of one human being to another. He must show, as he speaks, the impression he receives from the manner in which his listener is affected by what he is saying. A public reader, or [Pg 33]impersonator, of all the characters of a play must perform a similar feat; he must represent each character not only as speaker, but show that he has just been a listener and received an impression or stimulus from another; otherwise he cannot suggest any true dramatic action.

In the monologue, as in all true dramatic representation, the listener as well as the speaker must be realized as continuously living and thinking. The listener, though he utters not a word, must be conceived from the effect he makes upon the speaker, in order to perceive the argument as well as the situation and point of view.

The necessity of realizing a listener is one of the most important points to be noted in the study of the monologue. Take, as an illustration, Browning’s “Incident of the French Camp.”


You know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
A mile or so away,
On a little mound, Napoleon
Stood on our storming day;
With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,
Legs wide, arms locked behind,
As if to balance the prone brow
Oppressive with its mind.

Just as perhaps he mused, “My plans
That soar, to earth may fall,
Let once my army-leader Lannes
Waver at yonder wall,”—
Out ’twixt the battery smokes there flew
A rider, bound on bound
Full galloping; nor bridle drew
Until he reached the mound.
[Pg 34]
Then off there flung in smiling joy,
And held himself erect
By just his horse’s mane, a boy:
You hardly could suspect—
(So tight he kept his lips compressed,
Scarce any blood came through)
You looked twice ere you saw his breast
Was all but shot in two.

“Well,” cried he, “Emperor, by God’s grace
We’ve got you Ratisbon!
The Marshal’s in the market-place,
And you’ll be there anon
To see your flag-bird flap his wings
Where I, to heart’s desire,
Perched him!” The Chief’s eye flashed; his plans
Soared up again like fire.

The Chief’s eye flashed; but presently
Softened itself, as sheathes
A film the mother-eagle’s eye
When her bruised eaglet breathes:
“You’re wounded!” “Nay,” his soldier’s pride
Touched to the quick, he said:
“I’m killed, Sire!” And, his Chief beside,
Smiling the boy fell dead.

I have heard prominent public readers give this as a mere story without affording any definite conception of either speaker or listener. In the first reading over of the poem, one may find no hint of either. But the student catches the phrase “we French,” and at once sees that a Frenchman must be speaking. He soon discovers that the whole poem is colored by the feeling of some old soldier of Napoleon who was either an eye-witness of the scene or who knew Napoleon’s bearing so well that he could easily picture it to his imagination. The poem now becomes a living thing, and its interpretation by voice and action is rendered possible.[Pg 35] But is this all? To whom does the soldier speak? The listener seems entirely in the background. This is wise, because the other in telling his story would naturally lose himself in his memories and grow more or less oblivious of his hearer. But the conception of a sympathetic auditor is needed to quicken the fervor and animation of the speaker. Does not the phrase “we French” imply that the listener is another Frenchman whose patriotic enthusiasm responds to the story? The short phrases, and suggestive hints through the poem, are thus explained. The speaker seems to imply that Napoleon’s bearing is well known to his listener. Certainly upon the conception of such a speaker and such a hearer depends the spirit, dramatic force, and even thought of the poem.

I have chosen this illustration purposely, because, of all monologues, this lays possibly the least emphasis on a listener; yet it cannot be adequately rendered by the voice, or even properly conceived in thought, without a distinct realization of such a person.

In Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” the speaker is an old man. “Grow old along with me!” indicates this, and we feel his age and experience all through the poem. But without the presence of this youth, who must have expressed pity for the loneliness and gloom of age, the old man would never have broken forth so suddenly and so forcibly in the portrayal of his noble philosophy of life. He expands with joy, love for his race, and reverence for Providence. “Grow old along with me!” “Trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” His enthusiasm, his exalted realization of life, are due to his own nobility of character. But his earnestness, his[Pg 36] vivid illustrations, his emphasis and action, spring from his efforts to expound the philosophy of life to his youthful listener and to correct the young man’s one-sided views. The characters of both speaker and listener are necessary in order that one may receive an understanding of the argument.


Grow old along with me! the best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand who saith, “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Not that, amassing flowers, youth sighed, “Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall!”
Not that, admiring stars, it yearned, “Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!”

Not for such hopes and fears, annulling youth’s brief years,
Do I remonstrate; folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

Poor vaunt of life indeed, were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then as sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?

Rejoice we are allied to That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod; nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.

Then, welcome each rebuff that turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three parts pain! strive and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence—a paradox which comforts while it mocks—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me;
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i’ the scale.
[Pg 37]
What is he but a brute whose flesh hath soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test—thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?

Yet gifts should prove their use: I own the past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole, brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once “How good to live and learn”?

Not once beat “Praise be thine! I see the whole design,
I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan: thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete,—I trust what Thou shalt do!”

For pleasant is this flesh: our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest:
Would we some prize might hold to match those manifold
Possessions of the brute,—gain most, as we did best!

Let us not always say, “Spite of this flesh to-day
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!”
As the bird wings and sings, let us cry, “All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!”

Therefore I summon age to grant youth’s heritage,
Life’s struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved a man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a God though in the germ.

And I shall thereupon take rest, ere I be gone
Once more on my adventure brave and new;
Fearless and unperplexed, when I wage battle next,
What weapons to select, what armor to indue.

Youth ended, I shall try my gain or loss thereby;
Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same, give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.

For note, when evening shuts, a certain moment cuts
The deed off, calls the glory from the gray:
A whisper from the west shoots, “Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another day.”
[Pg 38]
So, still within this life, though lifted o’er its strife,
Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,
“This rage was right i’ the main, that acquiescence vain:
The Future I may face now I have proved the Past.”

For more is not reserved to man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day;
Here, work enough to watch the Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool’s true play.

As it was better, youth should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made;
So, better, age, exempt from strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedst age; wait death nor be afraid!

Enough now, if the Right and Good and Infinite
Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own,
With knowledge absolute, subject to no dispute
From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.

Be there, for once and all, severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I the world arraigned, were they my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!

Now, who shall arbitrate? Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, and I that; whom shall my soul believe?

Not on the vulgar mass called “work” must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O’er which, from level stand, the low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:

But all, the world’s coarse thumb and finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account;
All instincts immature, all purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man’s amount;

Thoughts hardly to be packed into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be, all men ignored in me,
This I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
[Pg 39]
Ay, note that Potter’s wheel, that metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,—
Thou, to whom fools propound, when the wine makes its round,
“Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!”

Fool! All that is at all lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee, that was, is, and shall be:
Time’s wheel runs back or stops; potter and clay endure.

He fixed thee mid this dance of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest
Machinery just meant to give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.

What though the earlier grooves which ran the laughing loves
Around thy base, no longer pause and press?
What though, about thy rim, skull-things in order grim
Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?

Look thou not down but up! to uses of a cup,
The festal board, lamp’s flash and trumpet’s peal,
The new wine’s foaming flow, the Master’s lips a-glow!
Thou, Heaven’s consummate cup, what needst thou with earth’s wheel?

But I need, now as then, Thee, God, who mouldest men;
And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
Did I—to the wheel of life, with shapes and colors rife,
Bound dizzily—mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst;

So take and use Thy work, amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand! perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

Even when the words are the same, the delivery changes according to the peculiarities of the hearer. No one tells a story in the same way to different persons. When it is narrated to a little child, greater emphasis is placed on points; we make longer pauses and more salient, definite pictures; but if it is told to an educated man, the thought is[Pg 40] sketched more in outline. To one who is ignorant of the circumstances many details are carefully suggested. Even the figures and illustrations are consciously or unconsciously so chosen by one with the dramatic instinct as to adapt the truth to the listener.

In “The Englishman in Italy,” the story is told to a child. After the quotation, “such trifles,” the Englishman speaking would no doubt laugh. The spirit of the poem is shown by the fact that it is spoken by an Englishman to a little child that is an Italian.

A monologue shows the effect of character upon character, and hence nearly always implies the direct speaking of one person to another. In this it differs from a speech. Still, the principle applies even to the speaker. He cannot present a subject in the same way to an educated and to an uneducated audience, but instinctively chooses words common to him and to his hearers and finds such illustrations as make his meaning obvious to them. All language is imperfect. Truth is not made clear by being made superficial, but by the careful choosing of words and illustrations understood by the hearer. The speaker, accordingly, must feel his audience. The imperfection of ordinary teaching and speaking is thus explained by a form of dramatic art. Browning says at the close of “The Ring and the Book”:

“Why take the artistic way to prove so much?
Because, it is the glory and good of Art,
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine, at least.
How look a brother in the face and say
[Pg 41]‘Thy right is wrong, eyes hast thou, yet art blind,
Thine ears are stuffed and stopped, despite their length,
And, oh, the foolishness thou countest faith!’
Say this as silvery as tongue can troll—
The anger of the man may be endured,
The shrug, the disappointed eyes of him
Are not so bad to bear—but here’s the plague,
That all this trouble comes of telling truth,
Which truth, by when it reaches him, looks false,
Seems to be just the thing it would supplant,
Nor recognizable by whom it left;
While falsehood would have done the work of truth.
But Art,—wherein man nowise speaks to men,
Only to mankind,—Art may tell a truth
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought,
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.”

In “A Woman’s Last Word,” already explained (p. 6), the listening husband, his attitude towards his wife, his jealousy and suspicion, all serve to call forth her love and nobility of character. He is the cause of the monologue, and must be as definitely conceived as the speaker. Without a clear conception of his character, her words cannot receive the right interpretation.

In “Bishop Blougram’s Apology,” the listener, Mr. Gigadibs, is definitely, though indirectly, portrayed. He is a young man of thirty, impulsive, ideal, but has not yet struggled with the problems of life. His criticisms of Blougram are answered by that worldly-minded ecclesiastic, who can declare most truly the fact that an absolute faith is not possible, and then assume—and thus contradict himself—that to ignorant people he must preach an absolute faith. The character of the Bishop is strongly conceived, and his perception of the highest possibility of life, as well as his failure to carry it out, are portrayed with marvellous [Pg 42]complexity and full recognition of the difficulties of reconciling idealism with realism. But the character of his young, enthusiastic, and earnest critic, who lacks his experience and who may be partially silenced, is as important as the apology of Blougram. The poem is a debate between an idealist and a realist, the speech of the realist alone being given. We catch the weakness and the strength of both points of view, and thus enter into the comprehension of a most subtle struggle for self-justification.

It is some distance from Bishop Blougram to Mr. Dooley, but the necessity for a listener in the monologue, a listener of definite character, is shown in both cases.

Dooley’s talks are a departure from the regular form of the monologue, in the fact that Hennessey now and then speaks a word directly; but this partial introduction of dialogue does not change the fact that all of these talks are monologues. Such interruptions are not the only types of departure from the strict form of the monologue. Browning gives a narrative conclusion to “Pheidippides” and “Bishop Blougram’s Apology,” and many variations are found among different authors. Hennessey’s remarks may be introduced as a way of arousing in the imagination of ordinary people a conception of the listener. The relationship of the two characters is thus possibly more easily pictured to the ordinary imagination.

Of the necessity of Hennessey there can be no doubt. Mr. Dooley would never speak in this way but for the sympathetic and reverently attentive Hennessey. The two are complemental and necessary to each other.

[Pg 43]Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures were very popular, perhaps partly because of the silence expressing the patience of Caudle, though there were appendices that indicated remarks written down by Mr. Caudle, but long afterwards and when alone. There are some advantages in the pure form; the mind is kept more concentrated. So without Hennessey’s direct remarks the picture of Dooley might have been even better sustained. The form of a monologue, however, must not be expected to remain rigid. The point here to be apprehended is the necessity of recognizing a listener as well as a speaker.

Every Dooley demands a listener. He must have appreciation. These monologues are a humorous, possibly unconscious, presentation of this principle. The audience or the reader is turned by the author into a contemplative spectator of a simple situation. A play demands a struggle, but here we have all the restfulness, ease, and repose of life itself. We all like to sit back and observe, especially when a character is unfolding itself.

In the monologue as well as in the play there is no direct teaching. Things happen as in life, and we see the action of a thought upon a certain mind and do our own exhorting or preaching.

The monologue adapts itself to all kinds of characters and to every species of theme. It does not require a plot, or even a great struggle, as in the case of the play. Attention is fixed upon one individual; we are led into the midst of the natural situations of every-day life, and receive with great force the impressions which events, ideas, or other characters make upon a specific type of man.

Eugene Field often makes children talk in [Pg 44]monologues. Some persons have criticized Field’s children’s poems and said they were not for children at all. This is true, and Field no doubt intended it so. He made his children talk naturally and freely, as if to each other, but not as they would talk to older people.

“Jes’ ’Fore Christmas” is true to a boy’s character, but we must be careful in choosing a listener. The boy would not speak in this way to an audience, to the family at the dinner table, nor to any one but a confidant. He must have, in fact, a Hennessey,—possibly some other boy, or, more likely, some hired man.

It is a mistake, unfortunately a common one, to give such a poem as a speech to an audience. It is not a speech, but only one end of a conversation. It is almost lyric in its portrayal of feeling, but still it concerns human action and the relations of persons to each other. Therefore, it is primarily dramatic, and a monologue. The words must be considered as spoken to some confidential listener.

A proper conception of the monologue produces a higher appreciation of the work of Field. As monologues, his poems are always consistent and beautiful. When considered as mere stories for children, their artistic form has been misconceived, and interpreters of them with this conception have often failed.

Even “Little Boy Blue,” a decided lyric, has a definite speaker, and the objects described and the events indicated are intensely as well as dramatically realized. Notice the abrupt transitions, the sudden changes in feeling. It is more easily rendered with a slight suggestion of a sympathetic listener.

[Pg 45]Many persons regard James Whitcomb Riley’s “Knee-deep in June” as a lyric; but has it enough unconsciousness for this? To me it is far more flexible and spontaneous when considered as a monologue. The interpreter of the poem can make longer pauses. He can so identify himself with the character as to give genial and hearty laughter, and thus indicate dramatically the sudden arrival of ideas. To reveal the awakening of an idea is the very soul of spontaneous expression, and such awakening is nearly always dramatic. So in the following conception, what a sudden, joyous discovery can be made of

“Mr. Blue Jay full o’ sass,
In them base-ball cloes o’ hisn.”

Notice also the sudden breaks in transition that can be indicated in

“Blue birds’ nests tucked up there
Conveniently for the boy ’at’s apt to be
Up some other apple tree.”

Notice after “to be” how he suddenly enjoys the birds’ cunning and laughs for the moment at the boys’ failure. You can accentuate, too, his dramatic feeling for May and “’bominate its promises” with more decision and point.

The “you” in this poem and the frequent imperatives indicate the conception in the author’s mind of a speaker and a sympathetic companion out in the fields in June. It certainly detracts from the simplicity, dramatic intensity, naturalness, and spontaneity to make of it a kind of address to an audience. The same is true of the “Liztown Humorist,” “Kingsby’s Mill,” “Joney,” and many others which are usually considered and rendered[Pg 46] as stories. They are monologues. Possibly a completer title for them would be lyric monologues.

While the interpreter of these monologues can easily turn his auditors into a sympathetic and familiar group who might stand for his listener, he can transport them in imagination to the right situation; and while this is often done by interpreters with good effect, to my mind this does not change their character as monologues.

Granting, however, that some of Riley’s poems are more or less speeches, it must be admitted that he has written some definite and formal poems which cannot be so conceived. “Nothin’ to Say,” for example, is one of the most decided and formal monologues found anywhere. In this the listener


Nothin’ to say, my daughter! Nothin’ at all to say!—
Gyrls that’s in love, I’ve noticed, ginerly has their way!
Yer mother did afore you, when her folks objected to me—
Yit here I am, and here you air; and yer mother—where is she?

You look lots like yer mother: Purty much same in size;
And about the same complected; and favor about the eyes:
Like her, too, about her livin here,—because she couldn’t stay:
It’ll ’most seem like you was dead—like her!—But I hain’t got nothin’ to say!

She left you her little Bible—writ yer name acrost the page—
And left her ear-bobs fer you, ef ever you come of age.
I’ve allus kep’ ’em and gyuarded ’em, but ef yer goin’ away—
Nothin’ to say, my daughter! Nothin’ at all to say!

You don’t rikollect her, I reckon? No; you wasn’t a year old then!
And now yer—how old air you? W’y, child, not “twenty!” When?
And yer nex’ birthday’s in Aprile? and you want to git married that day?
... I wisht yer mother was livin’!—But—I hain’t got nothin’ to say!
[Pg 47]
Twenty year! and as good a gyrl as parent ever found.
There’s a straw ketched onto yer dress there—I’ll bresh it off—turn round.
(Her mother was jes’ twenty when us two run away!)
Nothin’ to say, my daughter! Nothin’ at all to say!

can be as definitely located as the speaker. To conceal his own tears, the speaker turns or stops and pretends to brush off a straw caught on his daughter’s dress. We have here in this monologue also something unusual, but very suggestive and strictly dramatic,—an aside wherein he evidently turns away from his daughter—

(“Her mother was jes’ twenty when us two run away.”)

Since the daughter is definitely located as listener and the other speeches are spoken to her, this can be given easily as a contrast, as an aside to himself, and a slight turn of the body will serve to emphasize, even as an aside often does in a play, the location of the daughter, and the speaker’s relation to her. The sentiment also serves to emphasize the character of the speaker.

In “Griggsby’s Station” we have a most decided monologue. Who is speaking, and to whom is the monologue addressed? Is the speaker the daughter in a family suddenly grown rich, talking to her mother? The character of the speaker and of the listener must be definitely conceived and carefully suggested in order to give truth to the rendering or even to realize its meaning.

The same is true regarding many of Holman Day’s stories in his “Up in Maine,” and other books. With hardly any exception these are best rendered as monologues.

[Pg 48]Many of the poems of Sam Walter Foss and other popular writers of the present are monologues. The homelike characters demand sympathetic listeners, who are, by implication, of the same general type and character as the speaker. Even “The House by the Side of the Road” is better given with the spirit of the monologue. It is too personal, too dramatic, to be turned into a speech.

Again, notice Mrs. Piatt’s “Sometime,” and a dozen examples in Webb’s “Vagrom Verse”; also “With Lead and Line along Varying Shores”; and in Oscar Fay Adams’s “Sicut Patribus,” where you would hardly expect monologues, you find that “At Bay” and “Conrad’s Choir” have the form of monologues.

Many monologues in our popular writers seem at first simple and without the formal and definite construction of those employed by Browning, yet after careful examination we feel that the conception of the monologue has slowly taken possession of our writers, it may be unconsciously, and that the true interpretation of many of the most popular poems demands from the reader a dramatic conception.

For the comprehension of any monologue, those points where the speaker is directly affected by the hearer need especial attention. The speaker occasionally echoes the words of his hearer. Mrs. Caudle, for instance, often quotes the words of her spouse, and these were printed by Douglas Jerrold in italics and even in separate paragraphs. “For the love of mercy let you sleep?” for example, was thus printed to emphasize the interruption by Caudle. These words would be echoed by her with affected surprise. Then she would pour out her [Pg 49]sarcasm: “Mercy indeed; I wish you would show a little of it to other people.” In most authors these echoed speeches are indicated by quotation marks. Browning sometimes has words in parentheses. Note “(What ‘cicada’? Pooh!)” in “A Tale.” “Cicada” was certainly spoken by the listener, but the other words in the parentheses and other parentheses in this monologue are more personal remarks by the speaker. They have reference, however, to the listener’s attitude.

In some cases Browning gives no indication by even quotation marks that the speaker is echoing words of the hearer. The attitude of the listener must be varied by the dramatic instinct of the reader. The grasp of the situation greatly depends upon this. It is one of the most important aspects of the dramatic instinct. (“Up at a Villa—Down in the City,” see p. 65.) “Why” and “What of a Villa” certainly refers to the words, or at least the attitude, of the listener, which is realized from the manner of the speaker.

In the same poem the question “Is it ever hot in the square?” may be the echo of a word or a thought of the listener. In this case the speaker would answer it more abruptly and positively when he says, “There is a fountain to spout and splash.” If, on the contrary, the thought is his own, and comes up naturally in his mind as one of the points in his description or as a result of living over his experience down in the city, he would give it less abruptly, with less force or emphasis. In general, a quotation or the echo of the words of a listener are given by the speaker with a different manner.

Tennyson, though the fact is often overlooked, has written many monologues.

[Pg 50]Some readers give “Lady Clara Vere de Vere” as a mere story. Is there, then, no thought of the character of the yeoman who is talking with burning indignation at the death of his friend?


Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
Of me you shall not win renown:
You thought to break a country heart
For pastime, ere you went to town.
At me you smiled, but unbeguiled
I saw the snare, and I retired:
The daughter of a hundred earls,
You are not one to be desired.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
I know you proud to bear your name,
Your pride is yet no mate for mine,
Too proud to care from whence I came.
Nor would I break for your sweet sake
A heart that doats on truer charms.
A simple maiden in her flower
Is worth a hundred coats of arms.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
Some meeker pupil you must find,
For were you queen of all that is,
I could not stoop to such a mind.
You sought to prove how I could love,
And my disdain is my reply.
The lion on your old stone gates
Is not more cold to you than I.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
You put strange memories in my head;
Nor thrice your branching limes have blown
Since I beheld young Laurence dead.
Oh, your sweet eyes, your low replies:
A great enchantress you may be:
But there was that across his throat
Which you had hardly cared to see.
[Pg 51]
Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
When thus he met his mother’s view,
She had the passions of her kind,
She spake some certain truths of you.
Indeed I heard one bitter word
That scarce is fit for you to hear:
Her manners had not that repose
Which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere.

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
There stands a spectre in your hall:
The guilt of blood is at your door:
You changed a wholesome heart to gall.
You held your course without remorse,
To make him trust his modest worth,
And, last, you fixed a vacant stare,
And slew him with your noble birth.

Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
From yon blue heavens above us bent
The gardener Adam and his wife
Smile at the claims of long descent.
Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
’Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.

I know you, Clara Vere de Vere,
You pine among your halls and towers:
The languid light of your proud eyes
Is wearied of the rolling hours.
In glowing health, with boundless wealth,
But sickening of a vague disease,
You know so ill to deal with time,
You needs must play such pranks as these.

Clara, Clara Vere de Vere,
If Time be heavy on your hands,
Are there no beggars at your gate,
Nor any poor about your lands?
Oh! teach the orphan-boy to read,
Or teach the orphan-girl to sew,
Pray Heaven for a human heart,
And let the foolish yeoman go.

[Pg 52]The character of the speaker must be realized from first to last. But there is something more. Did the yeoman win or lose his case? Does Tennyson give us no sign of the effect of his words upon the lady to whom his rebuke was directed? All whom I have heard read it, cause one to think that she remains stolid, unresponsive, and cold, or else she was not really present, and the poem is a kind of lyric. But you will notice that in the last stanza the speaker drops the “Lady,” and says “Clara, Clara,” which certainly shows a change in feeling. There are also other indications that she was affected by his words, and that the speaker saw it. In the line, “You know so ill to deal with time,” he may be excusing her conduct, while in the last lines he suggests how she should live to atone for the past:

“Oh! teach the orphan-boy to read,
Or teach the orphan-girl to sew.”

He certainly would not have spoken thus if she had not by word or look shown indications of repentance. Truth must accomplish its results. Art must reflect the victory of truth. We perceive the signs of victory in the very words of the poem, and the character of the speaker’s expression must reflect the response in her. The reader who dramatically or truly interprets the poem, feeling this, will show a change in feeling and movement, and give tender coloring to the closing words.

Of course there is much moralizing in this and a smoother movement than in a monologue by Browning. Tennyson is not a master of the monologue. Some may think that Clara would never have endured this long lecture, and that it is unnatural for us to conceive of her as being really[Pg 53] present; but, though poetry usually takes fewer words to say something than would be used in life, sometimes—and here possibly—it takes more. Certainly Tennyson often takes more, and this is one reason why he is not a dramatic poet. The poem, however, can be effectively rendered as a monologue, and thus receive a more adequate interpretation.

There is frequently more than one listener. In “The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church,” the Bishop speaks to many “sons,” though he calls out Anselm especially, his chief heir, perhaps. In “The Ring and the Book” some of the speakers address the court and almost make speeches, as do the lawyers in their pleas, for instance. But the Pope, who acts, it will be remembered, as the judge, is in many cases the person addressed. The principle is the same, though the situations may differ. In every case, such a situation, listener, or listeners are chosen as will best express the character of the speaker. Notice, for example, that Pompilia tells her story on her dying bed to the sympathetic nuns, who would best call forth the points in her story.

The listener is sometimes changed, or may change, positions. In Riley’s “There, Little Girl, Don’t Cry,” the three great periods in a woman’s life are portrayed, and the location of the listener must be changed to show the different situations and changes of time and place as well as the character of the listener. Long pauses and extreme variations in the modulations of the voice are also necessary in such a transition. This poem also affords an example of the age and experience of the listener affecting expression.

[Pg 54]In many monologues the person about whom the speaker talks is of great importance. In “The Flight of the Duchess” we almost entirely lose sight of the speaker and of the hearer, and our thought successively centres upon the Duke, on his mother, on the old crone, and, above all, on the Duchess. These characters are made to live before us, and we see the impressions they produce upon a simple, loyal heart. The beauty of this wonderful monologue lies in the portrayal of the honest nature of the speaker and the revelation of the impressions made upon him by those who have played parts in his life.

The series of monologues or soliloquies styled by Browning “James Lee’s Wife” were called “James Lee” in his first edition, and many feel that Browning made a mistake in changing the title; for the theme in these is the character, not of the woman who speaks so much as of the man about whom she speaks.

In Browning’s “Clive,” the speaker, who “is by no means a Clive,” according to Professor Dowden, “has to betray something of his own character and at the same time to set forth the character of the hero of his tale.” Here, of course, both speaker and listener are subordinated to Clive, the person spoken of. Hence some may be tempted to think that “Clive” is a mere story. Dowden, Chesterton, and others speak of it as a story, but it has the movement, the dramatic action, the unity and spirit of a monologue. The fact that the chief character is the one about whom the speaker talks makes the poem none the less dramatic. The more “Clive” is studied, the more will the student feel that its chief theme is the contact and conflict of[Pg 55] characters, and the more, too, will he perceive that its atmosphere and peculiarities are caused by the sense of a speaker and a listener, each of a distinct type.

This indirect narration or suggestion is often important, but in every case it is the speaker who reflects as from a mirror impressions produced upon him by the characters of those about whom he speaks.

The study of the relations of speaker and hearer requires discrimination to be made between the soliloquy and the monologue.

Shakespeare’s soliloquies may be thought to be unnatural. No man ever talked to his fellows as Hamlet talks when alone, and Juliet at the window is made to reveal her deepest feelings. But all love songs express what the words of the ordinary man can never reveal. All art, and especially all literature, is a kind of objective embodiment of feeling or the processes of thinking. While Shakespeare’s soliloquies may not seem as natural as conversation, in one sense they are more natural expressions of thinking and feeling. The highest poetry may be as natural as prose, or even more natural; all depends upon the mood or theme. In all art and literature, naturalness is due not to mere external accidents, but to the truthfulness of the expression of deeper emotions of the human heart.

Many feel that any representation in words of a mood or feeling is a lyric; hence they regard most monologues as lyrics. But are not Shakespeare’s soliloquies dramatic? The lyric spirit gives objective form to feeling, but dramatic poetry does this in a way to show character and motives as well as moods.

[Pg 56]To a certain extent, the lyric spirit and the dramatic can never be completely separated. There has never been a good play that was not lyric as well as dramatic. There has never been a true lyric poem that has not revealed some trait of human character and implied certain relations of human beings to each other. It is only the predominance of feeling and mood that makes a poem lyric, or the predominance of relations or conflicts of human beings that makes a passage dramatic. All the elements of poetry are inseparably united because they express living aspects of the human heart.

Shakespeare’s soliloquies deserve careful study as the best introduction to the deep nature of the monologue. They are objective embodiments in words of feelings and moods of which the speaker himself is only partly conscious. This is the very climax of literature,—to word what no individual ever words. In a sense, this is true of a lyric, which may interpret in the many words of a song what in life is a mere look or the hardly revealed attitude of a soul. The deepest feelings of love can never be expressed in the prose of conversation. They can be suggested only in the exalted language of poetry.

These principles apply especially to the appreciation of a soliloquy. Of this phase of dramatic or literary art there has been but one master, and that was Shakespeare. He could make Hamlet think and feel before us without relation to another human being. He is the only author, practically, who has ever been able to portray a character entirely alone. In the great climaxes of his plays, we feel that he is dealing with the interpretation of the deepest moods and motives of life.

[Pg 57]The exclamation, “Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,” after the departure of the King and the Court, reveals to us Hamlet’s real condition, his impression or premonition that something is wrong. We are thus prepared for the effect of the news brought by Horatio and Marcellus, because his attitude has been first revealed to us by Shakespeare. Shakespeare alone could perform this marvellous feat. Again, one of the most important acts closes with a soliloquy which reveals Hamlet’s spirit more definitely than could be done in any other way. This soliloquy comes naturally. Hamlet drives all from him, that he may arrange the dozen lines which he wishes to add to the play. This plan has come to him while he was listening to the actor, and must be shown by his action during the actor’s speech. Hamlet, in a proper stage arrangement, is so placed as to occupy the attention of the audience while the actor is reciting. The impressions produced upon him, and not the player’s rehearsal, form the centre of interest. By turning away while listening to the actor, he can indicate his agitation and the action of his mind in deciding upon the plan which is definitely stated in the soliloquy and forms the culmination of the act.

Notice, too, how Shakespeare makes this soliloquy come naturally between his dismissal of the two emissaries of the King and the writing of the addition to the play. Hamlet’s soul is laid bare. He is roused to a pitch of great excitement over the grief of the actor and his own indifference to his father’s murder. Then, taking up the play, he begins to prepare his extra lines, and with this closes the most passionate of all soliloquies.

[Pg 58]Strictly speaking, a soliloquy is only a revelation of the thinking of a person entirely alone and uninfluenced by another; but a monologue implies thinking influenced by some peculiar type of hearer.

Browning’s soliloquies are practically monologues. We feel that the character almost “others” itself and talks to itself as if to another person. This is also natural. We know it by observing children. But it is very different from the lonely soul revealing itself in Shakespeare’s soliloquies. In fact, the monologue has taken such hold upon Browning that even Pippa’s soliloquies in “Pippa Passes” are practically monologues.

In the “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” the monk talks to himself almost as to another person, and his every idea is influenced by Brother Lawrence, whom he sees in the garden below him, but to whom he does not speak and who does not see him.


Gr-r-r—there go, my heart’s abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God’s blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims—
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

At the meal we sit together:
Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
[Pg 59]Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:
What’s the Latin name for “parsley”?

What’s the Greek name for Swine’s Snout?

Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we’re furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere ’tis fit to touch our chaps—
Marked with L for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
—Can’t I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as ’twere a Barbary corsair’s?
(That is, if he’d let it show!)

When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu’s praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp—
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp.

Oh, those melons? If he’s able
We’re to have a feast: so nice!
One goes to the Abbot’s table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!—And I, too, at such trouble
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!
[Pg 60]
There’s a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

Or, my scrofulous French novel
On gray paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial’s gripe:
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in’t?

Or, there’s Satan!—one might venture
Pledge one’s soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he’d miss, till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We’re so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine ...
’St, there’s Vespers! Plena gratiâ
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r—you swine!

In this “soliloquy” we have, in a few lines, possibly the strongest interpretation of hypocrisy in literature. The soliloquy begins with the speaker’s accidental discovery of the kindly-hearted monk, Brother Lawrence, attending to his flowers in the court below, and the sight causes an explosion of rage. So intense is his feeling that, in his imagination, he talks directly to Brother Lawrence. Note, for example, such suggestions as, “How go on your flowers?” Of course, Brother Lawrence knows nothing of the speaker’s presence; that worthy, with gusto, answers his own questions to himself.

[Pg 61]Notice also the abrupt transitions. Browning, even in his soliloquies, often introduces events. “There his lily snaps!” is given with sudden glee as the speaker discovers the accident.

The difference between Browning and Shakespeare may be still more clearly conceived. “Shakespeare,” says some one, “makes his characters live; Browning makes his think.” Shakespeare reveals character by making a man think alone, or, in contact with others, act. Browning fixes our attention upon an individual, and shows us what he is by making him think, and usually he suggests the cause of the thinking in some relation to objects, events, or characters. The situation in every case is most favorable to the expression of thought and feeling, and of deeper motives. The chief difference between Shakespeare and Browning is the difference between a play and a monologue. The point of view of the two men is not the same, and we must appreciate that of both.

Browning’s “Saul” may be regarded as a soliloquy. David is alone. Browning’s words here help us to an appreciation of his peculiar kind of soliloquy.

“Let me tell out my tale to its ending—my voice to my heart
Which can scarce dare believe in what marvels last night I took part,
As this morning I gather the fragments, alone with my sheep,
And still fear lest the terrible glory evanish like sleep!”

“My voice to my heart” is very suggestive. Browning always made his speaker, when alone, talk to himself. He divides the personality of the individual much more than did Shakespeare. Shakespeare simply makes a man think aloud, while Browning almost makes consciousness dual.

[Pg 62]Some one may ask,—Why not take any story or lyric and give it directly to an imaginary listener, and only indirectly to the audience?

This is exactly what should be done in some cases. Who can declaim as a speech or as if to an audience “John Anderson, my Jo,” or “The Lover’s Appeal,” and not feel the situation to be ludicrous?

Some of the tenderest lyric poems should be given as though to an imaginary auditor somewhat to one side. As the lyric is subjective, the turning to one side is a help to the subjective sympathetic condition, especially in cases where the words of the lyric are supposed to be addressed to some individual character. It is very difficult for readers to speak to an audience directly and not pass into the oratoric attitude of mind. A little turn to the side, when simple, suggests the indirect nature of a poem. It gives power to change attention and suggests degrees of subjectivity, and thus tends to prevent the true spirit of the poem from being destroyed by oratorical or declamatory effects.

Perhaps Charles Lamb’s famous saying, that recitation perverts a beautiful poem, would have been qualified had some poem been read to him with full recognition of its artistic character. The poem is not a speech, but a work of art, and the speaker must be clearly conceived, his emotion sympathetically realized, and given, not to an audience, but to an imaginary listener; thus all the delicacy and tenderness may be truthfully revealed and declamation and unnaturalness avoided.

In general, every kind of literature can be adequately rendered aloud. The true spirit of those[Pg 63] poems that have been considered unadapted to such rendering can possibly be shown by the voice if we find the real situation, and do not try to give the words the directness of an oration or a lesson, or the objectivity of a play.

When a story or a poem can be made more natural and more effective by being conceived as spoken by a character of a definite type to a definite type of hearer, it should usually be regarded as a monologue. Readers who picture not only the peculiar character speaking, but the person to whom he speaks, will receive and give a more adequate impression, one more dramatic, more simple, and far more expressive of character than those who confuse it with a lyric or a story.

Dramatic art, in fact all art, is indirect, except in some forms of speaking. The true orator or speaker, however, while having a direct purpose, never directly commands or dominates his audience. Every true artist, painter, musician, or even orator, simply awakens the faculties and powers of others, and leads men to decide for themselves. The true speaker should appeal to imagination and reason, and not attempt to force men to accept his ideals and convictions. That would be domination, not oratory. True art is on the rational basis of kinship of nature. Faculty awakens faculty, vision quickens vision.

No hard and fast line can be drawn between the arts, even between the oration and the monologue. But the oration is more direct, more conscious; speaker and listener understand, as a rule, exactly the purpose and the intention. The monologue, on the contrary, is indirect. Its interpreter endeavors faithfully to portray human nature. He[Pg 64] reveals the impressions produced upon him instead of endeavoring directly to produce a specific impression upon an audience.

The conception of the listener in the monologue is different from that of the listener in the oration. In every monologue, the interpreter shows the contact of a speaker with a listener and conveys a definite impression made upon him by each. He especially conveys, not only his identification with the character speaking, but that character’s mental or conversational attitude towards another human being and the unconscious variation of mental action resulting from such a relationship.




Whether or not we agree with the ancient rules of the unities regarding place, time, and action as laws of the drama, every one must recognize the fact that all three conceptions are in some sense necessary to an illusion. A dramatic action or position implies not only character, but specific location and circumstance. The situation helps to reveal the character and shows its relation to human life.

Therefore, dramatic effect implies more than contact of different characters. It is concerned with such a placing of the characters as will reveal something of motives.

Two men may meet continually in society or in the ordinary and conventional relations of business and the peculiar characteristics of neither may ever be revealed. Steel and flint may lie passively side by side or may be frozen in the same ice without[Pg 65] any suggestion of heat. The steel must strike the flint suddenly to bring forth a spark of fire. In the same way, character must collide with character in such a situation, such a conflict of interests, such opposite determinations or ambitions, as will cause a revelation of motives and dispositions. Steel and flint illustrate character. The stroke is the situation, the spark the dramatic result. Place, accordingly, is often of great importance in dramatic art.

The monologue is no exception to this. The reader must definitely imagine not only a speaker and a listener, but also a location or situation. From a dramatic point of view, situation is perhaps more necessary to a monologue than to a play. Without a situation, nothing can be dramatic.

In Browning’s “Up at a Villa—Down in the City,” is the speaker located in the city, at the villa, or at some point between the two?



Had I but plenty of money, money enough and to spare,
The house for me, no doubt, were a house in the city-square;
Ah, such a life, such a life, as one leads at the window there!

Something to see, by Bacchus, something to hear, at least!
There, the whole day long, one’s life is a perfect feast;
While up at a villa one lives, I maintain it, no more than a beast.

Well now, look at our villa! stuck like the horn of a bull
Just on a mountain’s edge as bare as the creature’s skull,
Save a mere shag of a bush with hardly a leaf to pull!
—I scratch my own, sometimes, to see if the hair’s turned wool.

But the city, oh the city—the square with the houses! Why?
[Pg 66]They are stone-faced, white as a curd, there’s something to take the eye!
Houses in four straight lines, not a single front awry!
You watch who crosses and gossips, who saunters, who hurries by:
Green blinds, as a matter of course, to draw when the sun gets high;
And the shops with fanciful signs which are painted properly.

What of a villa? Though winter be over in March by rights,
’Tis May perhaps ere the snow shall have withered well off the heights.
You’ve the brown ploughed land before, where the oxen steam and wheeze,
And the hills over-smoked behind by the faint gray olive-trees.

Is it better in May, I ask you? you’ve summer all at once;
In a day he leaps complete with a few strong April suns!
’Mid the sharp short emerald wheat, scarce risen three fingers well,
The wild tulip, at end of its tube, blows out its great red bell
Like a thin clear bubble of blood, for the children to pick and sell.

Is it ever hot in the square? There’s a fountain to spout and splash!
In the shade it sings and springs; in the shine such foam-bows flash
On the horses with curling fish-tails, that prance and paddle and pash
Round the lady atop in the conch—fifty gazers do not abash,
Though all that she wears is some weeds round her waist in a sort of sash!

All the year long at the villa, nothing’s to see though you linger,
Except yon cypress that points like Death’s lean lifted forefinger.
Some think fireflies pretty, when they mix in the corn and mingle
Or thrid the stinking hemp till the stalks of it seem a-tingle.
Late August or early September, the stunning cicala is shrill,
And the bees keep their tiresome whine round the resinous firs on the hill.
Enough of the seasons,—I spare you the months of the fever and chill.

Ere you open your eyes in the city, the blessed church-bells begin:
No sooner the bells leave off, than the diligence rattles in:
You get the pick of the news, and it costs you never a pin.
By and by there’s the travelling doctor gives pills, lets blood, draws teeth;
Or the Pulcinello-trumpet breaks up the market beneath.
At the post-office such a scene-picture—the new play, piping hot!
And a notice how, only this morning, three liberal thieves were shot.
[Pg 67]
Above it, behold the Archbishop’s most fatherly of rebukes,
And beneath, with his crown and his lion, some little new law of the Duke’s!
Or a sonnet with flowery marge, to the Reverend Don So-and-so
Who is Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Saint Jerome, and Cicero,
“And moreover,” (the sonnet goes rhyming,) “the skirts of Saint Paul has reached,
Having preached us those six Lent-lectures more unctuous than ever he preached.”
Noon strikes,—here sweeps the procession! our Lady borne smiling and smart
With a pink gauze gown all spangles, and seven swords stuck in her heart!
Bang, whang, whang, goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife;
No keeping one’s haunches still: it’s the greatest pleasure in life.

But bless you, it’s dear—it’s dear! fowls, wine, at double the rate.
They have clapped a new tax upon salt, and what oil pays passing the gate
It’s a horror to think of. And so, the villa for me, not the city!
Beggars can scarcely be choosers: but still—ah, the pity, the pity!
Look, two and two go the priests, then the monks with cowls and sandals,
And the penitents dressed in white shirts, a-holding the yellow candles.
One, he carries a flag up straight, and another a cross with handles,
And the Duke’s guard brings up the rear, for the better prevention of scandals.
Bang, whang, whang, goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife.
Oh, a day in the city-square, there is no such pleasure in life!

Of course, there are arguments in favor of placing the “person of quality” in the city near his beloved objects. One of the last lines, beginning “Look, two and two go the priests,” seems to imply the discovery and actual presence of the procession. But if Browning had located the speaker in the city, would he not say “here” and not “there,” as he does at the end of the third line?

[Pg 68]If at the villa, why does he say to his listener, “Well, now, look at our villa!” The fact that he points to it and says,

“stuck like the horn of a bull
Just on a mountain’s edge,”

seems to imply, though in plain sight of it, that he is some distance away. Again, if at the villa, how can he discover the procession?

Was the monologue spoken during a walk? We can easily imagine the “person of quality” and his companion starting from the villa and talking while coming down into the city. But this is hardly possible, because when Browning changes his situation in this way, he always suggests definitely the stages of the journey. He never makes a mistake regarding the location or situation of his characters. His conceptions are so dramatic that he is always consistent regarding his characters and the situations or points of view they occupy. However obscure he may be in other points, he never confuses time and place or dramatic situation.

Is it not best to imagine him as having walked out with a friend to some point where the villa above and the city below are both clearly visible? And as the humor of the monologue consists in the impressions which the two places make upon the speaker, the contrasts are sharp and sudden. In such a position we can distinctly realize him now looking with longing towards the city that he loves and then turning with disgust and contempt towards the villa he despises.

Possibly his listener is located on the side towards the villa, as that unknown and almost unnoticed personage seems once or twice, at least, to make a[Pg 69] mild defence. That his listener does not wholly agree with him, is indicated by “Why?” at the end of the eleventh line, to which he replies, heaping encomiums upon the city, careless of the fact that his arguments would make any lover of beauty smile: “Houses in four straight lines.”

“And the shops with fanciful signs which are painted properly.”

“What of a villa?” may also be an echo of the listener’s question or remark, or apply to a look expressive of his attitude of mind. “Is it ever hot in the square?” suggests some satire on his part. The listener, however, is barely noticed, as the speaker seems to scorn the slightest opposition or expression of opinion.

In such a position, we can easily imagine him with the whole city at his feet in sufficiently plain view to allow him to discover enough of the procession to waken memory and enthusiasm, and bring all up as a present reality. The procession can be easily imagined as starting from some convent outside the walls and appearing below them on its way to town. All the facts of the procession need not be discovered. It is a scene he has often observed and delighted in, and distance would lend enchantment to the speaker and serve as the climax of his enthusiasm, as he portrayed to his less responsive friend the details of the procession.

Some of his references to both villa and city are certainly from memory. For example, the different sights and sounds that he has seen and heard from time to time in the city, such as the “diligence,” the “scene-picture at the post-office.”

The spirit of the monologue, the enthusiasm and[Pg 70] exultation over what gives anything but pleasure to others, requires such a character as will enjoy “the travelling doctor” who “gives pills, lets blood, draws teeth.” Notice Browning’s touch for the reformers, he makes such a man rejoice at the news, “only this morning three liberal thieves were shot.” The “liberal thieves” are doubtless three Italian reformers who had been trying to deliver their country. It is possible to imagine the procession as wholly from memory, and “noon strikes” to be simply a part of his imagination and exultation. How gaily he skips as our Lady, the Madonna, is

“borne smiling and smart,
With a pink gauze gown all spangles, and seven swords stuck in her heart!”

He has no conception of the symbol of the seven deadly sins, but dances away at the music, “No keeping one’s haunches still.” Later, however, when he exclaims to his listener, “Look,” he seems to make an actual discovery. Does he start as he actually sees a procession in the distance? A real one coming before him would give life and variety to the monologue. Browning intentionally leaves the conceptions gradually to dawn in the imagination. The doubts, and the questions which may be asked, have been dwelt upon in order to emphasize the point that the speaker must be conceived in a definite situation. When once a situation is located, this will modify some of the shades of feeling and expression.

The point, then, is, that a reader or interpreter must conceive the speaker as occupying a definite place, and when this is done, the position will determine somewhat the feeling and the expression.[Pg 71] Difference in situation causes many differences in action and in voice modulations. Whatever location, therefore, the reader decides upon, everything else must be consistent with it.

One point in this monologue may be especially obscure, where reference is made to the city being “dear!” “fowls, wine, at double the rate.” I was one of three in a carriage who were once stopped at a gate in Florence and examined to see whether we carried any “salt,” “oil,” or anything on which there was a tax, which, according to the owner of the villa, “is a horror to think of.” Some Italian cities do not have free trade with the surrounding country; food stuffs are taxed upon “passing the gate,” thus making life in the city more expensive. And here is the reason why this man sadly mourns:

“And so, the villa for me, not the city!
Beggars can scarcely be choosers: but still—ah, the pity, the pity!”

Whatever may be said regarding Browning’s obscurity, however far he may have gone into the most technical knowledge of science in any department of life, however remote his allusions to events or objects or lines of knowledge which are unfamiliar to the world, there is one thing about which he is always definite, possibly more definite than any other writer. In every monologue we can find an indication of the place or situation in which the monologue is located.

Browning has given us one monologue which takes place during a walk, “A Grammarian’s Funeral.” The speaker is one of the band carrying the body of his master from the “common crofts,” and so he is represented as looking up to[Pg 72] the top of the hill and talking about the appropriateness of burying the master on the hilltop. Browning’s intimate knowledge of Greek was shown by the phrase “gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De.” The London “Times” criticized this severely when the poem was published, saying that with all respect to Mr. Browning, there was no such enclitic. Browning answered in a note that proved his fine scholarship, and called attention to the fact that this was the point in dispute which the grammarian had tried to settle.

Even the stages of the journey are shown,

“Here’s the town-gate reached: there’s the market-place
Gaping before us.”

In another place he says,

“Caution redoubled,
Step two abreast, the way winds narrowly!”

while all the time he pours out his tribute to his master:

“Oh, if we draw a circle premature
Heedless of far gain,
Greedy for quick returns of profit, sure
Bad is our bargain!...
That low man seeks a little thing to do,
Sees it and does it:
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one,
His hundred’s soon hit:
This high man, aiming at a million,
Misses an unit.
That, has the world here—should he need the next,
Let the world mind him!
This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed
Seeking, shall find him.”

[Pg 73]Then, when they arrive at the top, he says,

“Well, here’s the platform, here’s the proper place,”

and addressing the birds,

“All ye highfliers of the feathered race,”

he continues, giving his thoughts, as suggested by the very situation:

“This man decided not to Live but Know—
Bury this man there?
Here, here’s his place, where meteors shoot, clouds form,
Lightnings are loosened,
Stars come and go! Let joy break with the storm,
Peace let the dew send!
Lofty designs must close in like effects:
Loftily lying,
Leave him, still loftier than the world suspects,
Living and dying.”

Browning’s “At the ‘Mermaid’” reproduces a scene of historic interest. The inn where Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and other sympathetic friends used to meet, is presented to the imagination, and Shakespeare is the speaker. Some one has proposed a toast to him as the next poet. Shakespeare protests, and the poem is his answer. Here are shown his modesty, his optimism, his reverence, and his noble views of life. He smilingly points to his works and talks about them to these his friends in a simple, frank way.

“Look and tell me! Written, spoken,
Here’s my lifelong work: and where—
Where’s your warrant or my token
I’m the dead king’s son and heir?

“Here’s my work: does work discover—
What was rest from work—my life?
Did I live man’s hater, lover?
Leave the world at peace, at strife?...
[Pg 74]
“Blank of such a record, truly,
Here’s the work I hand, this scroll,
Yours to take or leave; as duly,
Mine remains the unproffered soul.
So much, no whit more, my debtors—
How should one like me lay claim
To that largest elders, betters
Sell you cheap their souls for—fame?...

“Have you found your life distasteful?
My life did, and does, smack sweet.
Was your youth of pleasure wasteful?
Mine I saved and hold complete.
Do your joys with age diminish?
When mine fail me, I’ll complain.
Must in death your daylight finish?
My sun sets to rise again....

“My experience being other,
How should I contribute verse
Worthy of your king and brother?
Balaam-like I bless, not curse.
I find earth not gray, but rosy,
Heaven not grim, but fair of hue.
Do I stoop? I pluck a posy.
Do I stand and stare? All’s blue....

“Meanwhile greet me—‘friend, good fellow,
Gentle Will,’ my merry men!
As for making Envy yellow
With ‘Next Poet’—(Manners, Ben!)”

It is difficult to imagine any other situation, any other place, any other group of friends, chosen by Browning, that would have been more favorable to the frank unfolding by Shakespeare of the motives which underlie his work and his character. This any one may recognize, whatever his opinions may be regarding the success of this monologue.

The poem is meaningless without a grasp of the situation. “Manners, Ben!” at the close is a [Pg 75]protest against Ben’s drinking too soon. Is this a delicate hint at Ben’s habits? Or was his beginning to drink a method by which Browning suggests a comment of Ben’s to the effect that Shakespeare talked too much?

Browning here brings out the true Shakespeare spirit, not, of course, to the satisfaction of those who have their hobbies and systems and consider Shakespeare the only poet, but to others who wish to comprehend the real man.

Douglas Jerrold has indicated the situation of his series of monologues in the title, “Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures.” The mind easily pictures an old-fashioned bed, the draperies drawn around it, with Mr. and Mrs. Caudle retired to rest. Mrs. Caudle seizes this moment when she has her busy spouse at her mercy. Before she falls asleep, she refers to his various shortcomings and fully discusses future contingencies or consequences of his evil deeds as a kind of slumber song for poor Caudle. The imagination distinctly sees Caudle holding himself still, trying to go to sleep. No word can relieve the tension of his mind, and Mrs. Caudle monopolizes all the conversation. Caudle is exercising those powers which Epictetus says that “God has given us by which we can keep ourselves calm and reposeful, as Socrates did, without change of face under the most trying circumstances.”

A study of any monologue will furnish an illustration of situation, but we are naturally, in the study of the subject, led back again to Browning.

In his “Andrea del Sarto,” we are introduced to a scene common in the lives of artists. It has grown too dark to paint, and, dropping his brush, the painter sits in the gray twilight and talks with[Pg 76] his wife, who serves him as a model, and muses over his work and his life. No one can fully appreciate the poem who has not been in a studio at some such moment when the artist stopped work and came out of his absorption to talk to those dear to him. At such a time the artist will be personal, will criticize himself severely, and throw out hints of what he has tried to do, of his higher aims, visions, and possibilities, and, while showing appreciation of what other artists have said of him, will recognize, also, the mistakes and failures of his art or life. It is the unfolding of a sensitive soul, a transition from a world of ideals, imaginations, and visions, to one of reality.

Nowhere else in poetry has any author so fully caught the essence of such an hour. Nowhere else can there be found art criticism equal to this self-revelation of the artist who is called “the faultless painter.” What a revelation! What might he have done! What has he been! What a woman is beside him, his greatest curse, but one whose willing slave he recognizes himself to be! What a weak acquiescence, and what a fall!

Notice also the abrupt beginning: “But do not let us quarrel any more.” She is asking ostensibly for money for her “cousin,” but really, to pay the gambling debts of one of her lovers. He grants her request, but pleads that she stay with him in his loneliness and promises to work harder, and again and again in his criticism of himself, of his very perfection, even while he shows Raphael’s weakness in drawing, he hints that there is something in the others not in him. In fact, he recognizes one of the deepest principles of life, as well as art, and exclaims,

[Pg 77] “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s heaven for? All is silver-gray,
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!”

He reveals his deep grief, how he dare not venture abroad all day lest the French nobles in the city should recognize him and deal with him for having used for himself—or rather for his wife, to build her a house, at her entreaty—the money which had been given by Francis for the purchase of pictures and for his return to Paris. And yet we find a weak soul’s acquiescence in fate—

“All is as God o’errules.”

How sympathetically does Browning reproduce the painter’s point of view in—

“... why, there’s my picture ready made,
There’s what we painters call our harmony!
A common grayness silvers everything,—
All in a twilight.”

Or again:

“... let me sit
The gray remainder of the evening out.”

While this poem is recognized as a great art criticism, its spirit can be realized only by one recognizing the dramatic situation and appreciating the delicate suggestions of the atmosphere of a studio and of time and place in relation to an artist’s life.

One of the finest situations in Browning’s verse is that in “La Saisiaz.” The poet has an appointment to climb a mountain with one of his friends, a Miss Smith, daughter of one of the firm of Smith, Elder & Co., but when the time comes, she is dead. The other, himself, keeps the appointment, walks[Pg 78] up alone, and pausing on the height, utters aloud his reflections upon the immortality of the soul.

The poem is none the less a monologue because it is Browning himself that speaks, and because the friend of whom and to whom he speaks has just passed to the unseen world. She whom he had expected as his companion in this climb is so near to him as to be almost literally realized as a listener. The poem fulfils the conditions of a monologue: a living soul intensely realizing a thought and situation with relation to another soul.

It is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of situation in art. It is the situation that gives us the background. An isolated object can hardly be made the subject of a work of art. Art is relation, and shows the kinship of things. “It is where the bird is,” said Hunt, “that makes the bird.”




The monologue touches only indirectly the progressive development of character as regards time. It deals with only one instant, the present, which reflects the past and the future. But for this very reason its aspect differs from that of the drama, since it focuses attention upon the instant and reveals motives, possibilities, and even results. The monologue is not “still-life” in any sense of the word. In an instant’s flash it may show the turning point of a life.

The most important words in the study of a monologue are usually the first. As a monologue is a sudden vision of a life, it of course breaks into the[Pg 79] continuity of thought or discussion. The first words are nearly always spoken in answer to something previously said or in reference to some event or circumstance which is only suggested, yet which must be definitely imagined. One of the most important questions for the student to settle is the connection of what is printed with what is not printed. When does a character begin to speak, that is, in answer to what,—as a result of what event, act, or word?

For this reason the first words of a monologue must usually be delivered slowly and emphatically, if auditors are to be given a clue to the processes of the thought. The inflections and other modulations of the voice in uttering the first words must always directly suggest the connection with what precedes.

“Rabbi Ben Ezra” begins abruptly: “Grow old along with me!” This poem has already been discussed with reference to the necessity of conceiving the listener, but we must also apprehend the thought which the listener has uttered before we can get the speaker’s point of view. The young man has, no doubt, expressed pity or regret for the old man’s isolation, for the loss of all his friends, and must have remarked something about how gloomy a thing it is to grow old. This is the cause of the older man’s outburst of joyous expostulation amounting almost to a rebuke. Now the reader must realize this, must make it appear in the emphasis which he gives to the first words of the Rabbi: that is, he must so render these words as to bring the ideas of the Rabbi in opposition to those of the young man. The antithesis to what has been said or implied gives the keynote of the poem, whether[Pg 80] we are interpreting it to another or endeavoring to understand it for ourselves.

We perceive here a striking contrast between the dramatic monologue and the story. The story may begin, “Once upon a time,” but the monologue as a part of real life must suggest a direct continuity of thought and also of contact with human beings. Even a play may introduce characters, gradually lead up to a collision, and make emphatic an outbreak of passion, but the monologue must, as a rule, break in at once with the specific answer of a definite character in a living situation to a definite thought which has been uttered by another. The reader must receive an impression of the character at the moment, but in relation to a continuous succession of ideas.

Accordingly, the right starting of the monologue is of vital importance. In a story we often wait a long while for it to unfold. But except in the first preliminary reading, one cannot read on in the monologue, hoping that the meaning will gradually become clear. When a reader fully understands the meaning, he must turn and express this at the very beginning. The very first phrase must be colored by the whole.

Frequently the settling of the connection of the thought is the most difficult part in the study of a monologue, yet, on account of the unique difference of this type of literature from a story and other literary forms, the study of the beginning is apt to be overlooked. The reader must first find out where he is. I was once in search of Bishopsgate Street in London, and meeting, in a very narrow part of a narrow street a unique old man, who reminded me of Ralph Nickleby, I asked him to tell[Pg 81] me the way. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Where are you now?” I told him I thought I was in Threadneedle Street. “Right,” and then he pointed out the street, which was only a few steps away, but which I had been seeking for some time in vain. He was wise, for unless I knew where I was, he could not direct me.

In the study of a monologue, if we will find exactly where we are, many difficult questions will be settled at once; and the interpreter by pausing and using care can make clear, through the emphatic interpretation of the first sentences, a vast number of points which would otherwise be of great difficulty.

Mr. Macfadyen has well said, “Much of the apparent obscurity of Browning is due to his habit of climbing up a precipice of thought, and then kicking away the ladder by which he climbed.”

The opening of Browning’s “Fra Lippo Lippi” requires a conception of night and a sudden surprise—

“I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!
You need not clap your torches to my face.
Zooks, what’s to blame? you think you see a monk!”

These words cannot be given excitedly or dramatically without realizing the rôle the police are playing, their rough handling of Lippo, and their discovery that they have seized a monk at an unseemly hour of the night and not in a respectable part of the city. We must identify ourselves with Lippo and feel the torches of the police in the face, and the hand “fiddling” on his throat. This whole situation must be as definitely conceived as if a part of a play. The reference to “Cosimo of the[Pg 82] Medici” should be spoken very suggestively, and we should feel with Lippo the consequent relief that resulted, and the dismay also of the police on finding they have in hand an artist friend of the greatest man in Florence. “Boh! you were best!” means that the hands of the policeman have been released from his throat.

All this dramatic action, however, must be secondary to the conception of the character of the monk-painter. Almost immediately, in the very midst of the excitement, possibly with reference to the very fellow who had grasped his throat, the artist, with the true spirit of a painter, exclaims,

“He’s Judas to a tittle, that man is!
Just such a face!”

and as the chief of the squad of police sends his watchmen away, the painter’s heart once more awakes and discovers a picture, and he says, almost to himself:

“I’d like his face—
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door
With the pike and lantern,—for the slave that holds
John Baptist’s head a-dangle by the hair
With one hand (‘Look you, now,’ as who should say)
And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped!
It’s not your chance to have a bit of chalk,
A wood-coal or the like? or you should see!
Yes, I’m the painter, since you style me so.
What, brother Lippo’s doings, up and down,
You know them, and they take you? like enough!
I saw the proper twinkle in your eye—
’Tell you, I liked your looks at very first.
Let’s sit and set things straight now, hip to haunch.”

Thus the monologue is introduced, and with a captain of a night-watch in Florence as listener, this[Pg 83] great painter, who tried to paint things truly, pours out his critical reflections,—

“A fine way to paint soul, by painting body
So ill, the eye can’t stop there, must go further
And can’t fare worse!”

This great reformer in art is made by Browning to declare why men should paint

“God’s works—paint anyone, and count it crime
To let a truth slip by,”

for according to this man, who initiated a new movement in art,

“Art was given for that;
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out....
This world’s no blot for us
Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good:
To find its meaning is my meat and drink.”

This monologue, while only a fragment of simple conversation, touches those profound moments which only an artist can realize, and unfolds the real essence of a character.

Abrupt beginnings are very common in monologues, but the student will find that these are often the easiest to master. They can be easily interpreted by dramatic instinct. There is always a situation, dramatic in proportion to the abruptness of the beginning, and a few glances will fasten attention upon the real theme. The monologue will never stir one who desires long preliminary chapters of descriptions before the real story is opened, but one with true dramatic imagination can easily make a sudden plunge into the very midst of life and action.

[Pg 84]The unity of time on account of the momentary character of a monologue needs no discussion. And yet we find in one otherwise strong monologue, “Before Sedan,” by Austin Dobson, a strange violation of the principle of time.



Here, in this leafy place,
Quiet he lies,
Cold, with his sightless face
Turned to the skies;
’Tis but another dead;
All you can say is said.

Carry his body hence,—
Kings must have slaves;
Kings climb to eminence
Over men’s graves:
So this man’s eye is dim;—
Throw the earth over him.

What was the white you touched,
There, at his side?
Paper his hand had clutched
Tight ere he died;—
Message or wish, maybe;—
Smooth the folds out and see.

Hardly the worst of us
Here could have smiled:—
Only the tremulous
Words of a child;—
Prattle, that has for stops
Just a few ruddy drops.

Look. She is sad to miss,
Morning and night,
His—her dead father’s—kiss;
[Pg 85]Tries to be bright,
Good to mamma, and sweet,
That is all. “Marguerite.”

Ah, if beside the dead
Slumbered the pain!
Ah, if the hearts that bled
Slept with the slain!
If the grief died;—but no;—
Death will not have it so.

The title of this monologue suggests something of the situation, and from the first sentence we gather that it is spoken by one searching for the dead in remote nooks of the battle-field. From the remarks against war, the speaker seems to be one of the citizens searching their farms for any who, wounded, have crawled away for water, or have died in an obscure corner.

A body is found, and something white, a paper, in the soldier’s hand, is discovered; the leader, who is the speaker, asks another to smooth out the folds, as it may express some dying wish. It is found to be a letter from his child, which the dying man has taken out and kissed. All this is in the true spirit of the monologue. But now we come to a blemish,—“could have smiled.” So far, all has been in the present tense, dramatically discovered and represented as a living, passing scene; but here there is a relapse into mere narration, and the speaker appears to be telling the story long afterwards.

We never have such a blemish in a production of Browning’s. In his hands the monologue is always a present, living, moving thing. It is not a narrative of some past action.

All dramatic art is related to time, but the only time in which we can act is the present. This fact[Pg 86] is a help to the understanding of the monologue, for we must bring a living character into immediate action and contact with some other, or with many other, human beings.




To comprehend the meaning of a monologue, it is necessary to grasp, fully and clearly, the relation of the ideas, or the continuity of thought.

In an essay or speech, the argument is everything, and even a story depends upon a sequence of events. Many persons object to the monologue because the full comprehension of the meaning can only come last, and seem to think that the characters and situations should be mere accidents. Mr. Chesterton has well said: “If a man comes to tell us that he has discovered perpetual motion, or been swallowed by the sea-serpent, there will yet be some point in the story where he will tell us about himself almost all that we require to know.”

Not only is this true, but the impression of every event or truth, which is all any man can tell, is dependent upon the character of the man, and while the monologue seems to reverse the natural method in requiring us to conceive of character and situation before the thought, it thus presents a deeper truth and causes a more adequate impression.

Both the person talking and the scene must be apprehended by the imagination; then the meaning is no longer abstract; it is presented with the living witnesses. Persons who want only the meaning usually ignore all situation or environment. The co-ordination of many elements is the secret of the peculiar power and force of the monologue.

[Pg 87]The monologue is not unnatural. Life is complex, and elements in nature are not found in isolation. The colors of nature are always found in combination, and primary colors are rare. Art is composed of a very few elements, but how rarely do we find one of these separated from the others. So an emphatically demonstrated abstract truth is rarely found. Truth gives reality to truth. Thought implies a thinking soul. No thought is completed until expressed; art is ever necessary to show relations. In every age the parable, or some other indirect method, has been employed for the simplest lessons. Words can only hint at truth. An abstraction verges toward an untruth. A mere rule, even an abstract statement of law, is worth little except as obeyed or its working seen among men.

Men or women of the finest type rarely discuss their fellow-beings, for the smallest remark quoted from another may produce a false impression. What was the occasion? What was the spirit with which it was spoken? What was the smile upon the face? What was the tenderness in the voice? The exact words may be quoted, yet without the tone and action these may be falsified. Even facts may convey an utterly false impression.

Everything in nature is related. An interpretation of truth, accordingly, demands the presentation of right relations. The flower that is cut and placed in a vase has lost the bower of green leaves, the glimmer of the sunlight, the sparkle of the dew, and the blue sky “full of light and deity.”

In the monologue we must pass from “the letter that killeth” to “the spirit that giveth life.” The primary meaning hides itself, that we may take[Pg 88] account of the witnesses first, for in the mouth of “two or three witnesses every word may be established.”

“The word that he speaks is the man himself.” But how rarely do we realize this. It is impossible to do so without a conception of the voice. The smile and the actions of the body and natural modulations of the voice reveal the fulness of the impression and the life that is merely suggested by a word. The monologue, implying all these, makes men realize a truth more vividly by showing the feeling and attitude toward truth of a living, thinking man.

It is not to superficialize the truth that the monologue adopts an indirect method. It does not concern itself with situations and characters for mere amusement or adornment. It does not introduce scenery to atone for lack of thought, but seeks to awaken the right powers to realize it.

A profound theme may be discussed dramatically as well, and at times much better than in an essay or a speech. To receive a right impression from “Abt Vogler,” for example, the reader must consciously or unconsciously realize the point of view, and also the philosophic arguments for the highest idealism of the age. We must know the depth of meaning in the line:

“On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.”

We must perceive, too, the philosophy beneath such words as these:

“All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist,”

and even the argument that makes “Our failure here but a triumph’s evidence.”

[Pg 89] “Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear,
Each sufferer says his say, his scheme of the weal and woe:
But God has a few of us whom he whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason and welcome; ’tis we musicians know.”

“Musicians” is used in a suggestive sense to indicate mystics and idealists.

The argument of the monologue, accordingly, is found in dramatic sequence of natural thinking. It is not a logical or systematic arrangement of points, but the association of ideas as they spring up in the mind.

As has been shown, the start is everything, since it indicates the connection of the speaker with the unwritten situation or preceding thought of his listener. The argument then follows naturally.

The argument of “A Death in the Desert” is one of the most complex and difficult to follow. Browning opens and closes the poem with a bracketed passage, and inserts one also in another place. These bracketed lines are written or said by another than Pamphylax, the speaker in the main part of the monologue. They refer to the old fragments and parchments with their methods of enumeration by Greek letters. This gives the impression and feeling of the ancient documents and the peculiar difficulties in the criticism of the texts of the New Testament, upon which so much of the evidence of Christianity depends. Pamphylax gives in the monologue an account of the death of John, the beloved disciple, who was supposed to have been the last man who had actually seen the Christ with his own eyes. It occurs in the midst of the persecution which came about this time. The dying John is in the cave, near Ephesus, with a boy outside pretending to care for the sheep, but ready to[Pg 90] give warning of the approach of Roman soldiers. The speaker, who was present, describes all that happened, and repeats the words of the dying apostle. Browning makes John foresee that the evidences of Christianity would no longer depend upon simply “I saw,” as there would be no one left when John was dead who could say it. He thus makes him foresee all the critical difficulties of modern times in relation to the evidences of Christianity, and, in the spirit of John’s gospel and of the whole philosophy of that time, as well as with a profound understanding of the needs of the nineteenth century, he makes John unfold a solution of the difficulties.

This profoundly significant poem will tax to the very utmost any method of explaining the monologue. But Browning anticipates this difficulty in part, and gives the atmosphere of the ancient manuscripts, introducing to us details about the rolls, the situation, the spectators, and the appearance of John. In fact, a monologue is found within a monologue, the words of John himself constituting the essence or spirit of the passage; and thus Browning is enabled to present the deepest thought through the words of the beloved disciple. The difficulties are thus brought into relation with the philosophy of that age, and at the same time the strongest critical and philosophical thought of the poet’s time is expounded.

One special difficulty in tracing the argument of a monologue will be found in the sudden and abrupt transitions. These, however, are perfectly natural; in fact, they are the peculiar characteristics of all good monologues, and express the dramatic spirit. Since the monologue is the direct revelation of this[Pg 91] spirit in human thinking rather than in human acting, which is shown by the play, these sudden changes of mood or feeling are necessary to the monologue as the drama of the thinking mind.

The person who reads a monologue aloud will find that its abrupt transitions are a great help, and not a hindrance. When properly emphasized and accentuated by voice and action, they become the chief means of making the thought luminous and forcible.

One of the best examples of what we may call the dramatic argument of a monologue is found in Browning’s “The Bishop orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church,” one of the ablest criticisms ever offered upon both the moral and the artistic spirit of the Renaissance. Notice that “Rome, 15—” is a subtitle. The Bishop begins with the conventional lament, “Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!” He is dying, and has called his nephews,—now owned as sons, for he has been unfaithful to his priestly vow of chastity,—about his bed for his farewell instructions. His greatest anxiety is regarding his monument, and as he thinks of this purpose of his life, his whole character reveals itself. We perceive his old jealousy and envy of a former bishop, and the very thought of this predecessor causes sudden transitions and agitations in the dying man’s mind. We discover that his seeming love of the beautiful is only a sensuous admiration entirely different from that true love of art which Browning endeavored to interpret. To his sons he speaks frankly of his sins. His pompous and egotistical likings are shown in his causing his sons to march in and out in a stately ceremonial. This adds color to the poem and helps[Pg 92] to concentrate attention upon the character of the speaker.

Ruskin has some important words in his “Modern Painters” upon this poem: “I know no other piece of modern English, prose or poetry, in which there is so much told as in these lines, of the Renaissance spirit,—its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art, of luxury, and of good Latin. It is nearly all I said of the central Renaissance in thirty pages in ‘The Stones of Venice,’ put into as many lines, Browning’s being also the antecedent work. The worst of it is that this kind of concentrated writing needs so much solution before the reader can fairly get the good of it, that people’s patience fails them, and they give the thing up as insoluble.”

In studying the argument the reader should note the many sudden changes in almost every phrase, especially at first. For example,

“Nephews—sons mine ... ah God, I know not!”

And so he continues: “She is dead beside,” and

“Saint Praxed’s ever was the church for peace.”

Note his break into business:

“And so, about this tomb of mine....”

This must be given with much saliency in order to show that it is the chief point he has in mind and the purpose of his bringing them together. Most of the other sayings are only dramatic asides, which, however, must be strongly emphasized as indicative of his character.

Note the expression of his hate in “Old Gandolf cozened me,” though he fought tooth and nail to[Pg 93] save his niche. But still, his enemy had secured the south corner:

“He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!”

Yet he accepts the result, and feels that his niche is not so bad:

“One sees the pulpit o’ the epistle-side.”

“Onion-stone” and “true peach” are, of course, in direct opposition. Then he tells the great secret of his life, how he has hidden a great lump of

“... lapis lazuli,
Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,”

and where it can be found to place between his knees on the monument. And in this he shall have a great triumph over his enemy—

“For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!”

After this outbreak of selfishness and envy he resumes the conventional whine:

“Swift as a weaver’s shuttle fleet our years.”

Suddenly, with a totally different inflection, he returns to the thought of his tomb:

“Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black—
’Twas ever antique-black I meant!”

This is said suddenly, and with the most positive and abrupt inflections. Notice that amid the gloom he will even laugh over the bad Latin of old Gandolf the “elucescebat” of his inscription, and abruptly demands of his sons that his epitaph be

“Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully’s every word.”

[Pg 94]Observe his sudden transition from

“Nay, boys, ye love me—all of jasper, then!”

to his appeal to their superstition because he has

“... Saint Praxed’s ear to pray
Horses for ye....”

and his sudden threat:

“Else I give the Pope
My villas!”

If we realize his character, this kind of “concentrated writing” will not need “so much solution” before the reader can “get the good of it.” Certainly people’s patience should not fail them, nor should they “give the thing up as insoluble.” On the contrary, one who follows the suggestions indicated, understands the natural languages, and has any appreciation of the dramatic spirit, will feel that Browning’s form is the best means of giving with a few strokes a thorough understanding of the character of a great movement and era in human history.

This is one of Browning’s “difficult” poems. Why difficult? Because most “concentrated”; because it gives the fundamental spirit of a certain era of the world; because the poet uses in every case the exact word, however unusual it may be, to express the idea. He should not be blamed if he send the reader to the dictionary to correct his ignorance. Why should not art be as accurate as science? Why should it perpetuate ignorance?

To understand a monologue according to these suggestions the student must first answer such[Pg 95] questions as, Who speaks? What kind of a man says this? To whom does he speak? Of whom is he talking? Where is he? At what point in the conversation do we break in upon him in the unconscious utterance of his life and motives? Then, last of all,—What is the argument? The general subject and thought will gradually become plain from the first question and the argument may be pretty clear before all the points are presented.

When the points are taken up in this order, the meaning of a monologue will unfold as naturally as that of an essay or a simple story, and at the same time afford greater enjoyment and express deeper truth in fewer words.

All of these questions are not applicable to every monologue. Sometimes one has greater force than the others. Some monologues are given without any necessity of conceiving a distinct place; some require no definite time in the conversation; in a few the listener may be almost any one; but in some monologues every one of these questions will have force. The application of these points, however, is easy, and will be spontaneous to one with dramatic instinct. Only at first do they demand special attention and care.

The application of all the points suggested or questions to be answered will be shown best by an illustration,—a short monologue which exemplifies them all. Let us choose for this purpose Browning’s “My Last Duchess.”

The speaker is the Duke, and the meaning of the whole is dependent upon the right conception of his character. He stands before us puffed up with pride, one who chooses “Never to stoop.”

The person spoken of, the Duchess, and her[Pg 96] character form the real theme of the poem, and the character of the Duke is made to look blacker by contrast. How her youth, beauty, and loveliness shine through his sneers! “She liked whatever she looked on, and her looks went everywhere,” and he was offended that she recognized “anybody’s gift” on a plane with his gift of a “nine-hundred-year-old name.” This grew, and he “gave commands, then all smiles stopped together.”



That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or, “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
[Pg 97]The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace,—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
When’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

To whom is the Duke speaking? From the phrase, “The Count your master,” and other hints, we infer that the listener is the legal agent of the Count who is father of the next victim, the new Duchess, and that this legal agent has stepped aside to talk with the Duke about the “dowry.” The Duke has led the agent upstairs, drawn aside the curtain from the portrait of his last Duchess, and monopolizes the conversation.

The situation is marvellously suggestive. He[Pg 98] draws the curtain which “none puts by” but himself, and assumes an attitude of a connoisseur of art, and calls the portrait “a wonder.” Does this admiring of art for art’s sake suggest the degeneracy of his soul? He asks the other to “sit and look at her.” The subject in hand is shown by the word “last.” How suggestive is the emphasis upon the word, for they have been talking about the new Duchess. In a few lines, as dramatically suggestive as any in literature, his character and motives are all revealed, as he intimates to his hearer what is expected from him.

Why did he say all this to such a person? To overawe him, to show him what kind of man he had to deal with, and the necessity of accepting the Duke’s terms lest “commands” might also be given regarding him, and his “smiles” stop, like those of the lovely Duchess. It is only an insinuation, but in keeping with the Duke’s character. The rising at the end shows that he takes it for granted that everything is settled as he wished it. Notice that the agent falls behind, like an obedient lackey, but as this would not appear well to the “company below,” the Duke says:—

“Nay, we’ll go
Together down.”

By the time the reader has answered these questions the whole argument becomes luminous. A company has gathered at the Duke’s palace to arrange the final settlement for a marriage between the Duke and the daughter of a count. The Duke and the steward of the Count, or some person acting as agent, have stepped aside to consult regarding the dowry. The place is chosen by the Duke;[Pg 99] in drawing the curtain in front of the picture of his last Duchess, he unfolds his character and also the story, and forcibly portrays the character of his last victim. She was one who loved everybody and everything in life with true human sympathy. She “thanked” him for every gift, but that was not enough. She smiled at others. She was a flower he had plucked for himself alone, and she must not show love or tenderness, or blush at

“The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, ...”

It is doubtful whether she died of a broken heart or was deliberately murdered. His commands, of course, would not be given to her, but to his lackeys. Many think she was murdered. Browning leaves it artistically suggestive and uncertain.

These questions, of course, will not be answered in any regular order. One point will suggest another. The meaning will be partially apparent from the first; but usually the points will be discovered in this sequence. When completed, the whole is as simple as a story. The pompous, contemptuous air of the Duke, the insinuating way in which he speaks, the hint afforded by his voice that he will have no trifling, that he had made his demands, and that was the end of it; all these details slowly unfold until the whole story, nay, even the deepest motives of his life and character, are clearly perceived.

What a wonderful portrayal in fifty-six lines! Many a long novel does not say so much, nor give such insight into human beings. Many a play does not reveal processes so deep, so profound as this.

Browning hints in his subtitle, “Ferrara,” the[Pg 100] part of the world and the age in which such a piece of villany would have been possible.

If the reader will examine some of the most difficult monologues of Browning, or any of the more popular monologues, by the questions given, he will see at once the peculiar character of the monologue as a form of dramatic poetry. Such work must be at first conscious, but when it has been thoroughly done, the rendering or reading of a monologue will be as easy as that of a play. The enjoyment awakened by a good monologue, and the insight it gives into human nature, will well repay the study necessary to realize the artistic peculiarities of this form of poetry.




The nature of the monologue will be seen more clearly and forcibly if compared with other forms of literature.

Forms of literature have not been invented or evolved suddenly. They have been in every case slowly recognized; in fact, one of the last, if not most difficult phases of literary education and culture is the definite conception of the difference between the various forms of poetry. To many persons the word lyric and the word epic are loose terms, the one standing for a short poem and the other for a long one. The real spirit and character of the most elemental forms of poetry are often indefinitely and inadequately realized.

If this is true of the oldest and most fundamental forms of poetry, it is still more true of the [Pg 101]monologue. The word awakens in most minds only the vaguest conceptions.

If the monologue be discriminated at all from other forms of literature, it is apt to be regarded as an accidental, if not an unnecessary or unnatural, phase of literary creation. Even in books on Browning, nine-tenths of whose work is in this form, the monologue is often spoken of as if it were a speech. It is sometimes treated as if it were simply a long monotonous harangue of some talker like Coleridge, the outflow of whose ideas and words subordinates or puts to silence a whole company. But unless the peculiar nature of the monologue is understood, much modern verse will fail to produce an adequate impression.

Like the speech, the monologue implies one speaker. But an oration implies an audience, a platform, conscious preparation, and a direct and deliberate purpose. The monologue, on the contrary, implies merely a conversation on the street, in the shop, or in the home. Usually, only one listener is found, and rarely is there an assembled audience or the formal occasion implied by a speech. The occasion is some natural situation in life capable of causing spontaneous outflow of thought and feeling and an involuntary revelation of motive.

The monologue is not a poetic interpretation of an oration, though the latter is frequently found in poetry. Burns’s poem on the speech of Bruce at Bannockburn was called by Carlyle “the finest war-ode in any language,” and it is none the less noble because it suggests a speaker. It is a poetic realization of an address to an army. Burns gives the situation and the chief actor speaking as the[Pg 102] artistic means of awakening a realization of the event. But it is the poetic interpretation of oratory, a lyric, and not a monologue.

Dr. Holmes’s “Our Boys” is an after dinner speech in metric form, full of good-natured allusions to members of the class who were well-known men, but even such a definite situation does not make his work a monologue.

“Anything may be poetic by being intensely realized.” Poetry may have as its theme any phase of human life or endeavor, and the spirit of oratory has often been interpreted by poetry. Oratory has a direct, conscious purpose. It implies a human being earnestly presenting arguments to move and persuade men to a course of action.

The monologue reflects the unconscious and spontaneous effect of one human being upon another, but it does not express the poet’s own feelings, convictions, or motives, except indirectly. We must not take the words of any one of Browning’s characters as an echo of the poet’s personal convictions. The monologue expresses the impressions which a certain character receives from events or from other people.

Epic poetry, from its application to an individual case or situation, is made to suggest the ideals, aspirations, or characteristics of the race. The epic makes events or characters more typical or universal, and hence more suggestive and expressive. Its personations embody universal ideals. Odysseus is not simply a man, but the representative of every patient, long-suffering Hellenic hero, persevering and enduring trials with fortitude. Achilles is not merely a youth full of anger, but a type of the passionate, liberty-loving and aspiring[Pg 103] Greek. Both Achilles and Odysseus are not so much individual characters as typical Greeks. They express noble emotions breathed into the hearts of mortals by Athena. Odysseus embodies the virtue of temperance and patience symbolized by the cloudless sky, represented by Athena’s robe, and of perseverance shown by her unstooping helmet. Achilles with his “destructive wrath,” embodies the spirit of youth and eager passion corresponding to the lightning and the storm which are shown by the serpents on Athena’s breast.

We are apt to regard the epic as simply differing in form from the drama; the drama being adapted to stage representation, while the epic is not. But there are deeper differences. Though the drama may portray a character as noble as the suffering Prometheus, a representative of the race, or one as low as Nick Bottom; and though the epic may portray by the side of the swift-footed Achilles and the wise Ulysses the physical and rough Ajax, still at the heart of every form of poetry is found a different spirit. Even when the same subject is introduced, a different aspect will be suggested. Every form of human art expresses something which can be adequately expressed in no other way.

Dramatic art is recognized as being complex. From the following definition of the term “dramatic” by Freytag in his “Technique of the Drama,” many points may be inferred regarding its unique character:

“The term dramatic is applicable to two classes of emotions: those which are sufficiently vigorous to crystallize into will and act, and those which are aroused by an act. It accordingly includes the psychical processes which go on within the human[Pg 104] soul from the initiation of a feeling up to passionate desire and activity, and also the influences exerted upon the soul by the acts of oneself or of others. In other words, it includes the outward movement of the will from the depths of the nature toward the external world, and the inward movement of impression from the external world which influence the inner nature: or, in fine, the coming into existence of an act; and its consequences for the soul. Neither action in itself nor passionate emotion in itself is dramatic. The function of dramatic art is not the representation of passion in itself, but of passion leading to action; it is not the representation of an event in itself, but of its reflections in the human soul. The representation of passionate emotion in itself, as such, is the function of the lyric; the depicting of interesting events, as such, is the business of the epic.”[1]

This explanation of dramatic art at first seems very thorough and complete. It certainly includes more than the play, although worked out with special reference to the play. But any true study of dramatic art must recognize the fact that the play, important as it is, is only one of its aspects.

This definition, fine as it is, needs careful consideration, and possibly may be found, after all, inadequate. If it refers at all to some of the most important aspects, the reference is vague. Dramatic art must also include points of view, insight into motives, the nature and necessity of situation, and especially the discovery by one man of another’s attitude of mind.

The definition is notable because it does not[Pg 105] define dramatic art, as is so apt to be the case, by limitation. When any form of art is defined by limitation, the next great artist that arises will break the shackles of such a rule, and show its utter inadequacy. When Sir Joshua Reynolds said blue could not be used as the general color scheme of a picture, Gainsborough responded with the now famous painting, “The Blue Boy.”

Dramatic art is especially difficult to define because it is the very essence of poetry, and deals with that most difficult of all subjects, the human soul. Accordingly, illustrations of dramatic art are not only safer than definitions, but more suggestive of its true nature. Definitions are especially inadequate in our endeavors to perceive the differences between the dramatic elements of a play and those of a monologue.

To realize more completely the general nature of dramatic art, let us note how a play differs from a story.

A certain noble and his wife slew their king while he was their guest, and usurped the crown. In order to conceal their crime and keep themselves on the throne, the new king slew other persons, and even murdered the wife and children of a noble who had fled to England and espoused the cause of the rightful heir to the throne, the son of the murdered king. The usurper was finally overthrown and killed in battle by the knight whose family he had slain.

Such are the bare items of the story of “Macbeth.” When these facts were fashioned into a play, the interest was transferred from the events to the characters of the principal individuals concerned. Their ambitious motives, their resolution[Pg 106] or hesitation to perform the murder, and the effects of this crime upon them were not only portrayed by Shakespeare, but to Lady Macbeth is given a different type of conscience from that of her husband. While at first, or before Macbeth committed his first crime, he hesitated long, his conscience afterward became “seared as with a hot iron.” Although he hesitated greatly over the murder of Duncan, he later pursued his purpose without faltering for a moment. The conscience of Lady Macbeth, on the contrary, is awakened by crime. These two types of conscience are often found in life, but have never been so truly represented as in Shakespeare’s interpretation of them. Possibly no other art except dramatic art could have portrayed this experience and interpreted such deep differences between human beings.

Now note the peculiarities of the monologue.

A man must part from a woman he loves. He has been rejected, or for other reasons it is necessary for him to speak the parting word; they may meet as friends, but never again can they meet as lovers.

There are not enough events here to make a story, and the mere statement of them awakens little interest. But Browning writes a monologue upon this slender theme which is so short that it can be printed here entire.


All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter
As one at first believes?
Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter
About your cottage eaves!

And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly,
I noticed that, to-day;
One day more bursts them open fully:
You know the red turns gray.
[Pg 107]
To-morrow we meet the same then, dearest?
May I take your hand in mine?
Mere friends are we,—well, friends the merest
Keep much that I resign:

For each glance of the eye so bright and black,
Tho’ I keep with heart’s endeavor,—
Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back,
Tho’ it stay in my soul for ever!—

Yet I will but say what mere friends say,
Or only a thought stronger;
I will hold your hand but as long as all may,
Or so very little longer!

Here we have as speaker a distinct type of man, and the precise moment is chosen when he is bidding good-bye. Attention is focussed upon him for a single moment during a single speech. Observe the naturalness of the reference to insignificant objects in stanzas one and two. In the hour of bitterest experience, every one remembers some leaf or tree or spot of sunshine that seems burnt into the mind forever. Note the speaker’s hesitation, and how in the struggle for self-control he makes seemingly careless remarks. How true to human nature! Here we have presented an instant in the life of a soul; a trying moment, when, if ever, weakness will be shown; when refuge is taken in little things to stem the tide of feeling, as the man gives up the supreme hope of his life. This is dramatic, and the disclosure of character is unconscious, spontaneous, involuntary.

Again, take as an illustration a longer monologue.

A certain young duke has been taken away by his mother to foreign parts and there educated, and has come back proud and conventional. He[Pg 108] must marry; and a beautiful woman, chosen from a convent, is elevated to his exalted sphere. But, regarded as a mere flower cut from the woods and brought to adorn his room, she is not allowed to exercise any influence over her supposed home. Desiring to revive the medieval customs, the Duke arranges a ceremonious hunt, with costumes of the period, and the Duchess is given the part of presiding at the killing of the victim. This part she refuses. As the angry Duke rides away to the hunt, he meets an old gypsy, and, to punish the Duchess, instructs this old crone to give his wife a fright, promising her money for the service. When the Duke returns, Duchess and gypsy have fled.

This is the story of “The Flight of the Duchess.” Browning chooses a family servant who was witness to the whole transaction to tell the story, when long after the event he comes in contact with a friend, a sympathetic foreigner, who will not betray him, and to whom he can safely confide the real facts.

The speaker starts out with a sudden reference to his being beckoned by the Duke to lead the gypsy back to his mistress. He describes the place, the character of the Duke,—born on the same day with himself,—

“... the pertest little ape
That ever affronted human shape;”

his education, his return, his marriage with the Duchess, and gives, not a mere story, but his own point of view, his impressions, while the complex effect of the actions and character of the Duke, the Duchess, and the rest upon himself are meanwhile suggested.

[Pg 109]Vividly he describes the first entrance of the Duchess into the old castle and her desire to transfigure it all, as was her right, into the beauty and loveliness of a home; and how she was shut up, entirely idle.

As a participant in the hunting scene, he describes the bringing out of ancestral articles of clothing, the tugging on of old jack-boots, and the putting on of discarded articles of medieval dress. What a touch regarding the experiences of the Duke’s tailor! Then follows the long study as to the rôle the Duchess should play,—she, of course, being supposed to sit idly awaiting it, whatever it might be. When, to the astonishment of the Duke, she refuses the part, his cruelty and that of his mother is shown in the fearful description of the latter’s tongue. At last they leave the Duchess alone to become aware of her sins.

What pictures does the servant paint! The old gypsy crone sidles up to the Duke as he is riding off to the hunt. He gives no response until she says she has come to pay her respects to the new Duchess. Then his face lights up, and he whispers in her ear and tells her of the fright she is to give the Duchess; and beckoning a servant,—the speaker in the monologue, sends him as her guide.

This man, as he guides the old woman toward the castle, sees her become transfigured before him. Later he, with Jacinth, his sweetheart, waits outside on the balcony until, awakened by her crooning song, he becomes aware that the gypsy is bewitching the Duchess. Yet, when his mistress issues forth, a changed woman, with transfigured face and a look of determination, he obeys her least motion, brings her palfrey, and thus aids in[Pg 110] her escape. Browning gives a characteristic final touch, and we see this man gazing into the distance and expressing his determination soon to leave all and go forth into the wide world to find the lost Duchess.

The theme of all art is to interpret impressions or to produce upon the human heart an adequate impression of events and of truth. Dramatic art has always led the other arts in its power to present the motives of different characters, show the various processes of passion passing into action, the consequences of action, or the working of the complex elements of a human character.

Professor Dowden in his recent life of Browning, in endeavoring to explain the peculiarities of Browning’s plays, makes an important point, which is still more applicable to the dramatic form which he calls “the short monodrama,” but which I call the monologue. “Dramatic, in the sense that he (Browning) created and studied minds and hearts other than his own, he pre-eminently was; if he desired to set forth or to vindicate his most intimate ideas or impulses, he effected this indirectly, by detaching them from his own personality and giving them a brain and a heart other than his own in which to live and move and have their being. There is a kind of dramatic art which we may term static, and another kind which we may term dynamic. The former deals especially with characters in position, the latter with characters in movement. Passion and thought may be exhibited and interpreted by dramatic genius of either type; to represent passion and thought and action—action incarnating and developing thought and passion—the dynamic power is required. And by action we are[Pg 111] to understand not merely a visible deed, but also a word, a feeling, an idea, which has in it a direct operative force. The dramatic genius of Browning was in the main of the static kind; it studies with extraordinary skill and subtlety character in position; it attains only an imperfect or labored success with character in movement” (“Browning,” by Edward Dowden, p. 53).

The expression “static dramatic” is more applicable to Browning’s plays, paradoxical as it may seem, than to his monologues. The monologues are full of dynamic force. Even Dowden himself speaks in another place of “Muléykeh,” and calls it “one of the most delightful of Browning’s later poems, uniting as it does the poetry of swift motion with the poetry of high-hearted passion.” Browning certainly does in many of his monologues suggest most decided action. The expression “static” must be understood as referring to the dramatic elements or manifestations of character, which result from situation and thinking rather than through action and plot.

If the scope of dramatic art be confined to a formal play with its unity of action among many characters, with its introduction, slow development, explosion, and catastrophe, then the monologue must have a very subordinate place. The dramatic element, however, is in reality much broader than this. It is not a mere invention of a poet, but the expression of a phase of life. This may be open, the result of a conflict on the street, or concealed, the result of deep emotions and motives. It may be the outward and direct effect of one human being upon another, or the result of unconscious influence.

[Pg 112]Nor is it mere external action, mere conflicts of men in opposition to each other that reveal character. Its fundamental revelations are found in thinking and feeling. Whatever method or literary form can reveal or interpret the thought, emotion, motive, or bearing of a soul in a specific situation, is dramatic. The essence of the dramatic spirit is seen when Shakespeare presents Macbeth thinking alone, after speaking to a servant:—

“Go, bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.”

While waiting for this signal that all is ready, Shakespeare uncovers the conflicts of a soul about to commit a crime. The inner excitement, the roused imagination and feeling, the chaotic whirl of thoughts and passions reveal the nature of the human conscience. What would Macbeth be to us without the soliloquies? What would the play of “Hamlet” be without the uncoverings of Hamlet’s inmost thought when alone? Nay, what is the essence of the spirit of Shakespeare, the most dramatic of all poets? Not the plots, frequently borrowed and always very simple, but the uncovering of souls. He makes men think and feel before us. The unities of time, place, and action are all transcended by a higher unity of character. It is because Shakespeare reveals the thinking and feeling heart that he is the supreme dramatic poet.

No spectacular show, no mere plot, however involved, no mere record of events, however thrilling, interprets human character. Nor does dramatic art centre in any stage or formal play, nor is the play dramatic unless it centres in thinking and reveals the attitude of the mind. The [Pg 113]dramatic element in art shows the result of soul in conflict with soul; and more than this, it implies the revelation of a soul only half conscious of its motives and the meaning of life, revealing indirectly its fiercest battles, its truest nature.




A glance over English literature shows us the fact that the monologue was no sudden invention of Browning’s, but that it has been gradually developed, and is a natural form, as natural as the play. A genuine form of poetry is never invented. It is a mode of expressing the fundamental life of man, and while authors may develop it, bring it to perfection, and make it a means for their “criticism of life,” we can always find hints of the same form in the works of other authors, nations, and ages.

If we examine the monologue carefully, comparing it with various poems, ancient and modern, we shall find that the form has been long since anticipated, and was simply carried to perfection by Browning. It is not artificial nor mechanical, but natural and necessary for the presentation of certain phases of experience.

The monologue, as has already been shown, is closely akin to the lyric; hence, among lyric poems we find in all ages some which are monologues in spirit. If criticism is to appreciate this form and its function in literary expression, and show that it is the outcome of advancement in culture and of the necessity for a broader realization of human nature, some attention should be given to its early examples.

[Pg 114]If we go no farther back than English poetry, and in this only to Sir Thomas Wyatt (b. 1503) we find that “The Lover’s Appeal” has some of the characteristics of a monologue. The words are spoken by a distinct character directly to a specific hearer.

“And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay! for shame,
To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and shame.
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!”

Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” beginning—

“Come live with me and be my love,”

also represents a lover talking to his beloved. In reading it we should picture their relations to each other. The poem may be spoilt by introducing a transcendence of the dramatic element. It is a simple lyric. The shepherd is idealized, and expresses the universal love of the human heart. Still it is not the kind of love that one would directly express to an audience. The reader will instinctively imagine his character and his hearer, and, if reading to others, will unconsciously place her a little to the side. This objective element aids lyric expression. To address it to an audience, as some public readers do, implies that the loving youth is a Mormon.

Both these poems imply two characters, one speaking, one listening, and an adequate interpretation of each poem must suggest a feeling between two human beings.

In Sir Walter Raleigh’s “Reply to Marlowe’s Shepherd,” the positions of the listener and the speaker are simply reversed.

[Pg 115]These poems are, of course, lyrics. They may be said by any lover. The emotion is everything. The situation or idea is simple. The expression of intense personal feeling predominates, and the impetuous, spontaneous movement of passion subordinates or eliminates all conception of character. Still, though primarily lyrics, in form these poems are monologues. In each there is one person directly addressing another. In the expression of these lyrics, we find the naturalness of the situation represented by a monologue.

While “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” is one of the distinctive lyrics in the language, yet the intense realization of the object loved will cause the sympathetic interpreter to turn a little away from the audience. The subjective and personal elements in the poem awaken emotion so exalted in its nature that the speaker is unconscious of all except his beloved.

Still there is a slight objective element. The words are spoken by a shepherd in love and are addressed directly, at least in imagination, to his beloved. But when not carried too far or made dramatic and other than lyric, this monologue element may be an aid, not a hindrance; it may intensify the expression of the lyric feeling.

Such poems, which are very common, may be called monologue lyrics or lyrical monologues. They show the naturalness of the form of the monologue, its unconscious use, its gradual recognition, and completion.

Forms of poetry are complemental to each other, and one who tries to be merely dramatic without appreciating the lyric spirit becomes theatric.

In rendering such lyrics, the turning aside [Pg 116]demands greater intensity of lyric feeling, otherwise it is better that they be given with simple directness to the audience.

“Why so pale and wan, fond lover?
Prythee, why so pale?
Will, if looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prythee, why so pale?

“Why so dull and mute, young sinner?
Prythee, why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
Saying nothing do’t?
Prythee, why so mute?

“Quit, quit, for shame! this will not move,
This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her:
The D—l take her!”

This poem implies a speaker who is laughing at a lover, and both speaker and listener remain distinct. Its rendering seems dramatic. Its jollity and good nature must be strongly emphasized and it must be directly addressed to the lover. It is still lyric, however, because the ideas and feelings are more pronounced than any distinct type of character, in either the speaker or the listener.

The same is true of Michael Drayton’s “Come, let us kiss and part.” This implies a situation still more dramatic. The characters of the speaker and the listener seem to be brought in immediate contact, revealing not only intense feeling, but something of their peculiarities.

“Since there’s no help, come, let us kiss and part;
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart
[Pg 117]That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows;
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.—
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.”

Burns’s “John Anderson, my Jo” has possibly more of the elements of a monologue. We must conceive the character of an old Scottish wife, enter into sympathy with her love for her “Jo,” and fully express this to him. Her love is the theme. Yet it is not the feeling of any lover, but instead, that of an aged wife, a noble, a faithful and loving character of a specific type.

Still, though the poem can be rendered dramatically, in dialect, and with the conception of a specific type of woman, the poet realized the emotion as universal, and the specific picture is furnished only as a kind of objective means of showing the nobleness of love. Some persons, in rendering it, make it so subjective that they represent the woman as talking to a mental picture of her husband, rather than to his actual presence. But it would seem that some dramatic interpretation is necessary. We do not identify ourselves completely with the thought and feeling, but rather with her situation or point of view as the source of the feeling, and certainly it may be rendered with the interest centred in her character.

Many other poems of Burns’s have a dramatic element. The failure to recognize some of his poems as monologues has possibly been the cause[Pg 118] of some of the adverse criticism upon him. He was not insincere in “Afton Water.” It is not a personal love poem. In fact, it expresses admiration for nature more than any other emotion. The Mary in this poem is an imaginary being. Dr. Currie was no doubt correct when he said the poem was written in honor of Mrs. Stewart of Stair. It may also be in honor of Highland Mary, as the poet’s brother, Gilbert, thought. The two views will not seem inconsistent to one who knows Burns’s custom in writing his poems.

Burns frequently used this indirect or dramatic method. In situations calling only for the expression of simple friendship, he adopted the manner of a lover pouring out his feelings to his beloved, and many poems which are nothing more than celebrations of friendly and kindly relations are yet conceived as uttered by a lover.

One of his last poems, written, in fact, when he was on his death-bed, was addressed to Jessie Lewars, the sister of a brother exciseman, a young girl who took care of the poet and of his sick wife and family during his last illness, and without whose kindness the dying poet would have lacked many comforts. In writing this poem, however, his manner still clung to him, and he expresses his gratitude in the tone of a lover.

“Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast
On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee:
Or did misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a’.
[Pg 119]
“Or were I in the wildest waste,
Of earth and air, of earth and air,
The desert were a paradise
If thou wert there, if thou wert there.
Or were I monarch o’ the globe,
Wi’ thee to reign, wi’ thee to reign,
The brightest jewel in my crown
Wad be my queen, wad be my queen.”

Of course, this is lyric. Though not the lover of Jessie, in imagination he became such, and hence the lover’s feeling, though the result of an imaginary situation, completely predominates. The point, however, here is that it has a monologue form, and that we make a mistake in conceiving that every poem which Burns wrote is purely personal.

The monologue situation was so intensely realized by his imagination that his poetry, while lyric in form, cannot be adequately understood unless we perceive the species of dramatic element which a true understanding of the monologue should enable us to realize.

Burns’s poems often contain dramatic elements peculiar to the monologue and must be rendered with an imaginary speaker and an imaginary listener. Little conception of character is given, and, of course, the lyric element greatly predominates over all else. Those poems in which he speaks directly out of his own heart in a purely lyric spirit, such as “Highland Mary,” are more highly prized. But if we did not constantly overlook the peculiar dramatic element in some of his other poems we should doubtless appreciate them more highly. Even “To a Mountain Daisy” and “To a Field Mouse” are monologues in form.

Coming to the consideration of more recent [Pg 120]literature, we find in lyric poems an increasing prevalence of the objective or dramatic element. Whitman’s “Oh, Captain, my Captain,” seems to be the direct unburdening of the writer’s overweighted heart. He does not materially differ in his feeling for Lincoln from his fellow-citizens, and every one, in reading the poem aloud, adopts the emotion as his own. There is certainly no dramatic emotion in the heart of the speaker in the poem. But there is a definite figurative situation and representation of the Ship of State, coming in from its long voyage,—that is, the Civil War,—and a picture of Lincoln, the captain, lying upon the deck. This objective element enables us to grasp the situation and more delicately suggests Lincoln, whose name does not occur in the poem.

It is almost impossible to separate the different forms of poetry. We can discern differences, but they are not “separable entities.” The monologue is possibly as much the outgrowth of the lyric as of the dramatic spirit. It is, in fact, a union of the two. Notice the title of some of Browning’s books: “Dramatic Idyls,” “Dramatic Lyrics,” “Dramatic Romances.”

Mr. Palgrave calls “Sally in our Alley,” by Carey, “a little masterpiece in a very difficult style; Catullus himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humor it is worthy of the ancients, and even more so from the unity and completeness of the picture presented.” He neglects, however, to add that its “unity and completeness” are due to the fact that it is in form a monologue. The person addressed is indefinitely conceived, but we can hardly imagine the poem to be a speech to a company. It must therefore be[Pg 121] imagined as spoken to some sympathetic friend. The necessity of a right conception of the person addressed was not definitely included in the monologue until Browning wrote. The character of the speaker in this poem, however, is most definitely drawn, and is the centre of interest. We must adequately conceive this before understanding the spirit of the poem. Then we shall be able to agree with what Mr. Palgrave says, not only regarding the picture presented, but the direct relationship of every figure, word, and turn of phrase as consistent with the character.


Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like pretty Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
There is no lady in the land
Is half so sweet as Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Her father he makes cabbage-nets
And through the streets does cry ’em;
Her mother she sells laces long
To such as please to buy ’em:
But sure such folks could ne’er beget
So sweet a girl as Sally!
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

When she is by, I leave my work,
I love her so sincerely;
My master comes like any Turk,
And bangs me most severely—
But let him bang his bellyful,
I’ll bear it all for Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
[Pg 122]
Of all the days that’s in the week
I dearly love but one day—
And that’s the day that comes betwixt
A Saturday and Monday;
For then I’m drest all in my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

My master carries me to church,
And often am I blamed
Because I leave him in the lurch
As soon as text is named;
I leave the church in sermon-time
And slink away to Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

When Christmas comes about again
O then I shall have money;
I’ll hoard it up, and box it all,
I’ll give it to my honey:
I would it were ten thousand pound,
I’d give it all to Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

My master and the neighbors all
Make game of me and Sally,
And, but for her, I’d better be
A slave and row a galley;
But when my seven long years are out
O then I’ll marry Sally,—
O then we’ll wed, and then we’ll bed,
But not in our alley!

All these poems show the necessity for classification as lyric monologues; that is, poems lyric in every sense of the word, which yet have a certain dramatic or objective form peculiar to the monologue to give definiteness and point.

The reader, however, must be very careful not to turn lyrics into monologues. The pure lyric[Pg 123] should be rendered subjectively, neither as dramatic, on the one hand, nor as oratoric on the other. To render a lyric as a dramatic monologue is as bad as to give it as a speech. The discussion of the peculiar differences between the lyric and the monologue, and the discrimination of lyric monologues as a special class, should suggest the great variety of lyrics and monologues, how nearly they approach and how widely they differ from each other. Whether a poem is a lyric or a monologue must be decided without regard to types or classifications, except in so far as comparison may throw light upon the general nature and spirit of the poetry. Different forms are often used to interpret each other, and the spirit of nearly all may be combined in one poem.

A peculiar type of the monologue, found occasionally in recent literature, may be called the epic monologue. Tennyson’s “Ulysses” seems at first, in form at least, a monologue. Ulysses speaks throughout in character, and addresses his companions. But we presently find that Ulysses stands for the spirit of the race. He is not an individual, but a type, as he was in Homer, though he is a different type in Tennyson; and the poem typifies the human spirit advancing from its achievements in the art and philosophy of Greece into a newer world. Western civilization is prefigured in this poem, and Ulysses meeting again the great Achilles symbolizes the spirit of mankind once more entering upon new endeavors, these being represented by Achilles. “Ulysses” is thus allegoric or epic. The monologue elements are but a part of the objective form that gives it unity and character.

The same is true of “Sir Galahad.” While Sir[Pg 124] Galahad is the speaker, and the poem is in form a monologue, yet to regard him as a mere literal character would make him appear egotistic and boastful, and this would totally pervert the poem. The knight stands for an ideal human soul. Every person identifies himself with Sir Galahad, but not in the dramatic sense. While in the form of a monologue, it is, nevertheless, allegoric or epic, and the search for the Holy Grail is given in its most suggestive and spiritual significance.

If the monologue is a true literary form, it has not been invented. If it is only a mechanism, such as the rondeau, it is unworthy of prolonged discussion; but that it is a true literary form is proven by the fact that it necessarily co-ordinates with the lyric, epic, and dramatic forms of literature. These show that it is not mechanical or isolated, but as natural as any poetic or literary form. That the monologue is fundamental, no one can doubt who has listened to a little child talking to an imaginary listener, or telephoning in imagination to Santa Claus. That the monologue can reveal profound depths of human nature, no one familiar with Browning can deny. That the form and the spirit of the monologue are almost universal, no one who has looked into English literature can fail to see. This power of the monologue to unite and enrich other phases or forms of literature proves that it is an essential dramatic form, and that its use by recent authors cannot be regarded as a mere desire to be odd.

The fact that a story is told by a single speaker does not necessarily make a poem a monologue. Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” is told by the old innkeeper, but the only indication of this[Pg 125] is in the opening clause, “Listen, my children.” There is hardly another word in the story that takes color from his individual character. The poem is simply a narrative, and the same is true of all “The Tales of a Wayside Inn.”

Mr. Chesterton calls “Muléykeh” and “Clive,” by Browning, “possibly the two best stories in poetry told in the best manner of story-telling.” Now, are these poems stories or monologues? They are both of them monologues. The chief interest is not in the events, but in the characters portrayed. Every event, every word, and every phrase has the coloring of human motives and experience.

The events of “Muléykeh” from the narrative point of view are few. Muléykeh, or Pearl, is the name of a beautiful horse belonging to Hóseyn, a poor Arab. The rich Duhl offers the price of a thousand camels for Muléykeh, but his offer is rejected. He steals Pearl by night. Hóseyn is awakened and pursues on another horse. He sees that “dog, Duhl,” does not know how to ride Muléykeh, and shouts to the fellow what to do to get better speed. The thief takes the hint, and touching the “right ear” and pressing with the foot Pearl’s “left flank,” escapes. His neighbors “jeered him” for not holding his tongue, when he might easily have had her.

“‘And beaten in speed!’ wept Hóseyn:
‘You never have loved my Pearl.’”

This poem is in the form of a story, but it is colored not only by the character of the Arab and his well-known love of a horse, but by a narrator who can reveal the character and the peculiar love of the weeping Hóseyn.

[Pg 126]Any one reading the poem aloud must feel that though Browning may have intended it as a story, he was so affected by the dramatic point of view, that it is in spirit, though not in form, essentially a monologue.

If there is any doubt about “Muléykeh,” there can be none that “Clive” is a monologue.

“Clive” may seem to some to be involved. Why did not Browning make his hero tell his own story? Because it was better to take another person, one not so strong, and thus to reveal the impressions which Clive’s deed makes upon the average man. Such a man’s quotation of Clive’s words can be made more exciting and dramatic in its expression.

It is difficult at times to decide whether a story is a monologue or a mere narrative. But, in general, when a story receives a distinct coloring from a peculiar type of character, even though in the form of a narrative, it may be given with advantage as a monologue. Its general spirit is best interpreted by this conception.

“Hervé Riel,” for example, seems at first a mere story, but it has a certain spirited and dramatic movement, and though there is no hint of who the speaker is, it yet possesses the unity of conversation and of the utterance of some specific admirer of “Hervé Riel.” This may be Browning himself. He wrote the poem and gave it to a magazine,—a rare thing with Browning,—and sent the proceeds to the sufferers in the French Commune; hence, its French subject and its French spirit. The narrator appears to be a Frenchman; at least he is permeated with admiration for the noble qualities in the French character at a time when part of the world was criticizing France, if not sneering at it on[Pg 127] account of the victory of the Germans and the chaos of the Commune.

One who compares its rendition as an impersonal story with a rendering when conceived by a definite character, by one who realizes the greatness of the forgotten hero of France, will perceive at once the spirit and importance of the monologue.

One must look below mere phrases or verbal forms to understand the nature or spirit of the monologue. The monologue is primarily dramatic, and the word “dramatic” need hardly be added to it any more than to a play, because the idea is implied.

Whatever may be said regarding the monologue, certainly the number has constantly increased of those who appreciate the importance of this form in art, which, if Browning did not discover, he extended and elevated.

We can hardly open a book of modern poetry which is not full of monologues. Kipling’s “Barrack-Room Ballads” are all monologues. There is a rollicking, grotesque humor in “Fuzzy-Wuzzy” that makes it at first resemble a ballad, as it is called by the author, but it interests because of its truthful portrayal of the character of a generous soldier. Kipling is dramatic in every fibre. He even portrays the characters of animals, and certain of his animal stories are practically monologues. What a conception of the camel is awakened by “Oonts!” “Rikki-tikki-tavi” awakens a feeling of sympathy for the little mongoose. In his portrayal of animals, Kipling even reproduces the rhythm of their movements. The very words they are supposed to utter are given in the character of the army mule, the army bullock, and the elephants.

[Pg 128]All Kipling’s sketches and so-called ditties, or “Barrack-Room Ballads,” are practically dramatic monologues. To render vocally or even to understand Kipling requires some appreciation of the peculiarities of the monologue. The Duke of Connaught asked Kipling what he would like to do. The author replied, “I should like to live with the army on the frontier and write up Tommy Atkins.” Monologue after monologue has appeared with Tommy Atkins as a character type. The monologue was almost the only form of art possible for “ballads” or “ditties” or studies of unique types of character in such situations.

All poetry, according to Aristotle, expresses the universal element in human nature. Lyric, epic, and dramatic writing alike must become poetic by such an intense realization of an idea, situation, or character that the soul is lifted into a realization of the emotions of the race. Some forget this in studying the differences between lyric and dramatic poetry. It is not the lyric alone that idealizes human experience and universalizes emotion.

The study of Kipling’s “Mandalay” especially illustrates the differences between the lyric and the dramatic spirit, and their necessary union in the portrayal of human experience. This is both a lyric and a monologue. It has a dramatic character. A British soldier in a specific place, London, is talking to some one who can appreciate his feeling, and every word is true to the character speaking and to the situation. But this dramatic element does not interfere with, but on the contrary aids, the realization and expression of a profoundly lyric feeling and spirit. The soldier reveals his love,—love deeper than racial prejudices,—and[Pg 129] though “there aren’t no Ten Commandments” in the land of his beloved, he feels the universal emotion in the human heart, a profound love that is superior to any national bound or racial limit. In the poem this love dominates everything,—the rhythm, the color of the voice. He even turns from his hearer, and sees far away the vision of the old Moulmein Pagoda, and the suddenness of the dawn, coming up

“... like thunder outer China ’crost the Bay!”

The fact that poetry expresses the “universal element in human nature” is true not only of lyric poetry, but also of dramatic poetry; and in the noblest exaltation of emotion, lyric, dramatic, and epic elements coalesce.

It is the affinity of the monologue with lyric and epic poetry that proves its own specific character. The fact that there can be a lyric, epic, and narrative monologue, proves its naturalness.

Many of America’s most popular writers have adopted the monologue as their chief mode of expression. James Whitcomb Riley’s sketches in the Hoosier dialect present the Hoosier point of view with a homely and sympathetic character as speaker. Even his dialect is but an aspect of the types of character conceived. The centre of interest is not always in the emotion or the ideas, but in the type of person that is the subject of a monologue.

The same is true of the poems by the late Dr. Drummond of Montreal.

The peculiar French-Canadian dialect was never so well portrayed; but this is only accidental. The chief interest lies in his creation or realization of[Pg 130] types of character. The artistic form is the monologue, however conscious or unconscious may have been the author’s adoption of the form.

A recent popular book, “The Second Mrs. Jim,” uses a series of monologues as the means of interpreting a new kind of heroine, the mother-in-law. The centre of interest being in this character, the author adopted a series of eight monologues with the same listener, a friend to whom Mrs. Jim unfolds her inmost heart. With this person she can “come and talk without its bein’ spread all over the township.” She remarks once that she took something she wanted to be told to a neighbor who was a “good spreader, just as you’re the other kind.”

All the conditions of the monologue are complied with; the situation changes, sometimes being in Mrs. Jim’s house, but four or five times in that of her friend. Speaker and listener are always the same. The author wishes to centre attention upon the character of the speaker, her common-sense, her insight into human nature, her skill in managing Jim, and especially the boys; hence a listener is chosen who will be discreet and say but little, and who is in full sympathy with the speaker. There is little if any plot; but while Mrs. Jim narrates what has happened in the meantime, it is her character, her insight, her humor, her point of view and mode of expression, in which the chief interest centres. This book might be called a narrative monologue, but the narrative is of secondary importance; the centre of interest lies in the portrayal of a character.

The use of the monologue as a literary form has grown every year, and no reason can be seen why[Pg 131] its adoption or application may not go on increasing until it becomes as truly a recognized literary form as the play. The varieties that can be found from the epic monologue “Ulysses” of Tennyson to such a popular poem as “Griggsby’s Station” by James Whitcomb Riley, indicate the uses to which the monologue can be turned and its importance as a form of poetry.

The fact that we meet a number of monologues before Browning’s time shows the naturalness and the necessity of this dramatic form; yet it is only in Browning that the monologue becomes profoundly significant. Browning remains the supreme master of the monologue. Here we find the deepest interpretation of the problems of existence, and the expression of the depths of human character. So strongly did this form fit his great personality and conception of art that his plays cannot compare with his monologues. It was by means of the monologue that he made his deepest revelations. It is safe to say that, without his adoption of the monologue, the best of his poetry would never have been written; and where else in literature can we find such interpretation of hypocrisy? Where else can we find a more adequate suggestion of the true nature of human love, especially the interpretation of the love of a true man, except in Browning? Who can thoroughly comprehend the spirit of the middle part of the nineteenth century, and get a key to the later spiritual unfolding, without studying this great poet’s interpretation of the burden of his time?

Who can contemplate, even for a few moments, some good example of this dramatic form, especially one of Browning’s great monologues, and[Pg 132] not feel that this overlooked form is capable of revealing and interpreting phases of character which cannot be interpreted even by the play or the novel?

One form of art should never be compared with another. No form of art can ever be substituted for the play in revealing human action and motive, or even for the novel, with its deep and suggestive interpretation of human life. While the monologue will never displace any other form of art, the fact that it can interpret phases of human life and character which no other mode of art can express, proves it to be a distinct form and worthy of critical investigation. Its recognition constitutes one of the phases of the development of art in the nineteenth century, and it is safe to say that it will remain and occupy a permanent place as a literary form. We must not, however, exaggerate its importance on the one hand, nor on the other too readily pronounce it to be a mere incident and passing oddity. Its instinctive employment by leading authors, those with a message and philosophy of life, proves that its true nature and possibilities deserve study.



[Pg 133]





The monologue, in common with all forms of literature, but especially with the drama, implies something more than words,—only its verbal shell can be printed. As the expression of a living character, it necessarily requires the natural signs of feeling, the modulations of the voice, and the actions of the body.

After all questions regarding speaker, hearer, person spoken of, place, connection, subject, and meaning have been settled, the real problem of interpretation begins. The result of the reader’s study of these questions must be revealed in the first word or phrase he utters as speaker. Since the poem may be unknown to his auditors, each point must be made clear to them, each question answered, by the suggestive modulations of his voice and the expressive action of his body.

This is the real problem of the dramatic artist, and without its solution he can give no interpretation. The long meditation over a monologue, the serious questionings and comparisons, are not enough. He must have a complete comprehension of all the points enumerated,—but this is only the beginning. He must next discover the bearings of the supposed speaker, the attitude of his mind, his feelings and motives.

[Pg 134]To do this, the reader must carefully study those things which the writer could only suggest or imply in words. The poem must be re-created in his imagination. His feeling must be more awake, if possible, than that of the author.

In one sense, the terms “vocal expression” and “vocal interpretation of literature,” are a misuse of words. The histrionic presentation of a play is not, strictly speaking, a vocal interpretation, nor an interpretation by action. Vocal modulations, motions, and attitudes, the movements of living men and women, are all implied in the very conception of a drama. The voice and action are only the completion of the play.

The same is true of the monologue. The rendering of it is not an adjunctive performance, not a mere extraneous decoration. It is more than a personal comment; to render a monologue is to make it complete. “Words,” said Emerson, “are fossilized poetry.” If a monologue is fossilized poetry, its true rendering should restore the original being to life. The written or printed monologue is like an empty garment, to be understood only as it is worn. A living man inside the garment will show the adaptation of all its parts at once.

The presentation of a play or of a monologue is its fulfilment, its completion, expressing more fully the conceptions which were in the mind of the writer himself, though with the individuality and the true personal realization of another artist. No two Hamlets have ever been alike, nor ever can be alike, unless one of the two is an imitation of the other. Dramatic art implies two artists,—the writer, who gives broad outlines and suggestions; and the living, sympathetic dramatic interpreter,[Pg 135] who realizes and completes the creation. The author creates a poem and puts it into words, and the vocal interpreter then gives it life.

A true vocal interpretation of the monologue, as of the play, does not require the changing of one word or syllable used by the author. It is the supplying of the living languages.

Words and actions are complemental languages. Verbal expression is more or less intellectual. It can be recorded. It names ideas and pictures. It is composed of conventional symbols, and only when the words are understood by another mind can it suggest a true sequence of ideas and events. Vocal expression, however, shows the attitude of the mind of the man towards these ideas. Words are objective symbols of ideas. The modulations of the voice reveal the process of thinking and feeling. The word, then, in all cases, implies the living voice. It is but an external form: the voice reveals the life. Action shows, possibly, even more than tones do, the character of the man, his relations, his “bearings,” his impressions or points of view.

These three languages are, accordingly, living witnesses. One of them is not complete, strictly speaking, without the others, and the artistic rendering of a monologue is simply taking the objective third which the author gives, and which can be printed, and supplying the subjective two-thirds which the imagination of the reader must create and realize from the author’s suggestion.

All printed language is but a part of one of these three languages, which belong together in an organic unity. In the very nature of the case, the better the writing, the greater the suggestion of[Pg 136] the modulations of voice and body. The highest literature is that which suggests life itself, and a living man has a beaming eye, a smiling face, a moving body, and a voice that modulates with every change in idea and feeling. No process has ever been able to record the complexity of these natural languages. Their co-ordination depends upon dramatic instinct.

As the play always implies dramatic action, as the mind must picture a real scene and the characters must move and speak as animated beings before there can be the least appreciation of its nature as a play, so the monologue also implies and suggests a real scene or moment of human life.

The monologue is an artistic whole, and must be understood as a whole. Each part must be felt to be like the limb of a tree, a part of an organism. As each leaf on the tree quivers with the life hidden in trunk and root, so each word of the monologue must vibrate with the thought and feeling of the whole.

Hence, the interpreter of the monologue must command all the natural, expressive modulations of voice and body. He must have imagination and insight into human motives, and his voice and body must respond to this insight and understanding. He must know the language of pause, of touch, of change of pitch, of inflection, of the modulation of resonance, of changes in movement. He must realize, consciously or subconsciously, the importance of a look, of a turn of the head, of a smile, of a transition of the body, of a motion of the hand; in brief, throughout all the complex parts constituting the bodily organism he should be master of natural action, which appeals directly to the eye and precedes all speech.

[Pg 137]Every inflection must be natural; every variation of pitch must be spontaneous; every emotion must modulate the color of the voice; every attitude of the interpreter must be simple and sustained. He must have what is known as the “mercurial temperament” to assume every point of view and assimilate every feeling.

The first great law of art is consistency, hence all the parts of a higher work of art must inhere, as do all parts of a plant or flower; but this unity and consistency should not be mechanical or artificial. Delivery can never be built; it must grow. True expression must be spontaneous and free. One must enjoy a monologue; one must live it. Every act or inflection must suggest a dozen others that might be given. The fulness of the life within, in thinking and feeling, must be delicately suggested. The most important point to be considered is a suggestion of the reality of life and the intensity of feeling. The interpreter must study nature. He must speak as the bird sings, not mechanically, but out of a full heart, yet not chaotically or from random impulses. All his movements must come, like the blooming of the rose, from within outward; but this can only result from meditation and command of mind, body, and voice. “Everything in nature,” said Carlyle, “has an index finger pointing to something beyond it”; so every phrase, every word, action, or pause, every voice modulation, must have a relation to every other modulation.

In the art of interpreting the monologue, which is a different art from the writing of one, all must be as much like nature as possible. Yet this likeness is secured, not by imitation or by reproducing[Pg 138] external experiences, but by sympathetic identification and imaginative realization.

Every art has a technique. The modulations of the voice and the actions of the body must be directly studied, or there can be no naturalness. Meaningless movements and modulations lead to mannerisms. The reader must know the value of every action of voice or body, and so master them that he can bring them all into a kind of subconscious unity for the expression of the living realization of a thought or situation.

The interpreter must use no artificial methods, but must study the fundamental principles of the expressive modulations of voice and body and supplement these by a sympathetic observation of nature.

The questions to be settled by the reader have been shown by the analysis of the structure of the monologue. He must first consider the character which he is to impersonate, and his conception of it must be definite and clear as that of any actor in a play. In one sense, conception of character is more important in the monologue than in the play, on account of the fact that the speaker stands alone, and the monologue is only one end of a conversation. In a play the actor is always associated with others; has some peculiarity of dress; has freedom of movement, and his character is shown by others. He is only one of many persons in a moving scene, and often fills a subordinate place. But in the monologue, the interpreter is never subordinate, and has few accessories, or none. He must not only reveal the character that is speaking, but also indicate the character of the supposed listener. He must suggest by simple sounds and movements, not[Pg 139] by make-up or artificial properties. Thus the interpretation of a monologue is more difficult than that of a play. The actor has long periods of listening when another is speaking, so that he has better opportunities to show the impression produced upon him by each idea. The interpreter of a monologue must often show that he, too, is listening, and express the impression received from another.

To illustrate the necessity of the vocal rendering of a monologue and the peculiar character of the interpretation needed, take one of the simplest examples, a humorous monologue of Douglas Jerrold’s, one of “Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures.”

Take, for example, the lecture she gives after Mr. Caudle has lent an umbrella:


Bah! That’s the third umbrella gone since Christmas. “What were you to do?” Why, let him go home in the rain, to be sure. I’m very certain there was nothing about him that could spoil. Take cold, indeed! He doesn’t look like one of the sort to take cold. Besides, he’d have better taken cold than taken our only umbrella. Do you hear the rain, Mr. Caudle? I say, do you hear the rain? And as I’m alive, if it isn’t St. Swithin’s day! Do you hear it against the windows? Nonsense; you don’t impose upon me. You can’t be asleep with such a shower as that! Do you hear it, I say? Oh, you do hear it! Well, that’s a pretty flood, I think, to last for six weeks; and no stirring all the time out of the house. Pooh! don’t think me a fool, Mr. Caudle. Don’t insult me. He return the umbrella! Anybody would think you were born yesterday. As if anybody ever did return an umbrella! There—do you hear it! Worse and worse! Cats and dogs, and for six weeks, always six weeks. And no umbrella!

I should like to know how the children are to go to school to-morrow? They shan’t go through such weather, I’m determined. [Pg 140]No; they shall stop at home and never learn anything—the blessed creatures!—sooner than go and get wet. And when they grow up, I wonder who they’ll have to thank for knowing nothing—who, indeed, but their father? People who can’t feel for their own children ought never to be fathers.

But I know why you lent the umbrella. Oh, yes, I know very well. I was going out to tea at dear mother’s to-morrow—you knew that; and you did it on purpose. Don’t tell me; you hate me to go there, and take every mean advantage to hinder me. But don’t you think it, Mr. Caudle. No, sir; if it comes down in buckets-full, I’ll go all the more. No; and I won’t have a cab. Where do you think the money’s to come from? You’ve got nice high notions at that club of yours. A cab, indeed! Cost me sixteenpence at least—sixteenpence, two-and-eight-pence, for there’s back again. Cabs, indeed! I should like to know who’s to pay for ’em; I can’t pay for ’em, and I’m sure you can’t, if you go on as you do; throwing away your property, and beggaring your children—buying umbrellas!

Do you hear the rain, Mr. Caudle? I say, do you hear it? But I don’t care—I’ll go to mother’s to-morrow; I will; and what’s more, I’ll walk every step of the way,—and you know that will give me my death. Don’t call me a foolish woman, it’s you that’s the foolish man. You know I can’t wear clogs; and with no umbrella, the wet’s sure to give me a cold—it always does. But what do you care for that? Nothing at all. I may be laid up, for what you care, as I daresay I shall—and a pretty doctor’s bill there’ll be. I hope there will! I shouldn’t wonder if I caught my death; yes: and that’s what you lent the umbrella for. Of course!...

Men, indeed!—call themselves lords of the creation!—pretty lords, when they can’t even take care of an umbrella!

I know that walk to-morrow will be the death of me. But that’s what you want—then you may go to your club and do as you like—and then, nicely my poor dear children will be used—but then, sir, you’ll be happy. Oh, don’t tell me! I know you will. Else you’d never have lent the umbrella!...

The children, too! Dear things! They’ll be sopping wet; for they shan’t stop at home—they shan’t lose their learning; it’s all their father will leave ’em, I’m sure. But they shall go to school. Don’t tell me I said they shouldn’t: you are so aggravating, Caudle; you’d spoil the temper of an angel. They shall go to school; mark that. And if they get their deaths of cold, it’s not my fault—I didn’t lend the umbrella.

[Pg 141]The peculiar character of Mrs. Caudle must be definitely conceived, and the interpreter must express her feelings and reveal with great emphasis the impressions produced upon her, for these are the very soul of the rendering. The sudden awakening of ideas in her mind, or the way she receives an impression, must be definitely shown, for such manifestations are the chief characteristics of a monologue. Such mental action is the one element that makes the delivery of a monologue differ from that of other forms of literature.

The fact that one end of the conversation is omitted, or only echoed, concentrates our attention upon the workings of Mrs. Caudle’s mind. The interpreter must vividly portray the arrival of every idea, the horrors with which she contemplates every successive conjecture.

The reader must express Mrs. Caudle’s astonishment after she has found out Mr. Caudle’s offence. “‘What were you to do?’” is no doubt an echo of the question made by Mr. Caudle. Sarcastic surprise possesses her at the very thought of his asking such a question. “Let him go home in the rain, to be sure,” is given with positiveness, as if it settled the whole matter. “Take cold, indeed!” is also, no doubt, a sarcastic echo of Mr. Caudle’s words. The abrupt explosion and extreme change from the preceding indicates clearly her repetition of Mr. Caudle’s words. The pun: “He’d have better taken cold than taken our umbrella,” may sound like a jest, but with Mrs. Caudle it is too sarcastic for a smile.

Mrs. Caudle must “hear the rain” and appear startled. The thought of the following day causes sudden and extreme change of feeling, face, and[Pg 142] voice. Her wrath is aroused to a high pitch when Caudle snores or gives some evidence that he is asleep, and she is most abrupt and bitter in: “Nonsense; you don’t impose upon me; you can’t be asleep with such a shower as that.” She repeats her question with emphasis. Then there must have been some groan or assent from poor Caudle, which is shown by a change of pitch and a sarcastic acceptance of his answer, “Oh, you do hear it!” Presently, Mr. Caudle causes another explosion by evidently suggesting that the borrower would return the umbrella, “as if anybody ever did return an umbrella!”

A dramatic imagination can easily realize the continuity of thought in Mrs. Caudle’s mind, her expression of profound grief over the poor children, the sudden thought of “poor mother” that awakens in her the reason for his doing the terrible deed, and her self-pity. Every change must be expressed decidedly, to show the working of her mind.

Such a monologue is decidedly dramatic, and to interpret it requires vivid imagination, quick perceptions, a realization of the relation of a specific type of character to a distinct situation and the interaction of situation and character upon each other. The interpreter must have a very flexible voice and responsive body. He must have command of the technique of expression and be able to suggest depth of meaning.

It is easy enough to study a monologue superficially, and find its meaning for ourselves in a vague way, sufficient to satisfy us for the moment, but there is necessity for more study when we attempt to make the monologue clear and forcible to others.

[Pg 143]The interpreter will discover, when he tries to read the monologue aloud, that his subjective studies were crude and inconclusive. He will find difficulties in most unexpected places; but as he contemplates the work with dramatic instinct, or imaginative and sympathetic attention to each point, new light will dawn upon him. There is need always for great power of accentuation. Discoveries should be sudden, and the connections vigorously sustained. The modulations of the voice must often be extreme, while yet suggesting the utmost naturalness.

The length and abruptness of the inflections must change very suddenly. There must be breaks in the thought, with a startled discovery of many points, and extreme changes in pitch to show these. Some parts should go very slowly, while others should have great quickness of movement.

Any serious monologue will serve to illustrate the necessity of vocal expression for its interpretation. Take, for example, Browning’s “Tray,” and express the strong contrasts by the voice.


Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst
Of soul, ye bards!
Quoth Bard the first:
“Sir Olaf, the good knight, did don
His helm and eke his habergeon ...”
Sir Olaf and his bard.—!

“That sin-scathed brow” (quoth Bard the second),
“That eye wide ope as though Fate beckoned
My hero to some steep, beneath
Which precipice smiled tempting Death....”
You too without your host have reckoned!
[Pg 144]
“A beggar-child” (let’s hear this third!)
“Sat on a quay’s edge: like a bird
Sang to herself at careless play,
And fell into the stream. ‘Dismay!
Help, you the stander-by!’ None stirred.

“Bystanders reason, think of wives
And children ere they risk their lives.
Over the balustrade has bounced
A mere instinctive dog, and pounced
Plumb on his prize. ‘How well he dives!

“‘Up he comes with the child, see, tight
In mouth, alive too, clutched from quite
A depth of ten feet—twelve, I bet!
Good dog! What, off again? There’s yet
Another child to save? All right!

“‘How strange we saw no other fall!
It’s instinct in the animal.
Good dog! But he’s a long while under:
If he got drowned I should not wonder—
Strong current, that against the wall!

“‘Here he comes, holds in mouth this time
—What may the thing be? Well, that’s prime!
Now, did you ever? Reason reigns
In man alone, since all Tray’s pains
Have fished—the child’s doll from the slime!’

“And so, amid the laughter gay,
Trotted my hero off,—old Tray,—
Till somebody, prerogatived
With reason, reasoned: ‘Why he dived,
His brain would show us, I should say.

“‘John, go and catch—or, if needs be,
Purchase that animal for me!
By vivisection, at expense
Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence,
How brain secretes dog’s soul, we’ll see!’”

This short poem well illustrates Browning’s peculiar spirit and earnestness, and also the strong hold[Pg 145] which his chosen dramatic form had upon him. It was written as a protest against vivisection. Browning represents the speaker as one seeking for an expression among the poets of the true heroic spirit. “Bard the first” opens with the traditions and spirit of knighthood, but the speaker interrupts him suddenly in the midst of his first sentence, implying by his tone of disgust that such views of heroism are out of date.

The second bard begins in the spirit of a later age,

“‘That sin-scathed brow ...
That eye wide ope, ...’”

and starts to portray a hero facing death on some precipice, but the speaker again interrupts. He is equally dissatisfied with this type of hero found in the pages of Byron or Bret Harte.

When the third begins—“A beggar child,”—the speaker indicates a sudden interest, “let’s hear this third!” The speech of the third bard must be given with greater interest and simplicity, and in accordance with the spirit of the age,—the change from the extravagant to the perfectly simple and true, from the giant in his mail, or the desperado, to just a little child and a dog.

Approval and tenderness should be shown by the modulations of the voice. Long, abrupt inflections express the excitement resulting from the discovery that the child has fallen into the stream, “Dismay! Help.” Then observe the sarcastic reference to human selfishness, and, in tender contrast to the action of the bystanders, old Tray is introduced, followed by the remarks of the on-lookers and their patronizing description of the dog’s conduct. Notice that the quotation is long, and that the point[Pg 146] of view of the careless bystanders is preserved. The spirit of these bystanders is given in their own words until they laugh at old Tray’s pains and blind instinct in fishing up the child’s doll from the stream. Now follows the real spirit of bard the third, who portrays the sympathetic admiration for the dog.

“‘And so, amid the laughter gay,’”

requires a sudden change of key and tone-color to express the intensity of feeling and the general appreciation of the mystery of “a mere instinctive dog.”

The poem closes with an example of the cold, analytic spirit of the age, that hopes to settle the deepest problems merely by experiment.

“‘By vivisection, at expense,
Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence,
How brain secretes dog’s soul, we’ll see!’”

The student will soon discover that the monologue is not only a new literary or poetic form, but that it demands a new histrionic method of representation.

The monologue should be taken seriously. It is not an accidental form, the odd freak of some peculiar writer. Browning has said that he never intended his poetry to be a substitute for an after-dinner cigar. A similar statement is true of all great monologues. A few so-called monologues on a low plane can be understood and rendered by any one. Every form of dramatic art has its caricature and perversion. Burlesque seems necessary as a caricature of all forms of dramatic art and so there are burlesques of monologues. These, however, must not blind the eyes to the existence of[Pg 147] monologues on the highest plane. Many monologues, though short and seemingly simple, probe the profoundest depths of the human soul. Such require patient study; imagination, sympathetic insight, and passion are all necessary in their interpretation.




The complex and difficult language of vocal expression cannot, of course, be explained in such a book as this, but there are a few points which are of especial moment in considering the monologue.

All vocal expression is the revelation of the processes of thinking or the elemental actions of the mind. The meaning of the expressive modulations of the voice must be gained from a study of the actions of the mind and their expression in common conversation. While words are conventional symbols, modulations of the voice are natural signs, which accompany the pronunciation of words, and are necessary elements of natural speech.

Such expressive modulations of the voice as inflections are developed in the child before words. Hence, vocal expression can never be acquired from mechanical rules or by imitation. As the monologue reveals primarily the thinking and feeling of a living character, it affords a very important means of studying vocal expression.

In all dramatic work there is a temptation to assume merely outward bearings and characteristics, attitudes, and tones without making the character think. The monologue is a direct revelation of the mind and can be interpreted only by naturally expressing the thought.

[Pg 148]The interpreter of the monologue must reveal the point of view of his character, and must show the awakening or arrival of every idea. All changes in point of view, the simplest transitions in feeling and impressions produced by an idea, must be suggested. The mental life, in short, must be genuinely and definitely revealed by the actions of voice and body.

The first sign or expression of life is rhythm. All life begins and ends in rhythm, and accordingly, rhythm is the basis of all naturalness. In vocal expression the rhythmic process of thinking, the successive focussing and leaping of the mind from idea to idea, must be revealed by the rhythmic alternation in speech of pause and touch.

Without these, genuine thinking cannot be expressed in speaking. The pause indicates the stay of attention; the touch locates or affirms the centre of concentration. The mind receives an impression in silence, and speech follows as a natural result.

The interpretation of a poem or any work of literature demands an intensifying of the processes of thinking, and the pause and touch constitute the language by which this increase of thinking is expressed. A language is always necessary to the completion or, at least, to the accentuation of, any mental action. The impression received from each successive idea must be so vivid as to dominate the rhythm of breathing, and the expansion and other actions of the body.

The progressive movement of mind from idea to idea implies consequent variation and discrimination more or less vigorous. This is revealed by change of pitch in passing from idea to idea or phrase to phrase, and the extent of this variation is[Pg 149] due, as a rule, to the degree of discrimination in thinking.

In the employment of these three modulations, pause, touch, and change of pitch, each implies the others. The degree of change in pitch and the vigor of touch justify the length of pause. Lengthening the pause without increasing the touch suggests tameness, sluggishness, or dullness of thought.

Notice the long pauses, the intense strokes of the voice, and the decided changes of pitch harmoniously accentuated, which are employed to indicate the depth of passion in rendering “In a Year” (p. 201). Pauses are of special importance in a monologue. This woman shows by long pauses and abrupt changes her struggle to comprehend the real meaning of the coldness of the man whom she loves,—to whom she has given all. The touch and the changes of pitch show the abruptness and the intensity of her passion.

The careful student will further perceive an inflection in conversation, or change of pitch, during the utterance of the central vowel of each word, and a longer inflection in the word standing for a central idea. Inflections show the relations of ideas to each other, the logical method, the relative value of centres of attention, and the like. Marked changes of topics, for example, will be indicated by a long inflection upon the key-word.

In rendering Browning’s “One Way of Love,” the word “rose” in the first line is given saliency. It is the centre of his first effort. Note the long pause followed by decided rising inflections on the words:

“She will not turn aside?...”

[Pg 150]succeeded by a pause with a firm fall,—

Let them lie....”

In the second stanza, note the falling inflection upon “lute,” which introduces a new theme, a new endeavor to win her love. Then follows another disappointment with suspensive or rising inflections denoting surprise with agitation, and then new realization


All June I bound the rose in sheaves.
Now, rose by rose, I strip the leaves
And strow them where Pauline may pass.
She will not turn aside? Alas!
Let them lie. Suppose they die?
The chance was they might take her eye.

How many a month I strove to suit
These stubborn fingers to the lute!
To-day I venture all I know.
She will not hear my music? So!
Break the string; fold music’s wing:
Suppose Pauline had bade me sing!

My whole life long I learn’d to love.
This hour my utmost art I prove
And speak my passion—heaven or hell?
She will not give me heaven? ’Tis well!
Lose who may—I still can say,
Those who win heaven, bless’d are they!

of failure with a falling inflection indicating submission. The same is true of the word “love” in the last stanza which brings one to the climax of the poem. This has a long, firm falling inflection. Note the suspensive intense rise upon “heaven” and the falling on “hell.” The question:

“She will not give me heaven?...”

[Pg 151]reiterates the earlier questions, only with greater grief and intensity. The character of his “love,” which a poor reader may slight, neglect, or wholly pervert, must suggest the nobility of the man, and the last words must reveal his intensity, tenderness, and, especially, his self-control and hopeful dignity.

Note in Browning’s “Confessions” (p. 7) that the rising inflections on the first words indicate doubt or uncertainty, and seem to say, “Did I hear aright?” But the firm falling inflection in the answer,

“Ah, reverend sir, not I!”

indicates that the speaker has settled the doubt and now expresses his protest against such a view of life. The inflections after this become more colloquial.

There is, however, still a suggestion of earnestness as the description continues until at the last a decided inflection on the word “sweet” expresses his real conviction. Though life may appear but vanity to his listener, such is not his experience. The modulations of the voice in speaking “sad and bad and mad” can show that they embody his hearers’ opinions and convictions, not his own, and “it was sweet!” can be given to show that they are his own.

Inflection, especially in union with pause, serves an important function in indicating the saliency of specific ideas or words. Note, for example, in Browning’s “The Italian in England” that in the phrase “That second time they hunted me,” there is a specific emphasis on “second.” This word shows that he is talking of his many trials when in Italy and the narrowness of his escape, while also indicating some other time when he was hunted by[Pg 152] the Austrians. This sentence, and especially this word “second,” should be given the pointedness of conversation, and then will naturally follow the account of his escape.

In this poem, Browning suggests what difficulties were encountered by the Italian patriots who labored to free their country from Austrian rule. It is a strange and unique story told in London to some one who is planning with the speaker for Italian liberty.


That second time they hunted me
From hill to plain, from shore to sea,
And Austria, hounding far and wide
Her blood-hounds thro’ the country-side,
Breathed hot an instant on my trace,—
I made, six days, a hiding-place
Of that dry green old aqueduct
Where I and Charles, when boys, have plucked
The fire-flies from the roof above,
Bright creeping thro’ the moss they love:
—How long it seems since Charles was lost!
Six days the soldiers crossed and crossed
The country in my very sight;
And when that peril ceased at night,
The sky broke out in red dismay
With signal-fires. Well, there I lay
Close covered o’er in my recess,
Up to the neck in ferns and cress,
Thinking on Metternich our friend,
And Charles’s miserable end,
And much beside, two days; the third,
Hunger o’ercame me when I heard
The peasants from the village go
To work among the maize; you know,
With us in Lombardy, they bring
Provisions packed on mules, a string
With little bells that cheer their task,
[Pg 153]And casks, and boughs on every cask
To keep the sun’s heat from the wine;
These I let pass in jingling line,
And, close on them, dear, noisy crew,
The peasants from the village, too;
For at the very rear would troop
Their wives and sisters in a group
To help, I knew. When these had passed,
I threw my glove to strike the last,
Taking the chance: she did not start,
Much less cry out, but stooped apart,
One instant rapidly glanced round,
And saw me beckon from the ground.
A wild bush grows and hides my crypt;
She picked my glove up while she stripped
A branch off, then rejoined the rest
With that; my glove lay in her breast.
Then I drew breath; they disappeared:
It was for Italy I feared.

An hour, and she returned alone
Exactly where my glove was thrown.
Meanwhile came many thoughts: on me
Rested the hopes of Italy.
I had devised a certain tale
Which, when ’twas told her, could not fail
Persuade a peasant of its truth;
I meant to call a freak of youth
This hiding, and give hopes of pay,
And no temptation to betray.
But when I saw that woman’s face,
Its calm simplicity of grace,
Our Italy’s own attitude
In which she walked thus far, and stood,
Planting each naked foot so firm,
To crush the snake and spare the worm—
At first sight of her eyes, I said,
“I am that man upon whose head
They fix the price, because I hate
The Austrians over us; the State
Will give you gold—oh, gold so much!—
If you betray me to their clutch,
[Pg 154]And be your death, for aught I know,
If once they find you saved their foe.
Now, you must bring me food and drink,
And also paper, pen and ink,
And carry safe what I shall write
To Padua, which you’ll reach at night
Before the duomo shuts; go in,
And wait till Tenebræ begin;
Walk to the third confessional,
Between the pillar and the wall,
And kneeling whisper, ‘Whence comes peace?
Say it a second time, then cease;
And if the voice inside returns,
From Christ and Freedom; what concerns
The cause of Peace?
’ for answer, slip
My letter where you placed your lip;
Then come back happy we have done
Our mother service—I, the son,
As you the daughter of our land!”

Three mornings more, she took her stand
In the same place, with the same eyes:
I was no surer of sun-rise
Than of her coming. We conferred
Of her own prospects, and I heard
She had a lover—stout and tall,
She said—then let her eyelids fall,
“He could do much”—as if some doubt
Entered her heart,—then, passing out,
“She could not speak for others, who
Had other thoughts; herself she knew:”
And so she brought me drink and food.
After four days, the scouts pursued
Another path; at last arrived
The help my Paduan friends contrived
To furnish me: she brought the news.
For the first time I could not choose
But kiss her hand, and lay my own
Upon her head—“This faith was shown
To Italy, our mother, she
Uses my hand and blesses thee.”
She followed down to the sea-shore;
I left and never saw her more.
[Pg 155]
How very long since I have thought
Concerning—much less wished for—aught
Beside the good of Italy.
For which I live and mean to die!
I never was in love; and since
Charles proved false, what shall now convince
My inmost heart I have a friend?
However, if I pleased to spend
Real wishes on myself—say, three—
I know at least what one should be
I would grasp Metternich until
I felt his red wet throat distil
In blood thro’ these two hands. And next,
—Nor much for that am I perplexed—
Charles, perjured traitor, for his part,
Should die slow of a broken heart
Under his new employers. Last
—Ah, there, what should I wish? For fast
Do I grow old and out of strength.
If I resolved to seek at length
My father’s house again, how scared
They all would look, and unprepared!
My brothers live in Austria’s pay
—Disowned me long ago, men say;
And all my early mates who used
To praise me so—perhaps induced
More than one early step of mine—
Are turning wise: while some opine
“Freedom grows license,” some suspect
“Haste breeds delay,” and recollect
They always said, such premature
Beginnings never could endure!
So, with a sullen “All’s for best,”
The land seems settling to its rest.
I think then, I should wish to stand
This evening in that dear, lost land,
Over the sea the thousand miles
And know if yet that woman smiles
With the calm smile; some little farm
She lives in there, no doubt: what harm
If I sat on the door-side bench,
[Pg 156]And while her spindle made a trench
Fantastically in the dust,
Inquired of all her fortunes—just
Her children’s ages and their names,
And what may be the husband’s aims
For each of them. I’d talk this out,
And sit there, for an hour about,
Then kiss her hand once more, and lay
Mine on her head, and go my way.

So much for idle wishing—how
It steals the time! To business now.

The conversation takes place preliminary “to business.” It is a fine example of the monologue for many reasons. It takes simply a single moment in life, a moment in this case when a turn is made from serious business into personal experiences. The speaker is probably waiting for other reformers to take active measures for the liberation of his country. In this moment, seemingly wasted, light is thrown upon the inner life of this patriot.

This beautiful example of Browning’s best work will serve as a good illustration of the force and power of a monologue to interpret life and character and also the elements necessary to its delivery. The student will do well to thoroughly master it, noting every emphatic word and the necessity of long pauses and salient inflections to make manifest the inner thought and feeling of this man.

From such a theme some may infer that the monologue portrays accidental parts of human life, but Browning in this poem has given deep insight into a great struggle for liberty. Such irrelevant words spoken even on the verge of what seems to us the greater business of life may more definitely indicate character, and on account of the fact that they spring up spontaneously may reveal men more completely than when they proceed “to business.”

[Pg 157]Note the importance of inflection in “Wanting is—what?” In giving “Wanting is—” there is a suspensive action of the voice with an abrupt pause, as if the speaker were going to continue with “everywhere” or something of the kind. The dash helps to indicate this. The idea is still incomplete, when the attitude of the mind totally changes, and he gives a very strong and abrupt rise in “what,” as if to say: “Will you, Browning, with your optimistic beliefs, utter a note of despair?” The understanding of the whole poem, of the passing from one point of view to another, depends upon the way in which this abrupt change of thought in the first short line is given by the voice.


Wanting is—what?
Summer redundant,
Blueness abundant,—
Where is the blot?
Beamy the world, yet a blank all the same,—
Framework which waits for a picture to frame:
What of the leafage, what of the flower?
Roses embowering with naught they embower!
Come then, complete incompletion, O Comer,
Pant through the blueness, perfect the summer!
Breathe but one breath
Rose-beauty above,
And all that was death
Grows life, grows love,
Grows love!

Change of point of view, situation, or emotion is revealed by a change in the modulation of the resonance of the voice, or tone-color. In this poem, note the joyous, confident feeling in the short lines, beginning with the word “what,” then after a long pause, the change in key and resonance to the [Pg 158]regret and despair expressed in the first of the long lines. Then there is a passing to a point of view above both the optimistic and pessimistic attitudes which have been contrasted. This truer attitude accepts the dark facts, but sees deeper than the external, and prays for the “Comer” and the transfiguring of all despair and death into life and love.

Note also the importance of pause after a long falling inflection on the word “roses” to indicate an answer to the previous question. The first two words of the poem, this word, and the contrast of the three moods by tone-color are the chief points in the interpretation.

Read over again also “One Way of Love” (p. 150), and note that there are not merely changes in inflection in passing from the successive questions and from disappointment to acquiescence, but change also in the texture or tone-color of the voice. This contrast in tone-color becomes still more marked in the last stanza between the vigorous suspense and disappointment in

“She will not give me heaven?...”

and the heroic resignation of “’Tis well!” with a change of key still more marked. Between these clauses there is a long pause and an extreme change of pitch which are suggestive of the intensity of his sorrow as well as of the nobility and dignity of his character. He does not exclaim contemptuously, that “the grapes are green.”

Everywhere we find that changes in situation, dramatic points of view, imaginative relations, sympathetic attitudes of mind, or feeling resulting from whatever cause, are expressed by corresponding changes in the modulations of the texture or[Pg 159] resonance of the tone, which may here be called tone-color.

One of the most elemental characteristics of conversation is the flexible variation of the successive rhythmic pulsations, that is to say, the movement. This variation is especially necessary in all dramatic expression. One clause will move very slowly, and show deliberative thinking, importance, weight, a more dignified point of view or firm control; another will be given rapidly, as indicative of triviality, mere formality, uncontrollable excitement, lack of weight and sympathy, or of subordination and disparagement. A slow movement indicates what is weighty and important; a rapid one excitement or what is unimportant.

These are the elements of naturalness or the expressive modulations of the voice in every-day conversation. For the rendering of no other form of literature is the study and mastery of these elements so necessary as in that of the monologue. Monologues are so infinitely varied in character, they reproduce so definitely all the elements of conversation, even requiring them to be accentuated; they embody such sudden transitions in thought and feeling, such contrasts in the attitude of the mind, that a thorough command of the voice is necessary for their interpretation.

Not only must the modulations of the voice be studied to render the monologue, but a thorough study of the monologue becomes a great help in developing power in vocal expression. Because of the necessary accentuation of otherwise overlooked points in vocal expression, the orator or the teacher, the reader or the actor, can be led to understand and realize more adequately those expressive [Pg 160]modulations upon the mastery of which all naturalness in speaking depends.

Not only must we appreciate the distinct meaning of each of these modulations, but also that of their combination and degrees of accentuation, which indicate marked transitions in feeling and situation. In fact, no voice modulation is ever perceived in isolation. They may not all be found in a sentence, but some of them cannot be present without others. For example, touch is meaningless without pause, and a pause is justified by change of pitch. Inflection and change of pitch constitute the elements of vocal form which reveal thought, and all combine with tone-color and movement, which reveal feeling and experience. Naturalness is the right union and combination of all the modulations.


Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you,
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And also you are living after;
And the memory I started at—
My starting moves your laughter!

I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world, no doubt,
Yet a hand’s-breadth of it shines alone
’Mid the blank miles round about:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather!
Well, I forget the rest.

Read over any short monologue several times and satisfactorily locate and define the meaning[Pg 161] of each of these modulations. Observe also the great variety of changes among these modulations and their necessary union for right interpretation.

Take for example “Memorabilia,” one of Browning’s shortest monologues, and observe in every phrase the nature and necessity of these modulations of the voice.

The reading of a volume of Shelley is said to have greatly influenced Browning when a boy, and this monologue is a tribute to that poet. Some lover of Shelley, possibly Browning himself, meets one who has seen Shelley face to face. He is agitated at the thought of facing one who had been in the presence of that marvellous man. Note the abrupt inflections, the quick movement indicating excitement, the decided touches, and animated changes of pitch.

At the seventh line a great break is indicated by a dash. The speaker seems to be going on to say: “The memory I started at must have been the greatest event of your life.” But as he notes the action of the other, the contemptuous smile at his enthusiasm, perhaps a sarcastic remark about Shelley, there is a sudden, abrupt pause after “started at” which is given with a rising or suspensive inflection. “My starting” has extreme change in pitch, color, and movement. Astonishment is mingled with disappointment and grief. Then follows a still greater transition. In the last eight lines of the poem, the speaker, after a long pause, possibly turning slightly away from the other and becoming more subjective, in a slow movement and a total change of tone-color, pays a noble, poetic, and grateful tribute to the object of his admiration. He carefully weighs every word,[Pg 162] and accentuates his thought with long pauses, and decided touches upon the words. He gives “moor” a long falling inflection, pausing after it to suggest that he meant more than a moor, possibly all modern or English literature or poetry. He adds

“... with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world, no doubt,”

as a reference to English poetry or literature and to show that he was not ignorant of its beauties and glories. Still stronger emphasis should be given to “hand’s-breadth,” with a pause after it, subordinating the next words, for he is trying to bring his listener indirectly up to the thought of Shelley. “Miles” may also receive an accent in contrast to “hand’s-breadth.” Then there is great tenderness:

“For there I picked up ...”

Note the change in the resonance of the voice and the low and dignified movement. There is a long inflection, followed by a pause on the word “feather” and a still longer one on the word “eagle.” Now follows another extreme transition. Thought and feeling change. He comes back to the familiarity of conversation. He shows uncertainty or hesitation by inflection and a long pause after the word “Well.” He has no word of disparagement of other writers, but simply adds,

“Well, I forget the rest.”

All else is forgotten in contemplating that one precious “feather” which is, of course, Shelley’s poetry.

It is impossible to indicate in words all the mental and emotional actions, or the modulations of the[Pg 163] voice necessary to express them. The more complex the imaginative conditions, the more all these modulations are combined. Notice that change of movement, of key, and also of tone-color combine to express extreme changes in situation, feeling, or direction of attention. When there is a very strong emphatic inflection, there is usually an emphatic pause after it. Wherever there is a long pause there is always a salient change of pitch or some variation in the expression to justify it. After an emphatic pause when words are closely connected, there is always a decided subordination, and thus a whole sentence, or, by a series of such changes, an entire poem, is given unity of atmosphere, coloring, and form.

No rules can be laid down for such artistic rendering; for the higher the poetry and the deeper the feeling, the less applicable is any so-called rule. Only the deepest principles can be of lasting use.

Take, for example, Browning’s epilogue to “The Two Poets of Croisic,” printed also by him in his book of selections under the title of “A Tale:”


What a pretty tale you told me
Once upon a time
—Said you found it somewhere (scold me!)
Was it prose or was it rhyme,
Greek or Latin? Greek, you said,
While your shoulder propped my head.

Anyhow there’s no forgetting
This much if no more,
That a poet (pray, no petting!)
Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore,
Went where suchlike used to go,
Singing for a prize, you know.
[Pg 164]
Well, he had to sing, nor merely
Sing but play the lyre;
Playing was important clearly
Quite as singing: I desire,
Sir, you keep the fact in mind
For a purpose that’s behind.

There stood he, while deep attention
Held the judges round,
—Judges able, I should mention,
To detect the slightest sound
Sung or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!

None the less he sang out boldly,
Played in time and tune,
Till the judges, weighing coldly
Each note’s worth, seemed, late or soon,
Sure to smile “In vain one tries
Picking faults out: take the prize!”

When, a mischief! Were they seven
Strings the lyre possessed?
Oh, and afterwards eleven,
Thank you! Well, sir,—who had guessed
Such ill luck in store?—it happed
One of those same seven strings snapped.

All was lost, then! No! a cricket
(What “cicada”? Pooh!)
—Some mad thing that left its thicket
For mere love of music—flew
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre.

So that when (Ah joy!) our singer
For his truant string
Feels with disconcerted finger,
What does cricket else but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?
[Pg 165]
Ay and, ever to the ending,
Cricket chirps at need,
Executes the hand’s intending,
Promptly, perfectly,—indeed
Saves the singer from defeat
With her chirrup low and sweet.

Till, at ending, all the judges
Cry with one assent
“Take the prize—a prize who grudges
Such a voice and instrument?
Why, we took your lyre for harp,
So it shrilled us forth F sharp!”

Did the conqueror spurn the creature,
Once its service done?
That’s no such uncommon feature
In the case when Music’s son
Finds his Lotte’s power too spent
For aiding soul-development.

No! This other, on returning
Homeward, prize in hand,
Satisfied his bosom’s yearning:
(Sir, I hope you understand!)
—Said “Some record there must be
Of this cricket’s help to me!”

So, he made himself a statue:
Marble stood, life-size;
On the lyre, he pointed at you,
Perched his partner in the prize;
Never more apart you found
Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.

That’s the tale: its application?
Somebody I know
Hopes one day for reputation
Thro’ his poetry that’s—Oh,
All so learned and so wise
And deserving of a prize!
[Pg 166]
If he gains one, will some ticket,
When his statue’s built,
Tell the gazer “’Twas a cricket
Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness’ place i’ the scale, she chirped?

“For as victory was nighest,
While I sang and played,—
With my lyre at lowest, highest,
Right alike,—one string that made
‘Love’ sound soft was snapt in twain,
Never to be heard again,—

“Had not a kind cricket fluttered,
Perched upon the place
Vacant left, and duly uttered
‘Love, Love, Love,’ whene’er the bass
Asked the treble to atone
For its somewhat sombre drone.”

But you don’t know music! Wherefore
Keep on casting pearls
To a—poet? All I care for
Is—to tell him that a girl’s
“Love” comes aptly in when gruff
Grows his singing. (There, enough!)

We have a suggestion of the position of the speaker, a woman upon the arm of the chair of her lover or husband. How pointed and simple is the first statement: “Scold me!” an apology for not remembering or for not having given more attention. The humorous or pretended effort to remember whether it was prose or rhyme, Greek or Latin, is given by slow, gradual inflections followed by a marked, abrupt inflection upon the word “Greek,” as if she were absolutely sure of that point and her memory of it definite. Again, note toward the last, how the impression of his pretending not to[Pg 167] understand causes her to give a humorous and abrupt emphasis to the point of her story.

The flexibility and great variety in the modulations of the voice requisite in the interpretation of a monologue will be made clear by comparing such a monologue with some short poem which suggests a speech. Byron’s “To Tom Moore,” though there is one speaker, is not a monologue.

“My boat is on the shore,
And my bark is on the sea;
But before I go, Tom Moore,
Here’s a double health to thee.”

It is a kind of after-dinner speech, or lyric full of feeling, an imaginative proposal by Byron of a health to Tom Moore. But Moore is not expected to say anything. Byron is dominated entirely by his own mood. It is therefore quite lyric and not at all dramatic. Note how intense but regular are the rhythmic pulsations, the pause and the touch. While there are changes of pitch and inflection, variety of movement and tone-color, yet all of these are used in a very simple and ordinary sense. There is none of that extreme use of inflection, pause or tone-color found in Browning’s “Memorabilia.”

The difference between the modulations of the voice in a monologue and in a play should be noted. Take, for example, the words of the Archbishop in “Henry V” regarding the character of the King. They are addressed to friends in conversation and are almost a speech. They have the force of a judicial decision and are given with a great deal of emphasis as well as with logical continuity of ideas. But this emphasis is regular and simple. It can be[Pg 168] noted in any animated or emphatic conversation, and the argument of the speech may be studied to advantage by speakers on account of the few and salient or emphatic ideas.

In rendering some monologues, however, which embody the same ideas, such as the “Memorabilia” (see p. 160), which has been made the central illustration of this chapter, greater range, greater abruptness in transitions, more and greater complexity of the modulations of the voice as well as sudden and strong impressions are required of the reader. He should read both passages in contrast, and note the difference in delivery.

One distinct peculiarity of the monologue is the fact that it can give a past event from a dramatic point of view. Note, for example, that in Jean Ingelow’s familiar poem, “The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire,” the first stanza gives us the spirit or movement of the whole poem. The first line,

“The old mayor climbed the belfry tower,”

emphasizes the excitement.

A definite situation is set before us, and we can see, too, why the events are given as belonging to the past. A vivid impression of the high tide along the whole coast of Lincolnshire is afforded by its relation to one humble cottage and family. An old grandmother tells the story long after the events have blended in her mind into one lasting tragic impression. This brings the whole poem into unity, makes a distinct, concrete picture and a most impressive poetic, not to say dramatic, interpretation of the event.

The author by presenting this old mother talking[Pg 169] about her beloved daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, with “her two bairns,” and the excited race of the son to reach home before she went for the cows, appeals to sympathy and feeling, awakens imagination, and presents not only a vivid and specific picture, but such distinct types of character as to make the event real. The poem is a fine example of the union of lyric and dramatic imagination.

The speaker becomes more and more excited and animated as she gives her memories of the successive events, but in the midst of each event relapses into grief. Again and again at the close of stanzas, a single clause or line indicates her emotion, rather than her memory of the exciting events. The event is portrayed dramatically, but these last lines are decidedly lyric. After the excited calling of “Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” by her son the very name seems to awaken tenderness in her heart, and she utters this deep lyric conviction:—

“A sweeter woman n’er drew breath
Than my sonne’s wife, Elizabeth.”

The son, when he reaches home after his excited chase to save his wife, looks across the grassy lea,—

“To right, to left,”

and cries

“Ho, Enderby!”

For at that moment he hears the bells ring “Enderby!” which seem to be the knell of his hopes. The next line,

“They rang ‘The Brides of Enderby,’”

expresses the emotion of the grandmother as she recalls the effect of the bells upon her son, and possibly her own awakening to the meaning of the[Pg 170] tune which has taken such deep hold of her imagination, and becomes naturally the central point of the calamity in her memory.

The poem brings into direct contrast the excited realization of each event and her feeling over the disaster as a whole. The first is dramatic; the second, lyric. The mother realizes dramatically her son’s exclamations and feelings, but the line

“They rang ‘The Brides of Enderby’”

is purely lyric and expressive of her own feeling in remembrance of the danger.

The climax of the dramatic movement of the story comes in the intense realization of the personal danger to herself and her son when they saw the mighty tidal wave rolling up the river Lindis, which

“Sobbed in the grasses at our feet:
The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee.”

Then the poet does not mention the son’s efforts in her behalf, the flight to the roof of their dwelling in the midst of the waves, and makes a sudden transition again from the dramatic situation to the lyric spirit as she moans with no thought of herself:

“And all the world was in the sea.”

Another sudden transition in the poem is indicated by a mere dash after “And I—” Starting to relate her own experience with a loving mother’s instinct she turns instead to the grief of her son,—

“... my sonne was at my side,
And yet he moaned beneath his breath.”

This is followed by another passionate dramatic climax,—

[Pg 171] “And didst thou visit him no more?
Thou didst, thou didst, my daughter deare,
The waters laid thee at his doore,
Ere yet the early dawn was clear.
Thy pretty bairns in fast embrace,
The lifted sun shone on thy face,
Down drifted to thy dwelling-place.”

Here feeling is deepest in the speaker, and in the listener, and, of course, in the reader. The rest of the poem is a sweet and mournful lyric:

“I shall never hear her more
Where the reeds and rushes quiver.”

The poem closes with a crooning over Elizabeth’s song as the aged woman heard it for the last time.

Many public readers centre their whole interest in the imitation or mere representation of this song, and all the fervor of the piece is made accidental to this. But such a method centres all attention in mere vocal skill, to the loss, if not to the perversion of its spirit. This song must not be given literally, but in the character of the aged speaker. It lives in the old mother’s mind as a heart-breaking memory, and any artificial or literal rendering of it destroys the illusion or the true impression of the poem. It should be given in a very subdued tone with the least possible suggestion, if any at all, of the music of the song.

The first stanza is apt also to be given out of character. It is a burst of passionate remembrance and must be given carefully as the overture embodying the spirit of the whole. When the grandmother is asked by the interlocutor regarding the story, she breaks into sudden excitement, and then gradually passes into the quieter mood of reminiscence. After that, the poem is rhythmic[Pg 172] alternation between her memory of the exciting events, and her own experiences; in short, a co-ordination of the lyric and the dramatic spirit.

The study of this poem affords a fine illustration of movement,—similar to that of a great symphony. The long pauses, sudden transitions in pitch and color, and especially the pulsations of feeling, when given in harmony illustrate the marvellous power of the human voice.




As the monologue is a form of dramatic expression, it necessarily implies action,—the most dramatic of all languages. Dramatic expression, in its very nature, implies life, and life is shown by movement. For this reason action is in some sense the primary or most necessary language required for dramatic interpretation.

Action is a language that belongs to the whole body. As light moves quickest in the outer world, so action,—the language that appeals to the eye—is the first appeal to consciousness. Life expands,—the gleaming eye, the elevated and gravitating body, the lifted hand,—all these show character and a living or present realization of ideas, and are most important in the monologue.

On account of the abrupt opening of most monologues, the first clause requires salient and decided action. The speaker must locate his hearer, and must often indicate, by some decided movement, the effect produced upon him by some previous speech which has to be imagined. As the words[Pg 173] of the listener are not given but must be suggested, it is necessary that the action be decided.

Though action or pantomime always precedes speech, this precedence is especially pronounced in monologues. Notice, for example, in Bret Harte’s “In a Tunnel,” the look of surprise and astonishment followed by the words given with long rising inflections: “Didn’t know Flynn?”

“Didn’t know Flynn—Flynn of Virginia—long as he’s been ’yar? Look’ee here, stranger, whar hev you been?

“Here in this tunnel,—he was my pardner, that same Tom Flynn—working together, in wind and weather, day out and in.

“Didn’t know Flynn! Well, that is queer. Why, it’s a sin to think of Tom Flynn—Tom with his cheer, Tom without fear,—stranger, look ’yar!

“Thar in the drift back to the wall he held the timbers ready to fall; then in the darkness I heard him call—‘Run for your life, Jake! Run for your wife’s sake! Don’t wait for me.’ And that was all, heard in the din, heard of Tom Flynn,—Flynn of Virginia.

“That’s all about Flynn of Virginia—that lets me out here in the damp—out of the sun—that ar’ dern’d lamp makes my eyes run.

“Well, there—I’m done! But, sir, when you’ll hear the next fool asking of Flynn—Flynn of Virginia—just you chip in, say you knew Flynn; say that you’ve been ’yar.”

The look of wonder is sustained until there is a change to an intense, pointed inquiry: “Whar hev you been?” The intense surprise reveals the rough character of the speaker, a miner in a mining camp, and his admiration for Flynn, who has saved his life. Then note the sudden transition as he begins his story. His character must be maintained, and expressed by action through all the many transitions; but in the first clause especially there must be a pause with a long continued attitude of astonishment.

Action is required to present this vivid scene which is suggested by only a few words, the admiration[Pg 174] of the speaker for Flynn, who in the depths of the mine, with but a moment to decide, gives his life for another. The hero calls out “Run for your wife’s sake,” the heart of the speaker warms with admiration and the tears come; then the rough Westerner is seen brushing away his tears and attributing the water in his eyes to the “dern’d lamp.” Truth in depicting human nature, depth of feeling, action, character, in short, the whole meaning, is dependent upon the decided actions of the body and the inflections of the voice directly associated with these.

In “The Italian in England” (p. 152), the word “second” not only needs emphasis by the voice, as has been shown, to indicate that the speaker has already given an account of another experience, but he may possibly throw up his hands to indicate something unusual, something beyond words in the experience he is about to relate.

It is especially necessary in the monologue that action should show the discovery, arrival, or initiation of ideas. A change in the direction of attention, a new subject or current of ideas, cannot be indicated wholly by vocal expression. The mental conjectures of Mrs. Caudle, for example, are very pronounced, and cannot be fully expressed by the voice without action.

Notice how definitely action, in union with vocal expression, shows whether Mrs. Caudle’s new impressions are due to the natural association of ideas in her mind, or to the words or conduct of Caudle. The last mentioned give rise to her explosiveness, withering sarcasm, and anger. Such discriminations produce the illusion of the scene.

In “Up at a Villa—Down in the City” (p. 65),[Pg 175] notice how necessary it is for the interpreter to show the direction of his attention, whether he is speaking regarding his villa or the city. Note the disgust and attitude of gloom in his face and bearing as he gazes towards his villa.

“Over-smoked behind by the faint gray olive-trees,”

suggests a picture calling for admiration from us, but not from him. To him the tulip is a great “bubble of blood.” All this receives a definite tone-color, and it must be borne in mind that without action of the body, the quality of the voice will not change. The emotion diffuses itself through the whole organism of the impersonator of the “person of quality,” and even hands, feet and face are given a certain attitude by this emotion. Contempt for the villa will depress his whole body and thus color his tone. On the contrary, when the speaker turns to the city, his face lights up. The “fountain—to splash,” the “houses in four straight lines,” the “fanciful signs which are painted properly,”—all these are apparently contemplated by him with such an expansion and elevation of his body as almost to cause laughter.

This contrast, which is sustained through the whole monologue, can be interpreted or presented only by the actions of the body and their effect on the tone.

Expression of face and body are necessary to suggest the delicate changes in thinking and feeling. Notice in “A Tale” (p. 163) that the struggle of the woman to remember is shown by action.

The two lines

“Said you found it somewhere, ...
Was it prose or was it rhyme?”

[Pg 176]are not so much addressed to the listener as to herself, as she tries to remember, and she would show this by action. Every subtle change in thought and feeling is indicated by a decided expression in the face. In her efforts to remember, she would possibly turn away from him at first with a bewildered look, then she might turn toward him again, as she asked him the question; but if she asked this of herself, her head would remain turned away. When she decides with a bow of the head that it is Greek, note how her face would light up and possibly intimate confidence that she was right. At the close of the poem, notice the tender mischief of her glance when she refers to “somebody I know” who is “deserving of a prize.” The monologue is full of the subtlest variations of point of view and thought, and these variations call for a constant play of feature.

The struggle for an idea must be frankly disclosed. An interruption, a thought broken on account of a sudden leap of the mind, must be interpreted faithfully by the eyes, the face, the walk, or the body, in union with vocal expression.

In the soliloquy of the “Spanish Cloister” (p. 58), for example, notice how the whole face, head, and body of the speaker recoil at the very start on discovering Brother Lawrence in the garden. Notice, too, the fiendish delight as he sees the accident, “There his lily snaps!” How sarcastic is his reference to the actions of Brother Lawrence, who, unconscious that any one is looking at him, seems to stop and shake his head in a way that leads the speaker to infer that a “myrtle-bush wants trimming:” but instantly, with a sneer he adds, “Oh, that rose has prior claims.” Such sarcastic[Pg 177] variations occur all through the monologue. “How go on your flowers?” is given with gleeful expectancy, and he notes with cruel joy the disappointment of Brother Lawrence when looking to find one “double,” and chuckles to himself

“Strange!—And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!”

Note, too, the difference in facial action when the speaker is observing Brother Lawrence and when conjuring up schemes to send this good man “Off to hell, a Manichee.”

Another point to be noted in the study of the monologue is the giving of quotations. These, of course, are an echo of what the hearer has said, and must be rendered with care.

Look again at Browning’s “A Tale,” and note “cicada,” which is quoted. This is followed by an interrogation, and refers to the listener’s humorously sarcastic question regarding the scientific aspects of her subject. She echoes it, of course, with her own feeling of surprise, and the exclamation “Pooh!” silences him so that she may go on with her story. Notice how necessary action is here to enable the reader to interpret the meaning of this to the audience.

Quotations especially call for action as they reflect the opposition of the character of the listener to that of the speaker; they are always given with decided changes. The words only, however, and at times the ideas only, are quoted; the feeling, the impression, are all the speaker’s own. Quotations are merely the conversational echo of the words of another such as are frequently heard in every-day life, and demand both action and vocal expression for their true interpretation.

[Pg 178]The subject of quotations requires special attention in the monologue. They must be given, not only with decided pauses, inflections, changes of movement and variations in accentuation, and in all the modulations of the voice, but with suggestive action, changes in the direction of the eye, head, and body. In short, there must be a complete change in all the expression from what preceded, because the impression produced by an idea in the speaker’s own mind is not so forcible as the effect of a word from a listener; at any rate, the impression is different. In telling our story to him, his attitude of mind, in demurring or assenting, will cause a sudden change or recoil on our part. The difference in the impressions made upon the speaker by his own ideas and by what his listener says must be indicated, and this can only be indicated by uniting the language of action and vocal expression with words. A change of idea or some remembrance awakened in our own mind comes naturally, but a sudden remark or interruption produces a more decided and definite impression upon us. The surprised look and abrupt turn of the head are necessary to show the sense of imaginative reality.

Observe the definite and extreme, even sudden, transitions which are made in conversation. These abrupt leaps of the mind from one subject to another are indicated by a simple turn, it may be, of the head, with sudden changes in the face, and, of course, with changes of pitch and movement. The monologue gives the best interpretation of these actions of the mind to be found in literature.

As an example, note Riley’s “Knee-deep in June.” The more decided and sudden the transitions in this poem, the better. The abrupt arrival[Pg 179] of an idea, the subtle start it gives to face or head or body, should be naturally suggested.

Action is especially needed in all abrupt transitions in thought and feeling. In many of the more humorous monologues, there is often a sudden pathetic touch towards the last, requiring slower movement in the action of the body. Occasionally, very sudden and extreme contrasts occur. The reader must make long pauses in these cases, and accentuate strongly the action, of which vocal expression is more or less a result.

As further illustrative of a sudden transition, note how in Riley’s monologue, “When de Folks is Gone,” the scared negro grows more and more excited until a climax of terror is reached in the penultimate line:

“Wha’ dat shinin’ fru de front do’ crack?”

Between this line and the last the cause of the light outside is discovered, and a complete recovery from terror to joy must be indicated. With the greatest relief he must utter the last line:

“God bress de Lo’d, hit’s de folks got back.”

The study of action in the rendering of a monologue brings us to one of the most important points in all dramatic expression. No form of dramatic art is given so directly to an audience as is a story or a speech. The interpreter of a monologue must feel his audience, but not speak to it. He must address all his remarks to his imaginary listener.

Where shall he locate this listener, and why in that particular place?

The late Joseph Jefferson called attention to the difference between oratory and acting. “The two[Pg 180] arts,” he said, “go hand in hand, so far as magnetism and intelligence are concerned, but there comes a point where they differ widely. The actor is, or should be, impressionable and sensitive; the orator, on the other hand, must have the power of impressing.” Accordingly, the orator speaks directly to his audience; the actor does not.

This distinction is important. It may possibly go too far, because the orator must give his attention to his truth, must receive impressions from his ideas, and reveal his impressions to his audience. He too must be impressionable and sensitive, but his attentive and responsive attitude is always to the picture created by his own mind. He is impersonal and gives direct attention to his auditors. He receives vivid impressions from truth, and then endeavors to give these to others.

In a play, on the contrary, the actor receives an impression from his interlocutor. He must give great attention to what his interlocutor is saying, and must reveal his impressions to his audience by faithfully portraying the effect of the other’s thought and feeling upon himself.

In the monologue the same is true. The interlocutor, however, is imagined. More imagination is called for, and greater impressionability and sensitiveness, because there is no interlocutor there for the audience to see. The hearer must judge entirely from the impressions made upon the speaker.

Action, therefore, is most important. The impersonator must reveal decidedly and definitely every impression made upon him, but must speak to, and act toward, his imaginary auditor, and only indirectly to his audience.

The interpretation of the monologue thus brings[Pg 181] us to a unique form of what may be called platform action, demanding specific attention. If the interpreter is not supposed to speak directly to his audience but to address an imaginary hearer, where must this imaginary hearer be located, and why there? Usually somewhat to one side. Only in this way can the speaker suggest his differing relations to listener and audience.

The suggestion of these relations is an aspect of expression frequently overlooked. In society or on the street it is not polite to talk to any one over the shoulder, and turning the back upon a man repels him most effectively. The turning away of the body may show contempt or inattention. It may, however, also show subjectivity and indicate the fact that the man is turning his attention within to ponder upon the subject another has mentioned, or is reflecting on what he is going to say.

Attention is the basis of all expression, and the first cause of all action, since we turn our attention toward a person and listen to what he has to say before we speak to him. Accordingly, pivotal action of the body is important in life, and is of great importance in all forms of dramatic art, whether on the stage or in the rendering of a monologue.

A speaker, especially a dramatic speaker, pivots from his audience when he becomes subjective, and suggests an imaginary listener, or represents a conversation between two or more in a story. He does not do this consciously and deliberately, but from instinct. Primarily, it is obedience to the dramatic instinct that causes this pivotal action. Any one who will observe the natural actions of men on the street, in business, in society, or in impassioned oratory, can recognize the meaning and importance[Pg 182] of the pivotal actions of the body. It is one of the fundamental manifestations of dramatic instinct.

Pivoting toward any one expresses attention and politeness. Attention is the secret of politeness. To listen to another is a primary characteristic of good breeding. Pivoting toward one is also indicative of emphasis. In conversation, even in walking on the street, when one has something emphatic to say he turns directly to his interlocutor, and often adds gesture; on the other hand, turning away, or failing to pivot toward some one, indicates an estimate that something is trivial or unimportant.

In the delivery of a monologue there is often an object referred to which the interlocutor naturally places on one side, while he locates his listener on the other. Thus, in the unemphatic parts he would turn away and not be continually “nosing his interlocutor” or talking directly to him. This would cause him to give his ideas to the audience directly or indirectly. Whenever he talks emphatically, he would turn toward his interlocutor. When the object referred to is more directly in the field of attention, he would turn toward that.

Ruth McEnery Stuart, for example, is the author of a monologue in which an old countryman talks about his son winning a “diplomy.” The speaker in the monologue would naturally locate the diploma on one side and the listener on the other.

It is easy to see that this pivotal action is of great importance on the stage. It is the very basis of all true stage representation. The amateur always “noses” his interlocutor. The artist is able to show all degrees of attention by the pivotal action of the body, and thus reveal to an audience the very rank of the person addressed, whether that consists in[Pg 183] dignity of character, which makes him a special object of interest, or in a royal or conventionally superior station.

That the pivotal action of the body in a monologue is especially important can be seen at once. The object of attention is an invisible listener, and the turning of the body to the side not only shows the speaker’s own attention, but it helps the auditor to locate the person addressed.

Without this pivotal action, the reader is apt to declaim a monologue, and confuse it with a speech. The monologue is never a direct endeavor to impress an audience. Only occasionally can the audience be made to stand for the person addressed.

Some one will ask, Why at the side? Because if we hold out two objects for an audience to observe, we shall put them side by side. The placing of one before the other will cause confusion or prevent the possibility of discrimination. In art, the law of rhythm, or of composition, demands that objects be distributed side by side in order to win different degrees of attention. A picture of any kind demands such an arrangement of objects as will hold the attention concentrated. An object in the background may aid the sustaining of attention upon something in the foreground. Objects are placed in opposition to cause the mind to alternate from one to the other, and thus to sustain attention until it penetrates the meaning of the smallest scene. This is the soul, not only of pictorial, but of dramatic art.

Placing an imaginary character at the side does not make words necessarily dramatic. This may be only an external aspect of the poem. The most[Pg 184] passionate lyrics may be given with this change of attitude because of their great subjectivity. They are often as subjective as a soliloquy. Again, this turning of the body to the side does not mean that the person to whom the speaker seems to be talking is definitely represented. The listener may be located at the side for a moment, it may be unconsciously, and lost sight of almost entirely. The feeling must often absorb the speaker and pass into the most subjective lyric intensity. Dramatic art must move; there must be continual progressive transitions. Hence, the picture must continually change, and pivotal flexibility is especially necessary. Such turning of the body can be seen in every-day conversation. The degree of attention to a listener varies in all intercourse. While talking to another, the speaker may become dominated by a subjective idea or mood and turn away; yet the listener’s presence is always felt.

Transition to the side as expressive of attention takes place in the platform reading of a drama with several characters. In this case, the interpreter distributes the characters in various directions; but this must be done according to their importance, and as each one speaks, the person addressed must be indicated as in the monologue.

Hence, it is not an artificial arrangement to place the character you address somewhat to the side, but in accordance with the laws of the mind and with every-day conversation. By this placing of an imaginary listener, all degrees of attention and inattention toward another can be indicated. You can show a subjective action of the mind by pivoting naturally away from the person to whom you speak, but at the moment an idea comes to you[Pg 185] clearly and definitely, it dominates you, and you turn towards him.

In pivoting the body, or showing attention, the eye always leads. An impolite man has little control of his eyes or of his pivotal action. An embarrassed or nervous man shows his agitation especially in his eye. The polite man gives the attention of his eye, the head follows that, and then the whole body turns attentively. Accordingly, the turn of the eye, the head, and the whole body must be brought into sympathetic unity.

The interpreter of the monologue must have a free use of his entire body, must be able to step and move with ease in any direction. But a single step is all that is necessary, except in rare cases. The simpler the movements and attitudes of the interpreter the better, and the more impressive and suggestive will he be to the imagination of his audience. Chaotic movements backward and forward will confuse the hearer’s attention and fail to indicate the direction of his own, which is of vital moment. Often the slightest turn of the head is all that is necessary.

The interpretation of a monologue must be more suggestive in its action than that of a play. On the stage there may be many actors, and the pivotal movements of many characters toward each other must often bring a large number into unity, so that a group can express the situation by co-operative action. The attention of a hundred can be focussed on one picture or on one idea. But the interpreter of the monologue has only his own eye, head, and body to lead the attention of his auditors and to suggest the most profound impressions.

In the nature of the case, accordingly, the [Pg 186]situation of the monologue must be more simple and definite; and for the same reason, the actions must be more pronounced and sustained. The interpretation of the monologue thus calls for the ablest dramatic artist.

There are many important phases of this peculiar pivotal action. The speed of the movement, for example, shows the degree of excitement. The eye only, or the eye and the head, or both with the body, may turn. Each of these cases indicates a difference in the degree of attention or in the relations of the speaker to the listener.

Again, this pivotal action has a direct relation to the advancing of the body forward toward a listener, the gravitation of passion which shows sympathy and feeling as well as attention.

The student may think such directions mechanical, especially when it is said that the body in turning must sustain its centrality, and that there must be no confusion or useless steps; but in this case the foot acts as a kind of eye, by a peculiar instinct which always indicates the proper direction, if the speaker is really thinking dramatically.

The turning action of the body has been discussed more at length than the other elements of action on account of its importance in the rendering of a monologue, and also because it is usually misunderstood or entirely overlooked. There are many other expressive actions associated with this turning of the body which need discussion. They, however, belong to the subject of pantomimic expression, rather than to a general discussion of the nature of the monologue and the chief peculiarities of its interpretation.

The same may be said regarding the innumerable[Pg 187] and extremely subtle and complex actions of other parts of the body. The actions concerned in the rendering of a monologue are those associated with the every-day intercourse of men in conversation, and are often so delicate and unpronounced that an auditor will hardly notice them. He will simply feel the general impression of truthfulness. The interpreter of the monologue, for this very reason, needs to give the most careful attention to action as a language. Neglect of action is the most surprising fault of modern delivery.

Anything like an adequate discussion of action as a language is impossible in this place. There are, however, certain dangers which call for special though brief attention.

In the first place, action must never be declamatory or oratoric. Swinging actions of the arms and extravagant movements of the body—possibly pardonable in oratory, on account of the great desire to impress truth upon men, to drive home a point energetically—are out of place in a monologue. The manner must be forcible, but simple and natural. Activity must manifest thought and passion; it should not be merely descriptive, but must arise from the relations of the interlocutor. The monologue requires great accentuation of the subjective element in pantomime.

This brings us to a second danger. The dramatic artist is tempted merely to represent or imitate. He desires to locate not only his listener, but every object, and so is tempted to objective descriptions.

Action is of two kinds,—representative and manifestative. In representative action one illustrates, describes, indicates objects, places, and directions.[Pg 188] One shows the objective situations and relations. Manifestative pantomime, on the contrary, reveals the feelings and experiences of the human mind, or the subjective situations and relations. Representative pantomime is apt to degenerate into mere imitative movements. Manifestative pantomime centres in the eye or the face, but belongs to the whole body. Even when we make representative movements with the hand and arm, the attitude of the hand shows the conditions prompting the gesture, and face and body show the real experiences and feelings.

In the giving of humorous monologues, representative action is often appropriate and necessary. The hearer must be located, objects must often be distributed and rightly related to assist the audience in conceiving the situation.

The need of representative action is seen in Day’s “Old Boggs’ Slarnt.”


Old Bill Boggs is always sayin’ that he’d like to, but he carnt;
He hain’t never had no chances, he hain’t never got no slarnt.
Says it’s all dum foolish tryin’, ’less ye git the proper start,
Says he’s never seed no op’nin’ so he’s never had no heart.
But he’s chawed enough tobacker for to fill a hogset up,
And has spent his time a-trainin’ some all-fired kind of pup;
While his wife has took in washin’ and his children hain’t been larnt
’Cause old Boggs is allus whinin’ that he’s never got no slarnt.

Them air young uns round the gros’ry hadn’t oughter done the thing!
Now it’s done, though, and it’s over, ’twas a cracker-jack, by jing.
Boggs, ye see, has been a-settin’ twenty years on one old plank,
One end h’isted on a saw-hoss, t’other on the cistern tank.
T’other night he was a-chawin’ and he says, “I vum-spt-ooo—
[Pg 189]Here I am a-owin’ money—not a gol durn thing to do!
’Tain’t no use er buckin’ chances, ner er fightin’ back at Luck,
—Less ye have some way er startin’, feller’s sartin to be stuck.
Needs a slarnt to get yer going”—then them young uns give a carnt,
—Plank went up an’ down old Boggs went—yas, he got it, got his slarnt.
Course, the young uns shouldn’t done it—sent mine off along to bed—
Helped to pry Boggs out the cistern—he warn’t more ’n three-quarters dead.
Didn’t no one ’prove the actions, but when all them kids was gone,
Thunder mighty! How we hollered! Gab’rel couldn’t heered his horn.

When the speaker in the monologue describes the plank which has

“One end h’isted on a saw-hoss, t’other on the cistern tank,”

he would naturally in conversation describe and indicate the tank and the saw-horse and the direction of the slope of the plank. Then, when

“... them young uns give a carnt,”

and the plank went up, it might be indicated that one end went up, by one hand, and by the other that old Boggs went down. This can be done easily and naturally and in character. The genius of the “gros’ry,” who is speaking, would indicate these very simply with hand and eye. This action will not only express the humor, but help the audience to conceive the situation.

In a serious monologue, such as “A Grammarian’s Funeral” (p. 72), the speaker looks down toward the town, and talks about the condition of those there who did not appreciate his master. The reader must indicate where the speaker locates his friends who are carrying the body, and suggest also, by looking upward to the hill-top, where they are[Pg 190] to bury him. This representative action, when only suggestive, in no way interferes with, but rather assists, the manifestation of feeling.

It must not be forgotten that there is great danger in exaggerating the objective or representative action of a monologue. The exaggeration of accidents is the chief means of degrading noble literature in delivery.

For example, one of the finest monologues, “The Vagabonds,” by J. T. Trowbridge, has been made by public readers a mere means of imitating the oddities of a drunkard. The true centring of attention should be on the mental characteristics of such a man. A degraded method of delivering this centres everything on the mere accidents and oddities of manner. Thus a most pathetic and tragic situation may be portrayed in a way not to awaken sympathy, but laughter.


We are two travellers, Roger and I.
Roger’s my dog. Come here, you scamp.
Jump for the gentleman—mind your eye!
Over the table—look out for the lamp!
The rogue is growing a little old:
Five years we’ve tramped through wind and weather,
And slept out doors when nights were cold,
And ate, and drank, and starved together.

We’ve learned what comfort is, I tell you:
A bed on the floor, a bit of rosin,
A fire to thaw our thumbs (poor fellow,
The paw he holds up there has been frozen),
Plenty of catgut for my fiddle
(This out-door business is bad for strings),
Then a few nice buckwheats hot from the griddle,
And Roger and I set up for kings.
[Pg 191]
No, thank you, sir, I never drink.
Roger and I are exceedingly moral.
Aren’t we, Roger? See him wink.
Well, something hot then, we won’t quarrel.
He’s thirsty too—see him nod his head.
What a pity, sir, that dogs can’t talk;
He understands every word that’s said,
And he knows good milk from water and chalk.

The truth is, sir, now I reflect,
I’ve been so sadly given to grog,
I wonder I’ve not lost the respect
(Here’s to you, sir) even of my dog.
But he sticks by through thick and thin,
And this old coat with its empty pockets,
And rags that smell of tobacco and gin,
He’ll follow while he has eyes in his sockets.

There isn’t another creature living
Would do it, and prove, through every disaster,
So fond, so faithful, and so forgiving,
To such a miserable, thankless master.
No, sir! see him wag his tail and grin—
By George! it makes my old eyes water—
That is, there’s something in this gin
That chokes a fellow, but no matter.

We’ll have some music if you are willing,
And Roger here (what a plague a cough is, sir)
Shall march a little. Start, you villain!
Paws up! eyes front! salute your officer!
’Bout face! attention! take your rifle!
(Some dogs have arms you see.) Now hold
Your cap while the gentlemen give a trifle
To aid a poor old patriot soldier.

March! Halt! Now show how the rebel shakes
When he stands up to hear his sentence;
Now tell how many drams it takes
To honor a jolly new acquaintance.
Five yelps, that’s five—he’s mighty knowing;
The night’s before us, fill the glasses;
Quick, sir! I’m ill; my brain is going;
[Pg 192]Some brandy; thank you: there, it passes.

Why not reform? That’s easily said.
But I’ve gone through such wretched treatment,
Sometimes forgetting the taste of bread,
And scarce remembering what meat meant,
That my poor stomach’s past reform,
And there are times when, mad with thinking,
I’d sell out Heaven for something warm
To prop a horrible inward sinking.

Is there a way to forget to think?
At your age, sir, home, fortune, friends,
A dear girl’s love; but I took to drink;
The same old story, you know how it ends.
If you could have seen these classic features—
You needn’t laugh, sir, I was not then
Such a burning libel on God’s creatures;
I was one of your handsome men.

If you had seen her, so fair, so young,
Whose head was happy on this breast;
If you could have heard the songs I sung
When the wine went round, you wouldn’t have guess’d
That ever I, sir, should be straying
From door to door, with fiddle and dog,
Ragged and penniless, and playing
To you to-night for a glass of grog.

She’s married since, a parson’s wife;
’Twas better for her that we should part;
Better the soberest, prosiest life
Than a blasted home and a broken heart.
I have seen her? Once! I was weak and spent
On the dusty road; a carriage stopped,
But little she dreamed as on she went,
Who kissed the coin that her fingers dropped.

You’ve set me talking, sir, I’m sorry;
It makes me wild to think of the change.
What do you care for a beggar’s story?
Is it amusing? you find it strange?
I had a mother so proud of me,
’Twas well she died before. Do you know,
If the happy spirits in Heaven can see
[Pg 193]The ruin and wretchedness here below?

Another glass, and strong to deaden
This pain; then Roger and I will start.
I wonder, has he such a lumpish, leaden,
Aching thing, in place of a heart?
He is sad sometimes, and would weep if he could,
No doubt remembering things that were:
A virtuous kennel with plenty of food,
And himself a sober, respectable cur.

I’m better now; that glass was warming.
You rascal! limber your lazy feet!
We must be fiddling and performing
For supper and bed, or starve in the street.
Not a very gay life to lead you think?
But soon we shall go where lodgings are free,
And the sleepers need neither victuals nor drink;
The sooner the better for Roger and me.

“The Vagabonds” deserves study on account of its revelation of the subjectivity possible to the monologue. Notice the speaker’s talk to his dog: “Come here, you scamp,”—“Jump for the gentleman,”—“Over the table, look out for the lamp.” Then he begins the story of his life, exhibiting his pathetic condition, and displaying his realization of his downfall. After this he resolutely turns to his violin and calls upon his dog to perform:

“Paws up! eyes front! salute your officer!
’Bout face! attention! take your rifle!”

Then suddenly the note of remorse is sounded; his sense of illness, his restoration with the brandy, are true in every line to human character.

The interpretation of such a poem is difficult because it verges so close upon the imitative that readers are apt to lose the spirit and intention of the author. It must be made entirely a study of character. The underlying spirit, not the accidents, must be accentuated by the action of the body.

[Pg 194]In general, even when representative actions are most appropriate and helpful, the manifestative actions of face and body must be accentuated and at all times made to predominate over the representative actions. The more serious any interpretation is, the more necessary is it that manifestation transcend representation. Every student should observe how manifestative action of face and body always supports descriptive gesture.

Again, in the monologue there must not be too much motion. Motion is superficial, showing merely extraneous relations, and may indicate nervousness or lack of control. The attitude must be sustained. Any motion should be held until it spreads through the whole being. Motions reveal superficial emotions; attitudes, the deeper conditions. Conditions must transcend both motions and attitudes, and attitudes must always predominate over motions.

The monologue must not be spectacular, and cannot be interpreted by external and mechanical movements. The whole body must act, but in a natural way. Expansions of the body, the kindling eye, the animated face, form the centre of all true dramatic actions.

The attitude at the climax of any motion makes the motion emphatic. The monologue is so subtle, and requires such accentuation of deep impression, that attitudes are especially necessary. An attitude accentuates a condition or feeling by prolonging its pantomimic suggestion. As the power to pause, or to stay the attention until the mind realizes a situation and awakens the depths of passion, is important in vocal expression, so the staying of a motion at its climax, a sustaining of the attitude that reveals[Pg 195] the deepest emotional condition, is the basis of true dramatic action.

Of all languages, action is the least noticeable, the most in the background, but, on the other hand, of all languages it is the most continuous. From the cradle to the grave, sleeping or waking, pantomimic expression is never absent. Consciously or unconsciously, every step we take, every position we assume, reveals us, our character, emotions, experiences. Hence, any dramatic interpretation of human experiences or character, such as a monologue, demands thorough and conscientious study of this language, which reveals both the highest and the lowest conditions of the heart.




One of the most important questions in regard to form in poetry, especially the form and interpretation of the monologue, relates to metre.

To most persons metre is something purely arbitrary and artificial. Books on the subject often give merely an account of the different kinds of feet with hardly a hint that metre has meaning. But metre is not a mechanical structure which exists merely for its own sake. When the metre is true, it expresses the spirit of the poem, as the leaf reveals the life and character of the tree.

The attitude of mind of many persons of culture and taste toward metre is surprising. Rarely, for example, is a hymn read with its true metric movement. Is this one reason why hymns are no longer read aloud? Not only ministers and public speakers, but even the best actors and public readers,[Pg 196] often blur the most beautiful lines. How rarely do we find an Edwin Booth who can give the spirit of Shakespeare’s blank verse! Few actors realize the pain they give to cultivated ears or to those who have the imagination and feeling to appreciate the expressiveness of the metric structure in the highest poetry.

The development of a proper appreciation of metre is of great importance. Though the student should acquaint himself with the metric feet and the information conveyed in all the rhetorics and books on metre, still he has hardly learned the alphabet of the subject.

To appreciate its metre, one must so enter into the spirit of a poem that the metric movement is felt as a part of its expression. The nature of the feet chosen, the length of the lines,—everything connected with the form of a fine poem, is directly expressive. The sublimer the poem, the painting, or any work of art, the more will the smallest detail be consistent with the whole and a necessary part of the expression.

Metre has been studied too much as a matter of print. Few recognize the fact that metre is necessarily a part of vocal rather than of verbal expression, and can only be suggested in print.

Metre can be revealed only by the human voice. As a printed word is only a sign, so print can afford a hint only of the nature of metre. Its study, accordingly, must be associated with the living voice and the vocal interpretation of literature.

The mastery of metre requires first of all a development of the sense of rhythm, a realization especially of the subjective aspects of rhythm, a consciousness of the rhythm of thinking and feeling[Pg 197] and the power we have of controlling or accentuating this. There must be developed in addition a sense of form and a realization of the nature of all expression, and of the necessity that ideas and feelings be revealed through natural and objective means.

Another step not to be despised is the training of the ear. At the basis of every specific problem of education will be found the necessary training of a sense. How can a painter be developed without education of the eye as well as control of the hand. So metre must be recognized by the ear before it can be revealed by the voice. Last of all, the imagination must recreate the poem and the reader must realize the specific language of every foot and feel its hidden meaning.

All these aims will be developed, more or less together, and be in direct relation to all the elements of expression.

Metre is a difficult subject in which to lay down general principles, lest they become artificial rules. Every poem that is really great shows something new in the way of combining imperfect feet, and the student must study the movement for himself.

Many will be tempted to ask, “What has metre to do with the monologue?” It is true that metre belongs to all poetry, but the monologue has some specific and peculiar uses of metre, and, more than any other form of poetry except the poetic drama, demands the living voice. Hence a few suggestions are necessary at this point upon this much neglected and misconceived subject.

To understand the relation of metre to the monologue, it should be held in mind that metre is far more flexible and free in dramatic than in lyric[Pg 198] poetry. In lyric poetry it is usually more regular and partakes of the nature of song; but in dramatic poetry it is more changeable and bears more resemblance to the rhythm of speech. In the lyric, metre expresses a mood, and mood as a permanent condition of feeling necessitates a more regular rhythm; but in dramatic poetry, metre expresses the pulse-beat of one character in contact with another. It must respond to all the sudden changes of thought and feeling.

The difference between the metre of Keats or Shelley or Chaucer and that of Shakespeare or of Browning is not wholly one of personality. It is often due to a difference in the theme discussed and in the spirit of their poetry.

So important is the understanding of metre to the right appreciation of any exalted poetic monologue, that in general, unless the interpreter thoroughly masters the subject of metre, he is unprepared to render anything but so-called monologues on the lowest plane of farce and vaudeville art.

Very close to the subject of metre is length of line. A long line is more stately, a short line more abrupt, passional, and intense. A short line in connection with longer lines, generally contains more weight, and such an increase of intensive feeling as causes its rendering to be slow, requiring about as much time as one of the longer lines. The short line suggests the necessity of a pause. It is usually found in lyric poetry; rarely in dramatic.

The peculiar variation in length of line found in the Pindaric ode belongs almost entirely to lyric poetry. Monologues and dramatic poems are frequently found in blank verse.

[Pg 199]We find here a peculiar principle existing. In blank verse there is greater variation of the feet than in almost any other form of poetry, and yet in this the length of line is most fixed. In the Pindaric ode, on the contrary, where the foot is more regular, there are great variations in the length of line. Is there not discoverable here a law, that where length of line is more fixed, metre is more variable, but where length of line is more variable, the metric feet tend to be more regular?

Art is “order in play”; the free, spontaneous variation is play; the fixed or regular elements give the sense of order. True art always accentuates both order and play, not in antagonistic opposition, but in sympathetic union. Whenever the order is more apparent in one direction, there is greater freedom of play in another, and the reverse.

We find this principle specially manifest in pantomimic expression. Man is only free and flexible in the use of his arms and limbs when he has a stability of poise and when his movement ends in a stable attitude. There is opposition between motions and positions.

This important law has been overlooked both in action and in vocal expression. It is not quite the same as Delsarte’s law: “Stability is characteristic of the centre; flexibility, of the surface.” While this is true, the necessary co-ordination of the transcendence of stability of attitude over motion is also a necessary law of all expression.

Before trying to lay down any general law regarding metre as a mode of expression, let us examine a few monologues in various feet.

Notice the use of the trochee to express the loving entreaty in “A Woman’s Last Word” (p. 6).[Pg 200] To give this a careless rendering with its metric movement confused, as is often done, totally perverts its meaning and spirit. The accent on the initial word of the line gives an intensity of feeling with tender persuasiveness. This accent must be strong and vigorous, followed by a most delicate touch upon the following syllables:—

“Be a god, and hold me
With a charm!
Be a man, and fold me
With thine arm!”

One who has little sense of metre should try to read this poem in some different foot. He will soon become conscious of the discord. When once he catches the spirit of the poem with his own voice, he will experience a satisfaction and confidence in his rhythmic instinct, and in his voice as its agent, that will enable him to render the poem with power.

Note in this poem also the shortness of the lines, which express the abrupt outbursts of intense feeling. The fact that every other line ends upon an accented syllable adds intensity, sincerity, and earnestness to the tender appeal. The delicate beauty of the rhymes also aids in idealizing the speaker’s character. The whole form is beautifully adapted to express her endeavor to lift her husband out of his suspicious and ignoble jealousy to a higher plane.

Browning’s “In a Year” has seemingly the same foot and the same length of line as “A Woman’s Last Word,” but how different its effect! “In a Year” is made up of bursts of passion from an overburdened heart. It seems more subjective or more of a soliloquy.

There is not the same direct appeal to another,[Pg 201] but no print can give the difference between the emotional movement of the two poems. In both, the trochaic foot and the very short line indicate abrupt outpouring of feeling.

Compare these two poems carefully. What is the significance of the form given them by Browning, the metre, the length of line, and the stanzas? Why are the stanzas of “In a Year” longer than those of “A Woman’s Last Word”? What is the effect of the difference in rhyme of these two poems? Does one detect any difference in the metric movement?


Never any more,
While I live,
Need I hope to see his face
As before.
Once his love grown chill,
Mine may strive:
Bitterly we re-embrace,
Single still.

Was it something said,
Something done,
Vexed him? was it touch of hand,
Turn of head?
Strange! that very way
Love begun:
I as little understand
Love’s decay.

When I sewed or drew,
I recall
How he looked as if I sung,
—Sweetly too.
If I spoke a word,
First of all
Up his cheek the color sprung,
[Pg 202]Then he heard.

Sitting by my side,
At my feet,
So he breathed but air I breathed,
I, too, at love’s brim
Touched the sweet:
I would die if death bequeathed
Sweet to him.

“Speak, I love thee best!”
He exclaimed:
“Let thy love my own foretell!”
I confessed:
“Clasp my heart on thine
Now unblamed,
Since upon thy soul as well
Hangeth mine!”

Was it wrong to own,
Being truth?
Why should all the giving prove
His alone?
I had wealth and ease,
Beauty, youth:
Since my lover gave me love,
I gave these.

That was all I meant,
—To be just,
And the passion I had raised,
To content.
Since he chose to change
Gold for dust,
If I gave him what he praised
Was it strange?

Would he loved me yet,
On and on,
While I found some way undreamed
—Paid my debt!
Gave more life and more,
Till all gone,
He should smile “She never seemed
[Pg 203]Mine before.

“What, she felt the while,
Must I think?
Love’s so different with us men!”
He should smile:
“Dying for my sake—
White and pink!
Can’t we touch these bubbles then
But they break?”

Dear, the pang is brief,
Do thy part,
Have thy pleasure! How perplexed
Grows belief!
Well, this cold clay clod
Was man’s heart:
Crumble it, and what comes next?
Is it God?

Why is “Hervé Riel” in trochaic movement? It is heroic; why not then iambic? The poem opens in a mood of anxiety, a state of suspense, a fear of the certain loss of the fleet. When hope revives and Hervé Riel is introduced in the words,

“For up stood, for out stepped, for in struck amid all these,”

we have a line of mixed anapestic and iambic feet, expressive of resolution, courage, and confidence; so with the first and second lines of the sixth stanza expressing indignation at the pilots; also in much of his speech to the admirals.

If the poet had led us sympathetically to identify ourselves with Hervé Riel’s resolution and endeavor, the metre would have been anapestic or iambic, but he gives the feeling of admiration for Hervé Riel and we are made to contemplate how easily he performed his great deed, and hence the[Pg 204] prevailing trochaic movement is one of the charms of the poem.

Criticism of this poem, such as I have heard, reveals a lack of appreciation of the dramatic spirit of metre. The trochaic delicately expresses the emotional feeling, admiration, and tenderness for the forgotten hero, as well as the anxiety and realization of danger in the first parts of the poem. The change to the iambic in the central part of the poem only proves the real character of the trochaic feet, and, in fact, accentuates their spirit. The trochee seems in general to indicate an outpouring of emotion or sudden burst of feeling too strong for control. Many of the most tender and prayerful hymns have this foot. It expresses also, at times, a sense of uneasiness or restlessness.

The reader must take these statements, however, as mere suggestions, for the very first poem written in this metre that he reads may give expression to a different spirit. So complex, so mysterious, is the metric expression of feeling, that no one poem can be made a standard for another.

The iambic foot, more than any other, expresses controlled passion,—passion expressed with deliberation. It implies resolution, confidence, or the heroic carrying out of an intention. While the trochee suggests the bursting out of feeling against the will, the iambic may suggest the spontaneous cumulation of emotion under the dominion of will with a definite purpose or conscious realization of a situation. The iambic can express passion controlled for an end, the trochee seems rather to float with the passion or be thrust forward by waves or bursts of feeling, which the will is trying to hold back.

[Pg 205]Note the predominant metric movement of “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” and how it expresses the confidence and noble conviction of the venerable Rabbi.

Why is “The Last Ride Together” iambic? Because no other metre could so well express the nobility of the hero, his endurance, his refusal to yield to despair or become antagonistic, his self-control, and the preservation of his hopefulness when all his “life seemed meant for fails.”


I said—Then, dearest, since ’tis so,
Since now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my love avails,
Since all my life seemed meant for fails,
Since this was written and needs must be—
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness!
Take back the hope you gave,—I claim
Only a memory of the same,
—And this beside, if you will not blame,
Your leave for one more last ride with me.

My mistress bent that brow of hers;
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fixed me a breathing-while or two
With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenished me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side,
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?

Hush! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosomed, over-bowed
By many benedictions—sun’s
[Pg 206]And moon’s and evening-star’s at once—
And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!—
Thus leant she and lingered—joy and fear!
Thus lay she a moment on my breast.

Then we began to ride. My soul
Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well
She might have hated, who can tell!
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I.

Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
We rode; it seemed my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rushed by on either side.
I thought,—All labor, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
I hoped she would love me; here we ride.

What hand and brain went ever paired?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshy screen?
We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There’s many a crown for who can reach.
Ten lines, a statesman’s life in each!
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier’s doing! what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
[Pg 207]My riding is better, by their leave.

What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you expressed
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
’Tis something, nay ’tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what’s best for men?
Are you—poor, sick, old ere your time—
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who have never turned a rhyme?
Sing, riding’s a joy! For me, I ride.

And you, great sculptor—so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that’s your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
You acquiesce, and shall I repine?
What, man of music, you grown gray
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend,
“Greatly his opera’s strains intend,
But in music we know how fashions end!”
I gave my youth; but we ride, in fine.

Who knows what’s fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I signed the bond—
Still one must lead some life beyond,
Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such? Try and test!
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.

And yet—she has not spoke so long!
What if heaven be that, fair and strong
At life’s best, with our eyes upturned
Whither life’s flower is first discerned,
[Pg 208]We, fixed so, ever should so abide?
What if we still ride on, we two,
With life forever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,—
And heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together, forever ride?

Adequate rendering of this poem requires a very decided touch upon the strong foot, that is, an accentuation of the iambic movement. Notice also the two, three, or four long syllables at the first of many lines (such as lines six, seven, and eight), showing the passion and the intense control. Observe the almost completely spondaic line, indicating deliberation, patient waiting, or intense, pent-up feeling held in poise:

“Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs,”

and then the short syllables and lyric effect in the next line. Note the strong isolation of the word “right” at the end of the fifth line, stanza two.

Notice that in stanza four, when the ride begins, the first foot is not iambic, but choriambic; yet all through the poem where manly resolution and confidence is asserted and expressed, the iambic movement is strong.

Tennyson’s “Lady Clara Vere de Vere” (p. 50) expresses the severity and earnestness of the speaker by the predominance of iambic feet, while the sudden uneasiness, or burst of passion, is best expressed by trochaic feet. Note the effect of the first line of most of the stanzas, then the quick change to iambic movement expressing the rebuke which is the real theme of the poem.

The spondee is found in solemn hymns or in any verse expressing reverence and awe. It is [Pg 209]contemplative and poised, and is frequently blended with other feet, especially with iambic, to express deliberation.

In Browning’s “Prospice,” the iambus predominates, and expresses heroic endurance and courage in meeting death; but the first foot—“Fear death”—is a spondee, and indicates the deliberative realization of the situation. It is the straightening up, as it were, of the whole manhood of the soldier before he begins his battle with death.

Very forcible are the occasional spondees in “Abt Vogler.” These give dignity and weight and sustain the contemplative and reverent meditations.

It will be noted that the dactyl is very closely related in expression to the trochee, and the anapest to the iambic. Triple rhythm or metre, however, implies a more circular and flowing movement. The dactyl is used in some of the most pathetic and passionate monologues of the language. Notice the fine use of it in Hood’s “Bridge of Sighs.”


One more unfortunate, weary of breath, rashly importunate, gone to her death! Take her up tenderly, lift her with care; fashion’d so slenderly, young, and so fair!

Look at her garments clinging like cerements, whilst the wave constantly drips from her clothing; take her up instantly, loving, not loathing. Touch her not scornfully; think of her mournfully, gently and humanly; not of the stains of her—all that remains of her now, is pure womanly.

Make no deep scrutiny into her mutiny rash and undutiful: past all dishonor, death has left on her only the beautiful. Still, for all slips of hers, one of Eve’s family—wipe those poor lips of hers oozing so clammily. Loop up her tresses escaped from the comb, her fair auburn tresses; whilst wonderment guesses where was her home?

Who was her father? Who was her mother? Had she a sister?[Pg 210] Had she a brother? Or was there a dearer one still, and a nearer one yet, than all other? Alas! for the rarity of Christian charity under the sun! O! it was pitiful! near a whole city full, home she had none. Sisterly, brotherly, fatherly, motherly feelings had changed: love, by harsh evidence, thrown from its eminence; even God’s providence seeming estranged.

Where the lamps quiver so far in the river, with many a light, from window and casement, from garret to basement, she stood, with amazement, houseless by night. The bleak wind of March made her tremble and shiver; but not the dark arch, or the black, flowing river; mad from life’s history, glad to death’s mystery swift to be hurl’d—anywhere, anywhere out of the world! In she plunged boldly, no matter how coldly the rough river ran, over the brink of it,—picture it, think of it, dissolute Man! lave in it, drink of it, then, if you can!

Take her up tenderly, lift her with care; fashion’d so slenderly, young and so fair! Ere her limbs frigidly stiffen too rigidly, decently, kindly, smooth and compose them; and her eyes close them, staring so blindly! Dreadfully staring through muddy impurity, as when with the daring last look of despairing fix’d on futurity.

Perishing gloomily, spurr’d by contumely, cold inhumanity burning insanity into her rest.—Cross her hands humbly, as if praying dumbly, over her breast! Owning her weakness, her evil behavior, and leaving, with meekness, her sins to her Saviour!

Some persons may not regard this poem as a monologue. But if not rendered by a union of dramatic and lyric elements, it will be given, as it often is, as a kind of a stump speech to an audience on the banks of the Thames over the body of some poor, betrayed woman, who has ended her life in that murky stream.

It is true that we are little concerned with the character of the speaker, and the feeling is intensely lyric and universal. But the situation is so definite, and the “One more unfortunate” is so vividly portrayed to us, that it is, at least, partly dramatic. Even those who are caring for the body are directly addressed:

[Pg 211] “Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care.”

It is a lyric monologue.

The sad, passionate outbursts can hardly be suggested by any other metre than that which is used by Hood, and we feel that its choice is singularly appropriate. The poem is intensely subjective. The conceptions regarding the life just closed arise through the natural association of ideas. The speaker thinks and feels definitely before us. The whirling circles suggested by the dactyl, with the occasional passionate break of a single accented word or syllable at the end of a line, assist the reader. Without such dactylic movement, the vocal expression of a pathos so intense would be hardly possible to the human voice.

Notice the two long syllables at the very beginning of the poem expressive of the stunned effect at the discovery of the body.

Render the poem printed as prose to avoid the sing-song of short lines, and note that in proportion to the depth of passion the metre becomes pronounced. It is impossible to read it in its proper spirit when not correctly rendering its metric rhythm.

The dactyl is used with a very similar effect in Austin Dobson’s “Before Sedan” (p. 84).

What a difference is expressed by the use of these same feet, with greater changes, and in longer lines, in Browning’s “The Lost Leader”! Restlessness is here expressed, arising not from pathos, but from indignation and disappointment. The rhythmic movement of the metre is totally different in this case. While the feet may be mechanically the same, the length of the lines and the rhythmic[Pg 212] spirit differ greatly in the two poems. The feeling is different, the tone-color of the voice not the same, and the whole expression differs, though in a mechanical scanning they seem nearly alike.


Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat,—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others, she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honored him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley, were with us,—they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

We shall march prospering,—not thro’ his presence;
Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire;
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
One more devil’s-triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life’s night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him—strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!

[Pg 213]One aid in realizing metre as an element of expression is to examine a poem printed as prose and attempt to discover the peculiar value and force of the metric forms, length of lines, length of the stanzas, and even the rhymes. All these in a true poem are expressive. There is nothing really artificial or accidental in a true poetic or artistic form. (See p. 175 and p. 209.)

Many poems in this book and in the accompanying monologues for further study are printed as prose, not because metre and length of line are unimportant, but for the very opposite reason. The form of a printed poem is so apt to be disregarded or considered a mere matter of print that this unusual method of printing a poem is adopted to furnish opportunity for the reader to work out for himself the metre and other elements of the form. In reading over a poem thus printed, almost any one will become conscious of the metric movement, and in every case the metric structure and length of line should be indicated and felt by the reader.

There is never, in a fine poem, especially in a dramatic poem, a mere mechanical and regular succession of the same foot, though one foot may predominate and give the general spirit to the whole. True metre never interferes with thinking or with the processes of natural speech; on the contrary, it is an aid to thinking, feeling, and vocal expression.

If the student will think and feel intensely such a poem as “Rabbi Ben Ezra” (p. 36), and will strongly accentuate the metre, he will find that he can read it easily, because, when true to its objective form, he is the better able to give its spirit.

[Pg 214]Innumerable changes in the metric feet occur in Browning’s “Saul,” in “Abt Vogler,” or in any great poem. The more deeply we become imbued with the spirit of a poem, the more do we feel that these variations are necessary.

The reader must be slow to criticize a seeming discord in metre. An apparent fault may appear as a real excellence after one has genuinely seized the true spirit of the passage.

Notice, for example, the discord in the word “ravines” in Coleridge’s “Hymn before Sunrise.” It gives a sudden arrest of feeling almost as if one stood trembling on the verge of a precipice. With mechanical regularity of feet such an impression could not be made. A great musical composer weaves in discords as a means of expression, and the same is true of a great master of metre. In nearly all cases where there is a seeming discord of metre, some peculiar vocal expression is necessary. “Ravines” compels a good reader to make an emphatic pause after it.

The importance of pause in relation to metre has often been overlooked. In Tennyson’s “Break, break, break,” we have a most artistic presentation of only the strong words of the metric line. A period of silence is necessary in order to give the whole line its movement. It requires as much time as if it had its full complement of syllables. This suggests the depth of the emotion. Such pauses, however, bring us to the subject of rhythm rather than metre. They have a wonderful effect in awakening a perception of the spirit of the poem.

Notice in “My Last Duchess” (p. 96), the lack[Pg 215] of rhyme, the stilted blank verse, the tendency towards iambic feet,—possibly to show the domineering and tyrannical spirit of the character. The almost prosaic irregularity of the feet is certainly very expressive of his thinking and feeling. It is easy, in this passage, to realize the appropriate expressiveness of Browning’s metre.

The metre of “A Death in the Desert” seems to a dull ear the same as that in “My Last Duchess.” But let one render carefully the dying John in contrast with the Duke. What a difference! How smooth the flow, what dignified intensity, when the beloved disciple gives his visions of the future! The spirit of the two when interpreted by the voice differ in the metric movement. What a rollicking good-nature is suggested appropriately by the metre of “Sally in our Alley” (p. 121). Imagine this young fellow telling his story, as he walks along. It would be impossible for him to talk in a steady, straight-forward iambic, or even in the hesitating, emotional trochee. His passion comes in gusts and outbursts, so that now and then he leaps into a kind of dance. The poem is wholly consistent with the character, and the metre is not the least important means of revealing the spirit of the emotions and sentiments. Plain, prosaic criticism, however, can hardly touch it. The characteristic spirit of the lad must be so deeply appreciated and felt as to lift the whole, notwithstanding its homely character, into the realm of exalted poetry, in fact, into a rare union of lyric and dramatic elements.

Notice, too, in “Up at a Villa—Down in the City” (p. 65), that the very mood, the very way an “Italian Person of Quality” would stand, walk,[Pg 216] saunter along, loll in a chair, roll his head, or swing his feet, are suggested by the metric movement. Changes of movement are required to show the person’s change of feeling and action. Quicker pulsation at his exaltation over the city will demand a swifter movement, while the slow, retarded rhythm will show contempt for the villa. Through the whole, the unity of the feet, the seeming carelessness, and the constant variation which suggests the commonplace character of the person, are part of the humorous impression made upon us. The metre, in this case, as in all monologues expressive of humor, must give the real spirit of the character; when once we realize the situation and the feeling, the right vocal expression of the metric form is a natural result.

Observe the grotesque humor, not only of the rhymes such as “eye’s tail up” and “chromatic scale up,” but also the peculiar feet in Browning’s “Youth and Art” (p. 21). The most common foot in the poem, an amphibrachys, three syllables with the middle one long, is often used with comical or grotesque effect in poems full of humor. The last line, however, full of tenderness and sadness, is trochaic.

Observe the tenderness of “Evelyn Hope.”


Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!
Sit and watch by her side an hour.
That is her book-shelf, this her bed;
She plucked that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too, in the glass;
Little has yet been changed, I think:
The shutters are shut, no light may pass
[Pg 217]Save two long rays thro’ the hinge’s chink.

Sixteen years old when she died!
Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name;
It was not her time to love; beside,
Her life had many a hope and aim,
Duties enough and little cares,
And now was quiet, now astir,
Till God’s hand beckoned unawares,—
And the sweet white brow is all of her.

Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope?
What, your soul was pure and true,
The good stars met in your horoscope,
Made you of spirit, fire and dew—
And, just because I was thrice as old
And our paths in the world diverged so wide,
Each was naught to each, must I be told?
We were fellow mortals, naught beside?

No, indeed! for God above
Is great to grant, as mighty to make,
And creates the love to reward the love:
I claim you still, for my own love’s sake!
Delayed it may be for more lives yet,
Thro’ worlds I shall traverse, not a few:
Much is to learn, much to forget
Ere the time be come for taking you.

But the time will come, at last it will,
When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shall say)
In the lower earth, in the years long still,
That body and soul so pure and gay?
Why your hair was amber, I shall divine,
And your mouth of your own geranium’s red—
And what you would do with me, in fine,
In the new life come in the old one’s stead.

I have lived (I shall say) so much since then,
Given up myself so many times,
Gained me the gains of various men,
Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes;
Yet one thing, one, in my soul’s full scope,
Either I missed or itself missed me:
And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope!
What is the issue? let us see!
[Pg 218]
I loved you, Evelyn, all the while!
My heart seemed full as it could hold;
There was place and to spare for the frank young smile,
And the red young mouth, and the hair’s young gold.
So hush,—I will give you this leaf to keep:
See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand!
There, that is our secret: go to sleep!
You will wake, and remember, and understand.

Note especially the transition from the trochees, expressive of tender love and feeling, in stanza three, to the iambics, expressing conviction and confidence, in the following stanzas:

“For God above
Is great to grant, as mighty to make,
And creates the love to reward the love:
I claim you still, for my own love’s sake.”

In Browning’s “One Way of Love” (p. 150) the iambics in the first lines express determination and endeavor, but there is a decided change in the metric movement caused by the agitation, disappointment, and deep feeling of the last two lines of each stanza.

It is never possible to study metre in cold blood. It is the language of the heart. Only an occasional versifier in a critical or intellectual spirit grinds out a machine-made metre, every foot of which can be scanned according to rule.

A poem which is written seemingly in one metric measure will be found, when read aloud with proper feeling, to have several. Contrast the last stanza with the third from the last of “In a Year” (p. 201), and one feels that the third from the last has the stronger iambic movement. This possibly expresses hope, or impetuous longing, while the last, returning to the trochee, expresses intense despair. At any rate, these two stanzas cannot be read alike.[Pg 219] Of course, a different conception on the part of the reader would affect the metre. The interpreter must take such hints as he finds, complete them by his imagination, and so assimilate the poem as to express its metre adequately by the voice. The living voice is the only revealer, as the ear is the only true judge, of metre.

In “Confessions” (p. 7), the waking of the sick man, his confusion, his uncertainty whether he has heard aright, and his repetition of the words of his visitor, are given with trochaic movement, while his own conviction and answer are given in iambics; yet his story, possibly on account of the tenderness of recollections, frequently returns to the trochaic movement.

In the same way, to his question

“... Is the curtain blue
Or green to a healthy eye?”

he gives a slightly trochaic effect as a recognition of his own sick condition. A positive settling of the question by his own illustration is indicated by the emphasis of the iambic movement in the next line.

These are illustrations only. Two persons who have thoroughly assimilated the spirit of a poem, may not completely agree concerning its metre. It is not necessary nor best that they should. There are delicate variations which show spontaneously the difference in the realization of the two readers.

Such personal variations, however, which result from peculiar experiences and types of character, must not be confused with the careless breaking of the metre which we hear from all our actors and public readers. The latter is the result of ignorance and lack of understanding and realization.[Pg 220] The late Henry A. Clapp, criticizing a prominent actor in “Julius Cæsar,” broke forth in a kind of despair and said: “After all, where could he go to find adequate methods for the development of a true sense of metre?”

Metre will never be fully understood until studied in connection with vocal expression, nor will vocal expression ever rise to its true place until applied to the interpretation not only of poetic thought, but of such elements of poetic form as metre. And where can a better means be found for both steps than the study of the monologue?

The student should observe the metre as well as the thought of every monologue he examines, and read it aloud, attending faithfully to the spirit of its metric expression. So poor is the ordinary rendering of metre, that it is almost impossible to tell the metre from the ordinary reading.

Trochaic metre is often read, as if it were a kind of crude iambic. When one is in the mood or spirit of one foot, unless he has imaginative and emotional flexibility, all feet will be read as practically the same. I have known readers, speakers, and actors who have completely lost the dactylic and even the trochaic spirit or mode of expression.

Let any one select a poem and render it successively with different metres and note the effect. We must often be made to feel the power of wrong vocal expression to pervert a poem before we can realize the force of right voice modulation in interpreting its spirit.

The student must realize each metric foot as an objective expression of a subjective feeling. Doubt is often felt even by the best critics, and great difference[Pg 221] of opinion exists among them, but the reader who understands vocal expression, studies into the heart of the poem and uses his own voice to express his intuition, will settle most of these difficulties satisfactorily to himself. Vocal interpretation is the last criterion of metric expression.

The universal lack of attention to metre is, no doubt, connected with a universal neglect of the expressive modulations of the voice. In our day the printed word and not the spoken word is regarded as the real word. This has gone so far that some educated men seem to regard metre as solely a matter of print.

While metre may be one of the last points to be considered, it is not the least important to study; nor is it, when mastered, the least useful to the thought, feeling, imagination, and passion, or to the right action of the voice in interpreting the spirit of the monologue.

There is an almost universal tendency to regard as superficial, actors and those capable of interpreting human experience by the living voice. Men who should have known better have said that it is not mental force but simply a certain peculiarity of temperament that gives dramatic power.

One of the most important things to be sought is the better understanding of the psychology of dramatic instinct. I have already tried to awaken some attention to the peculiar nature and importance of this in “Imagination and Dramatic Instinct,” but the subject is by no means exhausted. That discussion was meant only as a beginning.

When actors and public readers feel it necessary to train the voice and the ear, to develop imagination and feeling, to apprehend the true nature of[Pg 222] human art, and to meditate profoundly over the spirit of some great poem; when they treat their own art with respect and give themselves technical training, adequate metric expression will begin to be possible.

At present, it must be said in sorrow that the ablest actors and most prominent public readers blur and pervert the most beautiful lines in the language. They seem blind to differences as great as those between the sunflower and the rose.




Many monologues, especially the most popular ones are written in dialect; and frequently the public reader or interpreter gives his chief attention to the accurate reproduction of characteristic vowels, odd pronunciation of words, and the externals of the manner of speaking. The writer also often seems to make these matters of the greatest importance. What is the real meaning of dialect? How far is it allowable? Is it ever necessary? What principles apply to its use?

Dialect is one of the accidental expressions of character, and must be dramatic or it is worth nothing. It sometimes adds coloring by giving a grotesque effect; helps to produce an illusion; or aids the reader or hearer to create a more definite conception of the character speaking and hence to appreciate more fully the thought, feeling, and spirit. It is a kind of literary or vocal stage make-up that enables the reader or auditor to recognize the character.

[Pg 223]James Whitcomb Riley has chosen the homely Hoosier dialect as the clothing of the speaker in most of his monologues. As Burns spoke in the Scottish dialect which was simple and native to his heart, so Riley seems to consider the dialect of his native State the best medium for conveying the peculiar feelings and experiences of types of character with which his life has been directly associated.

There is justification for this, for it is well known that Burns’s best poems are those in Scottish dialect. His English poems, with one or two possible exceptions, are weaker, and in them he seems to be using a foreign language. Poetry is very near the human soul; and when the dialect is native to the heart, a quaint mode of expression may be necessary to the dramatic spirit of the thought.

As a character of a certain type may be an aid to the conception of a thought or sentiment, so the experiences of a character may be better suggested by dialect. In that case, it is justifiable, if not indeed a dramatic necessity.

In English some of the ablest writers have employed dialect. Tennyson uses dialect in his monologue of the “Northern Farmer,” and he is possibly our most careful author since Gray. The French do not use dialect poems to such an extent as English and American writers. They regard dialect as a degradation of language. The Provençal writers take their peculiar langue d’oc too seriously to regard it as a dialect. American writers, especially, think too much of dialect. A young writer often employs much dialect in a first book, but in a second or third, the spelling indicates the dialect less literally and with more suggestion of its [Pg 224]dramatic spirit. There are many instances where the earlier and the later books of an author present marked contrasts in this respect.

Public readers, especially, devote too much attention to the mere literal facts of dialect. Readers who give no attention to characterization or dramatic instinct pride themselves upon their mastery of many dialects. Their work is purely imitative and external. In representing a dialect, the general principles of expression, the laws of consistency and harmony, must be carefully considered by both the writer and the reader.

In general, the greatest masters of dialect are those who use dialects associated with their own childhood, such as Riley, with the Hoosier dialect, Day, with the Maine Yankee dialect, or Harris, with that of the colored people of Georgia. True dialect must always be the result of sympathy and identification.

Many writers have been led by a study of peculiar types and through natural imaginative sympathy or humor to understand and appreciate a specific dialect. Dunbar thus writes many of his poems in the peculiar dialect of his race. The reader need not be told that many of his poems are monologues. For a perfect type see “Ne’er Mind, Miss Lucy.” Dunbar was led, no doubt, by genuine sympathy or dramatic instinct, to write in the dialect of his race some of his most tender as well as his more humorous poems.

Dr. Drummond, of Montreal, after many experiences among the French Canadians, has written several volumes of monologues in which he has introduced to the world some peculiar types of the French Canadian. Their quaint humor is [Pg 225]portrayed with genuine and profound sympathy, and these poems are capable of very intense dramatic interpretation, and are deservedly popular. He preserves not only the peculiarity of the words, but the melodic and rhythmic movement of the dramatic spirit of his characters.


If I sole ma ole blind trotter for fifty dollar cash
Or win de beeges’ prize on lotterie,
If some good frien’ die an’ lef’ me fines’ house on St. Eustache,
You t’ink I feel more happy dan I be?

No, sir! An’ I can tole you, if you never know before,
W’y de kettle on de stove mak’ such a fuss,
W’y de robbin stop hees singin’ an’ come peekin’ t’roo de door
For learn about de nice t’ing’s come to us—

An’ w’en he see de baby lyin’ dere upon de bed
Lak leetle Son of Mary on de ole tam long ago—
Wit’ de sunshine an’ de shadder makin’ ring aroun’ hees head,
No wonder M’sieu Robin wissle low.

An’ we can’t help feelin’ glad too, so we call heem Dieudonné;
An’ he never cry, dat baby, w’en he’s chrissen by de pries’;
All de sam’ I bet you dollar he’ll waken up some day,
An’ be as bad as leetle boy Bateese.

There is great danger, however, in employing dialect. When the accidental is made the essential, when dialect is put forward as something interesting in itself, or adopted as a mere affectation, or where used by writer or reader independent of the spirit of the poem, of the story, or even of the character, and is regarded as something capable of entertaining by the mere effect of imitation, it becomes insipid and a hindrance.

Genuine dialect is dramatic. A dialect too literally reproduced will be understood with great difficulty, and the reading will cause no enjoyment.[Pg 226] The fact must be recognized that dialect is only accidental as a means of expression, and hence is justified only when necessary to the portrayal of character, or in manifesting a unique spirit, point of view, or experience.

Some of the best examples of the dramatic character of dialect in the monologue are found in Kipling. His Tommy Atkins is so vividly portrayed that he must necessarily speak in the peculiar manner of a British soldier. Kipling has so identified himself with certain characters that their dramatic assimilation requires dialectic interpretation, as in the case of “Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” “Danny Deever,” and “Tommy.” When dialect is thus inevitable from the dramatic point of view, it is legitimate.

In fact, while dialect is grotesque and accidental, and even stands upon a low plane, yet, by intense poetic realization, it may be lifted into a more exalted place. Energy has been called the father, and joy the mother, of the grotesque. Humor is not inconsistent with the greatest pathos; in fact, it is necessary to it. The grotesque sometimes becomes the Gothic.

In “Shamus O’Brien,” a monologue formerly popular, many of the characters speak in dialect. Shamus, however, seems to use less dialect on account of the dignity of his character and speech. In all such cases, the accidental becomes less pronounced in proportion to the emphasis of the essential. The dialect of the whole poem may be explained by the fact that an Irishman tells the story.

There seems, however, to be an exception to this. Carlyle, it is said, when expressing the profoundest[Pg 227] feeling in conversation always lapsed into broad Scottish dialect. Colonel T. W. Higginson says that he, with another gentleman and Carlyle, once passed through a park belonging to a private estate. Some children were rolling on the grass, and one boy coming forward timidly, approached Carlyle, whose face seemed to the boy the most kindly disposed to children, and said, “Please, sir, may we roll on the grass?” Carlyle broke into the broadest Scotch, “Ye may roll at discretion.”

As already intimated, dialect must not be so extreme that the audience cannot easily understand what the reader is saying. All true art is clear; it is not a puzzle. On account of its theme, and its appeal to the higher faculties, its comprehension may at times require long continued contemplation and earnest endeavor; but an accidental element, such as dialect, must never prevent immediate understanding of the words spoken or thoughts expressed. Dialect must be perfectly transparent. Its whole charm will be lost if it does not give a simple, quaint suggestion of character.

The chief element of dialect is not in the words or the pronunciation of the elementary sounds but in the melody. Every language has a kind of “accent,” as it is called, and it is this “accent” which is most characteristic. Every word may be pronounced correctly, but the artistic reader or actor can suggest immediately by the peculiar melodic form of his phrases whether it is a Frenchman, a German, an Italian, an Irishman, or a Scotsman who speaks.

In fact, the more subtle, more natural, more suggestive the dialect, the better. It must never be labored; never be of interest in itself. It is[Pg 228] secondary to character, to thinking, and even to feeling.

Dialect should always be the result of assimilation rather than imitation. If there is imitation at all, it must be of that higher kind resulting from sympathetic identification and a right use of the dramatic instinct.

One of the greatest mistakes in rendering dialect consists in taking the printed word as the sole guide. Because a word here and there is spelled oddly, the reader confines the dialect to these words.

True dialect is not a matter of individual words. It must penetrate the speech; it never can be more than vaguely suggested in print, and the print can be only a very inadequate guide to the reader. He must go to life itself and study the melodic spirit, the peculiar relations to character, the quaint inflections and modulations of the voice, which have little to do with mere pronunciation. A Scotchman may have corrected certain peculiarities of his vowels, or a Frenchman be able to pronounce individual words accurately, but still both will show a melodic peculiarity, which remains a fundamental characteristic. One who renders monologues and omits this peculiar melodic element will fail to give the fundamental element in dialect.

Dialect must not only be dramatic and sympathetic, but also delicately suggestive and accurate. The accuracy, however, should not be literal. It must be true to the type, and be felt as a part of the background.

In the rendering of a monologue, in general nothing should be given in dialect unless the dialect is directly expressive of the character of the speaker, his views, ideas, or feelings, or unless it[Pg 229] is necessary to the complete representation of the ideas, or can add something to the humorous or suggestive force of the thought.

Peculiarities of dialect are always associated with dramatic action. In fact, dialect is to speech what bearings are to movements. This again shows that dialect is primarily dramatic, and justifies a full discussion of the subject in connection with the dramatic monologue. A mere mechanical imitation of dialect in the pronunciation is wrong from this point of view also. The movements and actions of a character are as essential as dialect, but are more general and will often determine the most important part of the dialect, namely, the peculiar melody. When a character is truly assimilated by instinct, if there is no mechanical imitation, the dialect becomes almost an unconscious revelation.

The study of dialect is very close to the subject of dramatic diction. Many of our modern poets who use the monologue, such as Day, Foss, Riley, and Drummond, are blamed by superficial critics for the roughness of their language. Fastidious critics often say the work of these authors is too rough, and “not poetry.”

In reply to such criticism it may be said that the peculiar nature of dramatic diction is not realized. This rough language is necessary because of the peculiar type of character. The man cannot be revealed without making him speak his own native tongue. Browning is blamed as an artist for using burly and even brutal English, but as Mr. Chesterton has shown, “this is perfectly appropriate to the theme.” An ill-mannered, untrustworthy egotist, defending his own sordid doings with his own[Pg 230] cheap and weather-beaten philosophy, is very likely to express himself best in a language flexible and pungent, but indelicate and without dignity. But the peculiarity of these loose and almost slangy soliloquies is that every now and then in them occur bursts of pure poetry which are like the sudden song of birds. Flashes of poetry at unexpected moments are natural to all men. High ideals, aspirations, and even exalted visions belong to every one. Poetry is as universal as the human heart, though only a few can give it word.

The rough language, however, is not antagonistic to these poetic visions, but necessary for the truthful presentation of the character; that is to say, dramatic poetry must present both the external, objective form and the internal thought and ideal. The very nature of dramatic poetry demands such a union.

This principle must govern all dramatic diction, dialect included, but the law of suggestion and delicate intimation governs everywhere.




A play is a complete dramatic representation. The scenery, dress, and many details are realistically presented to the eye. All the characters concerned come forth upon the stage literally represented and objectively identified in name, dress, look, and action. Any speaker may take himself bodily out of the scene. There are properties, scenery, and other characters to sustain the movement and continuity of the story. Hence, upon the stage, situations and accidents can be [Pg 231]represented more literally than in the monologue, where much is hinted, or only intimated. In the latter there is but one speaker and the situation is not represented by scenery. It is a mental performance, and everything must be simple. The monologue cannot be represented to the eyes as literally as a play; hence, appeal must not be made to the eyes, but to the mind.

The interpreter of the monologue, however, too often takes the stage as the standard. There seems to be no well-conceived principle regarding the use of scenery. The ambition is to make everything “dramatic,” and the result is that monologues are often made literal, showy, and theatrical, and presented with inconsistencies which are almost ridiculous. Many readers arrange a platform as a stage with furniture, and dress for their part as if in a play. They show great attention to all sorts of mechanical accidents. They must have a fan or some extraordinary hat which can be taken off and arranged on the stage, and they sometimes go to greatest extremes in sitting, standing, walking, and kneeling, thus crudely violating the principles of unity, without which there is no art.

The first principle which must govern the use of scenery on the stage, and especially of properties by the interpreter of a monologue, is significance. Nothing must be used that is not positively and necessarily expressive of the thought and spirit of the passage rendered. When Duse once looked at the stage before the curtain rose, she found a statue in the supposed room. This was not unnatural, and seemed to the stage-manager all right, as it made the place look more home-like; but she said the statue must go out at once, as it was not a[Pg 232] subject that would interest the character depicted. He would never have such a statue in his room. So out went the statue. And Duse was right.

In general, in our day, on the stage as well as on the platform, there is a tendency to use too many properties, too many accidentals, or merely decorative details. Things should not be put on a platform or stage because they are beautiful, but because they have significance. Even an artistic dress is governed by the same principle. Whatever is not expressive of the personality, whatever does not become a part of the whole person, is a blemish and should be at once eliminated. In most instances, vulgarity consists in the use of too many things. As one word well chosen is more expressive than a dozen carelessly selected, so the highest type of monologue demands the greatest simplicity in its rendering.

It must be borne in mind that the aim of all vocal expression is to win attention. Many objects which at first seem to attract attention will be found really to distract the auditor’s mind. Let the reader try the experiment of omitting them, and he will discover the advantage of few properties.

The painter must have the power of generalizing, of putting objects into the background and enveloping all in what is sometimes called “tone.” All objects should be dominated by the same spirit, and must, therefore, be made akin to each other and brought into unity. On the stage the lights are often so arranged as to throw objects into shadow; yet this can hardly equal the painter’s art of subordination. The interpreter of a monologue, however, has no such assistance. He must subordinate, accordingly, by elimination, by the[Pg 233] greatest simplicity in accessories, and by accentuating central ideas or points.

It is well known that during the greatest periods of dramatic art, such as the age of Shakespeare, the stage was kept extremely simple, and this is the case also in the best French and German drama of the present time.

The fundamental law governing not only all dramatic art, and the monologue and platform, but pictures and other forms of art, is unity. Simplicity does not elaborate details or properties or gorgeous scenery. It is the result of the subordination of means to one end. Every part of the stage must be an integral portion and express the spirit of the scene. Modern electric lights and appliances are such that a scene can be brought into unity by effects of light in a way that was not possible until recent years. Power to bring gorgeous scenery into unity has been shown especially by Sir Henry Irving.

In general, in proportion as a play becomes spectacular, and the stage is made a means of exhibiting splendid scenery for its own sake, there is absence of the dramatic spirit.

The same is true regarding properties. A man may use his cane until it becomes imbued with his own personality, and he can extend the sense of feeling to its farthest tip, as the blind man uses a stick to feel his way through the streets of a city.

Hence, whenever any article of dress is a necessary part of the character and has an inherent relation to the story or the thought, when it becomes an essential part of the expression, then it may be properly employed.

Coquelin, for example, in one of his monologues, comes out with a hat in his hand, but the name of[Pg 234] the monologue is “The Hat.” It is to the hat that his good fortune is due. He treats it with great affection and tenderness, and it becomes in his hand an agency for gesticulation as well as an object of attention. It can be managed with great flexibility and freedom and in no way interferes with, but rather aids, the subtle, humorous transitions in thought and feeling that occur all through the monologue.

The temptation to most interpreters, however, is to drag in something which should play the most accidental rôle possible and make it a centre of interest. This destroys expression.

To illustrate: In a popular monologue a lady is supposed to discover under the edge of a curtain a pair of boots which she takes for evidence that a man is standing behind the curtain in concealment. Now, if literal boots are arranged on the stage behind a curtain, they have a totally different effect from Coquelin’s hat. They are there all the time. The audience sees them. They cannot move or be used in any way except indirectly. Besides, the woman should discover the boots, and the audience is supposed to discover them with her. A literal pair of boots, therefore, will interfere with the imagination and an imaginary one is far more easily managed.

It is difficult, however, to lay down a universal principle, as much depends upon the artist, the situation, and the circumstances, but in general the chief mistake is in having too many things and in being too literal. The monologue, it must never be forgotten, depends more upon suggestion than the play, and the law of suggestion must always be obeyed.

[Pg 235]The monologue, or its interpretation, is simply a mode of expression, and the employment of all accessories and properties must, first of all, be such as will not destroy expression, but rather increase the intensity and enforce the central spirit of the thought.

A second principle might be named the law of centrality. The artist must carefully distinguish between the accidental and the essential, and be sure to remember that art is the emphasis of the essential; that emphasis is the manifestation of what is of fundamental importance and the subordination of what is of secondary value. Careless and inartistic minds always find the accidental first; the accidental is to them always more interesting. But when an accidental is made an essential, the result is a one-sided effect; and while a temporary impression may be produced upon an audience, it is never permanently valuable. The reader who emphasizes accidents will himself grow weary of his monologue in a short time and not know the reason. Only a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Only that which is natural and in accordance with the laws of nature will stand forever as an object of interest.

A third law is consistency. As the oak-leaf is consistent with the whole tree, so in art, the degree of literalness in one direction must be justified by a corresponding degree in another. If Mrs. Caudle is to have a night-cap, then an old-fashioned curtain bed, a stuffed image for Caudle, and a phonograph for his snore are equally requisite. The temptation to be literal would hardly lead a monologue interpreter to place Caliban in the position Browning suggests in the poem, since it is impracticable to have a pool on the stage and let[Pg 236] Caliban lie in the cool slush. In the very nature of the case, accessories are suggestive, and the degree of suggestion in one direction must determine the degree in others.

These three suggestive principles of unity, centrality, and consistency show that what may be done on the stage should not be a standard for the interpretation of a monologue.

In the very nature of the case, the interpreter of the monologue cannot have all the means of producing an optical illusion which are available on the stage. His illusion must be mental and imaginative. Circumstances, however, change, though the laws will be found to apply.

Because the speaker is supposed to be sitting in a grocery store on a barrel, it is not necessary for the reader to sit upon a table and swing his feet. We are not interested in the barrel, but in the one who sits upon it, and he would be as interesting if sitting upon something else, or even standing. The fundamental centre of interest in all expression is the mind, and whatever cannot reinforce that is not only useless, but a hindrance.

The old age of Rabbi Ben Ezra is purely accidental. To present him as weak and enfeebled would destroy for us the vigorous mind, and strong convictions of the old man.

One of the precious memories of my youth, the most adequate rendering of a monologue I ever heard, was Charlotte Cushman’s reading of Tennyson’s “The Grandmother.” Sitting quietly in her chair, as she did in nearly all of her readings, she suggested the mind of the grandmother whose girlhood memories, “seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago,” were accentuated by the[Pg 237] trembling head and hands and voice. All the mental attitudes so well portrayed by Tennyson—the lapses into forgetfulness; the tenderness of the experience; the patience born of old age;—were faithfully depicted. It was something which those who heard could never forget. The greatness of Charlotte Cushman’s art was shown in the fact that she could give an extremely simple monologue with marvellous consistency and force. It is strange that among American dramatic artists no one has tried to follow in her steps. I can laugh yet when I remember her transcendent interpretation of “The Annuity,” a monologue in Scottish character and dialect. I owe a great debt to Miss Cushman, for she awakened my interest in the monologue, and gave me, over thirty years ago, an ideal conception of the possibilities of dramatic platform art. She never used properties of any kind. At times she stood up and walked the platform and acted a scene from Macbeth or some other play, but always with the simplest possible interpretation, without any mechanical accessories. She never stood in giving her monologues, or readings, which she gave the last year of her life.

Care, of course, is needed in regard to the employment of properties also on the stage. The difficulty of placing a horse upon the stage is well known. He cannot be made a part of the picture, cannot be subordinated, or “made up.” If we observe from the gallery when a horse is on the stage, we find that the attention of everybody is centred upon him, and the point of the play is lost. Who ever receives an impression of the splendid music while Brunhilde stands holding by the bridle a great cart-horse?

[Pg 238]The centre of interest in Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” is not in the horse that Tony Lumpkin has been driving, but in his dialogue with his mother, and her fright at her husband, whom she believes to be a highwayman. To introduce two horses, making the audience uneasy as to what they will do, destroys the dramatic interest of the scene.

The bringing of real horses on the stage in a play always causes fear of an accident and distracts attention from the real point of the scene. To see a noted singer motioning to a super to bring her horse on the stage makes “the judicious grieve.” There is no doubt a tendency at the present time to over-elaboration and to extravagance in realistic presentation. But if too much literalism is objectionable in the play, how much more is it in the monologue?

All these principles may be combined in one, the law of harmony. This is possibly the simplest law regarding properties, dialect, and all accidentals in the interpretation of a monologue. The degree of realism in one direction or in one part must be justified by corresponding degrees in others. All art is relative, and depends upon the unity of impression.

A man’s clothes may be a part of his character, and a singular individual often has an odd hat, or cane, that has become an essential means in the expression of his character. Where a man uses a stick habitually in an individual way, the dramatic artist may use this to a certain extent, especially in monologues of a lower type. So of any article of dress; when an essential part of a character is needed for expression, it is proper to use it. The same principle applies here that was shown in the[Pg 239] case of dialect. Though accidental, an article of dress may become a means of expression. In the higher and more exalted monologues, however, there should be more suggestion and less literal presentation of properties or adjuncts. The sublimer the literature, the more appeal is made to the imagination; the deeper the feeling, the more complete is the dependence upon the imagination of the audience. The more lyrical also, a monologue, the less must there be of any accidental representation. This is sure to destroy the lyric spirit. Even when there is not a lyric element the dramatic element is only suggested, and in the sublimest monologues often verges towards the epic. The monologue is rarely purely dramatic, that is, dramatic in a sense peculiar to the theatre.

The application of these principles to the interpretation of a monologue is clear. Nothing in the way of properties should ever be employed in the presentation of a monologue which is not absolutely necessary. There should be nothing on the platform which does not directly aid in interpreting the passage. All which does not co-operate in producing the illusion will be a hindrance. Whenever attention is called to a literal object, or even to a mere objective fact, attention is distracted from the central theme.

All properties appeal to the eye, and it requires a careful management of light and a study of the stage picture to bring them into unity with the scene. But the reader of the monologue can have no such advantages. If unity in the literal representation of the stage is necessary, and cannot be won without great subordination, how much more is this needful in the presentation of a monologue,[Pg 240] where the appeal is to the mind, and people are supposed to use not their eye, but their imagination, and even to supply a listener. The laws of consistency and suggestion, accordingly, require the elimination or very careful subordination of properties and scenery in the presentation of the monologue. Whenever one thing is carried beyond the limit of suggestiveness or the degree of realistic representation possible in all directions, the effect is one-sided. The necessity of subordinating properties and make-up in the monologue is shown by the fact that they are more permissible in those of a very low type or in the burlesque or the farce.

Dramatic elements and actions need to be emphasized by the interpreter of a monologue. The actor can “take the stage” or give it up to another, but this is impossible in a monologue. The interpreter on a platform has no one to hold the stage while he falls. He can only suggest all the actions and relations of character to character. He cannot make the same number of movements, or turn so far around or walk so great a distance, or make such a literal portrayal of objects as is possible on a stage. The monologue must centre expression in the face, eyes, and action, and in the pictures awakened in the minds of the hearers, not in mere accidents or properties.

I have seen a prominent reader bend over at the hip and lean on a cane, so that his face could not be seen by the audience, and people were expected to accept this monstrosity as an old man. One among twenty thousand old men might be bent over in this way, but then he could never talk as this reader talked. Certainly such action was foreign to the intention of his author and the spirit[Pg 241] of his selection, as well as to the spirit of art. Face and body must be seen in order to fully understand language, and no accidental must be so exaggerated as to interfere with a definite, artistic accentuation of that which is necessary to the meaning and expressive presentation of the whole. In general, let the reader beware of accidentals, and in every case, as much as possible, emphasize the fundamentals.




Many faults in the rendering of a monologue have been necessarily suggested in the preceding discussion. There are some, however, which have been but barely referred to, that possibly need some further attention.

The monologue must not be stagy. It should possess the quiet simplicity, the long pauses, the abrupt movement, the animated changes in pitch, and the simple intensity which belong to conversation. The Italian in England would remember and feel again the excitement of danger, and gratitude for delivery; but he would not employ descriptive gestures and declamatory presentation as if delivering an oration.

An important error to be avoided in rendering a monologue is monotony or inflexibility. A monologue is more suggestive than any other form of literature, for it implies sudden exclamations and abrupt transitions. The ideas and feelings are often hardly hinted at by the writer. There is not only greater difficulty in realizing the continuity of ideas and meaning, but a greater necessity for[Pg 242] abrupt changes of voice than in any other mode of expression.

The reader of the monologue must suggest the impressions produced upon him, the hidden causes, the unreported words of another character, and at the same time a distinct and definite imaginative situation. Hence, the rendering of a monologue requires the greatest possible accentuation of the processes of thinking and feeling and the most delicate transitions of ideas. An impression produced by a mere look must be definitely revealed by the interpreter.

We thus see the necessity for the employment of great flexibility of voice and of body, and especially the exercise of versatility of the mind. The interpreter must have a sympathetic temperament, and must be able to accentuate and sustain the simplest look, the most delicate inflection and change of pitch, and to modulate the color and movement of his voice with perfect freedom. To read a monologue on one pitch completely perverts its spirit. Monotony is a bad fault in rendering all forms of literature, but it is possibly worse in the monologue on account of the peculiarly broken and suggestive character of that form of writing.

All the elements of conversation must be not only realized, but emphasized. The reader must be able to make some of these so salient as to reveal the very first initiation of an idea; otherwise, the real point may be lost. The thought must be made clear at all hazards.

The monologue must not be tame. Because it is printed in such regular lines the suggestive character may be lost, and the words simply presented as in a story or essay. There is a great temptation[Pg 243] to give the feeling with the personal directness of the lyric story or essay. The monologue requires extreme definiteness and decision in the conception of character and feeling, and every point must be made salient.

Another fault in the rendering of the monologue is a declamatory tendency. As the reader discovers but one speaker he confuses the words with a speech. He feels the presence of the audience to whom he is addressing the words, or unconsciously imagines an audience, in preparing his monologue, and forgets entirely the dramatic auditor intended by the author. Thus, the interpreter, confusing the points of situation, transforms the monologue into a stump speech.

It degrades the quiet intensity of “A Grammarian’s Funeral” to make the grammarian’s pupil, who is aiding in bearing his body up the mountain side, declaim against the world. How quietly intense and simple should be the rendering of “By the Fireside.”

Although the subtleties of conversation need some accentuation, and although there is an enlargement of the processes of thinking, and fuller realization of the truth than in conversation, the monologue never becomes a speech. An audience may be felt, but never directly dominated, nor even addressed. In the oration, the speaker directly dominates the audience; in dramatic representation, the artist does not even look at his audience. His eye belongs to his interlocutor. The direction of the audience is that of attraction, and away from the audience that of negation. He must feel a tendency to gravitate in passion towards the audience, and in the negation of passion to turn from them;[Pg 244] but still he succeeds, not by direct instruction, but by fidelity of portraiture.

The monologue is as indirect as a play. It is the revelation of a soul, and to be used not to persuade, but to influence subtly. The truth is portrayed with living force, and the auditor left to draw his own conclusions and lessons.

Another fault is indefiniteness. Every part of a monologue must be brought into harmony with the rest. Part must be consistent with part, as are the hand and foot belonging to the same organism. If “Abt Vogler” be started as a soliloquy, it must not be turned into a speech to an audience, nor even into a direct speech to one individual. If conceived as a speech to one individual, that character must be preserved throughout. Even though talking to some one, he would be very meditative, and would often turn and speak as if to himself.

Closely allied to indefiniteness is exaggeration of certain parts. All accentuation must be in direct proportion. If inflection be made longer and more salient, there must also be longer pauses, greater changes of pitch, and greater variations of movement and color. In the enlargement of a portrait, it is necessary that all parts be enlarged in proportion. If only the nose or the upper lip be enlarged, the truth of the portrait is lost.

But on account of the suggestive character of the monologue, essentials only must be expanded and accentuated. Hardly any form of art demands that accidentals be more completely subordinated. To exaggerate accidents is to produce extravagance; to appeal to a lower sense is to violate the artistic law of unity. Naturalness can be preserved in any artistic accentuation by increased emphasis of [Pg 245]essentials. This prevents the monologue from being tame on the one hand, and extravagant on the other.

Failures in the ordinary rendering of a monologue are frequently occasioned by lack of imagination. The scene, situation, and relation of the characters do not seem to be clearly or vividly realized. Hence, there is a lack of passion, of emotional realization of a living scene, and consequently of natural modulations of voice and body. The audience depends entirely upon the interpreter, since there is no scenery to suggest the situation. All centres in the mind of the reader. If he does not see, and does not show the impression of his vision, his auditor cannot be expected to realize anything.

At first thought, it seems impossible for a reader to cause an audience to discover a complicated situation from a look. The reader may think it necessary to make a long explanation first and be tempted to depend upon objects around him. It is presently found, however, that a mere hint, a turn of the head, a passing expression of the face, will kindle the imagination of the auditor. If the reader really sees things himself, and is natural, flexible, and forcible, he need not fear that his audience will not imagine the scene. An illusion is easily produced. Imagination kindles imagination; vision evokes vision. Every picture, every situation, the location of every character, the entrance of every idea, must be naturally revealed, and there is no need for extravagance of labor. Whatever turns the attention of the audience to the labor of the reader will prevent imaginative creation of the scene, while all minds will be concentrated on[Pg 246] the thought when there is a natural, easy manifestation of a simple impression.

The reader in rendering a monologue has especial need for dramatic imagination, and must have insight into the motives of character. The character he portrays must think and live, and the character to whom he is supposed to speak must also be realized. He must sympathetically identify himself with every point of view. A lack of dramatic instinct upon the stage may at times be concealed by a show of scenery and properties, but without dramatic instinct the rendering of a monologue is impossible. It is the dramatic imagination that enables a reader to feel the implied relations, to awaken to a consciousness of a situation, or of the meaning and intimation of the impression produced by another character.

Lack of clearness must be corrected by unusual emphasis. In fact, the monologue demands what may be called dramatic emphasis. Not only must words that stand for central ideas be made salient, but so also must be the impressions of ideas or of situations that need special attention. These give to the audience the situation and life. It is the dramatic ellipses that need especially to be revealed in order to make a monologue clear as well as forcible. A monologue demands the direct action of the dramatic instinct.

All dramatic art must live and move. There is always something of a struggle implied, and this must be suggested and represented. The whole interest of dramatic art centres in the effect of one human being upon another. Without dramatic realization of the effect of character upon character, genuine interpretation of a monologue is not possible.

[Pg 247]The monologue must never be theatrical or spectacular. If the interpreter exaggerates at the first some situation, however great or important, beyond the bounds of living, moving, natural life, the result becomes mere posing. An attitude that might have been a simple and clear revelation of feeling is altogether exaggerated, and appeals to the eye instead of to the imagination. It is the result, perhaps, of an expert mechanic, but not of dramatic instinct. If there is a locating of everything, literalism is substituted for imaginative suggestiveness. An extravagant earnestness, or loudness, or unnatural stilted methods of emphasis, will entirely prevent the reader’s imaginative and dramatic action in identifying himself with the character, or entering into sympathetic relations with the scene. A monologue must always be perfectly true to life, and as simple and natural as every-day movements upon the street.

The interpreter of a monologue must study nature; must train his voice and body to the greatest degree of flexible responsiveness, and become acquainted with the human heart. He must cultivate a sympathetic appreciation of all forms of literature; must understand the subtle influences of one human being over another, and comprehend that only by delicate suggestion of the simplest truth can the imagination and sympathies be awakened. He must have confidence in his fellow-men, and be able, by a simple hint, to awaken men’s ideals. In short, faults in rendering monologues must be prevented by genuineness, by developing taste, and awakening the imagination, dramatic instinct, and artistic nature.



[Pg 248]


When we have once discovered the nature and peculiarities of the monologue, the character of its interpretation, and its uses in dramatic expression, its general importance in art, literature, and education becomes apparent.

In the first place, its value is shown by the fact that it reveals phases of human nature not otherwise expressed in literature, or in any other form of art.

To illustrate this, let us take Browning’s “Saul.” It is founded upon a very slight story in the Book of Kings to the effect that when Saul was afflicted with an evil spirit, a skilful musician was sought to charm away the demon, and the youthful David was chosen.

Browning takes this theme, transfigures it by his imagination, and produces what is considered by some the greatest poem of the nineteenth century. Without necessarily subscribing to this judgment, let us study this poem which has called forth from some critics so much enthusiasm.

Browning makes David the speaker in the monologue, and its occasion after the event, when he is “alone” with his sheep, endeavoring to realize what happened while playing before Saul, and what it meant.

The poem begins with his arrival at the Israelitish camp, and Abner’s kindly reception and indication to him of his duty. Browning isolates Saul in his tent, which no one dares approach. This stripling with his harp must, therefore, go into that tent alone. After kneeling and praying, he “runs[Pg 249] over the sand burned to powder,” and at the entrance to the tent again prays. Then he is “not afraid,” but enters, calling out, “Here is David.” Presently he sees “something more black than the blackness,” arms on the cross-supports (note the cross). Now what can David, a youth, before the king, sing or say or do?

He first plays “the tune all our sheep know,” that is, he starts, as endeavor should ever start, upon the memory of some early victory. Possibly his first victory was the training of the sheep to obey his music. The winning of one victory gives courage for another. It is practically the only courage a human being can get. Hence, David tries the same song. He is not ashamed to trust his childhood’s experiences. Then follows the tune by which he had charmed the “quails,” the “crickets,” and the “quick jerboa.” Later experiences succeed, the tune of the “reapers,” the “wine-song,” the praise of the “dead man.” Then follows

“... the glad chant
Of the marriage ...”


“... the chorus intoned
As the Levites go up to the altar.”

Here he stops and receives his first response. “In the darkness Saul groaned.” Then David pours forth the song of the perfection of the physical manhood of which Saul was the type.

“‘Oh, our manhood’s prime vigour! No spirit feels waste,
Not a muscle is stopped in its playing nor sinew unbraced.
Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock,’”

and calls him by name, “King Saul.” Then he waits what may follow, as one at the climax of[Pg 250] human endeavor pauses to see what has been accomplished. After a long shudder, the king’s self was left

“... standing before me, released and aware.”

what more could he do?

“(For, awhile there was trouble within me.)”

Then he turns to the dreams he had had in the field. He has gone the rounds of his experience and done his best to interpret them. Now he passes into a higher realm. He describes the great future, and all the different causes working to perpetuate Saul’s fame.

“‘So the pen gives unborn generations their due and their part
In thy being! Then, first of the mighty, thank God that thou art!’”

As he closes, the harp falling forward, he becomes aware

“That he sat, as I say, with my head just above his vast knees
Which were thrust out on each side around me, like oak roots which please
To encircle a lamb when it slumbers.”

Then Saul lifted up his hand from his side and laid it

“in mild settled will, on my brow: thro’ my hair
The large fingers were pushed, and he bent back my head, with kind power—
All my face back, intent to peruse it, as men do a flower.”

and David peered into the eyes of the king—

“‘And oh, all my heart how it loved him! but where was the sign?’”

His intense love and longing lifts David into a state of exaltation.

“Then the truth came upon me. No harp more—no song more! outbroke—”

[Pg 251]The instrument drops to his side, for inspiration at its highest is expressed by the simplest means. With a heart thrilled by love of this fellow-being, out of that human love David comes to realize something of the divine love, and he breaks into the finest strain of nineteenth century poetry. In noble anapestic lines he pours forth the thought as it comes to him:

“‘Behold, I could love if I durst!
But I sink the pretension as fearing a man may o’ertake
God’s own speed in the one way of love: I abstain for love’s sake.
What, my soul? see thus far and no farther? when doors great and small,
Nine-and-ninety flew ope at our touch, should the hundredth appal?
In the least things have faith, yet distrust in the greatest of all?
Do I find love so full in my nature, God’s ultimate gift,
That I doubt his own love can compete with it? Here, the parts shift?
Here, the creature surpass the Creator,—the end, what Began?...
Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst thou—so wilt thou!’”

This poem of Browning’s is conceived in the loftiest spirit of religious verse. David foretelling the Christ as the manifestation of divine love, and the authentication of the fact of immortality, reaches the true spirit of all prophecy, a theme almost transcending poetry. Then follow a few words of David’s, descriptive of the effect of the new law which he has discovered upon the world around him on his way home. Illumination has come to him, the world is transfigured by love; and this sublime poem closes with the murmur of the brooks.

What does it all mean? One person makes it the text of a long discussion on the use of music to cure disease. Another thinks it a suggestion in poetry of the spirit of Hebrew prophecy. There is no end to its applications. It is a parable. Is it[Pg 252] not the poetic interpretation of all noble endeavor? May not David represent any human being facing some great undertaking? Is not the gloomy tent the world, and Saul outstretched in the form of a cross the race, and David with his harp any trembling soul who attempts to charm away the demon from his fellow-men? Is it too much to say that every successful artist follows David’s example as portrayed by Browning? The artist will also share in David’s experience in the transformation of the world.

Without the monologue could such a marvellous interpretation be possible? how could we receive such suggestions, such glimpses into man’s spiritual nature? What other form of art could serve as an objective means of expressing those experiences? The evolution of the monologue has made “Saul” possible.

There has been much discussion whether the book of Job is a dramatic or an epic poem. It contains both elements, but if we study the singular character of the many speeches, we can see that the real spirit of the poem is explained by the principles of the dramatic monologue. It is a series of monologues by different speakers, each character being separately defined, and his words and ideas definitely colored by his character, as in “The Ring and the Book.”

The ninetieth Psalm is a monologue. Whoever the author may have been, he conceived of Moses as the speaker. The experience is not that of mankind in general. A peculiar situation and type of character are demanded. No other man in history can utter so fittingly the words of the Psalm as can Moses.

[Pg 253] “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Thou turnest man to destruction,
And sayest, Return, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight
Are but as yesterday when it is past,
And as a watch in the night.
Thou carriest them away as with a flood;
They are as a sleep:
In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up;
In the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
For we are consumed in thine anger,
And in thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee,
Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
For all our days are passed away in thy wrath:
We bring our years to an end as a sigh.
The days of our years are threescore and ten,
Or even by reason of strength fourscore years;
Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow;
For it is soon gone, and we fly away.
Who knoweth the power of thine anger,
And thy wrath according to the fear that is due unto thee?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may get us a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Jehovah; how long?
And let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
Oh satisfy us in the morning with thy lovingkindness,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us,
And the years wherein we have seen evil.
Let thy work appear unto thy servants,
And thy glory upon their children.
And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And establish thou the work of our hands upon us;
Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

The very first words hint at his experiences. He never had a home; how natural, therefore, for him to say, “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place[Pg 254] in all generations.” Cradled on the Nile, brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro’s shepherd for forty years, and for another forty a wanderer in the wilderness and the leader of his people, surely he was rich in tried knowledge!

Notice how these conditions save the Psalm from untruthfulness. “All our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a sigh.” Such statements are true of Moses and the people condemned to die in the desert, Joshua and Caleb only being permitted to pass over the Jordan. Moses in his grief at the divine judgment could say this truthfully to God, but to give these words a universal application would falsify a Christian’s faith and hope. They are dramatic rather than lyric.

The Psalm should be read as a monologue, the character should be sustained; the feeling and experience, not of every one, but of Moses in particular, should be felt and truly interpreted.

What light the study of the monologue throws upon the peculiar oratory of the Hebrew prophets! These are speeches, sermons with fragmentary interruptions. Note, for example, in the twenty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, a speech to the drunkards of Jerusalem. The speaker is referring as a warning to the drunkards of Samaria, the northern city being intimated by the figure of the “crown—on the head of the fat valley.” But in verses nine and ten the drunkards retort, and their words have to be read as quotations, as the expression of their feelings. The speeches of the prophets, of course, are not regular forms of the monologue; but a study of the monologue enables us to recognize their dramatic character, and greatly aids in [Pg 255]discovering the meaning of these sublime poems or addresses.

The monologue is capable of rendering special service to many classes of men. It has an important, but overlooked, educational value. It can render, for example, great assistance in the training of a speaker. The chief dangers of the speaker are unnaturalness, declamation, extravagance, and crude methods of emphasis, such especially as over-emphasis. He inclines to employ physical force rather than mental energy, to give a show of earnestness rather than to suggest intensity of thought and feeling.

The monologue furnishes the speaker with a simple method of studying naturalness. If set to master a monologue, he must observe conversation, and be able to express thoughts saliently and earnestly to one person.

Although no true speaker can ever afford to neglect the study of Shakespeare and the great dramatists, still the monologue affords a great variety of dramatic situations, and especially interprets dramatic points of view. It will also help him to gain a knowledge of character and furnish a simple method of developing his own naturalness.

An orator presents truth directly, for its own sake, and hence is apt to overlook the fact that oratory, after all, is “the presentation of truth by personality,” and that personal peculiarities will interfere with such presentation. A study of the monologue will reveal him to himself, and help him to understand something of the necessity of making truth clear to another personality. By studying dramatic art, the speaker, in short, not only comes[Pg 256] to a knowledge of human nature, and the relation of human beings to each other, but is furnished with the means of understanding himself.

Another important service which the monologue is capable of rendering is the awakening of a perception of the necessary connection between the living voice and literature. The Greeks recognized this, but in modern times we have almost lost the function of the spoken word in education, in our over-emphasis of the written word.

The monologue is capable of furnishing a new course in recitation and speaking, of bringing the most important study of the natural languages into practical relationship with the study of literature. On the one hand, it elevates the study of the spoken word, and gives a practical course for the colleges and high schools in the rendering of some of the masterpieces of the language; on the other hand, it prevents the courses in literature from becoming a mere scientific study of words.

The true study of literature must be subjective. Psychology has tested and tried every study in recent years. Men will soon come to realize that there is a psychology of literature, and centre its study, not in words, but in the living expression of thought and feeling. Written language will then be directly connected with the awakening of the creative faculties of the mind.

The value of the monologue will then be appreciated because of its direct revelation of the action of man’s faculties, and it may be realized also that the evolution of the monologue is a part of the progressive spirit of our own time.

The rendering of the monologue also will aid us in securing a method and emphasize the fact[Pg 257] that literature as art must be studied as art and by means of art. Scientific study of literature is abnormal or necessarily one-sided. The study of the monologue when rightly pursued will aid in studying literature as the mirror of life and prevent the student from developing contempt for the literary masterpieces which he is made to analyze.

It will aid in the study of literature as “the criticism of life” and enable the individual student to realize literature as the mirror of human experience. It will prevent students from studying literature as mere words. It will awaken deeper and truer appreciation and will prevent the contempt, born of mechanical drudgery, for literary masterpieces.

Educated men do not know by heart the noble poetry of the language. The voices of American students are hard and cold. There is among us little appreciation of art. The monologue seems to come as a peculiar blessing at this time as a means of educating the imagination and dramatic instinct. It furnishes a course for recitation that obviates the necessity for a stage, avoids the stiltedness of declamation, yet supplies an adequate method of studying the lost art of recitation,—the art that made the Greek what he was.

The monologue will help students in all the arts to overcome tendencies to mechanical practice. There is danger of making all exercises mechanical. Take, for example, the student of song. If he practises scales or songs without thought, or any sense of expressing feeling to others, it is simply a matter of execution. Some of our leading singers express no feeling. Song, to them, is a matter of technical execution,—very beautiful as an exhibition, but not as a revelation of the heart.

[Pg 258]A similar condition is found also in other forms of art,—in instrumental music, in painting or drawing. There is a continual tendency to forget that art is the expression of thinking and feeling to another mind; and while there must be very severe training to master technicalities, this is not the end, but the means. The monologue furnishes a simple and adequate method for the mastery of the relations of one mind to another. It is just as necessary in the development of the artist that he should come to feel the laws of the human mind, the laws of his own thinking and feeling, and the character of the suggestion of that feeling, and to recognize the modifications which the presence of another soul makes upon his own, as it is that he should master the technique of his art.

All art is social. It is founded on the relation of human beings to each other; on the character of the soul; on the love of one human being for others, and the desire to reveal to his fellows the impressions that nature, or human character, make upon him. In all artistic practice, of song, of instrumental music, of painting, of drama, there should be in the mind of the artist a perception of the race.

The monologue is especially helpful to dramatic students. They are too apt to despise the monologue, and not appreciate the assistance its mastery could give them. They desire mere rehearsals of plays; they want scenery, properties, accessories, forgetful that the primary elements of dramatic art are found in thought, feeling, and motives and passions. Dramatic art must be based on the revelation of the nature of man; and on the effect of mind upon mind. The monologue enables the dramatic student to study the dramatic element in[Pg 259] his own mind, as well as in the relations of one character to another. When he has no interlocutor to listen to or to lead the attention of the audience, or hold it in the appreciation of what he is saying, thinking, and doing, he is thrown back upon his instincts, and must imagine his interlocutor and depend upon himself.

The monologue, however, is important for its own artistic character. It is primarily important because it belongs to dramatic art. It gives insight into human character, embodies the poetry of every-day life, and reveals the mysteries of the human heart, as possibly no other literary form can do. It focuses attention upon human motives independent of “too much story” or literary digression. It interprets human conduct, thinking, feeling, and passion, from a distinct point of view. It suggests the secret of human follies, misconceptions, and perversities, and gives the key to greatness and nobility in character.

Insignificant as the form may seem to one who has never studied it, it is a mirror of human life, and as such can be made a means of criticizing public wrong or folly. It can express a universal feeling, and is one of the finest agents of humor. By its aid Mr. Dooley reflects the weaknesses and foibles of people and parties in such a way as to make a whole nation smile, and even to mould public sentiment. Thus, the amusing and humorous monologues must not be despised. Think of the services humor has rendered in the advance of human civilization! Alas for him who cannot smile at folly, and alas for human art which appeals only to the morbid! The highest function of human art is to awaken pleasure at the sight of the beautiful,[Pg 260] and the true. If a man finds pleasure in what is below his ordinary plane of life, he injures himself. If enjoyment leads him in the direction of his ideal, although indirectly, by a portrayal of the comic, the abnormal, or even of low characters, he is benefited, no matter how this benefit is received.

Men delight to teach and to preach, but it is astonishing how little direct teaching and preaching accomplish. On account of the hardness of the heart, the parable, or some other less direct method of teaching, some artistic method, that is, is absolutely necessary. We desire to see a living scene portrayed before us; we must know and judge for ourselves. We must perceive both cause and effect, and then make the application to our own lives.

Art, especially dramatic art, is a necessity of human nature. “Without art,” says William Winter, “each of us would be alone.” Only by art are we brought near together, and chiefly in our art will be found our true advance in civilization. The monologue is a new method, a new avenue of approach from heart to heart.

Dramatic art must have many forms. When no longer truthfully presented by the play, as is often the case; when it has become corrupted into a spectacular show, into something for the eye rather than for the mind; when no longer concerned with the interpretation of character and truth, or when debased to mere money making, then the irrepressible dramatic spirit must evolve a new form. Hence, the origin and the significance of the monologue.

Whether the play can be restored to dramatic dignity or not, the monologue has come to stay. As a parallel, or even as a subordinate phase of[Pg 261] dramatic art, it has become a part of literature. It is distinct from the play, and from every other literary form or phase of histrionic expression.

Of all forms of art, the monologue has most direct relation to one character only, a character not posing for his portrait. It portrays and interprets an individual unconsciously revealing himself. It presents some crucial situation of life, and brings one character face to face with another character, the one best calculated to reveal the hidden springs of conduct.

It must not be implied that the monologue is superior to other forms of art. It certainly will supersede no other form of poetry. It is unique, and its peculiar nature may be seen in comparing it with a play.

A monologue may be of any length, from a few lines to that of “The Ring and the Book,” which is really a collection of monologues, the longest poem, next to “Faerie Queene,” in the English language. The subject of the monologue can be infinitely varied. By its aid almost everything can be treated dramatically. It is far more flexible than the formal drama, because the same movement and formality of plot are not required as in the play.

It can be conceived upon any plane,—burlesque, farce, comedy, or tragedy. It can be prose in form, or it may adopt any metre or length of line. It may employ the most commonplace slang, and the dialect of the lowest characters, or it may adopt the highest poetic diction.

A monologue can be presented anywhere, for it demands no stage, no carloads of expensive scenery, no trained troupe of a hundred artists.

[Pg 262]It does require, however, an artist, a thoroughly trained artist,—with perfect command of thought, feeling, imagination, and passion, as well as complete control of voice and body. Fully as much as the play, it requires obedience to the laws of art, and demands that the artist be not fettered and trammelled as to his ideal. He is not compelled to repress his finest intuitions, or to soften down his honest conceptions of a character and the place of that character in a scene, for the sake of some “star.”

The monologue is not in danger of being spoiled by some second-class actor in a subordinate part. The artist is free to adopt any means to meet the taste, judgment, and criticism of the audience, and to realize for himself the true nature of art. The monologue is less likely than the play to be degraded into a spectacular exhibition.

The monologue, however, has its dangers. The play has the experience of centuries of criticism, and constant discussion, but to the critics, the monologue is new. It may be well said that no adequate criticism of any interpreter of a monologue has yet been given.

Not only this, but various cheap and chaotic performances have been called monologues, simply for lack of a word. These are often a mere gathering together of comic stories and cheap jokes, and have nothing really in common with the dramatic monologue.

Such perversions, however, are to be expected. The lack of critical discussion, the lack of definition and true appreciation of its possibilities lead naturally to such a confused situation.

The interpreter of the monologue must be a[Pg 263] serious student, for he is creating or establishing a new art. If he is careless and superficial, and yields to that universal temptation to exhibition which has been in every age the danger of dramatic art, he will fail, and bring the monologue into consequent contempt. He must study the spirit underlying all great art and take his own work seriously, thinking more of it than of himself.

The monologue has, also, literary limitations. It can never take the place of the play, nor must it lead us to disparage the play. The play has its function and in some form will forever survive. The monologue interprets certain aspects of character which can never be interpreted in any other way; but it can never show as adequately as the play the complexity of human life. It cannot portray movement as well as the play.

The monologue, however, has its own sphere. It can reveal the attitude of one man towards life, towards truth, towards a situation, towards other human beings, more fully than is possible in any other form of art. Its theme is not the same as that of the play. How can a play express the subjective struggles and heroism embodied in “The Last Ride Together?” (p. 205). What form of art could so effectively unmask the arch hypocrite in the “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” (p. 58)? Try to put this theme into a play, or even into a novel, and Browning’s short monologue will show its superiority at once. The monologue can absorb one moment of attention, paint one picture, which, though without the movement of a drama, may yet the more adequately reveal the depths of a character. What an inspiring conception is found in[Pg 264] “The Patriot” (p. 3); if expanded into a play, its purpose would be defeated. The tenderness and atmosphere of home in “By the Fireside,” no stage could present.

Did not Kipling choose wisely his form of art in portraying the character of Tommy Atkins? Is there any more effective way of making known to the world the character and emotions peculiar to a man when soldier subordinates man?

After even a superficial study of modern poetry, who can fail to realize that the monologue is a distinct form of literature? How vast the range of subjects and emotions expressed, and yet underneath we find a form common to them all. This form has served to unfold the peculiar actions of Mrs. Caudle’s mind and also the sublime convictions of Rabbi Ben Ezra. It gives us the point of view and the feeling, not only of Tommy Atkins, but the high ideals and exalted emotions of Abt Vogler. It has been used to immortalize “Tray,” a “mere instinctive dog,” as well as to express the resolute spirit of Job and the cold, calculating counsel of his friends. It has even imaged the sublimest thoughts and emotions of the Psalms.

Surely a form that has proven itself so adequate, so universal a help to human expression, is worthy of being regarded and carefully studied as one of the permanent modes of embodying human experience.



[Pg 265]




And so you found that poor room dull,
Dark, hardly to your taste, my Dear?
Its features seemed unbeautiful:
But this I know—’twas there, not here,
You plighted troth to me, the word
Which—ask that poor room how it heard!

And this rich room obtains your praise
Unqualified,—so bright, so fair,
So all whereat perfection stays?
Ay, but remember—here, not there,
The other word was spoken! Ask
This rich room how you dropped the mask!





But do not let us quarrel any more,
No, my Lucrezia! bear with me for once:
Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
You turn your face, but does it bring your heart?
I’ll work then for your friend’s friend, never fear,
Treat his own subject after his own way,
Fix his own time, accept too his own price,
And shut the money into this small hand
When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly?
Oh, I’ll content him,—but to-morrow, Love!
I often am much wearier than you think,
This evening more than usual: and it seems
As if—forgive now—should you let me sit
Here by the window, with your hand in mine,
And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole,
Both of one mind, as married people use,
[Pg 266]Quietly, quietly the evening through,
I might get up to-morrow to my work
Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try.
To-morrow, how you shall be glad for this!
Your soft hand is a woman of itself,
And mine the man’s bared breast she curls inside.
Don’t count the time lost, neither; you must serve
For each of the five pictures we require:
It saves a model. So! keep looking so—
My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds!
—How could you ever prick those perfect ears,
Even to put the pearl there! oh, so sweet—
My face, my moon, my everybody’s moon,
Which everybody looks on and calls his,
And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn,
While she looks—no one’s: very dear, no less.
You smile? why, there’s my picture ready made.
There’s what we painters call our harmony!
A common grayness silvers everything,—
All in a twilight, you and I alike
—You, at the point of your first pride in me
(That’s gone, you know)—but I, at every point;
My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down
To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole.
There’s the bell clinking from the chapel-top;
That length of convent-wall across the way
Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside;
The last monk leaves the garden; days decrease,
And autumn grows, autumn in everything.
Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape,
As if I saw alike my work and self
And all that I was born to be and do,
A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God’s hand.
How strange now looks the life he makes us lead;
So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!
I feel he laid the fetter: let it lie!
This chamber for example—turn your head—
All that’s behind us! You don’t understand
Nor care to understand about my art,
But you can hear at least when people speak:
And that cartoon, the second from the door
—It is the thing, Love! so such things should be—
[Pg 267]Behold Madonna!—I am bold to say.
I can do with my pencil what I know,
What I see, what at bottom of my heart
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep—
Do easily, too—when I say, perfectly,
I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge,
Who listened to the Legate’s talk last week;
And just as much they used to say in France.
At any rate ’tis easy, all of it!
No sketches first, no studies, that’s long past:
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
—Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive—you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,—
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
There burns a truer light of God in them,
In their vexed, beating, stuffed and stopped-up brain,
Heart, or whate’er else, than goes on to prompt
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman’s hand of mine.
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
Reach many a time a heaven that’s shut to me,
Enter and take their place there sure enough,
Tho’ they come back and cannot tell the world.
My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here.
The sudden blood of these men! at a word—
Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too.
I, painting from myself and to myself,
Know what I do, am unmoved by men’s blame
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks
Morello’s outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for? All is silver-gray,
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
I know both what I want and what might gain,
[Pg 268]And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
“Had I been two, another and myself,
Our head would have o’erlooked the world!” No doubt.
Yonder’s a work now, of that famous youth
The Urbinate who died five years ago.
(’Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.)
Well, I can fancy how he did it all,
Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see,
Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him,
Above and thro’ his art—for it gives way;
That arm is wrongly put—and there again—
A fault to pardon in the drawing’s lines,
Its body, so to speak: its soul is right,
He means right—that, a child may understand.
Still, what an arm! and I could alter it:
But all the play, the insight and the stretch—
Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out?
Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul,
We might have risen to Rafael, I and you!
Nay, Love, you did give all I asked, I think—
More than I merit, yes, by many times.
But had you—oh, with the same perfect brow,
And perfect eyes, and more than perfect mouth,
And the low voice my soul hears, as a bird
The fowler’s pipe, and follows to the snare—
Had you, with these the same, but brought a mind!
Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged
“God and the glory! never care for gain.
The present by the future, what is that?
Live for fame, side by side with Agnolo!
Rafael is waiting: up to God, all three!”
I might have done it for you. So it seems:
Perhaps not. All is as God over-rules.
Besides, incentives come from the soul’s self;
The rest avail not. Why do I need you?
What wife had Rafael, or has Agnolo?
In this world, who can do a thing, will not;
And who would do it, cannot, I perceive:
Yet the will’s somewhat—somewhat, too, the power—
And thus we half-men struggle. At the end,
God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.
’Tis safer for me, if the award be strict,
[Pg 269]That I am something underrated here,
Poor this long while, despised, to speak the truth.
I dared not, do you know, leave home all day,
For fear of chancing on the Paris lords.
The best is when they pass and look aside;
But they speak sometimes; I must bear it all.
Well may they speak! That Francis, that first time,
And that long festal year at Fontainebleau!
I surely then could sometimes leave the ground,
Put on the glory, Rafael’s daily wear,
In that humane great monarch’s golden look,—
One finger in his beard or twisted curl
Over his mouth’s good mark that made the smile,
One arm about my shoulder, round my neck,
The jingle of his gold chain in my ear,
I painting proudly with his breath on me,
All his court round him, seeing with his eyes,
Such frank French eyes, and such a fire of souls
Profuse, my hand kept plying by those hearts,—
And, best of all, this, this, this face beyond,
This in the background, waiting on my work,
To crown the issue with a last reward!
A good time, was it not, my kingly days?
And had you not grown restless ... but I know—
’Tis done and past; ’twas right, my instinct said;
Too live the life grew, golden and not gray:
And I’m the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt
Out of the grange whose four walls make his world.
How could it end in any other way?
You called me, and I came home to your heart.
The triumph was—to reach and stay there; since
I reached it ere the triumph, what is lost?
Let my hands frame your face in your hair’s gold,
You beautiful Lucrezia that are mine!
“Rafael did this, Andrea painted that;
The Roman’s is the better when you pray,
But still the other’s Virgin was his wife—”
Men will excuse me. I am glad to judge
Both pictures in your presence; clearer grows
My better fortune, I resolve to think.
For, do you know, Lucrezia, as God lives,
Said one day Agnolo, his very self,
[Pg 270]To Rafael ... I have known it all these years....
(When the young man was flaming out his thoughts
Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see,
Too lifted up in heart because of it)
“Friend, there’s a certain sorry little scrub
Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how,
Who, were he set to plan and execute
As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings,
Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!”
To Rafael’s!—And indeed the arm is wrong.
I hardly dare ... yet, only you to see,
Give the chalk here—quick, thus the line should go!
Ay, but the soul! he’s Rafael! rub it out!
Still, all I care for, if he spoke the truth,
(What he? why, who but Michel Agnolo?
Do you forget already words like those?)
If really there was such a chance so lost,—
Is, whether you’re—not grateful—but more pleased.
Well, let me think so. And you smile indeed!
This hour has been an hour! Another smile?
If you would sit thus by me every night
I should work better, do you comprehend?
I mean that I should earn more, give you more.
See, it is settled dusk now; there’s a star;
Morello’s gone, the watch-lights show the wall,
The cue-owls speak the name we call them by.
Come from the window, love,—come in, at last,
Inside the melancholy little house
We built to be so gay with. God is just.
King Francis may forgive me: oft at nights
When I look up from painting, eyes tired out,
The walls become illumined, brick from brick
Distinct, instead of mortar, fierce bright gold,
That gold of his I did cement them with!
Let us but love each other. Must you go?
That Cousin here again? he waits outside?
Must see you—you, and not with me? Those loans?
More gaming debts to pay? you smiled for that?
Well, let smiles buy me! have you more to spend?
While hand and eye and something of a heart
Are left me, work’s my ware, and what’s it worth?
I’ll pay my fancy. Only let me sit
[Pg 271]The gray remainder of the evening out,
Idle, you call it, and muse perfectly
How I could paint, were I but back in France,
One picture, just one more—the Virgin’s face,
Not yours this time! I want you at my side
To hear them—that is, Michel Agnolo—
Judge all I do and tell you of its worth.
Will you? To-morrow, satisfy your friend.
I take the subjects for his corridor,
Finish the portrait out of hand—there, there,
And throw him in another thing or two
If he demurs; the whole should prove enough
To pay for this same Cousin’s freak. Beside,
What’s better and what’s all I care about,
Get you the thirteen scudi for the ruff!
Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he,
The Cousin! what does he to please you more?

I am grown peaceful as old age to-night.
I regret little, I would change still less.
Since there my past life lies, why alter it?
The very wrong to Francis!—it is true
I took his coin, was tempted and complied,
And built this house and sinned, and all is said.
My father and my mother died of want.
Well, had I riches of my own? you see
How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot.
They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died:
And I have laboured somewhat in my time
And not been paid profusely. Some good son
Paint my two hundred pictures—let him try!
No doubt, there’s something strikes a balance. Yes,
You loved me quite enough, it seems to-night.
This must suffice me here. What would one have?
In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance—
Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
Meted on each side by the angel’s reed,
For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo and me
To cover—the three first without a wife,
While I have mine! So—still they overcome
Because there’s still Lucrezia,—as I choose.

Again the Cousin’s whistle! Go, my Love.


 [Pg 272]


If a stranger passed the tent of Hóseyn, he cried “A churl’s!”
Or haply “God help the man who has neither salt nor bread!”
—“Nay,” would a friend exclaim, “he needs nor pity nor scorn
More than who spends small thought on the shore-sand, picking pearls,
—Holds but in light esteem the seed-sort, bears instead
On his breast a moon-like prize, some orb which of night makes morn.

“What if no flocks and herds enrich the son of Sinán?
They went when his tribe was mulct, ten thousand camels the due,
Blood-value paid perforce for a murder done of old.
‘God gave them, let them go! But never since time began,
Muléykeh, peerless mare, owned master the match of you,
And you are my prize, my Pearl: I laugh at men’s land and gold!’

“So in the pride of his soul laughs Hóseyn—and right, I say.
Do the ten steeds run a race of glory? Outstripping all,
Ever Muléykeh stands first steed at the victor’s staff.
Who started, the owner’s hope, gets shamed and named, that day.
‘Silence,’ or, last but one, is ‘The Cuffed,’ as we use to call
Whom the paddock’s lord thrusts forth.
Right, Hóseyn, I say, to laugh!”

“Boasts he Muléykeh the Pearl?” the stranger replies: “Be sure
On him I waste nor scorn nor pity, but lavish both
On Duhl the son of Sheybán, who withers away in heart
For envy of Hóseyn’s luck. Such sickness admits no cure.
A certain poet has sung, and sealed the same with an oath,
‘For the vulgar—flocks and herds! The Pearl is a prize apart.’”

Lo, Duhl the son of Sheybán comes riding to Hóseyn’s tent,
And he casts his saddle down, and enters and “Peace!” bids he.
“You are poor, I know the cause: my plenty shall mend the wrong.
’Tis said of your Pearl—the price of a hundred camels spent
In her purchase were scarce ill paid: such prudence is far from me
[Pg 273]Who proffer a thousand. Speak! Long parley may last too long.”

Said Hóseyn “You feed young beasts a many, of famous breed,
Slit-eared, unblemished, fat, true offspring of Múzennem:
There stumbles no weak-eyed she in the line as it climbs the hill.
But I love Muléykeh’s face: her forefront whitens indeed
Like a yellowish wave’s cream-crest. Your camels—go gaze on them!
Her fetlock is foam-splashed too. Myself am the richer still.”

A year goes by: lo, back to the tent again rides Duhl.
“You are open-hearted, ay—moist-handed, a very prince.
Why should I speak of sale? Be the mare your simple gift!
My son is pined to death for her beauty: my wife prompts ‘Fool,
Beg for his sake the Pearl! Be God the rewarder, since
God pays debts seven for one: who squanders on Him shows thrift.’”

Said Hóseyn “God gives each man one life, like a lamp, then gives
That lamp due measure of oil: lamp lighted—hold high, wave wide
Its comfort for others to share! once quench it, what help is left?
The oil of your lamp is your son: I shine while Muléykeh lives.
Would I beg your son to cheer my dark if Muléykeh died?
It is life against life: what good avails to the life-bereft?”

Another year, and—hist! What craft is it Duhl designs?
He alights not at the door of the tent as he did last time,
But, creeping behind, he gropes his stealthy way by the trench
Half-round till he finds the flap in the folding, for night combines
With the robber—and such is he: Duhl, covetous up to crime,
Must wring from Hóseyn’s grasp the Pearl, by whatever the wrench.

“He was hunger-bitten, I heard: I tempted with half my store,
And a gibe was all my thanks. Is he generous like Spring dew?
Account the fault to me who chaffered with such an one!
He has killed, to feast chance comers, the creature he rode: nay, more—
For a couple of singing-girls his robe has he torn in two:
I will beg! Yet I nowise gained by the tale of my wife and son.

“I swear by the Holy House, my head will I never wash
Till I filch his Pearl away. Fair dealing I tried, then guile,
And now I resort to force. He said we must live or die:
Let him die, then,—let me live! Be bold—but not too rash!
I have found me a peeping-place: breast, bury your breathing while
[Pg 274]I explore for myself! Now, breathe! He deceived me not, the spy!

“As he said—there lies in peace Hóseyn—how happy! Beside
Stands tethered the Pearl: Thrice winds her headstall about his wrist:
’Tis therefore he sleeps so sound—the moon through the roof reveals.
And, loose on his left, stands too that other, known far and wide,
Buhéyseh, her sister born: fleet is she yet ever missed
The winning tail’s fire-flash a-stream past the thunderous heels.

“No less she stands saddled and bridled, this second, in case some thief
Should enter and seize and fly with the first, as I mean to do.
What then? The Pearl is the Pearl: once mount her we both escape.”
Through the skirt-fold in glides Duhl,—so a serpent disturbs no leaf
In a bush as he parts the twigs entwining a nest: clean through,
He is noiselessly at his work: as he planned, he performs the rape.

He has set the tent-door wide, has buckled the girth, has clipped
The headstall away from the wrist he leaves thrice bound as before,
He springs on the Pearl, is launched on the Desert like bolt from bow.
Up starts our plundered man: from his breast though the heart be ripped,
Yet his mind has the mastery: behold, in a minute more,
He is out and off and away on Buhéyseh, whose worth we know!

And Hóseyn—his blood turns flame, he has learned long since to ride,
And Buhéyseh does her part,—they gain—they are gaining fast
On the fugitive pair, and Duhl has Ed-Dárraj to cross and quit,
And to reach the ridge El-Sabán,—no safety till that be spied!
And Buhéyseh is, bound by bound, but a horse-length off at last,
For the Pearl has missed the tap of the heel, the touch of the bit.

She shortens her stride, she chafes at her rider the strange and queer:
Buhéyseh is mad with hope—beat sister she shall and must
Though Duhl, of the hand and heel so clumsy, she has to thank.
She is near now, nose by tail—they are neck by croup—joy! fear!
What folly makes Hóseyn shout “Dog Duhl, Damned son of the Dust,
[Pg 275]Touch the right ear and press with your foot my Pearl’s left flank!”

And Duhl was wise at the word, and Muléykeh as prompt perceived
Who was urging redoubled pace, and to hear him was to obey,
And a leap indeed gave she, and evanished for evermore.
And Hóseyn looked one long last look as who, all bereaved,
Looks, fain to follow the dead so far as the living may:
Then he turned Buhéyseh’s neck slow homeward, weeping sore.

And lo, in the sunrise, still sat Hóseyn upon the ground
Weeping: and neighbors came, the tribesmen of Bénu-Asád
In the vale of green Er-Rass, and they questioned him of his grief;
And he told from first to last how, serpent-like, Duhl had wound
His way to the nest, and how Duhl rode like an ape, so bad!
And how Buhéyseh did wonders, yet Pearl remained with the thief.

And they jeered him, one and all: “Poor Hóseyn is crazed past hope!
How else had he wrought himself his ruin, in fortune’s spite?
To have simply held the tongue were a task for a boy or girl,
And here were Muléykeh again, the eyed like an antelope,
The child of his heart by day, the wife of his breast by night!”—
“And the beaten in speed!” wept Hóseyn: “You never have loved my Pearl.”





Christ God who savest man, save most of men Count Gismond who saved me! Count Gauthier, when he chose his post, chose time and place and company to suit it; when he struck at length my honor, ’twas with all his strength. And doubtlessly ere he could draw all points to one, he must have schemed! That miserable morning saw few half so happy as I seemed, while being dressed in queen’s array to give our tourney prize away. I thought they loved me, did me grace to please themselves; ’twas all their deed; God makes, or fair or foul, our face; if showing mine so caused to bleed my cousins’ hearts, they should have dropped a word, and straight the play had stopped. They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen by virtue of her brow and breast; not needing to be crowned,[Pg 276] I mean, as I do. E’en when I was dressed, had either of them spoke, instead of glancing sideways with still head! But no: they let me laugh, and sing my birthday song quite through, adjust the last rose in my garland, fling a last look on the mirror, trust my arms to each an arm of theirs, and so descend the castle-stairs—and come out on the morning troop of merry friends who kissed my cheek, and called me queen, and made me stoop under the canopy—(a streak that pierced it, of the outside sun, powdered with gold its gloom’s soft dun)—and they could let me take my state and foolish throne amid applause of all come there to celebrate my queen’s-day—Oh I think the cause of much was, they forgot no crowd makes up for parents in their shroud! However that be, all eyes were bent upon me, when my cousins cast theirs down; ’twas time I should present the victor’s crown, but ... there, ’twill last no long time ... the old mist again blinds me as then it did. How vain! See! Gismond’s at the gate, in talk with his two boys: I can proceed. Well, at that moment, who should stalk forth boldly—to my face, indeed—but Gauthier? and he thundered “Stay!” and all stayed. “Bring no crowns, I say! bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet about her! Let her shun the chaste, or lay herself before their feet! Shall she, whose body I embraced a night long, queen it in the day? For honour’s sake no crowns, I say!” I? What I answered? As I live I never fancied such a thing as answer possible to give. What says the body when they spring some monstrous torture-engine’s whole strength on it? No more says the soul. Till out strode Gismond; then I knew that I was saved. I never met his face before, but, at first view, I felt quite sure that God had set Himself to Satan; who would spend a minute’s mistrust on the end? He strode to Gauthier, in his throat gave him the lie, then struck his mouth with one back-handed blow that wrote in blood men’s verdict there. North, South, East, West, I looked. The lie was dead, and damned, and truth stood up instead. This glads me most, that I enjoyed the heart of the joy, with my content in watching Gismond unalloyed by any doubt of the event: God took that on him—I was bid watch Gismond for my part: I did. Did I not watch him while he let his armourer just brace his greaves, rivet his hauberk, on the fret the while! His foot ... my memory leaves no least stamp out, nor how anon he pulled his ringing gauntlets on. And e’en before the trumpet’s sound was finished, prone lay the false knight, prone as his lie, upon the ground: Gismond flew at him, used no sleight o’ the sword, but open-breasted drove, cleaving till out the truth he clove. Which done, he dragged him to my feet and said “Here die, but[Pg 277] end thy breath in full confession, lest thou fleet from my first, to God’s second death! Say, hast thou lied?” And, “I have lied to God and her,” he said, and died. Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked—What safe my heart holds, though no word could I repeat now, if I tasked my powers forever, to a third dear even as you are. Pass the rest until I sank upon his breast. Over my head his arm he flung against the world; and scarce I felt his sword (that dripped by me and swung) a little shifted in its belt: for he began to say the while how South our home lay many a mile. So, ’mid the shouting multitude we two walked forth to never more return. My cousins have pursued their life, untroubled as before I vexed them. Gauthier’s dwelling-place God lighten! May his soul find grace! Our elder boy has got the clear great brow; tho’ when his brother’s black full eye shows scorn, it ... Gismond here? And have you brought my tercel back? I was just telling Adela how many birds it struck since May.




How well I know what I mean to do when the long dark autumn evenings come: and where, my soul, is thy pleasant hue? with the music of all thy voices, dumb in life’s November too! I shall be found by the fire, suppose, o’er a great wise book, as beseemeth age; while the shutters flap as the cross-wind blows, and I turn the page, and I turn the page, not verse now, only prose! Till the young ones whisper, finger on lip, “There he is at it, deep in Greek: now then, or never, out we slip to cut from the hazels by the creek a mainmast for our ship!” I shall be at it indeed, my friends! Greek puts already on either side such a branch-work forth as soon extends to a vista opening far and wide, and I pass out where it ends. The outside-frame, like your hazel-trees—but the inside-archway widens fast, and a rarer sort succeeds to these, and we slope to Italy at last and youth, by green degrees. I follow wherever I am led, knowing so well the leader’s hand: oh woman-country, wooed not wed, loved all the more by earth’s male-lands, laid to their hearts instead! Look at the ruined chapel again half-way up in the Alpine gorge! Is that a tower, I point you plain, or is it a mill, or an iron-forge breaks solitude in vain? A turn, and we stand in the heart of things; the woods are round us, heaped and dim; from slab to slab how it slips and springs, the thread of water single and slim, thro’ the ravage some torrent brings! Does it feed the little lake below? That speck of white just on its marge is Pella; see, in the evening-glow,[Pg 278] how sharp the silver spear-heads charge when Alp meets heaven in snow! On our other side is the straight-up rock; and a path is kept ’twixt the gorge and it by boulder-stones where lichens mock the marks on a moth, and small ferns fit their teeth to the polished block. Oh the sense of the yellow mountain-flowers, and thorny balls, each three in one, the chestnuts throw on our path in showers! for the drop of the woodland fruit’s begun, these early November hours, that crimson the creeper’s leaf across like a splash of blood, intense, abrupt, o’er a shield else gold from rim to boss, and lay it for show on the fairy-cupped elf-needled mat of moss, by the rose-flesh mushrooms, undivulged last evening—nay, in to-day’s first dew yon sudden coral nipple bulged, where a freaked fawn-colored flaky crew of toadstools peep indulged. And yonder, at foot of the fronting ridge that takes the turn to a range beyond, is the chapel reached by the one-arched bridge, where the water is stopped in a stagnant pond danced over by the midge. The chapel and bridge are of stone alike, blackish-gray and mostly wet; cut hemp-stalks steep in the narrow dyke. See here again, how the lichens fret and the roots of the ivy strike! Poor little place, where its one priest comes on a festa-day, if he comes at all, to the dozen folk from their scattered homes, gathered within that precinct small by the dozen ways one roams—to drop from the charcoal-burners’ huts, or climb from the hemp-dressers’ low shed, leave the grange where the woodman stores his nuts, or the wattled cote where the fowlers spread their gear on the rock’s bare juts. It has some pretension too, this front, with its bit of fresco half-moon-wise set over the porch, Art’s early wont: ’tis John in the Desert, I surmise, but has borne the weather’s brunt—not from the fault of the builder, though, for a pent-house properly projects where three carved beams make a certain show, dating—good thought of our architect’s—’five, six, nine, he lets you know. And all day long a bird sings there, and a stray sheep drinks at the pond at times; the place is silent and aware; it has had its scenes, its joys and crimes, but that is its own affair. My perfect wife, my Leonor, oh heart, my own, oh eyes, mine too, Whom else could I dare look backward for, with whom besides should I dare pursue the path gray heads abhor? For it leads to a crag’s sheer edge with them; youth, flowery all the way, there stops—not they; age threatens and they contemn, till they reach the gulf wherein youth drops, one inch from life’s safe hem! With me, youth led ... I will speak now, no longer watch you as you sit reading by firelight, that great brow and the spirit-small hand propping it, mutely, my heart knows how—when, if I think but[Pg 279] deep enough, you are wont to answer, prompt as rhyme; and you, too, find without rebuff response your soul seeks many a time, piercing its fine flesh-stuff. My own, confirm me! If I tread this path back, is it not in pride to think how little I dreamed it led to an age so blest that, by its side, youth seems the waste instead? My own, see where the years conduct! At first, ’twas something our two souls should mix as mists do; each is sucked in each now: on, the new stream rolls, whatever rocks obstruct. Think, when our one soul understands the great Word which makes all things new, when earth breaks up and heaven expands, how will the change strike me and you in the house not made with hands? Oh I must feel your brain prompt mine, your heart anticipate my heart, you must be just before, in fine, see and make me see, for your part, new depths of the divine! But who could have expected this when we two drew together first just for the obvious human bliss to satisfy life’s daily thirst with a thing men seldom miss? Come back with me to the first of all, let us lean and love it over again, let us now forget and now recall, break the rosary in a pearly rain, and gather what we let fall! What did I say?—that a small bird sings all day long, save when a brown pair of hawks from the wood float with wide wings strained to a bell: ’gainst noon-day glare you count the streaks and rings. But at afternoon or almost eve ’tis better; then the silence grows to that degree, you half believe it must get rid of what it knows, its bosom does so heave. Hither we walked then, side by side, arm in arm and cheek to cheek, and still I questioned or replied, while my heart, convulsed to really speak, lay choking in its pride. Silent the crumbling bridge we cross, and pity and praise the chapel sweet, and care about the fresco’s loss, and wish for our souls a like retreat, and wonder at the moss. Stoop and kneel on the settle under, look through the window’s grated square: nothing to see! For fear of plunder, the cross is down and the altar bare, as if thieves don’t fear thunder. We stoop and look in through the grate, see the little porch and rustic door, read duly the dead builder’s date; then cross the bridge that we crossed before, take the path again—but wait! Oh moment one and infinite! the water slips o’er stock and stone; the West is tender, hardly bright: how gray at once is the evening grown—one star, its chrysolite! We two stood there with never a third, but each by each, as each knew well: the sights we saw and the sounds we heard, the lights and the shades made up a spell till the trouble grew and stirred. Oh, the little more, and how much it is! and the little less, and what worlds away! How a sound shall quicken content to bliss, or a breath suspend the blood’s best play, and life[Pg 280] be a proof of this! Had she willed it, still had stood the screen so slight, so sure, ’twixt my love and her: I could fix her face with a guard between, and find her soul as when friends confer, friends—lovers that might have been. For my heart had a touch of the woodland time, wanting to sleep now over its best. Shake the whole tree in the summer-prime, but bring to the last leaf no such test! “Hold the last fact!” runs the rhyme. For a chance to make your little much, to gain a lover and lose a friend, venture the tree and a myriad such, when nothing you mar but the year can mend: but a last leaf—fear to touch! Yet should it unfasten itself and fall eddying down till it find your face at some slight wind—best chance of all! be your heart henceforth its dwelling-place you trembled to forestall! Worth how well, those dark gray eyes, that hair so dark and dear, how worth that a man should strive and agonize, and taste a veriest hell on earth for the hope of such a prize! You might have turned and tried a man, set him a space to weary and wear, and prove which suited more your plan, his best of hope or his worst despair, yet end as he began. But you spared me this, like the heart you are, and filled my empty heart at a word. If two lives join, there is oft a scar, they are one and one, with a shadowy third; one near one is too far. A moment after, and hands unseen were hanging the night around us fast; but we knew that a bar was broken between life and life: we were mixed at last in spite of the mortal screen. The forests had done it; there they stood; we caught for a moment the powers at play: they had mingled us so, for once and good, their work was done—we might go or stay, they relapsed to their ancient mood. How the world is made for each of us! how all we perceive and know in it tends to some moment’s product thus, when a soul declares itself—to wit, by its fruit, the thing it does! Be hate that fruit or love that fruit, it forwards the general deed of man: and each of the Many helps to recruit the life of the race by a general plan; each living his own, to boot. I am named and known by that moment’s feat; there took my station and degree; so grew my own small life complete, as nature obtained her best of me—one born to love you, sweet! And to watch you sink by the fireside now back again, as you mutely sit musing by firelight, that great brow and the spirit-small hand propping it, yonder, my heart knows how! So, earth has gained by one man the more, and the gain of earth must be heaven’s gain too; and the whole is well worth thinking o’er when autumn comes: which I mean to do one day, as I said before.


 [Pg 281]


χαίρετε, νικωμεν

First I salute this soil of the blessed, river and rock!
Gods of my birthplace, dæmons and heroes, honor to all!
Then I name thee, claim thee for our patron, co-equal in praise
—Ay, with Zeus the Defender, with Her of the ægis and spear!
Also, ye of the bow and the buskin, praised be your peer,
Now, henceforth and forever,—O latest to whom I upraise
Hand and heart and voice! For Athens, leave pasture and flock!
Present to help, potent to save, Pan—patron I call!

Archons of Athens, topped by the tettix, see, I return!
See, ’tis myself here standing alive, no spectre that speaks!
Crowned with the myrtle, did you command me, Athens and you,
“Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid!
Persia has come, we are here, where is She?” Your command I obeyed,
Ran and raced: like stubble, some field which a fire runs through,
Was the space between city and city: two days, two nights did I burn
Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.

Into their midst I broke: breath served but for “Persia has come.
Persia bids Athens proffer slaves’-tribute, water and earth;
Razed to the ground is Eretria—but Athens, shall Athens sink,
Drop into dust and die—the flower of Hellas utterly die,
Die with the wide world spitting at Sparta, the stupid, the stander-by?
Answer me quick, what help, what hand do you stretch o’er destruction’s brink?
How,—when? No care for my limbs!—there’s lightning in all and some—
Fresh and fit your message to bear, once lips give it birth!”

O my Athens—Sparta love thee? Did Sparta respond?
Every face of her leered in a furrow of envy, mistrust,
Malice,—each eye of her gave me its glitter of gratified hate!
Gravely they turned to take counsel, to cast for excuses. I stood
Quivering,—the limbs of me fretting as fire frets, an inch from dry wood:
“Persia has come, Athens asks aid, and still they debate?
Thunder, thou Zeus! Athene, are Spartans a quarry beyond
[Pg 282]Swing of thy spear? Phoibos and Artemis, clang them ‘Ye must’!”

No bolt launched from Olumpos! Lo, their answer at last!
“Has Persia come,—does Athens ask aid,—may Sparta befriend?
Nowise precipitate judgment—too weighty the issue at stake!
Count we no time lost time which lags thro’ respect to the Gods!
Ponder that precept of old, ‘No warfare, whatever the odds
In your favor, so long as the moon, half-orbed, is unable to take
Full-circle her state in the sky!’ Already she rounds to it fast:
Athens must wait, patient as we—who judgment suspend.”

Athens,—except for that sparkle,—thy name, I had mouldered to ash!
That sent a blaze thro’ my blood; off, off and away was I back,
—Not one word to waste, one look to lose on the false and the vile!
Yet “O Gods of my land!” I cried, as each hillock and plain,
Wood and stream, I knew, I named, rushing past them again,
“Have ye kept faith, proved mindful of honors we paid you erewhile?
Vain was the filleted victim, the fulsome libation! Too rash
Love in its choice, paid you so largely service so slack!

“Oak and olive and bay,—I bid you cease to enwreathe
Brows made bold by your leaf! Fade at the Persian’s foot,
You that, our patrons were pledged, should never adorn a slave!
Rather I hail thee, Parnes,—trust to thy wild waste tract!
Treeless, herbless, lifeless mountain! What matter if slacked
My speed may hardly be, for homage to crag and to cave
No deity deigns to drape with verdure?—at least I can breathe,
Fear in thee no fraud from the blind, no lie from the mute!”

Such my cry as, rapid, I ran over Parnes’ ridge;
Gully and gap I clambered and cleared till, sudden, a bar
Jutted, a stoppage of stone against me, blocking the way.
Right! for I minded the hollow to traverse, the fissure across:
“Where I could enter, there I depart by! Night in the fosse?
Athens to aid? Tho’ the dive were thro’ Erebos, thus I obey—
Out of the day dive, into the day as bravely arise! No bridge
Better!”—when—ha! what was it I came on, of wonders that are?

There, in the cool of a cleft, sat he—majestical Pan!
Ivy drooped wanton, kissed his head, moss cushioned his hoof;
All the great God was good in the eyes grave-kindly—the curl
[Pg 283]Carved on the bearded cheek, amused at a mortal’s awe,
As, under the human trunk, the goat-thighs grand I saw.
“Halt, Pheidippides!”—halt I did, my brain of a whirl:
“Hither to me! Why pale in my presence?” he gracious began:
“How is it,—Athens, only in Hellas, holds me aloof?

“Athens, she only, rears me no fane, makes me no feast!
Wherefore? Than I what godship to Athens more helpful of old?
Ay, and still, and forever her friend! Test Pan, trust me!
Go, bid Athens take heart, laugh Persia to scorn, have faith
In the temples and tombs! Go, say to Athens, ‘The Goat-God saith:
When Persia—so much as strews not the soil—is cast in the sea,
Then praise Pan who fought in the ranks with your most and least,
Goat-thigh to greaved-thigh, made one cause with the free and the bold!’

“Say Pan saith: ‘Let this, foreshowing the place, be the pledge!’”
(Gay, the liberal hand held out this herbage I bear
—Fennel,—I grasped it a-tremble with dew—whatever it bode),
“While, as for thee ...” But enough! He was gone. If I ran hitherto—
Be sure that, the rest of my journey, I ran no longer, but flew.
Parnes to Athens—earth no more, the air was my road;
Here am I back. Praise Pan, we stand no more on the razor’s edge!
Pan for Athens, Pan for me! I too have a guerdon rare!
Then spoke Miltiades. “And thee, best runner of Greece,
Whose limbs did duty indeed,—what gift is promised thyself?
Tell it us straightway,—Athens the mother demands of her son!”
Rosily blushed the youth: he paused: but, lifting at length
His eyes from the ground, it seemed as he gathered the rest of his strength
Into the utterance—“Pan spoke thus: ‘For what thou hast done
Count on a worthy reward! Henceforth be allowed thee release
From the racer’s toil, no vulgar reward in praise or in pelf!’

“I am bold to believe, Pan means reward the most to my mind!
Fight I shall, with our foremost, wherever this fennel may grow,—
Pound—Pan helping us—Persia to dust, and, under the deep,
[Pg 284]Whelm her away forever; and then,—no Athens to save,—
Marry a certain maid, I know keeps faith to the brave,—
Hie to my house and home: and, when my children shall creep
Close to my knees,—recount how the God was awful yet kind,
Promised their sire reward to the full—rewarding him—so!”
Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried “To Akropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
‘Athens is saved, thank Pan,’ go shout!” He flung down his shield,
Ran like fire once more: and the space ’twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: “Rejoice, we conquer!” Like wine thro’ clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died—the bliss!

So, to this day, when friend meets friend, the word of salute
Is still “Rejoice!”—his word which brought rejoicing indeed.
So is Pheidippides happy forever,—the noble strong man
Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved so well,
He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell
Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began,
So to end gloriously—once to shout, thereafter be mute:
“Athens is saved!”—Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed.




Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe,
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go;
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle’s to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
[Pg 285]
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
Of pain, darkness, and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end,
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
Oh, thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!




(ROME, 15—.)

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
Nephews—sons mine ... ah God, I know not! Well—
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What’s done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
And thence ye may perceive the world’s a dream.
Life, how and what is it? As here I lie
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” Peace, peace seems all.
Saint Praxed’s ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought
With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
—Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!
Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence
One sees the pulpit o’ the epistle-side,
And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
[Pg 286]And up into the aery dome where live
The angels, and a sunbeam’s sure to lurk:
And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
And ’neath my tabernacle take my rest,
With those nine columns round me, two and two,
The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.
—Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone,
Put me where I may look at him! True peach,
Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
Draw close: that conflagration of my church
—What then? So much was saved if aught were missed!
My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig
The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood,
Drop water gently till the surface sink,
And if ye find ... Ah God, I know not, I!...
Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli,
Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast ...
Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,
That brave Frascati villa with its bath,
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father’s globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!
Swift as a weaver’s shuttle fleet our years:
Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
Did I say, basalt for my slab, sons? Black—
’Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else
Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?
The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance
Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so,
The Saviour at his sermon on the mount,
Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan
Ready to twitch the Nymph’s last garment off,
And Moses with the tables ... but I know
Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee,
Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope
[Pg 287]To revel down my villas while I gasp
Bricked o’er with beggar’s mouldy travertine
Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
Nay, boys, ye love me—all of jasper, then!
’Tis jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
My bath must needs be left behind, alas!
One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
There’s plenty jasper somewhere in the world—
And have I not Saint Praxed’s ear to pray
Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
—That’s if ye carve my epitaph aright,
Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully’s every word,
No gaudy ware like Gandolf’s second line—
Tully, my masters? Ulpian serves his need!
And then how I shall lie thro’ centuries,
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eaten all day long,
And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point,
And let the bedclothes, for a mortcloth, drop
Into great laps and folds of sculptor’s-work:
And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
About the life before I lived this life,
And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mount,
Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
And marble’s language, Latin pure, discreet,
—Aha, ELUCESCEBAT quoth our friend?
No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best!
Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.
All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
My villas! Will ye ever eat my heart?
Ever your eyes were as a lizard’s quick,
They glitter like your mother’s for my soul,
Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
[Pg 288]Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
With grapes, and add a vizor and a Term,
And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down,
To comfort me on my entablature
Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” There, leave me, there!
For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
To death—ye wish it—God, ye wish it! Stone—
Gritstone, a-crumble! Clammy squares which sweat
As if the corpse they keep were oozing through—
And no more lapis to delight the world!
Well, go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there,
But in a row: and, going, turn your backs
—Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
And leave me in my church, the church for peace,
That I may watch at leisure if he leers—
Old Gandolf at me, from his onion-stone,
As still he envied me, so fair she was!




Plague take all your pedants, say I!
He who wrote what I hold in my hand,
Centuries back was so good as to die,
Leaving this rubbish to cumber the land;
This, that was a book in its time,
Printed on paper and bound in leather,
Last month in the white of a matin-prime
Just when the birds sang all together.

Into the garden I brought it to read,
And under the arbute and laurustine
Read it, so help me grace in my need,
From title-page to closing line.
Chapter on chapter did I count,
As a curious traveller counts Stonehenge;
Added up the mortal amount;
And then proceeded to my revenge.

Yonder’s a plum-tree, with a crevice
An owl would build in, were he but sage;
For a lap of moss like a fine pontlevis
[Pg 289]In a castle of the middle age,
Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber;
Where he’d be private, there might he spend
Hours alone in his lady’s chamber:
Into this crevice I dropped our friend.

Splash went he, as under he ducked,
—I knew at the bottom rain-drippings stagnate;
Next a handful of blossoms I plucked
To bury him with, my bookshelf’s magnate;
Then I went indoors, brought out a loaf,
Half a cheese, and a bottle of Chablis;
Lay on the grass and forgot the oaf
Over a jolly chapter of Rabelais.

Now, this morning, betwixt the moss
And gum that locked our friend in limbo,
A spider had spun his web across,
And sate in the midst with arms a-kimbo:
So, I took pity, for learning’s sake,
And, de profundis, accentibus lætis,
Cantate! quoth I, as I got a rake,
And up I fished his delectable treatise.

Here you have it, dry in the sun,
With all the binding all of a blister,
And great blue spots where the ink has run,
And reddish streaks that wink and glister
O’er the page so beautifully yellow—
Oh, well have the droppings played their tricks!
Did he guess how toadstools grow, this fellow?
Here’s one stuck in his chapter six!

How did he like it when the live creatures
Tickled and toused and browsed him all over,
And worm, slug, eft, with serious features,
Came in, each one, for his right of trover;
When the water-beetle with great blind deaf face
Made of her eggs the stately deposit,
And the newt borrowed just so much of the preface
As tiled in the top of his black wife’s closet.

All that life, and fun, and romping,
All that frisking, and twisting, and coupling,
While slowly our poor friend’s leaves were swamping,
[Pg 290]And clasps were cracking, and covers suppling!
As if you had carried sour John Knox
To the play-house at Paris, Vienna, or Munich,
Fastened him into a front-row box,
And danced off the Ballet with trousers and tunic.

Come, old martyr! What, torment enough is it?
Back to my room shall you take your sweet self!
Good-by, mother-beetle; husband-eft, SUFFICIT!
See the snug niche I have made on my shelf:
A.’s book shall prop you up, B.’s shall cover you,
Here’s C. to be grave with, or D. to be gay,
And with E. on each side, and F. right over you,
Dry-rot at ease till the Judgment-day!





Would that the structure brave, the manifold music I build,
Bidding my organ obey, calling its keys to their work,
Claiming each slave of the sound at a touch, as when Solomon willed
Armies of angels that soar, legions of demons that lurk,
Man, brute, reptile, fly,—alien of end and of aim,
Adverse, each from the other heaven-high, hell-deep removed,—
Should rush into sight at once as he named the ineffable Name,
And pile him a palace straight, to pleasure the princes he loved!

Would it might tarry like his, the beautiful building of mine,
This which my keys in a crowd pressed and importuned to raise!
Ah, one and all, how they helped would dispart now and now combine,
Zealous to hasten the work, heighten their master his praise!
And one would bury his brow with a blind plunge down to hell,
Burrow awhile, and build broad on the roots of things,
Then up again swim into sight, having based me my palace well,
Founded it, fearless of flame, flat on the nether springs.

And another would mount and march, like the excellent minion he was;
Ay, another and yet another, one crowd but with many a crest,
Raising my rampired walls of gold as transparent as glass,
[Pg 291]Eager to do and die, yield each his place to the rest,
For higher still and higher (as a runner tips with fire,
When a great illumination surprises a festal night—
Outlining round and round Rome’s dome from space to spire)
Up, the pinnacled glory reached, and the pride of my soul was in sight.

In sight? Not half! for it seemed, it was certain, to match man’s birth;
Nature in turn conceived, obeying an impulse as I;
And the emulous heaven yearned down, made effort to reach the earth,
As the earth had done her best, in my passion, to scale the sky:
Novel splendors burst forth, grew familiar and dwelt with mine,
Not a point nor peak but found and fixed its wandering star;
Meteor-moons, balls of blaze: and they did not pale nor pine,
For earth had attained to heaven, there was no more near nor far.

Nay, more: for there wanted not who walked in the glare and glow,
Presences plain in the place; or, fresh from the Protoplast,
Furnished for ages to come, when a kindlier wind should blow,
Lured now to begin and live in a house to their liking at last;
Or else the wonderful Dead who have passed through the body and gone,
But were back once more to breathe in an old world worth their new:
What never had been, was now; what was, as it shall be anon;
And what is—shall I say, matched both? for I was made perfect too.

All through my keys that gave their sounds to a wish of my soul,
All through my soul that praised as its wish flowed visibly forth,
All through music and me! For think, had I painted the whole,
Why, there it had stood, to see, nor the process so wonder-worth:
Had I written the same, made verse,—still, effect proceeds from cause;
Ye know why the forms are fair, ye hear how the tale is told;
It is all triumphant art, but art in obedience to laws,
Painter and poet are proud in the artist-list enrolled:—

But here is the finger of God, a flash of the will that can,
Existent behind all laws, that made them, and lo, they are!
And I know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man,
[Pg 292]That out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound, but a star.
Consider it well: each tone of our scale in itself is nought;
It is everywhere in the world—loud, soft, and all is said:
Give it to me to use! I mix it with two in my thought:
And, there! Ye have heard and seen: consider and bow the head!

Well, it is gone at last, the palace of music I reared;
Gone! and the good tears start, the praises that come too slow;
For one is assured at first, one scarce can say that he feared,
That he even gave it a thought, the gone thing was to go.
Never to be again! But many more of the kind
As good, nay, better perchance: is this your comfort to me?
To me, who must be saved because I cling with my mind
To the same, same self, same love, same God: ay, what was, shall be.

Therefore to whom turn I but to thee, the ineffable Name?
Builder and maker, thou, of houses not made with hands!
What, have fear of change from thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that thy power can fill the heart that thy power expands?
There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more:
On earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.

All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist,—
Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power
Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the melodist
When eternity affirms the conception of an hour.
The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard,
The passion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky,
Are music sent up to God by the lover and the bard;
Enough that he heard it once: we shall hear it by-and-by.

And what is our failure here but a triumph’s evidence
For the fulness of the days? Have we withered or agonized?
Why else was the pause prolonged but that singing might issue thence?
Why rushed the discords in but that harmony should be prized?
Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear;
Each sufferer says his say, his scheme of the weal and woe:
But God has a few of us whom he whispers in the ear;
[Pg 293] The rest may reason and welcome: ’tis we musicians know.

Well, it is earth with me; silence resumes her reign:
I will be patient and proud, and soberly acquiesce.
Give me the keys. I feel for the common chord again,
Sliding by semitones, till I sink to the minor,—yes,
And I blunt it into a ninth, and I stand on alien ground,
Surveying awhile the heights I rolled from into the deep;
Which, hark! I have dared and done, for my resting-place is found,
The C Major of this life: so, now I will try to sleep.




Said Abner, “At last thou art come! Ere I tell, ere thou speak,
Kiss my cheek, wish me well!” Then I wished it, and did kiss his cheek.
And he, “Since the King, O my friend, for thy countenance sent,
Neither drunken nor eaten have we; nor until from his tent
Thou return with the joyful assurance the King liveth yet,
Shall our lip with the honey be bright, with the water be wet.
For out of the black mid-tent’s silence, a space of three days,
Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants, of prayer or of praise,
To betoken that Saul and the Spirit have ended their strife,
And that, faint in his triumph, the monarch sinks back upon life.

“Yet now my heart leaps, O beloved! God’s child, with his dew
On thy gracious gold hair, and those lilies still living and blue
Just broken to twine round thy harp-strings, as if no wild heat
Were now raging to torture the desert!”

Then I, as was meet,
Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose on my feet,
And ran o’er the sand burnt to powder. The tent was unlooped;
I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and under I stooped;
Hands and knees on the slippery grass-patch, all withered and gone,
That extends to the second enclosure, I groped my way on
Till I felt where the foldskirts fly open. Then once more I prayed,
And opened the foldskirts and entered, and was not afraid,
But spoke, “Here is David, thy servant!” And no voice replied.
At the first I saw nought but the blackness; but soon I descried
A something more black than the blackness—the vast, the upright
Main prop which sustains the pavilion: and slow into sight
Grew a figure against it, gigantic and blackest of all;—
[Pg 294]Then a sunbeam, that burst thro’ the tent-roof,—showed Saul.
He stood as erect as that tent-prop; both arms stretched out wide
On the great cross-support in the centre, that goes to each side:
He relaxed not a muscle, but hung there,—as, caught in his pangs
And waiting his change, the king-serpent all heavily hangs,
Far away from his kind, in the pine, till deliverance come
With the spring-time,—so agonized Saul, drear and stark, blind and dumb.

Then I tuned my harp,—took off the lilies we twine round its chords
Lest they snap ’neath the stress of the noontide—those sunbeams like swords!
And I first played the tune all our sheep know, as, one after one,
So docile they come to the pen-door till folding be done.
They are white and untorn by the bushes, for lo, they have fed
Where the long grasses stifle the water within the stream’s bed;
And now one after one seeks its lodging, as star follows star
Into eve and the blue far above us,—so blue and so far!

—Then the tune for which quails on the cornland will each leave his mate
To fly after the player; then, what makes the crickets elate,
Till for boldness they fight one another: and then, what has weight
To set the quick jerboa a-musing outside his sand house—
There are none such as he for a wonder, half bird and half mouse!—
God made all the creatures and gave them our love and our fear,
To give sign, we and they are his children, one family here.

Then I played the help-tune of our reapers, their wine-song, when hand
Grasps at hand, eye lights eye in good friendship, and great hearts expand
And grow one in the sense of this world’s life.—And then, the last song
When the dead man is praised on his journey—“Bear, bear him along
With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets! Are balm-seeds not here
To console us? The land has none left such as he on the bier.
Oh, would we might keep thee, my brother!”—And then, the glad chaunt
[Pg 295]Of the marriage,—first go the young maidens, next, she whom we vaunt
As the beauty, the pride of our dwelling.—And then, the great march
Wherein man runs to man to assist him and buttress an arch
Nought can break; who shall harm them, our friends?—Then, the chorus intoned
As the Levites go up to the altar in glory enthroned.
But I stopped here—for here in the darkness, Saul groaned.

And I paused, held my breath in such silence, and listened apart;
And the tent shook, for mighty Saul shuddered,—and sparkles ’gan dart
From the jewels that woke in his turban at once with a start—
All its lordly male-sapphires, and rubies courageous at heart.
So the head—but the body still moved not, still hung there erect.
And I bent once again to my playing, pursued it unchecked,
As I sang,—

“Oh, our manhood’s prime vigor! No spirit feels waste,
Not a muscle is stopped in its playing, nor sinew unbraced.
Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock—
The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree,—the cool silver shock
Of the plunge in a pool’s living water,—the hunt of the bear,
And the sultriness showing the lion is crouched in his lair.
And the meal, the rich dates, yellowed over with gold dust divine,
And the locust’s-flesh steeped in the pitcher; the full draught of wine,
And the sleep in the dried river-channel where bulrushes tell
That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well.
How good is man’s life, the mere living! how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses, forever in joy!
Hast thou loved the white locks of thy father, whose sword thou didst guard
When he trusted thee forth with the armies, for glorious reward?
Didst thou see the thin hands of thy mother, held up as men sung
The low song of the nearly-departed, and hear her faint tongue
Joining in while it could to the witness, ‘Let one more attest,
I have lived, seen God’s hand through a lifetime, and all was for best’?
Then they sung thro’ their tears in strong triumph, not much,—but the rest.
[Pg 296]And thy brothers, the help and the contest, the working whence grew
Such result as from seething grape-bundles, the spirit strained true!
And the friends of thy boyhood—that boyhood of wonder and hope,
Present promise, and wealth of the future beyond the eye’s scope,—
Till lo, thou art grown to a monarch; a people is thine;
And all gifts which the world offers singly, on one head combine!
On one head, all the beauty and strength, love and rage, like the throe
That, a-work in the rock, helps its labor, and lets the gold go:
High ambition and deeds which surpass it, fame crowning them,—all
Brought to blaze on the head of one creature—King Saul!”

And lo, with that leap of my spirit, heart, hand, harp, and voice,
Each lifting Saul’s name out of sorrow, each bidding rejoice
Saul’s fame in the light it was made for—as when, dare I say,
The Lord’s army in rapture of service, strains through its array,
And upsoareth the cherubim-chariot—“Saul!” cried I and stopped,
And waited the thing that should follow. Then Saul, who hung propped
By the tent’s cross-support in the centre, was struck by his name.
Have ye seen when Spring’s arrowy summons goes right to the aim,
And some mountain, the last to withstand her, that held, (he alone,
While the vale laughed in freedom and flowers) on a broad bust of stone
A year’s snow bound about for a breastplate,—leaves grasp of the sheet?
Fold on fold all at once it crowds thunderously down to his feet,
And there fronts you, stark, black but alive yet, your mountain of old,
With his rents, the successive bequeathings of ages untold—
Yea, each harm got in fighting your battles, each furrow and scar
Of his head thrust ’twixt you and the tempest—all hail, there they are!
Now again to be softened with verdure, again hold the nest
Of the dove, tempt the goat and its young to the green on his crest
For their food in the ardors of summer! One long shudder thrilled
All the tent till the very air tingled, then sank and was stilled,
At the King’s self left standing before me, released and aware.
What was gone, what remained? All to traverse ’twixt hope and despair—
[Pg 297]Death was past, life not come—so he waited. Awhile his right hand
Held the brow, helped the eyes left too vacant forthwith to remand
To their place what new objects should enter: ’twas Saul as before.
I looked up and dared gaze at those eyes, nor was hurt any more
Than by slow pallid sunsets in autumn, ye watch from the shore
At their sad level gaze o’er the ocean—a sun’s slow decline
Over hills which, resolved in stern silence, o’erlap and entwine
Base with base to knit strength more intense: so, arm folded arm
O’er the chest whose slow heavings subsided.

What spell or what charm,
(For, awhile there was trouble within me) what next should I urge
To sustain him where song had restored him?—Song filled to the verge
His cup with the wine of this life, pressing all that it yields
Of mere fruitage, the strength and the beauty! Beyond on what fields,
Glean a vintage more potent and perfect to brighten the eye
And bring blood to the lip, and commend them the cup they put by?
He saith, “It is good;” still he drinks not—he lets me praise life,
Gives assent, yet would die for his own part.

Then fancies grew rife
Which had come long ago on the pastures, when round me the sheep
Fed in silence—above, the one eagle wheeled slow as in sleep,
And I lay in my hollow, and mused on the world that might lie
’Neath his ken, though I saw but the strip ’twixt the hill and the sky:
And I laughed—“Since my days are ordained to be passed with my flocks,
Let me people at least with my fancies, the plains and the rocks,
Dream the life I am never to mix with, and image the show
Of mankind as they live in those fashions I hardly shall know!
Schemes of life, its best rules and right uses, the courage that gains,
And the prudence that keeps what men strive for.” And now these old trains
Of vague thought came again; I grew surer; so once more the string
Of my harp made response to my spirit, as thus—

“Yea, my king,”
I began—“thou dost well in rejecting mere comforts that spring
From the mere mortal life held in common by man and by brute:
In our flesh grows the branch of this life, in our soul it bears fruit.
[Pg 298]Thou hast marked the slow rise of the tree,—how its stem trembled first
Till it passed the kid’s lip, the stag’s antler; then safely outburst
The fan-branches all round; and thou mindest when these too, in turn
Broke a-bloom and the palm-tree seemed perfect; yet more was to learn,
E’en the good that comes in with the palm-fruit. Our dates shall we slight,
When their juice brings a cure for all sorrow? or care for the plight
Of the palm’s self whose slow growth produced them? Not so! stem and branch
Shall decay, nor be known in their place, while the palm-wine shall stanch
Every wound of man’s spirit in winter. I pour thee such wine.
Leave the flesh to the fate it was fit for! the spirit be thine!
By the spirit, when age shall o’ercome thee, thou still shalt enjoy
More indeed, than at first when inconscious, the life of a boy.
Crush that life, and behold its wine running! each deed thou hast done
Dies, revives, goes to work in the world; until e’en as the sun
Looking down on the earth, though clouds spoil him, though tempests efface,
Can find nothing his own deed produced not, must everywhere trace
The results of his past summer-prime,—so, each ray of thy will,
Every flash of thy passion and prowess, long over, shall thrill
Thy whole people the countless, with ardor, till they too give forth
A like cheer to their sons, who in turn, fill the south and the north
With the radiance thy deed was the germ of. Carouse in the past.
But the license of age has its limit; thou diest at last.
As the lion when age dims his eyeball, the rose at her height,
So with man—so his power and his beauty forever take flight.
No! again a long draught of my soul-wine! look forth o’er the years—
Thou hast done now with eyes for the actual; begin with the seer’s!
Is Saul dead? in the depth of the vale make his tomb—bid arise
A gray mountain of marble heaped four-square, till built to the skies.
Let it mark where the Great First King slumbers—whose fame would ye know?
Up above see the rock’s naked face, where the record shall go
In great characters cut by the scribe,—Such was Saul, so he did;
With the sages directing the work, by the populace chid,—
[Pg 299]For not half, they’ll affirm, is comprised there! Which fault to amend,
In the grove with his kind grows the cedar, whereon they shall spend
(See, in tablets ’tis level before them) their praise, and record
With the gold of the graver, Saul’s story,—the statesman’s great word
Side by side with the poet’s sweet comment. The river’s awave
With smooth paper-reeds grazing each other when prophet winds rave:
So the pen gives unborn generations their due and their part
In thy being! Then, first of the mighty, thank God that thou art.”

And behold while I sang.... But O Thou who didst grant me that day,
And before it not seldom hast granted thy help to essay,
Carry on and complete an adventure,—my Shield and my Sword
In that act where my soul was thy servant, thy word was my word,—
Still be with me, who then at the summit of human endeavor
And scaling the highest, man’s thought could, gazed hopeless as ever
On the new stretch of Heaven above me—till, Mighty to save,
Just one lift of thy hand cleared that distance—God’s throne from man’s grave!
Let me tell out my tale to its ending—my voice to my heart,
Which can scarce dare believe in what marvels last night I took part,
As this morning I gather the fragments, alone with my sheep,
And still fear lest the terrible glory evanish like sleep!
For I wake in the gray dewy covert, while Hebron upheaves
The dawn struggling with night on his shoulder, and Kidron retrieves
Slow the damage of yesterday’s sunshine.

I say then,—my song
While I sang thus, assuring the monarch, and ever more strong
Made a proffer of good to console him—he slowly resumed
His old motions and habitudes kingly. The right hand replumed
His black locks to their wonted composure, adjusted the swathes
Of his turban, and see—the huge sweat that his countenance bathes,
He wipes off with the robe; and he girds now his loins as of yore,
And feels slow for the armlets of price, with the clasp set before.
He is Saul, ye remember in glory,—ere error had bent
The broad brow from the daily communion; and still, though much spent
Be the life and the bearing that front you, the same, God did choose,
To receive what a man may waste, desecrate, never quite lose.
[Pg 300]So sank he along by the tent-prop, till, stayed by the pile
Of his armor and war-cloak and garments, he leaned there a while,
And so sat out my singing,—one arm round the tent-prop, to raise
His bent head, and the other hung slack—till I touched on the praise
I foresaw from all men in all times, to the man patient there,
And thus ended, the harp falling forward. Then first I was ’ware
That he sat, as I say, with my head just above his vast knees
Which were thrust out on each side around me, like oak-roots which please
To encircle a lamb when it slumbers. I looked up to know
If the best I could do had brought solace: he spoke not, but slow
Lifted up the hand slack at his side, till he laid it with care
Soft and grave, but in mild settled will, on my brow; thro’ my hair
The large fingers were pushed, and he bent back my head, with kind power—
All my face back, intent to peruse it, as men do a flower,
Thus held he me there with his great eyes that scrutinized mine—
And oh, all my heart how it loved him! but where was the sign?
I yearned—“Could I help thee, my father, inventing a bliss,
I would add to that life of the past, both the future and this.
I would give thee new life altogether, as good, ages hence,
As this moment,—had love but the warrant, love’s heart to dispense!”

Then the truth came upon me. No harp more—no song more! outbroke—

“I have gone the whole round of Creation: I saw and I spoke!
I, a work of God’s hand for that purpose, received in my brain
And pronounced on the rest of his handwork—returned him again
His creation’s approval or censure: I spoke as I saw.
I report, as a man may of God’s work—all’s love, yet all’s law!
Now I lay down the judgeship he lent me. Each faculty tasked
To perceive him, has gained an abyss, where a dew-drop was asked.
Have I knowledge? confounded it shrivels at Wisdom laid bare.
Have I forethought? how purblind, how blank, to the Infinite care!
Do I task any faculty highest, to image success?
I but open my eyes,—and perfection, no more and no less,
In the kind I imagined, full-fronts me, and God is seen God
In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the soul and the clod.
And thus looking within and around me, I ever renew
[Pg 301](With that stoop of the soul which in bending upraises it too)
The submission of man’s nothing-perfect to God’s All-Complete,
As by each new obeisance in spirit, I climb to his feet!
Yet with all this abounding experience, this Deity known,
I shall dare to discover some province, some gift of my own.
There’s one faculty pleasant to exercise, hard to hoodwink,
I am fain to keep still in abeyance (I laugh as I think)
Lest, insisting to claim and parade in it, wot ye, I worst
E’en the Giver in one gift.—Behold! I could love if I durst!
But I sink the pretension as fearing a man may o’ertake
God’s own speed in the one way of love: I abstain, for love’s sake!
—What, my soul? see thus far and no farther? when doors great and small,
Nine-and-ninety flew ope at our touch, should the hundredth appal?
In the least things, have faith, yet distrust in the greatest of all?
Do I find love so full in my nature, God’s ultimate gift,
That I doubt his own love can compete with it? here, the parts shift?
Here, the creature surpass the Creator, the end, what Began?—
Would I fain in my impotent yearning do all for this man,
And dare doubt He alone shall not help him, who yet alone can?
Would it ever have entered my mind, the bare will, much less power,
To bestow on this Saul what I sang of, the marvellous dower
Of the life he was gifted and filled with? to make such a soul,
Such a body, and then such an earth for insphering the whole?
And doth it not enter my mind (as my warm tears attest)
These good things being given, to go on, and give one more, the best?
Ay, to save and redeem and restore him, maintain at the height
This perfection,—succeed with life’s day-spring, death’s minute of night?
Interpose at the difficult minute, snatch Saul, the mistake,
Saul, the failure, the ruin he seems now,—and bid him awake
From the dream, the probation, the prelude, to find himself set
Clear and safe in new light and new life,—a new harmony yet
To be run and continued, and ended—who knows?—or endure!
The man taught enough by life’s dream, of the rest to make sure.
By the pain-throb, triumphantly winning intensified bliss,
And the next world’s reward and repose, by the struggle in this.

“I believe it! ’tis Thou, God, that givest, ’tis I who receive:
In the first is the last, in thy will is my power to believe.
All’s one gift: thou canst grant it moreover, as prompt to my prayer
[Pg 302]As I breathe out this breath, as I open these arms to the air.
From thy will, stream the worlds, life and nature, thy dread Sabaoth:
I will?—the mere atoms despise me! Why am I not loath
To look that, even that in the face too? Why is it I dare
Think but lightly of such impuissance? what stops my despair?
This;—’tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do?
See the king—I would help him but cannot, the wishes fall through.
Could I wrestle to raise him from sorrow, grow poor to enrich,
To fill up his life, starve my own out, I would—knowing which,
I know that my service is perfect.—Oh, speak through me now!
Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst Thou—so wilt Thou!
So shall crown thee the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost Crown—
And thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave up nor down
One spot for the creature to stand in! It is by no breath,
Turn of eye, wave of hand, that Salvation joins issue with death!
As thy Love is discovered almighty, almighty be proved
Thy power, that exists with and for it, of being Beloved!
He who did most, shall bear most; the strongest shall stand the most weak.
’Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for! my flesh, that I seek
In the Godhead! I seek and I find it. O Saul, it shall be
A Face like my face that receives thee: a Man like to me,
Thou shalt love and be loved by, forever! a Hand like this hand
Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee! See the Christ stand!”

I know not too well how I found my way home in the night.
There were witnesses, cohorts about me, to left and to right,
Angels, powers, the unuttered, unseen, the alive—the aware—
I repressed, I got through them as hardly, as strugglingly there,
As a runner beset by the populace famished for news—
Life or death. The whole earth was awakened, hell loosed with her crews;
And the stars of night beat with emotion, and tingled and shot
Out in fire the strong pain of pent knowledge: but I fainted not.
For the Hand still impelled me at once and supported—suppressed
All the tumult, and quenched it with quiet, and holy behest,
Till the rapture was shut in itself, and the earth sank to rest.
Anon at the dawn, all that trouble had withered from earth—
Not so much, but I saw it die out in the day’s tender birth;
In the gathered intensity brought to the gray of the hills;
[Pg 303]In the shuddering forests’ new awe; in the sudden wind-thrills;
In the startled wild beasts that bore off, each with eye sidling still
Tho’ averted, in wonder and dread; and the birds stiff and chill
That rose heavily, as I approached them, made stupid with awe.
E’en the serpent that slid away silent,—he felt the new Law.
The same stared in the white humid faces upturned by the flowers;
The same worked in the heart of the cedar, and moved the vine-bowers.
And the little brooks witnessing murmured, persistent and low,
With their obstinate, all but hushed voices—“E’en so, it is so!”

[Pg 304]



[Pg 305]


Titles of complete monologues are printed in Italics; authors of these in SMALL CAPITALS; subjects of lessons are printed in CAPITALS; ordinary topics in Roman.

Abrupt beginning, cause of Browning’s obscurity, 81

Abt Vogler, 290;
theme in, 88-89

ACTION, 172-195
importance at opening, 172-173
precedence of, 173
significance of, in a monologue, 174
in Italian in England, 174
in Mrs. Caudle, 174
in Up at a Villa, 174-175
in A Tale, 175-176
caused by change in thinking and feeling, 175-176
by struggle for idea, 176
in quotations, 177-178
transitions and, 178
pivotal, shows attention and politeness, 181-186
locations of objects, 182-183
monologue must not be declaimed, 183
descriptive and manifestative, 187-189
in Old Boggs’ Slarnt, Day, 188
in Vagabonds, Trowbridge, 190-193
dangers of, 194
attitude, importance of, 195

Andrea del Sarto, 265

Appearances, 265

Illustrated by A Death in the Desert, 89
Illustrated by Bishop orders his Tomb, 91-94
(Poem, 285)
Illustrated by Memorabilia, 160-162

Art, function of, 7
dramatic, important, 11
forms of, not invented, necessary, 11-12
Browning on, 40
indirect, 63
composed of few elements, 87-88
theme of, 110
social, 258

At the Mermaid, 73-74
extract from, 74

Attention, key to dramatic, 181
shown by pivotal action, 182-186

Attitude, importance of, 195

Barrack-Room Ballads are monologues, 128

Before Sedan, Dobson, 84

Biglow Papers are monologues, 19

Bishop Blougram’s Apology, listener in, 41-42

Bishop orders his Tomb, 285
listener in, 53
dramatic argument of, 91-94


Bret Harte’s, In a Tunnel, 173

Bridge of Sighs, Hood, 209
metre of, 211

Patriot, The, 3
Woman’s Last Word, A, 6
Confessions, 7
Youth and Art, 21
Incident of the French Camp, 33
Rabbi Ben Ezra, 36
Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, 58
Up at a Villa—Down in the City, 65
A Grammarian’s Funeral, 72
At the Mermaid, 74
My Last Duchess, 96
Lost Mistress, 106
Tray, 143
One Way of Love, 150
Italian in England, 152
Wanting is—What? 157
Memorabilia, 160
A Tale, 164
In a Year, 201
Lost Leader, 212
Evelyn Hope, 216
Appearances, 265
Andrea del Sarto, 265
Muléykeh, 272
Count Gismond, 275
By the Fireside, 277
Pheidippides, 281
Prospice, 284
Bishop orders his Tomb, 285
Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis, 288
Abt Vogler, 290
Saul, 293
Why not appreciated, 1-2
Invented monologue, 1-2
his art form, 7
dramatic, 9-10
compared with Leigh Hunt, 25-26
influence of, 48
compared with Tennyson, 52
compared with Shakespeare, 55-61
soliloquies are monologues, 58-61
obscurity of, 71-81
master of monologue, 131-132
grotesque, element in, 229
variety of his themes, 263-264

Burns, monologues in, 117-120
O wert thou in the cauld blast, 118

By the Fireside, 277

Caliban upon Setebos, character of, 24
[Pg 306]speaker in, 24

Caudle, Mrs., On the Umbrella, 139

Character of speaker must be realized, 138

Chesterton, on personal element in story-telling, 86
on Clive and Muléykeh, 125
justifies Browning’s grotesque language, 229

Churchill, J. W., rendering of Sam Lawson, 16

Cleon, monologue or letter, 18

Clive, illustrates person spoken of, 54
why a monologue, 126

Confessions, 7

Connection, importance of first words to the, 79-80

Consistency, law of, 235-237

Conversation, elements of, 159

Count Gismond, 275
speaker in, 16

Cushman, Charlotte, her rendering of monologue, 236-237

Definition of monologue, 7

nature of, 134
important in monologue, 133-136
three languages in, complementary, 135-136

DIALECT, 222-230
must be dramatic, 222-223
in Riley, Burns, Tennyson, 223
not literal, 224-225
dramatic, 225-226
results from assimilation, 227
must express character, 228-229
part of grotesque, 229-230

Didn’t know Flynn, Bret Harte, 173

Dieudonné, Dr. Drummond, 225

Dobson, Austin,
Before Sedan, 84
change of situation in, 84-86

Dooley monologues, 42
Hennessey in, 42-43

Dowden, Edward, on static dramatic, 110-111
on Muléykeh, 111

Dramatic art, important, 11

Dramatic instinct, overlooked, 31
necessary in human life, 30
listener in, 31
definition of, 103-104
illustrated by, 103-113
static dramatic, 110-111
nature of, 111-112
interprets odd moments, 156

Drayton, Michael
Come, let us kiss and part, 116

Drummond, Dr.
French Canadian dialect, 129
Dieudonné, 225

Duchess, My Last, 96

Epic spirit, nature of, 102
in Tennyson’s Ulysses, 102-103, 123
in Sir Galahad, 124

Evelyn Hope, 216

Expression, vocal, necessity of, 133-146
nature of, in the monologue, 147-172

staginess, 241
monotony, cause of, 241-242
tameness, 242
declamation, 242-243
indefiniteness, 243
exaggeration, 244
cause of, false, 244-246

Field, Eugene, Monologues in, 44

Fireside, By the, 277

illustrated by A Tale, 164

Flight of the Duchess, as illustration of monologue, 108-109

not invented, 11-12, 100-101
Monologue, one, 100-113

Foss, Sam Walter, monologues by, 48

Fra Lippo Lippi, connection in, 81-83

Freytag’s definition of drama, 103-104

Grammarian’s Funeral, A, situation in, 72-73

Grigsby’s Station, a monologue, 47

Grotesque, nature of, 226
dramatic, importance of, 30-31
illustrations of, 33-39

HEARER, THE, 30-64
implied in dramatic art, 30-31
in monologue, necessary, 32
illustrated by Rabbi Ben Ezra, 36
in Bishop Blougram, 41-42
by Dooley and Hennessey, 43
in Riley’s Nothin’ to Say, 46-47
in Tennyson’s Lady Clara, 50

Hervé Riel, metre in, 203

Higginson, Col. T. W., story of Carlyle, 226

in early literature, 113-116
in Burns, 117-118

Hood, Thomas, Bridge of Sighs, 209

Hunt, Leigh, Browning’s method differs from, 25-26

Imitation, danger of, in High Tide, 171

illustrated by Saul, 248-252;
by Job, 253
by Ninetieth Psalm, 253-254;
by Prophets, 255
has educational value, 255
speakers, 255-256
proves necessity of voice to literature, 256
gives new course in speaking, 256;
illustration, 257
prevents students of art from being
mechanical, 258
shows necessity of art, 261
of any length or theme, 262
requires an artist, 263
requires no expensive scenery, 262
has limitations, 262
[Pg 307]its range, 264

In a Tunnel, Bret Harte, 173

In a Year, 201

Incident of the French Camp, 33

Inflection, function of, 151
importance of, 149-150, 157

Interpreter of monologue must command natural languages, 136

Interpretation of monologue difficult, 139
necessary, 133
unites three languages, 135
must be dramatic, 138-142

Italian in England, The, 152

Jerrold, Douglas, situation in his monologues, 75
on Sordello, 1
Mrs. Caudle and the Umbrella, 139
its spirit, 141-143

John Anderson, my Jo, Burns, 62

Kipling, dramatic spirit in, 127-129
Mandalay lyric or monologue, 128-129
dialect of results from dramatic spirit, 228

Lady Clara Vere de Vere, Tennyson, 50

Language, threefold, 135-138

La Saisiaz, situation of, 78

Last Ride Together, 205

Letters and monologues compared, 17-18

not invented, 100
monologue, as a, 100-113
monologue, a true, 124, 259-264

implies unprinted elements, 133-134
suggests life, 135-136

Lost Leader, The, 212

Lost Mistress, The, 106

Lyric, nature of, 14
compared with monologue, 14-15

Macbeth, story of, compared to monologue, 105-107

Memorabilia, 160
illustrates vocal expression of monologue, 161-162

Mental actions modulate voice, 147-172

Mermaid, At the, passage from, 73-74

mistakes regarding, 195
appreciation of, 196
part of vocal expression, 196-197
meaning of, 196, 204-205
relation to length of line, 198-199
in Woman’s Last Word and In a Year, 201
study of, 213

Mistress, The Lost, 106

Mitchell, D. G., on letters, 17

Modulations of voice, 147-172

Monologue contrasted with the play, 105-109
“Invention” of Browning, 2
One end of conversation, 7
study of, centres in, 10
speaker in, 12-30, 41-43
dramatic, 32
person spoken of, in, 54-55
compared with soliloquy, 55-61
situation in, 64-78
connection, 78-86
argument of, 86-94
as literary form, 100-113
compared with play, 105-109
before Browning, 113
common in English poetry, 113-132
common in modern literature, 127-132
needs delivery, 133-146
vocal expression of, 147-172
rhythm of thinking in, 148
action in, 172-195
metre in, 195-222
dialect in, 222-229
use of properties, 231-240
faults in rendering, 241-246

Movement illustrated by High Tide, 168-171

Mrs. Jim, a series of monologues, 130

Muléykeh, 272
Chesterton on, 125
as a monologue, 125-126

My Last Duchess, 96
illustrates elements of monologue, 96-99

Natural languages, function of, 134-137

Nothin’ to Say, Riley, 46

Obscurity, chief cause of Browning’s, 81

Old Boggs’ Slarnt, Day, 188

One Way of Love, 150

Oratory and acting compared, 13, 179-181
Jefferson on, 179-180

Palgrave on Sally in our Alley, 120-122

Patriot, The, 3

Pause, Importance of, 149

Personal element in art, Chesterton on, 86
found in all conversation and expression, 81-88

Pheidippides, 281

Play, a monologue, 10-12

Poetry, Aristotle on, 128
dramatic, not invented, 100
epic, 122-123

use of, in play and monologue, 230-231
significance of, 230-231
need of generalizing, 232
Irving, Sir Henry, scenery in unity, 233
consistency in, 235
use of scenery, 236-240
must not be literal, 237
when dramatic, 238-240

Prospice, 284
metre of, 209

Psalm Ninetieth, 253
a monologue, 253-255

Rabbi Ben Ezra, 36

Rendering of monologues, 236-237


Rhythm, first element in interpretation, 148

Riley, James Whitcomb, Hoosier monologue, 129-131
Knee-deep in June, a monologue, 45
situation in, 53
Nothin’ to Say, 46

Ring and the Book, The, proves value of monologue, 26-29
extract from, on art, 40

Sally in our Alley, Carey, 120

Sam Lawson, stories of, Mrs. Stowe, monologues, 16
illustrates nature of monologue, 248-252

Saul, 293

Shakespeare compared with Browning, 112
his soliloquies compared to monologues, 55-57

Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis, 288

dramatic, 64
monologue implies, 65
Up at a Villa—Down in the City, 65
in Browning, always definite, 71-72
changes in Grammarian’s Funeral, 72
in Douglas Jerrold, 75
Andrea del Sarto (Poem, 265)

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, 58
soliloquy compared with monologue, 56-57
Shakespeare’s, 55
difference between Browning and
Shakespeare, 57-61

SPEAKER, THE, in monologue, 12-30
speech and monologue compared, 101-102

Suckling, Sir John, Why so pale and wan, 116

Tale, A, 163

Tennyson’s Lady Clara Vere de Vere, 50
a monologue, 52
many monologues, 49
not master of, 53

abrupt beginning, 79-80
tone-color explained, 157-160

Tray, 143

Up at a Villa—Down in the City, 65

Vagabonds, The, Trowbridge, 190

Vocal Expression
nature of, 134
reveals processes of mind, 147-172
unprintable, 136
in play and monologue, 167-168


Wanting is—What? 157

Whitman, dramatic element in his “O Captain,” 120

Why so pale and wan, Suckling, 116

Woman’s Last Word, A, 6

Words complemented by tone and action, 135

Wyatt, Sir Thomas, The Lover’s Appeal, lyric in form of monologue, 114

Youth and Art, 21
metre of, 216


The University Press Cambridge, U. S. A.




[1] Freytag, Technik des Dramas, chap. i, sec. 2, p. 16 (Leipzig, 1881). Translation by Prof. H. B. Lathrop.

[2] To emphasize the nature and importance of poetic form (see pp. 211, 213), “Count Gismond” and “By the Fireside” are here printed as prose. Find the length of line, the stanzas, and the metre, the meaning and appropriateness of all these. How should they be paragraphed?



Transcriber’s Notes:

Several of the poems appear in the middle of a paragraph. They are presented here as in the original text.

Other than the corrections noted by hover information, inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained from the original.

End of Project Gutenberg's Browning and the Dramatic Monologue, by S. S. Curry


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