|Robert Browning 1812-1889|
This morning I woke up thinking, "Oh, to be in England/ Now that April's there". And I further thought, who wrote those lines? Uncle Google led me to "Home Thoughts from Abroad" by Robert Browning. The poem was written in 1845 when Browning and his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Barrett, were apparently already living in Florence, Italy.
Home Thoughts from Abroad
Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
It is easy to sense Browning's nostalgia in this poem. He is missing his homeland - even though it is perhaps worth pointing out that he was born and raised a Londoner so the rural idyll to which he refers would have been some distance from his daily experience of the world during the first thirty three years of his life.
I think that the "melon-flower" of the last line references Nature in Italy. It is so different from what he left back home and far less stimulating.
Ultimately, I must confess that I do not like this poem very much. I think that some of the rhymes are as forced as the images of springtime that Browning has conjured up. For me the overall effect jars somehow and I am left thinking - well if you missed England so much, why didn't you simply pack up and leave Italy behind? I think it lacks the emotional authenticity that I am habitually drawn to in good poetry.
I find the ending especially problematic. The poem just judders to a halt without proper reflection on the differences between springtime in England and springtime in Italy. No, I am sorry Robert, though it starts well, I give this poem 6/10. Must try harder. What do you think?