12/12/12

"Two main opinions of Browning"

12 December 1889, Robert Browning died.

"THE poem, 'Old Pictures in Florence,' suggests admirably that a sense of incompleteness may easily be a great advance upon a sense of completeness: that the part may easily and obviously be greater than the whole. And from this Browning draws, as he is fully justified in drawing, a definite hope for immortality and the larger scale of life. For nothing is more certain than that though this world is the only world that we have known, or of which we could ever dream, the fact does remain that we have named it 'a strange world.' In other words, we have certainly felt that this world did not explain itself, that something in its complete and patent picture has been omitted. And Browning was right in saying that in a cosmos where incompleteness implies completeness, life implies immortality. The second of the great Browning doctrines requires some audacity to express. It can only be properly stated as the hope that lies in the imperfection of God — that is to say, that Browning held that sorrow and self-denial, if they were the burdens of man, were also his privileges. He held that these stubborn sorrows and obscure valours might — to use a yet more strange expression — have provoked the envy of the Almighty. If man has self-sacrifice and God has none, then man has in the universe a secret and blasphemous superiority. And this tremendous story of a divine jealousy Browning reads into the story of the Crucifixion. These are emphatically the two main doctrines or opinions of Browning, which I have ventured to characterize roughly as the hope in the imperfection of man, and more boldly as the hope in the imperfection of God. They are great thoughts, thoughts written by a great man, and they raise noble and beautiful doubts on behalf of faith which the human spirit will never answer or exhaust."

~G.K. Chesterton: Robert Browning.

Additional reading:
Robert Browning, by Chesterton, at Gutenberg.org,
http://bit.ly/UraiTj
Old Pictures in Florence, by Robert Browning, http://bit.ly/XQzN7H
Robert Browning, a lecture by Dale Ahlquist, http://bit.ly/NoxIaR

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