The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church Essay Example
The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church Essay Example

The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (2053 words)
  • Published: October 17, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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Robert Browning was born 7 May 1812. He began writing poems and at a very young age and learned many languages, also showing an interest in history. This interest in foreign language and history is to a certain extent reflected in his poetry, as many poems are set abroad, and it can be interpreted that there s a certain amount of historical knowledge present in Browning' s poetry.

A prime example of this possible historical knowledge is the interest Browning shows in religion, and the various mimics of biblical events, particularly evident in the poem, 'The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church", a poem that talks of the real 'Saint Praxed's church' in Rome. The first poem that has particular religious grounding is 'The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church', written in 1845. T


his Dramatic monologue talks of a Renaissance Bishop on his deathbed instructing a party on the tomb which he aspires to have built for him.

He talks of this tomb in comparison to that of his predecessor, Gandolf, of whose tomb his is scorning, "Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone. " The bishop mentions a variety of themes for his tomb, "Peach blossom marble all... " Towards the close of them poem, he appears to realise that these aspirations are most probably purile, and sends the group away, "leave me in my church, the church for peace. This poem is narrated by the bishop himself, a fictional character. It is written in iambic pentameter, and the language is not in rhyming scheme, and is constructed in blank verse.

This style in which Browning has decided to write the poem is indicative

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of the character that the poem focuses on. The bishop is a character who is up front in the way in which he speaks. He is honest in his speech - it is not elaborated, simply spoken. This is also true to the situation of the character, who is on his deathbed. The simple structuring can be related to that of a death scene, and true to the Bishop's character, his thoughts seem to be focused more the material loss of death, than the actual spiritualistic meaning.

By materialistic, it is simply meant that we come to hear of the Bishop's life being used as means for which he is able to prepare the presence that he wishes to leave on earth after his death. This is a character much interested in life after death. The party to whom he is talking is assumed to be made up of a number of his followers, although there is definite indication that one may be a child of the Bishop's, in his mention of a "Child of my bowels".

This suggestion of the Bishop having a child, and then the later mention of a possible mistress, is against the ethics of the religious life with which he has vowed to comply, but there is also a possible undertone. If the bishop does indeed have this son, he may have done so for a particular reason. This is the idea of this son being a mean by which the Bishop is able to leave a presence on earth. If this interpretation was to be pursued, one could argue that the Bishop is in actual fact a religious man, but his

obsession with this life after death over whelms all other aspects of his life.

The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church' uses a number of methods to emphasize the precise nature of the character's attitudes towards life and death, matter and spirit. The Bishop, who may be perceived as an embodiment of the Renaissance, persistently combines life and religion in a most blasphemous manner, for having no true belief in Christian immortality, he yet tries to secure himself a kind of bizarre life after death, as previously mentioned, the possible son remaining on earth.

Browning's many citations of types in the poem reveal his speaker continually misinterpreting religious matters, to which he seems to misapply to his passionate yearning to make himself immortal. A striking example of this misapplication is that 'in ordering his tomb' the Bishop in effect parodies many biblical events, primarily, Lord's command to Moses to build him a sanctuary. The Bishop, who sees himself as "an object worthy of worship", wishes his tomb to be constructed of stones from the Tabernacle, "and 'neath my tabernacle, take my rest", which were types of Heaven.

If this idea is extended, many details, such as the nine pillars supporting his tomb, can also be related to passages taken from the bible, particularly in Exodus. This desperation for a material resting place is suggestive of the Bishop's lack in religious conviction; If religion was as important a part of his life as should be to a Bishop, then the very promise of an after life in heaven should be enough to satisfy his thirst for the life after death. The references he makes to biblical ideals

create an air of hypocrisy.

The bishop is a poor representative of religion on earth, an in making these references to such heavenly matter, he is almost creating insult, implying that he deserves such heavenly surrounding. It can be comprehended that the Bishop's many blasphemies find their centre in his complete inability to comprehend the nature of matter and religion, and the relationship between them. In particular, he is unable to interpret the literal expression of religious matter properly.

Browning's Bishop finds himself in the predicament of a man of the church who can only accept the material and yet passionately desires immortality which requires an intense belief in religion. As a result, he collapses life and religion into each other, resulting in the life of a character that is most unfitting for his current profession. This fusion and confusion encourages his passionate desire for immortality, and is well suited to the assumed psychological state of a dying man, and perhaps this suitability provides another reason why Browning chose to set this character portrait within the context of a death-bed scene.

The Bishop in 'The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church' denounces most Victorian values active at the time, and the Bishop, can be interpreted as an emblem of the renaissance. This defiant act of Browning's through his poetry is the embodiment of the resentment Browning felt for the Victorian era, in which he was living. In many of his poems that are defiant undertones. And this poem is one of the more obvious. In the Victorian age, religion was greatly valued, and the bishop in this poem is clearly unstructured when it comes to the

strict values of religion, particularly in his referral to 'his son and mistress'.

This means that he has failed to comply with the chaste ethics of his profession. To defy religion in this way at any point in time would have been unacceptable to Victorians, and Robert Browning is intentionally mirroring this corruption with the corruption he felt personally. By this, it is meant that Browning suffered betrayal from fellow members of the Romantic Movement in poetry, in particular, the controversial conformal of William Wordsworth to Poet Laureate.

This movement could also be placed in union with the Renaissance, despite obvious differences, both were events which resulted in the freedom of expression. In this sense, Browning places an aspect of himself in the Bishop; both characters lived through times of change, one suffering from corruption, and one guilty of corruption. The second poem in which religion is an evident part is 'Fra Lippo Lippi', published in 1855. It is a dramatic monologue about a Florentine monk, different to the Bishop in many ways, the first that he was an actual person that lived in the fifteenth century.

"The character of the painter Fra Lippo Lippi in this poem follows that in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Painters pretty closely. It is clear that Vasari was Browning's source: he includes some of Vasari's errors, 'Robert Browning, a poet. ') Alongside being a monk, 'Brother Lippi' was a painter and an erratic character. We are introduced to the monk as he self narrates his meeting with the Medeci watchmen, under the employment of his own patron, 'Cosimo do Medici. ' His meeting with these watchmen takes place at night, after

the monk has been out.

They engage in conversation, and Brother Lippi is quick to talk about his life, and how he became a monk, "One fine frosty day, my stomach being as empty as a hat". He also talks of the difficulties he suffers from as a Monk, "... your head, mine's shaved". He is also quick to confess his lack of conduct in his profession, "I've broken bounds: You should not take a fellow eight years old And make him swear to never kiss the girls", and he is much blunter than the Bishop, though possible that is due to the drink.

In drinking alone, the monk is defying the vows taken in conforming to the Monastery. Throughout this poem the monk refers to his art, beginning at around line 180. The art that Browning would most probably have viewed whilst in Italy. Brother Lippi poses questions such as 'Which kind of art best serves religious purposes? ' and 'Should art even serve religion at all? ' This is not the speech of a man who lives for his religion, but the speech coming from a man under the strong influence of alcohol.

These questions Browning poses through Brother Lippi are indicative of Browning reoccurring belief, demonstrated throughout his life and his poetry, that morality and passion are in no way related when it comes to human expression, through art of any form. This religious character appears to be hypocritical of the religious figure a monk is ordained to be, demonstrating Browning's obvious feeling about hypocrisy, most probably stemming from his experience with Wordsworth. Brother Lippi also faces rivalry from the church on the subject of

his art, which is conflicting with the expected artistic goals of the Church.

This suppression that Brother Lippi experiences is a parody of the suppression that Browning felt as a poet previous to participation in the Romantic Movement for poetry. Brother Lippi's talk about art is accompanied by his complaints of the monastic lifestyle. He tells of how he is caught between the religious life he chose, and the corrupt life of the Medici's. Browning clearly portrays that neither fulfil the life of a person, through portraying Brother Lippi as ignorant to the basic needs of human life, and both parties as leading empty existences.

To a certain extent, one could argue that the conflict Brother Lippi feels is a parody of the conflict felt by Browning in Victorian society, where Moralists came up fiercely against Libertines. The poem is written in blank verse again, and has no rhyming scheme. It is not in exact iambic pentameter, but could be described as roughly fitting into such a scheme.

In order to capture the mood of the monk, Browning has broken the poem up with sections of songs and drunken outbursts, "Flower o' the pine, you keep your mistr-manners, and I'll stick to mine! In doing so he succeeds beautifully in portraying a person under the influence of alcohol. Brother Lippi's language is also not that of a monk, he often repeats the word 'Zooks! ' which is considered a swear word, and certainly not language a dedicated monk would call out. There is a great deal of punctuation throughout this poem, particularly exclamation marks. This is indicative of the characters enthusiasm in his speech, and most probably of

his drunken state.

In the poems by Robert Browning, there are many parodies in which he mimics his own experiences with experiences of another, usually in previous times. This is a safe way for Browning to express his negative feeling about certain aspects of Victorian society, and record them through his own form of art, his poetry. If he had simply written about them in exact replica, he would have caused social outrage and unnecessary revolt. In completing his work in this manner he has avoided all, and provided stead fast characters for many of his poems.

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