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Featured Poem: Love in a Life by Robert Browning

Written by Rachael Norris, 22nd July 2019

This week's Featured Poem is 'Love in a Life' by Robert Browning, chosen by The Reader's Learning and Quality Leader, Tom Young.

My first question is: what’s happened here? I wonder where she has gone. This could be a picture of bereavement, although ‘the trouble behind her’ also makes me think of other kinds of separation. Estrangement and grief have a lot of the same qualities of feeling.

I like the beginning – ‘Room after room… We inhabit together.’ Another person being so much, or so long, in mind is a kind of presence. I can feel the confusion and frustration of this person as they try desperately to fix their dizzying thoughts in flesh and blood.

But, the strongest thing that comes out for me, is the power of places to move us when human circumstances change. I’m imagining this person has lived here with their lover and, now that she is gone, they want to shake the past out of the objects she has touched.

Similar pictures come to mind: clearing up after a party; walking the empty corridors of school after the last day of term; making a final sweep of the house on moving day.

Love in a Life

Room after room, 
I hunt the house through 
We inhabit together. 
Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her – 
Next time, herself! – not the trouble behind her 
Left in the curtain, the couch’s perfume! 
As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew: 
Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather. 

Yet the day wears, 
And door succeeds door; 
I try the fresh fortune – 
Range the wide house from the wing to the centre. 
Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter. 
Spend my whole day in the quest, - who cares? 
But ‘tis twilight, you see, - with such suites to explore, 
Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune! 

by Robert Browning

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