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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Poet and Philanthropist

The Library of Benjamin Godfrey Windus at Tottenham (1835) by John Scarlett Davis
In the beginning of Book VI Aurora begins to reflect favorably on the work that Romney performs.  As she points out the weaknesses of her art, which are the strengths of Romney's trade, Aurora concedes that Romney's work is honorable and worthy of her.  Though she does not advocate Romney's extreme actions, she grows closer to the philosophy of Romney.  She agrees with his earlier assessment that poets as lovers of beauty, avoid and ignore the ugly things in life, which she calls "common, ugly, human dust" (163).  Art is the portrayal of not just the beautiful but also life, which ultimately includes the beautiful as well as the ugly.  In order to reach her full potential as an artist, Aurora recognizes that she can no longer block from her vision the disagreeable, instead committing "to look into the swarthiest face things" (148).  Nature will not offer "her larger sense of beauty and desire" if Aurora ignores the ugly.  Aurora then concludes that

the poet and philanthropist
(Even I and Romney) may stand side by side,
Because we both stand face to face with men
Contemplating the people in the rough,–
Yet each so follow a vocation,–his
And mine (199-204).

She not only adopts some of Romney's views but also gives her first favorable view of a match with Romney [she slips up in Book VII and call Romney "the man I love" before correcting herself with "the friend I love (Book VII, 173-4)].  Browning constructs a pathway in which Romney and Aurora could work together, possibly as husband and wife) without either having to forsake his vocation.  Aurora sees that the poet and philanthropist have similar goals.

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