Browning's Religious Faith
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ROBERT BROWNING was eminently a Christian poet. The hold he had upon the vital truths of religion which he never relinquished, was due largely to the example of his mother. She was an earnest, evangelical Christian, who trained her children diligently for the Lord. His love and reverence for her were akin to worship. Even as a grown man he never could sit by her otherwise than with an arm about her waist. Her death occurred in 1849, while he was in Italy. His sister, fearing that the shock of the news would be fatal to him, sent him two letters, saying in one, " She is not well," and in the other, " She is very ill," when in fact she had died. As it was, he was completely prostrated, and his recovery was very slow. The influence of this woman's devotion to her Saviour colored all the poet's days. Of a very affectionate disposition, the death of his wife, closely followed by that of his father, rendered him almost inconsolable, but through it all shone the Christian's view of the immortality of the soul. In Rabbi Ben Ezra, he wrote,
" All that is, at all,
He once said to a friend, "Death! It is this harping on death I despise so much ; this idle as well as ignorant harping. Why should we not change like everything else? Death is life, just as our daily, our momentarily dying body is none the less alive, and ever recruiting new forces of existence. Without death there could be no prolongation of that which we call life. For myself, I deny death as an end of anything. Never say of me that I am dead." Near the end of his life, a dying lady wrote to thank him for the help she had received from his poems. The following is an extract from the letter he sent her in reply. " Dear friend : It would ill become me to say a word as to my own feelings, except inasmuch as they can be common to us both in such a situation as you describe yours to be, and which by sympathy I can make mine by the anticipation of a few years at most. It is a great thing, the greatest, that a human being should have passed the probation of life and sum up its experience as a witness to the power and love of God. I dare congratulate you. All the help I can offer in my poor degree is the assurance that I see ever more reason to hold by the same hope—and that by no means in ignorance of what has been advanced to the contrary. And for your sake, I could wish it to be true that I had so much of `genius' as to permit the testimony of an especially privileged insight to come in aid of the ordinary argument. For I know I, myself, have been aware of the communication of something more than a ratiocinative process when the convictions of ` genius' have thrilled my soul to its depths."
Robert Browning was priest as well as poet. His strong faith bound thou-sands of souls to the heart of God, and to immortality.
Death is only an incident in life and not the end of it. It is only the clock striking twelve, which introduces a new day that shall never end.