Hedonistic Values In Robert Browning's Love Among The Ruins

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The Victorian Age is in large part characterized by its prudish and moralizing social mores. To adhere to Victorian standards of propriety, one was expected to largely repress his or her emotions and desires, often in an unhealthy way. As a result of these attitudes, many who lived in the Victorian Age internalized much undeserved guilt and were conflicted between their natural impulses and the judgmental eyes of others. In Robert Browning’s poem “Love among the Ruins,” a man contemplates the repressed, moralistic values that prevail in society and longs for the earthy, hedonistic attitudes of the past, which the girl who waits to meet with him symbolizes. Restrictive, high-minded principles abound in society during the lifetime of …show more content…
He contemplates the dull, grey plain where he walks, reflecting on its former condition as a great, bustling city in ancient times and comparing it to its current state of being. The city was a place “[w]here a multitude of men breathed joy and woe / Long ago,” as opposed to the immense apathy and longing felt by the himself (Browning Lines 31-32). These men, unlike the narrator, fulfilled their hearts’ thirst for adventure and affection, as well as their need to feel sorrow from time to time. They were whole and unrepressed, unrestrained by the unnatural laws of Victorian society. Indeed, the narrator almost describes them with envy, which one can hear as he mourns the state of his own world: “For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin! / Shut them in, / With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!” (81-83). This suggests that he does not idealize the ancient men, but rather, he admires their spirit and humanity. He venerates them in spite of their imperfections, because he feels that it is far superior to be whole than to pursue the Victorian standard in vain. He thinks of the state of the world now, with its wars and endless strife—where, paradoxically, it is less acceptable to grieve—and exclaims, “O heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!” (79). It is his cry for simpler times, before the complicated …show more content…
When he thinks of her, his whole mood changes, and he is inspired: “And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey / Melt away— / That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair / Waits me there” (Browning Lines 53-56). She is like a beacon of color and life, transforming her lover’s surroundings, eliminating the dull grey that engulfs and disheartens him. Even her literal appearance illustrates the contrast of her spirit to her surroundings; her hair is yellow, reminiscent of the sun, and an eagerness shows in her eyes, opposing the weary languor of the lifeless plains, which fade around her, no longer seen by the speaker, and thus no longer causing him grief. Furthermore, he says, “When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand, / Either hand / On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace / Of my face” (67-70). Her silence, too, represents something of human nature to him. Words are an old invention, but they are arguably quite new when compared to the feeling of love, or to nonverbal communication, which the narrator and his lover exchange as they look at each other and embrace. This girl, in her wordlessness and her passion, represents to the narrator what he longs for most, a return to the sincere, unpretentious ways of the past. Together, they could transcend the stifling grey: “The speaker . . .

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