After the first reading, the poem Love Among the Ruins by Robert Browning seems to have a very difficult theme and a very deep meaning. The long lines alternating with short together with a complicated vocabulary not only may but do bewilder the reader. Though, a detailed and close reading of the poem helps to reveal the hidden sense of it. The main themes – love and war – are depicted with the help of the reach usage of stylistic devices, imagery, and tone.
Love Among the Ruins structure
The first thing that immediately strikes the reader’s attention is the unusual structure of the poem. The long iambic lines rhyme with short lines of three syllables. From the context, it is understandable that the function of the short line is to complement long ones with some information or explanation. The short lines also close every separate sentence and thought in the poem: “Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles, / Miles and miles” (lines 1-2). So every new long line introduces a new idea or image in the poem. If to treat the structure as a whole, the poem can be treated as a calligram – a poem in which the arrangement of lines creates a visual image. So, the structure can be compared to a turret that appears in the line 37. This tower is described as partially ruined and short lines of the poem help to make a corresponding impression.
Love Among the Ruins tone
The tone of the poem also plays a great role. It helps the reader to tune the right mood. The narrator starts his narration in a calm, peaceful and descriptive tone that gradually gathers momentum and ends in an exclamatory tone. The very last couplet is full of emotions and energy that is transferred with the help of exclamatory signs. It means that the narrator feels strongly about what he is saying.
Love Among the Ruins analysis
The poem begins with the description of an unnamed country. The narrator depicts the landscapes and picturesque scenery of that place as if overseeing it from a high point. A reach use of visual imagery helps the reader to imagine the setting and to walk along “solitary pastures” (3), observing sheep that are “half-asleep” (4) approaching to a city, the capital, that once was “great and gay” (7) and picture a prince with his councils in a court arguing about “peace and war” (12).
The second couplet also focuses on that very country. The narrator tries to reconstruct the ancient city in order to help the reader to see its majesty and mightiness. The visual imagery makes a contrast between the peaceful green nature’s “slopes of verdure” (15) and “the domed and daring palace” (19) that “shot its spires / Up like fires” (19-20). The author uses simile, comparing spires with fires in order to underline the city’s belligerence that somehow serves as an explanation of its ruins and remains. Such militancy I supported by the image of “the hundred-gated circuit of a wall” (21) made of marble. An adjective ‘hundred-gated’ can be seen as hyperbole that is used to stress on the palace’s readiness to war as well as the marching men that guard the city walls. The usage of epithets helps the reader to imagine the setting and feel the atmosphere.
Further, the narrator proceeds to description of the people who lived in that vanished city. He refers to them as “a multitude of men” (31) that “breathed joy and woe” (31). The citizens seem to be successful in military actions and were famous for it. The narrator says that “Lust of glory pricked their hearts up” (33) meaning that led to negative consequences and “dread of shame / Struck them tame” (33-34). ‘Lust’ and ‘dread’ are personified in the poem. The author is trying to say that the power, as well as the city, is not eternal and even the mightiest will fall in the course of time.
The only one thing that withstood the collapse of the city is “the single little turret” (37) that “By the caper overrooted, by the gourd / Overscored” (39-40). And the houseleek in blossom indicates the place where the basement of a tower used to be. Describing such a picture, Robert Browning proclaims one of the themes typical to a Romantic writer – the eternity and power of nature that will not confide and will endure everything.
And the only human being that remains in the city is “a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair” (109). Also in this couplet, the narrator talks about himself for the first time. He says that the girl waits for him in that ruined turret. The girl stands out as a symbol of pure love that is understandable from the title of the poem. And the girl (love) “will speak not, she will stand, / Either hand / On my shoulder” (67-69). That allows the reader to guess that the narrator may be a warrior and the only thing that supports him during the fights is the thought of the girl that is waiting for him no matter what.
In the last couplet, the narrator expresses his dissatisfaction with the war and “a million fighters” (73) that were slain for the sake of gold and other material things. He appeals to the Earth asking it to shut them in for the “whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!” (82) together with all their “triumphs and their glories and the rest!” (83). The author implies that all the things, like gold and glory, that caused a lot of wars will fleet sooner or later, but love will remain.
In the poem, the narrator describes how the war managed to turn a beautiful and mighty city bountiful with vegetation into the ruin. But all in all, there is the one thing that remained and it is love. In his poem, Robert Browning is trying to say that love is even more powerful than war. It can withstand any disaster or devastation. And as long as the person stretches out his hands to love, it will wait for him even in a solitary and half-ruined tower because “Love is best” (84).