Robert Browning: A Serenade at the Villa

Students in my course on Victorian poetry heard a recital by Rolf Eising of Robert Browning’s “A Serenade at the Villa”. The poem is not easy to understand, but its musical quality makes it fun to read.

A Serenade at the Villa

The opening scene is set in an Italian garden where a man tries to win the heart of his beloved in the troubadour fashion:

„Robert Browning: A Serenade at the Villa“ weiterlesen

Robin Sloan: Die sonderbare Buchhandlung des Mr. Penumbra

Über Cover, Klappentext und die Kunst der Irreführung

Letzte Woche brachte die Post ein Rezensionsexemplar des Blessing Verlags ins Haus. Robin Sloans vor Kurzem in deutscher Sprache erschienener Roman „Die sonderbare Buchhandlung des Mr. Penumbra“ verspricht eine geheimnisvolle Geschichte um einen kauzigen Buchhändler in San Francisco, der in seinem Laden nur wenige, angestaubte Bücher verkauft. Der größere Teil der Räume dient als düstere Bibliothek, in der sich Regale in schwindelerregende Höhen erheben – allesamt voller unverkäuflicher, handgefertigter Bände, die nur von den Mitgliedern eines mysteriösen Klubs entliehen werden dürfen. So weit, so spannend.

„Robin Sloan: Die sonderbare Buchhandlung des Mr. Penumbra“ weiterlesen

Alfred (Lord) Tennyson: The Charge of the Light Brigade

We have all heard a lot about the Crimean crisis during the last couple of weeks. After the Soviet collapse, Crimea seems to have become vitally important to the Kremlin. The future will show whether the Black Sea peninsula will rejoin Russia or remain Ukrainian territority – and whether the conflict is to be resolved peacefully.

While Western media today express deep concern about a possible military escalation in the Ukraine, the mid-19th-century Crimean War (1853-1856) was seen in a completely different light. Standing one’s ground on the battlefield was considered by most Victorians as a just, noble and heroic action which deserved high praise. English poet Alfred Tennyson therefore commemorates the battle at Balaklava on October 25 1854 as an event which speaks of the virtues of the common British soldier in the face of disorder, disaster and death.

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Christina Rossetti: Twice

Prof. Valentine Cunningham (Corpus Christi College, Oxford University), who gave a lecturoe on Victorian Poetry Now at the German-English Society in Essen in March 2014, calls Christina G. Rossetti “the best woman poet of her time and indeed, one of the greatest of Victorian poets” (p. 662). Among others, he chose Twice, written in 1864, to be included in his anthology The Victorians.

Discussion Questions:

1) (St. 1-3): ‘But this once hear me speak…’

What do we learn about expected male and female behaviour in Victorian England? Is the speaker in a position to give her heart as she chooses? How does she react to being rejected?

2) (St. 4-6) : ‘My broken heart in my hand’                 

How can a broken heart be mended? What gives security when ‘hope was written on sand’?

3) (St. 1-6): ‘I take my heart…’

How does the poem express both the speaker’s vulnerability and her strength? What role does repetition play in the poem?


I took my heart in my hand                                    1
(O my love, O my love),
I said: Let me fall or stand,
Let me live or die,
But this once hear me speak –                               5
(O my love, O my love) –
Yet a woman’s words are weak;
You should speak, not I.

You took my heart in your hand
With a friendly smile,                                           10
With a critical eye you scanned,
Then set it down,
And said: It is still unripe,
Better wait a while;
Wait while the skylarks pipe,                                15
Till the corn grows brown.

As you set it down it broke –
Broke, but I did not wince;
I smiled at the speech you spoke,
At your judgment that I heard:                              20
But I have not often smiled
Since then, nor questioned since,
Nor cared for corn-flowers wild,
Nor sung with the singing bird.

I take my heart in my hand,                                  25
O my God, O my God,
My broken heart in my hand:
Thou hast seen, judge Thou.
My hope was written on sand,
O my God, O my God:                                          30
Now let Thy judgment stand –
Yea, judge me now.

This contemned of a man,                   contemned: to view with contempt;
This marred one heedless day,            
marred: spoiled, damaged 
This heart take Thou to scan                
heedless: careless, thoughtless  
Both within and without:
Refine with fire its gold,
Purge Thou its dross away  –                
purge: cleanse a person from sin
Yea, hold it in Thy hold,                         

Whence none can pluck it out.                             40

I take my heart in my hand –
I shall not die, but live –
Before Thy face I stand;
I, for Thou callest such:
All that I have I bring,                                            45
All that I am I give,
Smile Thou and I shall sing,
But shall not question much.


The Victorians. An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics. Ed. by Valentine Cunningham. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2000 


Christina Rossetti. Pencil Profile, 1848, by D. G. Rossetti. Licensed by