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Shvoong Home>Books>Poetry>Review on “a Grammarian’S Funeral” by Robert Browning Review

Review on “a Grammarian’S Funeral” by Robert Browning

Book Review   by:akso6o175     Original Author: Andy Kester Sawian
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‘A Grammarian’s Funeral’ was written shortly after the revival of learning in Europe. It is a description of the funeral procession of a great scholar who spent the later years of his life in the study of Greek grammar. It is in the form of a dramatic monologue-the speaker is a member of the funeral procession and in his speech, he gives high praise to his late master, the grammarian, for his great thirst for knowledge and his firm determination to complete his task in the midst of the infirmities of old age and the severe handicaps of illness.“Look out if yonder be not day again Rimming the rock-row. That’s the appropriate country; there man’s thought, Rarer, intenser, Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought, Chafes in the censer.” The highland ‘rock-row’ is a symbol of high purpose, because where there is purpose, because where there is purpose, man’s thoughts will struggle to break away from all restraints (‘chafes in the censer’) and to ascend to higher levels (rarer, intenser)- just as the air becomes keener and rarer as one goes higher.
We learn from the speaker that the grammarian was a gifted man but had wasted his youth. In the winter of old age, he suddenly woke up to the fact that he had accomplished nothing. He therefore made a strong resolution to devote the remaining years of his life to studies. He put on the gown of a scholar and resolved to master his subject-Greek grammar-without caring for the difficulties he would have to face. “How should spring take note Winter would follow? How can anyone in his youth ever think that old age will follow? “New measures, other feet anon; My dance is finished?” In his old age, the movement of life has slowed down and his question is, is his activity now over? “Theirs, who most studied man, bard and sage”; reference to the humanist, the poets and learned men of the Renaissance, whose study centered on man. The grammarian’s in Browning’s poem is thus a true embodiment of the Renaissance spirit with his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and his eagerness and enthusiasm in the pursuit of it.
“That before living he’d learn how to live”; through his books, he would understand the meaning and purpose of life. “What’s time? Leave Now for dogs and apes; Man has Forever”; unlike the beast’s life, man’s life is not limited to this world, because he is concerned with the greater goal of eternity. “Oh, if we draw a circle premature, Heedless of far gain, Greedy for quick returns of profit, sure, Bad is our bargain. Was it not great? Did not he throw on God, (He loves the burthen)-God’s task to make the Heavenly period Perfect the earthen?” It is not wise to be impatient to obtain an early reward in this life, but we should patiently work for the perfect reward which will be given by God in Heaven.
“That low man seeks a little thing to do, Sees it and does it: This high man, with a great thing to pursue, Dies ere he knows it. That low man goes on adding one to one, His hundred’s soon hit: This high man, aiming at a million, Misses an unit”; a man with low ideals will quickly fulfill them, but for a man of very high ideals, like the grammarian, this life is too short for him to fulfill them; however, his high aim makes him infinitely greater than the low man. “Hoti-Oun-De”; the three Greek articles which present difficulty to students of Greek grammar. “Enclitic”; word dependent for its stress on the preceding word. The speaker then explains that it is not proper to bury their master in the plain, because the plain land is a symbol of the common man’s intellectual ignorance and backwardness, and of a lack of ambition. The chosen site, the mountain peak, on the other hand, is a symbol of the grammarian’s life, marked by lofty ideas, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a strong, unwavering spirit that overcame all obstacles.

Published: October 21, 2010   
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  1. Answer   Question  :    what is the theme of the poem A Grammarian's Funeral? View All
  1. Answer   Question  :    This essay does not comment on the language, imagery, form or structure. It is detailed in the sense that it gives a good summary of the poem and the grammarian himself View All
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  1. 1. Doug Turner

    Written when?

    At the beginning of the poem when Browning mentions, 'shortly after the revival of learning in Europe', he is referring to the Italian Renaissance in which many Greek and Roman Texts were translated, this being in the 14th century. 500 hundred years before Browning wrote this poem.

    0 Rating Tuesday, March 27, 2012
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