ERNEST FONTANA rowning's "Waring" emerged as "a fancy portrait of a very dear friend" Alfred Domett,1 "who left England on April 30, 1842 for New Zealand (where he was later briefly Prime Minister)."2 First published in Dramatic Lyrics (1842), it was republished in 1849 with minor additions (ll. 153-157). John F. McCarthy in the most sustained examination of the poem argues that within it there is "a close identification between [Browning] and Domett" and that the poem is an "ironic self-analysis," marking "a low point in Browning's view of his own prospects.3 It mocks the pretensions of the inarticulate poet and exposes the strategy of a partial retirement of the artist as a delusion" (p. 382). Suggestively, Donald Hair compares Waring's "escape from the formal social life of London" to the withdrawal from modernity expressed in Arnold's "Scholar-Gipsy."4 Analogously, Philip Drew sees the poem as "like a brilliant sketch for a novel by Conrad."5 What both Hair and Drew touch on is the enigmatic suggestiveness of Browning's two-voiced presentation of the frustrated poet/artist and his subsequent disappearance abroad. In this essay, I shall pursue this enigma further, drawing on certain slippages and allusions in the poem that suggest
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
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