GREGORY TATE he speaker of Robert Browning's "Clive" (1880) is an old soldier who served with Robert Clive in India before witnessing the general's decline into disgrace and suicide. Thinking over his memories of Clive, the speaker figures the act of remembering as a recapitulation of the military marches of his youth: thought grows busy, thrids each pathway of old years, Notes this forthright, that meander, till the long-past life appears Like an outspread map of country plodded through, each mile and rood, Once, and well remembered still. (ll. 1114)1 The speaker identifies his mental process as a form of motion: his thoughts journey down the pathways of memory, retracing the footsteps of his plodding through India. He also presents thought as visual, likening memory to the outspreading of a map, a chart which regulates the movements of the mind. This visual conception of thinking is present too in the speaker's account of the ailing Clive, whom he recalls staring at a table-top "as though / Tracing, in the stains and streaks there, thoughts encrusted long ago" (ll. 8788). The difference between the two men's thoughts is that while the speaker's memories are "busy," Clive's opium-addled brain is
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jul 20, 2014
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