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A Toccata of Gallupi's
Transcript of A Toccata of Gallupi's
In 1833, Browning anonymously published his first major piece of work, Pauline, and in 1840 he published Sordello, which was widely regarded as a failure. He also tried his hand at drama. His plays, including Strafford, ran for five nights in 1837. The Poem A "toccata" is a piece designed to display the musician's technical prowess. The Venetian composer and musician Baldassare Galuppi (1706-85), was known for his spiritual compositions whilst working as an organist at St. Mark's Cathedral. He was also well known for his light operas and in 1741 he visited England, and influenced the music there considerably. Analysis Galuppi has the power as an artist to help these people confront their mortality - the first stage of his music teaches just that - but chooses to resolve that tension into a false reaffirming of life. The question becomes, then: what is better for an artist, to offer an escapist fantasy or a serious reminder of mortality? Characteristically, Browning does not offer a definitive answer, though he does note that even the former gains a sad, creepy air in hindsight when the irony of its ineffectiveness is made apparent. Thank you for listening to us,
we hope you found this useful. If you want a copy of this presentation don't hesitate to ask. Summary of the poem Published in the 1855 volume Men and Women, “A Toccata of Galuppi’s” gives the reflections of a man who is either playing or listening to a piece by the composer Baldassare Galuppi. The music inspires in the speaker visions of Venice: he sees these images in rich detail, even though he has not left England. He envisions a masked ball at which Galuppi performs, and he invents a conversation between two lovers at the ball, who speak of love and happiness in trivial terms. The sense of corruption and decay hangs heavy over the scene, though, and the speaker imagines Galuppi scolding Venice for its soullessness and wild ways. The sense of melancholy produces a powerful effect on the speaker. Robert married the poet Elizabeth Barrett in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett's father. The couple moved to Pisa where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert "Pen" Browning, in 1849, the same year his Collected Poems was published. Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861, and Robert and Pen Browning soon moved to London. The Browning Society was founded and he was awarded honorary degrees by Oxford University in 1882. Robert Browning died on the same day that his final volume of verse, Asolando, was published, in 1889. In 1887 Browning noted that he owned two manuscript volumes of Galuppi's "toccata-pieces." This poem is famous for its form. It is one of the few poems in English to be written in octameter: sixteen-syllable, or eight-stress, lines. The stresses display a trochaic pattern (stressed followed by unstressed syllables), which can be difficult to sustain in English. Browning writes in rhyming triplets which is a difficult poetic task in English. When he imagines the Venetian couple listening to Galuppi's music, he first sees them growing melancholy as he plays his "suspensions". Such melancholy leads them to confront their mortality. However, what Galuppi then offers is an escape in his "commiserating sevenths", which let the couple then think themselves immortal. Because Galuppi offers music that resolves the tension of death for a while, the couple loves and praises him. However, the truth cannot be avoided: death will come. The speaker in his imagination goes through the same process as that couple, though in the opposite direction. He begins the poem by imagining the glorious history of Venice, but ends the poem accepting that death comes to it. Time cannot be stopped and greatness falls. One should not see this narrator as representing Browning. Not only has the narrator never been out of England (whereas Browning, who published this poem in 1855, had lived in Italy with Elizabeth Barrett Browning for several years), but the speaker is, according to the seventh stanza, a man of science and mathematics. It is a useful choice, since putting such contemplation in the mind of an artist would almost necessitate a more explicit consideration of the purpose of art, whereas this man, not an artist by trade, merely wishes to explore the effect of music that pleases him. One final element that reinforces the poem's themes and also shows Browning's implicit presence is the form. The poem is composed of 15 rhyming triplets, an extremely rare and difficult form. Further, the lines are composed of octometer, which requires a certain virtuosity of language. In a way, Browning is composing his own "toccata," a piece designed to show virtuosity rather than long-form composition. The form also works to parallel the speaker's final recognition that he has "grown old." Even in the prettiest and most impressive poetry lies a reminder of our mortality.