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The Sting and the Crook: A Response to Robert Browning's Sleight of Hand Rebecca J. Stjtcliffe If Browning die, it please the reverend court, I, for one, should not cry out Upon the critics who would claim: "Tis poem-icide!" He kiUed the babe Before the first o'er use of multiplicity of syllables that carry the meter beyond the sense of any poem he's ever writ. 'T was in the milk of common speech Dropped "usurpature," "ombrifuge," And other trumped-up poisons of a poet's brain; Threw discombobulation, obfuscation Twixt speech and speechifier, mixing Tone on tone till not one breath of Former Bishops, Fra FiUppos, nay Cold stranglers of a phantom love got breathed. Yet, 't were not enough to poison. That poor poem Must fierce dismembered be, Wrenched from out its crib of standard time And told by all mouths all times one.' "Done purposely!" my learned Browning fan Cries out against the charges herein laid. "Psychologic 'curacy demands the mixed-up time As mind confused demands obscurer sense Of words drop't peU-meU into history's melting-pot. 'T was done to save the babeā€”not disconnect but Fasten sure its new-cut teeth on Breast of Human-kind. 'T was teething ring and weeding ring, and ring Of state-owned beUs in city square the poet meant to show. If, out of four fat fingers obtuse readers Cannot thrust nor one through crafted gold Condemn we then the jeweUer?" Condemn we must, I say, for ring made Large enough to hang 'round necks 'neath brains Too small o'er hundred lines contain. Double crime committed he, that poet of The weighty tome that killed he in killing us. Pompilia and her foster-folk count lucky we Who died 'or with that Ring and Book could murdered be! ...


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