Robert Browning is one of my most favorite poets in English literature. This is a touching poem reflecting Browning’s admiration for Renaissance spirit. I studied this poem in the third year in university and I was deeply moved with this poem. This is one of the poems that has become a part of my life. It’s not that I recite it a lot or even read it a lot but I think of the poem ‘A Grammarian's Funeral’ a lot. Today, out of curiosity, I searched about it in Google and found very little discussion about it. Well, it disappointed me some as I expected that there would be a lot of discussion about the poem in Internet.
The poem opens a grave note:
Let us begin and carry up this corpse,
Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes
Each in its tether
Sleeping safe on the bosom of the plain,
Cared-for till cock-crow:
The students of the Grammarian are carrying his dead body and they are going to bury him on the hill. Well, they are not students but they are the disciples of the Grammarian. They respected the Grammarian despite the fact that he was not rich. This is interesting to me. Teachers are respected in all the ages although they don’t have a lot of wealth. Their wealth is their knowledge and with their knowledge, they can teach their students new things.
Another thing that attracts me of the poem ‘A Grammarian's Funeral’ is the fact that the Grammarian did not study anything that could make him rich. I mean he studied humanities not science or commerce. In our own age, studying humanities (or Arts) is not a cool thing in many parts of the world. The money is in science and in commerce. So, most students and their parents tend to neglect the subjects of humanities.
Now, take a look at the next few lines of the poem:
Look out if yonder be not day again
Rimming the rock-row!
That's the appropriate country; there, man's thought,
Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought,
Chafes in the censer.
Here, we can see a distinction drawn between ordinary people and the grammarian. The grammarian was a man of noble sprit and virtue and his place is surely not with the ordinary people. He was higher than others because he dedicated his life for knowledge. In our age, acquiring knowledge is a good thing. You can become rich and famous and even powerful and respectable with knowledge but at that time, there was hardly anything to gain by dedicating a life for knowledge. There was no research grant, no publishing deal or scholarship or teaching position for people like the grammarian. He does not mind the limitations and obstacles in life. He just knows that he has a mission in life and that is acquiring and imparting knowledge. It is mission, passion and perhaps religion. There is a sense of fulfillment through knowledge.
I will write more about this poem in this blog in the coming days. You can subscribe to the feed of the blog. I urge all of you to take part in the discussion about this poem.