Day 12/30 - my star
Of course the view from this flat’s balcony was the main attraction when I first saw it. Previously inhabited by a couple, three young children and their domestic help, the flat was packed with lots of built in cupboards and beds and the general mess of family life. It wouldn’t be how I would do it up. And with three young children, it wasn’t in the neatest or cleanest state. But I thought, as I spoke to the previous owner and walked through the house, that it was loved. It was a happy flat.
And so this was how I had described the flat to friends - the view is amazing and it was well-loved.
Today I share one of Robert Browning’s most popular short poem from his 1855 collection Men and Women. Browning had a long and serious career as a poet and writer. His long form poem “The Ring and the Book” is a standard text for any student of Victorian writing. But he was probably outshone by his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her time. She was 6 years his senior, and despite being semi invalid, was known for her work in both poetry and slavery abolition. Her sonnets were maybe the equivalent of a today’s chart-topping love songs.
This poem “My Star” by Browning (1812-1889) can be read with reference to any manifestation of love - romantic, familial, or as above, a well-loved flat. But it is not a possessive love. Rather, while the singularity and devotion of the lover’s gaze is key, we read by the end it is also the beloved’s action having “opened its soul to me”.
The poem begins in these short, simple lines - asking you with quick strokes to search out that sudden “dart of red”, “dart of blue”. The lover is so enthused by his love, he infects for a moment his friends. To them, however, the star doesn’t perform its charming little dance - to other eyes it is delicate like a bird, or maybe even a little shy, like a flower that has either not bloomed or hangs about to wilt. The lover says others may be drawn to the fancy Saturn or to the largesse that is “the world”, but to him the small world of his star is sufficiently large for it has opened up it soul - a universe it feels - to him. And so love is singular. Not necessarily possessive. Not necessarily blind. But it is singularly so between the lover and the beloved.
All I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matters to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.