De Gustibus "The Wind-grieved Apennine"

Robert Browning

"The Wind-grieved Apennine"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The title of this poem is part of a quotation, de gustibus non est disputandum, or, "there is no arguing about taste." In Part I Browning says that if we love the same things after death that we love in life, the lover of trees will haunt the English countryside, where boys and girls make love in hazel groves. The poet says that he loves best a castle on the windy Apennine mountains of Italy. Or perhaps if he can get himself out of the grave and loosen his spirit's bands, he will inhabit far in the south a seaside house that looks out over a great unbroken expanse of blue sea. It will be a crumbling house with blistered walls sheltering scorpions. A barefoot peasant girl who brings in the melons will tell of someone's having shot at the Bourbon king and will hope that the assailant has not been caught. The poet concludes by saying that if you open up his body you will find "Italy" engraved on his heart.

What I love best in all the world,
Is, a castle, precipice-encurled,
In a gash of the wind-grieved Apennine.
Or look for me, old fellow of mine,
(If I get my head from out the mouth
O' the grave, and loose my spirit's bands,
And come again to the land of lands)–
In a sea-side house to the farther South,
Where the baked cicala dies, of drouth,
And one sharp tree–'tis a cypress–stands
By the many hundred years red-rusted,
Rough iron-spiked, ripe fruit-o'ercrusted,
My sentinel to guard the sands
To the water's edge. For, what expands
Before the house, but the great opaque
Blue breadth of sea without a break?