A Grammarian's Funeral "He's For The Morning"

Robert Browning

"He's For The Morning"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This poem is the final tribute of a group of students to their dead master, a Greek scholar. As day breaks, they carry his corpse to the mountain top for burial. Their song catches the spirit of those scholars who thirsted after knowledge in the early Renaissance, but they inadvertently reveal that their master chose Knowledge to the exclusion of Life. This unknowing admission by his students shows that the scholar had, in effect, denied the very premise of Renaissance humanism, which originally motivated his search for knowledge. The students praise their master's choice: "That before living he'd learn how to live–No end to learning." They never realize the implications of his withdrawal from both life and humanity. Triumphantly, they bear him to his resting place, isolated from common man:

That's the appropriate country; there, man's thought,
Rarer, intenser,
Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought,
Chafes in the censer.
Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop;
Seek we a sepulture
On a tall mountain, citied to the top,
Crowded with culture!
. . .
Our low life was the level's and the night's;
He's for the morning.
Step to a tune, square chests, erect each head,
'Ware the beholders!
This is our master, famous, calm and dead,
Borne on our shoulders.