"Glad Confident Morning"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "The Lost Leader" is generally thought of as referring in its first two lines–"Just for a handful of silver he left us,/ Just for a riband to stick in his coat"–to two events in William Wordsworth's life: his acceptance of a pension in 1842 and of the Laureateship in 1843. Whether or not it is associated with Wordsworth's shift from fiery liberalism in youth to staid political conservatism in old age, the whole poem shows Browning's scorn for any desertion of principles for gain. John Greenleaf Whittier's "Ichabod" is a similar poem inspired by Daniel Webster's seeming political opportunism when he supported the Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Bill in 1850. In "The Lost Leader" Browning's first stanza shows the poet's shock and sense of loss at his leader's apostasy. The closing lines of the second stanza contrast the present symbolic darkness with the brightness of an earlier day:

Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part–the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him–strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!