The Ring and the Book "The Story Always Old And Always New"

Robert Browning

"The Story Always Old And Always New"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Consisting of twelve long books, this poem presents the story of a famous murder trial that occurred in Italy; told from different points of view, the chronology of the story becomes clear only when all of the speakers have been heard. The speaker of this monologue, a man who takes Guido's side on the grounds that he was deceived from the beginning, argues that Guido should be released for doing what any self-respecting husband would do. He tells of the marriage of the destitute nobleman Guido Franceschini to Pompilia Comparini, who was thought to be heiress to a considerable fortune. After Guido had mistreated Pietro and Violante Comparini, however, they claimed that Pompilia was not actually their child but had been purchased from a prostitute. The speaker, blaming the Comparinis for deceiving the poor Guido, says that Pietro's rearing Pompilia as his own child and legal heir was the original act that led to the murder, and consequently the husband had the right to defend his honor when he discovered the fraud.

Moreover,–here's the worm i' the core, the germ
O' the rottenness and ruin which arrived,–
He owned some usufruct, had moneys' use
Lifelong, but to determine with his life
In heirs' default: so, Pietro craved an heir,
(The story always old and always new)
Shut his fool's-eyes fast on the visible good
And wealth for certain, opened them owl-wide
On fortune's sole piece of forgetfulness,
The child that should have been and would not be.