"There May Be Heaven; There Must Be Hell"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Time's Revenge" treats the humiliation of love, a theme seldom found in Browning. The opening portions of the poem describe the poet-narrator's close friend–a person of clumsy ways and heavy boots but one who is completely devoted to the speaker. On this night in the poet's freezing garret, his friend, who so fiercely slaughtered the poet's unappreciative critics, would be sorely welcome. It is two in the morning, and the narrator says he cannot think, read, nor write. Ironically, the love for the devoted friend no longer has a place in the poet's heart, for it has been replaced by the love for a lady who treats the poet cruelly. He describes what loving her has done to him in violent terms: "To think I kill for her, at least,/ Body and soul and peace and fame,/ Alike youth's end and manhood's aim–." He then describes his new love's attitude toward him:

. . . and she
(I'll tell you) calmly would decree
That I should roast at a slow fire,
If that would compass her desire
And make her one whom they invite
To the famous ball tomorrow night.
There may be heaven; there must be hell;
Meantime, there is our earth here–well!