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By John Woolford, Daniel O''Gorman

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Yet he must also repudiate them. Under the influence of Shelley's love of humanity, he had gone out 'to look upon I Men, and their cares, and hopes, and fears, and joys' (443-4), only to experience a dark reversal: First went my hopes of perfecting mankind, And faith in them - then freedom in itself, And virtue in itself ... and human love went last. 458-60,461 The Problem of Power 25 As a result, My powers were greater - as some temple seemed My soul, where nought is changed, and incense rolls Around the altar - only God is gone, And some dark spirit sitteth in his seat!

As his conception falters and he stammers into silence (cp. ', and making the poem in which Sordello appears the historical outcome of Sordello's poetic ambition. But since it is Browning who writes Sordello, the poem like Paracelsus prophesying itself and thus subsuming previous poetic effort, offers its own substance as 'the accomplishment of the feat'. Simultaneously, the will-to-power apparent in Browning's historical triumph over his protagonists is claimed, implicitly, to be the means by which they historically survive (as Sordello survives in Dante's Purgatorio), and thus evidence of his redeeming love for them.

III Why I am a Liberal is hardly a revolutionary poem. The 'fetters' from The Problem of Power 17 which men are to be emancipated are intellectual rather than political ('prejudice', 'convention'); the removal even of these is compromised by the admission that '[b]ut little can or do the best of us'. In lnstans Tyrannus, the self-assertion of the common man takes the form, not of rebellion, but of an appeal to God, and its result is not the fall of the despot, but his experience of a metaphysical frisson.

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