Death in the Desert

Leddy-Jones Research Hall

Jacoby Art Glass Company, Saint Louis, Missouri

It is thought that Robert Browning was inspired to write "A Death in the Desert" after reading Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus, translated into English in 1863, a work that questioned the authenticity of John's Gospel. The poem begins with an unnamed speaker sharing the contents of a parchment. The contents convey how the speaker and several others have cared for a dying man, hiding him in a desert cave, soon realizing that the man is St. John himself. Most of the poem that follows is text from John's own dictation.

Stained Glass-A Death in the Desert (large)

Excerpts from Robert Browning's
"A Death in the Desert"

"Is it for nothing we grow old and weak,
We whom God loves? When pain ends, gain ends too.

"For life, with all it yields of joy and woe,
And hope and fear,--believe the aged friend,--
Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love,
How love might be, hath been indeed, and is;
And that we hold thenceforth to the uttermost
Such prize despite the envy of the world.
And, having gained truth, keep truth: that is all.

"I say, the acknowledgment of God in Christ
Accepted by thy reason, solves for thee
All questions in the earth and out of it,
And has so far advanced thee to be wise.
Wouldst thou unprove this to re-prove the proved?
In life's mere minute, with power to use that proof,
Leave knowledge and revert to how it sprung?
Thou hast it; use it and forthwith, or die!

"For I say, this is death and the sole death,
When a man's loss comes to him from his gain,
Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance,
And lack of love from love made manifest. . . ."

When pain ends, gain ends too.

I say, the acknowledgment of God in Christ
Accepted by thy reason, solves for thee
All questions in the earth.

In memory of Jennie D. Brown and
Andrew J. Dossett by their children

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Dossett