Sordello

Leddy-Jones Research Hall

Jacoby Art Glass Company, Saint Louis, Missouri

Sordello, a narrative study in the psychology of genius and the development of a soul, is considered one of the most obscure of Browning's works and was a critical failure when published in 1840. It is a fictionalized account of the life of Sordello da Goito, a 13th-century troubadour. The setting of northern Italy is dominated by the struggle between the Guelphs (partisans of the Pope) and the Ghibellins (partisans of the Holy Roman Emperor). Sordello is a Ghibelline. The poem reveals the troubles of its subject, who is torn between the practical and the sublime, between the demands of his poetic imagination and his involvement in the power and glory of politics.

In this window, the dramatic scene depicts Palma and Taurello as they have made known their relationship and are leaving Sordello to his great and fatal spiritual struggle. The small medallion in the top border is a likeness of Shelley. The clothing, hair styles, furniture, and armor are all correct for the period.

Stained Glass-Sordello (Large)

Excerpts from Robert Browning's
Sordello

Book the Sixth
     Whereas for Mankind springs
Salvation by each hindrance interposed.
They climb; life's view is not at once disclosed
To creatures caught up, on the summit left,
Heaven plain above them, yet of wings bereft:
But lower laid, as at the mountain's foot.
So, range on range, the girdling forests shoot
Twixt your plain prospect and the throngs who scale
Height after height, and pierce mists, veil by veil,
Heartened with each discovery; in their soul,
The Whole they seek by Parts-- . . .

Here is the Crowd, whom I with freest heart
Offer to serve, contented for my part
To give life up in service,--only grant
That I do serve; if otherwise, why want
Aught further of me? If men cannot choose
But set aside life, why should I refuse
The gift? I take it--I, for one, engage
Never to falter through my pilgrimage--
Nor end it howling that the stock or stone
Were enviable, truly: I, for one,
Will praise the world, you style mere anteroom
To palace--be it so!

Why need Sordello square his course
By any known example?

In memory of Dr. and Mrs. E. B. Wood

Gift of Dr. W. A. Wood, Mrs. J. D. Johnson,
Eugene Wood, Dr. John H. Wood, and Josh Wood