Life in a Love

Robert Browning

‘Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning is an obsessive love poem in which a speaker tells the person they’re in love with that no matter how many times they’re torn down; they’re always going to get back up. 

Robert Browning

Nationality: England

Robert Browning was an English poet born in 1812.

He is considered one of the preeminent Victorian poets of the period.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: True love is not easily defeated

Themes: Love

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Contentment

Poetic Form: Block Form

Time Period: 19th Century

This obsessive Browning poem depicts a love that knows no bounds and will not be defeated

The poem is only twenty-one lines long and focuses on a singular message of the speaker’s obsession with their “beloved.” Readers may already be familiar with Browning’s other poem, ‘Love in a Life,’ which is in many ways similar to what readers see playing out in ‘Life in a Love.” 

Life in a Love
Robert Browning

Escape me?Never—Beloved!While I am I, and you are you,So long as the world contains us both,Me the loving and you the loth,While the one eludes, must the other pursue.My life is a fault at last, I fear:It seems too much like a fate, indeed!Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.But what if I fail of my purpose here?It is but to keep the nerves at strain,To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,And, baffled, get up and begin again,—So the chase takes up one's life, that's all.While, look but once from your farthest boundAt me so deep in the dust and dark,No sooner the old hope goes to groundThan a new one, straight to the self-same mark,I shape me—EverRemoved!
Life in a Love by Robert Browning


Summary 

Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning is a simple, passionate love poem that is fueled by obsession. 

The poem’s speaker, likely meant to be a male figure, begins the poem by talking to someone they’re in love with, likely a woman. The speaker tells this person that never are they going to escape from the speaker’s pursuit of them. They’re always going to be following, always there to try to convince them that the two should be together. 

Structure and Form 

Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning is a twenty-two-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text, something known as block form. The poet used lines of a variety of lengths, ranging from one word up to more than eight words. This gives the poem a great deal of visual disunity, especially at first glance. 

But, the poet does something quite interesting, mimicking the lengths of the first lines at the end of the poem. These final lines are almost the same lengths as the opening three lines, creating a cyclical feeling. 

Literary Devices 

In this poem, the poet uses a few literary devices. These include: 

  • Caesura: an intentional pause in the middle of a line of verse, for example, “While I am I, and you are you.” 
  • Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example: “fault” and “fear” in stanza one. 
  • Personification: can be seen when the poet describes hope with these words “No sooner the old hope goes to ground / Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark.” 


Detailed Analysis 

Lines 1-9

Escape me?

Never—

Beloved!

While I am I, and you are you,

So long as the world contains us both,

Me the loving and you the loth,

While the one eludes, must the other pursue.

My life is a fault at last, I fear:

It seems too much like a fate, indeed!

In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by telling the person they love that they will never “Escape.” They’re very passionate in their assertion, using short, one-word lines to indicate that this person, who is their “Beloved,” is “Never” going to be anywhere other than within the speaker’s sights. 

They’re certain that as long as they are both alive that the speaker is going to be pursuing “you” with love, and “you” are going to be “the loth,” or the unwilling party in the relationship. This person eludes the speaker no matter their actions. This is something that the speaker sees as being their fate. It’s the life that they’re going to have to live for the rest of time. 

Lines 10-14 

Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.

But what if I fail of my purpose here?

It is but to keep the nerves at strain,

To dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall,

And, baffled, get up and begin again,—

The speaker knows that even if they do their best to catch this person and convince them of the love the two could share, it’s very unlikely that they are going to “succeed.” There is a rhetorical question in line eleven where the speaker wonders what exactly is going to happen if they do fail. They conclude that if something goes wrong that they will just “get up and begin again.” This suggests that they believe there is nothing that could prevent them from at least trying to capture their beloved for the rest of time. This is a simple message that’s somewhat disguised by the poet’s syntax

Lines 15-22 

So the chase takes up one’s life, that’s all.

While, look but once from your farthest bound

At me so deep in the dust and dark,

No sooner the old hope goes to ground

Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark,

I shape me—

Ever

Removed!

In the next few lines, the speaker says that the “chase takes up one’s life, that’s all.” This indicates that the speaker is happy to be entirely consumed by their pursuit of their beloved. There is nothing else that they’d like more than to follow this person to the ends of the earth. 

The speaker asks the listener, their beloved, to spare a glance back at them in the dark, suffering in their pursuit of true love. They would see the speaker recover from damaged hope and feel renewed in their pursuit of the person they love. They would reshape themselves and continue in their quest, on and on. 

FAQs 

What is the theme of ‘Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning? 

The main theme is unrequited love. The speaker is in love with someone who is “loth” or unwilling to reciprocate their affection. This is something that’s frustrating but is not by any means enough to discourage them. 

What is the message of ‘Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning?

The message is that true love is not easy to let go of. The speaker is willing to spend their (likely his) whole life pursuing the person that they’re in love with. 

What is the tone of ‘Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning?

The tone of this unique Browning poem is needy and passionate. The speaker feels both of these things when it comes to the person that they’re in love with. 

What is ‘Life in a Love’ about? 

This Browning poem is about one speaker’s determination never to let the person he loves go. This becomes more interesting as it is revealed that the speaker’s “beloved” does not share the speaker’s affection. 


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Robert Browning poems. For instance: 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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