‘Pippa’s Song,’ also known as ‘The year’s at spring,’ can be found in Browning’s verse drama, Pippa Passes. It was published in 1841 but it wasn’t until it was republished in 1848 in Poems that it received the critical attention it deserves. This excerpt from the dramatic verse is by far the most famous passage. It’s short, to the point, and has even been set to music as a kind of nursery rhyme for children.
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Summary of Pippa’s Song
The short and simple lines of this poem depict everything “right” in the world. The season is spring, the morning is 7 o’clock and dew is on the hill. In the speaker’s eyes, everything is as it should be. The poem concludes with the speaker reiterating this and also mentioning God in heaven.
As mentioned above, ‘Pippa’s Song’ can be found in Pippa Passes. It follows a young girl in Asolo who sings as she walks, describing the various people she sees. There are several “matter of fact” portrayals of characters that caused controversy when the poem was released. The lines in this analysis come after two characters, Sebald and Ottima discuss their affair and the successful completion of their murder of Luca, Ottima’s husband. So, although the poem is quite upbeat and optimistic on its own, when placed in context, it’s much stranger, darker, and ironic.
Structure and Form
‘Pippa’s Song’ by Robert Browning is an eight-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABCDABCD. Although slightly unusual, this pattern is quite effective in creating a flowing feeling of unity from the first line to the last. This plays into the themes at the heart of the poem, interconnectivity, and the power of God. The same can be said for the metrical pattern. Each line contains five syllables the majority of which are made up of one iamb followed by an anapaest, or two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed. The first, second, fifth, and sixth lines are the best example of this pattern in action.
Browning makes use of several literary devices in ‘Pippa’s Song.’ These include but are not limited to anaphora, imagery, parallelism. The latter is a formal device that occurs when the poet uses the same structure in multiple lines. For example, “at the” connecting “The year’s” to “spring” and “And day’s” to “morn.” The same can be said for lines five and six with “The lark’s on the wing” and “The snail’s on the thorn.”
Anaphora is a kind of repetition that occurs when the poet repeats a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “The,” which starts lines one, five, and six. This technique, just like any kind of repetition, is quite effective and obvious in a short poem.
Imagery is another quite important technique. It refers to the moments in which a poet crafts lines and phrases that are particularly impactful and memorable. For example, the image of the dew-covered hill in line four and the snail on the thorn in line seven
Analysis of Pippa’s Song
The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
In the first lines of ‘Pippa’s Song,’ the speaker begins by making several statements about the world. On their own they’re hard to understand, but after finishing the poem and returning to them, they make more sense. The speaker is celebrating how “right” the world feels in the moment. Everything, they explain, is as it should be. The first lines state a few of these “right” things. The first is the year, which is “at the spring.” This suggests first that it is the season of spring and second that something new and lively is on its way. This is likely meant to relate to Ottima and Sebald’s murder and their belief that it would allow them to start a new life. The same feeling is carried over into the next line when the poet mentions “day’s at the morn.”
The following lines are similar, with the fourth line using a great example of imagery to depict the hills covered in pearl-like dew. This is a beautiful image, one that is central to the idea of a new life, a new day, and new relationships free of old restraints.
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven,
All’s right with the world!
In the following lines, the speaker brings in animals to their understanding of the word and its rightness. The “lark,” a kind of songbird, is flying and the “snail’s on the thorn.” The animals, season, time of day, and everything else is exactly as its supposed to be.
The poem concludes with a reference to God whose “in His heaven.” Without the context of the poem, these lines feel quite innocent and it’s easy to see why they were popularized.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Pippa’s Song’ should also consider reading some of Browning’s other, better-known poems. For example:
- ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ – details the scandalous life of the painter of the same name. The painter starts off being harassed by police officers and then starts to go into the story of his life.
- ‘Andrea del Sarto’ – is a dramatic monologue told from the perceptive of Renaissance painter, Andrea del Sarto. The poem appeared in Browning’s collection Men and Women. The speaker spends most of the poem talking about how his work compares to that of other artists.
- ‘Boot and Saddle’ – depicts an Englishman gong off to fight during the English Civil War.
- ‘My Last Duchess’ – is by far Browning’s most famous poem. This piece is studied by students all around the world who are asked to analyze the dead of Duchess Ferarra and her husband’s guilt.