First Published 1855, in Men and Women.

- About an early Renaissance scholar dedicated to Greek language
- The grammarian removes himself from worldly pleasure. He excludes joy, aesthetic pleasure and love from his narrow world view.
- Whilst the grammarian is respected and achieves a following in the students who carry his coffin up the mountain, none of them exactly want to copy his lifestyle.
- The student, who is carrying his master’s corpse up the mountain defends the dead grammarian’s idealistic dedication to knowledge, and faith in a future life.]
- The moments of the poem in brackets represent the present journey up the mountain. The rest of the poem is a reflection on the grammarian’s life and beliefs
- There is a conflict between the grammarian’s devotion to his work and his religious faith. Equally, as it is unclear what his reward will be for his studious and austere outlook if there is not an afterlife.
- Like the grammarian, Browning continued to find Christianity compelling throughout his life, though he did have doubts about his faith in his youth.
- No model for this dramatic persona has been identified.
- This is perhaps some of the harshest sounding and laborious verse ever written by Browning.
- A grotesque combination of opposites: soaring idealism vs. harsh or petty realities.
- In a letter to Tennyson in 1863, Browning said that he wanted the grammarian to have been working on ‘the biggest of littlenesses’.
Points for consideration

- If the grammarian’s purpose is to be remembered in academic circles, does he achieve it?
- What conflict of priorities does the dead grammarian embody?
- What questions does his death make funeral goers ask themselves?
- From what you know of Browning’s own attitudes and actions would he have sympathised with the grammarian’s decision “not to Live but Know” (l. 139)?
- What is the problem with the grammarian’s intelligent arguments if there is no afterlife?
- Can we be sure that the central character is a hero, or is he merely a fool?

Poems for comparison

- The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church – burial customs
- Pictor Ignotus – being forgotten, producing insignificant work
- Apparent Failure – the frailty of the human body
- The Lost Leader – failure to live up to idealistic expectations