First Published 1855, in Men and Women.

Bacchus - The God of Wine
Bacchus - The God of Wine

- Browning (having not been to public school, or Oxbridge) stated that ‘Italy was (his) university’.
- The cultural differences between England and Italy were extremely vivid to Browning and he makes constant reference to this throughout the poem. Indeed, a memory of a Catholic ‘feastday’ is denoted in the poem.
- The poem features juxtaposition between the open rhythm and comic-grotesque mode.
- The subheading must be commented upon ‘as distinguished by an Italian person of quality’ – is the poet mocking the ‘sophisticated’ nature of the man or is he, for once, being complimentary about a higher class?
- Rhyming triplets leaves the poem with a lack of resolution and the varying stanza length and rhyme scheme help to suggest a (slightly chaotic) vibrant city.
- Initial conflict is between the city and the villa – the villa would normally be portrayed as a beautiful, rural house yet Browning’s use of the grotesque comes to the fore here.
- Final conflict is that the speaker cannot afford the life in the city and so must be content with his life in the villa.
Points for consideration
- Opening stanza reveals the initial conflict (as it does in most of his monologues)
- Bacchus is the God of wine – what does Browning traditionally think about extravagance and frivolity – how does he present it here?
- How does the speaker’s tone and mood change with content (compare when he talks about the city to his tone about the villa)
- He uses animalistic language to reflect life at the villa (‘horn of a bull’/ ‘creature’s skull’) – why is this ironic when you consider the outcome of the poem?
- The speaker also claims that the villa has no regular seasons – why is he trying so desperately hard to promote negative images of the villa?
- Use of rhetorical questions and exclamation marks to display an over-exaggerated tone (the falseness of the narrative voice makes us question the integrity of the speaker).
- In the penultimate stanza the speaker talks about a procession (this is mirrored by the verse form) in which a number of famous (contextual) names are mentioned. You should do some research into these.
- Writer’s use of caesura.
Poems for comparison
- Lost Leader – use of oppositions in the writing
- Toccata of Galuppi –between lifestyles
- Love among the Ruins – between rural and city life
- Two in the Campagna – the portrayal of nature.