In Browning's poem, "Fra Lippo Lippi," the speaker in the poem, Fra Lippo, chronicles his experiences as a monk, after starving as an orphan and being introduced to the Church, and conveys his passion for art. Fra Lippo expounds upon his philosophy of art and perception of beauty in the world in the following excerpt from the poem.

You speak no Latin more than I, belike;
However, you're my man, you've seen the world
-- The beauty and the wonder and the power,
The shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades,
Changes, surprises, — and God made it all!
-- For what? Do you feel thankful, ay or no,
For this fair town's face, yonder river's line,
The mountain round it and the sky above,
Much more the figures of man, woman, child,
These are the frame to? What's it all about?
To be passed over, despised? or dwelt upon,
Wondered at? oh, this last of course! — you say.
But why not do as well as say, --paint these
Just as they are, careless what comes of it?
God's works--paint any one, and count it crime
To let a truth slip. Don't object, "His works Are here already; nature is complete:
Suppose you reproduce her-- (which you can't)
There's no advantage! You must beat her, then."
For, don't you mark? we're made so that we love
First when we see them painted, things we have passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
And so they are better, painted — better to us,v Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out. . . ."[lines 281-306]

Discussion Questions

1. How does Fra Lippo's perceptions reflect essential ideals of Romanticism, especially the relation he draws between God and beauty in nature?

2. What is Fra Lippo's attitudes toward the human body? How does his view contrast with the attitudes of the Prior? How does Fra Lippo reconcile the seemingly disparate entities of body and soul in his artwork?

3. What significant role does art play in life, according to Fra Lippo? How is his belief in God relevant to his artwork?

4. Shortly following the above excerpt, Fra Lippo states: "This world's no blot for us, / Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good: / To find its meaning is my meat and drink" (lines 313-315). How does this statement relate to ideas expressed in the above excerpt? How do you think the character of Fra Lippo would answer if he were asked directly what he views as his purpose in life both as a man and as an artist?

Last modified 8 June 2007