Theme of the poem Fra Lippo Lippi
” Fra Lippo Lippi ” is one of Browning’s most sophisticated dramatic monologues. The poem is the tale of Fra Lippo’s life. The central theme of the poem is the philosophy of life and the function of art and painting.
Fra Lippo, the speaker of the poem is a monk and a painter who speaks about his past life to watchmen.
Fra Lippo is returning to his abode at midnight after passing some good moments with the prostitutes. At that time, he was arrested by watchmen because he is out late at night.
As a monk, it is disgraceful for him to be caught by watchmen. But, Fra Lippo is an impressive speaker. To save him from this disgraceful situation, he starts to show his own importance. He threatens the watchman for his misbehaves towards him. By his oratory, Fra Lippo brings the situation under his own control.
Then Fra Lippo recounts the story of his life to the watchmen.
Fra Lippo lost his parents when he was a child. Since then he led a very inhuman life in the street. He had to collect rubbish to manage food. Then, at the age of eight, his aunt sent him to a convent to be made a monk. He agreed to become a monk not out of his religious zeal but to survive having sufficient food and dress.
Lippo had developed a keen sense and perceptive soul. After being a monk, he showed his inclination to draw pictures. He began to portray people’s faces on the copybooks. His talent was recognized by the Prior and other monks of the convent. He was appointed to decorate the church walls. But, the pictures he painted had a little religion in them. He drew a life-like picture and the beauty of the body. The Prior didn’t like this.
The monastic ideal was that picture must have spiritual aspiration which reminds the people of the necessity to live according to the teaching of religion. But, Lippo’s art was against this ideal.
He tells the watchmen that he was compelled to enter the life of a monk. But at heart, he was not a monk. The life of asceticism and meditation had no attraction for him. Being matured, he shows his interest in worldly affairs.
Fra Lippo expresses his attitude to life. According to him, Worldly pleasures must be accepted. He gives the importance of sensual pleasure. Thus, both in his life and painting, Fra Lippo continues to highlight the value of sense.
When Lippo is about to bid the watchmen good by, he begs them not to report about his escaped, which will disgrace the profession of a monk. At that time, he says that he will require six months to complete a painting for Saint Ambrose’s church at Florence. He says that he will depict God, the Virgin Mary, and the child Jesus surrounded by a large number of sweet and innocent looking angels in this painting. He will also depict himself in a corner of the painting. It will be a marvelous picture.
It proves Fra Lippo an excellent painter will great skill.
Actually, in this poem, Robert Browning depicts the philosophy of life with art and the life of Fra Lippo Lippi.
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