Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Ring and the Book

The Ring and the Book is the title of a poem by Robert Browning. The title does not refer to anything in the poem itself, but rather to the process behind its composition. In a busy square in Florence, Browning purchased a “book”—a bound collection of pamphlets, some in manuscript and some printed, all concerned with a criminal trial in the 17th century.

It seemed to him that this was something out of which a poem might be made; the unshaped gold of those strange documents turned into a ring of poetry and truth.

From Charles Williams’s introduction to his retelling of Browning’s The Ring and the Book [Oxford, 1934), 8.

Image: Facsimile title page of “The Book.”