Love Among the Ruins

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“Love Among the Ruins”
By: Robert Browning

What is the contrast presented between the once great city and the yellow-haired girl?

In Robert Browning’s, “Love Among the Ruins,” there is a distinct contrast presented between the great city and the yellow-haired girl. The first major difference presented by the speaker is that the land is written about in the past and the girl is in the future. The accounts of the city capture what it used to be like when it was still great and standing. Browning says, “Was the site once of a city great and gay,

(So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
Ages since…
Now, ---the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see”
(7-10, 13-14).
This statement is clearly in the past tense as the speaker is explaining the magnitude of the once great city that used to stand before him. Therefore, when the speaker addresses the yellow-haired girl later within the poem, he talks about her with a sense of what can be in the future. The speaker is addressing the girl when he says, “When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,

Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
Of my face”
(67-70).
Although it’s fairly obvious that the city and girl are written in different tenses, there is more depth to this contrast. Robert Browning created the poem like this to generate a problem within the speaker. He puts himself in a position to choose between his past and his future. He has a past of war and peace, rings of fire and chariots, temples and princes, army men and fighting, all of which he can look back upon the glory. Or there is the future with the girl and potential happiness and love for eternity. The speaker is saying that he cannot have both glory and love; he must choose which life he wants. Therefore, after much detailed explanation, the speaker chooses love. He says, “With their triumphs and their glories and the rest! Love is the best” (83-84). This is saying that although the...
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