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Browning’s Paracelsus

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I know you, and the lofty spirit you bear,
And easily ravel out a clue to all.
These are the trials meet for such as you,
Nor must you hope exemption : to be mortal
Is to be plied with trials manifold.
Look round! The obstacles which kept the rest
Of men from your ambition, you have spurned :
Their fears, their doubts, the chains that bind them best,
Were flax before your resolute soul, which nought
Avails to awe, save these delusions, bred
From its own strength, its selfsame strength, disguised—
Mocking itself. Be brave, dear Aureole ! Since
The rabbit has his shade to frighten him,
The fawn his rustling bough, mortals their cares,
And higher natures yet their power to laugh
At these entangling fantasies, as you
At trammels of a weaker intellect.
Measure your mind’s height by the shade it casts!
I know you.

Robert Browning, Paracelsus, act iii (1850)

Listen to the final chorus of Franz Liszt’s Faust Symphony (1857) in a performance by the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim

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