Poem by Robert Browning: “Summum Bonum”

Nana and Count Muffat by Charles Demuth (1916) | Barnes Foundation

Robert Browning: “Summum Bonum”

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:
In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
Breath and bloom, shade and shine, wonder, wealth, and–how far above them–
Truth, that’s brighter than gem,
Trust, that’s purer than pearl,–
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe–all were for me
In the kiss of one girl

“Summum Bonum” is a Latin phrase that means the highest good. Robert Browning’s poem of the same name was published in 1889 in Asolando, his last book.

Robert Browning, Asolando (1892) | Boston Public Library

Leon Winiarski, a Polish literary critic with a greater sense of cruelty than love, wrote: “We have to laugh, when we read that this eighty-year-old man standing at the edge of a grave thinks that the greatest happiness in life is in ‘kissing a girl’.”

What experience evokes the highest good for you?