Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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What mattered the fierce beard or the grim

face?
It was the physic beautified the man.
Master Mamiohi, — never met his match
In Rome, they said, — so ugly all the same !

However, I was hurried through a storm.
Next dark eve of December's oeadest day —
How it rained 1 — through our street and the

Lion'»-mouth
And the bit of Gorso, — cloaked round, covered

close,
I was like something strange or contraband, —
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
Mv mother keeping hold oi me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me. toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend.
But one with mischief-making mouUi and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And uum
1 heard the heavv church-door lock out help
Behind us : for the customary warmth.
Two tap^ shivered on the altar. ** Quick —
Lose no time I " cried the priest. And straight-
way down
From . . . what 's behind the altar where he

hid —
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all.
Stepped Guide, caught my hand, and there

was I
O' the chanceL and the priest had opened book.
Read here and there, made me say that ana

this.
And after^ told me I was now a wife.
Honored indeed, since Christ thus weds the

Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped asioe and talked i^Murt,
And I, silent and scared, eot down again
And joined my mother, wno was weeing now.
Nobcdy seemed to mind us any more.
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and

wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had

stopped.
An things looked better. At our own house-
door.
Violante whispered, '* No one syllable
To Retro I Ghrl-brides never breathe a word I "
** — Well treated to a wetti^, diaffgle-tails I "
Laughed Fietro as he openecT— " yeaj near
You made me brave the eutter's roaring sea
To carry off from roost old dove and young.
Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite I
What do these priests mean, praying folk to
death



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On stonny afternoons, with Christmas cl ose
To wash onr sins off nor require the rain ? *'
Viohinte gave my hand a timely squeeze.
Madonna saved me from inunoaest speeen,
I kissed him and was qniet, being a bride.

When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido— *'l^or the Chnroh sees Christ'*

thought I :
** Nothing IS changed howerer, wine is wine
And water onlv water in onr house.
Nor did I see that ug^ doctor since
That cure of the illness : just as I was cured,
I am married, — neither scarecrow will return.*'

Three weeks, I chuckled — '* How would Giulia

stare.
And Teda smile and Tisbe laugh outright.
Were it not impudent for brides to talk I '' —
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-name alone i' the chamber, —

loud
VoioeB, two, three to^;ether, sobbinss too.
And my name, ** Guido," ^* Paob,^' flung like

stones
From each to the other 1 In I ran to see.
There stood the rery Guido and the priest
With sly &Me, — formal but nowise amud» —
While Pietro seemed all red and anflry* scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words ;
And this it was that made my mother sob.
As he reproached her — "" You hare murdered

us.
He and yourself and this our child beside I "
Then Quido interposed. ** Murdered or not,
Be it enough your ohila is now my wife I
I claim ana come to take her." Paul put in,
** Consider — kinsman, dare I term you so f —
What is the good of your sagacity
Except to counsel in a strait like this f
Iguarantee the parties man and wife
Wnether yon like or loathe it, bless or ban.
May spilt nulk be put back within the bowl —
The done thing, undone ? You, it is, we look
For counsel to, you fitUest will adirise I
Since mUk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble



Better we down on knees and scrub the floor.
Than sigh, * the waste would make a syllabub I '
Help us so turn disaster to account,
So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
The bride with faror from the Tery first.
Not begin marriage an embittered man I "
He smiled, — the game so wholly in his hands I
While fast and faster sobbed Viohinte — ''Ay,
AU of us murdered, past aTcrting now I

my sin, O my secret I " and such Uke.

Then I began to half sunmse the truth ;
Something had happened, low, mean, under-
hand, — •'•"'-^

False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed :

1 was the chattel that had caused a crime.

I stood mute, — those who tangled must untie
The embroLunent. Pietro cried, ''Withdraw,

my child 1
She is not helpful to the sacrifice



At this stage, —do yon want the Tietim by
While you discuss the ralue of her blood t
For her sake, I consent to hear you talk :
Go, child, and pray God help the innooent I "

I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough.
But movement on her mouth for make-belieTe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down bv her side and near.
" You are too Toung and cannot understand.
Nor did your tather understand at first.
I wished to benefit all three of us.
And when he failed to take my meaning,-^

why,
I tried to nave my way at unaware —
Obtained him the advantage he refused.
As if I put before him wholesome food
TiMit4>ad of broken victual, — he finds change
I' the viands, never oaree to reason why.
But falls to blaming Die, would flinsr the plate
From window, scannali«e the neighborhood.
Even while he mnaoks his lips,— men's way,

my childl
But either you have prayed him unpcurverse
Or I have talked him baok into his wits :
And Paob was a help in time of need, —
Guido, not much — my child, the way of men I
A priest is more a woman than a man.
And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short.
Yes, he was wrong, your tather sees and says ;
My scheme was worth attempting : and bears

fruit.
Gives you a husband and a noble name,
Apalaoe and no end of pleasant things.
What do you care about a handsome youth ?
They are so volatile, and tease their wives I
This is the kind of man to keep the house.
We lose no daughter, — gain a son, that 's all:
For 't is arranged we never separate.
Nor miss, in our gray time of uf e, ths tints
Of you that color eve to match with mom.
In good or ill, we share and share alike.
Ana cast our lots into a common lap.
And all three die together as we liveid I
Only, at Arexzo, — that 's a Tuscan town.
Not so larse as this noisy Borne, no doubt.
But older lar and finer much, say folk, —
In a great palace where you will oe queen,
Know the Arohlnshop and the Governor,
And we see homage done you ere we die.
Therefore, be good and pardon I " — " Pardon

what?
You know things, I am very ignorant :
All ii rig^t if you only will not cry 1 "

And so an end I Because a blank
From when, at the word, she

and hot.
And took me iMck to



me hard



where m:^ father leaned
Opposite Ghiido — who stood eym^ him.
As eyes the butcher the oast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles

more.—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at

whiles
With the pen-pcnnt as to punish triumph

there.—



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



And MkU ""CouBt Gvido, take your lawful

wile
Until deirth part yon I **



Anrinee booeUaiik,
Orer and ended ; a terrifie dream.
It is the good of dreams — so soon th^y go !
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, yon may —
Cry, ^*The dread thing will nerer from my

thoughts I"
Still, a few darligbt doses of plain life,
Cock'erow ana sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkUng, to be milked ;
And when Ton mb yonr eyes awake and wide.
Where is tne h^rmo* the horror? Gone I So

here.
I know I wake,— but from what? Blank, I

This is the note of eril : for good lasts.

Eren when Don Celestine bade *' Search and

findl
For yonr soul's sake, remember what is past.
The better to forgire it^" —all in rain 1
What was fast getting indirtinct before,
Vanished ontri^t. By special grace perhaps.
Between that first calm and this last, toor

years
Vanish, — one quarter of m^ life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only — thence I hang.
And there I IrrCj — the rest is death or dream.
All but those pomts of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once m the Square
O* the Spaniards^ opposite the Spamsh House :
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gare the creature room
^^ enough:

When she was settled there, he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest.
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to Qod,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and sare me —

hand
Which orored to be my friend's hand : and, —

blest bliss, —
That fancy which began so faint at first.
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my

dark.
Which I perceiye was promise of my child.
The light his unborn face sent long before, —
Qod'M way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now ot those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged, ** But remember more I
OUier men's faults may help me find your own.
I need the crueltjr exposed, explained.
Or how can I adyise you to forgiye ? '
He thought I could not proper^ f or^ye
Unless loeased forgetting, — which is true :
For, bringing back reluctantiy to mind
My nusband^s treatment of me, — hjA light
That 's later than my lifetime, I reyiew
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And haye but litUe to forgiye at last.
For now, — be fair and say, — is it not true



He was iD-nsed and cheated of his hope
To get enridied by marriaee ? Marriage gare
Me and no money, broke tne compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietio and Violante to declare
Hiey would not giye me : so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself iKgrieyed,
Became unkind with me to punish ^em.
They said 't was he began deception first.
Nor, in one p<nnt whereto he pledged hiinself ,
Kept promise : what of that, suppose it were f
Echoes die off, scarcely reyerberate
Foreyer, — why should ill keep echoing ill.
And nerer let our ears haye done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the yiolent way
To thwart him, — he must needs retaliate, —

Wrong, and an wrong, — better say, all blind I
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery : for his wife
Was botmd in some sort to help somehow

there.
It seems as if I might haye interposed.
Blunted the edge of their resentment so.
Since he yexed me because they first yezed

him;
** I will entreat them to desist, submit,
Giye him the money and be poor in peace, —
Certainly not go tell the world : perni^w
He will grow quiet with his gains."

Yes, say
Something to this effect and you do well !
But then you haye to see first : I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy wAys,
The indirect, the unapproyed of God :
Ton cannot nnd their author's end and aim«
Not eyen to substitute your good for bad.
Tour straight for the irregular ; you stand
Stupefied, profiUess, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind ; auger him just twioa
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, **Tou are a co-
quette,
A lure-owl posturing to attract birds.
Ton look loye-lures at theatre and church.
In walk, at window I" — that, I ^ew, was

false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To driye me by such charge, — how could I

know?
So, unaware, I cmlj made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk.
Window, church, theatre, for good and all.
As if he had been in earnest : that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she

would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though ioould read no word of, — he should



Writing, — nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease nom so much as eyen pass the street
Whereon our house looked, — in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Ghiido's true intent ;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoaghtiess man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more.



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Till both of US were taken in a crime.

He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,

Simulate folly: bat — wrong or right, the

wish —
I failed to ap^hend its drift. How plain
It f dJows, — if I fell into such fanlt,
He also may hare orerreached the ma^
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I* the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque in-
trigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselres.
Be other man and woman than we were 1
Think it out, you who hare the time I for

me, —
I cannot say leas ; more I will not say.
Leave it to Qod to cover and undo !
Only, my dulneas should not prove too much I

— Not j>rove that in a certain other point
Wherem my husband blamed me, — and you

blame.
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head, —
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak 1
Must I speak ? I am bbuned that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favor come.
That IS true : I was firm, withstood, refused . . .

— Women as you are, how can I find the words ?

I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take ;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul :
HU, when I sought nelp, the Archbishop smiled.
Inquiring into privacies of life,
—Said Iwas Uamable — (he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed, — 'as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction *'*' Since your husband bids.
Swallow the burning coal he proffers you I ''
But I did wrong, tmd he frave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Arohbiahop, — that, I

Imowl —
Now I have got to die and see things dear.
Remember Iwss hardy twelve years old —
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life stiU
Even at Areso, when I woke and found
First . . . but I need not think of that again —
Over and ended ! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake.
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
** We have been man and ^nfe six months al-
most:
How lon8[ is this your comedy to last ?
Go this mght to my chamber, not your own I "
At which word, I did rush — most true the

charge —
And gain the ArohbiBhop's house — he stands

for God —
And fall upon mv knees and dasp his feet.
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest :
** Place me within a convent," I implored —
" Let me hencef orwajrd lead the virgin life
You pnuse in her you bid me imitate I "
What did he answer ? *' Folly of ignorance I
Kjiow, daughter, circumstances make or mar
Virginity, — 't is virtue or 't is vice.



That which was glory in the Mother of God
Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
Created to be mother of mankind.
Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
* Be fruitful, multiply, renlemsh earth ' —
Pouted *" But I choose rather to remain
Single ' — why, she had spared herseU forthwith
Further probation bv the apple and snake.
Been pushed straight out of Paradise I For

see —
If motherhood be qualified impure,
I catch you making God command Eve nn I
— A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued ** 'T was in yo'^r covenant I "

No I There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
" Because of our souls' veaming that we meet
And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and



Wear and impress, and make their visible

selves,
— All which means, for the love of you and me,
Let us become one flesh, being one soul I "
He only stipulated for the wealth ;
Honest so tar. But when he spoke as plain —
Dreadfullv honest also — " Since our souls
Stand each from each, a whole world's width

between.
Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
And rend and leave just fit for hdl to bum I " —
Why, in Gkid's name^ for Ghiido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine, — I say,
I did resist ; would I had overcome 1

My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile :
—It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the

world.
As though 't were nature frowning — ** Here is

Spring,
The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall.
The earth requires that warmth reach every-
where :
What, must your patch of snow be saved for-
sooth
Because you rather fancy snow than flowers ? "
Something in tins stvle he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
'^ This explains why you call your husband

harsh.
Harsh to you, harsh to whom yon love. Gkid's

BreadI
The poor Count has to manage a mere child
Whose parents leave untaught the simplest

thmgs
Their duty was and privilege to teach, —
Goodwives' instruction, gossips' lore : they laugh
And leave the Count the task, — or leave it

me I"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
** I am not i^orant, — know what I say.
Declaring tma is sought for hate, not love.
Sir, vou may hear things like ahnightv God.
I tell you that my housemate, yes — tne priest
My husband's brother. Canon Glrolamo —
Has taught me what depraved and misnamed
love



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Means, and what outward signs denote the sin.

For he solicits me and says he loves.

The idle jovmg priest witii nanght else to do.

My husband sees this, knows tms, and lets be.

Is it jonr oonnsel I bear this beside ? "

** — More seandal, and against a priest this

time I
What, 't is the Canon now ? " — less snap-

piriilj —
** Rise np, my child, for snch a child yon are,
The lod were too adyanoed a ponishment I
Let 's try the honeyed cake. A parable I

* Without a parable spake he not to them.'
Thcffe was a ripe round long black toothsome*

fruit.
Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May ; ^
And, to the tree, saidf . . • either the spirit o'

thefi^,
Or, if we bring in men, the gardener.
Archbishop of the orchard — had I time
To try o' the two which fits in best : indeed
It might be the Creator's self, but then
The tree should bear an apple, I suppose, —
Well, anyhow, one with authority said,

* Ripe fiff, burst skin, regale the fi^peoker —
The bird whereof thou art a perquisite I '

* Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif Bg^



* I much prefer to keep my pulp myself :

*Te may go breakfastless and dinnerless,

upperieas of one crimson seed, for me 1 '



So, oack she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
He flew off, left ner, — did the natural lord, —
And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck :
Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite !
The moral, — fools elude their proper lot.
Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
Therefore go home, embrace your husband

quick 1
Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
He will the sooner back to book



So, home I did go ; so, the worst befell:

So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,

And hardly that, and certainly no more.

For, miserable consequence to me,

M^ husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,

Bjs brother's boldness grew effrontery soon.

And my last stay and comfort in myself

Was forced from me : henceforth 1 looked to

Qod
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the

world.
Qod's glimmer, that came through the niinH»p,
Was witness wi^ all lights were quenched in-
side:
Henceforth I asked Gk>d oounsel, not mankind.

So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said — ** No care to save appearance here I
How cynic, — when, how wanton, were

enou^I "
— Adding, it all came of my mother's life —
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done

wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years.



Atmercy of the hateful: every beast

0' the field was wont to break that f oontaan*

fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now thev cry, ** Out on her^ who, plashy pool.
Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
To the daughtep«triBam where Guido dmt ancl

dranki"

Well, since she had to bear this brand — let me 1
The rather do I understand her now, —
From my experience of what hate calls love, —
Much love might be in what their love called

hate.
J£ she sold . . . what they call, sold . • . me*

her child —
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least nugbt trv be good and pure.
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she*
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this ?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of yon.
When I nustmst who speaks even well of them r
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm^
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most.
Have meant to do most good — and feed your

nhilil

From bramble-bush, whom not one orohard-tre»
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit

This it was for yon sacrificed your babe ?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, lovinflr it as you,
H . . . but that never could be asked of me 1

There, enough I I have my siroport again.
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is.
Will be mine only. Him, bv death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care, —
But not to any parent in the world, —
So to be safe: why is it we repine r
What guardianship were safer could we choose ?
All human plans and projects come to naught :
My life, and what I niow of other lives.
Prove that : no plan nor project t Qod shall
carel

And now you are not tired ? How patient then
All of jou, — oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am suro !
Four days ago, when I was sound and wdl
And like to uve, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled, ''*' And what of

him.
Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown

hides?
Thero, there I — your lover, do we dream he

was?
A priest too — never wero such naughtiness I
Still, he thinks many a long thinkj never fear.
After the shy pale lady, — lay so light
For a moment m his arms, the lucl^ one I "
And so on: wherofore should I blame jroa

much?
So we are made, such difference in minds.
Such differonce too in eyes that see the nunds I
That man, you misinterpret and misprise —



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The eloTY of his nature, I had thought,
Shot Itself oat in white %ht, blazed the troth
Thron^h erery atom of his act with me :
Tet wnere I point yoo, throogh the OTStal

shrinej
Pority in qmntessence, one dew-drop,
Ton all desCTT a spider in the midst.
One says, ** Tne head of it is plain to see,"
And one, ** They are the feet by which I jndgie,"
All say, ^* Those films were spnn by nothing

Then. I mnst lay my babe away^ with Qod,
Nor think of him again for sratitnde.
Tes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In oi«e attempt more to disperse the stain.
The mist from other breath fond months hare

made,
Abont a Instrons and pellnoid sonl :
So that, when I am gone bnt srarow stays.
And people need assurance in their don bt
If God yet have a serrant, man a friend.
The WML a savior, and the Tile a foe, —
Let him be pr e s e nt, by the name inToked,
Ginseppe-Maria Caponsaoohi I

There,
Strength comes already with the utterance I
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow : for he liyes and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me I

I had been miserable three drear ^ears
In that dread palace and lay passiye now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell : I was at a public plf»r.
In the last days of CanuTal last Biarch,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know

well.
Mr husband put me where I sat, in front ;
Then crouched down, bra^thed cold through

me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow, — none in front could

L it was. Heed the straneer-throng beneath.
The crowd with uptumea faces, eyes one stare.
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage.
Whereon two lovers sane and interchanged
** True life is only love, lofve only bliss :
I lore thee— thee I lore!" then they em-
braced.
I looked thence to the cefling and the walls, —



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 102 of 198)