Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 103 of 198)
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Orer the crowd, those voices and those eyes, —
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to

Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words, —
Set me down thero, a happy child again,
Snro that to-morrow would be festsKlay,
Hearing my paronts praise past festas moro.
And seeing tney wero old it I was young,
Tet wondering why they still would end dis-
course
With ** We must soon go, you abide your time.
And, — might we haply see the proper friend
Throw his arm over you and make yon safe I "

Bndden I saw him ; into mv lap thero fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream



And brought me from the air and laid me low»
As ruined as the soaring bee that 's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
B V the dust-handful. Thero the comfits lay :
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Gapoosaochi, lookiiM: up in turn.
Ero I could reason out why, J felt suro.
Whoever flung them, his was not Uie hand, —
Up rose the round face and good-natured erin
Of one who, in effect, had played the pramc.
From covert close beside the earnest noe, —
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband*s cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave.
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.

Thero is a psalm Don Celestine recites^
*^Had I a dove^s wings, how I fam would

fleel"
Hie psahn runs not **I hope, I pray for

wings," —
Not *^1£ wmgs iaiSl from heaven, I fix them

fast*'-
Simplv *^ How good it wero to fly and rest,
Have hope now, and one day expect content I
How well to do what I shall never do 1 "



So I said, " Had thero been a man like that«
To lift me with his strensfth out of all strife
Into the calm, how I could fly and rest 1
I have a keeper in the garden hero
Whose sole employment is to strike me low
If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
life means with me successful feigning deaths
Lying stone-like, eluding notice so.
Foregoing hero the turf and thero the skv.
Suppose that man had been instead of this I *'

ft e se n tly Conti laughed into my ear,

— Had tripped up to the raised place whero I

sat —
" Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard !
Because you must be hurt, to look austero
As Ci^Kmsaoohi yonder, my tall friend
A-gazmg now. Ah, Ghiido, you so close t
Keep on your knees, do ! Beg her to forgive t
My comet battered like a cannon-ball.
Qood-by, I *m gone I " — nor waited the reply*

That night at supper, out mv husband broke,
** Why was that throwing, that buffoonery ?
Do you think I am your dupe ? What man

would daro
Throw comfits in a stranger Iady*s lap ?
'T was knowledge of you bred such msolence
In Caponsacchi ; he dared shoot the bolt.
Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
How could you see him this once and no moro,
When he is always haunting hereabout
At the stroet-comer or the i>alaoe-side.
Publishing my shame and your impudence ?
Tou aro a wanton, — I a dupe, you think ?
O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick ? **
Whereat he drow his sword and feigned a

thrust.

An this, now, — being not so strange to me.
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear, — I bore, this time.



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More quietly than woman ahonld perhape ;
Repealed the mere truth and held my tongue.

Then he aaid, ** Since yon pla;r the ignorant,
I shall instnict yon. This amour, — com-
menced
Or finiahed or midway in act, all 'a one, —
'T ia the town-talk ; so my revenge shall be.
Does he presume because he is a priest ?
I warn hmi that the sword I wear shall pink
His lilv-scented cassock through and through.
Next tune I catch him underneath your eaves I "
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after alL not kept his nromise. All
I said was, " Let Gk>d save the innocent I
Moreover, death is far from a bad fate.
I shall go pray for yon and me, not him ;
And then 1 look to sleep, come death or, wone.
Life." So, I slept.

There mav have ela^^sed a week.
When Maxgherita, — called mj waiting-maid.
Whom it is said my husband found too fair —
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes

still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Oood cause for jealousy cures jealous fools.
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears, —
She said, ** A week is gone ; you comb your

hair,
Then fp mope in a comer, cheek on palm,
Till mg^t comes round again, — so, waste a

week
As if your husband menaced you in sport.
Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks ?
Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
Who made and sang the rhymes about me

once t
For why? They sent him to the wars next

day.
Nor poisoned he the fordgner, rov friend.
Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast, —
The swarth skins of our city in dispute :
For, though he paid me proper compliment.
The Count well Knew he was besotted with
Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
(As all the town knew save my foreigner) —
He found and wedded presently, — * \Vhy need
Better revenue ?^ — the Count asked. But

what *s nere ?
A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed.
Yet must be dealt with ! If the Count took fire
For the poor pastime of a minute, — me —
What were toe conflaicration for yourself.
Countess and lady-wile and all the rest ?
The priest will perish ; von will grieve too late :
So shall the cit^-ladies' nandsomest
Frankest and hberalest gentleman
Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
Hanging 's too good for. Is there no escape ?
Were it not simple Christian charity
To warn the priest be on his guard, — save him
Assured death, save yourself from causing it ?
I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
A ring to show for token I Mum ^s the word I "



I answered, ** If vou were, as styled, my maid,
I would command you : as you are, yon say,
M^r husband's intimate, — assist his wife
Who can do nothing but entreat *" Be still I *
Even if you speak truth and acrime is planned,
Leave help to Gk>d as I am forced to do 1
There is no other help, or we should craae.
Seeing such evil with no human cure.
Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist*
Can make an angry violent heart subside.
Why should we venture teach him govemanoe ?
Never address me on this subject more 1 "

Next nig^t she said, *' But I wenl^ all the same,
— Ay, saw your Cappnsaochi in hit house.
And come back stuffed with news I must out-
pour.
I told nim, *Sir, my mistress is a stone :
Why should you harm her for no good jou

get?
For vou do harm her — prowl about our place
With the Count never distant half the stxeety
Lurking at every comer, would you look I
'T is certain she has witched you with a spelL
Are there not other beauties at your beck ?
We all know. Donna This and Monna lliat
Die for a glaiice of yours, yet here yon gaze I
Go make them grateful, leave the stone its

cold I'
And he — oh, he turned first white and then

red.
And then — * To her behest I bow myself.
Whom I love with my body and my soul :
Only a word i* the bowing I See, I write
One little word, no harm to see or hear I
Then, fear no further I' This is what he

wrote.
I know you cannot read, — therefore, let me I
'Myidoir'' . . .

But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. ** Why, join the rest
Who harm me ? Have I ever done yon

wrong?
People have told me H is yon wrong myself :
Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
Or else forgive it, — yet you turn my foe !
The others hunt me and you throw a noose ! *'

She muttered, " Have your wilful way ! " I
slept.

Whereupon . . . no, I leave my husband oat I
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most.
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace.
And whispered — ** Caponsaoohi ! "

If I drowned.
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned

eyes.
And found their fint sight was a star I I

turned —
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively, — ** The inqxjsthume at such

head.



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One toaoh, one lancet -{mnctuie would re-

liere, —
And still no glance the good phjmcian's vaj
Who rids yovL of the torment in a triee I
Still he writes letters von refuse to hear.
He niay preTent yonr husband, kill himself,
So desperate and aU fordone is he t
Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day I
A sonnet from Mirmlo. *' Peerless fair. . . . '
Allpoetry is difficult to read,
— Tne sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
Leave to contrive you an esca^ from hell,
And for that purpose asks an mterview.
I can write, I can grant it in your name.
Or, what is better, lead yon to his house.
Tour husband dashes you against the stones ;
This man would place each fragment in a

shrine:
Ton hate him, love your husband I "

I returned,
** It is not true I love my husband, — no.
Nor hate this man. I Inten while you speak.
— Assured that what yon say is false, the



Much as when once, to me a little child,
A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
A crowd of bo]rs and idlers a^ his heels.
Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my

head
In his two hands, * Here *s she will let me

speak I
Ton little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
I am the Pope, am Seztus, now the Sixth ;
And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
Is Lucifer disguised in human fledi I
The angels, met in conclave, crowned me 1 ' —

thus
He gibbered and I listened ; but I knew
All was delusion, ere folk interposed,
* Uu^Mten him, the maniac ! ' Thus I know
All yout report of Gaponsaochi false.
Folly or dreaming : I have seen so much
Bv that adventure at the spectacle,
Tne face I fronted that one first, last time :
He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
Therefore while you profess to show him me,
I ever see his own face. Get you gone ! "

" — That will I, nor once open mouth again, —
No, by Saint Josenh and the Holy Ghost I
On your head be the damage, so adieu ! ^'

And so more days, more deeds I must forget.
Till . . . what a strange thing now is to de-

darel
Since I say anything, say all if true I
And how mv ufe seems lengthened as to serve I
It may be iole or inopportune.
But, true? — why, what was all I sud but

truth.
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in throng a lie ?
Now — I am speaking truth to the Truth's self :
God will lend credit to my words this time.

It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak, — who had gone to bed



In the old way my wont those last three years.
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night.
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle bv Margherita, *^ Soon enough
Gayeties ena, now^ Easter 's past : a week.
And the Archbishop gets him back to

Rome, —
Every one leaves the town f<nr Rome, this

Spring, —
Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope.
Resigns himself and follows with the nock.*'
I heud this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she

spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
*' And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
At Rome, to introduce the company.
And bear him from our picture where he fights
Satan, — expect to have that dragon loose
And never a defender I " — my sole thought
Being still, as night came, '*Done, another

How good to sleep and so get nearer death 1 " —
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced

the sleep
With a summons to me ? Up I sprang alive.
Light in me, lig^t without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let

From heaven to earth, — a sudden drawbridge

lay.
Along which marched a myriad merry motes.
Mocking the flies that crossed them and re-
crossed
In rival dance, companions new-bom too.
On the house-eaves, a drippiiM: shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull gray lattice-
square.
As first one, then another bird leapt by.
And light was off, and lo was back again.
Always with one voice, — where are two such



The



a'-



I stepped



[essed building - sparrow I

forth.
Stood on the terrace, — o'er the roofs, such

sky I
My heart sang, ** I too am to go away,
I too have something I must care about.
Carry awav with me to Rome, to Rome I
The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and

wool.
And nowhere else i' the world ; what fiy breaks

rank.
Falls out ot the procession that befits,
From window here to window there, with all ^
The world to choose, — so well he knows his

course?
I have mv purpose and my motive too.
My march to Rome, like any bird or fly I
Had I been dead I How right to be ahve I
Last night I almost praved for leave to die.
Wished Guide all his pleasure with the sword
Or the poison, — -jxrison, sword, was but a trick.
Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest I
My life is charmed, wilTlast till I reach Rome I
Testerday, but for the sin, — ah, nameless be
Tii» deed I could have dared against myself I



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Now — tee if I win touch an unripe fmit,
And risk the healUi I want to hare and me I
Not to lire, now, would be the wiokedneat, —
For life means to make haste and go to Rome *
And leare Arexzo, leare all woes at onoe I ^'

Now, nndentand here, by no means mistake I
Long a^ had I tried to leave that honse
When It seemed such prooednre would stop

sin;
And still failed more the move I tried — at

first
^nie Archbishop, as I told yoo, — next, our

lord
The Goremor, — indeed I found mj way,
I went to the great palace where he rules.
Though I knew well 'twas he who,— when I

me
A jewel or two, themselTes had giyen me,
Back to mT parents, — since they wanted bread.
They who nad nerer let me want a nosegay, —

he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly

thc^
Though all the while my husband's most of all I
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought

this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Goremor, as I say, — scarce opened

lip
When — the cold cruel snicker dose behind —
Ouido was on my trace, already there.
Exchanging nod and wink for dbrug and smile,
And I— pushed back to him and, for my pains,
Paid wiu . . . but why remember what is

past?
I soufl^t out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sm which came
Of their sin, — that fact could not be re-
pressed, —
The fnghtfulnesB of my despair in God :
And feeling, through the grate, his horror



Implored him, ** Write for me who cannot

write.
Apprise my parents, make them rescue me I
Tou bid me be courageous and trust God :
Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and

write,
* Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
And now declare you have no part m me.
This is some riddle I want wit to solre.
Since you must Iotc me with no difference.
Even suppose you altered, — there 's your hate,
To ask tor: hate of you two dearest ones
I shall find liker love than lore found here.
If husbands loTe their wires. Take me away



And hate me as you do the gnats and

ETcn the scorpionsl How ishall

Write that and sare me 1 " And he promised



I rejoice I '



— wrote

Or did not write ; things never changed at all :
He was not like the Angustinian here 1
Last, in a deroeration I appealed
To friends. wnoeTer wishea me better days.
To GuilHchini, that's of kin, — " What, I —
IVaTcl to Rome with you ? A flying gout



Bids me deny my heart and mind mv legl "
Then I tried Conti, used to brave — lani^ back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence : "Ton —
Who well know what you cannot saye me

nom, —

Carnrmedfl What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave — ** Above jbj

strength!
Guide has daws that scratch, shows feline

teeth:
A formidabW foe than I dare fret :
Give me a dog to deal with, twice the sise I
Of course I am a priest and Canon too.
But . • • by the bye . . . though both, not

quite so bold
As he, my f eUow-Canon, brotheri>riest.
The i>ersonage in such ill odor here
Because of the reports — pure birth o' the

braini
Our CiqywwwuM^hi, he 's your true Saint George
To slay the monrter, set the Princess free.
And have the whole BBdn-Altar to himself :
I always think to when 1 see that piece
I' the Pieve, that 's his church and mine, yon

know:
Hioufi^ you drop eyes at mention of his name I "



That name had gdt to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
like an^ by-word, brdken bit of song
Bom with a meaning, changed by month and

mouth
That mix it in asneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means naught but ugliness
And perhaps shame.

— AU this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the



Not the man, but the name of hin^ thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace, — why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
**I name his name, and there you start and



As criminal foom the red tongs' touch I " — yet

now.
Now, as I stood letting mom bathe me bright.
Choosing which butterfly should bear my

news, —
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue, —
The Margherita. I detested so.
In she came — The fine day, the good Spring

timel
WhaJL up and out at window ? That is best.
No thought of Caponsacchi ? — who stood

there
All night on one leg. like the sentry crane.
Under the pelting oi your water-spout —
Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
Our dty, burv- his dead hope at R(nne.
Ay, ffo to looxing^lass ana make you fine«
While he may die ere touch one least loose

hair
Tou drag at with the comb in such a rage I **

I turned — ** Tell Caponsacchi he may come I "



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^' Tell him to oome ? Ah, but, for oharity,
A trace to fooUngl Come? What,— oome

thiB ere?
Peter and Paul I But I see through the triok I
Yes, oome, and take a flower-pot on hia head,
Flnng from your terraoe 1 Ko joke, sinoere

truth?**

How pUinly I peroeired hell flash and fade
O' the face of her, —the doubt 1



3!?yv



ithat first paled

Then, 'final reassurance I indeed
Was oausrht now. nerer to be free affain I
What dia I care ? — who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsdiair-
springe.

**But — do you know that I hare bade him

oome.
And in your own name ? I presumed so much.
Knowing the thing yon needed in your heart.
But somehow — what had I to show in proof?
He would not come : half-promised, that was

all.
And wrote the letters you refused to read.
What is the message that shall more him

now?"

'' After the Aye Maria, at first daric,
I win be standing on the terrace, say 1 "

'* I would I had a good long lock of hair
Should proTO I was not lying I Nerer mind I "

Off she went — ''May he not refnse, that's

all-
Fearing a trick I"

I answered, *' He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To Qod the strobgj God the beneficent^
God oyer mindfulm all strife and strait.
Who, for our own good, makes the need ex-
treme.
Till at the last he puts forth might and sayes.
An old rhyme came into mj head and rang
Of how a virsin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued.
In a caye's heart ; until a thunderstone,
Wn^yped in a fliime, reyealed the couch and

prey:
And they laughed — *' Thanks to lightning,

ours at last!"
And she cried, *' Wrath of God, assert his

loye!
Seryant of God, thou fire, befriend his child 1 "
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its fliash.
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the

ground.
So did the souls within them die away.
As o^er the prostrate bodies, swordea, safe.
She walked forth to the solitudes and Ghnst :
So should I grasp the lightning and be sayed !

And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star.
Until at an mtense throe of the dusk.



I started up, was pushed, I dare to si^.
Out on the terraoe, leaned and looked at last
MThere the deliyerer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I finst descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine onoe more.

So was that minute twice youohsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To saye me yet a seoond time : no ohai
Here, thoura all else changed in the <

I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,

In some such sense as this, wnateyer the phrase.

" Friend, fooUsh words were borne from you to

me;
Your soul behind them is the pure str«mg wind.
Not dust and feathers which its breath may

bear:
These to the witless seem the wind itself.
Since preying thus the first (A it they feel.
If by miBchaooe you blew offence my way.
The straws are c&opt, the wind desists no whit.
And how such strays were caught up in the

street
And took a motion from you, why iiKjuire ?
I speak to the strong soul no weak disguise.
If it be truth, — wh^ should I doubt it truth ? —
Yon serye God specially, as priests are boond.
And care about me, stranger as I am.
So far as wish my good, that — miracle
I takei» imitate he wills you serye
By saying me, — what else can he direct ?
Here is toe serrice. Since a long while now,
I am in course of being put to death :
While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
The head and bade, in hewt, my husband

strike.
Now I imperil something more, it seems, .
Something that ^s trulier me than this myself.
Something I trust in God and you to saye.
You go to Rome, they tell me : take me there.
Put me back with my people I "

He replied —
The first word I heard oyer from his lips,
All himself in it, — an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' tne soul that then broke silence — 'I am
yours."

So did the star rise, soon to lead my step.
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Aboye the House o' the Babe, — my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus maae me know

him.
That had nis right of life and claim on mine.
And would not let me die till he was bom,
But pricked me at the heart to saye us both.
Saying, " Haye you the will ? Leaye Gk>d uie

way ! "
And the way was Caponsaochi — '* mine," thank

God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.

No pause i* the leading and the light I I know.
Next night there was adond came, and not he ;



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Bat I prated throngli the darkness till it broke
And let himshine. The second night, he came.

** The plan is rash ; the project desperate :
In snch a flight needs must 1 risk ^oor life,
Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
Ghx>and for yonr hoshancrs rancor and re-



So he began again, with the same face.

I felt tha^ the same loyalty — one star

Tnming now red that was so white before —

One service apprehended newly : jnst

A word of mine and there the white was back I

*^ No, friend, for yon will take me I *T is your-
self
Risk all, not I, — who let yon, for I tmst
In the compensating ^reat God : enough I
I know you : when is it that you will come f "

"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do : how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.

That night my husband bade
" — You, whom I loathe, beware you break my

sleep
This whole night I Couch beside me like the

corpse
I would you were I " The rest you know, I

think —
How I found Caponsaoohi and escaped.

And this man, meta call sinner ? Jesus Christ I
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself

mad*st once,
** He hath a devil '* — sar he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi I Shield and show — unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure, — if ink-spot, from rile pens
Scribbling a cham against nim — CL was nad
Then, for the first time, that I ooula not

write) —
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze I

Forme,
*T 18 otherwise : let men take, sift my thoughts

— Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to

bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
** Oh, to have Caponsacchi tor my gruide I "
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world, — a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should — shall peradventnre — be divine ;
Tet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the

print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men

— Not this man sees, -—who from his soul, re-

writes



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 103 of 198)