Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Except for love, — how love unless they know f)
Each of them, only filling to the edge,
Lisect or ancel, his just tength and breadth.
Due facet of refiection, — fuU, no less.
Angel or insect, as Thou framedst things.
I it is who have been appointed here
To represent Thee, in my turn, on earth.
Just as, if new philosophy know aught.
This one earth, out of all the multitude
Of peopled worlds, as stars are now supposed, —
Was chosen, and no sun-star of the swarm.
For stage and scene of Thy transcendent act
Beside which even the creation fades
Lito a puny exercise of i>ower.
Choice of the world, choice of the thing I am.
Both emanate alike from Thy dread play
Of operation outside this our sphere
Where things are classed and counted small or

Licomprehensibly the choice is Thine !
I therefore bow my head and take lliv place.
There is, beside the works, a tale of Tliee
Li the world's mouth, which I find credible :
I love it with my heart : unsatisfied,
I try it with my reason, nor discept
From any point I probe and pronounce sound.
Mind is not matter nor from matter, but
Above, — leave matter then, proceed with

mind !
Man's be the mind recognized at the height, —
Leave the inferior minds and look at man I
Is he the strong, intelligent and good
Up to his own conceivable height ? Nowise.
Enough o' the low, — soar the conceivable

Find cause to match the effect in evidence,
The work i' the world, not man's but Crod's ;

leave man !
Conjecture of the worker by the work :
Is there strength there? — enough: intellif

Ample : but goodness in a like degree ?
Not to the human eye in the present state.
An isoscele deficient in the base.
What lacks, then, of perfection fit for Qod^
But just the instance which this tale supplies
Of love without a limit ? So is strength.
So is inteliijfirence ; let love be so.
Unlimited in its self-sacrifice.
Then is the tale true and Qoa shows complete.
Beyond the tale, I reach into the dark.
Feel what I cannot see, and still faith stands :
I can believe this dread machinery
Of sin and sorrow, would confound me else.
Devised — all pain, at most expenditure
Of pain by Who devised pain — to evolve,
By new machinery in counterpart.
The moral qualities of man — how else ? —
To make him love in turn and be beloved.

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Creatiye and self-sacrificixi^ too.

And thiu eVentaally God-kke, (ay,

** I haye said ye are Gods,'' — 111811 it be said

for naught ?)
Enable man to wring, from out all pain.
All pleasure for a common heritag^e
To all eternity : this may be surmised.
The other is revealed, — whether a fact.
Absolute, abstract, independent truth,
Historic, not reduced to suit man's mind, —
Ot only truth reyerberate, changed, made pass
A spectrum into mind, the narrow eye, —
The same and not the same, else unconoeiyed —
Though ^uite conceiyable to the next grade
Aboye it m intelligence, — as truth
Easy to man were olindness to the beast
By parity of procedure, — the same truth
In a new form, but changed in either case :
What matter so intelligence be filled ?
To a child, the sea is angry, for it roars:
Frost bites, else why the tooth-like fret on

Man makes acoustics deal with the sea's wrath.
Explains the choppy cheek by chymic law, —
To man and child remains the same effect
On drum of ear and root of nose, change cause
Neyer so thoroughly : so my heart be struck,
What care I, — oy God's gloved hand or the

Nor do I much perplex me with aught hard.
Dubious in the transmitting of the tale, —
No, nor with certain riddles set to solve.
This life is training and a passage ; pass, —
Still, we march over some flat obstacle
We made give way before us ; solid truth
In front ot it, what motion for the world ?
The moral sense grows but by exercise.
'T IB even as man ^w probatively
Initiated in Godship, set to make
A fairer moral world than this he finds.
Guess now what shall be known hereafter.

Thus with the present problem : as we see,
A faultless creature is destroyed, and sin
Has had its way i' the world where God should

Avj but for this irrelevant circumstance
Of mquisition after blood, we see
Pompilia lost and Guide saved : how long ?
For nis whole life : how much is that whole

We are not babes, but know the minute's

And feel that life is large and the world small.
So, wait till life have passed &om out the

Neither does this astonish at the end,
That whereas I can so receive and trust.
Other men, made with hearts and souls the

Reject and disbelieve, — subordinate
The future to the present, — sin, nor fear.
This I refer still to the foremost fact,
Life is probation |uid the earth no goal
But starting-point of man : oomnel him strive,
Which means, in man, as good as reach the

goal, —
Why institute that race, his life, at all ?

But this does overwhelm me with surprise.
Touch me to terror, — not that taith, the

Shouldbe let lie by fishers wantinpr food, —
Nor^ seen and handled by a certam few
Critical and contemptuous, straight consigned
To shore and shingle for the peoble it proves, —
But that, when naply found and known and

By the residue made rich forevermore.
These, — that these favored ones, should in a

Turn, and with double zest go dredge f ofr

Mud - worms that make the savory soup I

O' the disbelievers, see the faithful few I
How do the Christians here deport them, keep
Their robes of white unspotted by the world ?
What is this Aretine Archbishop, this
Man under me as I am under Gtoo,
This champion of the faith, I armed and

Pushed forward, put upon a pinnade.
To show the enemy his victor, — see !
YHiat's the best fighting when the couple

Pompilia cries, ** Protect me from the wolf 1 "
He — ** No, thy Guido is rou^, heady, strong.
Dangerous to disquiet : let him bide f
He needs some bone to mumble, help smiuse
The darkness of his den with : so, the fawn
Which limps up bleeding to my foot and lies^

— Come to me, daughter ! — thus I throw him

backr; ^
Have we misjudged here, over -armed our

Given gold and silk where plain hard steel

serves best,
EInfeebled whom we sought to fortif^r.
Made an archbishop and undone a saint ?
Well, then, descend these heights, this pride of

Sit in the ashes with a barefoot monk
Who long ago stamped out the worldly sparks.
By fastmg, watching, stone cell and wire


— No such indulgence as unknits the strength —
These breed the tight nerve and tough cuticle.
And the world's praise or blame runs rillet-

Off the broad back and brawny breast, we

know 1
He meets the first cold sprinkle of the world.
And shudders to the marrow. * * Save this child ?
Oh, my superiors, oh, the Archbishop's self 1
Who was it dared lay hand upon the ark
His betters saw fall nor put fiinger forth ?
Great ones could help yet help not : why should

I break my promise : let her break her heart ! "
These are the Christians not the worldlings, not
The sceptics, who thus battie for the faith !
If foolish virgins disobev and sleep.
What wonder ? But, this time, the wise that

Sell lamps and buy lutes, exchange oil for wine,
The mystic Spouse betrays the Bridegroom hera

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To our last rosouroe, then I Since all flesh is

Bind weaknesses together, we get strength :
The individnal weighed, found wanting, try
Some institutionj honest artifice
Whereby the units grow compact and firm 1
Each props the other, and so stand is made
Bt our embodied cowards that grow braye.
The Monasterr called of Convertites,
Meant to help women because these helped

A thing existent only while it acts,
Does as designed, else a nonentity, —
For what is an idea unrealized ? —
Pompilia is consigned to these for help.
They do help : they are prompt to testify
To her pure life and saintly dying days.
She dicMB. and lo, who seined so poor, proTCS

rich I
What does the body that lives through helpful-
To women for Christ*s sake P The kiss turns

The dove^s note changes to the crow's cry:

*' Seeing that this our Convent claims of right
What goods belong to those we succor, be
The same proved women of dishonest life, —
And seeing that this Trial made appear
Pompilia was in such predicament, —
The Convent hereupon ^tends to said
Succession of Pomjnlia, issues writ.
And takes possession by the Fisc's advice.*'
Such is their attestation to the cause
Of Christ, who had one saint at least, they

But, is a title-deed to filch, a corpse
To slander, and an infant-heir to cheat ?
Christ must give up his gains then I ^ They unsay
All the fine speeches, — who was sunt is whore.
Why, scripture jrields no parallel for this I
The soldiers only threw dice for Christ's coat ;
We want another l^^nd of the Twelve
Disputing if it was Christ's coat at all.
Claiming as prize the woof of price — for why ?
The Blaster was a thief, purlomed the same.
Or paid for it out of the common bag I
Can it be this is end and outcome, all
I take with me to show as stewardship's fruit.
The best yield of the latest time, this year
The seventeen-hundredth since God died for

Is such effect proportionate to cause ?
And still the terror keeps on the increase
When I perceive . . . how can I blink the fact ?
That the fault, the obduracy to good,
lies not' with the impracticable stuff
Whence man is made, his very nature's fault,
As if it were of ice the moon may gild
Not melt, or stone 't was meant the sun should

Not make bear flowers, — nor ice nor stone to

^ blame:
But it can melt, that ice, can bloom, that*stone.
Impassible to rule of day and night I
This terrifies me, thus compelled perceive.
Whatever love and faith we looked should spring
At advent of the authoritative star.

Which yet lie slumsh, curdled at the source, —
These have leapt forth profusely in old time.
These still respond with promptitude to-day.
At challenge of — what unacknowlec^ed powers
O' the air, what uncommissionea meteors,

By law, and li^ht by rule should supersede ?
For see this pnest, this Caponsacchi, stung
At the first summons, — '^ Help for honor's

Play the man. pity the oppressed I " — no pause,
How does he lay about mm in the midst.
Strike any foe, right wrong at any risk,
All blindness, braverv and obedience 1 — blind ?
Ay, as a man would be inside the sun.
Delirious with the plenitude of light
Should interfuse him to the finger-ends —
Let him rush straight, and how shall he go

Where are the Christians in their panoply ?
The luins we girt about with truth, the breasts
Righteousness plated round, the shield of failli,
The helmet of salvation, and that sword
O' the Spirit, even the word of God, — where

!Slnnk into comers ! Oh, I hear at once
Hubbub of protestation I ^* What, we monks,
We friars, of such an order, such a rule.
Have not wo fought, bled, left our martyr-mark
At every point along the boundary-line
'Twixt true and false, religion and the world,
Where this or the other dogma of our Churdi
Called for defence ? " And I, despite mjrs^.
How can I but speak loud what truth spejUcs

" Or better than the best, or nothing serves !
What boots deed, I can cap and cover straight
With such another doughtmess to mateh.
Done at an instinct of the natural man ? ''
Immolate body, sacrifice soul too, —
Do not these publicans the same ? Outstrip I
Or else stop race you boast runs neck and neck.
You with the wings, they with the feet, — for

Oh, I remark your diligence and zeal I
Five vears long, now, rounds faith into my ears.
** Help thou J or Christendom is done to death! ''
Five vears smce, in the Province of To-kien,
Whicn is in China as some people kuow,
Mai^t, my Vicar Apostohc there.
Having a great qualm, issues a decree.
Alack, the converts use as Gk>d's name, not
Tien-ava but plain Tien or else mere Snang^i,
As Jesuits please to fanc^ politic,
While^ say Dominicans, it calls down fire, —
For Tien means heaven, and Shang-tit supreme

While Tien-chu means the lord of heaven : all

** There is no business urgent for dispatch
As that thou send a legate, specially
Cardinal Tojumon, straight to Pekin, there
To settle and compose the difference ! "
So have I seen a potentete all fume
For some infringement of hia realm's just right.
Some menace to a mud-built straw-thatched

O' the frontier ; while inside the mainland lie.

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Quite undisputed-for in Bolitnde,
Whole cities plafi^ae may waste or famine sap :
What if the sun cmmble, the sands encroach,
While he looks on sublimely at his ease ?
How does their ruin touch the empire's bound ?

And is this little all that was to be ?
Where is the p^loriously-decisiTe chan8:e,
Metamorphosis the immeasurable
Of human clay to divine gold, we looked
Should, in some poor sor^ justify its price ?
Had an adept of the mere Rosv Cross
Spent his lire to consummate tne Great Work,
Would not we start to see the stuff it touched
Yield not a grain more than the vulgar got
B^ the old smelting-process years ago ?
If this were sad to see in just the sage
Who should profess so much, perform no more,
What is it when suspected in that Power
Who undertook to make and made the world.
Devised and did effect man, body and soul,
Ordained salvation for them both, and yet . . .
Well, is the thing we see, salvation ?

Put no such dreadful question to myself,
Within whose circle of eicperience bums
The central truth, Power, Wisdom, Good-
ness, — God :
I must oulJiye a thing ere know it dead :
When I outlive the faith there is a sun.
When I lie, ashes to the very soul, —
Some one, not I, must wail above the heap,
** He died in dark whence never mom arose."
While I see day succeed the deepest night —
How can I speak but as I know ? — my speech
Must be, throughout the darkness. It will

The lis^t that did bum, will bum ! " Clouds

obscure —
But for which obscuration all were bright P
Too hastily concluded ! Sun-suffused,
A cloud may soothe the eye made blind by

blaze, —
Better the very claritv of heaven :
The soft streaks are the beautiful and dear.
YHiat but the weakness in a faith supplies
The incentive to humanity, no strength
Absolute, irresistible, comports ?
How can man love but what he yearns to help ?
And that which men think weakness within

But angels know for strength and stronger

yet —
What were it else but the first things made new,
But repetition of the miracle.
The divine instance of self-sacrifice
That never ends and aye^ begins for man ?
So, never I miss footing in the maze.
No, — I have light nor fear the dark at all.

But are mankind not real, who pace outside
My petty circle, world that *s measured me ?
And when they stumble even as I stand.
Have I a right to stop ear when they cry,
As they were phantoms who took clouds for

Tripped and fell, where man's march might

safely move ?

Beside, the cry is other than a ghost's.

When out of the old time there pleads some

Philosopher, or both, and — whispers not.
But words it boldly. *^ The inward work and

Of any mind, what other mind may judge
Save God who only knows the thing ne made,
The veritable service he exacts ?
It is the outward product men appraise.
Behold, an engine hoists a tower aloJFt :
*I looked that it should move the mountain

Or else * Had just a turret toppled down.
Success enough ! ' — may say tne Machinist
Who knows what less or more result might be :
But we, who see that done we cannot do,

* A feat beyond man's force, ' we men must say.
Regard me and that shake I gave the world I

I was bom, not so long before Christ's birth

As Christ's birth haplv did precede thy day, —

But many a watch before the star of dawn :

Therefore I lived, — it is thy creed afiBrms,

Pope Innocent, who art to answer me I —

Under conditions, nowise to escape,

Whereby salvation was impossible.

Each impulse to achieve the good and fair.

Each aspiration to the pure and true,

Bein^ without a warrant or an aim.

Was just as sterile a felicity

As if the insect, bom to spend his life

Soaring his circles, stopped Uiem to describe

(Painfully motionless in the mid-air)

Some word of weighty counsel for man's sake,

Some *Know thyself' or 'Take the golden

— Forwent his happy danoe and the glad ray.
Died half an hour the sooner and was dust.
Lbom to perish like the brutes, or worse.
Why not hve brutishly, obey brutes' law ?
But I, of body as of soul complete,
A nrmnast at the games, philosopher
I' we schools, who painted, and made musio,

— all
Glories that met upon the tragic stage
When the Third Poet's tr^ui surprised the

Whose lot fell in a land where life was great
And sense went free and beauty lay profuse,
I, untouched by one adverse circumstance,
Adopted virtue as my rule of life.
Waived all reward, loved but for loving's sake.
And, what my heart taught me, I taught the

And have been teaching now two thousand

Witness my work, — plays that should please,

forsooth !

* They might please, they may displease, they

shall teach.
For truth's sake,' so I said, and did, and do.
five hundred years ere Paul spoke, Felix

heard, —
How much of temperance and righteousness.
Judgment to come, did I find reason for.
Corroborate with my strong style that spared
No sin, nor swerved the more from branding


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Because the nimer was eaUed Zens and Qod ?

How nearly did I grness at that Paul knew P

How olosefy oome, in what I represent

As duty, to his doctrine yet a hiank f

And as that tinmer not nntmly limns

Who draws an ohjeot round or square, which

Or round seems to the unassisted eye,
Though Ghdileo's tube display the same
Oval or oblong, — so, who oontroTerts
I renderad rightly what proyes wrongly

Beside PauTs picture P Mine was true for me.
I saw that there are, first and above all.
The hidden forces, blind necessities.
Named Nature, but the thing's self unoon-

Then follow — how dependent upon these.
We know not, how imposed above ourselves.
We well know — what I name the gods, a

Various or one : for great and strong and good
Is there, and little, weak and bad there too.
Wisdom and folly : sav, these make no God. —
What is it else that rules outside man's self ?
A fact then, — always, to the naked eye, —
And so, the one revealment possible
Of what were unimagined eUe by man.
Therefore, what gods do, man may criticise.
Applaud, coudenm, — how should he fear the

truth? —
But likewise have in awe because of power.
Venerate for the main munificence.
And give the doubtful deed its due excuse
I^m the acknowledged creature of a day
To the Eternal and Divine. Thus, bold
Tet self-mistrusting, should man bear himself.
Most assured on what now concerns him most —
The law of his own life, the path he prints, —
Which law is virtue and not vice, I say, —
And least inquisitive where search least skills,
I' the nature we best give the clouds to kee^.
What could I paint beyond a scheme like this
Out of the fragmentuj truths where light
Lay fitful in a tenebrific time ?
Ton have the sunrise uowj joins truth to truth.
Shoots life and substance mto death and void ;
Themselves compose the whole we made before :
The forces and necessity grow Qod, —
The beings so contrarious that seemed gods.
Prove just his operation manifold
And multiform, translated, as must be,
Into intelligible shape so far
As suits our sense and sets us free to feel.
What if I let a child think, childhood4on^,
That lightning, I would have him spare his
Is a real arrow shot at naked orb ?
The man knows more, but shuts his lids the

Ldghtnine's cause comprehends nor man nor

Why then, my scheme, your better knowledge

Presently readjusts itself, the small
Proportioned largelier, parts and whole named

So much, no more two thousand years have


J eye,

Pope, dost thou dare pretend to punish me.
For not descrying sunshine at midnight.
Me who crept all-fours, found my way so far —
While thou rewardest teachers of the truth.
Who miss the plain way in the blase of noon, —
Though just a word irom that strong s^le of

Gbasped honestly in hand as guiding-staff.
Had pricked them a sure path across the i)og.
That mire of cowardice and slush of lies
Wherein I find them wallow in wide day ! '*

How should I answer this Euripides P
Paul — 't is a legend — answered Seneca,
But that was in the da^r-spring ; noon is now.
We have got too familiar with the light.
Shall I wish back once more tha^ thrill of

When the whole truth-touched man burned up,

one fire?
— Assured the trial, fiery, fierce, but fleet.
Would, from his little heap of ashes, lend
Wings to that conflagration of the world
Which Christ awaits ere he makes all things

new :
So should the frail become the perfect, rapt
From^lory of pain to glory of joy ; and so.
Even m the end, — the act renouncing earth.
Lands, houses, husbands, wives and ohiluea

nere, —
Begin that other act which finds all, lost.
Regained, in this time even, a hundredfold.
And, in the next time, feels the finite love
Blent and embalmed with the eternal life.
So does the sun ghastlily seem to sink
In those north parts, lean all but out of life.
Desist a dread mere breathing-stop, then slow
Re-assert day, begin the endless nse.
Was this too easy for our after«toge ?
Was such a li^ting^up of faith, in life,
Onlv allowed initiate, set man's step
In the true way h^ help of the great glow P
A way wherein it is ordained he walk.
Bearing to see the light from heaven stiU more
And more encroached on by the light of earth,
Tentatives earth puts forth to rival heaven.
Earthly incitements that mankind serve Gk>d
For man's sole sake, not God's and therefore

Till at last, who distinguishes the sun
From a mere Druid fire on a far mount P
More praise to him who with his subtle prism
Shall decompose both beams and name uie trueu
In such sense, who is last proves first indeed ;
For how could saints and martjrrs fail see

truth _

Streak the night's blackness? Who is faithful

Who untwists heaven's white from the yellow

O' the world's gross torch, without night's foil

that helped ^
Produce the Christian act so possible
When in the way stood Nero's cross and

stake, —
So hard now when the world smiles " Right and

wise I
Faith points the politic, the thrifty way.

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Will make who plods it in the end returns
Beyond mere fooPs-sport and improvidence.
We fools dance through the cornfield of this

Pluck ears to left and right and swallow raw,
— Nay, tread, at pleasure, a sheaf underfoot,
To gjet the better at some poppy-flower, —
Well aware we shall have so much less wheat
In the eventual harvest : you meantime
Waste not a spike, — the richlier will you reap !
What then ? There wUl be always garnered

SufBcient for our comfortable loaf,
Wliile you enjoy the undiminished sack ! *'
Is it not this icnioble confidence,
Cowardly hardihood, that dulls and damps,
M^Jlcs the old heroism impossible ?

Unless . . . what whispers me of times to

What if it be the mission of that age
My death will usher into life, to shake
This torpor of assurance from our creed,
Reintroduce the doubt discarded, bring
That formidable danger back, we drove
Long ago to the distance and the dark ?
No wild beast now prowls round the infant

We have built wall and sleep in city safe :
But if some earthquake try the towers that

To think they once saw lions rule outside.
And man stand out acpin, pale, resolute.
Prepared to die, — which means, alive at last ?
As we broke up that old faith of the world.
Have we, next age, to break up this the new —
Faith, in tiie thing, grown faith in the report —
Whence need to bravelv disbelieve report
Through increased faith i' the thing reports be-

Must we deny, — do they, these Molinists,
At peril of their body ana their soul, —
Recognized truths, obedient to some truth
Unrecognized yet, but perceptible ? —

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 113 of 198)