Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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The true son-servant that, when parent bids
** Go work, son, in my vineyard !^' makes reply
** I go, Sir I " — Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsicuze.
Have the same work from, at a paul the bead?
Look at those four young precious dive-planta
Reared at Vittiano, — not on flesh and blood.
These twenty years,, but black bread and sour

I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome :
They did my best as unreluctantly.
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repavs youth expended so —
Youth^ I say, who am young still : grant but

To live my life out, to the last I 'd live
And die conceding age no ri^ht of youth !
It IB the will runs the renewing nerve -
Hirougrh flaccid flesh that faints before the

Therefore no sort of use for son have I —
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast, —

of means
To the end : for make the end attainable
Witibout the means, — my relish were like

A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of rooms ready cooked.
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow.
And snare sufficiently for supper.

The time 's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword : why not
S&j — Tuscan-like, more andent, better still ?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good ?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world.
Me among others : truce to nonsense now I
Name me, a primitive religionist —
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One spirung — your frigid Virgil's fieriest word —
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart

of oak.
With — for a visible divinity —
The portent of a Jove .^Spriochus
Descried 'mid douds, lightning and thunder,

On topmost crag of your Capitoline :
'Tis in the Seventh ^neid, — what, the

Right, — thanks. Abate, — though the Chris-
tian 's dumb.
The Latinist 's vivacious in you yet I
I know m^r erandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield.
Whereto his grandson presentiy will ^ve gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths.
But get to shake hands at the last of all :
Mine 's your faith too, — in Jove .^igiochus I
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement.
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race

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To make oommunioation poaaible ;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
SiCdway hang these : we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no qaestion nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand ;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idlv wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gooB their trade.
Which IB to teach us : we 'U obey when taught.
\Vhy should we do our du^ past the need ?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth, — say

prayer I
When the sun shines and Jove is glad, — sing

£ salmi
eref ore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering tor sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own ?
Learned Abate, — no one teaches you
What Venus means and who 's Apollo here !
I spare you. Cardinal, — but, thoueh you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know

that I
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast :
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry ?
Give alms prescribed on Friday, — but, hold

Because your foe lies prostrate, — where 's the

Explicit in the book debars revenge ?
The rationale of your scheme is just
**Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure

free I"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers.
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest.
And so are saved propitiating — whom ?
What all-good, all-wise, and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the ver]^ sins in man, himself
Made lifers neoessitv when man he made ?
Irrational bunglers I So, the living truth
Revealed to storike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, c«lled
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
-Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change

^ came fast :
The inexorable need in man for life
^Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life, —
And bade you do your worst : which worst was

In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this. Saint that, dutifully starved.
Froze, f oughtwith beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire :
He kept lue-long unspotted from the world I —
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
Hin life and emulates Saint that. Saint this ?
Men mutter, make excuse, or mutiny.
In fine are minded all to leave the new.
Stick to the old, — enjoy old liberty.
No prejudice in enjoyment, if vou please.
To the new profession : sin o* the sly, hence-
forth I

The law stands though the letter kills: what

The spirit saves as unmistakably.
Omniscienoe sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Onmibenevolenoe pardons : it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there 's a wink some'


Such was the logic in this head of mine :

L like the rest, wrote " poison " on my bread.

But broke and ate : —said '' Those that use tne

Shall perish by the same ; " then stabbed my

I stand on solid earth, not empty air :
Dislodge me, let your Pope^ crook hale me

Not he, nor vou I And I so pity both,
I '11 make tne true charge you want wit to

make :
** Count Ghiido, who reveal our mystery.
And trace all issues to the love of life :
We having life to love and guard, like vou.
Why did you put us upon self-detence ?
Ton well knew what prompt pass-word would

The sen^'s ire when folk infringed his bounds.
And yet kept mouth shut : do you wonder then
If, in mere decency, he shot you dead ?
He can't have people play such pranks as yours
Beneath his nose at noonday : you disdained
To give him an excuse before uie world
By crying * I break rule to save our camp ! '
Under the old rule, such offence were deaUi ;
And you had heard the Pontif ex pronounoe,
* Since you slay foe and violate the form.
Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
Had you, while, say, lawsuiting foe to death.
But raised an altar to the Unknown Gk)d,
Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
Why ^en this pother ? — all because the Pope,
Doing his duty, cried *' A foreigner,
Tou scandalize the natives : here at Rome
Romano vivitxtr more : wise men, here,
Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
The fit defence had been, — you stamped on

Intending all the time to trample tares, —
Were fain ext^pate, then, the heretic,
Tou now find, in your haste was slain a fool :
Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
Meant to breed up vour babe a Molinist I
Whence ^ou are amy contrite. Not one word
Of idl this wisdom md vou urge : which slip
Death must atone for.' ''

So, let death atone 1
So ends mistake, so end mistakers ! — end
Perhaps to recommence, — how should I know ?
Onlv, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible.
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee, —
ByUis injlumum^ let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lyceum in lupum^ but
The strong become a wolf f oreverraore I
Change that Pompilia to a punv stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank I
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, foe

once, —

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Wallow in what is now a wolfishnesB

Coerced too mnoh by the humanity

That 'a half of me as well I Grow ont of man.

Glut the wolf-natnre, — what remains but groyr

Into the man again, be man indeed

And all man ? Do I ring the changes right ?

Deformed, transformed, reformea, informed,

conformed !
The honest instinct, pent and orosMd throogh

Let surge by death into a yisible flow
Of rapture : as the straps^ed thread of flame
Painfully winds, annojring and annoyed.
Malignant and maligned, through stone and

Till earth exclude the stranger : rented once,
It finds full play, is recogniied atop
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth.
Fire for the mount, not streamlet for the vale I
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine —
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O* the red thread through that insignificance I
Again, how she is at me with those eyes I
Away with the empty stare 1 Be holy still.
And stupid erer I Occupy your patch
Of priyate snow that's somewhere in what

May now be growing icy round your head.
And aguish at your footprint, — freeze not me,
Dare rollow not another step I take.
Not with so much as those aetested eyes.
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that 's next to hell I
None of your abnegation of reyenge !
Fly at me frank, tuff while I tear again I
There 's God, go teU him, testify your worst !
Not she I There was no touch in her of hate :
And it would proye her hell, if I reached mine I
To know I suffered, would still sadden her.
Do what the angels might to make amends !
Therefore there 's either no such place as hell.
Or ihenoe shall I be thrust forth, for her sake.
And thereby undergo three hells, not one —
I who. with outlet for esci^e to heayen,
Woula tarry if such flight allowed my foe *
To raise his head, relieyed of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery payement jbIsc I
So am I made, ** who did not make myself : "
^ow dared she rob my own lip of the word ?)
Beware me in what other world may be I —
Pompilia, who haye brought me to this pass !
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in reyenge.
She maundered, *^ All is oyer luid at end :
I go my own road, go you where God will !
Forgiye you ? I forget you I " There 's the

That takes your taste, you other kind of men I
How you had loyed her I Ghiido wanted skill
To yalue such a woman at her worth I
Properly the instructed critidse,
** What's here, you simpleton haye tossed to

Its chance i' the gutter ? This a daub, indeed ?
Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags I "
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design :

Giye me my gorge of color, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me I
Titian 's the man, not Monk Anjrelico
Who traces yon some timid cha&y ^ost
That turns the church into a chamel: ay.
Just such a pencil might depict my wife I
She, — since she, also, would not change her*

Why could not she come in some heart-shaped

Rainbowed about with riches, rojralty
Rimming her round, as round the tiniless lawn
Guardingly runs the BelTMse cloth of gold f
I would haye left the nunt fine gauze un-
Needle-worked oyer with its lily and rose.
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst.
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Punty, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there 's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot : but what 's grace
When you want meat and drink and. clothes
and fire?

A tale oomee to my mind that 's i^pposite —
Possibly true, iirobably false, a truth
Such as all truths we Bye by. Cardinal I
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed — whoeyer was the potentate.
To Pajrnimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe.
And, risking much his own life, sayed the


Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles

Rubs lus eyes and looks round and sees my

Picks a fura e sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the p^round went majesty,)
And says, **' Take this, and if thou get safe

Plant the same in ihj garden-ground to grow :
Run thence an hour m a straight line, and stop :
Describe a circle round (for central point)
The furze aforesaid, reaching eyery way
The length of that hour's run: I giye it

thee, —
The central pointy to build a casUe there,
The space circumiaoent, for fit demesne.
The whole to be thy children's heritage, —
Whom, for the sake, bid thou wear furze on

Those are my arms : we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto.
Straining to start, means swift and greedy

He stands upon a triple mount of gold —
By Joye. then, he 's escaping from true gold
And trying to arriye at empty air I
Aha ! the fancy neyer croasea my mind I
My father used to tell me, and subjoin,
** As for the castle, that took wings and flew :
The broad lands, — why, to trayerse them to*

Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
I doubt not I could stand and spit so far :
But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of thati

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So long as fortune leares one field to grab I
WherdTore, hurrah for furze and lovalty ! "
What may I mean, where may the leflson lurk ?
** Do not bestow on man, by way of gift.
Furze without land for framework, — Taunt no

Of pnnty, no furze-sprig of a wife,
To me, r the thick of battle for mv bread.
Without some better dowry, — gold will do I "
No better gift than sordid muck ? Tee, Sirs I
Many more gifts much better. Give them me !
O those Olimpias bold, those Biimoas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz'

wealth I
Cried, ** Thou being mine, why, what but thine

Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heayen and

hell I
Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
Two bodies work one pleasure I What are these
Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger,

They fret thee or they frustrate ? Give the

word —
Be certain the^ shall frustrate nothing more !
And who is this young florid foolishness
That holds thy fortune in his pygmy dutch,
— Beii^ a prince and potency, forsooth I —
He hesitates to let the trifle go ?
Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
Sounder than Samson, — pounce thou on the

Shall SUD from off my breast, and down oouch-

And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet —
Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
Waiting to see what Delilah dares do I


Is the youth fair ? What is a man to me
Who am thv call-bird? Twist his neck —

' dupe^, —
Then take the breast shall turn a breast

indeed I'*
Such women are there ; and they marry

Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked ynie^ —
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores I
His monster is perfection, — Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot

As not an honest distaff to spin wool !

thou Lucrezia. is it long to wait
Tonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence ? —virgin yet,
Virtuous a^n, in face of what 's to teaioh —
Sin unimagmed, unimaginable, —

1 oome to claim my bnde, — thy Boreia*s self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be I
Cardinal, take away your crucifix I

Abate, leave my lips alone, — they bite t
Vainly you tiy to change what should not

And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my

heart —
It grows the stonier for your saving dew I^
Tou steep the substance, you would lubricate.
In waters that but touch to petrify I

Tou too are petrif actions of a kind :
Move not a muscle that shows mercy ; rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste I
I thought you would not slay impenitenee.
But teased, from men yon slew, oontritioo

I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
Tou know I am wronged I -wronged, say, and

wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first vou showed us scarlet on your back.
Called* to the College ? Tour straightforward

To your legitimate end, — I think it passed
Over a ncantlinp of heads brained, hearts brokei,
Lives trodden mto dust I —how otherwise ?
Such was the way o' the world, and so yon

Does memory haunt your pillow ? Not a wbit.
God wills ^ou never pace ^our garden-path.
One i^ppetizing hour ere dmner^iime,
But ]rour intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happv innocent things :
Feel vou remorse about that damsel-fly
Whion buzzed so near your mouth and fl^vped

Tou blotted it from being at a blow :
It was a fly, yon were a man, and more.
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind, — uiese are thmgs fit to save.
Fit to brush fly from : whv, because I toke
My course, must needs tne Pope kill me ? —

kill yon I
Tou ! for this instrument, he throws away.
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good rrom out I
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next

•I 'U tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor : flrst the Chambenain,
Old San Cesario, — Colloredo, next, —
Then, one, two, three, four, I r^use to nanae ;
After these, comes Altieri ; then come you —
Seventh on the list you come, unless ... ha, ha.
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the hdp
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently f
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcmmrstone that 's idl the sage requires
To fit lus lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name.
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like tiiese
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend I
Translate into the Court-conventional
** Count Guido must not die, ib innocent !
Fair, be assured I But what an he were foul,
Blood-drenched and murdei^crusted head to

Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
Nay, outrages the Louis you so love I
He has friends who will aven^ him ; enemies
Who will hate God now with impunity.
Missing the old coercive : would you s^id
A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
An atheist ? " Go and say this, for God's sake !
— Why, you don't think I hope you 'U say one


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Neither shall I Defsnade yon from jimr etand
Nor ycm pemiaae me £rom my station : take
Your enusifix away, I tell yon twice I

Gome, I am tired of silenoe I Pause enoagh I
You have jsrared : I hare ffcme inside my soul
And shnt its door behind me : 't is your torch
Blakes the plaoe dark : the darkness let ahme
Chows t^eiable twilight : one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and

What 18 this f aet I feel persoaded of —
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Althoogh Saint Peter's bark scuds, bOlow-

Leaves me to founder where it Bxaag me first ?
Spite of your splashing, I am hi^^i and dry !
Crod takes his own part in each thing he made ;
Made for a reason, he oonserres his work.
Gives each its i»roper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite.
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up. ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf 's at bay !
ShaU he try bleating? — or take turn or two.
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox.
And, failing to escape the foe by craft.
Give up attemnt, die fighting quietly f
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a panfir
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-einbraoe in mid backbone th^ break.
After their wearv work through the toe's flesn f
That 's the wou-nature. Don't mistake my

trope I
A Cardinal so qualmish ? Eminence,
My fight is fipirattve, blows i',the air,^
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spiritp-bravado, no real fisticufh I
I shall not presently, when the knock comes.
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face.
No, trust me I I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me

The a ppropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and

myrrh, —
I know not, — I begin to taste my strength.
Careless, gay even. What 's the worth of life ?
The Pope 's dead now, mv murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so : and you, forsooth —
Why. yon don't think. Abate, do your best,
Tou 'il live a year more with that heuiking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek 's a pit ?
Tozzi has got you also down in book I
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot ?
Qo eat your heart, you 'U never be a Pope I
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pneoi, for promotion in the church ?
She 's more than in the church — in the church-

Flaoiilla Pucei, your affianced bride.
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love, —
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
8top8 that with veto, —so, ogoy yourself 1

I see yon all reel to the rook, you waves —
Some f orthrisrht, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows

But all bound whither the main-onrrent seti^
Rockward. an end in foam for all of you I
What if I be o'ertEtken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind.
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant.
The boundary whereon I break to mist ?
Go to 1 the smoothest safest of you all.
Most perfect and compact wave in my train.
Spite of the blue tranquillity above.
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace.
Where broods the halcyon and the wi leape

WVl presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain.
Will rook vertiginously in turn, and reel.
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then.
So much for the untimeliness of death !
And, as regards the manner that offends.
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick I Undoubtedly
The soul 's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst through life, by alternation due.
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
Yon never know what life means till yon die :
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes

life live.
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument.
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more ?
What 's love, what 's faith without a wont to

Lack-lustre iewelrv ! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die —
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle 's bom I
From out myself how the strange colors come I
Is there a new rule in another world f
Be sure I shall resign myself : as here
I recognized no law I could not see.
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for Gk»d,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope,
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable —
With something changeless at the heart of ma
To know me bjr, some nucleus that 's mvself :
Accretions did it wrong ? Away with tbem —
You soon shall see the use of fire I

Till when.
All that was, is ; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates, —
I use up m^ last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-honse-^ossip-f ace.
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante, — and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompifia's pale
Poison my nasty hunger took for food.
A stron^r tree wants no wreaths about its tmnkf
No dojnng cups, no sickly sweet of soent.
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so.

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Drinkhig hot bull's blood, fit for men like me ?
I Hyed and died a maa, and take man's chanoe,
Honest and bold : ris^t will be done to sack.

Who are these you hare let descend my stair ?
Ha, their aocnned psalm I Lights at the sill I
Is it ''Open "they dare bid Ton? Treadieryl
8in, have I spoken one word all this while
Oat of the world of words I had to say ?
Dot one word I All was folly — I laughed and

mocked I
Sirs, my first trae word, all trath and no lie,
Is — save me notwithstandincr ! Life is all I
I was JQSt stark mad, — let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as yon please pile !
Don't open I Hold me from tnem! I am

I am the Granduke's — no, I am the Pope's I
Abate,— Cardinal, — Christ, — Maria,— God, . . .
Pompilia, will yon let them murder me f



Here were the end, had anything an end :
Thus, lit and laonohed, np and up roared and

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 118 of 198)