Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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A rocket, till the kev o' the ranlt was reached.
And wide heayen held, a breathless minute-
In brilliant nsurpatnre : thus caught spark.
Rushed to the height, and hung at full of lame
Oyer men's upturned faces, ghastly thence.
Our glaring Guido : now decline must be.
In its explosion, you haye seen his act.
By my power — maybe, judged it by your

own. —
Or composite as good orbs proye, or crammed
With worse ingredients than the Woimwood

The act, oyer and ended, falls and fades :
What was once seen, grows what is now de-
Then talked of, told about, a tin^ the less
In eyery fresh transmission ; till it melts.
Trickles in silent oran^ or wan gray
Across our memory, dies and leayes all dark,
And presently we find the stars again.
Follow the main streaks, meditate the mode
Of brightness, how it hastes to blend with
black I

After that February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation. Sixteen Ninety Eight,
Of all reports that were, or may have been,
Concerning those the day killed or let live,
Four I count only. Take the first that comes.
A letter from a stranger, man of rank,
Venetian visitor at Bioroe, — who knows,
On what pretence of busy idleness ?
Thus he begins on evening of that day.

'* Here are we at our end of Carnival ;
Prodigious gayety and monstrous mirth.

And constant shift of entertaining show :
With influx, from each quarter c£ the fi^obe.
Of strangers nowise wialuul to be last
I' the strngfi^le for a good place presently
When that befalls fate cannot long defer.
The old Pope totters on the verge o' the grare
You see, Blalpichi understood far more
Than Tozzi how to treat the ailments : age.
No ouestion, renders these inveterate.
Cardinal Spada, actual Minister,
Is possible Tope ; I wager on his head.
Since those four entertunments of his nieoe
Which set all Home arstare : Pope probably —
Though CoUoredo has his backers too.
And &U1 Cesario makes one doubt at timea :
Altieri will be Chamberlain at most.

" A week ago the sun was warm like May,
And the old man took daily exercise
Along the riverside ; he loves to see
That Custom-house he buiH upon tiie bank.
For, Naples-bom, his tastes are maritime:
But yesterday he had to kee^ in-doors
Because of the outrageous rain that fell.
On such days the go<Kl soul has f ainting^ts.
Or lies in stupor, scarcely makes believe
Of minding business, fumbles at his beads*
They say, the trust that keeps his heart aUve
Is that, by lasting^ till December next,
He may hold Jubilee a second time.
And. twice in one reign, ope the Holy Doors.
By the way, somebo<^ responsible
Assures me that the Kin^ of France has writ
Fresh orders : F^nelon will be condemned :
The Cardinal makes a wij face enough.
Having a love for the delinquent : stOl,
He 's the ambassador, must press the point.
Have you a wager too, dependent here ?

** Now, from such matters to divert awhile.

Hear of to-day's event which crowns the week,

Casts all the other wagers into shade.

Tell Dandolo I owe him fifty drops

Of heart's blood in the shape of eold zecohinea I

The Pope has done his worst : I have to pay

For the execution of the Count, by Jove I

Two da^rs since, I reported him as safe.

Re-echoing the conviction of all Rome :

Who could suspect its one deaf ear — the

Pope's ?
But prejudices grow insuperable,
And that old enmity to Austria, that
Passion for France and France's pageant-kin^
(Of which, why pause to multiply the proofs
Now scandalonsiy rife in Europe s month ?)
These fairly got the better in our man
Of justice, prudence, and esprit de corpi^
And he persisted in the butchery.
Also, 't is said that in his latest walk
To that Dogana-by-the-Bank he built.
The crowds— he suffers question, unrebuked, -*
Asked, * Whether murder was a privilege
Only reserved for nobles like the Count? '
And he was ever mindful of the mob.
Martinez, the CsBsarean Minister,
— Who used his best endeavors to spare blood.
And strongly pleaded for the life * of one,'
Urged he,^ I may have dined at table with 1 * —

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He will not soon forget the Pope^s rebuff,
— Feels the slight sensibly, I promise you I
And bat for the dissaasion of two eyes
That make with him foul weather or fine day,
He had abstained, nor graced the spectacle :
As it was, barely would he oondescend
Look forth from the ptUchetto where he sat
Under the Pincian : we shall hear of this I
The substituting, too, the People's Square
For the out-o^-^e-way old quarter by the

Was meant as a conciliatory sop
To the mob ; it rave one holiday the more.
But the French Embassy might unfurl flag, —
Still the good luck of France to fling a foe I
Cardinal Bouillon triumphs properly 1
Paldustti were erected in the Place,
And houses, at the edge of the Thriae Streets,
Let their front windows at six dollars each:
Anguisoiola, that patron of the arts,
Hired one ; our £divoy Contarini too.

** Now for the thiiur ; no sooner the decree

Gone forth, — 't \b lour-and-twenty hours ago, —

Than Acciainoli and Panciatichi,

Old friends, indeed compatriots of the man,

Bemg pitched on as the coui^e properest

To intmiate the sentence yesternight.

Were closeted ere cock-crow with the Ck»unt.

They both report their efforts to dispose

The unhappy nobleman for ending well.

Despite the natural sense of injury.

Were crowned at last with a complete

And when the Ck>mpany of Death arrived

At twenty - hours, — the way they reckon

here, —
We say, at sunset, after dinner-time, —
The Count was led down, hoisted up on car.
Last of the five, as heinonsest, you know :
Tet they allowed one whole car to each man.
His intiepidity, nay, nonchalance,
As up he stood and down he sat lumself ,
Struck admiration into those who saw.
Then the nrocession started, took the wa^
From the New Prisons by the Pil^;rim's Street,
The street of the Gk>vemo, Pasqum's Street,
(Where was stuck up, 'mid other epigrams.
A quatrain . • . but of all that, presently I)
The Place Navona, the Pantheon's Place,
Place of the Column, last the Corse's length.
And so debouched thence at Mannaia's foot
I' the Place o' the People. As is evident,
CDespite the malice, — plainly meant, I fear,
Bt this abrupt change of locality, —
The Square 's no such bad place to head and

We had the titillation as we sat
Assenabled, (quality in conclave, ha?)
Of, minute after mmute, some report
How the dew show was winding on its way.
Now did a car run over, kill a man.
Just opposite a pork-shop numbered Twelve :
And bitter were the outcries of the mob
Against the Pope : for. but that he forbids
The Lottery, why, Twelve were Tern Qua-

Now did a beggar by Saint Agnes, lame
From his youth up, recover use of leg.

Through prayer of Gkiido as he guanoed tha4

So that the crowd near crammed his hat with

Thus was kept up excitement to the last,
— Not an abrupt out-bdting, as of yore.
From Castle, over Bridge and on to block^
And so all ended ere you well could wink I

** To mount the scaffold-steps, Guido was last

Here also, as atrodousest in crime.

We hardly noticed how Uie peasants died.

They dangled somehow soon to right and left.

And we remained all ears and eyes, could give

Ourselves to Guido undividedly,

As he harangued the multitude beneath.

He begp^ed forgiveness on the part of God,

And fair construction of his act from men.

Whose suffrage he entreated for his soul,

Suflxesting that we should forthwith repeat

A Pater and an Avt* with the hymn

Salve Begina Codi^ for his sake.

Which saidj he turned to the confessor, crossed

And reconciled himself, with decency.

Oft glancing at Saint Mary's opposite.

Where they possess, and showed in shrine to*

The blessed Uinbiliau of our Lord,
(A relic 't is believed no other church
In Rome can boast of) — then rose up, as brisk
Knelt down again, bent head, adapted neck.
And, with the name of Jesus on his lips,
Received the fatal blow.

** The headsman showed
The head to the populace. Must I avouch
We strangers own to disappointment here ?
Report pronounced him fuDy six feet high,
Youngish, considering his fifty vears.
And, if not handsome, dignified at least.
Lideed, it was no face to please a wife !
His friends say, this was caused by the cos-
He wore the dress he did the murder in.
That is, SL just-a-corpa of russet serge.
Black camisole, coarse cloak of baracan
(So they style here the garb of goat's- hair

White hat and cotton cap beneath, poor Count,
Preservative against the evening aews
During the journey from Arezzo. Well,
So died the man, and so his end was peace ;
Whence many a moral were to meditate.
Spada — you may bet Oandolo — is Pope I
Now for the quatnun I "

No, friend, this will do I
You 've sputtered into sparks. What streak

comes next? ^
A letter: Don Giaointo Arcangeli,
Doctor and Proctorj him I made you mark
Buckle to business m his study late,
Th6 virtuous sire, the valiant for the truth.
Acquaints his correspondent, — Florentine,
By name Cencini, advocate as well,
Socius and brother-in-the-devil to match, —
A friend of Franoeschiui, anyhow,

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And knit im with tli« bowek of the oaae, —
Aoqiuunte him (in this piq[>er that I toueh)
How their joint effort to obtain reprieve
For Gnido had so nearly nioked the nine
And ninetj and one orer, — folk would say.
At Tarocs, — or snooeeded, — in onr phrase.
To this Cenoini's care I owe the Book,
Thib yellow thing I take and toes onoe more, —
How will it be, my f oiir-years*-intimate.
When thon and I part oompany anon? —
'T was he, the ** whole position of the case,*'
Pleading and summary, were put before ;
Disoreetly in my Book he bound them all.
Adding some three epistles to the Ptnnt.
Here is the first of these, part Iresn as penned.
The sand, that dried the mk, not rubbed away.
Though penned the day whereof it tells the

Part — extant just as plainly, yon know where.
Whence came the other stivff , went, yon know

To make the Ring that 's all but round and


** Late they arrired, too lato, egregious Sir,
Those same justificative points you urge
Might benefit His Blessed Memory
Count Guide Franceschini now with God :
Since the Ck>nrt, — to stato things succinctly, —

Thib Congregation of the €k>Temor,
Having resolved on Tuesday last our cause
I' the guilty sense, with death for punishment,
Spito of all pleas by me dednoible
In favor of said Blessed Memory, —
I, with expenditure of pains enough,
Obtained a respite, leave to claim and prove
Exemption from the law's award. — alleged
The power and privile^ o' the Clericate :
To which effect a courier was duqiatched.
But ere an answer from Arezzo came,
Hie Holiness of onr Lord the Pope (po^pare !)
Judging it inexpedient to postpone
The execution of such sentence passed.
Saw fit, by his particular chirograph.
To derofnto, dispense with privilege.
And wink at any hurt accruing thence
To Mother Church through damage of her son :
A1m>, to oveipass and set aside
That other plea on score of tender age.
Put forth bv me to do Pasquint goocC
One of the four in trouble with our friend.
So that all five, to-day, have suffered death
With no distinction save in dying, — he.
Decollate by mere due of privilege.
The rest hanged decently and in order. Thus
Came the Count to his end of ^^allant man.
Defunct in faith and exemplanty :
Nor shall the shield of his great House lose

Thereby, nor its blue banner blush to red.
This, too, should yield sustainment to our

hearts —
He had commiseration and respect
In his decease from universal Rome,
Quantum est hominum venustiorunij
The nice and cultivated everywhere :

Though, in respect of me his advocate.
Needs must I groan o'er my debility.
Attribute the untoward event o* the strife
To nothing but my own erass ignoranoe
Which failed to set the valid reasons f orOt,
Find fit excuse : such is the fate of war I
May God compensate us the direful blow
By future blessings on his family.
Whereof I lowlv beg the next commands :
— Whereto, as humbly, I confirm myself'' • • •

And so forth, — follow name and place and

On next leaf —

** Haetenus aenioribus I
There, old fox, show the clients t' other side
And keep this oomer sacred, I beseech !
You and vour pleas and proofs were what folk

Pisan assistance, aid that comes too lato.
Saves a man dead as nail in post d door.
Had 1 but time and space for narrative I
What was the good ox twenty Clericates
When Somebody's thick headineoe onoe was

On seeing Guide's drop into the bag ?
How these old men like giving youth a push I
So much the better : next push goes to nim.
And a new Pope begins the centurv.
Much good I get by my superb defence I
But argument is solid and subsists.
While obstinacy and ineptitude
Accompany the owner to his tomb ;
What do 1 care how soon f Beside, folks see I
Rome will have relished heartily the show,
Yet understood the motives, never fear.
Which caused the indecent change o' the Peo-
ple's Place
To the People's Playground,— stigmatize the

Which m a trice precipitated thin^ I
As oft the moribund will nve a kick
To show they are not absolutely dead.
So feebleness i' the socket shoote its last,
A spirt of violence for energy I

** But thou, Cencini| brother of my breast,
O fox, whose home is 'mid the texider grape.
Whose couch in Tuscany by Themis' throne.
Subject to no such . . . beet I shut my month
Or only open it again to say.
This pother and confusion fairly laid.
My hands are empty and my^ satehel lank.
Now then for both the Matrimonial Cause
And tibe case of (}omez 1 Serve them hot and

** Beliqua differamus in crastinum !

The impatient estafetto cracks whip outside :

Still, though the earth should swallow him

who swears
And me who make the mischief^ must slip —
My boy, your godson, fat-chaps Hyacinth,
Enjoyed the sight while Papa plodded here.
Ipromised him, the rogue, a month ago.
The day his birthday was, of all the dm,
Tbat if I failed to save Count Gnido's head,
Cinuooio should at least go see it chopped

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From tnmk — *So,

' That I prefer, hoe maUm^* mpn me oat
The roffiie : Toa notioe the fobjanotiTe ?
Aoooimnglj ne nt there, bold in box.
Prood M the Pope behind the peaoock-luis :
Whereon a oertam ladr-patroneas
For whom I manage tninss (m^r boy in front,
Her Bfarqnie sat the third in eridenoe ;
Bora liave no eyes nor ears save for the show)

* Tliia time, Cintino,' was her sportire word.
When whiz and thump went axe and mowed

And folk oould fall to the suspended chat,

* ThaB time, yon see, Bottini rules the roast,
Nor can Papa with all his eloquence

Be reckoned on to help as heretofore I '
Whereat Cinone pouts ; then, sparkishly —

* Papa knew better than aggrieve his Pope*
Ana balk him of his grudge against our Count,
Else he 'd have argued-off Bottini's ' . • .


* His nose.' — the rogue I well parried of the

boy I
He 's long since out of Caesar (eight yean old)
And as for tripping in Entropius . . . well.
Reason the more that we strain every nerve
To do him justioe, mould a model-mouth,
A Bartolus-cum-Baldo for next age :
For that I purse the pieces, work the brain.
And want both Gomex and the marriage-case.
Success with which shall plaster aught of pate
That *s broken in me by Bottini^s flail.
And bruise his own, belike, that wags and

Adverti suppltco humxliter
Quod^ don^t the fun^:us see, the fop divine
That one hand drives two horses, left and

With this.reign did I rescue from the ditch
The fortune at our Franceschini, keep
Unsplashed the credit of a noble House,
And set the fashionable cause at Rome
A-prancing till bystanders shouted * 'ware I '
The other rein's judicious management
Suffered old Somebody to keep the pace.
HobUingly play the roadster : who out no
Had his opinion, was not led by the nose
In leash oi quibbles strung to look like law I
Tou 'U soon see, — when 1 go to pay devoir
And compliment him on confuting me, —
If, by a back-swing of the pendulum,
Grace be not, thick and threefold, consequent.

* I must deciae as I see proper, Don I

I 'm Pope, I have my inward lights for guide.
Had learning been the matter in dispute.
Could eloquence avail to gainsay fact.
Yours were the victory, be comforted I '
Cinuxzo will be gainer oy it all.
Quick then with Gomez, hot and hot next

Follows, a letter, takes the other side.

Tall blue-ered flsc whose head is capped with

Doctor Bottini, — to no matter who.
Writes on the Monday two days afterward.

Now shall the honest championship of right,
Crowned with success, enjov st last, unblamed,
Moderate triumph ! ^ Now snail eloquence
Poured forth in fancied floods for virtue's sake,
niie print is sorrowfully dyked and dammed.
But shows where fain the unbridled force

would flow.
Finding a channel) — now shall this refresh
The thirsty donor with a drop or two !
Here has been truth at issue with a lie :
Let who gained truth the day have handso me

In his own prowess!

Eh? What ails the

** Well, it b over, ends as I foresaw :
Easily proved, Pompilia's innocence I
Catch them entrusting Guide's guilt to me
Who had. as usual, the plain truth to plead.
I alwm knew the clearness of the stream
Would show the fish so thoroughly, child might

The dnmsy^ monster : with no mud to splash.
Small credit to lynx-eye and lightning^pear I
This Guide (much sport he contrived to

Who at first twist, preamble of the cord.
Turned white, tola all, like the poltroon he

was!) —
Finished, as you expect, a penitent.
Fully confessed his crime, and made amends,
And, edifying Rome last Saturday,
Died like a saint, poor devil ! That 's the man
The i^ods still give to my antagonist :
Imagine how Areangeli daps wing
And crows I * Such formidable facts to &oe,
So niJced to attack, my client here.
And vet I kept a month the Fiso at bay.
And m the end had foiled him of the prize
By this arch-stroke, this plea of privilege.
But that the Pope must gratify his whim.
Put in his word, poor old man, — let it pass ! '
— Such is the cue to which all Rome responds.
What with the plain truth given me to uphold.
And, should I let truth slip, the Pope at Land
To pick up, steady her on le^ again.
My office turns a pleasantry indeed !
Not that the burly boaster did one jot
O' the little was to do — young Spreti's work !
But for him, — manikin and dandiprat.
Mere candle-end and inch of devemees
Stuck on Arcangeli's save-allt — but for him
The spruce young Spreti, what is bad were

worse !

** I looked that Rome should have the natuzal

At advocate with case that proves itself ;
I knew Areangeli would |n^ and brag :
But what say you to one impertinence
Might move a stone ? That monk, yon are to

That barefoot Augustinian whose report
O* Uie dying womiui's words did detriment
To my l>est points it took the freshness from,
— Hiat meddler preached to purpose yesterday
At San Lorenzo as a winding-up

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O* the show whioh proved a treasure to the

Out comes his sermon smokingr from the press :
Its text — * Let God be tme, and eyery man
A Uar ' — and its application, this.
The lonffest-windea of the paragraphs,
I straight nnstitoh, tear ont and treat yon

*Ti8 piping hot and posts through Rome to-
Remember it, as I engage to do I

** But if you rather be disposed to see
In the result of the long trial here. —
This dealing doom to guilt and doling praise
To innocency, — any proof that truth
May look for yindioation from the world,
Much will you have misread the signs, I say.
God, who seems aoouiesoent in the main
With those who add *' So will he ever sleep ' —
Flutters their foolishness from time to time,
Puts forth his right-hand recognizably ;
Even as, to fools who deem he needs must right
Wrong on the instant, as if earth were heaven,
He wakes remonstrance — * Passive, Lord,

how lon^ ? '
Because Pompilia's purity prevails.
Conclude you, all truth triumphs in the end ?
So might those old inhabitants of the ark,
Witnessing haply their dove's safe return.
Pronounce there was no danger, all the while
O* the deluge, to the creature's counterparts^
Aught that beat wing i' the world, was white

or soft,—
And that the lark, the thrush, the culver too.
Might equally have traversed air, found earth,
Ai^ brought back olive-branch in unharmed


Methinks I hear the Patriarch's warning
voice —

* Though this one breast, by miracle, return.
No wave rolls by, in all the waste, but bears
Within it some dead dove-like thing as dear.
Beauty made blank and hanuMssness de-
stroyed ! '

How manv chaste and noble sister-fames
Wanted the extricating hand, so lie
Strangled, for one Pompilia proud above
The welter, plucked from the world's calumny.
Stupidity, simplicity, — who cares ?

** Romans I An elder race possessed your land
Xjong aeo, and a false faith fingered still,
As shades do, though the morning-star be out.
Doubtless some pagan of the twilight-day
Has often pointed to a caTcm-mouth,
Obnoxious to beholders, hard by Rome,
And said, — nor he a bad man, no, nor fool, —
Only a man bom blind like all his mates, —

* Here skulk in si^ety, lurk, defying law.
The devotees to execrable creed.

Adoring — with what culture . . . Jove, avert
Thy vengeance from us worshippers of

thee I . . .
What rites obscene — their idol-god an Ass I '
So went the word forth, so acceptance found,
So century re-echoed century.

Cursed the accursed, — and so,, from sire to

Ton Romans cried, *The o£beourings of our

Corrupt within the depths there : fitly fiends
Perform a temple-service o'er the dead :
Child, gather garment round thee, pass nor

Thus groaned your generations : till the time
Grew ripe, and lightniiuf had revealed, belike,—*
Through crevice peepea into by curious fear, —
Some object even fear could recognize
I' the place of spectres : on the illnmined wall.
To wit, some nook, tradition talks about.
Narrow and short, a corpse's length, no more :
And by it, in the aue receptacle.
The Ume rude brown lamp of earthenware.
The cruse, was meant for flowers, but now held

The rough-scratched palm-branch, and the

lefl[end left
Pro Chrtsto, Then the mjrstery lay dear :
The abhorred one was a martyr all the time.
Heaven's saint whereof earth was not worthy.

Do you continue in the old befief ?
Where blackness bides unbroke, must devils

Is it so certain not another cell
O' the myriad that make up the catacomb,
Contuns some saint a second flash would show ?
Will you ascend into the light of day
And, having reco|cnized a martyr's shrine,
€k> ioin the votaries that gape around
Each vulgar god that awes the market-place ?
Are these the objects of your praising ? See I
In the outstretched right hand of Apollo, there,
lies screened a scorpion: housed amid the

Of Juno's mantle lurks a centipede I
£^h statue of a god were fitfier styled
Demon and devil. Glorify no brass
That shines like burnished gold in noonday

For fools I Be otherwise instructed, yon !
And preferably ponder, ere ye judge.
Each incident of this strange human play
Privily acted on a theatre
That seemed secure from every gaze but

God's, -
Till, of a sudden, earthquake laid wall low
And let the world perceive wild work inside,
And how, in petrifaction of surprise.
The actors stood, — raised arm and planted

foot, —
Mouth as it made, eye as it evidenced,
Despairing shriek, triumphant hate, — trans-
Both he who takes and she who yields the life*

** As ve become spectators of this scene —

Watch obscuration of a pearl-pure fame

By vapory films, enwoven circumstance,

— A soul made weak by its pathetic want

Of just the first apprenticeship to sin.

Which thenceforth makes the sinning soul

From all foes save itself, soul's tmUest foe, ~

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Sinee tgg turned snake needs fear no ser-

As ye behold this web of oireamstanoe
Deepen the more for eyery thrill and throe,
ConvnlsiTe effort to disperse the films

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 119 of 198)