Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Style an adventure, stranger than mv first
By so much as the issue it enwombea
Lurked big beyond Balanstion's littleness ?
Second supreme adventure 1 O that Spring,
That eve I told the earlier to my friends !
Where are the four now, with each red-ripe

Crumpled so close, no quickest breath it fetched
Coula disengage the lip^flower furled to bud
For fear Admetos — snivering head and foot,
As with sick soul and blind averted face
He trusted hand forth to obev his friend —
Should find no wife in her cold hand*s response,
Nor see the disenshrouded statue start
Alkeetis, live the life and love the love I
I wonder, does the streamlet ripple still.
Out-smoothing galingale and watermiut
Its mat-fioor r while at brim, 'twixt sedge and

What bnbblings past Baooheion, broadened

Pricked by the reed and fretted by the fly.
Oared by the boatman-sinder^s pair of arms I
Lenaaa was a gladsome month ago —
Euripides haataught ^^Andromed^ : "
Next month, would teach ** Kresphontes *' —

which same month
Some one from Phokis, who companioned me
Since all that happened on those temple-steps.
Would marry me and turn Athenian too.
Now I if next year the masters let the slaves
Do Bacchic service and restore mankind
That trilogy whereof, *t is noised, one play
Presents ^e Bacchai, — no Euripides
Will teach the chores, nor shall we be tinged
By any such grand sunset of his soul.
Exiles from dead Athenai, — not the live
That 's in the cloud there with the new-bom


Speak to the infinite intelligence.
Sing to the everlasting sympathy !
Winds belly sail, and drencn of dancing brine
BufFet our boat-side, so the prore bound free I
Condense our voyage into one great day
Made up of sunset-closes : eve hy eve,
R<^ume that memorable night-discouise
When ~ like some meteor^brilliance, fire and

Or say, his own Amphitheos, deit^
And dung, who, bound on the goos' embassage.
Got men^ acknowledgement in Kick and cuff —
We made acquaintance with a visitor
Ominous, appari Jonal, who went
Strange as he came, but shall not pass away.
Let us attempt that memorable talk,
Clothe the adventure's every incident
With due expression : may not looks be told.
Gesture made speak, and speech so amplified
That words find blood-warmth which, cold*
writ, they lose ?

Recall the night we heard the news from

One year ago, Athenai still herself.

We two were sitting silent in the house.
Yet cheerless hardly. Enthuklee, f orgire I
1 somehow speak to unseen auditors.
Not j/ou, but — Euthukles had entered, grayet.
Grand, may I say, as who brings laurel-braDcn
And message from the triped : such it proved.

He first removed the garland from his brow,
Then took my hand ttod looked into my face.

"Speak good words!" much misgiving fal-
tered L

**Good words, the best, Balaustion! He is

Gone with his Attic ivy home to feast.
Since Aischulos required companionship.
Pour a libation for Euripides i '*

When we had sat the heavier silence out —
** Dead and triumphant still I *' began replv
To my eve*s question. "As he willed, he

worked :
And, as he worked, he wanted not, be sure.
Triumph his whole life through, submitting

To work's right jud^, never to the wrong.
To competency, not ineptitude.
When he had run life's proper race and worked
Quite to the stade's end, there remained to try
The stade's turn, should strength dare the

double course.
Half the diaulos reached, the hundred plays
Accomplished, force in its rebound sufficed
To lift along tne athlete and ensure
A second wreath, proposed by fools for first.
The statist's olive as the poet's bav. ^
Wiselier, he suffered not a twofola aim
lietard his pace, confuse his sight ; at once
Poet and statist ; though the multitude
Girded him ever * All thine aim thine art ?
The idle poet only ? No regard
For civic duty, public service, here ?
We drop our bailot-bean for Sophokles I
Not only could he write ** Antigon^,"
But — smoe (we argued) whoso penned that

AGght just as well conduct a squadron,-^

Gk>od-naturedly he took on him command;
Got laughed at, and went back to making playsi

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Having allowed us our exi>eriment
Beepecting the fit use of faoultv.'
No whit the more did athlete slaoken ^Nuse.
Soon the jeers grew : * Cold hater of his kind,
A sea-cave suits him, not the^ vulgar hearth 1
What need of tonc[ue-talk, with a bookish store
Would stock ten cities ? ' Shadow of an ass 1
No whit the worse did athlete touch the mark
And, at the turning-point, consign his scorn
O* the scomers to that final trilogy

* Hu|peipule,' * Phoinissai^' and the Match
Of Life Contemplative with Active Life,
Zethos against Amphion. Ended so ?
Nowise 1 — began again : for heroes rest
Dropping shield*s oval o'er the entire man^
And he who thus took Contemplation's prize
Turned stade-point but to face Activitv.
Out of all shadowy hands extending help

For life's decline pledged to youth's labor

Whatever renovation flatter age, —
Society with pastime, solitude
With peace, — he chose the hand that gave the

Bade Macedonian Archelaos take
The leavings of Athenai, ash once flame.
For fifty politicians' frosty work.
One poet's ash proved ample and to spare :
He propped the state and filled the treasury,
OounseUedthe king as might a meaner soul.
Furnished the friend with what shall stand in

Of crown and sceptre, star his name about
When these are dust ; for him. Euripides
Last the old hand on the old phorminx flung,
Clashed thence ^Alkaion,' maddened *Pen-

theus' up;
Then music signed itself away, one moan
Iphigeneia made by Aulis' strand ;
With her and music died Euripides.

** The poet-friend who followed him to Thrace,
Agathon, writes thus much : the merchant-
Moreover brin^ a message from the king
To young Eunpides, who went on board
This morning at Mounuchia : all is true."

I said ** Thank Zeus for the great news and

** Nay, the report is running in brief fire
Through the town's stubbly furrow," he re-
— ** Entertains brightly what their favorite

• The City of Ckipers ' for a week perhaps.
Supplants three luminous tales, but yesterday
Pronounced sufficient lamps to last the month :
How Glauketes, outbidding Morsimos,

Pud market-price for one Kopaic eel

A thousand drachmai, and then cooked his

Not proper conger-fashion but in oil
And nettles, as man fr^es the foam-fish-kind ;
How all the captains of the triremes, late
"Victors at Argmousai, on return
Will, for retuni, be straightway put to death ;

How Mikon wagered a Thessalian mime
Trained him by Xais, looked on as complete.
Against Leogoras' blood-mare koppa-maiked.
Valued six talents, — swore, accomplished so.
The girl could swallow at a draught, juat

A choinix of unmixed Mendesian wine ;
And having lost the match will — dine on

Three stories late aflame, at once extinct,
Outblaxed by just * Euripides is dead ' 1 '

** I met tiie concourse from the Theatre,
The audience flocking homeward: victory
Again awarded Aristophanes
Precisely for his old play chopped and

*The FemiQe Celebrators of the Feast' —
That Thesmophoria, tried a second time.
* Never such rnll sucoeis ! ' — assured the folk.
Who yet stopped praising to have word of mouUi
With *" Euthnkles, the bard's own intimate,
Balaustion's husban^, the right man to ask.'

** * Dead, yes, but how dead, may acquaintance

Ton were the couple constant at his cave :
Tell us now, is it true that women, moved
By reason of his liking Krateros ' . . .

** I answered * He was loved by Sokrates.'

** * Nay,' said another, * envy did the work I
For, emulating poets of the place.
One Arridaios, one Kratenea, both
Established in the royal favor, these ' . . .

** * Protagoras instructed him,' said I.

***PAt<,' whistled Comic Platon, *hear the

fact I
'T was well said of your friend by Sophokles,
** He hate our women ? In lus verse, belike.
But when it comes to prose-work, — ha, ha,

New climes don't change old manners: so, it

Pursuing an intrigue one moonless night
With Arethousian Nikodikos' wife,
(Come now, his years were simply seventy-
Crossing the palace-court, what haps he on
But Archelaos' |>ack of hungry hounds ?
Who tore him piecemeal ere lus cry brought

''lasked: Did not you write * The Festivals ' ?
Tou bf st know what dog tore him when alive.
Tou others, who now make a ring t4> hear.
Have not you just enjoyed a second treat,
Proclaiined thiM; ne'er was play more worthy

Than this, myself assisted at, last year.
And gave its worth to, — spitting on the same ?
Appraise no i>oetry. — price cuttlefish,
Or that seaweed-alphestes, scorpion-sort,
Much famed for mixing mud with fantasy
On midnights I I interpret no foul dreams."

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If 8o said Enthnkles. so oonld not I,
Balanstioii, say. After ** Losistrat^ "
No more for me of **people*8 privilege,"
No witneaaiiig: ** the Grand old Comedy
Coeyal with onr freedom, which, curtailed.
Were freedom's deathblow : relic of the past.
When Virtue laughingrly told truth to Vice,
Unoensured, since the stem mouth, stuffed with

Through poetey breathed satire, perfumed blast
Whidr sense snuffed up while searched unto

the bone ! "
I was a stranger: **For first joy," urged

** Go hear our Comedy, some patriot piece
That plies the selfish advocates of war
With argument so unevadable
That cra^ fall Kleons whom the finer plajy
Of reason, tickling, deeper wounds no whit
Than would a spear-thrust from a savo^-fltalk I
No: you hear knave and fool told crime and

And see each scourged hi^ quantity of stripes.
* Rough dealing, awkward language,* whine

our fops :
The worid *8 too squeamish now to bear plain


r deeds it acts with eust enough :
IB to wine-lees and aemocracy.
We 've still our stage where truth calls spade a

spade I
Ashamed ? Phuromachos' decree provides
The sex may sit discreetly, witness all.
Sorted, the good with good, the gay with gay,
Themselves unseen, no need to force a blush.
A Rhodian wife and ignorant so long ?
Go hear next play I *'

Waves, said to wash pollution from the world.
Take that plague-memory, cure that pustule

As, past escape, I sat and saw the piece
By one appalled at Phaidra's fate, — the chaste.
Whom, because chaste, the wicked goddess

To that same serpent of unchastil^
She loathed most, and who, coiled so, died dis-
Rather than make submission, loose one limb
Love-wards, at lambency of honeyed tongue.
Or torture of the scales which scraped her snow
— I say, the inece by him who charged this piece
because Euripides shrank not to teach.
If gods be strong and wicked, man, though

May ^rove their match by willing to be good)
With infamies the Scythian's whip should cure —
** Such outrage done the public — Phaidra

Such purpose to corrupt ingenuous youth.
Such insult cast on female character I " —
Why, when I saw that bestiality —
So beyond all brute-beast imagining.
That when, to point the moralat the dose,
Poor Salabaocho, just to show how fair
Was ** Reconciliation," stripped her channs.
That exhibition simply bade us breathe,

Seemed something healthy and commendable
After obscenity grotesqued so much
It slunk away revoltea at itself.
Henceforth I had my answer when our sage
Pattern-proposing seniors pleaded grave,
** Ton fad to &thom here the deep design t
All 's acted in the interest of truth.
Religion, and those manners old and dear
Which made our city mat when citizena
Like Aristeides and like Miltiades
Wore each a golden tettix in his hair."
What do they wear now under — Kleophon ?

WelL for such reasons, — I am out of breath.
But loathsomeness we needs must hurry past, — '
I did not go to see, nor then nor now.
The ** Thesmophoriazousai." But, since males
Choose to brave first, blame afterward, nor

Without fair taste of what they stigmatize,
Euthukles had not missed the first diq>lay.
Original portrait of Euripides
By^* "N^rtue laughingly reproving Vice : "
** Virtue," — the author, Aristoj^ianes,
Who mixed an image out of his own depths.
Ticketed as I tell you. Oh, this time
No more pretension to recondite worth I
No joke in aid of Peace, no demagogue
PuiHpelleted from Pkiux, no kordax-danee
Overt helped covertly the Ancient Faith I
All now was muck, home^roduoe, honestman
The author's soul secreted to a play
Which gained the prize that di^y we heard the


I thought ** How thoroughly death alters things !
Where is the wrong now, done our dead and

How natural seems grandeur in relief.
Cliff-base with frothy spites against its calm ! '*

Euthukles interposed — he read my thought —

** O'er them, too, in a moment came the change.

The crowd 's enthusiastic, to a man :

Since, rake as such may please the ordure-heap

Because of certain sparkles presumed ore.

At first flash of true lightning overiiead,

Thejr look up, nor resume their search too soon.

The insect-scattering sign is evident.

And nowhere winks a firefly rival now.

Nor bustles anv beetle of the brood

With trundled dung^ball meant to menaoe

Contrariwise, the cry is * Honor him ! '
* A statue in the theatre I ' wants one ;
Another * Bring the poet's body back,
Bury him in Peiraios : o'er his tomb
Let Alkamenes carve the music-witch.
The songstress-siren, meed of melody :
Thoukudides invent his epitaph I '
To-night the whole town pays its tribute thus."

Our tribute should not be the same, my friend 1
Statue ? Within our heart he stood, he stands I
As for the vest ontcrown now by the form.
Low flesh that clotned high soul, — a vesture's

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Why, let it lade, mix with the elements
There where it, falling, freed Euripides !
Bnt for the soid that *8 tntelary now
Till time end, o'er the world to teaoh and bless —
How better hail its freedom than by first
Singinff, we two, its own song back again.
Up to that face nom which flowed beauty — face
Now abler to see triumph and take love
Than when it glorified Athenai once ?

The sweet and strange Alkestis, which saved

Secured me — 3rou, ends nowise, to my^ mind,
In pardon of Admetos. Hearts are fain
To fbUow cheerful wearr Herakles
Striding away from the huge gratitude.
Club shouldered, lion-fleece round loin and flank.
Bound on the next new labor " height o'er height
Ever surmounting, — destiny's decree I "
Thither He helps us : that 's the story's end ;
He smiling said so, when I told him mine —
My great adventure, how Alkestis helped.
Afte^ard, when the time for parting fell.
He gave me, with two other precious gifts,
This third and best, oonsummatiiff the pace,
** Herakles," writ by his own hand, eaob line.

'*If it have worth, reward is still to seek.
Somebody, I foiset who, ^:ained the prise
And proved aron-poet : tune must show I '* he

** Take this, and, when the ndse tires out, judge

me —
Some day, not slow to dawn, when somebody ~
Who? I forget — proves nobody at all ! "

Is not that day come ? What if you and I
Re-sing the song, inaugurate the fame ?
We have not waited to acquaint ourselves
With songand subject ; we can prologize
How, at Eurustheus' bidding, — hate strained

hard, —
Herakles had departed, one time more.
On his Ihst labor, worst of all the twelve ;
Descended into Haides, thence to drae
Hie triple-headed hound, which sun should see
Spite <n the god whose darkness whelped the

Down went the hero, **baok — how should he

So laughed King Lukos, an old enemy.
Who judged that absence testified defeat
Of the land's loved one, — since he saved the

And for that service wedded Meg^ara
Daughter of Thebai, realm her child should rule.
Ambition, greed and malice seized their prey.
Hie Heracleian House, defenceless left.
Father and wife and child, to trample out
Trace of its hearth-fire : since extreme old a^
Wakes pity, woman's wrong -^ios championship,
And child may grow up man and take revenge.
Hence see we that, from out their palace-home
Hunted, for last resource thev duster now
Couohea on the cold ground, hi^ess supnlicants
About their courtryanl altar, — Household Zens
It IS, the Three in funeral garb beseech.
Delaying death so, till deUveraaoe come—


When did it ever ? — from the deep and dark.
And thus breaks sileilse old Amphitruon's

voice. . . .
Say I not true thus far, my Euthukles ?

Suddenly, toreh-li^t I knoddne at the door.
Loud, quick, ** Admittance for the revels'

Some unintelligible Eomos-cij —
RaM>:fleMh red^ no cap upon Ats he€ui,
DionusoSj Bcuxkps^ PhaU$y JacchoSj
In let him reel with the kid-tkin at hts heel^
Where it buriet in the spread qf the huehy myrtle^

(Our Rhodian Jackdaw-song was sense to that I)
Then lau^tw, outbursts ruder and more rude.
Through which, with silver point, a fluting

And ever ** Open, open, Bacchos bids I "

But at last — one authoritative word.
One name of an immense significance :
For Euthukles rose up, threw wide the door.

There trooped the Choros of the Comedy
Crowned and triumphant; first, those flushed

Men that wore women's garb, grotesque disguise.
Then inarched the Three, — who played Mnesi-

Who, Toxotes, and who, robed right, masked

Monkeyed our G^reat and Dead to heart's content
That morning in Athenai. Masks were down
And robes doffed now ; the sole disguise was


Mixing with these — I know not what gay crowd,
GirKdancers, flute-boys, and pre-eminent
Among them, — doubtless draped with such re-

As stopped fear of the fiftv-drachma fine
(Beside one's name on public fig-tree nailed)
Which women pay who in tiie streets walk

bare, —
Behold Elaphion of the Persic dance !
Who lately had frisked fawn-foot, and the rest,
— All for the Patriot Cause, the Antique Faith,
The Conservation of True Poesy —
Could I but penetrate the deep design I
Elaphion, more Peiraios-known as Phm,"
Tripped at the head of the whole banauet-band
Who came in front now, as the first fell back ;
And foremost — the authoritative voice,
The revels4eader, he who gained the prise.
And got the priory of the iGtshon's feast —
There stood m person Aristophanes.

And no ignoble presence ! On the bulge

Of the clear baldness, — all his head one brow, —

True, the veins swelled, blue network, and

there surged
A red from cheek to temple. — then retired
As if the dark-leaved cnaplet damped a

flame, —
Was never nursed by temperance or health.
But huge the eyebaOs rolled back native fire,
Imperiously triumphant : nostrils wide

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Waited their ineense ;^while the pursed moath^s

Aggressive, while the heak supreme above,
WMle the head, face, nay, pillared throat

thrown back,
Beard whitening under like a vinous foam,
These made a glory, of such insolence —
I thought, — such domineering deity
Hephaistos might have carved to cut the brine
For his gay brother*s prow, imbrue that path
Which, purpling, ^co^zed the conqueror.
Impudent and majestic : drunk, perhaps.
But that 's religion ; sense too plainly snuffed :
Still, sensuality was grown a rite.

What I had disbelieved most proved most true.

lliere was a mind here, mind arwantoning

At ease of undisputed mastery

Over the body's brood, those appetites.

Oh, but he grasped them grandlv, as the god

His either struggling handful, — burtless snakes

H^d deep down, strained hard off from side

and side I
Masteiy his, theirs simplv servitude.
So well oonld firm fist help intrepid eye.
Fawning and fulsome, had they licked and

At mandate of one mnsde, order reigned.
They had been wreathing much familiar now
About him on his entry ; but a squeeze
Choked down the pests to place: their lord

stood free.

Forward he stepped : I rose and fronted him.

'' Hul, house, the friendly to Euripides ! "

(So he began) ** Hail, each inhabitant I

Ton, lady? What, the Rhodian ? Form and

Victory's self npsoaring to receive
The poet ? Right they named you . . . some

rich name.
Vowel-buds thomed about with consonants,
Fragrant, felicitous, roee-glow enriched
By the Isle's unguent : some diminished end
In ion, Kallistion ? delicater still,
Knbelion or Melittion, — or, suppose
(Less vulgar love than bee or violet)
Phibalion. for the mouth n>lit red-figp-wise,
Korakinidion for the coal-black hair,
Nettarionj Phabion for the darlingness ?
But no, it was some fruit-flower, Rhoidion

... ha,
We near the balsam-bloom — Balaustion I

Rhodes! Folk have called me Rhodian, do

you know ?
Not fools so far ! Because, if Helios wived,
As Pindaros sings somewhere prettilv,
Here blooms his offspring, earth-flesh with sun-
Rhodes' blood and Helios' gold. My phorminx,

boy !
Why does the boy hang back and balk an ode
Tiptoe at spread of wint? ? But like enough.
Sunshine frays torchlight. Witness whom you

Superb Balaustion ! Look outside the house !

Pho^ yon have quenched my Komos by first

Struck dead all ioyance : not a fluting puffs
From idle cheekoand I Ah, mv Choros too?
Ton 've eaten cuckoo-apple ? Dumb, you

So much good Thasiaa wasted on your throats
And out of them not one Threttanelo f
Neblaretai ! Because this earth-and-snn
Product looks wormwood and all bitter herbs?
Well, do I blench, though me she hates the most
Of mortals? By the cabbage, off they slink I
You, too, my Ghrusomelolonthion-Phape.
Oirl-goldling-beetle-beanty ? You, abasned.
Who late, supremely unabashable.
Propped up my play at that important point
When Artamouzia tricks the Tozotes?
Ha, ha, — thank Hermes for the ludky

We came last comedy of the whole seven.
So went all fresh to judgment well-dispoeed
For who should fatly feast them, eye and ear.
We two between us! What, you fail yonr

Away then, free me of your cowardice !
Go, ^t you the goat's breakfast ! Fare afield.
Ye circumcised of Egypt, pigs to sow.
Back to the Priest's or forward to the crows,
So you but rid me <A such company I
Once left alone, I can protect myself
From statuesque Balaustion pedestalled
On much disapprobation and mistake I
She dares not beat the sacred brow, beside I
Bacchos' equipment, ivy safeguards well
As Phoibos^ bay.

'* They take me at my word !

One comfort is, I shall not want them lon^.

The Archon's cry creaks, creaks, * Curtail ex-
pense I'

The war wants money, year the twenty-sixth !

Cut down our Choros number, clip costume.

Save birds' wings, beetles' armor, spend the

In three-crest skull-caps, three days' salt^fisk-

Three-banked-ships for these sham-ambasBa-

And what not : any cost but Comedy's !

* No Choros ' — soon will follow ; what care I ?
Archinos and Agnrrhios, scrape your flint,
Flay your dead dog, and curry favor so!
Choros in rags, with loss of leather next.

We lose the bo^' ^^^ ^^'^ ^® ^ong and dance,
Lose my Elapmon ! Still, the actor stays.
Save but mj acting, and Uie baldhead bard
Kudathenaian and Pandionid,
Son of Philippos, Aristophanes
Surmounts his rivals now as heretofore.
Though stinted to mere sober pro^ verse —

* Manners and men,' so squeamish gets the

world !
No more * Step forward, strip for anapsests ! '
No calling naughty people by their names,
No tickling audience into gratitude
With chickpease, barleygroats and nuts and

No setting Salabaccho " . . •

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Ab I turned —

** True, lad:^, I am tolerably drunk :

The proper inspiration I Otherwise, —

PhrunicnoB, Choirilos ! — had Aisohulos

So foiled you at the goat-song ? Drink 's a

How else did that old doating driyeUer
Kratinos foil me, match my masterpiece
The * Clouds ' ? I swallowed doud-distilment

— dew
Undimmed by any grape-blush, knit mv brow
And gnawed my style and laughed my learned-

est *
While he worked at his * Willow-wicker-flask,'
Swigging at that same flask by which he swore,
Till, sing and empty, sing and fill asain,
Somehow result was — what it should not be
Next time, I promised him and kept my word I
Hence, brimfid now of Thasian . . . I *U be

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 126 of 198)