Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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64S



*^ ISo played the Poet, with his man of parts ;

And all the othexs, found unqualified

To mount oart and be persons, made the mob.

Joined ohoros. fortified their feUows' fun.

Anticipated the community.

Gave jadgment which the public ratified.

Suitincp roufirh weapon doabtless to plain truth.

They flung, for word-artillery, why — filth ;

StiU, folks who wiped the unsavory salute

lSx>m visage, would prefer the meeaj^ to wit —

Steel, poked through midriff with a civil

speech.
As now the way is : then, the kindlier mode
Was — drub not stab, rib-roast not scarify !
So did Sousarion introduce, and so
Did I, acceding, find the Comic Art :
Club, — if 1 call it, — notice what 's implied I
An engine proper for rou^h chastisemeatt.
No downright slaying : with impunity —
Provided crabtree, steeped in oily joke.
Deal only such a bruise as laughter cures.
I kept the gained advantapre : stickled still
For dub -law — stout fun and allowanced

thumps:
Knocked in each knob a crevice to hold joke
As fig-leaf holds the fat-fry.

'' Next, whom thrash ?
Onlv the coarse fool and the clowmsh knave ?
Higher, more artificial, composite
OSeaoe should prove my prowess, eye and arm I
Not who robs henroost, tells of untaxed figs.
Spends all his substance on stowed ellops-nsh.
Or gives a pheasant to his neighbor's wife :
NoT strike malpractice that imeots the Stato,
Hie conmion weal — intriguer or poltroon,
Venality, corruption, what care 1
If shrewd or witless merelv ? — so the thing
Lay sap to aught that made Athenai bright
And happy, cnange her customs, lead astray
Touth or age, pJaT the demagogue at Pnux,
The sophist in Talaistra, or — what 's worst.
As widest nuschief , — from the Theatre
Preach innovation, bring contempt on oaths.
Adorn licentiousness, despise the Cult.
Are such to be my game ? Why, then there

wants
Qnito other cunning than a cudgel-sweep I
Grasp the old stout stock, but new tip with

steel
Each boss, if I would bray — no callous hide
Simj^y, but Lamachos in coat of proof.
Or Kleon cased about with imnuaence I
Shaft pushed no worse whue point pierced

sparkling so
That none smiled * Sportive, what seems sav-

agest,
— Innocuous anger, spitdess rustic mirth I '
Tet spiteless in a sort, considered well.
Since I pursued my warfare till each wound
Went through the mere man, reached the prin-
ciple
Worth purging from Athenai. Lamachos ?
No, I attacked war's representetive ;
Kleon f No, flattery oi the populace ;
Sokratee ? No, but that pemidous seed
Of sophists whereby hopetul youth is taught
To jaober argument, chop logic, pore



On sun and moon, and worship Whiriigig.
Oh, your tragedian, with the lofty grace.
Aims at no other and effects as inuch ?
Candidly: what 's a polished period worth.
Filed curt sententiousness of loaded line.
When he who deals out doctrine, primly steps'
From just that selfsame moon he maunders of.
And, blood-thiimed by his pallid nutriment.
Proposes to rich ef^th-blood — purity ?
In me, 't was equal-balanced flc»h rebuked
Excess alike in stuff-guts Glauketes
Or starveling Chairepnon ; I challenged both,—
Strong understander of our common life,
I urged sustainment of humanity.
Whereas when your tragedian cries up Peace —
He Js silent as to dieese-cakes Peace may chew ;
Seeing throng rabble-rule, he shuts his eye
To what were better done than crowding

Pnux —
That's dance * Threttanelo, the Euklops

drunki'

** My power has hardly need to vaunt itself I
Opposers peep and mutter, or speak plain :

* No naming: names in Comedy 1 votes one,

* Nor vilifying live folk I ' legislates
Another, urge amendment on the dead I *

* Don't tnrow away hard cash,' supplies a third.

* But crib from actor's dreoses. choros-treats I '
Then Kleon did his best to bully me :

Called me before the Law Court: ^Suohaplay
Satirised dtizens with strangers there.
Such other,' — whv, its fault was in myself I
I was, this time, the stranger, privileged
To act no pla^ at all, — E^rptun, I —
Rhodiaa or Kameirensian. Aigiiiete,
liindian, or any foreigner ne luLcd —
Because I can't write Attic, probably I
Go ask my rivals, — how they roughed my

fleece.
And how, shorn pink themsdves, the huddled

sheep
Shiver at distance from the snapping shears I
Why must they needs provoke me ?

** All the same.
No matter for my triumph, I foretell ^
Subddenoe of the day-star : quench his beams ?
No Aias e'er was equal to the feat
By throw of shield, tough-hided seven times

seven,
'Twixt sky and earth ! 'tis dullards soft and

sure
Who breathe against his brightest, here a sigh
And there a * So let be, we pardon you ! '
Till the minute mist hangs a block, has tamed
Noonblaze to * twilight mild and equable,'
Vote the old women spinning out of doors.
Give me the earth-spasm, when the lion ramped
And the bull gendered in the brave gdd flare I
Oh, yon shall have amusement, — better still.
Instruction 1 no more horse-play, naming names.
Taxing the fancy when plam sense willserve I
Theanon, now, my friend who bakes you bread.
What's worthier limning than his nousehdd

life?
His whims and ways, his quarrels with the

spouse.



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646



ARISTOPHANES' APOLOGY



And how the son, instead of learningr knead
Kilikian loaves, brings heartbreak on his sire
By buying horseflesh branded 6'an, each flank.
From shrewd Menippos who imports the ware :
While pretty daughter Kepph^ too much haunts
The shop of Sporgilos the barber ! brave I
Out with Thearion*8 meal-tub politics
In lieu of Pisthetairos, IStrepsiades I
That *s your exchange ? O Muse of Megara !
Advise the fools ' Feed babe on weasel-lap
For wild-boar'' 8 marrow^ Cheiron's hero-pap.
Ami rear ^ for man — Aripkrades, mayhap I '
Tes, my balaustion, yes, my Euthukles,
That *s your exchange, — who, foreigners in fact
And fancy, would impose your sqneamishness
On sturdy health, ana substitute such brat
Pur the right offspring of us Rooky Ones,
Because babe kicks the cradle, — crows, not
mewls I

** Which brings me to the prime fault, poison-
speck
Whence all the plague springs — that first feud

of all
^Twixt me and you and your Euripides.
* Unworld the world,* frowns he, my opposite.
I cry, * Life I ' * Death,* he groans, ' our better

Life!'
Despise what is — the good and grasnable,
Prefer the out of sight and in at mind.
To village-iov, the well-side violet-patch.
The jolly club-f east when our field ^s in soak,
Roast thrushes, hare-soup, pea-soup, deep

washed down
With Peparethian ; the prompt paying off
That black-eyed brown-skinned oountry-fla-

Yored wench
We caught among^ our brushwood foraging :
On these look fig^jnioe, curdle up life's cream,
And fall to magnifying miserjr I
Or. if you condescend to happiness,
Wh^, talk, talk, talk about the empty name
While thing's self lies neglected 'neath your

nose!
J need particular discourtesy^
And pnvate insult from Euripides
To render contest with him credible ?
Say, all of me is outraged I one stretched sense,
I represent the whole Republic, — gods.
Heroes, priests. legislators, poets, — prone.
And pummelled into insignificance.
If will in him were matched with power of

stroke;
For see what he has changed or hoped to

change !
How few years since, when he begftn the fight,
Did there beat life indeed Athenai through I
Plenty and peace, then ! Hellas thundersmote
The rersian. He himself had birth^ you say.
That mom salvation broke at Salamis,
And heroes still walked earth. Themistokles —
$11 rely his mere back-stretch of hand could still
Find, not so lost in dark, Odnaseus? — he
Holding as surely on to Herakles, —
Who touched Zens, link by link, the unrup-
tured chain !
Were poets absent ? Aischulos might hail —
With Pindaros, Theognis, — whom for sire ?



Homeros' self, departed yesterday 1

While Hellas, saved and sung to, then and

thus, —
Ah, people, —ah, lost antiaue liberty I
We uvea, ourselves, undoubted lords of eartli :
Wherever olives flourish, com srields crop
To constitute our title — ours such land !
Outside of oil and breadstuff, — barbarism !
What need of conquest ? Let barbarians starve I
Devote our whole strength to our sole defence.
Content with peerless native products, home.
Beauty profuse in earth's mere sights and

sounds.
Such men, such women, and such gods their

eruard!
The gods ? he worshipped best who feared

them most,
And left their nature nninquired into,
— Nature ? their very names I pay reverence.
Do sacrifice for our {Mrt, theirs would be
To prove benignantest of playfellows.
With kindly humanism they countenanced
Our emulation of divine escapes
Through sense and soul : soul, sense are made

to use:
Use each, acknowledging its ^od the while I
Crush grape, dance, drmk, mdulge, for Bao-

chos' sake !
'T is Aphrodite's feast-day — frisk and fling.
Provided we observe our oaths, and house
Duly the stran^r : Zeus takes umbrage else !
Ah, the great tmie — had I been there to taste I
Perikles, right Olnmpian, — occupied
As yet with getting an Oiumpos reared
Marble and gold above Akropolis, -*-
Wisely so spends what thrif^ fools amassed
For cut-throat projects. Wno carves Proma-

chos?
Who writes the Oresteia?

'* Ah, the time!
For, all at once, a cloud has blanched the blueu
A cold wind creeps through the dose vine^ftrd-

rank,
The olive-leaves curl, violets crisp and dose
like a nymph's wrinkling at toe baUi's first

splash
On breast. (Your pardon !) There 's a restless

change.
Deterioration. Larks and nightingales
Are silenced, here and there a gornsrow grim
Flaps past, as scenting opportunity.
Where Kimon passaged to the Boul^ once,
A starveling crew, unkempt, unshorn, un-
washed.
Occupy altar-base and temple-step.
Are minded to indoctrinate our youth !
How call these carrion kill-joys that intrude ?
* Wise men,' their nomenclature I Prodikos—
Who scarce could, unassisted, pick his steps
From way Theseia to the Tripods' way, —
This empty noddle comprehends the sun, —
How he 's Aigina's bigness, wheels no whit
His way from east to west, nor wants a steed t
And here 's Protagoras sets wrongheads right.
Explains what virtue, vice, truth, faJsenood

mean,
Makes all we seemed to know prove ignorance



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64T



Tet knowledppe also, since, on either side
Of anj questionf something is to m^
Nothing to 'stablish, all things to custurb I
And shall youth go and play at kottaboa.
Leaving unsettled whether moon-spots breed ?
Or dare keep Choes ere the problem ^ssolred —
Why should I like my wife who dislikes me ?

* But sure the gods permit this, censure that ? *
So tell them I straight the answer *s in your

teeth:

* Tou relegate these points, then, to the gods ?
What and where are they ? ' What my sire

supposed.
And where yon doad conceals them I * Till

they 'scape.
And scramble down to Leda, as a swan,
Europa, as a bull I why not as — ass
To somebody ? Your sire was Zens peihi^is I
Either — away with such ineptitude !
Or, wanting enerey to break your bonds.
Stick to the goocTold stories, think the rain
Is — Zens distilling pickle through a sieve !
Think thunder's thrown to break Theoroe'

head
For breaking oaths first I Meanwhile let our-

seWes
Instruct your progeny you prate like fools
Of father Zeus, who^s but the atmosphere,
Brother Poseidon, otherwise called — sea.
And son Hephaistos — fire and nothing else I
Over which nothings there 's a something still,
** Necessity,'* that rules the universe
And cares as much about your Choe»-feast
Performed or intermitted, as you care
Whether gnats sound their trump from head or

taur

When, stupefied at such philosophy.
We cry, * Arrest the madmen, governor !
Pound hemlock and pour buU's-blood, Peri-

klesl'
Would you believe ? The Olumpian bends his

brow.
Scarce pauses ircm his building! *Say they

thus?
Then, thev say wisely. ^ Anazagoras,
I had not known how simple proves eclipse
But for thy teaching I GK>, fools, leam like me ! '

'Well, Zeus nods: man must reconcile him-
self,

2>o, let the Chaxon's-company harangue,

And Anazagoras be — as we wish !

A comfort is in nature : while ^rass grows

And water runs, and sesame pncks tongue.

And honey from Brilesian hollow melts

On mouth, and Baochis' flavorons lip beats
both,

Tou will not be untaught life's use, young man ?

PAo / My young man just proves that pan-
nieredass

Said to have borne Youth strapped on his stout
back,

With whom a serpent bargained, bade him swap

The priceless boon for — water to quench
thirst!

What's youth to my young man? In love
wiui age.

He Sportanizes, argues, fasts and frowns.



Denies the plainest rules of life. Ions: since
Proved sound ; sets all anthorily aside.
Must simply recommence things, learn ere act.
And think out thoroughly how youth should

pass-
Just as if youth stops passing, all the same I

** One last resource is left us— poetry I

* Vindicate nature, prove Plataian help.

Turn out, a thousand strong, all right and

ti^t,
To save Sense, poet ! Bang the sophist-brood
Would cheat man out of wholesome sustenance
By swearing wine is water, honey — i^ll,
Saperdion — the flmpousa I Panic-smit,
Our juveniles abstain from Sense and starve :
Be yours to disenchant them ! Change things

back I
Or better, strain a point the other way
And handsomely exaggerate wronged truth I
Lend wine a glory never gained from grape,
Help honey with a snatch of him we style
The Muses' Bee, baybloom-fed Sophokles,
And give Saperdion a Kimberic rone I '

** * I, his successor,' aruff the answer grunts,

* Incline to poetize philosophy.

Extend it rather than resteain ; as thus —
Are heroes men? No more, and scarce as

much,
Shall mine be represented. Are men poor ?
Behold them ragged, sick, lame, nalt and

bHndl
Do they use speech ? Ay, street-terms, market-

phrase!
Having thus drawn sky earthwards, what

comes next
But dare the opposite, lift earth to sky ?
Mere puppets once, I now make womankind,
For thinkine, sasring, doing, match the nude.
Lift earth? 1 drop to, dally with, earth's

dun^!
— Recognize in the very slave — roan's mate.
Declare nim brave and honest, kind and true.
And reasonable as lus losd, in brief.
I paint men as they are — so runs my boast —
Not as they should be : paint — what 's part of

man,
— Women and slaves, — not as, to please your

pride.
They should be, but your equals, as the^ are.
Oh, and the Gods I Instead of abject mien.
Submissive whisper, while my Choros cants,
" Zeus, — with thy cubit's length of attributes, —
May I, the ephemeral, ne'er scrutinize
Who made tne heaven and earth and all things

there!"
Msrself shall say . . . Ay, *Herakles' may

help!
Give me, — I want the very words, — attend ! "

He read. Then — " Murder 's out,— * There

arenoGbds,'
Man has no master, owns, by consequeooe.
No right, no wrong, except to please or placrue C
His nature : what man likes be man's sole mw
Still, since he likes Saperdion, honey, figs,
Man may reach freedom by your roundabout I



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648



ARISTOPHANES' APOLOGY



* Neyer believe younelyes the freer thence I
There are no pods, but there 's " Neceasity," —
Daty enioinedf yon, £act in figpent's pUoe,
Throned on no raoontain, native to the mind I
Therefore deny yonrselvee Saperdion, figs
And honey, for the sake of — what 1 dream,
A-fiitting with my legs up I *

** Infamy 1
The poet oasts in calm his lot with these
Assailants of Apollon I Sworn to serve
Each Graoe, the Furies call him minister —
He, who was bom for just that roseate world
Benounced so madly, where what's false is

fact,
Where he makes beauty out of ugliness.
Where he lives, life itMlf disguised for him
As immortality^ — so works the spell.
The enthusiastic mood which marks a man
Muse-mad, dreamrdrunken, wrapt around by

verse,
Encircled with poetic atmosphere,
As lark emballed by its own crystal sour.
Or rose enmisted by that scent it makes!
No, this were unrealitv ! the real
He wants, not falsenood, — truth alone he

Truth, for all beauty ! Beauty, in all truth —
That *s certain somehow I Must the eagle Ult
Lark-like, needs fiMree blossom rose-like?

No!
Strength and utility charm more than grace.
And what 's most uffly proves most beautif uL
"So much asBastanoe nom Euripides I

** Whereupon I betake me, since needs must.
To a concluding — * GK> and feed the crows I
I>o ! ^ Spoil your art as you renounce your life,
Poetize your so precious system, do.
Degrade the hero, nullify the god.
Exhibit women, slaves and men as peers, —
Tour castigation follows prompt enough I
When all *s concocted upstairs, heels o'erhead,
Down must submissive drop the masterpiece
Eor public praise or blame : so^pnuse away.
Friend Sokrates, wif eVfriend Keplusophon I
Boast innovations, cramp phrase, uncouth

song.
Hard matter and harsh manner, gods, men,

slaves
And women jumbled to a lau^iingr-stock
Which Hellas shall hold sides at lest she split 1
Hellas, on these, shall have her word to say I '

**She has it and she says it — there's the

curse! —
She finds he makes the shag^rag hero-race,
The noble slaves, wise women, move as much
Pity and terror as true tragic types :
Applauds inventiveness — the plot so new.
The turn and trick subsidiary so strange I
She relishes that homely phrase of life.
That common town-talk, more than trumpet-
blasts;
Accords him right to chop and change a myth :
What better right had he, who told the tale
Li the first instance, to embellish fact ?
This last may disembellish yet improve I



Both find a block : this man carves back to

bull
What first his predecessor cut to sphinx:
Such gCHiuine actual roarer, nature's brute,
Intelligible to our time, was sure
The old-world artist's purpose, had he worked
To mind; this both means and makes the

thing!
If, past dispute, the verse slips oily-bathed
In unctuous music ~ say, effeminate —
We also say, like Euthereia's self,
A lulling effluence which enswathes some isle
Where hides a nymph, not seen but felt the

more.
That's HeUas' verdict !

** Does Euripides
Even so iar absolved, remain content r
Nowise I His task is to refine, refine.
Divide, distinguish, subtilize away
Whatever seemed a solid planting^plaoe
For footfall, — not in that phantasmal sphere
Proper to poet, but on vulear earth
Where people used to tread with oonfidenoe.
There 's left no longer one plain positive
Enundation incontesteble
Of what is ^ood, right, decent here on earths
Nobodv now can say, * This plot is mine.
Though but a pletlmm square, — my duty 1 '^

'Yours?
Mine, or at least not yomrs,' snaps somebody I
And, whether the diroute be parent-right
Or children's service, nusband's privilege
Or wife's submission, there 's a snarling straight,
Smart passage of opposiiig ' vea ' and^ nay/
' Should,' * should not,' tul, howe'er the contest

end,
Spectators go off sighing * Clever thrust I
Why was 1 so much hurried to pay debt.
Attend my mother, sacrifice an ox.
And set my name down '' for a trireme, good " ?
Something 1 might have urged on t' other side !
No doubt, Ghresphontes or BeUerophon
We don't meet every dav ; but Stab-and-stitch
The tailor —ere I turn the drachmas o'er
I owe him for a chiton, as he thinks,
I 'U pose the blockhead with an aiffument 1 '

** So has he triumphed, your Euriindes !
Oh, I concede, he rarely gained a prize :
That 's quite another matter ! cause for that !
Still, when 't was got by Ions, lophons.
Off he would pace confoundedly superb.
Supreme, no smile at movement on his mouth
Till Sokrates winked, whispered: out it broke!
And Aristullos jotted down the jest.
While lophons or Ions, bay on brow.
Looked qneerly, ana the foreigners — like

you —
Asked o'er the border with a puzzled snoile,
— * And so, vou value Ions, Ic^hons,
Enphorions I How about Euripides ? '
(Eh, brave bard'sKshampion ? Does the aogei

boil?
Keep within bounds a moment, — eye and lip
Shall loose their doom on me, their fiery worst
What strangers ? Archelaos heads the file I
He sjrmpatmzes, he concerns himself,



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He pens epistle, each suooeesleM play :

* Atnenai sinks effete ; there 's younger blood

In Makedonia. Visit where I rale 1

Do honor to me and take gratitude 1

LdTe the gnest^s life, or work the poet's way.

Which tSao means the statesman's: he who

wrote
*' Erechthens " may seem rawly politic
At home where Kleophon is ripe ; but here
My council-board permits him choioe of seats.'

** Now, this was operating, — what should prore
A poison-tree, had flowered far on to fruit
For many a year, — when I was mored, first



To dare the adyenture, down with root and

branch.
So, from its sheath I drew my C!omio steel.
And dared what I am now to justify.
A serious question first, though 1

**Onoeagainl
Do you beliere, when I aspired in youth,
I made no estimate of power at all.
Nor paused long, nor considered much, what



Of fighters I might claim to p<nn, beside
That class wherewith I cast m company f
Say, YOU — profuse of praise no less than

blame ~
Gould not I have competed —franker phrase
Might tmlier correspond to meaning — still.
Competed with your Tragic paragon ?
Suppose me minded simply to make yezse.
To zabricate, parade resplendent arms.
Flourish and sparkle out a Trilogy, —
Where was the hindrance f But my soul bade

* Fight!
Leave flourishing for mock-foe, pleasure-time :
Pkt>ye arms efficient on real heads and hearts I
How ? With degeneracy sapping fast
The Marathonian muscle, nenred of old
To maul the Mede, now strung at best to help
— How did I fable ? — War and Hubbub mash
To mincemeat Fatherland and Brotherhood,
Pound in their mortar Hellas, State by State,
That greed might gorge, the while friyolity
Bubbed hands and smacked lips o'er the

dainty dish t
Authority, experience — pushed aside
By any upstart who pleads throng and press,
O*^ the people I * Think, say, do^us I ' Where-

lore, pray ?
* We are the people : who inuragns our right
Of choosing &leou that tans m& so well,
Huperbolos that tuj^ui out lamps so trim.
Hemp-seller £akrates or Lusikles
Sheep-dealer, Kephalos the potter's son,
Diitnphes who weaves the willow-work
To go round bottles, and Naumkudes
The meal-man? Such we choose and more,

their mates.
To think and say and do in our behalf I '
While sophistry wagged tongue, emboldened

Found matter to propose, contest, defend,
'Stablish, turn topsyturvy, — all the same.
No matter what, provided the result



Were something new in place of something

old,—
Set waggine by pure insolence of soul
Which needs must pr^ into, have warrant for
Each right, each privilege good policy
Protects from curious eye and prating mouth I
Everywhere lust to shape the world anew.
Spurn this Athenai as we find her, build
A new impossible Cloudcuokooburpr
For feather-headed birds, once sohd men.
Where rules, discarding jolly habitude.
Nourished on myrtle-borries and straj anta,
Kiiw Tereus who. turned Hoopoe Tnple-Crest,
Shall terrify and bring the goaa to terms !

** Where was I? Oh I Things ailing thus — I

ask.
What cure ? Cut, thrust, hack, hew at heap-on-
heaped
Abomination with the exquisite
Palaistr»>tool of polished Tragedjr f
EIrechtheus shall narangue Ampmktnoo,
And incidentally drop word of weight
On justice, ris^teousnees. so turn aside
The audience from attacking Sicily I —
The more that Chores, after he recounts
How Phrixos rode tb» ram, the far-famed

Fleece,
Shall add— at last fall of grave danciyfoot —
* Aggression never yet was helped by SSeus ! '
That helps or hinders Alkibiades f
As well expect, should Pheidias carve Zeus' self
And set bun up, some half a mile away.
His frown would frighten sparrows from your

field!
Eagles may recognise their lord, belike.
But as for vulgar sparrows, — change the god.
And plant some big Priapos with a pole I
I wield the Comic weapon rather— bate I
Hate I honest, earnest, and directest hate —
Warfare wherein I close with enemy.
Call him one name and fifty epithets.
Remind you his great-grandfather sold bran.
Describe the new ezomion, sleeveless coat
He knocked me down last night and robbed

me of,
Protest he voted for a tax on air !
And all this hate —if I write Comedy —
Finds tolerance, most like — applause, periiaps



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 129 of 198)