Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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lends.
That lettering of your scribes! who flourish

pen apace
And ornament the text, they say— we say,

efface.
Hence , when the earth began its life afresh in

kay, ^

And fmit-^rees bloomed, and waves would vran-

ton, and the bay
Ruffle its wealth of weed, and stranger-birds

arrive.
And beasts take each a mate, — folk, too,

found sensitive,
Surmised the old gray stone upright there,

tluough such tracts
Of solitariness and silence, kept the facts
£!ntrusted it, could deal out doctrine, did it

please:
No fresh and frothy draught, but liquor on the

lees.
Strong, savage, and sincere : first bleedings from

a vine
Whereof the product now do Curte so refine
To insipidity, that, when heart sinks, we strive
And strike from the old stone the old restora-
tive.

* Which is ? ' —why, go and ask our grandamee

how they usea
To dance around it, till the Cur^ disabused
Their ignorance, and bade the parish in a band
Lay flat the obtrusive thing that cumbered so

the land I



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FIFINE AT THE FAIR



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And there, aooardinglyi in bush and brier it —



Iti time to rifle again I * (so somebody derides,
That 's pert from Paria,) * sinoe, yon spue, yon

keepereet
Tonder, and pray beneath, is nothing, I sospect.
But jnst the symbol^s self, expressed in slate

for rock.
Art's smooth for Nature's rongh, new ohip

from the okl block I '
There, sir, my say is said I Thanks, and Saint

Gille increase
The wealth bestowed so well! "—wherewith

he pockets piece,
VoSa C19, and takes the read. I leaye in

Learning's dutch
More money for his .book, but scarcely gain as

mndu



JTo this it was, this same primeval moninnent,
"" nv dream, I saw DuikL'

ing blent



That, in mv dream, I saw building with build-



Fan : each on each they fast and f onnderingly

went
Gonfnsion-ward ; but thence again subsided fast.
Became the mound you see. Magnificently

massed
Indeed, those mammoth-stones, piled by the

Protoplast
Temple-wise in my dream I beyond compare

with fanes
Which, solid-looking late, had left no least re-



I' the bald and blank, now sole usurper of the

plains
Of hearen, diverufied and beautiful before.
And yet sunplidty appeared to speak no more
Nor less to me than spoke the compound. At

the core.
One and no other word, as in the crust of late.
Whispered, which, audible through the transi-
tion-state.
Was no loud utterance in eyen the ultimate
Disposure. For as some in^ierial chord sub-
sists.
Steadily underlies the accidental mists
(H music springing thence, that run their mazy

race
Around, and sink, absorbed, back to the triad



So, out of that one word, each yariant rose and

feU
And left the same ** All 's change, but i>erma-

nence as well."
— Graye note whence — list aloft ! — harmonics

sonndj tiut mean :
^^Trudi inside, and outside, truth also; and

between
Elaoh, falsehood that is change, as truth is

permanence.
The indiyidual soul works through the shows

of sense
(Which, eyer preying &]se, still promise to be

true)
Up to an outer soul as individual too ;
And, throned the fleeting, lives to die into the

fixed,



And reach at lena^ * God, man, or both to-
gether mixed,'

Transparent through the flesh, by parts whieh
prove a whole.

By hmtB which make the soul discernible by
soul —

Let only soul look up, not down, not liate but
love.

As truth successively takes shape, one grade
above

Its last nresentment, tempts as it were truth
indeed

Revealed this time ; so tempts, till we attain to
read

The siffns aright, and learn, by failure, truth is
forced

To manifest itself through falsehood ; whence
divorced

By the excepted eye, at the rare season, for

Tne happy moment, truth instructs us to abhor

The ndse, and prize the true, obtainable
thereby.

Then do we understand the value of a lie ;

Its purpose served, its truth once safe deposited,

Eaon lie, superfluous now, leaves, in the singer's
stead.

The indubitable song ; the historic personage

Put by, leaves prominent the impulse of his age ;

Truth sets aside speech, act, time, place, in-
deed, but brings

Nakedly forward now the principle of things

Highest and least."

cxxv

Wherewith change ends. What change to

dread
When, disengaged at last from every veil, in-
stead
Of type remains the truth f once — falsehood :

but anon
Theosuton e broteion eper kekramenon.
Something as true as soul is true, though veils

between
Prove false and fleet away. As I mean, did he

mean^
The poet whose bird-phrase sits, singing in my

ear
A mystery not unlike? What through the

dark and drear
Brought comfort to the Titan? Emerging

from the lymph,
** God, man, or mixture " proved only to be a

nymph:
**From whom the cUnk on dink of metal"

(money, judged
Abundant in my purse) ** struck" (bumped at,

tillitbudirod)
** The modesty, her soul's habitual resident "
(Where late the sisterhood were livdy in their

tent)
^*As out of wingM car" (that caravan on

wheels)
** Impuldvely she rushed, no dippers to her

And ** Fear not. friends we flock! " soft smiled

the sea-Fmne —
Primitive of the veils (if he meant what I

mean)



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FIFINE AT THE FAIR



The poet's TitMi learned to lift, ere '' Three-
formed Fate,

Moirai Trimorphoi," stood nnniMked the Ulti-
mate.



Enough o' the dream 1 Yon see how poetry

turns prose.
Annoonoing wonder-work, I dwindle at the

close
Down to mere oommonplaoe old facts which

everybody knows.
So dreanung disappoints I The fresh and

strange at iirst,
Soon wears to trito and tame, nor warrants the

outburst
Of heart with which we hail those heights, at

yery brink
Of heaven, whereto one least of lifts would lead,

we think.
But wherefrom quick decline conducts our

step, we find.
To homely earth, old facts familiar left behind.
Did not this monument, for instance, long

a^
Say all it had to say, show all it had to show.
Nor promise to do duty more in dream ?



Awaking so.
What if we, homeward-bound, all peace and

some fatigue.
Trudge, soberly oomplete our tramp of near a

league.
Last little mile which makes the eironit just,

Elvire?
We end where we began : that consequence is

clear.
All peace and some &tigue, wherever we were

nursed
To life, we bosom us on death, find last is first
And thenceforth final too.

CXXVIII

"Why final? Why the more
Worth credence now than when such truth

proved false before ? "
Because a novel point impresses now : each lie
Redounded to the praise of man, was victorv
Man's nature had Doth right to get, and might

to gain,
And by no means implied submission to the

reign
Of other c^uite as real a nature, that saw fit
To have its way with man, not man his way

with it.
This time, acknowledgment and acquiescence

quell
Their contrary in man ; promotion proves as

well
Defeat : and Truth, unlike the False with

Truth's outside.
Neither plumes up his will nor puffs him out

with pride.
I fancy, there must lurk some cogency i' the

daim,
Man, such abatement made, submits to, all the



Soul finds no triumph, here, to register like

bense
With whom 'tis ask and have,— the want,

the evidence
That the thing wanted, soon or lato, will be

supplied.
This indeed plumes up will ; this, sure, puii

out with pride.
When, reading records right, man's instincti

still attest
Prcmiotion comes to Sense because Sense likes

it best;
For bodies sprouted leip, through a desire to nm :
While hands, when fam to filcn, got fingers one

by one,
And hature, that 's ourself , accommodatiTif

brings
To bear that^ tired of legs which walk, we now

bud wines
Since of a mind to fly. Such savor in the now
Of Sense would stimulate Soul sweetly, I sop*

pose^
Soul with its proper itch of instinct, prompting

dear
To recognize soul's self soul's onl^ master hen
AUke from first to last. But if time's pressme,

light's
Or rather dark's i4>proach, wrest thorouglilj

theri^ts
Of rule away, and bid the soul submissive bar
Another soul than it play master everywhere
In great and small, — this time, I fancy, iiao»

disputes
There 's something in the fact that such eon-

elusion suits
Nowise the pride of man, nor yet chimes in with

attributes
Conspicuous in the lord of nature. He recartt
And not demands — not first likes faith and

then believes.

cxxix

And as with the last essence, so with its fiirt

faint type.
Inconstancy means raw, 't is faith alone mean

ripe
I' the soul which runs its round : nomatterhov

it range
From Helen to Fifine, Elvire bids back tite



To permanence. Here, too, love ends where

love began.
Such ending looks like law, because the natoril

man
Inclines the other way, feels lordlier free than

bound.
Poor pabulum for pride when the first love '»

found
Last also I and, so far from realizing gain,
Each step aside just proves divergency in vain.
The wanderer brings home no profit from hb

Quest
Beyond the sad surmise that keeping honn

were best
Could life begin anew. His problem posed

aright
Was — ** From the given pdnt evolve the ia*

finite!"



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Not — ** Spend thyself in space, endeavoring to

joint
Together, and so make infinite, point and

point:
Fix into one Elvire a Fair-fnl of Fifines ! "
Fifine, the foam-flake, she : Elvire, the se^'s

self, means
Capacity at need to shower how many snch I
And yet we left her calm profundity, to dutch
Foam-flutter, bell on bell, that, bursting at a

toucb.
Blistered us for our pains. But wise, we want

no more
C the fickle element. Enough of foam and

roorl
Lsnd-locked, we live and die henoefordi: for

here 's the villa door.

cxxx
How j^allidly you pause o* the threshold I



pallidly jou ]
Hardly night.



Which drapes vou, ought to make real flesh

and blood so white I
Touch me, and so appear alive to all intents I
Will the saint vanish from the sinner that

repents?
Suppose you are a ghost I A memory, a hope,
A fear, a conscience I Quick I Give back the

hand I grope
r the dusk for I

CXXXI

That is well. Our double horoscope
I east, while you concur. Discard that simile
O* the fickle element I Elvire is land not sea —
The solid land, the safe. All these word-
bubbles came
O' the sea, and bite like salt. The unlucky

bath 's to blame.
This hand of yours on heart of mine, no more

the bay
I beat; nor bask beneath the blue ! In Pomic,

say.
The Mayor shall catalogue me duly domiciled,
Contribntable, good-companion of the guild
And mystery ot marriage. I stickle for the

town.
And not this tower apart; because, though,

halfway down.
Its muUions wink o'erwebbed with bloomy

greenness, yet
Who mounts to sturoase top may tempt the

parapel^
And spdden there 's the sea I No memories to



No fancies to delude ! Our honest civic house

Of the earth be earthy tool — or graced per-
chance with shell

Made prize of long ago, picked haply where
the swell

Menaced a little once — or seaweed-branch that
yet

Dampens and softens, notes a &eak of wind, a
fret

Of wave : though, why on earth should sear
change mend or mar

The calm contemplative honseholdera that we
are?



So shall the seasons fleet, while our two selves

abide :
E*en post astonishment how sunrise and springs

tide
Could tempt one forth to swim ; the more if

time i^points
That swimming grow a task for one's rheu-
matic joints.
Such honest civic house, behold, I constitute
Our villa ! Be but flesh and blood, and smile

to boot I
Enter for good and all I then fate bolt fast

the door.
Shut you and me inside, never to wander

morel



Only, — you do not use to apprehend attack I
No doubt, the way I march, one idle arm,

thrown slack
Behind me, leaves the open hand defenceless at

the back.
Should an impertinent on tiptoe steal, and stuff
— Whatever can it be ? A letter sure enough^
Pushed betwixt pahn and glove I That largess

of a franc r
Perhaps inoonsciously, — to better help the

O' the nest, her tambourine, and, laying egg,

persuade
A family to follow, the nest-egg that I laid
May have contained — but just to foil suspicious

folk —
Between two silver whites a yellow double

yolk!
Oh, threaten no farewell I five minutes shall

sufBce
To dear the matter up. I go, and in a trice ^
Return ; five minutes past, expect me I If in

vain —
Why, slip from flesh and blood, and play the

ghost again I



EPILOGUE

THB HOUSBHOLDBR

Savage I was sitting in my house, late, lone :

Dreary, weary with the long day^s work :
Head of me, heart of me, stupid as a stone :
Tongue-tied now, now blaspheming like a
Turk;
When, in a moment, just a knock, call, cry.
Half a paug and all a rapture, there again
were we ! —
** What, and is it really yon again ? " quoth I :
** I ai^Eon^ what dse did you expect ? '' quoth
She.

** Never mind, hie away from this old house —
Every crumbling brick embrowned with sin
and shame!
Quick, in its comers ere certain shapes arouse 1
Let them — every devil of the night— lay
claim.
Make and mend, or rap and rend, for me I
Qood-byl



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RED COTTON NIGHT-CAP COUNTRY



God be their guard from disturbanoe at their

glee,
Till, onah, ooinee down the caroass in aheap I "

qnotn I :
** Nay, bnt there 's a decency required ! "

quoth She.

** Ah, bnt if jrou knew how time has dragged,
days, nights !
All the neighbor-talk with man and maid —
such men 1
All the fnss and trouble of street-eonnds,
window-sights :
All the worry of flapping door and echoing
roof; andthen«^
All the fancies . . . Who were they had leave,
dared try
Darker arts that almost struck despair in
me?



If you knew but how I dwelt down here J "
quoth I :
*' And was I so better off up there ? " quoth
She.

** Help and get it over ! Reunited to hU w\fe
iHow draw up the paper lets the parish-
people know ?)
Lies Jf . or N,^ departed from this life.
Day the this or mcU, month and pear the so and
so.
What i' the way of final flourish? Prose,
yerse? Try!
Affliction sore long timehe bore^ or, what is it
to be?
Till Otd did please to grant him ease, Doend!"
quoth I :
**I end with — LoTe is all, and Death is
naught 1 " quoth She.



RED COTTON NIGHT-OAP COUNTRY

OR
TURF AND TOWERS



TO MISS THACKERAY



This poem, dated January 23, 1873, was pub-
lished in the early summer of the same year.
Browning had been staying with his sister at
"St. Aubin, in Normandy, and there met Miss
Thackeray, who was to tell a tale of the White
"Cotton Night-ciq> Country, but a tragedy then
just coming to a culmination in the courts sup-
plied Browning with the more suggestive tide
which he adopted. Mr. Cooke records : —

'^ In the poem as written the names of the
actors and places were correctly given, but
when the poem was being revised in proof-
-aheets they were changed from prudential
reasons, because the last act in the tragedy
occurred only abrief period prior to the writing
of the poem.



Amd so, here happily we meet, fair friend I
Again once more, as if the years rolled back
And this our meeting-place were just that

^ Rome
Out in the champaign, say, o'er-riote4
By verdure, ravage, and gay winds that war
Against strong sunshine settled to his sleep ;
Or on the Pans Boulevard, might it prove,
Yon and I came together saunteringly.



*' Browning submitted the proof-sheets of the
poem to his friend Lord Coleridge, then the
English Attorney-General, afterwards Chief
Justice, who thought that a case of Hbel might
lie for what was said, however improbable such
action might be. He accordingly changed the
names to fictitious ones. It was the year follow-
ing this, and the publication of the poem, that
the appeal agunst the judgment in favor of the
win of Mellerio was dismiased, and the case
finally set at rest in harmony with the oonclo-
sion reached by the poet."

In the second edition of her Hand-Book Mrs.
Orr gives the correct names, as furmshed to her
by Browning himself. These names will be
found in the notes at the end of this volume.

Bound for some shop-front in the Place Ven-

dSme —
Ooldsmithy and Qolconda mine, that makes
''The Firm-Miranda" blazed about the

world —
Or, what if it were London, where my toe
Trespassed upon your flounce ? '* Small

blame," you smile.
Seeing the Staircase Party in the Square
Was Small and Early, and you broke no

rib.



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OR TURF AND TOWERS



737



Even as we met where we have met so oft,
Now meet we on this anpretendiiig beach
Below the little yiUagre : little, ay I
But plewumt, may my gratitude subjoin ?
Meek, hitherto un-Murrayed bathing-place.
Best loTcd of seacoast-nookful Nonmuidy I ,
That, just behind you, is mine own hired

house:
With light of pathway through the field in

front.
No prejudice to all its growth unsheayed
Of emerald luzem bursting into blue.
Be sure I keep the path that hugs the wall,
Of mornings, as I pad from door to gate 1
Yon vellow — what if not wild -mustard

flower? —
Of that, my naked sole makes lawful prize.
Bruising the acrid aromatics out.
Tin, what they preface, good salt savors sting
From, first, the sifted sands, then sands in slab.
Smooth save for pipy wreath-work of the

worm:
(Granite and mussel-shell are ground alike
To glittering paste, — the live worm troubles

yet.)
Then, d^ and moist, the varech limit-line,
Burnt cinder-black, with brown uncrumpled

swathe
Of berried softness, sea-swoln thrice its size ;
And, lo, the wave protrudes a lip at last.
And flecks my foot with froth, nor tempts in



Such is Saint-Rambert, wilder very much
Than Joyeuz, that famed Joyous-Qard of

yours.
Some nve nules farther down ; much homelier

too-
Right for me, — right for you the fine and fair !
Only, I could endure a transfer — wrought
Sy angels famed still, through our country-
side.
For weights they fetched and carried in old

time
When nothing like the need was — transfer,

just
Of Joveux church, exchanged for yonder prig,
Our orand-new stone cream-colored master-
piece.

Well — and you know, and not since this one

year.
The quiet seaside country ? So do I :
Who like it, in a manner, just be<»ftuse
Nothing is prominently likable
To vul^Etf eye without a soul behind,
Which, breaking surface, brings before the ball
Of sight, a beauty buried eversrwhere.
If we have souls, know how to see and use.
One place performs, like any other place.
The proper service every place on earth
Was framed to furnish man with : serves alike
To give him note that, through the jdace he

A pla4Be is signified he never saw.
But, if he lack not soul, may learn to know.
Earth's ugliest walled and ceiled imprisonment
May suffer, through its single rent in roof.



Admittance of a cataract of light
Beyond attainment through earth's palace-
panes
Pinholed athwart their windowed filigree
By twinklings sobered from the sun outside.
Doubtless the High Street of our villitfe here
Imposes hardly as Rome's Corso coula :
And our projected race for sailing^boAts
Next Sunday, when we celebrate our Saint,
Falls ver^ short of that attractiveness,
That artistry in festive spectacle,
Paris ensures you when sne welcomes back
(When shall it be ?) the Assembly from Ver»

sailles;
While the beet fashion and intelUgenoe
Collected at the counter of our Mayor
(Dry-goods he deals in, grocery beside)
What time the post-bag brings the news from

Vire, —
I fear me much, it scarce would hold its

own.
That cirde, that assorted sense and wit,
'With Five-o'dock Tea in a bouse we know.

Still, 't is the check that gives the leap its lift.

The nullity of cultivated souls.

Even advantaged by their news from Vire,

Only conduces to enforce the truth

That, thirty paces off, this natural blue

Broods o'er a bag of secrets, all unbroaohed.

Beneath the bosom of the placid deep,

Since first the Post Director sealed tnem safe ;

And formidable I perceive this fact —

Little Saint-Rambert touches the great sea.

From London, Paris, Rome, where men are



Not mice, and mice not Mayors presumably,

Thought scarce may leap so ^t, alight so far.

But this is a pretence, you understand.

Disparagement in play, to parry thrust

Of possible objector : nullii^

And ugliness, the taunt be his, not mine

Nor yours, — I think we know ihe world too

well I
Did you walk hither, jog it by the plain.
Or jaunt it by the highway, braving bruise
From springless and nncushioned vehicle ?
Much, was there not, in place and people both.
To lend an eye to ? and what eye like yours —
The learned eye is still the loving one f
Our land ; its auietude, productiveness.
Is length and breadth of grain-crop, meadow-
ground.
Its orchards in the pasture, farms a-field,
And hamlets on the road-edge, naught

missed

Of one and all the sweet rusticities I
From stalwart stridor by the wagon-side.
Brightening the acre with his purple blouse.
To those dark-featured oomely women-folk.
Healthy and tall, at work, and work indeed.
On every cottage doorstep, plying brisk
Bobbins that bob vou ladies out such lace !
Oh, you observed I and how that nimble play
Of fiuger formed the sole exception, bobbed
The one disturbance to the peace of things.
Where nobody esteems it worth his whil^,
If time upon the clock-face goes asleep.



yon



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RED COTTON NIGHT-CAP COUNTRY



To give the rusted hands a helpful posh.
Kol>ody lifts an energetic thumb
And index to remove some dead and gone
Notice which, posted on the bam, repeats
For truth what two years^ passage made a lie.
Still is for sale, next JunC} that same ch6-

tean
With all its immobilities. — were sold
Dulv next June behind the last but last ;
And, woe *s me, still placards the Emperor
His confidence in war he means to wage,
Qod aiding and the rural populace.
No : rain and wind must rub the rags away
And let the lazy land untroubled snore.

Ah, in good truth ? and did the drowsihead
So suit, so soothe the learned loving eye.
That yon were minded to confer a crown,
(Does not the poppy boast such?)— -call the

land
By one slow hither-thither stretching, fast
Subsiding-into-slnmber sort of name.
Symbolic of the place and people too,
" White Cotton Night-cap Country f »' Excel-
lent! •
For they do, all, dear women young and old,
Upon the heads of tliem bear notably
This badge of soul and body in repose ;
Nor its fine thimble fits the acorn-top,
Keeps woolly ward above that oval brown.
Its placid feature, more than mn£Ber makes
A safeguard, circumvents intelligence
In — what shall evermore be named and

famed.
If happy nomenclature aught aviul.
'*WhiU Cotton Night-cap Counirp.^^

Do I hear —
Oh, better, very best of all the news —
Ton mean to catch and cage the wiugM word,
And make it breed and multiply at home
Till Norman idlesse stock our England too P
Normandy shown minute yet magnified
In one of those small books, the truly great,
We never know enough, yet know so well ?
How I foresee the cursive diamond-dints, —
Composite pen that plays the pencil too, —
As, touch the page and up the glamour goes.
And filmily o'er grain-crop, meadow-ground,
0*er orchard in the pasture, farm a-field.
And hamlet on the road-edge, floats and forms
And falls, at lazy last of all, the Can
That crowns the country ! we, awake outside.
Farther than ever from the imminence
Of what cool comfort, what close coverture
Tour magic, deftly weaving, shall surround
The unconscious captive with. Be theirs to

drowse
Trammelled, and ours to watch the trammel-
trick I
Ours be it. as we con the book of books.
To wonder how is winking possible 1

All hail, "White Cotton Night-cap Country,"

then!
And yet, as on the beach yon promise book, —
On l)each, mere razor-edge 'twixt earth and



I stand at such a distance from the world
That *t is the whole world which obtains regard,
Rather than any part, though part presumed
A perfect little province in itself.
When wavf are made acquaintance first there-
with.
So standing, therefore, on this edge of things.
What if the backward glance I gave, return
Loaded with other spoils of vagrancy
Than I dispatched it for, till I propose
The (question — puzzled by the sudden store
Officious fancy plumps beneath my nose —
** Which sort of Night-cap.have you glorified f **

You would be gracious to my ignorance :

What other Night-cap than the normal one ? —

Old honest guardian of man^s head and hair

In its elastic yet continuous, soft.



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 145 of 198)