Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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White
To all thomore superb a prominence !
Why, 't is the story served up fresh again —
How it befell the restive prophet old
Who came and tried to curse but blessed the

hmd.
Come, your last chance t he disinherited
Children : he made his widow mourn too much
By this endowment of the other Bride —
Nor understood that gold and jewelry
Adorn her in a fig ure, not a fact.
Tou make that White I want, so very white,
'T is I say now — some trace of Red should be
Somewhere in this Miranda-sanctitude ! "

Not here, at all. events, sweet mocking friend I
For he was childless; and what heirs he had
Were an uncertain sort of Consinry
Scarce claiming kindred so as to withhold
The donor^s purpose though fantastical :
Heirs, for that matter, wanting no increase
Of wealth, since rich already as himself ;
Heirs that had taken trouble off his hands.



Bought that productive goldsmith-business he»
With abnegation wise as rare, renounced
Precisely at a time of life when youth,
Nigh on departure, bids mid-age discard
Life's other loves and likings in a pack,
To keep, in lucre, comfort worth tnem all.
This Consinry are they who boast the shop
Of "Firm-Miranda, London and New York.'^
Cousins are an unconscionable kind ;
But these — pretension surely on their part
To share inheritance were too absurd I

" Remains then, he dealt -wromflj by his wife,,
Despoiled her somehow by such testament ? ^*
Farther than ever from the mark, fair &iend !
The man's love for his wife exceeded bounds
Rather than failed the limit. 'T waste live
Hers and hers only, to abolish earth
Outside — since Paris holds the pick of earth —
He turned his back, shut eyes, stopped ears, to

all
Delicious Paris tem^ her children with.
And fled away to this far solitude —
She peopling solitude sufficiently I
She, partner in each heavenward flight sublime.
Was, with each oondesoension to the ground.
Duly associate also : hand in hand,
... Or side by side, I say by preference —
On every good work sidlingly they went.
Hers was the instigation — none but she
Willed that, if death should summon first her

lord,
Though she, sad reHot, must drag residue
Of days encumbered by this load of wealth—
(Submitted to with someUiing of a grace
So long as her surviving vigilance
Might worthily administer, convert
Wealth to Good's glory and the good of man.
Give, as in life, so now in death, effect
To cherished purpose) — yet she begged and

prayed
That, when no longer she could supervise
The House, it shomd become a Hospital :
For the support . whereof, lands, goods, and

caah
Alike will go, in hwpygnardianship.
To yonder church, La lukvissante : who debt
To Qod and man undoubtedly will pay.

** Not of the world, your heroine I "

Do you know
I saw her yesterday — set eyes upon
The veritable personage, no dream ?
I in the morning strolled this way, as oft.
And stood at entry of the avenue.
When, out from thiftt first garden-gate, we gazed
Upon and through, a small procession swept —
Madame Mirancut with attendants five.
First, of herself : she wore a soft and white
Engaging dress, with velvet stripes and squares
Severely black, yet scarce discouraging :
Fresh Paris-manufacture 1 (Vire's would do ?
I doubt it, but confess my ignorance.)
Her figure ? somewhat small and dariing^like.
Her face ? well, singularly colorless.
For first thing: which scarce suits a blonde^
you know.



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Pretty you 'would not call her : though perhaps

Attaining to the enda of prettineas,

And somewhat more, suppose enon^ of sonl.

Then she is forty full : you cannot judge

What beauty was her portion at eighteen,

The age she married at. So, oolorless

I stick to^ and if featureless I add,

Tour notion grows completer : for, although

I notio«d that her nose was aauiline,

The whole effect amounts with me to — blank I

I neyer saw what I could less describe.

The eyes, for instance, unforgettable

Which ought to be, are out of mind as sight.

Yet is there not conceiyably a face,

A set of wax-like features, blank at first,

Which, as you bendingly grow warm above,

Beri ns to take impressment from your breath ?

Wmch, as Tour will itself were plastic here

Nor needea exercise of handicnot.

From formless moulds itself to correspond

Wiik all you think and feel and are — in fine

^Tows a new reyelation of vourself ,

Who know now for the nrst time what you

want?
Here has been something that could wait awhile,
Xieam your requirement, nor take shape before,
But, by adopting it, make palpable
Your n^ht to an importance ox your own,
Companions somehow were so slow to see I
— Far delicater solace to conceit
Than should some absolute and final face,
Fit representatire of soul inside,
Summon you to surrender — in no way
Your breath's impressment, nor, in stranger's

Yourself —or why of force to challenge vou ?
Why should your soul's reflection rule your

soul?
4^ You " means not yon, nor me, nor any one
Framed, for a reason I shall keep suppressed,
To rather want a master than a slave :
The slavish still aspires to dominate 1)
iSo, an I sar is, that the face, to me
One blur of blank, might flash significance
To who had seen his soul reflected there
B^ that symmetric silvery phantom-like
Figure, with other Bre processional.
The first, a black-dressed matron — maybe,

maid —
Mature, and dragonish of aspect, — marched ;
Then four came tripping in a ioyous flock,
Two giant goats and two promgious sheep
Pure as the arctic fox that suits the snow.
Tripped, trotted, turned the march to merri-
ment.
But ambled at their mistress' heel — for why ?
A rod of guidance marked the Chfttelaine,
And ever and anon would sceptre wave.
And silky subject leave meandering.
Nay, one great naked sheep-face stopped to ask
Who was the stranger, snuffed inquisitive
My hand that made acquaintance with its nose.
Examined why the hand — of man at least —
Patted so lightly, warmly, so like life I
Are they such silly natures after all ?
And thus accompanied, the paled-off space,
Isleted shrubs and verdure, gained the group ;



Till, as I gave afurtive glance, and saw
Her back-hair was a block of solid gold.
The |nM» shut out my harmless qoevtioii—

So youn^ and yellow, crowning sanotH^,

And claiming solitude • • • can hair be fwkff f

** Shut in the hair and with it your last hope.

Yellow might on inspection pass for Red I —

Red, Red. whero is the tinge of promised Bed

In this ola tale of town and country life.

This rise and progress of a family ?

First comes the bustling man of enterprise.

The fortune-founding father, rightly rough.

As who must grub and grab, play pioneer.

Then, with a fight and airy steoj succeeds

The son, surveys the fabric of nis sire.

And enters home, unsmirched from top to toe.

Polish and education qualify

Their fortunate possessor to confine

His occunanc^ to the first-floor 8uite_

Rather than Keepeiq>loring needles ~

Whero dwelt his siro content with <

Industry bustles imdemeath, no doubt.

And supervisors should not sit too dose.

Next, rooms built, thero 's the furmtoro to hoy.

And what adornment like a worthy wife ?

In comes she like some foreign cabinet,

Purchased indeed, but puri^ni>? quick

What space receives it trom all traffio-taint.

She telb of other habits, palace-life ;

Royaltv may have pried into those depths

Of sandal-wooded drawer, and set a-<aeak

That pygmy portal pranked with lazuli.

Moro fit Dy far the ignoble we roplace

Bv objects suited to such visitant.

Than that we desecrate her dignity

By neighboriiood of vulgar table, chair.

Which liaply helped old age to smoke and dose.

The end is, an exchange of dty stir

And too intrusive burgess-feUowship,

For rural isolated elegance,

Caroless simplicity, how prof erable !

Thero one may fairly throw behind one's baek

The used-up worn-out Past, we want away.

And make a fresh beguining of stale life.

* Injust the ^lace' — does any one object ? —

* Whero aboriginal gentility

Will scout the upstart, twit him with each

trick
Of townish trade-mark that stamps word and

deed,
And most of all resent that hero town-dross
He daubs with money-color to deceive I '
Rashly objected I Is thero not the Church
To intercede and bring benefic truce
At outset? SheitiBshaU equalize
The laborors i' the vineyard, last as first.
Pay court to her, she stops impertinence.
*" Duke, once your sires crusaded it, we know :
Our friend the newcomer observes, no less.
Your chapel, rich with their emblazonry.
Wants roofing — mig^t he but suj^ly the



Marauise, you gave the honor of your name.
Titular patronage, abundant will
To what shoulcfbe an Orphan Institate:
Qave everything but funds, in brief ; and these.



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Our friend, the lady newly resident,
Proposes to oontribnte, by your leave I '
Brothers and sisters lie they in thy hw,
Thou none-ezolnding, all-oolleoting Gnnreh I
Sore, one has half a foot i' the hierarchy
Of birth, when * Nay, my dear,' langhs ont the

Dnke,
^ I *m the crown's cushion-carrier, but the



"Who gave its central glory, I or you ? '

When Marquise jokes, * My quest, forsooth ?

Each doit
I scrape together goes for Petein>ence
To pnrrey bread and water in his bonds
For Peter's self imprisoned — Lord, how long ?
Tours, yours alone the bounty, dear m^ dame,
Tou plumped the purse, which, poured mto the

plate.
Made the Archbishop opoi brows so broad !
And if you really mean to eiye that length
Of lovely lace to edge the robe!' . . . Ah,

friends,
Oem better serves so than by calling crowd,
Bound shop-front to admire the million's-

worth!
Lace gets more homage than from lorgnette-
stare,
And comment coarse to match, (should one

dii^lay
One's robe a trifle o'er the baignoire-edge,)

* Well mMj she line her slippers with the like,
If minded so I their shop it was produced
That wonderful pantre, the other day,
Whereof the Baron said, it begnred him.'
And so the paired Mirandas bmlt their house.
Enjoyed their fortune, sighed for family.
Found Mends would serve their purpose quito

as well.
And come, at need, £rom Paris — anyhow,
With evident alacrity, from Vire —
Endeavor at the chase, at least succeed
In smoking, eating, drinking, laughing, and
Preferring country, oh so much to town !
Thus lived the husband; though his wife

would sigh
In confidence, when Countesses were kind,

* Gut off from Paris and society I '

White, White, I once more round you in the

earsi
Though you have marked it, in a comer, yours
HenceforUi, — Red - lettered * Failure,' very

plain,
I shall acknowledge, on the snowy hem
Of ordinary Night-cap ! Come, enough I
We have gone round its cotton vastitude,^
Or half-round, for the end 's consistent still,
A cul-de-sac with stoppage at the sea.
Here we return upon our steps. One look
May bid srood-moming — properly good-night —
To civic bliss, Miranda and his mate I
Are we to rise and go ? "

No, sit and stay I
Now comes my moment, with the thrilling

throw
Of curtain from each side a shrouded case.
Don't the rings shriek an ominous " Ha ! ha I
jSo you ti^eHaman Nature upon trust " ?



List but with like trust to an incident
Which speedily shall make quite Red enough
Bum out of yonder spoUess napery I
Sit on the little mound here, wnence you seiie
The whole of the gay front sun-satisfied,
One laugh of color and embellishment !
Because it was there, — past those lanmstines.
On that smooth gravel-sweep 'twizt flowers

and sward, —
There traffic death befell ; and not one grace
Outspread before you but is regiBtered
In that sinistrous coil these last two years
Were occupied in winding smooth again.

"True?" Well,at least itwasconchidedso,
Sworn to be truth, allowed by Law as such,
(With my oonourrenoe, if it matter here,)
A month ago : at Vire they tried the case.



11

Monsieur L^onoe Miranda, then, . . . but

stoy!
Permit me a preliminary word,
And, after, all shall go so straight to end I

EEave yon, the travelled lady, found yourself
Inside a ruin, fane or bath or drqne,
Renowned in story, dear through youthful

dream?
If not, ~ imagination serves as well.
Try fancy-land, go back a thousand yean,
Or forward, half the number, and confront
Some work of art gnawn hollow by Time's

tooth, —
Hellenic temple, Roman theatre,
Gothic cathedral, Gallic Tuileries,
But ruined, one and whichsoe'er you like.
Obstructions choke what still remains intact,
Tet proffer change that 's picturesque in turn ;
Since little life begins where great life ends.
And vegetation soon amalgamates.
Smooths novel shape from out the shapeless old.
Till broken column, battered oomice-olock,
The centre with a bulk half weeds and flowers.
Half relics you devoutly recognize.
Devoutly recognizing, — hark, a voice
Not to be disregarded I ** Man worked here
Once on a time ; here needs again to work ;
Ruins obstruct, which man must remedy."
Would TOU demur '* Let Time fulfil his task.
And, tiU the scythe-sweep find no obstacle.
Let man be padent " ?

The reply were prompt :
*^ Glistoningly beneath the May-night moon.
Herbage and floral coverture bedeck
Yon s^intered mass amidst the solitude :
Wolves occupy the baok^und, or some snake
Glides by at distance : picturesque enough !
Therefore, preserve it? Nay, pour daylight

in,—
The mound proves swarming with humanity.
There never was a thorough solitude.
Now you look nearer : mortal busy life
first of all brought the cmmblings down on

pate.



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Which trip man's foot still, placrue his passage

much.
And proTo — what seems to you so piotnresque
To Imn is . . . bat experiment yonraelf
On how oonduciyeto ahappy home
Will be the ciroomstance, your bed for base
Boasts tessellated pavement, — equally
Affected by the scorpion for his nest, —
While what o*er-roois bed is an architrave,
Marble, and not unlikely to crush man
To mummy, should its venerable prop.
Some figtree-stump, play traitor underneath.
Be wise I Decide I For conservation's sake.
Clear the arena forthwith ! lest the tread
Of too-much-tried impatience trample out
Solid and unsubstantial to one blank
Mud-mixture, picturesque to nobedy, —
And, task done, quarrel with the naits intact
Whence came the filtered fine clust, whence

the crash
Bides but its time to follow. Quick conclude
Removal, time effects so tardily.
Of what is plain obstruction ; rubbish cleared.
Let partial-ruin stand while ruin may, ^
And serve world's use, since use is manifold.
Repair wreck, stanchion wall to heart's content,
But never think of renovation pure
And simple, which involves creation too:
Transform and welcome 1 Ton tall tower may

help
(Thouf h Duilt to be a belfrv and naught else)
Some Father Secchi, to tick Venus off
In transit : never bring there bell again.
To damage him aloft, brain us belowj
When new vibrations bury both in bnok I "

Monsieur L^nce liGranda, furnishing
The application at his cost, poor soul I
Was mstanoedhow, — because the world lay

strewn
With, ravage of opinions in his path.
And neither he, nor any friendlv wit,
Knew and oonld teach him which was firm,

which frail.
In his adventure to walk straight through life
The partial-ruin, — in such enterprise.
He straggled into rubbish, struggled on,
And stumbled out aeain observably.
**Yon buttress still can back me up," he

judged:
And at a touch down came both he and it.
*^ A certain statue, I was warned against.
Now, by good fortune, lies well underfoot,
And cannot tempt to folly any more : "
So. lifting eye^ aloft since safety lay.
What did he light on ? the Idalian shape.
The undeposed, erectlv Victrix still I
'^ These steps ascend the labyrinthine stair
Whence, darkling and on alMours, out I stand
Exalt and safe, and bid low earth adieu —
For so instructs * Advice to who would

climb : ' »'
And all at once the climbing landed him
— Where, is my story.

Take its moral first.
Do yon advise a climber ? Bave respect
To the poor head, with more or less ot brains



To snill, should breakue follow yoor advice I
Heaa-break to him will be heart-break to jam
For having preached *"* Disturb no ruins boel
Are not thejjr crumbling of their own aooord ?
Meantime, let poets, ]>ainten keep a prixe I
Beside, a sage pedestrian picks his wav."
A sage pedestnan — such as you and I !
What if there trip, in merry carelessneasL
And come to grief, a weak and foolish child f
Be cautious how yon counsel climbing, then I

Are yon adventurous and climb yourself?
Plant the foot warily, accept a staff.
Stamp only where vou probe the standing'-point^
Move forward^ weu assured that move yoa may :
Where you mistrust advance, stop short, there

stick I
This makes advancing slow and difficult ?
Hear what oomes of the endeavor of brisk yoeth
To foot it fast and easy ! Keep this same
Notion of outside mound and inside maah.
Towers yet intact round turfy rottenness,
SvmboUc partial-rava^, — keep in mind I
Here fortune placed his feet who first of all
Found no incumbrance, till head found . . •

But hear I

This son and heir then of the jeweller.
Monsieur L^nce Miranda, at his birth.
Mixed the Castilian passionate blind blood
With answerable gush, his mother's gift.
Of spirit, Fkeneh and critical and cold.
Such mixture makes a battle in the brain.
Ending as faith or doubt gets uppermost ;
Then will has way a moment, but no more :
So nicely balanced are the adverse strengths.
That victory entails reverse next time.
The tactics of the two are different
And equalize the odds : for blood oomes first,
Surrounding life with undisputed faith.
But presently a new antagonist.
By scarce-suspected passaee in the dark.
Steals spirit, fingers at each crevice found
Athwart faith's strons^dd, fronts the astoo-

iBhedman:
**Snch pains to keep me far, yet here stand I,
Your doubt inside the faith-defence of yoa I "

With faith it was friends bulwarked him ahont
From infancy to boyhood ; so, by youth.
He stood impenetrably eirouited.
Heaven-high and low as hell: what lacked he

thus,
Guarded against aggression, storm or sap ?
What foe would dare approach? Historic

Doubt?
Ay, were there some half -knowledge to attack !
Batter doubt's best, sheer i^^norance will beat.
Acumen metaphysic ? — drills its way
Through what, I wonder 1 A thick feather

bed
Of thoughtlessneo^ no operating tod—
Framed to transpierce the flint-stone — famUes

at.
With chance of finding an impediment I
This Ravissante, now : when ne saw the chnrcb
For the first time, and to his dyingnlav.
His firm belief was that the name fell fit



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From the Delivering Virein, niched and known;

As if there wanted reooras to attest

The appellation was a pleasantry,

A pious rendering of Kare Vissante,

The proper name which erst oar prorinoe bore.

He wonld have told you that ijaint Aldabert

Founded the church, (Heaven early favored

France,)
About the second century from Christ ;
Though the true man was Bishop of Rumbauz,
Bleyenth in succession, Eldobert,
Who flourished after some six hundred years.
He it was brought the image ^* from a&ir,"
(Made out of stone the place produces still,)
^^ Infantine Art divinely artless,'* (Art
In the decrepitude of Decadence,)
And set it up a-working miracles
Un^the Northmen's fury laid it low,
'Nat long, however : an egregious sheep,
2eaIous with scratching hoof and routing horn,
Unearthed the image in good Mailleville's time.
Count of the country. '^If the tale be false.
Why stands it carved above the portal plain f '*
Monsieur L^nce Miranda used to ask.
To Londres went the prize in solemn pomp,
But, liking old abode and loathing new.
Was borne — this time, by angels — back again.
And, reinaugurated, miiade
Succeeded mirade, a lengthy list.
Until indeed the culmination came —
Archbishop Chaumont prayed a prayer and

▼owed
A TOW — gained prayer and paid tow prop-

eriy —
For the oonvenion of Prince Vertp:alant.
These facts, socked in along with mother's-

milk.
Monsieur L^onee Miranda would dispute
As soon as that his hands were flesh and bone.
Milk-nourished two-and-twenty years before.
So fortified by blind Castilian bhx>d.
What say ^u to the chances of French cold
Critical spirit, should Voltaire besiege
*' Alp, Apennine, and fortified redoubt " ? ^
Ay, would such spirit please to play faith's

game
Faith's way, attack where faith defends so

weUI
But then it shifts, tries other strategr.
Coldness grows warmth, the critical becomes
Unquestioning acceptance. ** Share and share
Alike in facts, to truth add other truth !
Why with old truth needs new truth disagree ? "

Thus doubt was found iuTading faith, this

time.
By help of not the spirit but the flesh :
Fat Rabelais chuckled, where faith lav in wait
For lean Voltaire's grimace — French, either

foe.
Accordingly^ while round about our friend
Ran faith without a break which learned eye
Coidd find at two-and-twenty years of age.
The twenty-two-years-old frank footstep soon
Assured itself there spread a standinnpaoe
Flowerr and oomfortable, nowise rook
Nor pebble-pavement roughed for champioii's

tread



Who scorns discomfort, pacinjBr at his post.
Tall, long-limbed, shoulder right and shonlder

left,
And 'twizt curomia such a latitude.
Black heaps of hair on head, and blacker bush
O'er-rioting chin, cheek and throat and chest, —
His brown meriaional temperament^
Told him — or rather pricked into lus sense
Plainer than language — *' Pleasant station here I
Touth, strength, and lustihood can sleep on turf
Tet paoe the stony platform afterward :
First ngnal of a foe and up thej start I
Saint Eidobert, at all such yamty.
Nay — sinfulness, had shaken head austere.
Had he? But did Prince Vertgalantf And

After how long a slumber, of what sort,
Was it, he stretched octogenary joints.
And, nigh on Dur-of -Judgment trumpet-blast.
Jumped up and manned wall, brisk as any

Nor Rabelais nor Voltaire, but Sganarelle,
You comprehend, was pushing through the

chink!
That stager in the saint's correct costume.
Who ever has his speech in readiness
For thick-head juvenility at fault :
" Gk> pace yon platform and play sentinel I
You won't? The worse I but still a worse

might hap.
Stay then, provided that yon keep in sight
The battlement, one bold leap lands you by !
Resolve not desperately * Wall or tuif.
Choose this, choose that, but noaltematiTe ! '
No 1 Earth left once were left for good and

aU:
^'Vnth Heaven you may accommodate your^

self.'"

Saint Eidobert — I much approve his mode ;
With sinner Vertgalant I sympathize ;
But lustrionic Sganarelle, who prompts
While pulling back, refuses yet concedes, — '
Whether he preach in chair, or print in book,
Or whisper due sustainment to weak fiesh,
Counting his sham beads threaded on a lie —
Surely, one should bid pack that mountebank I
Surely, he must have momentary fits
Of self-sufficient stage-f orgetfulness,
Escapings of the actor-lassitude
When he allows the grace to show the grisi^
Which ought to let even thickheads recognize
(Through all the busy and benefic i>art, —
Bridge-building, or rock-riving, or prood dean
Transport of church and congregation both
From this to that place with no harm at all,)
The DevO, that old stager, at lus trick
Of general utility, who leads
Downward, perhaps, but fiddles aU the way I

Therefore, no sooner does our candidate
For saintship spotlessly emerge soul-cleansed
From First Communion to mount guard at post,
Paris-proof, top to toe, than up there start
The Spirit of the Boulevard — you know

Who —
With jocund " So, a structure fixed as fate.



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Faith's tower joins on to tower, no rin^ more

round,
Foil fifty vears at distance, too, from voath I
Once reach that precinct and there, nght yoor

best.
As lookine back yon wonder what has come
Of daiflrjr-oappled turf von danced across I
Few flowers that played with youth shall

pester age.
However age esteem the courtesy ;
And Eldobert was something past his prime.
Stocked Caen with chnrches ere he tried hand

here.
Saint -SaaTeor, Notre -Dame, Saint -Pierre,

Saint-Jean
Attest his handiwork commenced betimes.
He probably would preach that turf is mud.
Suppose it mud, through mud one picks a way.



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 147 of 198)