Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 148 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 148 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

And when, clay-dogged, the struggler steps to

He nnoakfls shoe, arriyes in manlier guise
Than carried pick-arback by Eldobert
Bifl^-baby-feshion, lest his leathers leak !
All that parade about Prince Vertgalant
Amounts to — your Gastilian helps enough —
Invent ovem qua perierat.
But ask the pretty votiye statue-thing
What the lost sheep's meantime amusements

'nil the Archbishop found him! That stays

They washed the fleece well and forgot the

Make haste, since time flies, to determine,

though 1 "

Thus opportunely took up parable, ~~
Adm oni s hin g Miranda just emerged
Pure from The Ravissante and Paris-proof, —
Saint Sganarelle : then slipped aside, changed

And made re-entry as a gentleman
Bom of tiie Boulevard, with another speech,
I spare you.

So, the year or two revolved.
And evOT the young man was dutiful
To altar and to hefurth : had confidence
In the whole Ravissantish history.
Voltaire? Who ought to know so much of

him, —
Old sciolist, whom only boys think sage, —
As one whose father's house upon the Quai
Neighbored the very house where that Voltaire
Died mad and raving, not without a burst
Of squibs and crackers too significant ?
Father and mother hailed their best of sons,
Tyi>e of obedience, domesticity.
Never such an example inside doors t
Outside, as well not keep too dose a watch ;
Touth must be left to some discretion there.
And what discretion proved, I find deposed
At Virej confirmed by his own words : to wit,
How, with the spriteuness of twenty-five.
Five — and not twenty, for he gave their names
With laudable precision — were the few
Appointed by him unto mistress-ship ;
While, meritoriously the whole long week

A votarvof commerce only, week
Ended, at shut of shop on Saturday,
Do I, as is mv wont, get drunk," he writes
In airy record to a confidant.

Thus while, prospectively a combatant.

The volunteer bent brows, clenched jaws, and

Whistled the march-tune "Warrior to the

Something like flowery laus[hters round his feet
Tangled mm of a sudden with *' Sleep first I "
Ana fairly fiat upon the turf sprawled ha.
And let strange creatures make his mouth their


Anyhow, 't is the nature of the soul
To seek a show of durability.

Nor, changing, plainly be the slave of ohaaffe.
Outside the turf, the towels : but, ronncT t



A tent may rise, a temporarv shroud,
Mock-futh to suit a mimic dwelling-place :
Tent which, while screening jollity inside
From the external circuit— evermore
A menace to who lags when he should mareh — >
Tet stands a-tremble, ready to collapse
At touch of foot : turf is aclmowledged grass.
And grass, though pillowy, held oonteinptible
Compared with solid rock, the rampirea ridg^e.
To truUi a pretty homage thus we pay
By testifying — what we dally with.
Falsehood, (which, never fear we take for

We may enjoy, but then — how we despise I

Accordingly, on weighty business bound.
Monsieur L^nce Miranda stooped to play.
But, with experience, soon reduced the game
To principles, and thenceforth plajred by rale :
Rule, dignifying sport as sport, proclaimed
No less Uiat sport was sporty ana nothine more.
He understood the worth ox womankind —
To furnish man— provisionally —sport :
Sport transitive — such earth's amusements

are :
Butj seeing that amus^ents pall by use.
Variety therein is requisite.
And since the serious work of life were wronged
Should we bestow importance on our play,
It follows^ in such womankind-pursuit.
Cheating is lawful chase. We have to spend
An hour — thev want a lifetime thrown away :
We seek to tickle sense — they ask for soul.
As if soul had no higher ends to serve !
A stag-hunt ^ves the royal creature law :
Bat-fowling is all fair with birds at roost.
The lantern and the dap-net suit the hedra.
Which must explain why, bent on Boaurvard

Monsieur L^once ^^firanda decently
Was prudent in his pleasure — passed him^ f^ lf
Off on the fragile fair about his path
As the gay devil rich in mere good looks.

Digitized by




Youtbu hope — what matter though the purae

be void ?
** If I were only youne Miranda, now.
Instead of a poor olerkly dmd^ at desk
All day, poor artist vainly broiling brash
On palette, poor musician scraping gut
Witn horsehair teased that no narmonios come I
Then would I love with liberality,
Then would I pay ! — who now shall be repaid,
Renaid alike ror present pain and past.
If MademoiseUe permit the oontre-danse,
Sing * Gay in eairet youth at twentv liyes,'
And afterward accept a lemonade 1 ''

Such sweet facilities of intercourse
Afford the Winter-Garden and Mabille 1
** Oh, I unite " — runs on the confidence.
Poor fellow, that was read in open CourL
— ** Amusement with discretion : never tear
My escanades cost more than market-price I
No durably-attached Mirandardnpe,
Sucked dry of substance by two clinging lips,
Promising marriage, and performing it !
Trust me, I know the world, and know myself.

And know where duty takes me — in good

■ p,

Thus fortified and realistic, then.
At all points thus aranst illusion armed,
He wisely did New Year inaugurate
By playing truant to the f avorod five :
And sat instaUed at '' The Varieties," —
Playhouse aopropriately named, — to note
frying amid the turf that 's flowery there)
What primrose, firstlinf of the year, might push
Tlie snows aside to deck his buttonhole —
Unnoticed by that outline sad, severe,
(Though fif^ good long yean removed from

That tower and tower, — our image bear in


No sooner was he seated than, behold.

Out burst a polyanthus ! He was 'ware

Of a young woman niched in neighborhood ;

And ere one moment flitted, fast was he

Found captive to the beauty evermore,

For life, for death, for heaven, for hell, her own.

Philosophy^ bewail thy fate ! Adieu,

Touth reaustio and illusion-proof !

Monsieur L^nce Miranda, — hero late

Who ** understood the worth of womankind,"

** Who found therein—provisionally— sport," —

Felt, in the flitting of a moment, fool

Was he, and folly all that seemed so wise.

And the best proof of wisdom's birth would be

That he made all endeavor, body, soul.

By any means, at any sacrifice

Of kbbor, wealth, repute, and (—well, the time

For choosing between heaven on earth, and

In heaven, was not at hand immediately — )
Made all endeavor, without loss incurred
Of one least minute, to obtain her love.
** Sport transitive ? *' " Variety required ? "
^' In loving were a lifetime thrown away ? "
How singularly may young men mistake I
The Umt must be repaired with energy.

Monsieur L^nce MiTaiwia. ate her up

With eye-devourins: ; when the unoonsdous fair

Passed from the close-packed haU, he pressed

She mounted vehicle, he did the same.
Coach stopped, and cab fast followed, at one

Good house in unexceptionable street.
Out stepped the lady, — never think, alone 1
A mother was not wanting to the maid.
Or, maybe, wife, or widow, might one say ?
Out stepped and properly aown flung himself
Monsieur L^noe Miranda at her feet —
And never left them after, so to speak^
For twenty years, till his last hour of life.
When he released them, as nreoipitate.
Love proffered and accepted then and there f
Such potency in word and look has truth.

Truth I say, truth I mean : this love was true.
And the rest happened by due consequence.
By which we are to learn that there exists
A falsish false, for truth 's inside the same.
And truth that 's only half true, falsish truth.
The better for both parties I folks may taunt
That half your rock-built wall is rubble-heap :
Answer them, half their flowery turf is stones I
Our friend had hitherto been decking coat
If not with stones, with weeds that stones befit.
With dandelions — " primrose-buds," smirked

This proved a polyanthus on his breast.
Prize-lawful or pnze-lawless, flower the same. *
So with his othor instance of mistake :
Was Christiaiiity the Ravissante ?

And what a flower of flowers he chanced on

now I
To primrose, polyanthus I prefer
As illustration, from the fancy-fact
That out of simple came the composite
By culture: that the florist bedded thick
His primrose-root in ruddle, bullock's blood,
Ochre and devils'-dung, for aiwht I know.
Until the pale and pure grew ^ry-fine.
Ruby and topax, ri^tly named anew.
This lady was no product of the plain ;
Social manure had raised a rarity.
Clara de Millefleurs (note the happy name)
Blazed in the full-blown glory oi ner Spring.
Peerlessly perfect, form and face : for both —
" Inuunne what, at seventeen, may have proved
Miss Pages, the actress: Pages herself, my

dear! "
Noble she was, the name denotes : and rich P
** The apartment in this Coliseum Street,
Furnished, my dear, with such an elegance.
Testifies wealth, my dear, sufficiently !
What quality, what style and title, en ?
Well now, waive nonsense, you and I are boys
No longer : somewhere must a screw be slack !
Don't fancy^ Duchesses descend at door
From carnage - step to stranger prostrate

And bid him take heiirt, and deliver mind,
March in and make himself at ease forthwith, —
However broad his chest and black his beard,
And comely his belongings, —all through love

Digitized by




Protested in a world of ways save one —
Hinting at maniage I " — marriage which yet

Only the obvious method, easiest help
To satisfaction of loye*s nrst demand,
That love endure eternally : ** my dear,
Somewhere or other must a screw be slack 1 ^*

Truth is the proper policy : from truth —
Whatever the force wherewith yon fling your

Be sure that speech will lift you, hr rebound,
Somewhere aboye the lownees of a lie 1
Monsieur L^nce Miranda heard too true
A tale — perhaps I may subjoin, too trite 1
As the meek martyr takes her statued stand
Above our pity, claims our worship just
Because of what she puts in evidence,
Signal of suffering, badge of torture borne
In days gone by, shame then, but glory now.
Barb, in the breast, turned aureole for the front !
So, half timidity, oomposure half,
Clara de MiUefleurs told her martyrdom.

Of poor though noble parentage, deprived
Too early of a father^s guardianship.
What wonder if the prodigality
Of nature in the girl, whose mental gifts
Matched her external dowry, form and face —
If these suggested a too prompt resource
To the resouroeless mother ? *\Tr^ the Stage,
And so esci^e starvation I Prejudice
- Defames Mimetic Art : be yours to prove
That gold and dross may meet and never mix.
Purity plunge in pitch yet soil no plume 1 "

All was prepared in London — (you conceive
The natural shrinking from publicity
In Paris, where the name excites remark) —
Ix>ndon was ready for the grand d^but ;
When some perverse iU-fortnne, incident
To art mimetic, some malicious thrust
Of Jealousy who sidles *twixt the scenes.
Or pops up sudden from the prompter*s hole, —
Somehow the brilliant bubble burst in suds.
Want followed : in a foreign land, the pair I
Oh, hurry over the catastrophe —
Mother too sorely tempted, daughter tried
•Scarcely so much as circumvented, say 1
Caged unsuspecting artless innocence I

Monsieur L^onoe Miranda tell the rest 1 —

The rather that he told it in a style

To puzzle Court Chiide students, much more

** Brief, she became the favorite of Lord N.|
An aged but illustrious Duke, thereby
Breaking the heart of his competitor.
The Prince of O. Behold her palaced straight
In splendor, clothed in diamonos,^' (phrase how

** Giving tone to the City by the Thames !
Lord NT, the nged but illustrious Duke,
Was even on the point of wedding her —
GKving his name to her '' (why not to us ?)
*' But that her better angel interposed.
She fled from such a fate to Paris back.
A fortnight since : conceive Lord N.'s despair !

Duke as he is,^ there 's no invadii^ France.
He must restrict pursuit to poetaTplagiie
Of writing letters daily, duly read
As darlingly she hands them to myself.
The privileged supplanter, who therewith
Li|rht a ci^r and see abundant blue *' —
(Either of neaven or else Havanarsmoke,)
^^ Think 1 she, who helped herself to


In passion of disinterestedness
Now — will accept no tribute of my love
Beyond a paltry ring, three Louis'-worth t
Little she knows I have the rummaging
Of old Papa's shop in the Phioe Vend8me ! ^
So wrote entrancedly to confidant.
Monsieur L^noe Miranda. Surely now.
If Heaven, that see all, understanda no less.
It finds temptation pardonable here.
It mitigates the pronused punishment.
It recognizes that to tarry just
An April hour amid such dainty turf
Means no rebellion against task imposed
Of journey to the distant wall one oay ?
Monsienr L^noe Miranda puts the case !
Love, he is purposed to renounce, abjure ;
But meanwhile, is the case a common one f
Is it the vulgar sin, none hates as he ?
Which question, put directly to ** his dear *'
(His brother — I will tell you in a trice).
Was doubtless meant, by due meandering,
To ^each, to fall not unobserved before
The auditory cavern 'neath the cope
Of Her, the placable, the Ravissante.
But here's the drawback, that the image

Smiles on, smiles ever, says to supplicant
** Ay, ay, ay " — Hke some kindly weathereoek
Which, stuck fast at Set Fair, Favooian

Still warrants you from rain, though Anster^i

Bring down the sky above your doakltw

Had he proposed this question to, nor ** dear "
Nor Ravissante, but prompt to the Police,
The (Commissary of his Quarter, now —
There had been shaggy eyebrows elevate
With twinkling apprehension in each orb
Beneath, and when the sudden shut of mouth
Relaxed, — lip pressing lip, lest out should

The pride of knowledge in too frank a flow, —
Then, fact on fact forthcoming, dose were

Of truth remedial, in sufficiency
To save a chicken threatened with the pip.
Head-staggers and a tumble from its p^oii.

Alack, it was the lady's self that made
The revelation, after certain days
— Nor so unwisely I As the hasohisch-inan
Prepares a novice to receive his dmg.
Adroitly hides the soil with sudden spread
Of carpet ere he seats his customer :
Then snows him how to smoke himiiftlf about
With Paradise ; and only when, at puff
Of pipe, the Houri dances round the brain
Of dreamer, does he judge no need is now

Digitized by




For cironmspeotion and pimetilioiisneas ;
He may resume the semceable scrap
That made the Totary miaware of muck.
Just thus the lady, when her brewage — love —
Was well a-fnme about the novice-brain.
Saw she miprht boldly pluck from underneath
Her lover the preliminary lie.

Clara de Millefleurs, of the noble race.
Was Lucie Steiner, child to Dominique
And Magdalen Conmieroy ; bom at iSierck,
About the bottom of the Social Couch.
The father having come and gone again, ^
The mother and the daughter founa their way
To Paris, and professed mode-merchandise,
Were milliners, we English roughlier say ;
And soon a fellow-lodger in the house.
Monsieur Ulysse Muhlnausen, young and smart.
Tailor by trade, perceived his house-mate's

Smartness, and beauty over and above.
Courtship was brief, and marriage followed

And quicklier — impecuniosity.
The young pair quitted Paris to reside
At London : which repaid the compliment
But sourvily, since not a whit the more
Trade prospered by the Thames than by the

Failing all other, as a last resource,
^*' He would have trafficked in his wife," — she

If for that cause they quarrelled, 'twas, I fear,
Rather from reclamation of her rights
To wifely independence, than as wronged
Otherwise by tne course of life proposed :
Since, on escape to Paris back agun.
From horror and the husband, — ill-exchanged
For safe maternal home recovered thus, —
I find her domiciled and dominant
In that apartment, Coliseum Street,
Where aU the splendid magic met and mazed
Monsieur L^once Miranda's venturous eye.
Only, the same was furnished at the cost
Of some one notable in days long since,
Carlino Centofanti : he it was.
Found entertaining unawares — if not
An angel, yet a youth in search of one.

Why this revealment after reticence ?

Wherefore, beginning " Millefleurs," end at all

Steiner, Muhlhausen, and the ugly rest ?

Because the unsocial purse-controlling wight,

Carlino Centofanti, made aware

By misadventure that his bounty, crumbs

From table, comforted a visitant,

Took churlish leave, and left, too, debts to

Loaded with debts, the lady needs must bring
Her soul to bear assistance from a friend
Beside that paltry ring, three Louis'-worth ;
And therefore might the little circumstance
That Monsieur L^nce had the rummaging
Of old Papa's shop in the Place VendSme,
Pass, perhaps, not so unobservably.

Frail shadow of a woman in the flesh.
These very eyes of mine saw yesterday,

Would I re-tell this storv of your woes.
Would I have heart to do you detriment
By pinning all this shame and sorrow plain
To that poor chignon, — staying with me still.
Though form and face have well-nigh faded

now, —
But that men read it, rough in brutal print.
As two years since some functionary's voice
Rattled all this — and more by very much —
Into the ear of vulgar Court and crowd ?
Whence, by reverberation, rumblings prrew
To what had proved a week-long roar m France
Had not the dreadful cannonry drowned all.
Was, now, the answer of your advocate
More than just this ? ** The shame fell long

The sorrow keeps increasing : God forbid
We judge man by the faults of youth in age ! "
Permit me the expression of a hope
Your youth proceeded like your avenue.
Stepping by bush, and tree, and taller tree.
Until, columnar, at the house they end.
So might your creeping youth columnar rise
And reach, by year and year, symmetrical.
To where all shade stops short, shade's service

Bushes on either side, and boughs above,
Darken, deform the path else sun would

streak ;
And, cornered halfway somewhere, I suspect
Stagnation and a horse-pond : hurrv past I
For here 's the house, the happv half-and-half
Existence — such as stands for happiness
True and entire, howe'er the squeamish talk t
Twenty years long, you may nave loved this

He must have loved jon ; that 's a pleasant life.
Whatever was your ri^ht to lead the same.
The white domestic pigeon pairs secure.
Nay, does mere duty by bestowing egg
In authorized compartment, warm and safe.
Boarding about, and gilded spire above, ^
Hoisted on pole, to do^' and cats' despair I
But I have spied a veriest trap of twigs
On tree-top, every straw a thievery.
Where the wild dove — despite the fowler's

The sportsman's shot, the urchin's stone —

crooned gay,
And solely gave her heart to what she hatched,
Nor minded a malignant world below.
/ throw first stone lorsooth ? 'T is mere assault
Of playful sugarplum against your cheek.
Which, if it makes cheek tingle, wiiies off

Fou, m^ worst woman? Ah, that touches

Puts on his mettle the exhibitor
Of Night-caps, if you taunt him **This, no

doubt, —
Now we have got to Female-garniture, —
Crowns your collection. Reddest of the row 1 "
O unimaginative ignorance
Of what dye's depth keeps best apart from

Li womankind! — how heaven's own pure may

To blush anrorally beside such blanched

Digitized by




DmneneflB as the women-wreaths named Wlitto :
While hell, emptiTe and fnliginmia,
Sickenfl to verypallor as I point
Her place to a Ked doat called woman too I
Hail, heads that ever had snch 8:lor7 once
Tooch Ton a moment, like God's cloven tongroes
Of fire I vonr lambent aoreoles lost may leave
You marKed yet, dear beyond true diadems !
And hold; each foot, nor spom, to man's dia-

What other twist of fetid rag ma^ fall I
Let slink into the sewer the onppmg-cloth I

Lucie, much solaced, I re-finger yon.

The noediom article ; if mddy-marked

With iron-monld, your cambric, — dean at

From poiBon-speck of rot and pnmlence I
Lnde Jinhlhansen said — '* Such thing am I :
Love me, or love me not ! " Miranda said.
** I do love, more than ever, most for this.'*
The revelation of the very truth
Proved the oonduding necessary shake
Which bids the tardy mixture ciystallixe
Or else sta^ ever liquid : shoot up shaft,
Durablv diamond, or evaporate —
Slugg^uh solution through a minute's slip.
Monsieur L^noe Miranda took his soul
Li both his hands, as if it were a vase,
To see what came of the convulsion there.
And found, unid subsidence, love new-born
Sosparklingly resplendent, old was new.
*' whatever be my lady's present, past.
Or future, this is certam of mv soul,
I love her t in despite of all I know.
Defiance of the much I have to fear,
I venture happiness on what I hope.
And love her irom this day f orevermore I
No prejudice to old profound respect
For certain Powers I I trust they bear in mind
A most peculiar case, and straighten out
What 's crooked there, before we dose accounts.
Renounce the world for them — some day I

Meantime, to me let her become the world 1 "

Thus, mutely mig^t our friend soliloquize
Over the tradesmen's bills, his Clara's gift ~
In the apEirtment, Coliseum Street,
Carlino Centofanti's legacy.
Provided rent and taxes were discharged —
In face of Steiner now, De Millefleuis once.
The tailor's wife and runaway confessed.

On such a lady if election light,

(According to a social prejudice.)

If henceforth ^ all the world " she constitute

For any lover, — needs must he renounce

Our world in ordinary, walked about

By couples loving as its laws prescribe, —

Renunciation sometimes difficult.

But, in this instance, time and place and thing

Combined to simplify experiment,

And make Miranda, in the current phrase.

Master the situation passably.

For first facility, his brother died —

Who was, I should have told you, confidant.

Adviser, referee, and subetitnte.
All from a distance : but I knew how aooii
This younger brother, lost in Portugal,
Had to depart and leave our friend at large.
Cut off abruptly from companionshh)
With brotheK«oul of bulk about as bi^,
(Obvious redpient — hjy inteOigenee
And sympathy, poor htUe pair of soula —
Of much affection and some f oolishneaa,)
Monsieur L^nce Miranda, meant to lean
By nature, needs must shut the leaning'-plaoe
To his love's bosom from his brother's neck.
Or falL flat unrelieved of freight sublime.

Next died the lord of the Aladdin's care.
Master o* the mint« and keeper of the keys
Of chests chokefull with gda and silver changed
By Art to forms where wealth forgot itself.
And caskets where renosed each puUet-egg
Of diamond, slipping flame from fifty slants.
In short, the father of the family
Took his departure also from our scene.
Leaving a fat succession to his heir
Monsieur L^once Miranda, — ** fortunate.
If ever man was, in a father's death,"
&o commented the world, — not he, too kind.
Could that be. rather than scarce kind enough
Indisputably fortunate so far,
That little of incumbrance in his path.
Which money kicks aside, would lie tliere kng.

And finally, a rough but wholesome shock.

An aoddent which comes to kill or cure,

A jerk which mends a dislocated joint !

Such happy chance, at cost of twinge, no doubt.

Into the socket back again put truth.

And stopped the limb from longer draggiac

For love suggested, ** Better shamble on.
And bear your lameness with what grace yoa

And but for this rude wholesome accident.
Continuance of disguise and subterfuge.
Retention of first ralsehood as to name
And nature in the lady, might have proved
Too necessary for abandonment.
Monsieur L^nce Miranda probably
Had else been loath to cast the mask aside,
So politic, so self-i>reservative,
Hieref ore so pardonable — though so wrong !
For see the bugbear in the background!

But ugly name, and wind is sure to waft
The husband news of the wife's whereabout:
From where he lies perdue in London town.
Forth steps the needy tailor on the stage.
Deity-like from dusk machine of fog.
And daims his consort, or his consort's worth
In rubies which her price is far above.
Hard to propitiate, harder to oppose, —
Who but the man's self came to banish fear,

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 148 of 198)