Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 155 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 155 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

In something of a stupor, went my way.
I fancy there had been some talk before
Of somebody — her father or the like —
To coach me in the holidays, — that 's how
I came to get the sight ana speech of her, —
But I had sense enough to break off sharp.
Save both of us the pain."

'' Quite rii^t there!"

Quite wrong, it happens I Now comes worst of

Tes, I did sulk aloof and let alone
The lovers — / disturb the angel-mates ? "

'' Seraph paired off with cherub ! "

"Thank youl While
I never plucked up courage to inquire
Who he was, even, — certain-sure of this.
That nobody I knew of had blue wings
And wore a star-crown as he needs must do, —
Some little lady, — plainish, pock-marked girl, —
Finds out my secret in my woeful face.
Comes u]) to me at the Apollo Ball,^
And pityingly pours her ynne and oil
This way into the wound :* * Dear f-f -friend ^
Why waste affection thus on — must I sap.
A somewhat worthless object f Who 's her choice —
Irrevocable as deliberate —
Out (if the wide world t I shall name no names —

But there '< a person in society^

Who, blessed with rank ana taUni, has grown

In idleness and sin qf every sort
Except hypocrisy: he '5 Uirice her age,
A byworafor * successes with the sex '
As the French say — and, as we ought to say^
Consummately a liar and a rogue.
Since — show me where '< the woman won without
The help qfthis one lie which she believes —
That — never mind how things have come to past,
And let who loves have loved a thousand times —
All the same he now loves her only, loves
Her ever lifby*^ won * you just mean * sold,*
That Is quite another compact. Well, this scamp.
Continuing descent from bad to worse.
Must leave his fine and fashionable prey
{Who— fathered, brothered, husbanded, — are

About with thorny danger) and apply
His arts to this poor country ignorance
Who sees forthwith in the first rag of man
Her model hero ! Why continue waste
On such a woman treasures qfa heart
Would yet find solace, —yes^ myf-f-friend —
In some congenial — fiddle-diddle-aee ? ' *'

" Pray, is the pleasant gentleman described
£xact the portrait which my ''f-f-friencU '
Recognize as so like ? 'T is evident
You half surmised the sweet original
Could be no other than myself, just now !
Tour stop and start were fiattenng I "


Caricature 's allowed for in a sketch !
The longish nose becomes a foot in length.
The swarthy cheek gets copper-colored, — still,
Prominent beak and dark-hued skin are facts :
And * parson'' s daughter^ — * young man coach-
able^ ^
^Elderly party ' — ''four years since ' — were facts
To fasten on. a moment 1 Marriage, thon^ —
That made tne difference, I hope."

"All right!
I never married ; wish I had — and then
Unwish it : people kill their wives, sometimes!
I hate my mistress, but I 'm murder-free.
In your case, where 's the grievance ? Too

came last.
The earlier bird picked up the worm. Suppose
You, in the glory of your twenty-one.
Had happened to precede myself ! 'tis odds
But this gigantic juvenility.
This offering of a big arm's bony hand —
I 'd rather shake than feel shake me, I know -
Had moved my dainty mistress to admire
An altogether new Ideal — deem
Idolatry less due to life's decline
Productive of experience, powers mature
Bv dint of usage, the made man — no boy
That 's all to make ! I was the earlier bird —
And what I found, I let fall ; what yon
Who is the fool that blames you for ? "

For nothing, everything I

For finding out

Digitized by




She, whom I vonhipped, was a worshipper
In torn of . . . but why stir up setdea mud ?
She married him — the fifty-year^-old rake —
How yon have teased the talk from me I At

My secret 's told you. I inquired no more,
Nay, stopped ears when informants unshut

mouth ;
Enoupfh that she and he Uto, deuce take where,
Married and happy, or else miserable —
It *8 * Gut-Uie-paok ; ' she turned up ace or

And I left Oxford, Engrland, du^: my hole
Out in Dalmatia, till von drew me thenoe
Badger-like, — ^ Back to London ' was the

word —
*Do things^ a many^ there^ you fancy hard^
VU undertake are easy ! ' — the advice.
I took it, had my twelvemonth's fling with

you —

i Little hand holding large hand pretty tight
■"or all its delicacy — eh, my lord ?)
Until when, t* other day, I got a turn
Somehow and gave up tirea: and * Best ! * bade

*' Marry your cousin, double your estate.
And take your ease by all means / ' So, I loll
On this the springy sofa, mine next month —
Or ^ould loll, but that you must needs beat

The verv down yon spread me out so smooth.
I wish this confidence were still to make I
Ten thousand pounds ? You owe me twice the

For stirring up the black depths I There 's

Or. at least, silence when misfortune seems
All that one has to bear ; but folly— yes.
Folly, it all was I Fool to be so meek.
So humble, — such a coward rather say I
Fool, to adore the adorer of a fool I
Not to have faced him, tried (a useful hint)
Mv big and bon^, here, a^nst the bunch
Oi lily-colored five with signet-ring.
Most like, for little-finger's sole deience —
Much as you flaunt the blazon there I I grind
My teeth, that bite my verv heart, to think —
To know I mieht have made that woman mine
But for the foUy of the coward — know —
Or what 's the good of my apprenticeship
This twelvemonth to a master in the art ?
Mine — had she been mine— just one moment

For honor, for dishonor — anyhow,
So that my life, instead of stagnant . . . Well,
Ton Ve poked and proved stagnation is not

sleep —
Hang you I "

** Hang you for an ungrateful goose I
All this means — I who since I knew vou first
Have helped you to conceit yourself this cock
O* the dungnill with all hens to pick and

choose —
Ought to have helped you when shell first was

By chick that wanted prompting * Usethespurl^
While I was elsewhere putting mine to use.

As well might I blame yon who kept aloof.

Seeing you could not guess I was auve.

Never advued me* Voas I have done —

Beverence such a Jewel as your luck

Hca scratched up to enrich unworthiness I *

As your behavior was, should mine lutve been*

— Faults which we both, too late, are sorry for:

Opposite ages, each with its mistake :

* If youth but would — if age but could^ yoo know.

Don't let us quarrel! Come, we're — yonn^

and old —
Neither so badly off. 60 yon your way.
Cut to the Cousm I I '11 to Inn, await
The issue of diplomacy with Aunt^
And wait my hour on * calm cuxlivtty '
In rumination manifold — ^perhaps
About ten thousand pounos I have to pay I '*


Now, as the elder lights the fresh cigar
Conducive to resource, and saunteringlv
Betakes him to the left-hand backwa^ path, -*
While, much sedate, the younger strides away
To right and maketf for — islanded in lawn
And edged with shrubbery — the brilliant bit
Of Barry's bulling that's the Place, — a pair
Of women, at this nick of time^ one young.
One very young, are ushered with due pomp
Into the same Inn-parlor — ** disengaged
Entirely now ! " the obsequious landlord smiles,
" Since the late occupants — whereof but one
Was ouite a stranger^* — (smile enforced by

** Xe/i, a full two hours since, to catdi the firotn,
Prchahlyfor the stranger'' s sake I " (Bow, smile.
And backing out from door soft-dosed behind.)

Woman and girl, the two, alone inside.
Begin their talk : the girl, with sparkling eyes —
" On, I forewent him purposely I but you.
Who joined at — journeyed m>m the Junction

nere —
I wonder how he failed your notice. Few
Stop at our station : fellow-passengers
Assuredly you were — I saw indeed
His servant, therefore he arrived all right.
I wanted, you know why, to have you safe
Inside here first of all, so dodged about
The dark end of the platform ; that 's his

way —
To swinpr from station straight to avenue
And stride the half a mile for exercise.
I fancied you might notice the huge boy.
He soon gets o'er the distance ; at the house
He '11 hear I went to meet him and have

missed :
He 11 wait. No minute of the bourn's too much
Meantime for our preliminary talk :
First word of which must be — oh, good beyond
Expression of all goodness — you to come 1 *'

The elder, the superb one, answers slow.

" There was no helping that. You called for

Cried, rather : and my old heart answered yon.

Digitized by




Still, thank me I sinoe the effort breaks a

vow —
At least, a promise to myself."

How selfisU get yon happy folk to be I
If I should love my husband, must I needs
Sacrifice strais^htway all the world to him.
As you do ? Must I never dare leave house
On this dread Arctic expedition, out
And in again, six mortal hours, though yon.
You even, my own friend forevermore,
Adjure me — fast your friend till rude love

Poor friendship from her vantage — just to

The quarter of a whole day^s company
And counsel ? This makes counsel so much

Need and necessity. For here 's my block
Of stumbling : in the face of happiness
So absolute, fear chills me. If such change
In heart be but love*s easy consequence.
Do I love ? If to marry mean —let go
All I now live for, should my marriage be ? "

The other never once has ceased to gaze
On the great elm-tree in the open, posed
Fladdly full in front, smooth bole, broad branch,
And leafage, one green plenitude of May.
The gathered thou«:ht runs into speech at last.

** O yon exceeding beauty, bosomful ^

Of lights and shades, murmurs and silences.

Sun-warmth, dew-coolness, — squirrel, bee and

High, higher, highest, till the blue proclaims
" Leave earthy thare '< nothing better till next step
Heavenward / ' — so, off flies what has wings to

help I"

And henceforth they alternate. Says the
girl —

** That 's saved then : marriage spares the early

**Four years now, since my eye took note of

** If I had seen no other tree but this

My life long, while yourself came straight, you

From tree which overstretched you and was

One fairy tent with pitchei^leaves that held
Wine, and a flowery wealth of suns and moons.
And xnagic fruits -vdiereon the angels feed —
I looking out of window on a tree
Like yonder — otherwise well-known, much-

^ liked.
Yet just an English ordinary elm —
What marvel if you cured me of conceit
Mv elm*s bird-bee-and-squirrel tenantry
Was onite the proud possession I supposed ?
And there is evidence you tell me true.
The fairy marriage-^3«e reports itself
Good guardian of the perfect face and form.

Fruits of four years* protection! Mairied

Yon are more beautiful than ever I '*


I think that likely. I could well dispense
With all thought fair in feature, mine <» no.
Leave but enough of face to know me by —
With all found fresh in youth 4 except


Ab lets a life-long labor earn repose
Death sells at just that price, they say; and

Possibly, what I care not for, I keep."

** How you must know he loves yon I Chill,

Fear sinks to freezing. Could I sacrifice —
Assured my lover simply loves mv soul —
One nose-breadth of uiir feature ? No, indeed I
Your own love" • . •

** The preliminary hour —
Don*t waste it I "

** But I can't begin at once I
The angePs self that comes to hear me speak
Drives away all the care about the speech.
What an angelic mystery you are —
Now — that is certain 1 when I knew vou first.
No break of halo and no bud of wing f
I thought I knew you, saw you, round and

Like a glass ball ; suddenly, four years sinoe.
You vanished, how and whither ? Mystery !
Wherefore? No mystery at aJl : you loved.
Were loved again, and left the world of couxae :
Who would not ? Lapped four years in fiaiiy-

Out comes, by no less wonderful a chance.
The changeling, touched athwart her trelliaed

Of blush-rose bower by just the old friend's

That 's now struck dumb at her own potency.
I talk of xnv small fortunes ? Tell me yours
Rather I The fool I ever was — I am.
You see that : the true friend you ever had.
You have, you also recognize. Perhaps,
Giving you all the love of all my heart.
Nature, that 's niggard in me, has denied
The after-birth of love there 's some one «^^^»™^
— This huge boy, swinging up the avenue ;
And I want counsel : is defect in me.
Or him who has no right to raise the love ?
My cousin asks my hand :^ he 's young enongb.
Handsome, — ray maid thinks, — manly 's more

the word :
He asked my leave to * drop ' the elm-tree there.
Some morning before breakfast. Gentleneos
Goes with the strength, of course. He 's hoo-

limpidly truthf uL For abilitv —
AU 's in the rough yet. His first taste of life
Seems to have somehow gone against the

He travelled, tried things — came back, tried

still more —

Digitized by




He says he 'a dok of alL He 'a fond of me
After a oertain careleoBreamest way
I like : the izon 's crude, — no polished steel
Somebody forged before me. I am rich —
That 's not the reason, he 's far richer : no,
Nor 18 it that he thinks me pretty, — frank
Undoubtedly on that point f He saw once
The pink of faoe-perf ection — oh, not you —
Content yourself, my beauty I — for sne proved
So thoroughly a cheat, his charmer . . . nay,
He runs into extremes, I 'U say at once.
Lest you say I Well, I understand he wants
Some one to serve, something to do : and both
Requisites so abound in me and mine
That here 's the obstable which stops consent —
The smoothness is too smooth, and 1 mistrust
The unseen oat beneath the counterpane.
Therefore I thought — ^ Wotdd she out judge/or

Who, Judging for herseif^ succeeded so ! '
Do I love him, does he love me^ do both
Mistake for knowledge —easv ignorance ?
Appeal to its proficient in each art !
I got rough-smooth through a piano-piece,
Rattled away last week tul tutor came,
Heiurd me to end, then grunted *Ach, mein OoU I
8aaen Sie ** ecuy " f Every note is wrong !
Alt thumped mil wrist — we HI troubUfingers now.
The Fraulein unllplease roll up Rcffaqain
And exercise at Czemyfor one month ! '
Am I to roll up cousin, exercise
At Trollope's novels for one month? Pro-
nounce! "

** Now, place each in the right position first.
Adviser and advised one I I perhaps
Am three — nay, four years older ; am, beside,
A wife : advantages — to balance which.
Ton have a full £resh joyous sense of life
That finds you out life's fit food everywhere,
Detects enjoyment where I, slow and dull.
Fumble at fault. Alreadv, these four years.
Tour merest glimpses at the world without
Have shown jon more than ever met my gaze ;
And now, by joyance you inspire joy, — leam
While you profess to teach, and teach, although
Avowedly a learner. I am dazed
Like any owl by sunshine which just sets
The sparrow preening plumage ! Here 's to spv
— Your oousm I You have scanned him aU

your life,
Little or much ; I never saw his face.
Y'on have determined on a marriage — used
Deliberation therefore — I 'U believe
1^0 otherwise, with opportunity
For judgment so abounding ! Here stand I —
Summoned to give my sentence, for a whim,
(Well, at first cloud-fleck thrown athwart your

Jadge what is strangeness' self to me, ~ say

Or * Wed not I ' whom you promise I shall

^^esently, at propitious lunch-time, just
While he carves chicken I Sends ne leg for

That revelation into character
Ajid conduct must suffice me ! Quite as well

Consult with yonder solitary crow
That eyes us irom your elm-top I "

** Still the same I
Do yon remember, at the library
We saw together somewhere, those two books
Somebody said were notice-worthy ? One
Lay wide on table, sprawled its painted leaves
For all the world's inspection ; shut on shcdf
Reclined the other volume, closed, clasped,

locked —
Clear to be let alone. Which mu^ had we
Preferred the turning over of r You were.
Are, ever will be the locked lady, hold
Inside you secrets written, — soul absorbed.
My ink upon your blotting-paper. I—
What trace of you have I to snow in turn?
Delicate secrets ! No one juvenile
£iver essayed at croquet and performed
Superiorly but I confided you
The sort of hat he wore and hair it held.
While you? One day a calm note comes by

pNwt —
* 1 am just married, you may like to kear.^
Most men would hate you, or they ought ; we

Whatwefear,— 7do! ' CoU ' I shall expect
My cousin calls you. I — dislike not him.
But (if I comprehend what loving means)
Love you immeasurably more — ^^more — more
Than even he who, loving you his wife.
Would turn up nose at who impertinent,
Frivolous, forward — loves that excellence
Of all the earth he bows in worship to !
And who 's this paragon of privilege ?
Simply a country punon : his the charm
That worked the miracle I Oh, too absurd —
But that you stand before me as you stand !
Such beauty does prove somethinfir, everything !
Beauty 's the prize-flower which dispenses eye
From peering into what has nourished root —
Dew or manure: the plant best knows its

Enough, horn teaching youth and tending age
And hearing sermons. — haply writing tracts, —
From such strange love-besprinklea compost,

Out blows tins triumph I Therefore love 's the

Plants find or fail of. You, with wit to find.
Exercise wit on the old friend's behalf, ^
Keep me from failure ! Scan and scrutinize
This cousin I Surely he 's as worth your pains
To study as my elm-tree, crow and all,
You still keep staring at. I read


"At last?"

" At first ! * Would, tree, a-top of thee
Iwingkd were, like crow perched moveless there.
And so could straiahtway soar, escape this bore.
Back to my nent where broods whom I love^ best -—
The parson o'er his parish — garish — rarish,' —
Oh, 1 could bring the rhyme in if I tried :
The Album here inspires me I Quite apart
From lyrical expression, have I read
The stare aright, and sings not soul just so? "


Digitized by




** Or rather so t * Cool oon^ortaJUe elm
That men make coffins out of ^ — none for me
At thy expense^ so thou permit I alide
Under thy ferny feety and there sleep^



Nor dread atoaJcing though in heaven iti

The younger looks with faoe struck sadden

The elder answers its inquiry.

You are a gfuesser, not a * clairvoyante.
I '11 so far open you the looked and shelved
Volume, my soiu, that yon desire to see.
As let you profit by the title-page *' —

*' Paradise Lost f'

** It\f€mo ! — All which comes
Of tempting me to break my vow. Stop here !
Friend, whom I love the best in the whole

Gome at your call, be sure that I will do
All your requirement — see and sa^ my mind.
It may be that by sad apprentioeship
I have a keener sense : Pll task the same.
Only indulge me, — here let sight and speech
Happen, — this Inn is neutral ground, yon

I cannot visit the old house and home,
Eboounter the old sociality
Abjured forever. Peril quite enough
In even this first — last, I pray it prove —
Renunciation of my solitude I
Back, you, to house and cousin! Leave me

Who want no entertainment, carrv still
Mv occupation with me. While I watch
The shadow inching round those ferny feet.
Tell him *'A schoot-Jriend wants a word with

Up at the inn : time, tide, and train wonH wait :

I must go see her— on and qff' again —

You ^If keep me company f ' Ten minutes*

"With you m presence, ten more afterward
With who, alone, convoys me station-bound.
And I see clearly — and say honestlv
To-morrow : pen shall play tongue s part, you

Gk> — quick I for I have made our hand-in-
Return impossible. So scared^ yon look, —
If cousin does not greet you with \What ghost
Has crossed your path f ' I set him down ob-

And after one more look, with face still white.
The younger does go, while the elder stands
Occupied by ^e elm at window there.


Occupied by the elm ; and, as its shade
Has crept clock-hand- wise till it ticks at fern
Five inches further to the South, — the door
Opens abruptly, some one enters sharp.

The elder man returned to wait the youth :
Never observes the room's new ooonpant.
Throws hat on table, stoops qmok, elbow-

Over the Album wide there, bends down brow

A cogitative minute, whistles shrill.

Then, — with a cheery-hopeless laogh-and-lose

Air of defiance to fate visibly

Casting the toils about Imn — mouths oooe

* Haiiy calm acdivity, salubrious spot ! '
Then daspe-to cover, sends book spinning oflF
T' other side table, looks up, starts erect
Full-face with her who — roused from that ab-
Question * Will next tick tip the fern ornof* —
Fronts him as fully.

All her languor breaks.
Away withers at once the weariness
From the black-blooded brow, anger and hate
Convulse. Speech follows slowlier, but at
last —

" Ton here I I felt, I knew it would befall !
Knew, by some subtle undivinable
Trick of the trickster, I should, siUy-sooth,
Late or soon, somehow be allured to leave
Safe hiding and come take of him arrears.
My torment due on four vears' respite I Time
To pluck the bird^s healea breast of down o'er

Have your success ! Be satisfied this sole
Seeing you has undone all heaven could do
These four years, puts me back to you mad

What will next trick be, next sucoeas? No

When I shall think to glide into the grave.
There will you wait disguised as beckotiing

And cateh and capture me forevermore I
But, €k>d^ though I am nothing, be thou all !
Contest him for me 1 Strive, for he is stroner ! "

Alreadv his surprise dies palely out
In lanpin of acquiescing impotence.
He neither gasps nor hisses: calm and plain—

** I also felt and knew — but otherwise I
You out of hand and sight and care of me
These four yean, whom I felt, knew, aJl the

while . . .
Oh, it 's no superstition 1 It 's agift
O* the gamester that he snufte the unseen

Which help or harm him. Well I knew what

Lay perdue paralyzing me, — drugged, drowsed
And damnified my soul and body both I
Down and down, see where you have dragged

me to.
You and your malice! I was, four yean

— Well, a poor creature ! I became a knave.
1 8<iiiandered my own pence : I plum^ mv purse
With other people^s pounds. I practisea play
Because I likea it : play turns labor now

Digitized by




Beoanae there 't profit also in the roort.
I gamed with men of equal age and craft :
I steal here with a boy as green as grass
Whom I have tightened hold on slow and sure
This long while, just to bring about to-day
When the boy beats me hollow, buries me
In ruin who was sure to beggar him.
Oh, time indeed I should look up and laugh
* Surely she dotes onme!^ Here you stand ! **

And stand she does: while Tolubility,

With him, keei>B on the increase, for his tongue

After long locking^up is loosed for onoe.

^* Certain the taunt is happy ! '' he resumes :
'* So, I it was allured you — only I
— I, and none other — to this spectacle —
Your triumph, my despair — you woman-fiend
That front me I Well, I have my wish, then 1

The low wide brow oppressed by sweeps of hair
Darker and darker as they coil and swathe
The crowned corpse-wanness whence the eyes

bum black.
Not asleep now! not pin-points dwarfed be-
Either great bridging eyebrow — poor blank

Babies, I Ve pleased to pity in my time :
How they protrude and glow immense with hate!
The long triumphant nose attains — retains ^
Just the perfection : and there *s scarlet-skein
My ancient enemy, ner lip and lipt
Sense-free, sense-mghting lips clenched odd

and bold
Because of chin, that based resoWe beneath I
Then the columnar neck completes the whole
Oreek-eculpture-baffling body ! Do I see ?
Can I observe ? You wait next word to come ?
Well, wait and want I since no one blight I bid
Consume one least perfection. Each and all,
Aa they are rightly shocking now to me.
So may they soil continue I Value them ?
At, as the yendor knows the money-worth
Of his Greek statue, fools aspire to buy.
And he to see the back of 1 Let us laugh !

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 155 of 198)