Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Yoa hare absolved me from my sin at least I
Yoa stand stout, strong, in the rude health of

No touch of the tame timid nullity
My cowardice, forsooth, has practised on I
Av, while you seemed to hint some fine fifth act
Ox tragedy should freeze blood, end the farce,
I never doubted all was joke. I kept.
Maybe, an eye alert on para(g:raphs,
New8pi4>er-notice, — let no inquest slip,
Aocident, disappearance : sound and sa^e
Were you, my victim, not of mind to die I
So, mv worst fancy that could spoil the smooth
Of pillow, and arrest descent of sleep, ,
Was * Into what dim hole can she have dived.
She and her wrongs, her woe that 's wearing flesh
j±nd blood away f^ Whereas, see, sorrow swells I
Or, fattened, fulsome, have you fed on me,
Snoked out my substance ? How much gloss, I

O'erUoomed those hair -swathes when there

crept from you

To me that craze, else unaccountable.
Which urged me to contest our county-seat
With whom but my own brother's nonunee f^
Did that mouth^s pulp glow ruby from carmine
While I misused my moment, pushed, ~ one

word, —
One hair Voreadth more of gesture, — idiot-like
Past passion, floundered on to the grotesque.
And lost the heiress in a grin ? At least.
You made no such mistake I You tickled fish.
Landed your prize the true artistic way I
How did the smug young curate rise to tune
Of * Friend, a fatal fact divides us. Love
Suits me no longer. I have stuff'ered shame.
Betrayal : past is past ; the future — yours —
ShaU never he contaminate by mine !
I might have spared me this confession, not
— Cm, never biy some hideousest qflies.
Easy, impenetrable ! No ! but say,
Byiust the quiet answer — *''Iam cold.**
Falseliood avaunt, each shadow qfthee. hence !
Had happier fortune willed , . , but dreams are

Now, leave me — ues, for pity*s sake ! ' Aha,
Who fails to see the curate as his face
Reddened and whitened, wanted handkerchief
At wrinkling brow and twinkling eye, until
Out burst the proper * Angel, whom the fiend
Has thought to smirch, — tliy ufhiteness, at one

Of holy cambric, shall disgrace the swan !
Mine be the task ' . . . andso forth ! Fool? not

Cunning in flavors, rather I What but sour
Suspected makes the sweetness doubly sweet.
Ana what stings love from faint to fliunboyant
But the f ear«]>rinkle ? Even horror helps —
^ hov^s flame in me by such recited umma
Drenched, munched, indeed f It bums the fierce-

Her thence / '
Why, I have known men never love their wives
Till somebodv — myself, suppose — had

And quenched love,* so the blockheads whined:

as if
The fluid fire that lifts the torpid limb
Were a wrong done to palsy. But I thrilled
No {Milsied person : half my age, or less.
The curate was, I *11 wager : o'er young blood
Your beauty triumphed I Eh, but — was ithef
Then, it was he, I heard of ! None beside I
How frank you were about the audacious boy
Who fell upon you like a thunderbolt —
Passion ana protestation I He it was
Reserved in petto ! Ay, and * rich ' beside —
* Rich ' — how supremelv did disdain curl nose 1
All that I heard was — ^wedded to a priest ; '
Informants sunk youth, riches and the rest.
And so my lawless love disparted loves.
That loves might come together with a rush !
Surely this last achievement sucked me dry :
Indeed, that wav my wits went. Mistress-queen,
Be merciful and let your subject slink
Into dark safety ! He 's a beggar, see —
Do not turn back his ship, Australiarbound,
And bid her land him right amid some crowd
Of creditors, assembled by your curse I
Don't cause the very rope to crack (you can I)

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Whereon he spends his hist (friend's) uxpenoe,

The moment when he hoped to hang himself I
Be satisfied yon beat him I "

She leplies —

*' Beat him I I do. To all that you confess

Of abject failure, I extend belief.

Tour very face confirms it : God is just I

Let my ntce — fix yonr eyes 1 — in turn confirm

WhatlshaUsay. All-abject *8 but half troth ;

Add to all-abject knaye as perfect fool!

80 is it yon probed human nature, so

Prognosticated of me ? Lay these words

To heart then, or where God meant heart should

That moment when you first revealed yourself,
My simple impulse prompted — end forthwith
The rum of a life ^rooted thus
To surely perish I How should such spoiled tree
Henceforward balk the wind of its worst sport,
Ful to go falling deeper, falling down
From sin to sin until some depth were reached
Doomed to the weakest by the wickedest
Of weak and wicked human-kind ? But when.
That self-display made absolute, — behold
A new rcTealment I — round you pleased to veer.
Propose me what should prompt annul the past,
Make me ''amends by marriage^ — ia. your

Licorporate me henceforth, body and soul,
With soul and body which mere brushing past
Brought leprosy upon me — ^ marry ' these I
Why, then despair broke, reassurance dawned.
Clear-sighted was I that who hurled contempt
As I — thank God ! — at the contemptible.
Was scarce an utter weakling. Rent away
By treason horn, my rightful pride of place,
I was not destined to the shame below.
A cleft had caught me : I might perish there.
But thence to be dislodged and whirled at last
Where the black torrent sweeps the sewage —

* Bare breast be on hard rocky"* laughed out my

Li gratitude, * however rodk's arip may grind !
The plain^ roughs wretched holdfast shau sxMce
This wreck qf me!^ The wind, — I broke in

At passage of, — which stripped me bole and

Twisted me up and tossed me here, — turns

And, playful ever, would replant the spoil ?
Be satisfied, not one least leaf that 's mine
Shall henceiorth help wind's sport to exercise !
Rather I give such remnant to the rock
Which never dreamed a straw would settle

Rock may not thank me, may not feel my

Even : enough that JfeeL hard and cold.
Its safety my salvation. Safe and saved,
I lived, five. When the tempter shall persuade
His pre^ to slip down, shde ofE, trust the

wmd, —
Now that I know if God or Satan be

Prinoe of the Power of the Air, — then, then,

Let my life end and degradation tool **

**Good!" he smiles, *'troe Lord Byionl''

* Tree and rock :
iiodb,'— there's advancement! He's at fint

a youth.
Rich, worthless therefore; next he grows a

Touth, riches prove a notable resource.
When to leave me for their possessor gluts
Malice abundantly ; and now, last ch^ige,
The young rich parson represents a rock
— Bloodstone, no doubt. He''s Evangelical f
Tour Ritualists prefer the Church for spouse ! "

She speaks.

** I have a story to relate.
There was a parish-priest, my father knew«
Elderly, poor : I used to pity him
Before I learned what woes are pity-worth.
Elderly was grown old now, scanty means
Were straitening fast to poverty, beside
The ailments which await in such a case.
Limited every way, a perfect man
Within the bounds buUt up and up since bixih.
Breast-high about him till the outside world
Was blank save o'erhead one blue bit of sky —
Futh : he had faith in dogma, small or great,
As in the fact that if he clave his skull
He 'd find a brain there : who proves such a £act
No falsehood bv experiment at price
Of soul and body ? The one rule of life
Delivered him in childhood was *" Obey !
Labor I ' He had obeyed and labored — tame.
True to the mill-track blinked on from above.
Some scholarship he may have gained in yontii :
Gone — dropt or flung behind. Some blo an o m -

Spring's boon, descends on every vernal head,
I usea to think ; but January joins
December, as his year had known no May ;
Trouble its snow-aeposit, — cold and old !
I heard it was his will to take a wife,
A helpmate. Duty bade him tend and tea«^ —
How r with experience null, nor sympathr
Abundant, — while himself worked dosnia

Who would play ministrant to sickness, age.
Womankind, cnildhood? These demand a

Supply the want, then! theirs the wife; for

him —
No coarsest sample of the proper sex
But would have served his purpose equallr
With Qod^B own angel,— let but knowledge

Her coarseness : zeal does only half the work.
I saw this — knew the purblind honest drudge
Was wearing out his simple blameless life,
And wanted help beneath a burden — borne
To treasure-house or dust-heap, what cazed I f
Partner he needed : I proposed myself.
Nor much surprised him — duty was so dear I
Gratitude? What for? Gain of Paradise —
Escape, perhaps, from the dire penalty

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Of who hides talent in a napkin ? No :
J3iB scruple was — shonld I be stroog enoiurh
— In body ? sinoe of weakness in the mind,
Weariness in the heart — no fear of these ?
He took me as these Arctic Tojrasers
Take an aspirant to their toil and pain :^
Can he endnre them ? — that 's the point, and

— T^llhe? Who would not, rather I Where-

I pleaded far more earnestly for leave
To give myself away, than you to gain
What yon called priceless till yon gained the

And soul and body ! which, as beggars serye
Extorted alms, you straightway spi^ upon.
Not so my husband, — for I gained mi suit.
And had my value put at once to proof.
Ask him I These lour vears I hare died away
In village-life. The village? Ugliness
At best and filthiness at worst, inside.
Chitside, sterility — earth sown with salt
Or what keeps even grass from growing fresh.
The life ? I teach the poor ancfleam, myself.
That commonplace to such stupidity
Is all-reoondite. Being brutauzed
Their true need is brute - language, cheery

And kmdly duckings, no articulate
Nonsense Uiat's elsewhere knowledge. Tend

the sick.
Sickened myscuf at pig-perversity,
Cat-craft, dog-snarling— maybe, snapping "...

Ton eat that root of bitterness called Man

— Raw : I prefer it cooked, with social sauce I
So, he was not the rich youth after all 1
Well, I mistook. But somewhere needs must

The compensation. If not young nor rich" . . .

"You interrupt!"

" Because you 've daubed enough
Bistre for background. Pla^ the artist now,
Produce your fig^ue well-rekeved in front I
The contrast — do not I anticipate ?
Though neither rich noe young — what then?

Forgotten, all this ignobility,
In the dear home, we darling word, the smile,
The something sweeter " . . .

** Tee, yog interrupt.
I have my purpose and proceed. Who lives
With beasts assumes beast-nature, look and

Andy much more, thought, for beasts think.

In us met selfishness in thein. deserved
Such answer as it gained. M;^ husband, bent
On saving his own soul by saving theirs, —
They, bent on being saved if saving soul
Included body's getting bread and cheese
Somehow in hf e and somehow after death, —
Both parties were alike in the same boat.
One danger, therefore one equality.


Had we two simply sallied forth and preached
r the ^Green^ they call their grimy, — I with

Safety induces culture : culture seeks

To institute, extend and multiply

The difference between safe man and man.

Able to live alone now ; prop^ress means

What but abandonment of fellowship ?

We were in common danger, still stuck close.

No new books, — were uie old ones mastered

No pictures and no music : these divert
1— What from ? the staving danger off I Ton

The waterspout above, you set to words
The roaring of the tempest round yon?

Amusement ?^ Talk at end of the dred day
Of the more tiresome morrow 1 I transcribed
The page on page of sermon - scrawlings —

Intellect's eye and ear to sense and found —
Vainly : the sound and sense would penetrate
To brain and plague there in despite of me
Maddened to know more moral good were done




Of long'^iBused guitar, — with cut and slash
Of mnoh-misvalued horsewhip he, — to bid
The i>eaceable come dance, the i>eace-breaker
Pay in his person! Whereas — Heaven and

Excite with that, restrain with this I — so dealt
His drugs mv husband ; as he dosed himself.
He drenched his cattle : and, for all my part
Was just to dub the mortar, never fear
But drugs, hand pestled at, have poisoned

Heaven he let pass, left wisely undesoribed :
As applicable therefore to the sleep
I want, that knows no waking — as to what 'a
Conceived of as the proper pnze to tempt
Souls less world-weary : there, no fault to find I
But Hell he made explicit. After death,
Life : man created new, ingeniously
Perfect for a vindictive purpose now.
That man, first fashioned in beneficence.
Was proved a failure ; intellect at length
Replacing old obtuseness, memory
Made mindful of delinquent's bygone deeds
Now that remorse was vain, which life-long lay
Dormant when lesson might be laid to heart ;
New gift of observation up and down
And round man's self, new power to apprehend
Each necessary consequence of act
In man for well or ill — thin^ obsolete —
Just granted to supplant the idiocy
Man's only guide while act was yet to choose,
With ill or well momentously its fruit ;
A faculty of immense suffering
Ck>nf erred on mind and body, — mind, erewhile
Unvirited by one compunctious dream
During sin's drunken slumber, startled up
Stung through and through by sin's signiT
Now that the holy was abolished — just
As body which, aUve, broke down beneath
Knowledge, lay helpless in the^Mtth to good.
Failed to acoomplisn aught legittmate.
Achieve aught worthy, — which grew old in


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And at its longeet fell a out-down flower, —

Dying, this too revived by miracle

To hear no end of burden now that back

Snpported torture to no use at all,

Ana live imperishably potent — sinoe

Life's potency was impotent to ward

One plague <^ which made earth a hell before.

This doctrine, which one healthy view of

One sane sight of the ^neral ordinance —
Nature — and its particular object — man, —
Which one mere eye-cast at the character
Of Who made these and gave man sense to

Had dissipated once and evermore, —
This doctrine I have dosed our flock withal. ^
Whv ? Because none believed it. Jliey desire
Sncn Heaven and dread such Hell, whom every

The alehouse tempts firom one, a dog-fight bids
Defy the other ? All the harm is done
Ourselves — done my good husband who in

Perhaps read Dickens, done myself who still
Ck>uld play both Bach and Brahms. Such life

flead —
Hianks to you, knave I Ton learn its qual-
Thanks to me,foolI*'

He eyes her earnestly.
But she continues.

** — Life which, thanks once more
To you, arch-knave as exqnisitest fool,
I acqniescingly — I gratefully
Take back again to heart I and hence this

Which yesterday had spared yon. Four yean

life — I began to find intolerable,
Only this moment. Ere your entry just.
The leap of heart which answered, spite of me,
A friend's first summons, first provocative.
Authoritative, nay, compulsive call
To quit, though for a single day, my house
Of bonaage — made return seem horrible.
I heard again a human lucid laugh
All trust, no fear ; again saw eirai pursue
Its narrow busy way amid small cares.
Smaller contentments, much weeds, some few

flowers, —
Never suspicious of a thunderbolt
Avenging presently each daisy's death.
I recognized the beech-tree, knew the thrush
Repelled his old music-phrase, — all ri^t,
How wrong was I, then 1 But your entry

Illusion, bade me back to bounds at once.
I honestly submit my soul : which sprang
At love, and losing love lies signed and Maled
* Failure.^ No love more? then, no beauty

Which tends to breed love ! Purify my

Effortless till some other world poonree
Some other chance of prize I or, if none be, —
^Qt second world nor chance, — undesecrate

Die then this aftergrowth of heart, surmised
Where May's precipitation left June blank !
Better have failed m the high aim, as I,
Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed
As, God be thanked, I do not I Ugliness
Had I called beauty, falsehood — truth, and

you —
My lover 1 No— .this earth's unchanged for

By his enchantment whom God made the

O' the Power o' the Air, into a Heaven : time

Heaven, since there is Heaven's mmulatiofn —

I sit possessed in patience : prison-roof
Shall break one day and Heaven beam orver-


His smile is done with ; he speaks bitterly.

** Take my congratulations, and permit
I wish myself had proved as teachable !
— Or, no I until you taught me, could I leant,
A lesson from experience ne'er till now
Conceded ? Please you listen while I show
How thoroughly you estimate my w<ntli
And yours — the immeasurably superior I I
Believed at least in one thing, first to last, —
Tour love to me : I was the vile and yoa
The precious ; I abused yon, I betrayed,
But doubted — never I Whv else so nry way
Judas-like plodding to this rotters' Field
Where fate now ^ds me ? What has dinned

my ear
And dog|^ my step ? The spectre with the

* Such she was, such were you^ whose punithmad
Is Just I ' And such she was not, all ihe while I
She never owned a love to outrage, faith
To pay with falsehood ! For, my heart knows

Love once and yon love always. Why, it '■

Here in the Album : every lover knows
Love may use hate but — turn to hate, itself —
Turn even to indifference — no, indeed !
Well, I have been spellbound, deluded like
The witless negro by the Obeah-man
Who bids him wither : so, his eye mws dim.
His arm slack, arrow misses aim and spear
Goes wandering wide, —and all the woe he-
He proved untrue to Fetish, who, he finds.
Was just a feather-phantom I I wronged love.
Am ruined, — and there was no love to

**No love? Ah, dead level I invoke thy

To show the murderer where thy heart poured

At summons of the stroke he doubts was dealt
On pasteboard and pretence! Not love, my

I changed for you the verv laws of life :
Made you the standard of all right, all fair.
No genius but you could have been, no sage.

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No sufferer — which is grandest — for the

My hero — where the heroic only hid
To burst from hiding, brighten earth one day I
Age and decline were man's maturity ;
Face, form were nature's type: more grace,

more strength.

What had they been but just superfluous

Lawless divergence ? I hare danced through

On tiptoe at the music of a word.
Hare wondered where was darknesB gone as

Burst out in stars at brilliance of a smile I
Lonely, I placed the chair to help me seat
Your fancied presence ; in companionship,
I kept my finger constant to your glove
Glued to my breast ; then — where was all the

I schemed — not dreamed — how I might die

some death
Should save your finger aching 1 Who creates
Destroys, he only :^ I had laughed to scorn
Whatever angel tried to shake my faith
And make you seem unworthy : you yourself
Only could do that ! With a touch 't was done.
*" Give me all, trust me wholly I ' At the word,
I did give, I did trust — and thereupon
The touch did follow. Ah, the quiet smile,
The masterfully-folded arm in arm^
As trick obtiuned its triumph one time more !
In turn, my soul too triumphs in defeat :
Treason like faith moves mountains : love is


He paces to and fro, stops, stands quite dose
Ana calls her by her name. Then —

"God forgives:
Forgive you, delegate of Qody brought near
As never priests could bring him to this soul
That prays you both — forgive me ! I abase —
Know myself mad and monstrous utterly
In all I aid that moment ; but as God
Gives me this knowledge — heart to feel and

To testify — so be you gracious too I
Judge no man by the solitary work
Of — well, they do say and I can believe —
The devU in him : his, the moment, — mine
The life —your life 1 "

He names her name agun.

" You were just — merciful as just, yon were
In giving me no respite : punishment
Followed offending. Sane and sound once

The patient thanks decision, promptitude.
Which flung him prone and fastened him from

Haply to others, surely to himself.
I wake and would not you had spared one

'' Had you no fault ? Why must you change,

Parts, why reverse positionsL spoil the play ?
Why did your nobleness look up to me.
Not down on the ignoble thing confessed f
Was it your part to stoop, or lift the low ?
Wherefore did God exalt you ? Who would

The brute man's tamenees and intelligence
Must never drop the dominating eye :
Wink — and what wonder if the xnad fit break,
Followed by stripes and fasting ? Sound and



that ends well! "

Yet again her name.

My life, chastised now, couches at your foot.
Accept, redeem me I Do your eyes ask * How t '
I stand here penniless, a beggar ; talk
What idle trash I may, thiannal blow
Of fortune fells me. 1 disburse, indeed.
This boy his winning^? when each bubble'

That danced athwart my brain, a minute anoSt
The worse the better, — of repairing straie^t
My misadventure by fresh enterprise.
Capture of other boys in foolishness
EQs fellows, — when these fancies fade away
At first sight of the lost so long, the found
So late, the lady of my life, b^ore
Whose presence I, the lost, am also found
Incapable of one least touch of mean
Expedient. I who teemed with plot and wile —'
That fMniiy of snakes your eye bids flee I
Listen I Our troublesomest dreams die off
In daylight : I awake, and dream is — where f
I rouse up horn the past : one touch dispels
England and all here. I secured long smoe
A certain refuge, solitary home
To hide in, should the head strike work one

The hana forget its cunning, or perhaps
Socie^ grow savage, — there to end
My life's remainder, which, say what fools wHl,
Is or should be the best of life, — its fruit.
All tends to, root and stem and le^ and flower.
Come with me, love, loved once, loved only,

Blend loves there I Let this parenthetic doubt
Of love, in me, have been the trial test
Appointed to all flesh at some one stage
Oi soul's achievement, — when the strong man

Wm strength, the good man whether goodneaa

The artist in the dark seeks, fails to find
Vocation, and the saint forswears his shrine.
What if the lover may elude, no more
Than these, probative dark, must search the

Vainly for love, his soul's star ? But the orb
Breaks from eclipse : I breathe again ;. I love I
Tempted, I fell ; but fallen — fallen lie
Hero at your feet, see I Leave this poor pre-
Of umon with a naturo and its needs
Repugnant to your needs and naturo I Nay,
False, beyond falsity you roprohend
In me, is such mock marria^ with such mere
Man-mask as — whom you witless wrong, besidet
By that ezi>endituro of heart and brain

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He reoks no more of than would yonder tree
If -watered with your life-blood : rains and dews
Answer its ends sufficiently, while me
One drop saves— sends to flower and fmit at

The laggard virtne in the sonl which else
Cumbers the ground I Quicken me ! Gall me

yours —
Yours and the world's — yours and the world's

and God's I
Tes, for jrou can, yon onl^ I Think I Confirm
Tour instinct I Say, a minute since, I seemed
The castaway vou count me, — all the more
Auparent shall the angelic potency
Loft me from out perdition's deep of deeps
To light and life and loye ! — that's lore for

you —
Lore that already dares match might with

Ton loved one worthy, — in 3rour estimate, —
When time was; you descried tiie unworthy

And where was love then ? No such test could

Try mv love : but yon hate me and revile ;
Hatred, revilement — had you these to bear,
Would you, as I do, nor revile, nor hate.
But simply love on, love the more, perchanoe ?
Abide by your own proof I * Yowr love ttxu

Its ghost knows no forgetting 1 ' Heart of mine.
Would that I dared remember ! Too unwise
Were he who lost a treasure, did himself
Enlarge upon the sparkling catalogue
Of gems to her his queen who trusted late
The keeper of her caskets ! Can it be
That I, custodian of such relic still

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 156 of 198)