Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 158 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 158 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Wife : who needs no more hope to hold her own
Against the naughty-and-rwentant — no,
J%an water^gntel against Boman punch I *
And as I prophesied, it proves I Mr Tonth, —
Jnst at the hiq>py moment when, snbdned
To spooniness, he finds that yoath fleets fast.
That town-life tires, that men shonld drop

boys*-play.
That property, position have, no donbt.
Their exigency with their privilege.
And if the wealthy wed with wealth, how dire
The doable daty I — in, behold, there beams
Oar long-lost lady, form and faoe complete I
And where *s my moralizing papil now.
Had not his master missed a train by chanoe ?
Bat, by yoar side instead of whirled away.
How have I spoiled scene, stopped catastrophe,
Strnok flat the stage-effect I know by heart I
Sadden and strange the meeting — improvised ?
Bless yon, the last event she hoped or dreamed I
Bat rode sharp stroke will crash oat fire from

flint —
Assoredly from flesh. ''Tisyouf 'MyseJf!'
*ChangedV 'Changdessl' 'Then, what^s

earth to me f 'Tome
What's heaven f* 'So^ — thineP 'Andthine!'

* And likewise mine I '
Had laaghed * Amen ' the devil, bat for me
Whose intermeddling hinders this hot haste,
And bids yoa, ere concluding contract, paose —
Ponder one lesson more, then sign and seal
At leisure and at pleasure, — lesson's price
Being, if yon have skill to estimate,
^ How say yoa ? — I 'm discharged my debt in

fall!
Since paid yoa stand, to farthing attermost.
Unless I fare like that black majesty
A friend of mine had visit from last Spring.
Coasting akmg the Cape-side, he *s becalmed
Off an oncharted bay, a novel town
Untouched at bjr the trader : here 's a chanoe !
Out paddles straight the king in his canoe.
Comes over bulwark, savs he means to buy
Ship's cargo — being ricn and having brought
A treasure ample for the purpose. See 1
Four dragons, stalwart blackies, guard the



Wrapped round and round : its hulls, a multi-
tude, —
Pahn-leaf and cocoa-mat and goat's-hair cloth
All duly braced about with bark and board, —



Suggest how brave, 'neath coat, must kernel

bel
At length the peeling is accomplished, plain
The casket opens out its core, and lo
— A brand-new British silver sixpence —bid
That 's ample for the Bank, — thinks majesty I
You are the Cuvtain ; call my sinenoe cracked
Or copper : * wnat I *ve said is calumny ;
The lady\ spotleu!' Then,— 1 01 prove my

words.
Or make vou prove them true as truth — your-

seu.
Here, on the instant I 111 not minoe my

speech.
Things at this issue. When she enters, then.
Make love to her ! No talk of marriage now — p
The point-blank bare proposal I Pick no

phrase —
Prevent all misconception I Soon you 11 see
How different the tactics when she deals
With an instructed man, no longer boy
r. Womai '



Who Uushes like a booby. Woman's wit t
Man, since vou have instruction, blush no more I
Such jTour five minutes' profit by my pains,
'T is simply now,— demand and be possessed I
Which means— you may possess — may strip

the tree
Of fruit desirable to make one wise I
More I nor wish nor want : vour act 's your aet^
My teaching is but — there 's the fruit to pluck
Or let alone at pleasure. Next advance
In knowledjg:e were beyond you ! Don't expect
I bid a novice — pluck, suck, send sky-high
Such fruit, once taught that neither crab not

sloe
Falls readier prey to who but robs a hedge.
Than this gold apple to my Hercules.
Were you no novice but proficient — then.
Then, truly, I might prompt you —Touch and



Try flavor and be tired as soon as 1 1
Ton on the prize to greedy mouths agape.
Betake yours, sobered as the satiate grow.
To wise man's solid meal of house and land.
Consols and cousin I but, my boy, my boy.
Such lore 's above you I

Here 's the lady back \
So, Madam, you have conned the Album-page
And come to thank its last contributor ?
How kind and condescending I I retire
A moment, lest I spoil the interview.
And mar my own endeavor to make friends —
You with mm, him with you, and both with

me!
If I succeed — permit me to inquire
Five minutes nencel Friends bid good-by,

you know." —
And out he goes.



VII

She, face, form, bearing, one
Superb composure —

"He has told you all? /
Yes, he has told yoa all, your silence says -^



Digitized by



Google



798



THE INN ALBUM



What giTfls him, as he thinks, the mastery
Over my body and my soul ! — has tohl
That instance, even, of their senritode
He now exacts of roe ? A silent blnsh !
That's well, though better would white igno-



Beseem your brow, undesecrate before —
Ay. when I left you I I too learn at last

— Hideously learned as I seemed so late —
What sin may swell to. Yes, — I needed

leam
That, when my prophet's rod became the snake
I fled from, it would, one day, swallow up

— Inoorporate whatever serpentine
Falsehood and treason and unmanliness
Beslime earth's pavement : such the power of

Hell,
And so beginning, ends no otherwise
The Adversary ! I was ignorant.
Blameworthy — if you will ; but blame I take
Nowise upon me as I ask myself

— You — how can you, whose soul I seemed to

read
The limpid eyes through, have declined so



Even with him for consort ? I revolve
Much memory, pry into the looks and words
Of that day's walk beneath the College wall,
And nowhere can distinguish, in what ^eams
Only pure marble through my dusky pist,
A dubious cranny where such poison-seed
Mi^ht harbor, nourish what should yield to-day
This dread ingredient for the cup I drink.
Do not I recognize and honor truth
In seeming ? — take your truth, and for return,
Give you my truth, a no lees precious gift ?
Tou loved roe : I believed you. I replied

— How could I other ? — * 2 uhu not my oum^
No longer had the eyes to see, the ears

To hear, the mind to judge, since heart and soul
Now were another's. My own right in me,
For well or ill, consigned away — my face
Fronted the honest iMtth, deflection whence
Had shamed roe in the furtive backward look
At the late bargain — fit such chapman's

phrase I —
As though — less hasty and more provident —
Waiting had brought advantage. Not for me
The chapman's chance ! Yet while thus much

was true,
I spared you — as I knew you then — one more
Concluding word which, truth no less, seemed

best
Buried away forever. Take it now.
Its power to pain is past! Four yearn — that

day —
Those limes that make the College avenue I
I would that — friend and foe — bv miracle,
I had, that moment, seen into the heart
Of either, as I now am taught to see I
I do believe I should have straight assumed
My proper function, and sustained a soul,

— Nor aimed at beine just sustained mjrself
By some roan's soul — the weaker woman's-

want!
So had I missed the momentary thrill
Of finding me in presence of a god.
But gained the god's own feeling when he gives



Such thrill to what tarns life from desUi be-
fore.
* Qodt many and Lords many,^ says the Book:
You would have yielded up your soul to me

— Not to the false god who nas burned its dmj
In his own image. ^ had shed mv love

Like Spring dew on the clod all flowery iheoee^

Not sent up a wild vapor to the son

That drinks and then disperses. Both of os

Blameworthy, — I first meet my punishment -^

And not so hard to bear. I breauie again !

Forth from those arms' enwinding leprosy

At last I struggle — uncontaminate :

Why must I leave you pressing to the breast

That 'sail one plague-spot ? Did you lore me

once?
Then take love's last and best retnm! I

think.
Womanliness means only motherhood ;
All love begins and ends there, — roams

enough.
But, having run the circle, rests at home.
Whv is your expiation yet to make ?
Pull shame with your own hands from your

own head
Now, — never wait the slow envelopment
Submitted to by unelastio age I
One fierce throe frees the sapling: flake oa

flake
Lull till they leave the oak snow-stupefied.
Your heart retains its vital warmth — or wby
That blushing reassurance? Blush,

blood!
Break from beneath this icg^ premature
Captivity of wickedness- 1 warn
Back, in God's name ! No fresh <

here!

Tlus May breaks all to bud — no winter now !
Friend, we are both forgiven I Sin no more t
I am past sin now, so shall jou become !
Meanwhile I testify that, Isring once.
My foe lied ever, most lied last of all.
He, waking, whispered to your sense asleep
The wicked counsel, — ana assent might seem ;
But, roused, your healthy indignation breaks
The idle dream-pact. You would die — not

dare
Confirm your dream-resolve, — nay, find Uie

woro
That fits the deed to bear the light of day !
Say I have justly judged you ! then farewell
To blushing — nay, it ends in smiles, not tears I
Why tears now ? I have justly judged, thank

God!"

He does blush boy-like, but the man speaks
out,

— Makes the due effort to surmount himHelf.

** I don't know what he wrote — how should I T

Nor
How he could xead my purpose, which, it

seems.
He chose to somehow write — mistakenly
Or else for nuschiers sake. I scarce befieve
Mv purpose put before you fair and plain
Would need annoy so much ; but there's my

luck —



Digitized by



Google



THE INN ALBUM



799



From first to last I bkuider. Still, one more
Tnm at the target, try to speak my thought !
Since he coold gaess my purpose, won^t you read
Right what he set down wrong ? He said —

let *B think !
Av, so I — he did begin by telling heaps
Of tales about you. Now, you see — suppose
Anv one told me — my own mother died
Before I knew her — told me — to his cost I —
Such tales about my own dead mother : why,
Ton would not wonder surely if I knew.
By nothing but my own heart's help, he lied.
Would you ? No reason 's wanted in the case.
So with you ! In they burnt on me, his tales,
Much as when madhouse^nmates crowd around,
Make oaptiye any visitor and scream
All sorts of stories of their keeper — he 's
Both dwarf and giant, Yuhure, wolf, dog, cat.
Serpent and scorpion, vet man all the same ;
Sane people soon see through the gibberish I
I just made out, you somehow lived somewhere
A life of shame — I can't distinguish more —
Married or single — how, don't matter much :
Suune which nimself had caused — that point

was clear,
^Hiat fact confessed — that thing to hold and

keep.
Oh^and he added some absurdity

— That you were here to make me — ha, ha,

ha! —
Still love yon. still of mind to die for prou,
Ha, ha — as it that needed mightjr paus I
Kow, foolish as . . . but never nund myself ;

— What I am, what I am not, in the eye

Of Uie worid, is what I never cared for much.
Fool then or no fool, not one single word
In the whole string of lies did I oelieve.
But this — this only — if I choke, who

cares? —
I believe somehow in your puritjr
Perfect as ever I Else what use is God ?
He is God, and work miracles he can I
Then, what shall I do? Quite as dear, my

course!
They Ve got a thing they call their Labyrinth
I' the garden yonder : and my cousin played
A ^tty trick once, led and lost me deep
Inside the briery maze of hedge round hedge ;
And there might I be staying now, stock-still.
But that I laughing bade eyes follow nose
And so straight pushed my path through let

and stop
And soon was out in the open, face all

scratched^
But well behind my back the prison-bars
In sorry plight enough, I promise you !
So hero: I won my way to truth through

lies —
Said, as I saw light, — if her shame be shame
1 11 rescue and redeem her, — shame 's no

shame?
Then, I '11 avenge, protect — redeem mvself
The stupidest of sinners ! Here I stand I
Dear, — let me once dare call you so, — you

said.
Thus ought yon to have done, four years ago,
Smoh thmgs and such 1 Ay, dear, and what

ooghtl?



You were revealed to me : where 's gratitude.

Where 's memory even, where the gain of you

Discernible in mv low after-life

Of fancied consolation? why, no horse

Once fed on com, will, missing corn, go munch

Mere thistles like a donkey ! I miawd you.

And in your place found — him, made him my

love,
Ay, did I, — by this token, that he taught
So much beast-nature that I meant . . . God

knows
Whether I bow me to the dust enoufi^ I . .
To many — yes, my cousin here ! I hope
That was a master-stroke ! Take heart of

hers.
And give her hand of mine with no more heart
Than now you see upon Uus brow I strike I
What atom of a heart do I retain
Not all yours ? Dear, you know it ! Easily
May she accord me parclon when I place
My brow beneath her f oo<^ if foot so deign.
Since uttermost indignity is spared —
Mere marrias^ and no love ! And all this time
Not one word to the purpose I Are you free ?
Only wait ! only let me serve — deserve
Where you appoint and how you see the good t
I have the will — perhi^w the power — at least
Means that have power against the world. For

time —
Take my whole life for your experiment !
U you are bound — in marriage, say — why^

ftill.
Still, sure, there 's something for a friend to do.
Outside ? A mere well-wisher, understand !
I 'U sitj mjT life long, at your gate, you know.
Swing It wide open to let you and mm
Pass freely, — and you need not look, much less
Fling me a * Thank you — are you there^ old

friend f
Don't say that even : I should drop like shot !
So I feel now at least : some day, who knows ?
After no end of weeks and months and years
You might smile * I believe you did your best I '
And that shall make my heart leap — leap such

leap
As lands the feet in Heaven to wait you there !
Ah, there 's just one thing more ! How pale

you look I
Why? Are you angry? If there 's, after all.
Worst come to worst — if still there somehow

be
The shame — I said was no shame, — none, I

swear ! —
In that case, if mv hand and what it holds, —
My name, — might be your safeguard now —

at once —
Why, here 's the hand — you have the heart !

Of course —
No cheat, no binding you, because I 'm bound.
To let me off probation by one day.
Week, month, year, lifetime I Prove as yon

propose !
Here 's the hand with the name to take or leave I:
That's all — and no great piece of news, J.

hope I "

** Give me the hand, then I " she cries hastily.
** Quick, now I I hear lus footBtcq[> ] "



Digitized by



Google



8oo



THE INN ALBUM



Hand in hand
Hie ooaple face lum as he enters, stops
Shorty stands surprised a moment^ laoghs away
Surprise, resumes the muoh-expenencea man.

*' So, yon accept him?"

''TiU us death do part I"

** No longer ? Gome, that 's right and rational I
I fancied there was iwwer in common sense,
But did not know it worked thus promptly.

Well —
At last each understands the other, then ?
Each drops disguise, then ? So, at supper-time
These masquerading people doff their gear,
Qrand Turk his pomoous turban, Quakeress
Her stiff-starched biD and tucker, — make-be-
lieve
That only bothers when, ball-business done.
Nature demands champagne and mayonnaiie.
Just so has each of us sage three abjured
His and her moral ^t pwticular
Pketension to superiority.
And, cheek by jowl, we henceforth munch and

joke I
C(o, happy piur, paternally dismissed
To liye and die together — for a month.
Discretion can award no more I Depart
From whatsoe'er the calm sweet sohtude
Selected — Paris not improbably —
At month's end, when the honeycomb's left

wax,
— You, daughter, with a pocketful of ^old
Enong|i to mid your Tillage boys and girls
In dimel cloaks and hobnailed shoes m>m May
To — what's the phrase?— Christmas-come-

neyer>mas I
You, son and heir of nunc, shall reappear
Ere Spriiu^time, that 's the ring^time, lose one

And — not without regretful smack of lip

The while yon wipe it free of honey-smear —

ICarrr the cousin, play the magistrate,

Stand for the county, prove perfection's pink —

Master of hounds, gay-coatea dine — nor die

Sooner than needs of gout, obesity.

And sons at Christ Church I As for me, — ah

me,
I abdicate — retire on my success^
Four years well occupied in teachiuflr youth
— My son and daufj^ter the ezempia^ !
Time for me to retire now, having placed
Proud on their pedestal the pur : in turn,
Let them do homage to their master I You, —
Well, your flushed cheek and flashing eye pro-
claim
Sufficiently your gratitude: you paid
The honorarium, the ten thousand pounds
To purpose, did you not ? I told you so I
Ana you, — but, bless me, why so pale — so

faint
At influx of good fortune ? Certiunlv,
No matter how or why or whose the fault,
I save your life — save it, nor less nor more !
Yon bhndly were resolved to welcome death
In that black boor-and-bumpkin-haunted hole
Of his, the prig with all the preachments! You



Installed as nurse and matron to the crones
And wenches, while there lay a world ontade
Like Paris (which again I recommend).
In oranpan V and guidanoe of — first, tlus.
Then — all in good time — some new friend am

fit —
What if I were to say, some fresh myself.
As I once figured ? Each dog has his day.
And mine 's at sunset : what should old dog do
But eye young litters' frisky pupwhood ?
Oh, I shall watch this beau^ and this yoath
Frisk it in brilliancel But don't fear I Dis-
creet,
I shall pretend to no more recognize
My quondam pupUs than the doctor nods
When certain old acquaintances may croos
His path in Park, or sit down prim beside
His plate at dinner-table : tip nor wink
Scares patients he has put, for reason good.
Under restriction, — maybe, talked sometiiiies
Of douche or horsewhip to, — for why? be-
cause
The gentleman would crazily declare
His best friend was — lago I Ay, and wone—
The lady, all at once grown lunatic.
In suicidal monomania vowed.
To save her soul, she needs must starve herself !
They 're cured now, both, and I tell nobody.
Why don't you speak ? Nay, speechless, (

of you
Can spare — without unclasping plig^ited

troth-—
At least one hand to shake I Left-hands will

do —
Yours first, my daughter! Ah, it gaards- it

gripes
The precious Album fast — and prudently I
As well obliterate the record there
On page the last : allow me tear the leaf I
Pray, now ! And afterward^ to make amends.
What if all three of us contribute each
A line to that prelusive fragment, — help
The embarrassed bard who broke out to hieak

down
Dumfoundered at such unforeseen su cecso ?

* Hail^ calm aeclivitj/, salubrious spot '

You begin — place aux dames! I'll prompt

yon then I
' Here do I take the good the gods allot I ^
Next you. Sir! What, still sulky? Sing, O

Muse!

* Here does my lord in full discharge his shot I '
Now for the crowning flourish ! mine shall

be" . . .



** Nothing to match your first effusion, i

What was, is, shall renuun your masterpieoe 1

Authorship has the alteration-itch I

No, I protest against erasure. Read,

My friend! " (she gasps out). ''Read and

quickly read
' B^ore us death do part^* what made yon mine
And made me yours — the marriage-lieense

here!
Decide if he is like to mend the same I "

And so the lady, white to ghastliness.
Manages somehow to display the page



Digitized by



Google



THE INN ALBUM



Sot



With leffc-haad only, while the right retaiiiB
The other hand, the young man's, — dreaming-

dmnk
He, with this drench of stnpefving staff.
Eyes wide, month open, — half the idiot's stare
Ajid half the prophet's insight, — holding tig^t,
An the same, hy his one not in the wond —
The lady's right-hand : he bat seems to read —
Does not, for certain ; yet, how nnderstand
Unless he reads ?

So, nnderstand he does.
For oertain. Slowly, word by word, she reads
Alond that license — or that warrant, say.

** One against two — and two that vtrge their odda
To uttermost — 1 needs must try resource !
Madam, I laid me prostrate, hade you spurn
Body and tout : you spurned and $<tfely spumed
80 you had spared me the superfiuotu taunt
* Prostration means no power to stand erect,
Stand, trampling on who trampled —prostrate

nowy
80, with my other fool-foe : I was fain
Let the hoy touch me with the buttoned foil.
And him the infection gains, he too must needs
Catch IIP the butcher'' s cleaver. Be it so !
Since play turns etumest, here '« my serious fence.
He loves you; he demands your love : both know
What love means in my language. Love him

then!
Pursuant to a pact, love pays my debt :
Therefore, deliver me from him, therebu
Likewise delivering fiom me yourself!
For J hesitate — much more, refuse consent —
I tell the^ whole truth to your husband. Flat
Cards lie on table, in our gamester-phrase !
Consent — you stop my mou^, the only way,"

*^ I did well, trusting instinct : knew your

Kwi»d
Had never joined with his in fellowship
Over this pact of infamy. You known —
As he was known through every nerve of me.
Therefore I * stopped his mouth the only way '
But my^ wayl none was left for you, my

friend —
The loyal — near, the loved one ! No — no— no I
Threaten? Chastise? The coward would but

quail.
Conquer who can, the cunning of the snake I
Stamp out his slimy strenp^th from tail to head.
And still you leave vibration of the tongue.
His malice had redoubled — not on me
Who, myself, choose my own refining fire —
But on poor unsuspicious innocence ;
And, — victim, — to turn executioner
AJso — that feat effected, f orky tongue
Had done indeed its office! Once snake's

'mouth^
Thus ^open* — how could mortal *«top i^ ' f "

"Sol"

A tigef^flash— yell, spring, and scream: hal-
loo!

Death 's out and on him, has and holds him —
ugh!



But fis trueidet coram populo

Juvenis seneim I Right the Hovatiaii rule I

There, see how soon a quiet comes to pass I



VIII

Hie youth is somehow by the ladv's side.

His rights-hand grasps her rightrhand once

again.
Both gaxe on the dead body. Hers the word.



" And that was good but useless. Had I lived.
The danger was to dread : but, dyiii|[ now —
Himself would hardly become talkative.
Since talk no mote means torture. Foob —

what fools
These wicked men are! Had I borne four

years.
Four years of weeks and months and days and

nights.
Inured me to the consciousness of life
CSoiled round by his life, with the tongue to

But that I bore about me, for prompt use

At urgent need, the thing that^ stops the mouth '

And stays the venom? Since such need was

now
Or never, — how should use not follow need ?
Bear witness for me, I withdraw from life
Bv virtue of the license — warrant, say.
That blackens yet Uus Album — white agun.
Thanks still to my one friend who tears the

page!
Now, let me write the line of supplement.
As counselled by my foe there : each a line ! ' "

And she does falteringly write to end.

" I die now through the villain who lies dead,
Bighteously slain. He would have outraged me,
80, my^ d^ender slew him, God protect
The right ! Where wrong lay, I bear witness

now.
Let man believe me, whose last breath is spent
In blessing my defender from my soul ! "

And so ends the Inn Album.

As she dies.
Begins outside a voice that sounds like song,
And Ib indeed half song though meant for

speech
Muttered in time to motion — stir of heart
That nnsubduably must bubble forth
To match the fawn-step as it mounts the stair.

" All 's ended and all 's over I Verdict found
*Not guilty ' — prisoner forthwith set free,
'Mid cheers the Courtpretends to disregard !
Now Portia, now for Daniel, late severe.
At last appeased, benignant! ^This young

man —
Hem — has the young man^s foibles htt no fault.
He '< virgin sod — a friend must cultivate,
I think no plant called " love " grows wild — a



Digitized by



Google



802



PACCHIAROTTO



May introduce, and name the bloom, the fruit! \
Here somebody dares wave a haadkerdiief —
She *11 want to hide her face with presently I
Goodrby then ! ^ Cignofedel. eigno/edel^
Addio 1 * Now, was ever snoh mistake —
Ever snoh foolish ORly omen ? Pshaw I
Wagner, beside I \Amo te solo, te
Soloamail* That *s worth fifty such !
But, mnm, the grave face at the opened door I "

And so the good gay girl, with eyes and
cheeks



Diamond and damask, — cheeks so white en-
while

Beoaose of a vagne &ncy, idle fear

Chased on reflection I — imiaing, tape discreet ;

And then, to give herselz a conntenaaoe.

Before she oomes npon the pair inside.

Loud — the oft-qnoted, long -langned- over



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 158 of 198)