Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Str(if. Not this way I

Thb gate — I dreamed of il^ this very gate.

Lady Car. It opens on the river : our good
boat
Is moored below, our friends are there.

Strqf. The same:

Only with something ominous and dark.
Fatal, inevitable.

iMdy Car. Strafford I Strafford I

Strqf. Not by this gate I I feel what will
be there!
I dreamed of it, I tell yon : touch it not I

Lady Car. To save the King, —Strafford,
to save ihe King!
[As BraAFffORD open* the door^ Ptm U dUoovered with

Hahtdsh, Vams, etc. Strawwobd ftUls book: Ptm

foUotPS sloicly and eonfrtmU him.

Fym. Have I done well? Speak, England !
Whose sole sake
I still have labored for, with disregard
To my own heart, — for whom my youth was

made
Barren, my manhood waste, to offer up
Her sacrifice — this friend, this Wentworth

here —
Who walked in youth with me, loved me, it

may be.
And whom, for his forsakinp: England's cause,
I hunted by all means (trustmg that she
Would sanctify all means) even to the block
Which waits for him. And saying this, I

feel
No bitterer pang than first I felt, the hour
I swore that Wentworth mi^ht leave us, but I
Would never leave him : I ao leave him now.
I render up my charge (be witness, God !)
To England who imp — ^ ■'^ ^ "- — ^ —
Her bT "
With i

StiU, I have done my beet, my human best.
Not faltering for a moment. It is done.
And this said, if I say . . . yes, I will say
I never loved but one man — David not
More Jonathan I Even thus, I love him now :
And look for my chief portion in that world
Where great hearts led astray are turned agam,
(Soon it may be, and, certes, will be soon :
My mission over, I shall not live long,) —
Av, here I know I talk — I dare ana must,
Of England, and her g^reat reward, as all
I look for there ; but m my inmost heart.
Believe, I think of stealing quite away



naer up mv cnarge ^oe wimess, vfoa i;
Ei^land wno imposed it. I have done
r biddimf— poorly, wrongly, —it may be,
;h ill effects — for I am weak, a man :



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74



SORDELLO



To walk onoe more with Wentworth — my

Youth's friend
Puxcea from all error, glorion^ renewed.
And Eliot shall not blame ns. Then indeed . . .
This iB no meeting, Wentworth I Tears in-
crease
Too hot. A thin mist — is it blood ? — enwraps
The face I loved once. Then, the meeting be I
Straf, I have loved England too ; we '11 meet
then, Pym ;
As well die now ! Tonth is the only time
To think and to decide on a great course :
Manhood with action follows : but 'tis dreary
To have to alter our whole life in age —
The time past, the strength gone ! As well die

now.
When we meet, Pym, I 'd be set right — not

now!
Best die. Then if there 's any fault, fault too
Dies, smothered up. Poor gray old little Laud
May dream his dream out, of a perfect Church,
In some blind comer. And there 's no one

left.
I trust the King now whoUy to you, Pym I
And yet, I know not : I shall not be there :
Friends fail — if he have any. And he 's weak.
And loves the Queen, and . . . Oh, my fate is



Nothing ! But not that awful head — not that I
Pym» If England shall declare sudi will to

me . . .
Straf, I^ym, you help England 1 I, that am
to die.
What I must see! 'tis here — all here! My

God,
Let me but ^asp out, in one word of fire.
How thou wilt plague him, satiating hell I



What? England that 3ron help, become through

you
A green and putrefying chamel, left
Our children . . . some of us have Abi1d»i^«^

Pym —
Some who, without that, still must ever wear
A darkened brow, an over-serious look,
And never properly be voung I No word ?
What if I curse you? bend a strong curse

forth
Clothed from my heart, lapped round with hor-
ror till
She 's fit with her white face to walk the world
Scaring kind natures from your cause and you —
Then to sit down with you at the board-head.
The gathering for prayer . . . O speak, but

speak!
. . . Creep up, and quietly follow each one home.
Ton, you, you, be a nestung care for each
To Sleep with, — hardly moaning in his dreams.
She gnaws so quietly, — till, lo he starts,
Gets off with half a heart eaten away I
Oh, shall 3rou 'scape with less if she 's my child f
You will not say a word — to me — to Him?
Pym, H England shall declare such will to

me . . .
Straf, No, not for England now, not for

Heaven now, —
See, Pym, for mv sake, mine who kneel to you I
There, I will thank yon for the death, my

friend!
This is the meeting: let me love you well !
Pym, England, — I am thine own ! Dost

lliou exact
That service ? I obey thee to the end.
Straf, OGod, I shall die first — I shall did



SORDELLO



Bbowiono began Sordelh in 1837, inter-
rupted his work to write the earlier parts of
Bella and Pomegranates, but resumed it and
completed it in 1840, when it was published by
Moxon. In 1863, when reprinting the poem.
Browning dedicated it as below to M. Milsand,
and in his dedication wrote practically a pre-
iace to the poem.

TO J. MILSAND, OF DIJON

Dkab Friend, — Let the next poem be in-
troduced by your name, therefore remembered
along with one of the deepest of my affections,
and so repay all trouble it ever cost me. I wrote
it twenty-five years ago for only a few, counting
even in these on somewhat more care about its
subject than they really had. My own faults of
expressian were many ; but with care for a man



or book such would be surmounted, and with-
out it what avails the f aultlessness of either ?
I blame nobody, least of all myself, who did my
best then and since ; for I lately gave time and
pains to turn my work into what the many
might — instead of what the few must — like ;
but after all, I imagined another thing at first,
and therefore leave as I find it. The historical
decoration was purposely of no more importance
than a background requires ; and my stress lay
on the incidents in the development of a soul :
littie else is worth study. I, at least, alwa3r8
thought so; you, with many known and un-
known to me, think so ; others may one day
think so ; and whether my attempt remain foe
them or not, I trust, though away and past it.
to continue ever yours,

B. B.
LoBsoH, June 9» 1888^



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SORDELLO



75



Conoeminfir this reyised edition be wrote to
a friend : —

^* I do not nndeistand irhat can mean

by sayin^r that Sordello has been * rewritten/ I
did certainly at one time intend to rewrite mnob
of it, but changed my mind, — and the edition
whidi I reprinted was the same in all respects
as its predecessors — only with an elucidatory
beading to each page, and some few alterations^

SORDELLO

BOOK THE FIRST

Who win, may hear Sordello*s story told :

His story? Who belieyes me shall behckld

The man, pursue his fortunes to the end.

Like me: for as the friendless-people's mend

A Oni otiA t^pi^ irom his hill-top oooe, despite

tiS^ St the din

^^'^ And dust of multitudes, Pentapolin

Named o* the Naked Arm, I single out

Sordello, compassed murkily about

With rayage of six long sad hundred years.

Only belieye me. Te belieye ?

Appears
Verona . . . Neyer, I should warn yon first.
Of my own choice had this, if not the worst
Yet not the best expedient, senred to tell
A story I could body forth so well
"Br making speak, myself kept out of yiew,
The yery man as ne was wont to do.
And leaying yon to say the rest for him.
Since, though I might be proud to see the dim
Abysmal past diride its hateful surge.
Letting of all men this one man emerge
Because it pleased me, yet, that moment past,
I should delight in watching first to last
His progress as you watch it, not a whit ^
More in the secret than yourselyes who sit
Freeb-chapleted to listen. But it seems
Tour setters-f orth of unexampled themes,
Makers of quite new men, producing them.
Would best chalk broadly on each yesture's

hem
The wearer's auality ; or take their stand.
Motley on back and pointing^pole in hand.
Beside him. So, for once I face ye, friends,
IThy the Summoned together from the world's
Po«t him- four ends,

mU ad- Dropped down from heayen or cast
^x^ae»WM upfromhell,
andience— To hear the story I propose to tell.
Confess now, poets know the dragnet's teick,
Cat<^ing the aead, if fate denies the quick.
And shaming her ; 'tis not for fate to choose
Silence or song because she can rofuse
Real eyes to glisten moro, real hearts to ache
Less oft, real brows turn smoother for our sake :
I haye experienced something of her spite ;
But there 's a realm wherein she has no right
And I haye many loyers. Say, but few
Friends fate accords me ? Here they are : now

yiew
The host I muster I Many a lifi^ted face
Foul with no yestige of the graye*s disgrace ;



presumably for the better, in the text, such as
occur in most of my works. I cannot remember
a single instance of any importance that is re-
written, and I only suppose that has taken

project for performance, and set down as * done '
what was for a while intended to be done."

For the sake of such elucidation as those
headrlines giye, they are introduced here as side-
notes.

What else should tempt them back to taste our

air
Except to see how their snooessorB fare ?
My audience ! and they sit, each g^iostly man
Striying to look as liying as he can.
Brother by breaUiing brother ; thou art set,
Clear^wittod critic, ly . . . but 1 11 not fret
A wondrous soul of them, nor moye death's

spleen
Who loyes not to unlock them. Friends! Imean

,. The liying in good earnest — ye elect

kSTml^v Chiefl^forloye— supposenotlreiect
^!±^ Judicious praise, who contrary snail

peep.
Some fit occasion, forth, for fear ye sleep.
To glean your bland approyals. Then, appear,
Verona I stay — thou, spirit, come not near
SbeUeyde- Now ~ not this time desert thy
MTting, cloudy place

veroQsap- To scare me, thus employed, with
pesrt. that pure face I

I need not fear thu audience, I make free
With ihem, but then this is no place for lliee I
The ihunder-phrase of the Athenian, grown
Up out of memories of Marathon,
Would echo like his own sword's griding screecb
Braying a Persian shield, — the mlyer speech
Of Sidney's self, the starry paladin,
Turn intense as a trumpet sounding in
TheknightstotUt, — wert thou to hear 1 What

heart
Haye I to play my puppets, bearmy part
Before these worthies r

Lo, the past is buried
In twain : up'thrust, out-staggering on the world,
Subsiding into shape, a daruess rears
Its outline^^kindles at the core, appears
Verona. 'T is six hundred years and more
Since an eyent. The Second Friedrich wore
The purple, and the Third Honorius filled
The noly chair. That autumn eye was stilled :
A last remains of sunset dimly burned
O'er the far forests, like a toroh-flame turned
By the wind back upon its bearer's hand
In one long flare of crimson : as a brand.
The woods beneath lay black. A single eye
From all Verona cared for the soft sky.
But, gathering in its ancient marketrplace.
Talked group with restless group ; ana not a face
But wrath made liyid, for among them were
Death's stanch puryeyors, such as haye in care
To feast him. Fear had long since taken root
In eyery breast, and now these crushed its fruit*
The ripe hate^ like a wine : to note the way
It worked while each grew drunk I Men graye

and gray



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76



SORDELLO



Stood, with shut eyelids, rockingr to and fro,
_ . Letting the silent luxury trickle slow

How her Ahout the hollows where a heart
g^"* should be;
fited. But the young gulped with a delirious

glee
Somd foretaste of their first debauch in blood
At the fierce news : for, be it understood,
Envoys apprised Verona that her prince
Count Ricnard of {Saint Boniface, joined since
A year with Azzo, Esters Lord, to thrust
Taurello Salinguerra, prime in trust
With Ecelin Romano, from his seat
Ferrara, — over-zealous in the feat
And stumbling on a peril unaware.
Was captive, trammelled in his proper snare.
They phrase it, taken by his own intrifi^e.
„, ^^ Immediate succor from the Lombard
^5L*??I League

SmS^ Of fifteen cities that affect the Pope,
Tj»^_ A — J.1 £ — — J 1^ fellow-



League,



For Azzo, therefore, and
hope

Of the GueU cause, a glory overcast I
Men*s faces, late agape, are now aghast.
'* Prone is the purple pavis ; Este makes
Mirth for the devu when he undertakes
To play the Ecelin ; as if it cost
Merelv yourpushing^by to gain a poet
Like his ! The patron tells ye, once for all,
There be sound reasons that preferment fall
On our beloved " . . .

" Duke o' the Rood, whv not ? "
Shouted an Estian, *^ grudge ^e such a lot ?
The hiU-cat boasts some cunning of her own.
Some stealthy trick to better beasts unknown,
That quick with prey enough her hunger blunts,
And feeds her fat while gaunt the lion hunts."

** Taurello," quoth an envoy, ^* as in wane
Dwelt at Ferrara. Like an osprey fain
- To fly but forced the earth his couch to make
Far inland, till his friend the tempest wake,
Waits he the Kaiser's coming ; and as yet
That fast friend sleeps, and he too sleeps : but let
Only the billow freshen, and he snuffs
The aroused hurricane ere it enroughs^
The sea it means to cross because of him.
Sinketh the breeze ? His hope-sick eye grows

dim;
Creep closer on the creature ! Every day
Strengthens the Pontiff ; Ecelin, they say.
Dozes now at Oliero^ with dry lips
Telling upon lus perished finger-tips
How many ancestors are to expose
Ere he be Satan's Viceroy when the doze
Deposits him in hell. So, Guelfs rebuilt
Their houses ; not a drop of blood was spilt
When Cino Bocchirapane chanced to meet
Buocio Virtii — God^ wafer, and the street
Is narrow ! Tutti Santi, think, arswarm
With Ghibellins, and yet he took no harm I
This could not last. Off Salinguerra went
To Padua, Podest^, * with pure intent,'
Said he, * my presence, judged the single bar
To permanent tramj^nilhtv, ma^r jar
No lon^r ' — so I his back is fairly turned ?
The pair of goodly palaces are burned,
The gardens ravaged, and our Guelfs laugh,

drunk



A week with joy. The next, their laughter sunk
In sobs of blood, for they lound, some strangre

way.
Old Salinguerra back again — I say,
, ^. , Old Salinguerra in the town onoa
Inthelp njore

fo^nest Uprooting, overturning, flame before,
Ferrara: Jolood fetlock-high beneath him.

Azzo fled;
Who 'scaped the carnage followed; then the

dead
Were pushed aside from Salinguerra's throne.
He ruled once more Ferrara, ul alone,
Till Azzo, stunned awhile, revived, would

pounce
Coupled with Boniface, like lynx and ounce.
On the gorged bird. The burghers ground their

To see troop after troop encamp beneath
I' the standing com thick o'er the scanty patch
It took so many patient months to snatch
Out of the marah ; while just within their walls
Men fed on men. At length TaureUo calls
A parlev : * let the Count wind up the war I
Richard, light-hearted as a plunging star.
Agrees to enter for the kindest ends
Ferrara, flanked with fifty chosen friends.
No horse-bov more, for fear your timid sort
Should fly Ferrara at the bare report.
Quietly through the town they rode, jog^jog ;
* Ten, twenty, thirty, — curse the catalogue
Of burnt Guelf houses ! Strange, Taurello shows
Not the least sign of life ' — whereat arose
A general erowl: *How? With his victors by ?
I and ray Veronese ? My troops and I ?
Receive us, was jrour word ? ' So jogged they on.
Nor laughed their host too openly : once gone
Into the trapl" —

^x hundred years ago I
Such the time's aspect and peculiar woe
(Yourselves may spell it jret in chronicles,
Albeit the worm, our busy brother, drills
His sprawling path throu|:h letters anciently
Made fine and large to suit some abbot's eye)
When the new Honenstauffen dropped the mask.
Flung John of Brienne's favor from his casque.
Forswore crusading, had no mind to leave
Saint Peter's proxy leisure to retrieve
Losses to Otho and to Barbaross,
Or make the Alps less easy to recross ;
And, thus confirming Pope Honorius' fear,
Was excommunicate that very year.
** The triple-bearded Teuton come to life ! "
Cboaned the Great League ; and, arming for the
_ strife,

Sm«.!!!«w Wide Lombardy, on tiptoe to begin,
iJSSr^ Tookup,asitwasGuelforGhibaiin;
ngatiaf Its cry ; what cry ?

*; The Emperor to comer*
His crowd of feudatories, all and some.
That leapt down with a crash of swords, spears,

shields.
One fighter on his fellow, to our fields.
Scattered anon, took station here and there, '
And carried it, till now, with little care — -
Cannot but cry for him ; how else rebut
Us longer ? Cliffs, an earthquake suffered jut
In the mid-sea, each domineering crest



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SORDELLO



n



Whidmang^t 8»Te snoh another throe can wrest
From out (coneeiTe) a certain chokeweed nown
Sinee o'er the waters, twine and tangrle thrown
Too thick, too fast aooomiUatingr round.
Too sure to oTer-riot and confound
Ere lon^ each brilliant islet with itself.
Unless a second shook save shoal and shelf,
Whirlii^ the sea-sirift wide : alas, the bruised
And sullen wreck ! Sunlight to be diffused
For that ! Sunlight, 'neath which, a scum at

first,
The miltion fibres of our chokeweed nurst
Dispread themselves, mantling the troubled



And, shattered b^ those rocks, took hold again,

So kindly blaxed it — that same blaze to brood

O'er CTcry cluster of the multitude

Still haxarding new clasps, ties, filaments,

An emulous exchange ot pulses. Tents

Of nature into nature ; till some growth

Unfanded yet, exuberantly clothe

The Ohi- A surface solid now, continuous, one :

belUna* *' The Pope, for us the People, who

wiah : the besun

^[P^' lie People, carries on the People

*^ thus.

To keep that Kaiser off and dwell with us ! "

See you?

Or say. Two Principles that Hto
Each fitly by its KepresentatiYe.
''Hill-cat"— who called him so ? — the grace-
fullest
Adventurer, the ambiguous stranBerfTuest
Of Lombaray (sleek but that ruffling fur,
Those talons to their sheath I) whose velTot

purr
Soothes jealous neighbors when a Saxon scout
— Arpo or Yoland, is it ? — one without
A country or a name, presumes to couch
Beside their noblest ; until men avouch
That, of all Houses in the Trevisan,
Conrad descries no fitter, rear or van,
_ , Hian Ecelo I They laughed 9E they
SThS^ enrolled
^t^^l^^ That name at Milan on the page of

cf thoM, ^SS^^

Godego's lord, — Bamon, Marostica,
Gartiglion, Bassano, Loria,
And every sheepK»te on the Suabian's fief I
No laughter when his son, ** the Lombard Chief "
Forsooth, as Barbarossa's |Mith was bent
To Italy alon«r the Vale of Trent,
Welcomed him at Boncaglia ! Sadness now —
The hamlets nested on the TytoPs brow.
The Asolan and Euganean hills.
The Rhetian and the Julian, sadness fills
Them all, for Ecelin vouchsafes to stay
Among and care about them ; day by day
Choosing this pinnacle, the other spot,
A castle buildmg to defend a cot,
A cot built for a castle to defend.
Nothing but casUes, castles, nor an end ^
To boasts how mountain ridge may join with
. - ridge

By sunken gallerir and soaring bridge.
He takes, in brief, a figure that beseems
Thegriesliest nightmare of the Church's dreams,
— A Signoiy fiim-rooted, unestranged



From its old interests, and nowise chamced
Bv its new neighborhood : perchance the vaunt
Of Otho, *^ my own Este shall supplant
Your Este," come to pass. The sire led in
A son as cruel ; and this Ecelin
Had sons^ in turn, and daughters sly and tall
And curling and compliant ; but for all
Romano (so they styled him) throve, that neck
Of his so pinched and white, that hungry cheek
Proved 't was some fiend, not him, the man V

flesh went
To feed: whereas Romano's instrument.
Famous Taurello iSalinguerra, sole
I' the world, a tree whose boughs were slipt the

bole
Successively, whj should not he shed blood
To further a design ? Men understood
Living was pleasant to him as he wore
His careless surcoat, glanced some missive o'er.
Propped on his truncheon in the public way.
While his lord lifted writhen hands to pray.
Lost at Oliero's convent.

Hill-cats, face
Our Azzo, our Guelf-Lion I Why disgrace
Aa Auo A worthiness conspicuous near and
Lord of far

E«t6 beads ( Atii at Rome while free and consn-
tbeoe. \^

Este at Padua who repulsed the Hun)
By trumpeting the Church's princely son?
— Styled Patron of Rovigo's Polesine,
Ancona's inarch, Ferrara's . . . ask, in fine.
Our chronicles, commenced when some old monk
Found it intolerable to be sunk
(Vexed to the quick by his revolting cell)
Quite out of summer while alive and well :
Ended when by his mat the Prior stood,
'Mid busy promptings of the brotherhood,
Staiving to coax from his decrepit brains
The reason Father Porphyry took pains
To blot those ten lines out which used to stand
First on their charter drawn by Hildebrand.

The same night wears. Verona's rule of yore
Was vested in a certain Twenty-four ;
Count And whUe within his palace these de-

Riohard's bate

Palaoeat Concerning Richard and Ferrara's
Verona. f^te.

Glide we by clapping doora, with sudden glare
Of cressets vented on the dark, nor care
For aught that 's seen or heard until we shut
The smother in, the lights, all noises but
The carroch's booming: safe at last I Why

strange
Such a recess should lurk behind a range
Of banquet-rooms ? Your finger — thus — yo«

posh
A spring, and the wall opens, would you rush
Upon the banoueters, select your prey.
Waiting (the sianghter-weai>oiis in the way
Strewing this very bench) with sharpened ear
A i>reconcerted signal to appear ; ^
Or if you simpler crouch with beating heart.
Of the Bearing in some voluptuous pageant
ooairie part

fonnd To startle them. Nor mutes nor

therein, masquers now ;

Norany . . . does that one man sleep whose bioir



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73



SORDELLO



The dying lamp-flame sinks and rises o*er ?
What woman stood beside him ? not the more
Is he unfastened from the earnest eyes
Because that arras fell between ! Her wise
And lulling words are yet about the room,
Her presence wholly poured upon the gloom
Down even to her vesture's creeping stir.
And so reclines he, saturate with her,
Until an outcry from the square beneath
Pierces the charm: he springs up, glad to

breathe.
Above the cunning element, and shakes
The stupor off as (look you) morning breaks
On the gav dress^ and, near concealed by it.
The lean frame like a half-burnt tai>er, lit
Erst at some marriage-feast, then laid away
Till the Armenian bridegroom's dying day,
In his wool wedding-robe.

For he — for he,
Oate-vein of this hearts' blood of Lombardy,
llf I should falter now) — for he is thine I
oordello, thy forerunner, Florentine I
A herald-star I know thou didst absorb
Relentless into the oonsunmiate orb
That scared it from its right to roll along
A sempiternal path with dance and song
Fulfilling its allotted period,
Serenest of the progenv of God —
Who yet resigns it not I His darling stoops
With no quexiohed lights, desponds with noblank

troops
Of disenfranchised brilliances, for, blent
TJtteriv with thee, its shy element
Xdke thine upbumeth prosperous and clear.
Still, what if I approach the august sphere
Named now with only one name, disentwine
That under-current soft and argentine
From its fierce mate in the majestic mass
Leavened as the sea whose fire was mizt with

glass
In John's transcendent vision, — launch once

more
That lustre ? DantCj pacer of the shore
Where glutted hell disgorgeth filthiest gloom,
Unbitten by its«^hirring sulphur-spume —
Or whence the grrieved and ooscure waters slope
Into a darkness quieted by hope ;
Flncker of amaranths grown beneath God's eye
In gracious twilights where his chosen lie, —
I would do this ! If I should falter now I
^^ In Mantua territory half is slough,

^*® °J" Half pine-tree forest ; maples, sca^et

Birthpiftoe. B^e^ o'er the river-beds ; evenMin-

cio chokes
With sand the summer through : but 't is mo-

^ rass
In winter up to Mantua walls. There was.
Some thirty years before tins evening's coil.
One spot reclaimed from the surrounding spoil,
Goito ; just a castle built amid
A few low mountains ; firs and larches hid
Their main defiles, and rings of vineyard bound
The rest. Some captured creature in a pound.
Whose artless wonder quite precludes distress.
Secure beside in its own loveliness,
So peered with air^ head, below, above,
'The castle at its tcnls, the lapwings love



A Vault
inside the
CaaUest
Ooito,



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 17 of 198)