Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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must be I

"And next — as mercy rules the hour — me-

thinks 't were well
You signify forthwith its sentence, and dispel
The doubts and fears, I judge, which busy now

the head
Law puts a halter round — a halo — you« m-

Iv4n Iv&novitch — what think you he expects
Will foUow from his feat ? Go, tell him —law

Murder, for once : no need he longer keep be-
The Sacred Pictures — where skulks Innocence

Or I missay I Go, some I Yon others, haste

and mde
The dismal object there: get done, whatever

betide I"

So, while the youngers raised the corpse, the

elders trooped
Silently to the house : where halting, i

Ustened beside the door ; all there ^

Then they held counsel : then pushed door

and. passiufi: through.
Stood in tne murderer's presence.

Iv&n Ivtoovitch
Knelt, building on the floor that Kremlin rare

and rich
He deftly cut and carved on la^ winter nights.
Some five young faces watched, breathlessly, as,

to rights.
Piece upon piece, he reared the iahtio nigh

St^scha, Ivan's old mother, sat spinning by the

Of the oven where his wife Kiitia stood baking

Ivkn's self, as he turned his honey-oolored head.
Was just in act to drop, *twizt fix^xmes, —each

a dome, —
The scooped-out yellow gourd presumably the

Of Kolokol the Big : the bell, therein to hitch.
— An aoom-cnp — was ready : Ivj^ Iv^noviten
Turned with it in his mouth.

They told him he was free
As air to walk abroad. '* How otherwise f ^
asked he.

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This poem describes an actual incident wit-
nessed in Paris by a friend of Browning's, and
with aoooraoy of detaiL The poem was written
as a protest against viyisection, which the poet
called ** an iufamons practice." He was early
associated with Miss Frances Power Gobbe in
her efforts to prcTcnt viTisection ; and he was
a vice-president of the ** Victoria Street So-
ciety for the Protection of Animals." Dr.
Beidoe says, " He always expressed the utmost
abhorrence of the practices which it opposes."
To Miss Gobbe he wrote in 1874 : '' Tou have
heard, ' I take an equal interest with yourself
in the effort to suppress vivisection.' I dare not
so honor my mere wishes and prayers as to put
them for a moment beside your noble acts ; but
this I know, I would rather submit to the worst
of deaths, so far as pain goes, than have a single
dog or cat tortured on the pretence of sparing
me a twinge or two." He goes even so far as
to say that the person not willing to sign the
petition against vivisection certainly could not
be numbered among his friends. ToMissStaok-
poole he wrote in April, 1883 : ** I despise and
abhor the pleas on behalf of that infamous prac*
tioe, vivisection." G. W. Ck>OKS.

SiKG me a hero t Quench my thirst
Of soul, ye bards I

Quoth Bard the first :
*' Sir Olaf , the eood kmght, did don
His helm and eke his habergeon " . • .
Sir Olaf and his bard 1

^Hiat sin-scathed brow" (quoth Bard the sec-

'* That eye wide ope as thou^ Fate beck-

My hero to some steep, beneath

Which precipice smiled tempting death " . • •

You too without your host have reckoned !

" A beggai^hild" (let's hear thu third I)
**' Sat on a quid's edge : like a bird
Sang to herself at careless pla]r.
And fell into the stream. * Dismay I
Help, yon the standers-by I ' None stirred.

" Bvstanders reason, think of wives
And children ere thev risk their lives.
Over the balustrade has bounced
A mere instinctive doe, tad pounced
Plumb on the prize. How well he dives I

**' * Up he comes with the child, see, ti^ht
In mouth, alive too, dntched from omte
A depth of ten feet — twelve, I bet!
Good dog! What, off again? There's yet
Another ohUd to save ? All right I

** How strani^ we saw no other fall !
It 's instinct m the animaL
Good dog t But he 's a long while under :
If he got drowned I should not wonder —
Strong current, that against the wall I

** * Here he comes, holds in mouth this time
— What may the thi^ be? Well, that 's

Srime f
id yon ever ? Reason rei^nn
In man alone, since all Tray's pains
Have fished — the child's doll from the slime t '

** And so, amid the laughter gay.
Trotted my hero off, — old Tray, —
Till somebody, prerogatived
With reason, reasoned : * Why he dived,
HiB brain would show us, I should say.

** * John, go and catch — or, if needs be,

Puroluuw — that animal for me I

By vivisection, at expense

Oi half-an-hour and eigbteenpenee.

How brain secretes dog's soul, we 11 see I * "


Written from memory of Bunyan's story of
old Tod in The Life and DetUh qfMr. Badman.

'TwAS Bedford Special Assize, one daft Mid^

summer's Day :
A broiling blasting June, — was never its like,

men say.
Com stood sheaf-ripe already, and trees looked

yellow as that :
Pondi drained dust-ory, the cattle lay foaming

around each flat.
Inside tovm, dogs went mad, and folk kept

bibbing beer.
While the parsons prayed for rain. 'T was

horrible, yes — but queer :
Queer — for the sun laughed gay, yet nobody

moved a hand
To work one stroke at his trade: as given to

That all was come to a stop, work and such

worldly ways.
And the world's old self about to end in a merry

Midsummer's day moreover was the first of

Bedford Fair;
With Bedford Town's tag-rag and bobtail

a-bowsing there.

But the Ck>urt House, Quality crammed :
through doors ope, windows wide,

High on the Bench you saw sit Lordships side
by side.

There frowned Chief Justice Jukes, fumed
learned Brother Small,

And fretted their fellow Judge : like threshers,
one and all.

Of a reek with laying down the law in a furnace.

Because their lungs breathed flame — the regu-
lar crowd f orbye —

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From gentry pouring in — quite a nosegay, to be

How else could they pass the time, six mortal
hours endure

Till night should extinguish day, when matters
might haply mend ?

Meanwhile no had resource was — watching be-
gin and end

Some trial for life and death, in a brisk five
minutes' space.

And betting which knave would 'scape, which
hang, from his sort of iace.

So, their Lordships toiled and moiled, and a

deal of work was done
(I warrant) to lustify the mirth of the crazy sun.
As this and t' other lout, struck dumb at the

sudden show
Of red robes and white wigs, boggled nor

answered" Boh 1"
When asked why he, Tom Styles, should not —

because Jack Kokes
Had stolen the horse -7 be hanged : for Judges

must have their jokes.
And louts must make allowance — let 's say,

for some blue fly
Which punctured a dewy scalp where the

frizzles stuck awry —
Else Tom had fleered soot-free, so nearly over

and done
Was the main of the job. Full-measure, the

gentles enjoyed their fun.
As a twenty-five were tried, rank puritans

caught at prayer
In a cow-house and laid by the heels, — have at

'em, devil may care I —
And ten were prescribed the whip, and ten a

bitmd on the cheek.
And fivea slit of thenoee— just leaving enough

to tweak.

Well, things at jolly high-tide, amusement

steeped in fire.
While noon smote fierce the rooTs red tiles to

heart's desire.
The Court a-simmer with smoke, one ferment

aiooxy flesh.
One spirituous Ji nwiTning muftk mount-mounting

until its mesh
Entoiled all heads in a fluster, and Serjeant

— Dashing the wig oblique as he mopped his

oily pate —
Cried ** Silence, or I grow grease t No loophole

lets in air?
JiuTmen, — Guiltsr, Death ! Gainsay me if

you dare I ''^
— Thingp at this pitch, I say, — what hubbub

without Uie doors ?
What laughs, shrieks, hoots and yells, what

rudMt of uproars ?

Bounce through the barrier throng a bulk comes

Boiling vast I
Thumps, kicks, — no manner of use ! — spite of

them rollB at last
Into the midst a ball, which, bursting, brings

to view

Publican Black Ked Bratts and Tabby his big

wife too :
Both in a muck-eweat, both • • • were never

such eyes uplift
At the sight of yawning hell, such nostrils—

snouts that sniffed
Sulphur, such months agape ready to swallow

flame I
Horrified, hideous, frank fiend-faces I yet, all

the same.
Mixed with a certain • • . eh? how shall I dare

style — mirth
The desperate grin of the guess that, oould they

break from earth,
Heaven was above, and hell might rage in

Below the saved, the saved !

'* Confound you ! ^o offence !)

Out of our way, — push, wife I Yonder their
Worships be P'

Ked Bratts has reached the bar, and **Hiey,
my Lords," roars he,

** A Jury of life and death. Judges the prime
of the landj

Constables, javelineers, — all met, if I under-

To decide so knotty a point as whether 't was
Jack or Joan

Bobbed the henroost, pinched the pig, hit the
King's Arms with a stone.

Dropped the baby down the well, left the
tithesman in the Inroh,

Or, three whole Sundays running, not once
attended church !

What a pother— do these deserve the parish-
stocks or whip,

More or less brow to brand, much or little nose
to snip,—

When, in our Public, plain stand we — that *s
we stand here

I and my Tab, brasspbold, brick-built of beef
and beer,

— Do not we, slut ? Step forth and show your

beauty, jade 1
Wife of my bosom — that's the word now!

We drove ! None said us nay : nobody loved

his life
So little as wag a tongue against us, —did th^y,

Tet they knew us all the while, in thdr hearts,

for what we are

— Worst couple, rogue and quean, unhanged —

search near and far !
Eh, Tab ? The peddler, now —o'er his noggm

— who warned a mate
To out and run, nor risk his pack where its loss

of weight
Was the least to dread, — aha, how we two

laughed a-good
As, stealing round the midden, he came on

where I stood
V^th billet poised and raised, —you, ready with

the rope, —
Ah, but that 's past, that 's sin repented of, wa

hope I

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Men knew ns for that aame, yet safe and Bonnd

stood we I
The Uly-liyered knaves knew too (I 've balked

ad )

Onr keeping the * Pied Bull ' was jnst a mere

Too slow the pounds make food, drink, lodging,

from out the pence I
There 's not a stoppage to travel has chanced,

this ten Ions: year.
No break into haU or grange, no lifting of nag

or steer,
Not a single roguery, from the clipping of a

To the cutting of a throat, but paid ns toll.

When Gypsy Smouch made bold to cheat ns of

onr due,
—Eh, Tab? the Sqnire's strong-box we helped

the rascal to-^
I think he pnlled a face, next Sessions' swinging-
time I
He danced the pg that needs no floor, — and,

here 's the prime,
Twas Soroggs that honghed the mare ! Ay,

those were busy days I

** Well, there we flonrished brave, like scrip-

tnre-trees called bays.
Faring high, drinking hard, m money np to head

tnre-trees called bavsj
f hara,ur
fb w "*jt uuuUi and oil
2«onnds, I nearlv said —

ITanngmgh, drmlung hard, m money np to 1
— Not to say, boots and shoes, wnen

Lford, to nnleam one's language I How shall

we labor, wife ?
Have you, fast hold, the Book ? Onspj grip it,

for your life !
See, sirs, here 's life, salvation I Here 's —

hold but out my breath —
When did I speak so long without once swear-

mg? 'Sdeal^
No, Dor unhelped by ale since man and boy I

And yet
AH yesterday I had to keep my whistle wet
While reading Tab this Book: book? don't

say * book ' — they 're plavs,
Songs, ballads, and the like : nere 's no such

strawy blaze,
But sky wide ope, sun, moon, and seven stars

out full-flare I
Tab, help and tell I I 'm hoarse. A mug I or

— no, a praver !
^of the

Book ! Who wrote it in

Dip for one out

the Jail
— He plied his pen unhelped by beer, sirs, I 'U


*^ I *ve got myseoond wind. In trundles she —

that 's Tab.
*Why, Ganmier, what's oome now, that —

bobbing like a crab
On Yule-tide bowl — your head's a-work and

both your eyes
Break loose? Afeard, you fool? As if the

dead can rise I
Say — Bagman Dick was found last May with

Stuffed in his month : to choke 's a natural

miflhap I '

* (staffer, be — blessed,' cries she, * and Bagman

Dick as well I
I, you, and he are damned : this Public is our

We live in fire : live coals don't feel I — onoe

quenched, they leam —
Cinders do, to what dust they moulder while

they bum ! '

** * If von don't speak straight out,' sAjn 1 —
belike I swore —

* A knobstick, well you know the taste of, shall,

once more.
Teach you to talk, my maid I ' She ups with

such a face.
Heart sunk inside me. 'Well, pad on, my

prate-apace I '

** *' I 've been about those laces we need for • . •

never mind I
If henoef orth they tie hands, 't is mine they 'U

have to bind.
Ton know who makes them best — the Tinker

in our cage,
Pulled-up for goepelling, twelve years ago : no

To try another trade, — yet, so he scorned to

Money he did not earn, he taught himself the

Of laces, tagged and tough — Dick Bagman

found uiem so I
Good customers were we I Well, last week,

you must know,
His girl, — the bHnd young chit, who hawks

about his wares. —
She takes it in her head to c<nne no more —

such airs
These hussies have I Yet, since we need a

stoutish lace, —
'* 1 11 to the jaU-bird father, abuse her to his

So, first I filled a jug to give me heart, and then,
Pkimed to the proper piteh, I posted to their

den —
Patmore, they style their prison I I tip the

turnkey, catch
My heart up, fix my face, and fearless lift the

Both arms akimbo, in bounce with a good

round oath
Ready for rapping out : no ** Lawks " nor ** By


" * There sat my man, the father. He looked

up: what one feels
When heart that leapt to mouth drops down

again to heels!
He raised his hand . . . Hast seen, when

drinking out the night.
And in, the day, earth grow another something

Under the sun's first stare? I stood a very stone.

'* * " Woman I " (a fiery tear he put in every

**How should my child frequent your house

where lust is sport,

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Violenoe — trade ? Too true I I tnist no vague

Her angel's hand, which stops the sight of sin,

leaves clear
The other gate of sense, lets outrage through

the ear.
What has she heard I— which, heard shall

never be again.
Better lack food than feast, a Dives in the —

Orreignortrain— of Charles!" (His language

was not ours :
TT is my belief, God spoke : no tinker has such

^ Bread, only bread they bring — my laces: if

we broke
Your lump of leavened nn, the loaf's first

crumb would choke I "

'* * Down on my manow-bones I Then all at

once rose ne:
His brown hair burst a- spro ad, his eyes were

suns to see:
Up went his hands : ** Through flesh, I reach,

I read thy soul I
So may some stricken tree look blasted, bough

and bole.
Champed by the fire-tooth, charred without,

and yet, thrice-bound
Wiih dreriment about, within may life be found,
A prisoned power to branch and blossom as be-
Could but the gardener deave the cloister,

reach the core.
Loosen the vital sap : yet where shall help be

Who sajrs * How save it ? ' — nor ' Why cumbers

it the ground ? '
Woman, that tree art thou I All sloughed

about with scurf.
Thy sta^homs fright the sky, thy snake-roots

stmg the tun I
Drunkenness, wantonness, theft, murder gnash

Thine outward, case thy soul with coating like

the marie
Satan stamps flat upon each head beneath his

And how deliver such P The strong men keep

Lover and friend stand far, the mocking ones
I by.

Tophet gapes wide for prey : lost soul, despair

and die!
What then ? * Look unto me and be ye saved I '

saith Gh>d:
'' I strike the rock, outstreats the life-stream at

my rod M
Be your sins scarlet, wocd shall they seem like,

— although
As crimson real yet turn white as the driven


'** There, there, there I All I seem to some-
how understand

> They did not eat
Hla flash, nor rack thoae oils which thence ontstreat.
DoMHs'B Pfvgreu o/theSout^ line SM.

Is — that, if I reached home, 't was through the

guiding hand
Of his blind girl which led and led me throogfa

the streets
And out of town and up to door again. What

First thing my eye, as limbs recover from their

A book — this Book she gave at parting.

"Father's boon—
The Book he wrote : it reads as if he wp6k£

He cannot preach in bonds, so, — take it down

from shelf
When you want counsel, — think you hear his

very voice I

'"'TTicked dear Husband, first dmpair and
then rejoice !

Dear wicked Husband, waste no tick of moment

Be saved like me, bald trunk I There 's green-
ness yet at core.

Sap under slough I Read, read I '

" Let me take breath, my lords I
I 'd like to know, are these — hers, mine, or

Bunyan's words?
I'm 'wildered— scarce with drink, — nowise

with drink alcme I
You 11 say, with heat : but heat 's no stuff to

split a stone
Like tnis black boulder— this flint heart of

mine : the Book —
That dealt the crashing blow I Sirs, here's

the fist that shook
His beard till Wrestler Jem howled like a just-
lugged bear I
You had Drained me with a feather : at once I

grew aware
Christmas was meant for me. A burden at

your back.
Good Master Christmas? Nay, — yours was

that Joseph's sack,
— Or whose it was. — which hM the cup, —

compared with mine I
Robbery loads my loins, perjury cracks my chine.
Adultery . . . nay. Tab, you jHtched me as I

flung I
One word, I 'U up with fist . . . No, sweet

spouse, hold your tongue I

"I 'm hasting to the end. The Book, sirs —

take and read I
Yon have my history in a nutshell, — ay, indeed 1
It must off, mjr burden I See,— slack straps

and into pit.
Roll, reach the^ bottom, rest, rot there — a

plague on it !
For a mountain 's sure to fall and buiy Bedford

* Destruction ' — that 's the name, and fire shall

bum it down I
Oh, 'scape the wrath in time I Time 'a now, if

not too late.
How can I pilgrimage up to the wicket-gate ?
Next comes DespoiML the slough: not that I

fear to pull

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Throng^ mucU And dry my clothes mt brave

House Beautiful —
But it 's late in the day, I reckon : had I left

years ago
Town, wife, and children dear . . . Well,

Christmas did, you know t —
Soon I had met in the valley and tried my oud-

gePs strength
On the enemy homed and winged, astraddle

across its length I
Have at his horns, thwick — thwack : they

snap, see I Hoof and hoof —
Bang, break the fetlock-bones I For love's

sake, keep aloof
Angels I I 'm man and match, — this cudgel

for my flail, —
To thresh him, hoofs and horns, bat's wing and

serpent's tail I
A chance gone by I But then, what else does

Hopeful ding
Into the deafest ear except — hope, hope 's the

Too late i^ the day for me to £hrid the wind-
ings: but
There 's still a way to win the race by death's

short cut I
Did Master Faithful need climb the Delightful

No, straight to Vanity Fair, — a fair, by all ac-
Such as is held outside, — lords, ladies, grand

w»dgay, —
Says he in the face of them, just what you hear

me say.
And the Judges brought him in guilty, and

brought him out
To die in themarket-pUuse— St. Peter's Green 's

The same thing: there they flogged, flayed,

buffeted, lanced with knives.
Pricked him with swords, — I 'U swear, he 'd

full a cat's nine lives, —
So to his end at last came Faithful, — ha, ha, he !
Who holds the highest card ? for there stands

hid, you see.
Behind the rabble-rout, a chariot, pair and all :
He 's in, he 's off. he 's up, through clouds, at

Carried the nearest way to Heaven-gate I Odds

my life —
Has nobody a sword to spare ? not even a knife ?
Then hang me, draw and quarter I Tab — do

the same by her I
O Master Worldly-Wiseman . . . that 's Master

Take the will, not the deed I Our gibbet 's

handy, close :
Forestall Last Judgment-Day I Be kindly, not

morose I
There wants no earthly judge-and-jurying : here

we stand —
Sentence our guilty selves : so, hang us out of

hand I
Make haste for pity's sake I A single moment's

Means — Satan *s lord once more : his whisper

shoots across
An singing in my heart, all praying in my brain.

* It comes of heat and beer I ' — hark how he

guffaws plain I

* To-morrow you '11 wake bright, and, in a safe

skin, hog
Tour sound selvea, Tab and you, over a foam-
ing jugl
Ton 've nadT such quahns before, time out of

mind ! ' He ^s right I
Did not we kick and exat and curse away, that

When home we blindly reeled, and left poor

humpback Joe
P the lurch to pay for what . • . somebody

did, you know I
Both of us maundered then, * Lame humpback,

— never more
Will he come limping, drain his tankard at our

door I
He '11 swing, while — somebody ' . . . Says Tab,

'No, for I ni peach I'

* I 'm for you. Tab,' cries I, * there 's rope

enough for each ! '
So blubbered we, and bussed, and went to bed

The grace of Tab's good thought : by morning,

all was gone I
We lauffhed— * What 's life to him, a cripple

of no account ? '
Oh, waves increase around — I feel them mount

and mount I
Hang us I To-morrow brings Tom Bearward

with lus bears :
One new blaok-muzaded brute beats Sackerson,

he swears :
(Sackerson, for my money I) And, baiting o'er,

the Brawl
They lead on Turner's Patch, — lads, kases, up

tails all,—
I 'm i' the thick o' the throngi That means

the Iron Cage,
— Means the Lost Man inside ! Where 's hope

for such as wage
War against light? Light's left, light's here,

I hold light still,
So does Tab — make but haste to hang us both I

Ton will?"

I promise, when he stopped you might have

heard a mouse
Squeak, such a death-like hush sealed up the

old Mote House.
But when the mass of man sank meek upon his

While Tab, alongside, wheezed a hoarse ** Do

hang us, please I "
Why, then the waters rose, no eye but ran with

Hearts heaved, heads thumped, until, paying

all past arrears
Of pity and sorrow, at last a regular scream

Of triumph, joy, and praise.

My Lord Chief Justice spoke,
first mopping brow and cheek, where still, for

one that budged.
Another bead broke fresh: '* What Judge, that

ever judged

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l^noe first the worid began, judged each a case

as this?
Why, Master Bratts, long sinoe, folks smelt

yon oat, I wis I
I had my doubts, i* faith, each time yon played

the fox
GonTioting geese of crime in yonder witness-
box —
Tea, much did I misdoubt, the thief that stole

her eggs
Was hardly goosey's self at Reynard's game, i'

f eggs I
Yet thus much was to praise — you spoke to

point, direct —
Swore yon heard, saw the theft : no jury oould

suspect —
Dared to suspect, —I '11 say, — a q>ot in white

so dear:
Goosey was throttled, true : but thereof godly

Game of example set, much as our laws in-
And, though a fox confessed, you proTed the

Judge's friend.
What if I had my doubts? Suppose I gave

them breath.
Brought you to bar: what work to do, ere

'Guilty, Death'
Had paid our pains t What heaps of witnesMs

From holes and ccwners, paid from out the

County's bag! .

Trial three dognlays long I Amtcut Cwnm —

Your title, no dispute ^ truth^telling Master

Bratts I _ _ ,

Thank you, too. Mistress Tab I Why doubt

one woid you say ?
TTmiginyy vou both deserve, hanged both shall

be tins day I
The tinker needs must be a proper man. I 've


He lies in Jail long since: if Quality's good

Warrants me letting loose, — some householder,

I mean-
Freeholder, better still, — I don't say but —

Now and next Sessions . . . Well ! Consider

of his case,
I pronuse to, at least: we owe him so nmch

Not that — no, God forbid I — I lean to think,

as you.
The grace that such repent is anv jail-bird's due :
I rather see the fruit of twelve years' pious

reign —

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 174 of 198)