Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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beck and call the fond tierd.
Bnt who wields the orozier, down may fling the

That 's the power I coret now ; soul's sway o'er

souls — my task I

** * Well but,' you object, * you have it, who by

glamour '
Dress up lies to look like truths, mask folly in

the garb of reason :
Your soul acts on theirs, sure, when the people

Hold their i>eaoe, now fight now fondle, — ear-

wigved through the brains.'
Possibly iDut still the operation 's mundane^
Grosser than a taste demands which — craving

manna — kecks at peason —
Power o'er men by wants material : why should

Rule bv sordid hopes and fears — a grunt for
all one's pains ?

** No, if men must pnuse me, let them praise to

purpose I
Would we move the world, not earth but

heaven must be our fulcrum — pou $lo !
Thus I seek to move it : Master, why int^xpose —
Balk my climbing close on what 's the ladder's

t<^most round?
Statecraft 'tis I step from : when by priest-

otaft hoisted
Up to where my foot may touch the highest

rung which fate allows toe.
Then indeed ask favor. On yon shall be

No excuse: I'll pay my debt, each penny of

the pound I

'*Ho, my knaves without there I Lead this

worthy downstairs I
No farewell, good Paul — nay, Peter — what 's

your name remembered rightly ?
Gome, he 's humble : out another would have

flounced — airs
Suitors often give themselves when our sort

bow them forth.

Did I touch his rags ? He surely kept his die-

tonce in pulHn^,

Yet, there somehow passed to me from him^-
where'er the virtue might lie —

Sometlung that inspires my soul — Oh, by as-

Doubtlessly of Peter I — still, he 's worth just
what he 's worth !

^* 'T is my own soul soars now : soaring — how ?
By crawling I

I '11 to Home, before Rome's feet the temporal-
supreme lay prostrate 1

' Hands^ (I'll say) 'proficient <


Tlus and that way men as I was minded — feet

now clasp I '
Ay, the Kaiser's self has wrung them in his

fervor I
Now — they <»ilv sue to slave for Rome, nor at

one doit tne cost rate.
Rome's adopted child — no bone, no musde,

nerve or
Sinew of me but 1 11 strain, though out my life

Igaspl" -•—'-•

As he stood one evening proudly — (he bad

Rome on horseback — peerless pageant! —

claimed the Lateran as new Pope) —
Thinking** All's attained now I Pontiff! Who

could have erst
Dreamed of my advance so far when, some ten

years ago,
I embraced devotion, grew from priest to

Gained the Purple, bribed the Condave, got

the Two-thirds, saw my coop ope.
Came out — what Rome hiuls me I O were

there a wish-shop,
Not one wish more would I purchase — lord of

all below!

** Ha — who dares intrude now — puts aside the

What, old Peter, here again, at such a time, in

such a presence ?
Satan sends this plague back merely to em-

Me who enter on my office — little needing

'Faith. I'm touched myself by age, but you
look Tithon !

Were it vain to seek of yon the sole prise left-
rejuvenescence ?

Well, since flesh is grass which time must lay
his scjTthe on.

Say your say and so depart and make no more

Peter faltered — ooughinfir first by way of pro-

** Holiness, your help comes late: a death at

nine^ little matters.
Padua, build poor Peter's pyre now, on log roll

Bum away — I ' ve lived my day I Yet here 's

the sting in death —

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I 'Ye an aathor's pride : I want my Book's mr-

See, I Ve hid it in my breast to warm me 'mid

the raffS and tatters I
Saye it — tell next age yonr Master had no rival !
Scholar's debt discharged in full, be ' Thanks '

my latest breath 1"

** Fans^ the frowsy bundle — seribUings har-

Soattered o'er a dosen sheenskins I What's the

name of this farrago r
Ha — * Conciliator Differentiarum ' — -
Man and book mav onm together, oaose the

world no loesl
Stop— what else? A tractate — eh, ' i>e 5im-

CerenumialisMa'gi'at^ Idreamsurel Hence,

away, ^o.
Wisard,— quiokayoidmel Vain yon clasp my

Imee. bnss
Hand that oears the Fisher's ring or foot that

boasts the Cross I

**Helpl The old magician clings like an octo-
Ah, you rise now — fuming, fretting, frowning,

if I read yonr features I
Frown, who cares? We 're Pope — once Pope,

yon can't unpope us 1
€hx>d — you muster up a smile : that 's better I

StiU so brisk?
All at once grown youthful ? But the case is

plain I Ass —
Here I dally with the fiend, yet know the Word

— compels all creatures
Earthly, heayenly, hellish. Apaae^ Sathanas
IHcamverbum8aiomonis—^''^dtciter^ When

-whiski —

What was changed? The stzangergaye his eyes

a rubbing :
There smiled Peter's iaoe turned back a moment

at him o'er the shoulder.
As the black-door shut, bang 1 ** So he 'scapes

a drubbing I "
(Quoth a boy who, unespied, had stopped to hear

the talk.)
** That 's the way to thank these wizards when

they bid men
Benedicite ! What ails you ? You, a man, and

yet no bolder ?
Foreign Sir, you look but foolish I " ** Idtnen^

Groaned the Greek. ** O Peter, cheese at last

I know from chalk ! "

Peter liyed his life out, menaced yet no martyr.
Knew himself the miprhty man he was — such

knowledge all his guerdon.
Left the world a big book — people but in part

When they style a true Scientia Com-penrdi-Mm :
" Admir<Uionem incutit " they sourly
Smile, as fast they shut the folio which myself

was somehow spurred on
Once to ope : but loye — life's milk which daily,


Blockheads lap— O Peter, still thy taste of
loye 's to come I

Greek, was your ambition likewise doomed to

True, I find no record you wore purple, walked

with axe and fasces.
Played some antipope's part: still, friend, don't

turn tail, you 're
Certain, with but these two gifts, to gain earth's

prize in time!
Cley emess uncurbed by conscience — if yonrao-

Peter's book you 'd find no potent spell like

these to rule the masses ;
Nor should want example, had I not to transact
Other business. Go your ways, you '11 thriye I

So ends my rhyme.

When these parts Tiberius— -not yet Cesar —

Passing Padua, he consulted Padua's Oracle of

(God three^ieaded, thrice wise) just to get un-

Certain tangles of his future. ** Fling at Abano

Golden dioe," it answered : ** dropt within the
fount there.

Note what sum the pips present I " And still
we see each die, the very one.

Turn np, through the crystal, — read the whole
account there

Where 't is told by Suetonius, — each its highest

Scarce the sportiye fancy-dice I fling show

Still— for loye of that dear land which I so oft

in dreams revisit —
I have — oh, not sung I but lilted (as — between

Grows my lazy custom) this its legend. What

the lilt?

f i JTTlJJ l ^ jrf

^ mi'lif



i ^)iiJ^J J i ::fjr l

\i ^\himr \ \

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A Rabbi told me : On the day allowed
Satan for carping: at God's role, he eame,
mresh from our earth, to brave the angelr

**Whati8the£aQltnow?" ** This I find to

Many and yarions are the tonsraes below,
Yet all agree in one speech, all proclaim

** * Hell has no might to match what earth can

Death is the strongestp-bom of Hell, and yet
Stronger than Dei^ is a Bad Wife, we know.*

** Is it a wonder if I fnme and fret —

Robbed of my rights, sinoe Death am I, and

The style of Strongest? Men pay Nature's


** Because they must at my demand ; decline
To pav it henoef orth surely men will please,
ProTided husbands with bad wives combine

** To baf&e Death. Judge between me and

'* Thyself shalt judge. Descend to earth in

Of mortal, marry, drain from froth to lees

" The bitter draught, then see if thou esoiq;>e
Concluding, with men sorrowful and sage,
A Bad Wife's strength Death's self in vain
would ape I "

How Satan entered on his nilgrimage,
Conformed himself to earthly ordinance,
YRved and played husband well from youth to

Intrepidly — I leave untold, advance
Through many a married year until I reach
A day when — of his father's countenance

The very imase, like him too in speech

As well as thought and deed, — the union's

Attained maturity. ** I needs must teach

** My son a trade : but trade, such son to suit.
Needs seeking after. He a man of war ?
Too oowardly 1 A lawyer wins repute —

'* Having to toil and moil, though — both which

Beyond this sluggard. There 's Divinity :
No, that 's my own bread-winner — that be


** From my poor offspring ! Physic ? Ha, we 11

If iliis be practicable. Where 's ray wit ?
Asleep? — since, now I come to think . . . Ay,

ay I

'* Hither, my son I Exactly have I hit
On a profession for thee. Mediau —
Behold, thou art aiq;Knnted I Yea, I spit

^* Upon thine eves, bestow a virtue thus
That henceforth not this human form I wear
Shalt then peroeive alone, hot — one of us

" By privile^ — thy fleshly sifffat Shan 1

Me m my spirit-person as I walk

The world and take my prey appointed there.

^* Doctor once dubbed — what ignorance shaO

Thy march triumphant ? Diagnose the gout
As colic, and prescribe it cheese for chalk —

'* No matter I All 's one : cure shall oome

And win thee wealth — fees paid with such a

Of thanks and praise alike from lord and lout

" As never stunned man's ears on earth before.
*Howmaythisbe?' Why, that's my skeptic I

Truth will corrupt thee, soon thou doubt'st no


*^ Why is it I bestow on thee the boon
Of recognizing me the while I go
Invisibly among men, morning, noon,

'* And night, from house to house, and — quick

or slow —
Take my appointed prey ? They summon thee
For help, suppose : obey the summons I so I

'* Enter, look round I Where 's Death ? Eiiow

— I am he,
Satan who work all evil : Iwhobringr
Pain to the patient in whate'er degree.

** I, then, am there : first glance thine eye shall

Will find me — whether distant or at hand.
As I am tree to do my spiriting.

** At such mere first glance thou shalt under-
Wherefore I reach no higher up the room
Than door or window, whini my form is

** Howe'er friends' faces please to gaUier (
Bent o'er the sick, — howe'er

In such case Death is not the sufferer's doom.

** Contrariwise, do friends rejcnce my bonds
Are broken, does the captive in his turn
Crow * Life shall conquer ' ? Nip these foolish

** Of hope arsprout, if haply thou discern
Me at the head — my victim's head, be sure I
Forth now ! This taught thee, little else to

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And forth he went. Folk heard him ask de-

*' How do yon style this ailment ? (There he

My father


I) l^is, the core

** Is plain as A B G I Experience steeps
Blossoms of pennyroyal half an hour
In sherris. SumcU ! — Lo, how sound he
deeps —

** The subject yon presumed was past the power
Of Galen to reUeve I " Or else, '^How 's this ?
Why call for help so tardily ? Clouds lour

*' Portentously indeed. Sin I (Naught 's

He 's at the bed-foot merely.) StilL the storm
May pass averted — not by quacks, I wis,

*' Like you, my masters I You, forsooth, per-
A miracle ? Stand, sciolists, aside I
Blood, ne'er so cold, at ignorance grows

Which boasting by result was justified.

Big as might words be: whether drugged or

Drugless, the patient always lived, not died.

Great the heir*s gratitude, so nigh bereft

Of all he prized in ibis world : sweet the smile

Of disconcerted rivals : *' Cure ? — say, theft

** From Nature in despite of Art — so style
This off-hand kill-ornsure work I Ton did

I had done more : folk cannot wait awhile I "

But did the case change ? was it — '* Scarcely

The symptoms as to warrant our recourse
To your skill. Doctor I Tet since just a touch

** Of pulse, a taste of breath, has all the force
With you of long investi^tion claimed
By others, — tracks an ailment to its source

** Intuitively. — may we ask unblamed
What from tnis pimple you prognosticate ? *'
** Death I '* was the answer, as he saw and

The coucher by the sick man's head. ** Too

Ton send for my assistance. I am bold
Only by Nature's leave, and bow to Fate I

** Besides, you have my rivals : lavish gold I
How comfortably ^uiok shall life depifft
Cosseted by attenti<nis manifold I

" One day, one hour ago, perchance my art
Had done some service. Since jrou have your-
Chosen —before the hone — to put the cart,

** Why, Sin, the sooner that the sexton delves
Tour patient's grave the better I How you

— Shallow, for all the deep books on your

shelves I

''Fare vou well, fumblen ! " Do I need de-

What name and fame, what riches recompensed
The Doctor's practice ? Never anjrwhere

Such an adept as d^y evidenced
£ach new vaticination I Oh, not he
Like dolts who dallied with their scruples,

With subterfu^, nor «tve out firank and free

Something decisive I if he said ** I save

The patient," saved he was: if '' Death will be

*' His portion," you might count him dead.

Thus brave.
Behold our worthy, sans competitor
Throughout the country, on the architrave

Of Glory's temple golden-lettered for
Machaon rtdivivus ! So, it fell
That, of a sudden, when the Emperor

Was smit by sore disease, I need not tell
If any other Doctor's aid was sought
To come and forthwith make the sick Prince

'* He will reward thee as a monarch ought.
Not much imports the malady ; but then.
He clings to life and cries like one distranght

'' For thee — who, from a simple citizen,
Mayst look to rise in rank, — nay, haplv we
A medal with his portrait, — always when

*' Recovery is quite accomplished. There I
Pass to the presence I " Hardly has he crossed
The chamber's threshold when ne halts, aware

Of who stands sentry by the head. All 's lost.
** Sire, naught avails m^ art : you near the goal.
And end the race by giving up the ghost."

" How ? " cried the monarch : ** Names upon

your roll
Of hatf my subjects rescued by your skill -~
Old and young, rich and poor — crowd cheek by


** And vet no room for mine ? Be saved I will !
Whv else am I earth's foremost potentate ?
Add me to these and take as fee your fill

** Of gold —that point admits of no debate
Between us : save me, as vou can and must, —
Gold, till your gown's pouon cracks beneath the
weight I^'

This touched the Doctor. *' Truly a home-

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Parent, joo will not parry I Have I dared
Entreat that yon forego the meal of dust

** — Man that is snake's meat — when I saw

Yonr oaify ^rtion ? Never I Just this once,
Go from his head, then, — let his life be

spared! "

Whisper met whisper in the gmff response ;
** Fool, I must haye my prey : no inch I budge
From where thou see'st me thus myself en-


Wealth f "

the sufferer, ** by thy look I

fsuls to tempt thee: what if honors
More efficacious ? Naught to him I grudge

** Who saves me. Only keep my head above
The cloud that 's creeping round it — I '11

My empire with thee I No? What 's left but


'*Doe8 love allure thee? Well then, take as

My only daughter, &ir bevond belief I
Save me — to-morrow shall the knot be tied I "

"Father, v<

'ou hear him I Respite ne'er so

Is all I beg : go now and come again

Next day, for aught I care : req^eot the grief

" Mine will be if thy first-bom sues in vain I "
**Fool, I must have my prey!" was all he

In answer. But a fancy crossed his brain.

" I have it ! Sire, methinks a meteor shot
Just now across the heavens and neutralized
Jove's salutary influence : 'neath the blot

" Plumb are you placed now : well that I sur-

The cause of failure I Knaves, reverse the

''Stay!" proaned the monarch, "I shall be
capsized —

"Jolt— jolt — my heels uplift where late my

Was lying — sure I 'm turned right round at

What do vou say now. Doctor ? " Naught he

For why? With one brisk leiHI> the Antic

From couch-foot back to pillow, — as before.
Lord of the situation. Long agnast

The Doctor ^azed, then " Yet one trial more
Is left me " mwaraly he uttered. " Shame
Upon thy flinty heart I Do I implore

" Tins trifling favor in the idle name
Of mercy to the moribund ? I plead
The cause of all thou dost affect : my aim

"Befits my author I Why would I succeed ?
Simply that by success I may promote
The growth of thy pet virtues— pride and

"Butkeepthy favors! — curse thee I I devote
Henceforth my service to the other side.
No time to lose : the rattle 's in his throat.

" So, — not to leave one last resource untried, —
Run to my house with all haste, somebody !
Bring me that knobstick thence, so often idied

" With profit by the astrologer —shall I
Disdain its help, the mystic Jacob's-Staff ?
Sire, do but have the courage not to die

" Till this arrive ! Let noneof you dare laugh I

Though rugged its exterior, I have seen

That implement work wonders, send the chaff

" Quick and thick flying from the wheat — I

Bv meti^hor, a human sheaf it threshed
Flail-like. Glofetchitl Or — a word between

Just you and me, friend 1 — eo bid, unabashed.
My mother, whom you 'U find there, bring the

Herself — herself, mindl" Out the laekey


Zealous upon the errand. Craft and trick
Are meat and drink to Satan : and he grinned

— How else ? — at an excuse so politic

For failure : scarce would Jacob's-Staff rescind
Fate's flrm decree I And ever as he neared
The agonizing one, his breath like wind

Froze to the marrow, while his eye-flash seared
Sense in the brain up : doselier and more close
Pressing his prey, wnen at the door appeared

— Who but his Wife the Bad? Whereof one

One grain, one mite of the medicament.
Sufficed him. Up he sprang. One word, too


To soil my lips with, — and through ceiling went
Somehow the Husband. "That a stonn's

We know for certain by the sulphury scent I

" Hail to the Doctor ! Who but one so versed
In all Dame Nature's secrets had prescribed
The staff thus opport u nely ? Style him first

ofpnyslolansl" "I've imbibed
snoiled the prince, — " have

" And foremost of phy
Elixir surely,"

New kase of life. Dear Doctor, how yon


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^ Death to forego me, boots not : you 've ob-
Mr dau^ter and her dowry. Death, I Ve heard,
Was sml on earth the strongest power that

''Except a Bad Wife r* Wherennto demurred
Nowise the Doctor, so refused the fee
— No dowry, no bad wife I

*' Ton think absnrd
This tale?" — the Rabbi added: " True, onr

Boasts sundry such: yet — hare our elders

In thininng there 's some water there, not all

I tell it, as the Rabbi told it me.


Si credere dignuiD est. — Gtcrric, III. 390.

Oh, worthy of belief I hold it was,
Viigil, your legend in those strange three lines I
No question, that adventure came to pass
One black night in Arcadia : yes, the pines,
Mountiuns and yalleys mingling made one mass
Of black with yoid black heaven : the earth's

The sky's embrace, — below, above, around.
All hardened into black without a bound.

Fill up a swart stone chalice to the brim
With fresh-squeezed yet fast-thickening poppy-

See how the sluggish jelly, late a-swim.
Turns marble to the touon of who would loose
The solid smooth, grown jet from rim to rim.
By turning round the bowl ! So night can fuse
Earth with her all-comprising sky. No less.
Light, the least spark, shows air and emptiness.

And thus it proved when — diving into space,
Stript of all vapor, from each web of mist
Utterly film-free — entered on her race
Hie naked Moon, full-orbed antagonist
Of night and dark, night's dowry : peak to base.
Upstarted mountains, and each valleyj kissed
To sudden life, lav silver-bright : in air
Flew she revealed, Aiaid-Moon with limbs all

Still as she fled, each depth — where refuge

seemed —
Opening a lone pale chamber, left distinct
Tnose umbs: Wd still-retreating blue, she

Herself with whiteness, — virginal, unoinot
By any halo save what finely gleamed
To outline not disguise her: heaven was linked
In one accord with earth to ^uaff the joy.
Drain beauty to the dregs without alloy.

Whereof she grew aware. What help? When,

A succorable doud with sleep lay dense:

Some pinetree-top had oauprfat it sailing slow»
And tethered for a prixe : m evidence
Captive lay fleece on fleece of piled-up snow
Drowsily patient: flake-heaped how or whence.
The structure of that succorable cloud.
What matter? Shamed she plunged into its

Orbed — so the woman-figure poets call
Because of rounds on rounds — that appl»-

Head which its hair binds close into a ball
Each side the curving ears — that pure undn^ied
Pout of the sister pras — that . • . Once for

Sa^ — her consummate circle thus esc^>ed
With its innumerous circlets, sank absorbed.
Safe in the cloud— O naked Moon full-orbed I

But what means this? Tlie downy swathes

Gonglobe, the smotheir^ coy-earessing stuff
Curdles about her I Vain each twist and twine
Those lithe limbs try, encrocushed on by a fluff
Fitting as close as fits the dented spine
Its flexible ivory outside-flesh : enough I
llie plumy drifts contract, condense, constringe,
"nil she is swallowed by the feathery springe.

As when a pearl slins lost in^the thin foam
Churned on a sea-shoi

hore, and, o'ei^frothed, oon^

Herself safe-housed in Amphitrite's dome, —
If, through the bladdery wave-worked yeast,

she meets
What most she loathes and leaps from,— elf

from gnome
No riadlier, — finds that safest of retreats
Bubble about a treacherous hand wide ope
To grasp her — (divers who pick pearls so

grope) —

So lay this Maid-Moon clasped around and

By rough red Pan, the god of all that tract :
He it was schemed the snare thus subtly wrought
With simulated earth - breath, — wool - tufts

Into a billowy wrappage. Sheep far-sought
For spotless shearings yield such : take the fact
As learned Virgil gives it, — how the breed
Whitens itself forever : yes, indeed !

If one forefather ram, though pure as chalk
From tinge on fleece, shoula still di^lay a

Black 'neath the beast's moist palate, prompt

men balk
The propagating plague : he gets no young :
They rather slay nim, — sell nis hide to calk
Ships with, first steeped in pitch, — nor hands

are wrun^
In sorrow for his fate : protected thus.
The purity we love is gamed for us.

So did Girl-Moon, by just her attribute

Of unmatched modesty betrayed, lie trapped,

Bruised to the breast of Pan, half g^od halt brute.

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Raked by his bristly boar-sward while he lapi>ed
— Never say, kissed her I that were to pollute
Love's language — which moreover proves un-
To tell how she recoiled — as who finds thorns
Whore she sought flowers— when, feeling, she
touched — horns !

Then— does the legend say?— first moon-
Happened, first swooning-fit which puzzled sore
The early sages ? Is that why she dips
Into the dark, a minute and no more,
Only so long as serves her while she rips
The cloud's womb through and, faultless as

Pursues her wav ? No lesson for a maid
Left she, ainaia herself thus trapped, betrayed ?

Ha. Virgil? TeU the rest, you I ''Tothedeep
Of his domain the wildwood. Pan forthwith
Called her, and so she followed " — in her sleep,
Purely ? — - *^ by no means spuming him." The

Explain who may I Let all else go, I keep
— As of a ruin just a monolith —
Thus much, one verse of five words, each a boon :
Atw^iiift., night, a dond, Pan, and the moon.

The first ten lines that follow were printed as
epilogue to the second series of DrameUic Idyls ;
the second ten were added to them by Brown-
ing in the album of a young American girl in
Venice, October, 1880. See The Century for

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 177 of 198)