Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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November, 1882.



** TovoB him ne'er to Ugliily, Into MOfr be broke :
BoQ M> qaiok-receptlve, — not one feetber-aeed.
Not one flower<liMt feU bat straight iU fall awoke
YltaUsii^ virtue : aong would aong succeed
Sadden as spontaneous — prove a poet-soul t **

Indeed?
Rock 's the song-eoil rather, surface hard and bare :
&m and dew their mildneas, storm and frost their rage
Yainly both expend, — few flowers awaken there :
Quiet In its deft broods — what the afternige
Knows and names a pine, anation*s heritai^



Thus I wrote in London, musing on my betters,
Poets dead and gone ; and lo, the critics cried,
•• Out on such a boast ! ** as if I dreamed that fetters
Binding Dante bind up — me ! as if true pride
Were not also humble i

Bo I smiled and sighed
As I oped your book in Tenice this bright morning,
Sweet new friend of mine ! and felt the day or suid,
Whatsoever my soil be, break — for praise or scorning —
Out in grateful fancies — weeds ; but weeds ez^
Almost Into flowers, held by saoh a kindly *



THE BLIND MAN TO THE MAIDEN

Browning translated the following from m
German poem in Wilhelmine von Hillem's
novel The Hour Will Come at the request of
Mrs. Clara Bell, the translator of the noveL
It there appeared as the work of an anonymous
friend, but was reprinted as Browning's in The
WMtehaU Review for Maroh 1, 1883.

The blind man to the nuuden said,

'' O thou of hearts the truest.
Thy countenance is hid from me ;
Let not my question anger thee I

Speak, though in words the fewest.

** Tell me, what kind of eyes are thine f

Dark eyes, or light ones rather ? **
** My eyes are a decided brown —
So much, at least, by looking down.
From the brook's glass I gather.'^

" And is it red — thy little mouth ?

That too the blind must care for.*'
*' Ah 1 I would tell it soon to thee,
Only — none yet has told it me.

I cannot answer, therefore.

'' But dost thou ask what heart I have—

Tliere hesitate I never.
In thine own breast 't is borne, and so
'T is thine in weal, and thine in woe,

For life, for death — thine eyer I "



GOLDONI

The following sonnet was written by Brown-
ing for the album of the Committee of the
Goldoni monument, erected in Venice in 1883.

GoLDONi — good, gay, sunniest of souls, —

Glassing half Venice in that verse of thine^ —

What tnon^h it just reflect the shade and shme
Of common life, nor render, as it rolls.
Grandeur and gloom ? Sufficient for thy shoals

Was Carnival ; Parini's depths enshrine

Secrets unsuited to that opaline
Surface of things which lauglis along thy scrdDs.
There throng the people : how they or.me and go.

Lisp the soft language, flaunt the bright
garb, — see, —
On Piazza, Calle, under Portico

And over Bridge 1 Dear king of Comedy,
Be honored I thou that didst love Venice so,

Venice, and we who love her, all love thee t
^ov0Mter27,1888.



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DONALD



911



JOCOSERIA



Tms colleotion of poems was published in
1883. The title of the yolume is mentioned in
a foot-note to the Note at the end of Paracel-
sus, where the poet speaks of ** such mbbish as
Mdander*s Jocoseria,^"* In a letter, aooompar
nying a copy of the yolnme, sent to a friend,
Browning wrote : ** The title is taken from the
work of Melander (Sohwartzmann), reviewed,



by a cnrioQS ooinoidenoe, in the Blackwood of
this month [February, 1883]. I referred to it in
a note to FaraceUus, The two Hebrew quota-
tions [in the note to Joohanan Hakkadosh]
(put in to giye a grave look to what is mere fun
and invention) being translated amount to (1)

* A Colleotion of Lies * ; and (2), an old saying.

* From Moses to Moses arose none like Moses.' "



WANTING IS — WHAT?

Tills is in the nature of a prelude to the entire
group of poems.

Waktiko is — what ?

Summer redundant,

Blueness abundant,

—Where is the blot?
Beamy the world, jet a blank all the same,
— Frunework which wuts for a picture to

frame:
What of the leafage, what of the flower ?
Roses emboweriuflr with naught they embower I
Come then, complete incompletion, O comer.
Pant through the bluenesB, perfect the sum-
mer!

Breathe but one breath

Rose-beauty above.

And all that was death

Grows life, grows love,

Cteows love T



DONALD

Tliis story which Browning had from the Hps
of the hero has also been told in prose by Sir
Walter Scott.

** Wnxyou hear my story also,

— Hufire Sport, brave adventure in plenty ? "
The boys were a band from Oxford,
Hie oldest of whom was twenty.

The bothy we held carouse in
Was bright with fire and candle ;

Tale followed tale like a merry-go-round
Whereof Sport turned the hai^Ue.

In our eyes and noses — turf-smoke :
In our ears a tune from the trivet,

Whence *' Boiling, boUii^ '* the kettle
*' And ready for fresh Glenlivet."

So, feat capped feat, with a vengeance :
Truths, though, — the lads were loyal :
*' Grouse, five-score braoe to the bag I
Deer, ten hours' stalk of the Royal I ' '



Of boasting, not one bit, boys !

Only there seemed to settle
Somehow above your curly heads,

— Plain through the singing kettle.

Palpable through the cloud,

Ab each new-puffed Havana
Rewarded the teller's well-told tale, —

This vaunt ** To Sport — Hosanna I

'* Hunt, fish, shoot.

Would a man fulfil life's duty I
Not to the bodily frame alone
Does Sport give strength and beauty,

** But duuraoter gains in —courage ?
Ay, Sir, and much beside it I
Yon don't sport, more 's the pitjr ;
You soon would find, if you tried it,

** Good sportsman means good fellow,
Sound-hearted he, to Uie centre ;
Your mealy-mouthed mild milksops

— There 's where the rot can enter t

" There 's where the dirt will breed.
The shabbinees Sport would baxush I
Oh no. Sir, no I In your honored case
All such objections vanish.

** 'T is known how hard you studied :
A Double-First — what, the jigfipr I
Give me but half your Latin and Greek,
I '11 never again touch trigger I

** Still, tastes are tastes, allow me I
Allow, too, where there 's keeuneas
For Sport, there 's little likelihood
Of a man's displaying meanness I "

So, put on my mettle, I interposed.

" Will 70U hear my story ? " quoth I.
Never mind how long since it happed,

I sat, as we sit, in a bothy ;

** With as merry a band of mates, too,
Undergrods all on a level :
(One 's a Bishop, one 's gone to the Bench,
And one 's gone — well, to the Devil.)



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912



JOCOSERIA



*' When, lo, a Bcratching and tapping 1

In hobbled a ghastly yiaitor.
Listen to just what he told us himself

— No need of our playing inquisitor ! '*



Do Toa happen to know in Ross-shire
Mount Ben . . . but the name scarce mat-
ters:
Of the naked fact I am sure enough.
Though I clothe it in rags and tatters.

Yon may recognize Ben hj^ description ;

Behind him — a moor's immenseness :
XJpgoea the middle mount of a range,

Pringed with its firs in denseneas.

Rimming the edge, its fir-fringe, mind 1
For an edge there b, though narrow ;

From end to end of the range, a strip
Of path runs straight as an arrow.

And the mountaineer who takes that path

Saves himself miles of journey
He has to plod if he crosses the moor

Through heather, peat, and bumie.

But a mountaineer he needs must be.
For, look you, right in the middle

Proiects bluff Ben — with an end in ich —
Why planted there, is a riddle :

Since all Ben's brothers little and big
Keep rank, set shoulder to shoulder.

And only this burliest out must bulge
Till it seems— to the beholder

From down in the gully, f^'*'* i^ Ben's breast,

To a sudden spike diminished.
Would signify to the boldest foot

** All further passage finished I **

Yet the mountaineer who sidles on

And on to the very bending.
Discovers, if heart and brain be proof,

No necessary ending.

Foot up, foot down, to the turn abrupt

Havmg trod, he, there arriving,
Finds — what he took for a i)oint was breadth,

A mercy of Nature's contriving.

So, he rounds what, when 'tis reached, proves

From one siae gains the other :
The wee path widens— resume the march,
And he foils yon, Ben my brother I

But Donald — (that name, I hope, will do) —

I wrong him if I call ** foiling "
The tramp of the callant, whistling the while

As blithe as our kettle 's boiling.

He had dared the danger from boyhood up.
And now, — when perchance was waiting

A lass at the brig below, — 'twixt mount
And moor would he stond debating ?



Moreover this Donald was twenty-five,

A glory of bone and muscle :
Did a fiend dispute the right of way,

Donald would try a tussle.

lightsomely marched he out of the broad

On to the narrow and narrow :
A step more, rounding the angular rock.

Reached the front straight as an arrow.

He stepped it, safe on the ledge he stood,
When — whom found he fuii-faoing ?

What fellow in courage and warineas too.
Had scouted ignoble pacing.

And left low safety to timid mates.
And made for the dread dear danger.

And gained the height where — who could
gueas
He would meet wil^ a rival ranger ?

'T was a gold-red sta^ that stood and stared.

Gigantic and magnifio.
By the wonder— ay, and the peril — atruok

Intelligent and pacific :

For a red deer is no fallow deer
Grown cowardlv through paik-f ceding;

He batters you like a thunderbolt
If you brave his haunts unheeding.

I doubt he could hardly perform voUeface

Had valor advised dismtion :
You may walk on a rope, but to turn on a rape

No Blondin makes profession.

Yet Donald must turn, would ^ride permit.

Though pride ill brooks retiring :
Each eyed each — mute man, motionless beast ^

Less fearing than admiring.

These are the moments when quite new sense.

To meet some need as novel.
Springs up in the brain : it inspired resource :

— " Nor advance nor retreat but — grovel I "

And slowly, surely, never a whit

Relaadng the steady tension
Of eye-etare which bmds man to beast, —

By an inch and inch declension.

Sank Donald sidewise down and down :

Till flat, breast upwards, lying
At his six-foot length, no corpse more still,

— *'If he croesmel The trick 's worth try^

ing."

Minutes were an eternity ;

But a new sense was created
In the stag's brain too; he resolves I Slow,
sure.

With eye-stare unabated.

Feelingly he extends a foot
Which tastes the way ere it touches

Earth's soUd and just escapes man's soft.
Nor hold of the same imdntches



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SOLOMON AND BALKIS



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Till its f cdlow foot, light as a feather wlusk.

Lands itself no lisss finely :
So a mother removes a fl;r from the buoe

Of her habe asleep supmely.

And now *t is the hannch and hind-foot's turn
— That's hard: can the beast quite raise
it?

Yes, trayersing half the p ro s trate length,
Hjs hoof -tip does not graze it.

Just one more lift t But Donald, you see.

Was sportsman first, man after :
A fancy lightened his caution through,

— He wellnigh broke into laus^ter :

** It were nothing short of a miracle I

Unriyalled. unexampled —
All sporting xeats with this feat matched

Were down and dead and trampled 1 "

The last of the legs as tenderly

Follows the rest : orneyer
Or now is the time I Hb knife in reach.

And his right-hand loose — how deyer I

For this can stab up the stomach's soft,
While the left-hand grasps the pastern.

A xiM on the elbow, and — now 's the time
Or neyer : this turn 's the last turn I

I shall dare to place myself by Qod
Who scannea — for he does — each feature

Of the face thrown up in appeal to him
By the agonizing creature.

Nay, I hear plain words : ** Thy gift brings
this!"

Up he sprang, back he staggered,
Over he fell, and with him our friend

— At following game no laggard.

Yet he was not dead when they picked next
dav

From the gully's depth the wreck of him :
His fall had Deen staved by the stag beneath

Who cushioned ana saved the neck of him.

But the rest of his body — why, doctors said,
Whatever could break was broken :

Legs, arms, ribs, all of him looked like a toast
In a tumbler of port-wine soaken.

''That your life is left you, thank the stag!"
Said Uiey when — the slow cure ended —

They opened the hospital-door, and thence
— Stripped, spliced, main fractures mended.

And minor damage left wisely alone, —
like an old shoe clouted and cobbled.

Out — what went in a Goliath wellnigh, —
Some half of a David hobbled.

'* You must ask an alms from house to house :
Sell the stag's head for a bracket,

With its grand twelve tines — I 'd buy it my-
self—
And use the skin for a jacket I "



He was wiser, made both head and hide
His win-penny : hands and knees on.

Would manage to crawl— poor crab— by the
roads
In the misty staUdng-eeason.

And ii he discovered a bothv like this.
Why, harvest was sure : folk listened.

He told his tale to the lovers of Sport :
Lips twitched, cheeks glowed, eyes glistenedi

And when he had come to the close, and spread

His spoils for the eazers' wonder.
With *' Gentlemen, here 's the skull of the stag

I was over, thank God, not under I " —

The company broke out in applause ;

" By Jingo, a lucky cripple I
Have a munch of erouse and a hunk of bread,

And a tug, besides, at our \



And ** There 's my pay for your pluck I " cried
This^
^* And mme for vourjolly story 1 "
Cried That, while T other — but he was
drunk-
Hiccupped " A trump, a Tory I "

I hope I gave twice as much as the rest ;

For, as Homer would say, '* withm giate
Though teeth kept tongue," my whole soul
growled,

'' Bi^tly rewarded, —Ingrate I "



SOLOMON AND BALKIS

Solomon King of the Jews and the Queen of
SheUTBalkis,

Talk on the ivor^ throne, and we well may con-
jecture their talk is

Solely of thii^ sublime: why else has she
sought Mount Zion,

CSimbed the six golden steps, and sat betwixt
lion and lion ?

She proves him with hard anestions : before

she has reached the middle
He smiling supplies the end, straight solves

them riddle by riddle ;
Until, dcHsd-beaten at last, there is left no spirit

in her,
And thus would she dose the game whereof she

was first beginner :

** O wisest thou of the wise, world's marvel and

wellnigh monster,
One crabbed Question more to construe or vulffo

conster I
Who are those, of all mankind, a monarch of

perfect vnsdom
Should open to, when they knock at spheteron do

— that's, his dome?"

The King makes tart reply : *' Whom else but

the wise his equals
Should he welcome with heart and voice ? —

since, king though he be, such weak walls



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914



JOCOSERIA



Of circumstanoe — power and pomp — diyide

souls each from other
Thafc whoso proves kingly in craft I needs mnst

acknowledge my brother.

**Come poet, come painter, come scnlptor,

come builder — whatever his condition.
Is he prime in his art ? We are peers I My

msight has pierced the partition
And hails — for the poem, the picture, the

statue, the building — my fellow I
Gold *s gold though dim in the dust : court-

pcmsh soon turns it yellow.

** But tell me in turn, thou to thy weakling

sex superior
That for knowledge hast trayelled so far yet

seemest nowhit the wearier, —
Who are those, of all mankind, a queen like

thyself, consummate
In wisdom, should call to her side with an

affable * Up hither, come, mate ' P "

'*TheGoodare my mates — how else ? Why

doubt it ? " the Queen upbridled:
" Sure even above the Wise, — or in travel my

eyes have idled, —
I see the Good stand plain : be they rich, poor,

shrewd, or simple.
If Good they only are. ... Permit ma to drop

my wmiple 1 "

And, in that bashful jerk of her body, she —

peaoe^thou scoffer I —
Jostled the King's right-hand stietched court-

ouslj help to proffer,
And so disclosed a portent : all unaware the

Prince eyed
The Ring which bore the Name — turned ont-

side now from inside I

The truth-compelling Name I — and at once,

" I greet the "Wise — oh,
Certainl:{r welcome such to my court — with

tms proviso:
The bmlduifi^ must be my temple, my person

stand forth the statue.
The picture my portrait prove, and the poem

my praise — you cat, you 1 *'

*Be tmth-



But Solomon nonplussed ?

1 1 " so bade he' :



^ Nay I

ful in turn I " so bade he :
* See the Name, obey its best I " And at once

subjoins the lady,
— "Provided the Good are the young, men

strong and tall and proper.
Such servants I straightwi^ enlist, — which
means "... But the blushes stop her.

"Ah, Soul," the Monarch sighed, "that
wouldst soar yet ever crawlest.

How comes it thou canst discem l^e greatest
yet choose the smallest.

Unless because heaven is far, whet^ wings find
fit ezimnsion.

While creeping on all-fours suits, suffices the
' numsion?



" Aspire to the Best I But which? Theieare

Bests and Bests so many,
Y^th a habitat each for each, earth's Best as

much Best as any I
On Lebanon roots the cedar — soil lofty, yet

stony and sandy —
While hyssop, of worth in its way, on iha wall

grows low but handy.

" Above may the Soul spread wing, spurn body

and sen8^ beneath her :
Below she must condescend to plodding un-

buoyed by ether.
In heaven I yearn for knowledge, account all

else inanity ;
On earth I confess an itch for the praise of fools

—that's Vanity.

" It b naught, it will go, it can never pr e sum e
above to trouble me ;

But here, — why, it tovs and tickles and teases,
howe'er I redouble me

In a doggedest of endeavors to play the indif-
ferent. Therefore,

Suppose we resume discourse ? Thou hast
travelled thus far: but wherefore ?

" Solely for Solomon's sake, to see whom earth

styles Sagest?"
Through her blushes laughed the Queen.

^*For the sake of a Sage? The gay

jest!
On high, be communion with Mind — there,

Body concerns not Balkis :
Down here, — do I make too bold ? Sage

Solomon, — one fool's small kiss 1 "



CRISTINA AND MONALDESCHI

Ah, but how each loved each. Marquis I

Here 's the gallery they trod

Both tofrether, he her god.

She his idol, — lend your rod,
Chamberlain I — ay, there they are— ** QuU

Separabit ^ " — plain those two

Touching words come into view,

Apposite for me and you:

Since thev witness to incessant
Love like ours : King Francis, he '^
Diane the adored one. she —
Prototypes of you ana me.

Ever^here is carved her Crescent
With his Salamander«ign —
Flame-fed creature : flame benign
To itself or, if malign.

Only to the meddling curious,

—So, be warned. Sir I Where 's my head P

How it wanders I What I said

Merely meant — the creature, fed
Thus on flame, was scarce injnxioua

Save to fools who woke its ire,

Thinking fit to play with fire.

'T is the Crescent you admire ?



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CRISTINA AND MONALDESCHI



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Then, be Diane I 1 11 be FranoiB.
Ciesoents change, — tnie I — wax and wane,
Woman-like: male hearts retain
Heat nor, onoe warm, cool again.

So, we figure — snch oup ohanoe is —
1 as man and von as . . . What ?
Take offence r My Lore forgot
He plays woman, I do not ?

I — the woman ? See my habit,

Ask my people I Anyhow,

Be we what we may, one tow

Binds ns, male or female. Now, —
Stand, Sir I Read! '' Quis separabit f*

Hall a mile of pictnred way

Past these palace-walls to-day

TraTcned, this I came to say.

Yon must needs begin to lore me ;

First I hated, then, at best,

— Haye it so I —I acquiesced ;

Pare compassion did the rest.
From below thus raised above me.

Would you, step by step, descend.

Pity me, become mv fnend.

Like me, like less, loathe at end ?

Tliat *s the ladder's round yon rose by t
That — mj own foot kicked away.
Having raised you : l^t it stay*
Serve you for retreating ? Nay.

Close to me you climbed : as close by.
Keep your station, though the peak
Reached proves somewhat bare and bleak I
Woman 's strong if man is weak.

Keep here, loving me forever !
Love's look, gesture, flpeech, I chum :
Act love, he love, all the same —
Play as earnest were our game I

Lonely I stood long: 'twas clever
When you climbed, before men's eyes.
Spumed the earth and scaled the skies.
Grained my peak and grasped your prize.

Here you stood, then, to men's wonder ;
Here yon tire of standing ? Kneel I
Cure what giddiness you feel.
This way I Doyour senses reel ?

Not unlikely I Wnat rolls under ?
Tawnine death in yon abyss
Where the waters whirl and hiss
Round more frightful peaks than this.

Should my buffet dash you thither . . .
But be sage I No wateiy grave
Needs await you : seeming brave
Kneel on safe, dear timid slave I

You surmised, when you climbed hither,
Just as easy were retreat
Should you tire, conceive unmeet
Longer patience at my feet ?

Me as standing, yon as stooping, —
Who arranged for each the pose ?
Lest men wink us friends turned foes,
Keep the attitude you ohoee I



Men are used^ to this same grouping —
I and you like statues seen.
You and I, no third between.
Kneel and stand I That makes the toene.

Mar it— and one buffet . . . Pardon I
Needless warmth — wise words in waste I
'T was prostration that replaced
Kneeling, then ? A proof of taste.

Crouch, not kneel, while I mount guard on
Prostrate love — become no waif.
No eetray to waves that chafe
Disappointed — love 's so safe I

Waves that chafe ? The idlest fancy !
Peaks that spare P I think we know
Walls enclose our sculpture : so
€toouped, we pose in Fontaineblean.

Up now ! Wherefore hesitancy ?
Arm in arm and cheek by cheek.
Laugh with me at waves and peak I
Silent still ? Why, pictures speak.

See, where Juno strikes Ixi<

Primatice speaks plainly !

Rather, Florentine Le Roux !

I 've lost head for who is who —
So it swims and wanders I Fie on

What still proves me female I Here,

By the staircase I — for we near

That dark ** Gallery of the Deer."

Look me in the eyes onoe I Steady I
Are vou faithful now as erst
On that eve when we two first
Vowed at Avon, bleased and cursed

Faith and falsehood ? Paleabeadv?
Forward I Must my hand compel
Entrance — this way? Exit — welL
Somehow, somewhere. Who can tell t

What if to the selfsame place in
Rustic Avon, at the door
Of the village church onoe more.
Where a tombstone p»ave8 the floor

Bythat holy-water basin
You appealed to — " As, below.
This stone hides its corpse, e'en so
I your secrets hide"? Whathol

Friends, my four I You, Priest, confess him I

I have judged the culprit there :

Execute mv sentence I Care

For no mail such cowards wear !
Done, IHriest ? Then, absolve and bless him I

Now — you three, stab thick and fast,

Deep and deeper I Dead at last ?

Thanks, friends — Father, thanks ! Aghast ?

What one word of his conf esmon
Would you tell me, though I lured
With that ro:^al crown abjured
Just because its bars immured

Love too much ? Love burst oompressioii,
Fled free, finally confessed
All its secrets to that breast
Whenoe ... let Avon tell the rest I



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JOCOSERIA



MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND FUSELI

Oh, but 18 it not hard. Dear?

Mine are the nenree to qnake at a mouse:
If a spider drops I shrink with fear :

I should die oatrip^ht in a hannted honse ;
While for yon — did the danger dared bring

help —
From a lion's den I could steal his wheli>.
With a serpent round me, stand stook-still.
Go sleep in a churchyard, — so would will
Give me the power to dare and do
Valiantly — just for you I

Much amiss in the head. Dear,

I toil at a lanflruage, tax my Drain
Attempting to draw — the scratches here 1

I play, play, practise, and all in rain :
But for you — if mpr triumph brought you pride,
I would grapple with Greek Plays till I died,
Paint a portrait of you — who can tell ?
Work my fingers off for your " Pretty well : "
» and painting and mnsio too,
ne — for you I

Strong and fierce in the heart. Dear,
With — more than a will — what seems a
power
To pounce on my prey, loye outbroke here

In flame deyounng and to devour.
Such love has labored its best and worst
To win me a loyer ; vet, last as first,
I haye not quickened his pulse one beat,
fixed a moment's fancy, bitter or sweet :
Yet the strong fierce heart's loye's labor's due,
Utterly lost, was — you I

ADAM, LILITH, AND EVE

Okic day, it thundered and lie^tened.

Two women, fairly frightened,

Sank to their knees, transformed, transfixed.

At the feet of the man who sat betwixt ;

And " Mercy I " cried each — " if I tell the truth



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 178 of 198)