Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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It lifts a melon, I suppose, then stops —
Hand-strongth expended wholly : so, m^r love
First lauds the ^[ardener for the fig his gift,
Then, looking higher, loves and lauds stall moro.
Who hires the ground, who owns the ground.

Sheikh, Shah,
On and awav, away and ever on,
Till, at the last, it loves and lauds the orb
Ultimate cause of all to laud and love. ^
Whero is the broak, the change of Quality
In hand's power, soul's impulsion r Gift was

grace.
The greatest as the smallest. Had I stopped
Anywhero in the scale, stayed love and praise
As so far only fit to follow gift.
Saying, * I thanked the gardener for his fig.
But now that, lo^ tiie Shah has filled my purse
With tomans which avail to purohase me
A fig-tree forest, shall I pay the same
With love and pnuse, the gardener's proper

fee?'
Justly would whoso bears a brain object,
*' Givmg is pving, gift claims gift's rotum,
Do thou thine own part, theroforo : let the Shah
Ask moro from one has moro to pay.' Per-
chance
He gave me from his treasuro less bv much
Than the soil's servant : let that be I My part
Is plain — to meet and match the gift and gift
With love and love, with praise and praise, til]

both
.Cry * All of us is thine, we can no moro I '
So shall I do man's utmost — man to man :
For as our liege the Shah's sublime estate
Merely enhaloes, leaves him man the same,



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FERISHTAH'S FANCIES



So must I oount that orb I call a fire
(Keep to the bufl^nage of our ignorance)
oomething that s fire and more beside : mere
fire

— Is it a force which, griving, knows it gives.
And wherefore, so may look for Ioyc and praise
From me. fire's like so far, however less

In all beside ? Prime cause this fire shall be.
Uncaused, all-causing : hence be^ the gifts,
Thither must go my loTe and praise — to what ?
Plre ? Symbol fitly serves the symbolized
Herein, — that this same object of my thanks.
While to my mind nowise conceivable
Except as mind no less than fire, refutes
Next moment mind's conception : fire is fire —
W^e what I needs must thank, must needs iur

dude
Purpose with power, — humanity like mine,
Imagined, for the dear necessity,
One moment in an object which the next
Confesses unimaginable. Power I

— What need of will, then ? Naught opposes

power:
Whv, purpose ? any change must be for worse :
Ana what occasion for beneficence
When all that b, so is and so must be ?
Best being best now, change were for the

worse.
Accordingly discard these qualities
Proper to imperfection, take for type
Mere fire, eject the man, retain the orb, —
The perfect and, so, inconceivable, —
And what remains to love and praise? A

stone
FairH)olored proves a solace to my eye,
KoUed by my tongue brings moisture curing

drouth.
And struck by steel emits a useful spark :
Shall I return it thanks, the insentient thin^ ?
No, — man once, man forever — man in soul
As man in body: just as this can use
Its proner senses only, see and hear.
Taste, like or loathe according to its law
And not another creature's, — even so
Man's soul is moved by what, if it in turn
Must move, is kindrea soul : receiving good

— Man's way — must make man's due acknow-

ledgment.
No other, even while he reasons out
Plainly enough that, were the man unmanned.
Made angel of, angelic every way.
The love and praise that rightly seek and find
Their man-like object now, — instructed more,
Would go forth idly, air to emptiness.
Our human flower, sun-ripened, nroffers scent
Though reason prove the sun lacKs nose to feed
On what himself made grateful: flower and



Let each assume that scent and love alike
/ Being once bom, must needs have use I Man*s
■ part

Is plain — to send love forth, — astray, perhaps :
t No matter, he has done his part."

* "Wherefrom

What is to follow — if I take thy sense —
But that the sun — Uie inconceivable
Confessed by man — comprises, all the same,



Man's every-day conception of himself —
No less remaining unoonceived I "

"Agreed I*

" Yet thou, insisting on the right of man
To feel as man^ not otherwise, — man, bound
Bv man's conditions neither less nor more.
Obliged to estimate as fair or foul.
Right, wrong, good, evil, what man's facul^
Aa judges such, — now canst thou, — plainly

bound
To take man's truth for truth and only truth, —
Dare to accept^ in just one case, as truth
FalMhood confessed ? Flesh simulating fire —
Our fellow-man whom we his fellows know
For dust — instinct with fire unknowable 1
Where 's thy man-needed truth — its proof, nay

print
Of faintest passage on the tablets traced
By man, termed knowledge ? 'T is oonoeded

thee,
We lack such fancied union — fire with flesh :
But even so, to lack is not to gain
Our lack's supplianoe : where 's the trace of

such
Recorded?"

" What if such a tracing were?
If some strange story stood, — whate'er its

worth, —
That the immensely veamed-^or, once befeU,
—The sun was neen once? — (keep the fig-



ure!)"



"How?



An union inconceivable was fact ? "

" Son, if the stranger have convinced himself
Fancy is fact — the sun, besides a fire.
Holds earthly substance somehow fire pervades
And yet consumes not^ — earth, he understands,
With essence he remains a stranger to, —
Fitlier thou saidst * I stand appalled before
Conception unattainable by me
Who need it most'— than this — 'What?

boast he holds
Conviction where I see conviction's need,
Alas, — and nothing else ? then what remuns
But that I straightway curse, cuff, kick the

fooll'"



Fire it In the flint : tme, once a spark escHMS,
Fire f orgeto the kinship, soars till fancy shapes
Some befitting cradle where the babe had birth —
WhoUy beaTen *s the product, unallied to earth.
Splendors reooonised as perfect in the star I —
In oar flint thMr home was, honsed as now they aie.



VL MIHRAB SHAH

QnoTH an inquirer, " Praise the Merciful I
My thumb which yesterday a scorpion nipped —

gt swelled and blackened) — lo, is sound again I
y application of a virtuous root
The burning has abated : that is well.
But now methinks I have a mind to ask, —



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MIHRAB SHAH



935



Since this diaoomf ort came of cnllingr herbe
Kor meaning hann, — why needs a scorpion be ?
Yea, there began, from when my thumb hist

throbbed,
Adyance in question-framing, till I asked
Wherefore should any evil hap to man —
IVom ache of flesh to agony ot soul —
Since God*s AU-meroy mates All-potency ?
Nay, why permits he evil to himself —
Man^s sin. accounted such ? Suppose a world
Purged ot all pain, with fit inhabitant —
lian pure of eyil in thought, word, and deed —
Were it not well ? Then, wherefore otherwise ?
Too good result? But he is wholly good !
Hard to effect ? Ay, were he impotent I
Teach me, Ferishtah ! *'

Said the Dervish: ** Friend,
My chance, motup^d to-day, was worse than

thine:
L as I woke this morning, raised my head.
Which never tumbled but stuck fast on neck.
Was not I glad and thankful I "

** How could head
Tumble from neck, unchopped — inform me

firstl
Unless we take Firdausi^s tale for truth.
Who ever heard the Uke? "

** The like might hap
Bynatnrallaw: I let my staff fall thus —
It goes to ground, I know not why. ^ Suppose,
Whene'er my hold was loosed, it skyward

sprang
As certainly, and all experience proved
That, just as staves when unsupported sink,
So, unconfined, theysoar ? "

** Let such be law —
Why, a new chapter of sad accidents
Were added to humanity's mischance.
No doubt at all, and as a man's false step
Now lays him prone on earth, contrariwise,
Removal from his shoulder ot a weight
Might start him upwards to perdition. Ay I
But, since such law exists in just thy brain,
I shall not hesitate to doff my cap
For fear my head take flight."

''Nor feel reUef
Finding it firm on shoulder. ^ Tell me, now I
What were the bond 'twixt man and man,

dost judgn.
Pain once abc^ished? C!ome, be true! Our

Shah-
How stands he in thy favor ? Why that

shrug?
Is not he lord and ruler ? "

"Easayl
His mother bore him, first of those tour wives
Provided by his father, such his luck :
Since when his business simply was to breathe
And take each day's new bounty. There he



Where else had I stood, were his birth-star



No, to respect men's power, I needs must see
Men's bare hands seek, find, grasp and wield

the sword
Nobod]r else can brandish ! Bless his heart,
'T is said, he scarcely counts his fingers right I '^

**WeIL then — his princely doles I horn every

teast
Off go the feasted with the dish they ate
Ana cup they drank from, — nay, a change

beddes
Of garments" . . .

'* Sir, put case, for service done, —
Or best, for love's sake, — such and such a slave
Sold his allowance of sour lentil-soui}
To herewith purchase me a pipe-stick, — nay^
If he, by but one hour, cut short his sleep
To dout my shoe, — that were a sacrifice I "

** All praise his gracious bearing."

" All praise mine —
Or would praise did they never make approach
Except on all-fours, crawling till I bade,
* Now that with eyelids thou hast toucned the

earth,
Ck>me dose and have no fear, poor nothingness I *
What wonder that the lady-rose I woo
And palisade about from every wind.
Holds herself handsomely ? The wilding, now»
Ruffled outside at pleasure of the blast.
That still lifts up with something of a smile
Its poor attempt at bloom " . . .

y A blameless life»
Where wrong might revel with impunity —
Remember that P'

*'The falcon on his fist —
Reclaimed and trained and belled and beautified
Till she believes herself the Simorgh's match —
She only deigns destroy the antelope,
Stoops at no carrion-crow : thou marvellest ?

'* So be it, then ! He wakes no love in thee
For any one of divers attributes
Commonly deemed love-worthy. All the same,
I would he were not wasting, slow but sure.
With that internal ulcer" . . .

"Say'stthouso?
How should I guess ? Alack, poor soul 1 But

stay —
Sure in the reach of art some remedy
Must lie to hand : or if it lurk, — that leech
Of fame in Tebriz, whv not seek his aid ?
Couldst not thou. Dervish, counsel in the

case?"

** My counsel might be — what imports a pang
The more or less, which puts an end to one
Odious in spite of every attribute
Commonly deemed love-worthy ? "

"Attributes?
Faugh! — nay, Ferishtah, — 'tis an ulcer,
think!



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FERISHTAH'S FANCIES



Attributes, onothaf Here^t poor fleah and

blooi,
like thine and mine and eyerj man's, a prey
To hell-fire! Hast thou kst thy wits for

once?"

** Friend, here they are to find and profit by I
Pat pain from oat the world, what room were

left
For thanks to God, for lore to Man? Why

thanks,-^
Except for some escape, whatever the style,
From pain that might be, name it as thoa

mayst?
Why love, — when all thy kind, save me, sap-

Thy father, and thy son, and . . . well, thy

To eke the decent nomber oat — we few
Who happen — like a handful of chance stars
From the unnambered host — to shine overhead
And lend thee light, — oar twinkle aJl thy

store, —
We only take thy love I Mankind, forsooth ?
Who svmpathizes with their general joy
Foolish as andeserved? fiat pain — see God*s
Wisdom at work I — man's heart is made to

judge
Pain deserved nowhere by the common flesh
Our birthright, — bad and good deserve alike
No pain, to numan apprehension I Lust,
Qreed, cruelty, injustice crave (we hold)
Due punishment from somebody^ no doubt :
But ulcer in the midriff I that brings flesh
Triumphant from the bar whereto arraijgrned
Soul quakes with reason. In the e^e of God
Pain may have purpose and be justified :
Man's sense avails to only see, m pain,
A hateful chance no man but would avert
Or, failing, needs must pity. Thanks to God
And love to man, — from man take these away,
And what is man worth ? Therefore, Mihrsb

Shah,
Tax me mv bread and salt twice over, claim
Laila my dau^ter for thy^ sport, — go on I
Slay my son's self, maintain thy poetnr
Beats mine, — thou meritest a dozen deaths !
But — ulcer in the stomach, — ah, poor soul,
Try a fig-plaster : may it ease tiby pangs I"



JSo,the head achM and the llmba ar« fafait t
FlMh ia a harden — even to you !

Can I force a imile with a fancy quaint t
Why are my ailmenta none or few ?

In the aool of me aits alnggiahneea :
Body ao atrong and will ao weak :

The alave atanda fit for the lahor— yea.
But the maater'a mandate ia atlUto seek.

Ton, now — what if the ontdde clav
Helped, not hindered the inaide flame ?

My dim to-morrow — your plain to^lay,
X oura the aohierement, mine the aim ?

80 were it rightly, ao ahaU It be t
Only, while earth we pace together

For the porpoee apportioned you and me,
Gloaer we tread for a common tether.



Toa ahaUaigfa, ** Wait for hia alofgiah aool I
Shame he ahould lag, not lamedaa 1 1 '*

Mav not I amlle, " Ungained her goal :
Body may r eac h her — by and by '* t

VII. A CAMEL-DRIVER

** How of his fate, the Pilgrims' soldier^nide
Condemned " (Ferishtah questioned), *^ tor he

slew
The merchant whom he convoyed with his

bales
— A special treachery ? "

" Sir, the proofo were plain :
Justice was satisfied : between two boards
The rogue was sawn asunder, rightly served."

"With all
least.'



wise men's approval — mine at



" Himself, indeed, confessed as much. * I die
Justly ' (groaned he ) * through over^greediness
Which tempted me to rob : but grieve the noost
That he who Quickened sin at slumber, — ay.
Prompted ana pestered me till thought grew

deed, —
The same is fled to Syria and is safe.
Laughing at me thus left to pay for both.
My comfort is that God reserves for him
Hell's hottest'" . . .

"Idle words."

" Enlighten me I
Wherefore so idle ? Punishment by man
Has th^ asnent, — the word is on thy Ups.
By parity of reason, punishment
By God should likelier win thy thanks and
praise."

"Man acts as man must: God, as God beseems.
A camel-driver, when his beast will bite.
Thumps her athwart the muzzle ; why ? "

"Howehw
Listmct the creature — mouths should munch
not bite?*'

" True, he is man, knows but man's trick to

teach.
Suppose some plain word, told her first of all.
Had hindered any biting? "

** Find him sneht
And fit the beast with understanding first 1
No understanding animals like Raknsh
Nowadavs, Master I Till they breed on earth.
For teaching — blows must serve."

" Who deals the blow —
What if by some rare method, — magic, say, —
He saw into the biter's very soul.
And knew the fault was so repented of
It could not happen twice ? "

"That's something: still,
I hear, methinks, the driver say, * No less



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THE TWO CAMELS



937



Take thy fault's due ! Those loiig<-necked

aistexs, see,
Lean all a-stretch to know if Utinsr meets
Pnniflhment or enjoys imponity.
For their sakes — thwack I ' "

** The jonmey home at end,
The solitary heast safe-stabled now,
In oomes the driver to ayeng:e a wrongr
Suffered from six months since, — apparently
With patience, nav, approval : when the laws
Met i* the small o^ the arm. ' Ha, Ladykin,
Still at thy frolics, gal of gold ? ' laughed he :
^Eatflei^? Rye-grass content thee rather with.
Whereof accept a bundle!' Now, — what

change I
Laughter by no means I Now 't is, * Rend, thy

frisk
Was fit to find thee provender, didst iudpre ?
Behold this red-hot twy-prong, thus I stick
To hiss i' the soft of thee ! '■^

"Behold? behold
A craiy noddle, rather I Sure the brute
Might wellnigh have plain speech coaxed out of

tongue.
And grow as voluUe as Rakhsh himself
At such mad outrage. * Could I take thy mind.
Guess thy desire ? If bitine was offence.
Wherefore the rye-grass bundle, why each

day's
Patting and petting, but to intimate
My playsomeness had pleased thee ? Thou en-
dowed
With reason, truly 1 ' "



** Reason aims to raise
Some makeshift scaffold-vantage midway,

whence
Man dares, for life's brief moment, peer below :
But ape omniscience ? Nay I The ladder lent
To dimb by, step and step, until we reach
The little foothold-rise allowed mankind
To mount on and thence guess the sun's sur-
vey —
Shall this avail to show us world-wide truth
Stretched for the sun's descrying? Reason

bids,
*' Teach, Man, thy beast his duty first of all
Or last of all, with blows if blows must be, —
How else accomplish teaching ? ' Reason adds,
* Before man's First, and after man's poor Last,
God operated and will operate.'
— Process of which man merely knows this

much, —
That nowise it resembles man's at all.
Teaching or punishing."

''It follows, then.
That any malefactor I would smite
With God's allowance, God himself will spare
Presumably. No scape^rrace ? Then, rejoice
) sate m Syria



Thou snaton-grace i



Syrial"



" Friend, such view
Is but man's wonderful and wide mistake.
Man lumps his kind i' the mass : God single
thence



Unit by unit. Thou and God exist —
So think I -y for certain : think the

mankind —
Disparts, disperses, leaves thyself alone I
Ask thy lone soul what laws are plain to thee, -^
Thee and no other, — stand or fall by them I
That is the part for thee : regard all else
For what it may be — Time's illusion. This
Be sure of -—ignorance that sins, is safe.
No punishment like knowledge ! Instance,

now I
My father's choicest treasure was a book
Wherein he, day by day and year by year,
Recorded gains of wisdom for my sake
When I should grow to manhood. While a

child.
Coming upon the casket where it lav
Unguarded, — what did I but toes the thing
Into a fire to make more flame therewith,
Meaning no harm ? So acts man three-yeara-

I grieve now at my loss by^ witleasness.

But guilt was none to punish. Man mature —

Each word of his I lightlv heldj each look

I turned from — wish that wished in vain —

nav, will
That willed and yet went all to'waste — 't is these
Rankle like fire. Forgiveness? rather grant
Forgetfulness I The iMst is past and lost.
However near I stand in his reeard,
So much the nearer had I stood by steps
Offered the feet which rashly spurned their

help
That I call Hell ; why further punishment ? "



When I Tszed vou and yon chid ma.

And I owned my fault and tamed
My cheek the way jou bid me.

And oonfeaied the blow well earaed, —

My comfort all the whOe waa

- Fault waa faulty —near, not quite t
Do vou wonder why the amlle wm ?

O'erpunlahed wrong grew right.

But faulta, yoo ne*er auapeoted,
Nay.pradaed, no faulta at all, —

Thoae would you had detected —
Oruahed egga whence anakea could crawl 1



Vni. TWO CAMELS

Quoth one : *^ Sir, solve a scruple ! No true

safe
I hear of, but instructs his scholar thus :
' Wouldst thou be wise ? Then mortify thy-
self I
Balk of its craving every bestial sense I
Say, *^ H I relish melons — so do swine I
Horse, ass, and mule consume their provender
Nor leave a nea-pod : fasting feeds the soul." '
Thus they aomonish : while thyself, I note,
Eatest thy ration with an appetite.
Nor f allest foul of whoso licks his lips
And sighs — ^ Well-saffroned was that barley*

soup I *•
Can wisdom coexist with — gorge-and-swill,
I say not, — simply sensual prerorence



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FERISHTAH'S FANCIES



For this or that fantastio meat and drink ?
Moreover, wind blows sharper than its wont
This morning, and thou hast already donned
Thy sheepskin oyer-^rannent : sure the sa^
Is busied with oonoeits that soar above
A petty change of season and its chance
Of causing ordinanr flesh to sneeze ?
I always thought, Sir " . . .

*'Son," Ferishtah said,
" Truth ought to seem as never thought before.
How if I give it birth in parable ?
A neighbor owns two camels, beasts of price
And oromise, destined each to go, next week,
Swif uv and surely with his merchandise
From Nishapur to Sebzevar, no truce
To tramp, but travel, spite of sands and drouth,
In days so many, lest they miss the Fair.
Each falls to meditation o*er his crib
Piled high with provender before the start.
Quoth tbaa : * My soul is set on winning praise
from goodman lord and master, — hump to hoof,
I dedicate me to his service. How ?
Qrass, purslane, lupines, and I know not what.
Crammed in my manger ? Ha, I see — I see I
No, master, spare thy money I I shall trudge
The distance and yet cost thee not a doit
Beyond mj supper on this mouldy bran.'

* Be magnified, O master, for the meal
80 opportunely liberal I ' quoth that.

* What use of strengUi in me but to surmount
Sands and simooms, and bend beneath thy bales
No luiee until I reach the glad bazaar?

Thus I do justice to thy fare : no sprig
Of toothsome chervil must I leave unchewed !
Too bitterly should I reproach myself
Did I sink down in sight of Sebzevar,
Remembering how the merest mouthful more
Had heartened me to manage yet a mile ! ''
And so it proved : the too-abstemious brute
Midway broke down, his pack rejoiced the

tnieves.
His carcass fed the vultures: not so he
The wisely thankful, who, good market-drudge.
Let down his lading in the market-place.
No damage to a nngle pack. Which beast.
Think ve, had praise and patting and a brand
Of good-and-faithful^rvant fixed on flank ?
So, with thv squeamish scruple. What imports
Fasting or feasting ? Do thy day's work, dare
Refuse no help thereto, since help refused
Is hindrance sought and found. Win but the

race —
Who shall object * He tossed three wine-cups off.
And, just at starting, Lilith kissed his lips ' ?

** More soberly, — consider this, my Son I
Put case I never have myself enjoyed.
Known by experience what enjoyment meanSj
How shall 1 — share enjoyment? — no, in-
deed I —
Supply it to my fellows, — ignorant.
As so I should be of the thing they crave.
How it affects them, works tor good or pL
Style my enjoyment self-indulgence — sin —
Why should I labor to infect my kind
With sin's occasion, bid them too enjoy.
Who else might neither catch nor give again



Joy's plague, but Uve in righteous misery ?
Just as I cannot, till myselt convinced.
Impart conviction, so, to deal forth joy
Adbroitly, needs must I know jov mjrself .
Renounce joy for my fellows' sake ? That 's jay
Beyond joy : but renounced for mine, not theirs 7
Why, the physician called to help Uie sick,
Cries * Let me, first of all, discard mv health I '
No, Son : the richness hearted in such joy
Is in the knowinsp what are gifts we give,
Not in a vain endeavor not to know !
Therefore, desire joy and thank God for it I
The Adversary said, — a Jew reports, —

In Persian phrase, *Doea Job fear God for

naught?'
Job's creatureship is not abjured, thou fool !
He nowise isolates himself and plays
The independent eoual, owns no more
Than himHelf gave nimself, so why thank Qodf
A proper speech were this D'^nbKD

* Equak we are. Job, labor for iliyself ,

Nor bid me help thee : bear, as best flesh may.

Pains I inflict not nor avail to cure :

Beg of me nothing thou Uiyself ma^ win

By work, or waive with magnanimity.

Since we are peers acknowledged, — searoely

I>eers,
Had I implanted any want of thine
Only my power could meet and gratify.*
No: rather hear, at man's indifference —

* Wherefore did I contrive for thee that ear
Hungry for music, and direct thine eye

To where I hold a seven-strineed instrument.
Unless I meant thee to beseech me play ? ' "



Onoel law a ohemiit take a plnoh of powder

— Bimpla dust it Memed — and half-unafeop a phial:

—Oat dropped harmleai daw. ** Mixed notningamaka^

(quoth he)
** SomeUiing I '* 80 they did: a thunderelap, bat

louder —
Lightoing^flaah, but fleroar — put spectatora* narvea to

trial:
Sore enough, we learned what waa, imagined what

might be.

Had I no experience how a lip'a mere tremble,
Look*8 half beaitation, oheek^i Joat change of ootor,
Tbeae effect a heartqoake, — how ahould I conceive
What a heayen there may be ? Let It bat reaemUe
Barth myself have known I No bliae that *8 finer, f nner»
Only — bliia that lasts, they say, and fain would I be-
lieve.



IX. CHERRIES

** What, I disturb thee at thy morning-meal :
Cherries so ripe already ? Eat apace I
I recollect thy lesson yesterday.
Tet — thanks, Sir, for thy leave to inter*
rupt" . . .

** Friend, I have finished my repast, thank
God I " -NT *—

** There now, thy thanks for breaking fast oo
fruit I —



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Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 182 of 198)