Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 183 of 198)
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PLOT-CULTURE



939



ThankB bein^ pnuse, or tantamoant thereto.
Prithee consider, have not things degree.
Lofty and low ? Are things not great and small.
Thence claiming praise ana wonder more or less ?
Shall we confuse them, with thy warrant too,
Whose doctrine otherwise begins and ends
With just this precept, *' Neyer faith enough
In man as weakness, God as potency ' ?
When I would pa^ soul*s tribute to that same,
Why not look up m wonder, bid the stars
Attest my praise of the All-mighty One ?
What are man's puny members and as mean
Requirements weighed with Star-King Mnsh-

tari?
There is the marvel I **

** Not to man — that 's me.
List to what happened late, in fact or dream.
A certain stranger, bound trom far away.
Still the Shah^s subject, found himself before
Ispahan palace-gate. As duty bade.
He enters in the courts, will, if he may.
See so much glory as befits a slave
Who only comes, of mind to testify
How great and good is shown our lord the Shah.
In he walks, round he oasts his eye about.
Looks up and down, admires to heart's content.
Ascends the gallery, tries door and door,
None says his reverence na^ : peeps in at each.
Wonders at all the unimagmed use.
Gold here and jewels there, — so vast, that hall —
So perfect yon pavilion ! — lamps above
Biading look up from luxuries oelow, —
Evermore wonder topping wonder, — last —
Sadden he comes upon a cosy nook,
A nest-like little chamber, with his name,
His own, yea, his and no mistake at all.
Plain o'er the entry, — what, and he descries
Just those arrangements inside, — oh, the

carel —
Suited to soul and body both, —so snupr
The cushion — nay, the pipe-«tand furnished so I
Whereat he cries aloud, — what think'st thou.

Friend?
*That these my slippers should be just my

choice.
Even to the color that I most affect,
Is nothing : ah^ that lamp, the central sun.
What must it light within its minaret
I scarce dare guess the good of ! Who lives

there?
That let me wonder at, — no sliiyper toys
Meant for the foot, forsooth, which kicks them

— thus!'

** Never enough faith in omnipotence, —
Never too much, by parity, of faith
In impuissance, man's — which turns to strength
When once acknowledged weakness every way.
How ? Hear the teacmng of another tale.

** Two men once owed the Shah a mighty suin.
Beggars they both were: this one crossed his

arms
And bowed his head, — * whereof,' mghed he,

^eachhair
Proved it a jewel, how the host's amount
Were idly strewn for payment at thy feet 1 '



*Lord, here they lie, my havings poor and

scant!
AH of the berries on my currant-bush.
What roots of garlic have escaped the mice.
And some five pippins from the seedling tree, —
Would they were nalf-a-dozen ! Anyhow,
Accept mv all, poor beggar that I am 1 '

* Reoeivea in full of all aemands I ' smiled back
The a^portioner of every lot of ground

From mch to acre. Littleness dF love
Befits the littleness of loving thing.
What if he boasted *Seein|fl am great.
Great must my corresponding tribute be ' ?
Mushtari, — well, suppose him seven times seven
The sun's superior, proved so by some sage :
Am I that sage ? To me his twinkle blue
Is all I know of him and thank him for.
And therefore I have put the same in verse —

* Like yon blue twinkle, twinks thine eye, my

Love I'

Neither shalt thou be troubled overmuch
Because thy offering — littleness itself —
Is lessened by admixture sad and stranpfe
Of mere man's motives, — praise with Mr, and

love
Wiih. looking after that same love's reward.
Alas, Friend, what was free from this aUoy, —
Some smatch thereof, — in best and purest love
Proffered thy earthly father ? Dust thou art.
Dust shalt be to the end. Thy father took
The dust, and kindly called the luuidful — gokL
Nor oared to oount what sparkled here and

there
Sagely unanalytio. Thank, praise, love
^um up thus) for the lowest favors first.
The commonest of comforts I aught beside
Verv omnipotence had overlooks
Such needs, arranging for th;^ little life.
Nor waste thy power of love in wonderment
At what thou vriselier lettest shine unsoiled
By breath of word. That this last cherry soothes
A roughness of my palate, that I know :
His Maker knows why Mushtari was made.'*



Verae-msldiig wm least of my virtnet : I viewed with

datpair
Wealth that nevar yet waa but might he— all that verea-



If the life would hat lengthen to wlah, let the mind be

laid bare.
So I said ** To do little ia bad, to do nothing ia worse ** —



Love4Palrlng, — how simple a matter I No depths to

explore.
No heights in a life to amend ! No disheartening Before,
No affrighting Hereafter, —love now wHl be love ever-



Solfelt ** To keep Bilenoe were folly: "—an language
above,

I made love.



X. PLOT-CULTURE

" At, but, Ferishtah," — a disciple smirked, —
** That verse of thine * How twmks thine eye,

my Love,
Blue as yon star-beam I ' much arrides myself



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FERISHTAH'S FANCIES



Who haplr may obtain a kiss therewith
This eve nom Laila where the palms abound ■—
My youth, my warrant —bo the palms be ckse I
Suppose when thon art earnest in discourse
Ck>nceming hi^ and holy thinss, — abrupt
I out with — * Xaila's lip, how honey-sweet I ' —
What say^st thon, were it scandalous or no ?
I feel thy shoe sent flying at my mouth
For darine — prodigy of mipudenoe —
Pnblidi -miat, secret, were permissible.
Well, — one slide further in the imagined

sloufl^, —
Knee-deep therein, (respect thy reyerenoe !) —
Suppose me well aware thv verv self
Stooped jprying through the palm-screen, while

Solace me with caressingB all the same ?
Unutterable, nay — unthinkable,
Undreamabls a deed of shame ! Alack,
How will it fare shouldst thou impress on me
That certainly an Eye is oyer all
And each, to mark the minute's deed, word,

thought.
As worthy of reward or punishment ?
Shall I permit my sense an £ye-yiewed shame.
Broad daylight perpetration, — so to speak, —
I had not dared to breathe within the Ear,
With black night's help about me? Tetlstand
A man, no monster, made of flesh not cloud:
Why made so, if my making proye offence
To Maker's eye and ear ? "

** Thou wouldst not stand
Distinctly Man," — Ferishtah made reply,
** Not the mere creature, — did no limit-fine
Round thee about, apportion thee thy place
Clean-cut from out and off the illimitable, —
Minuteness severed from immensity.
All of thee for the Mi^er, — for thvself ,
Workinffs inside the circle that eyoiye
Thine afi, — the product of thv cultured plot.
So much of grain the ground's lord bios thee

yield:
Brmg sacks to grranary in Autumn I spare
Daily intelligence of this manure,
That compost, how they tend to feed the soil :
There thou art master sole and absolute
— Only, remember doomsday ! Twit'st thou me
Because I turn away my outraged nose
Shouldst thou obtrude thereon a shovelful
Of fertilizing kisses ? Since thy sire
Wills and obtains thy marriage with the maid.
Enough I Be reticent, I counsel thee,
Nor venture to acquaint him, point by point,
What he procures thee. Is he so obtuse ?
Keep thy instruction to thyself 1 My ass —
Only from him expect acknowledgment.
The while he champs my gift, a thistle-bunch.
How much he loves the largess : of his love
I only tolerate so much as tells
By wrinkling nose and inarticulate grunt,
The meaL that heartens him to do my work.
Tickles his palate as I meant it should."



Not with my Soul, Lots I —bid no loal like mins
Lap thee sronnd nor lasre the poor BenM room t



Bool, — travel-worn, toil-weary, — woald confine
Along with Bonl, Soul's gaim from glow and fl^oom,

Oi^kturea from aoaringa high and dirings de^.

Spoil-laden Bool, how ahomd nich memories sleep?
Take Sense, too — let me love entire and whole —
Not with my Bool I

^yes shall meet eyes and find no eyes between.
Lips feed on lips, no other lips to fear I

No past, no future — so thine arms but screen
The present from surprise I not there, *t is here —

Not then, t is now : — back, memories that '

MiUce. Love, the univene our solitude,
And, over all the rest, ohlirion roU—
Sense quenching Soul I



XI. A PILLAR AT SEBZEVAR

" Enowlbdob deposed, then I " — groaned

whom that most grieved
As f oolishest of all the comnan^.
** What, knowledge, man's aistmotiye attribute,
fie doffs that crown to onulate an ass
Because the unknowing long^ears loves at least
Husked lupines, and belike the feeder's self

— Whose purpose in the dole what ass divines ? '*

** Friend," quoth Ferishtah ' ** alll seem to know
Is — I know nothing save that love I can
Boundlessly, endlenly. My curls were crowned
In youth with knowledge, — off, alas, crown

slipped
Next moment, pushed by better luiowledge stiQ
Which nowise proved more constant: gain, to-
day,
Was toppling loss to-morrow, lay at last

— Knowledm, the golden? — Isoquered igno-

rancel
As gain — mistrust it I Not as means to gain :
Lacquer we leam by : cast in fining^pot.
We team, when what seemed ore assayea proves

dron, —
Surelier true gold's worth, guess how purity
I' the lode were precious could one ligjit on ore

r Clarified up to test of crucible.

^ The prize is in the process : knowledge means
Ever-renewed assurance by defeat
That victory is somehow still to reach,

(But love is victory, the prize itself :
Love — trust to I Be rewarded for the trust
In trust's mere act. In love snocen is sure.
Attainment — no delusion, whatsoe'er
The prize be : apprehended as a prize,
A pnze it b. Th^ child as surely grasps
An oranse as he tails to grasp the sun
Assumed his capture. What if soon he finds
The foolish fruit unworthy grasping ? Joy
In shape and color, — that was joy as true —
Worthy in its dep^Be of love — as grasp
Of sun were, which had singed his hand bends.
What if he said Ihe orange held no juice
Since it was not that sun ne hoped to suck ?
This constitutes the curse that spoils our life
And sets man maundering of his misery.
That there 's no meanest atom he obtains
Of what he counts for knowledge but he cries
* Hold hercj — I have the whole thing, — know,

this time.
Nor need search farther I ' Whereas, strew his
path



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A PILLAR AT SEBZEVAR



941



With pleasures, and he scorns them while he

stoops:
* This fitly call'st thou pleasure, pick up this
And praise it, truly ? I reserve my thanks
For something more substantial.' Fool not thus
In practising with life and its delights I
£njoy the present gift, nor wait to know
The unknowable. Enough to say * I feel
Loye's sure effect, and, being loved, must love
The love its cause behind, —-I can and do ! '
Nor turn to try thy brain-Dower on the fact,
(Apart from as it strikes tnee, here and now —
Its how and why, i' the future and elsewhere)
Except to — yet once more, and ever again,
Ck>nfirm thee in thy utter ignorance :
Assured that, whatsoe'er the quality
Of love's cause, save that love was caused

thereby.
This — nigh upon reveahnent as it seemed
A minute since — defies thy longing looks.
Withdrawn into the unknowable once more.

(Wholly distrust thy knowledge, then, and trust
As wholly love allied to ignorance I
There lies thy truth and saf etv. Love is praise.
And pnuse is love I Refine the same, contrive
An intellectual tribute — ip^iorance
Appreciating ere approbative
Oi knowledge that is infinite ? With us.
The small, who use the knowledge of our

kind
Greater than we, more wisely ignorance
Restricts its apprehension, sees and knows
No more than brain accepts in faith of sight.
Takes first what comes first, only sure so far.
By Sebzevar a certain pillar stands
So aptly that its gnomon tells the hour ;
What if the townsmen said * Before we thank
Who placed it, for his serviceable craft,
And go to dinner since its shade tells noon,
Needs must we have the craftsman's purpose

clear
On half a hundred more recondite points
Than a mere summons to a vulgar meal I '
Better they say * How opportune the help I
Be loved and praised, thou kindly-hearted sage
Whom Hudhud taught, — the gracious spint-

bird, —
How to construct the pillar, teach the time 1 '
So let us say — not *' Smce we know, we love,'
But rather Since we love, we know enough.'
Perhaps the pillar by a spell controlled
Mnshtari in his courses ? Added grace
Surely I count it that the sa^ devised.
Beside celestial service, ministry
To all the land, by one sluurp shade at noon
Falling as folk foresee. Once more, then,

Friend —
(What ever in those careless ears of thine
Withal I needs must round thee) — knowledge

doubt
Even wherein it seems demonstrable I
Love, — in the chum for love, that 's gratitude
For apprehended pleasure, nowise doubt 1
Pay its due tribute, — sure that pleasure is.
While knowledge may be, at tne most. See,

nowl
my breakfast, I thanked God. — *For



Eating n
lov



Shown in the cherries' flavor? Consecrate
So petty an example ? ' There 's the fault I
We circumscribe omnipotence. S^reh sand
To unearth water: if first handful scooped
Yields thee a draught, what need of digging

down
Full fifty fathoms deep to find a spring
Whereof the pulse might deluge nalfU&e land ?
Drain the sufficient drop, and praise what

checks
The drouth that glues thy tongue, — what more

^ would help
A brimful dstem ? Ask the cistern's boon
When thou wouldst solace camels : in thy case*
Relish the drop and love the lovable I "

*^ And what may be unlovable ? "

"Why, hate I
If out of sand comes sand and naught but sand.
Affect not to be cj^uaffing at mirage.
Nor nickname pam as pleasure. That, belike*
Constitutes just the trial of Uiy wit
And worthiness to gain promotion, — hence.
Proves the true purpose of thine actual life.
Th^ soul's environment of things perceived.
Things visible and things invisible,
Fact, fancv — all was purposed to evolve
This and tliis only — was thy wit of worth
To recognize the drop's use, love the same.
And loyally declare against mirafi:e
Though all the world asseverated dust
Was good to drink ? Say, * what made moist

my lip.
That I aosmowledged moisture:' thou art

saved I

For why ? The creature and creator stand
Rightiy related so. Consider well 1
Were knowledge all thy f acul^, then God
Must be ignored : love gains him by first leap.
Frankly accept the creatureship : ask good
To love for : press bold to the tether's end
Allotted to this life's intelligence I
'So we offend?' Will it offend thyself
If — impuissance praying potency —
Thy chud beseech that tnou command the sun
Rise bright to-morrow — thou, he thinks su-
preme
In power and goodness, why shouldst thou

refuse?
Afterward, when the child matures, perchance
The fault were greater if, with wit full-grown,
The stripling diured to ask for a dinar.
Than that the boy cried * Pluck Sitara down
And give her me to pla]^ with ! ' 'T is for him
To have no bounds to ms belief in thee :
For thee it also is to let her shine
Lustrous and lonely, so best serving him I "



Aik not one least word of pralae t

Words doclare your eyes ar« bright?
What then meant tiut sninmer day's
EUlence spent in one long gase ?
Was my silenoe wrong or right?

Words of prmiie were all to seek !
Fteoe of you and form of you.



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FERISHTAH»S FANCIES



Did they find fhe pniae so w«ak
When my line Juat touched your cheek —
loach which let my eool oome through?

XIL A BEAN-STRIPE: ALSO APPLE-
EATING

** Look, I strew beans" . . .

(Ferishtah, we premise,
StroTe this way with a scholar's cayilment
Who put the peevish queetioii : *\Sir, be frank I
A ^pood thing or a bad thing — Life is which ?
Shine and shade, happiness and misery
Battle it out there : which force beats, I

ask?
If I pick beans from out a boshelf ul —
This one. this other, — then demand of thee
What color names each justly in the main, —
* Black ' I expect, and ^ White ' ensues reply :
No hesitation for what speck, spot, splash
Of either color's opposite, intrudes
To modify thy juogment. Well^ for beans
Substitute days, — show, ranged m order, life —
Then, tell me its true color 1 Time is short.
Life's days compose a span,— as brief be

speech I
Black 1 pronounce for, like the Lidian Sage, —
Black — present, pist, and future, interspersed
With blanks, no doubt, which simple folk style

Good
Because not Evil : no, indeed ? Forsooth,
Black's shade on White is White too I What's

the worst
Of Evil but that, nast, it overshades
The else-exempted present ? — memory.
We call the plague I * Nay, but our memory

fades
And leaves the past unsullied I ' Does it so ?
Why, straight the purpose of such breathing-



Such reroite from past ills, grows plain enough !
What follows on remembrance of the past ?
Fear of the future ! ^ Life, from birth to death,
Means — either looking back on harm escaped,
Or looking forward to that harm's return
With tenfold power of harming. Black, not

White,
Never the whole consummate quietude
Life should be, troubled by no fear! — nor

hope —
1 11 sa^, since lamplight dies in noontide, hope
Loses itself in certainty. Such lot
Man's might have been: I leave the oonse-

ouence
To bolaer critics or the Primal Cause ;
Such am not I : but, man — as man I speak :
Black is the bean-throw : evil is the Lite I ")

**Look, I strew beans," — resumed Ferishtah,

— **beans
Blackish and whitish ; what they figure fortih
Shall be man's sum of moments, bad and

good.
That make up Life, — each moment when he

feels
Pleasure or pain, his poorest fact of sense,
Consciousness anyhow : there 's stand the first ;



Whence next advance shall be from point* to

line.
Singulars to a series, parts to whole.
And moments to the Life. How look they now.
Viewed in the large, those little poys and griefii
Ranged duly all a-row at last, like beans
—These which I strew? This bean was white,

this — black.
Set by itself J — but see if good and bad
Each following either in companionship.
Black have not grown leas black and white less

white.
Till blackish seems but dun, and whidah —

And the whole line turns — well, or black to

thee
Or white belike to me — no matter which :
The main result is — both are modified
According to our eye's scope, power of range
Before and after. Black dost call this bean ?
What, with a whiteness in its wake, which —

Suffuses half its neighbor ? — and, in turn.
Lowers its pearliness late absolute.
Frowned upon bj the jet which follows hard —
Ebe wholly white my bean were. Choose a

Bettered it was by sorrow gone before.
And sobered somewhat by the shadowy sense
Of sorrow which came after or might come.
Joy, sorrow, —by precedence, subsequence —
Either on each, make fusion, mix in Life
That 's both and neither wholly : gray or don f
Dun thou decidest ? gray prevails, sav I :
Wherefore ? Because my view is wide enough.
Reaches from first to last nor winks at all :
Motion ^ achieves 'it: atop short — fast we

stick, —
Probably at the bean that's blackest.

"Since -
Son, trust me, — this I know and only this —
I am in motion, and all things bedde
That circle round my passage through their

midst, —
Motionless, these are, as regarding me :
— Which means, myself I solely recognize.
They too mav recognize themselves, not me.
For aught I know or care : but plain they serve
This, if no other purpose — stuff to trir
And test ray power upon of raying light
And lending hue to all things as I go
Moonlike t&ough vapor. Mark the flying orb !
Think'st thou the halo, painted stall alrew
At each new cloud-fleece pierced and passaged

through,
This was and is and will be evermoro
Colored in permanence ? The glory swims
Girdling the glory-giver, swallowed strai^t
By night's absrsmal gloom, unglorified
Behind as erst before the advancer : gloom ?
Faced by the onward-faring, see, succeeds
From the abandoned heaven a next snrpriM,
And whero 's the gloom now ? — mlver-smitten

straight,
One glow and variega^on ! So with me.
Who move and make — myself —the blaok, the

white.



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A BEAN-STRIPE: ALSO APPLE-EATING



943



The good, tlie bad, of life's enTironment.
Stand stOl I black stays blaek : start again I

there 's white
Asserts supremacy : the motion 's all ^
That colors me my moment : seen as joy ? —
I have escaped from sorrow, or that was
Or might have been : as sorrow? — thence shall



Escape as certain : white preceded Uaok,
Black shall give way to white as duly, — so.
Deepest in black means white most imminent,
Stand still, — have no before, no after 1 — life
I^ves death, eiastence grows impossible
To man like me. * What cLm is blessed sleep
But death, then ? ' Why, a rapture of release
From toil.— that's sleep's approach: as cer-
tainly,
The end of sleep means, toil is triumphed o'er :
These round the blank inconsciousness between
Brightness and brightness, either pushed to

blase
Just through that blank's interposition. Hence
The use of things external: man — that's I —
Practise thereon my power of casting light,
Aud calling substance, — when the light I cast
Breaks into color, — by its proper name
— A truth and yet a falsity : black, white.
Names each bean taken from what lay so dose
And threw such tint: pain might mean pain

indeed
Seen in the passage past it, — pleasure prove
No mere delusion while I pause to look, —
Though what an idle fancy was that fear
Which overhung and hindered pleasare's hue I
While how, again, pain's shade enhanced the

shine
Of pleasure, else no pleasure I Such effects
Came of such causes. Passage at an end, —
Past, present, future pains and pleasures fused
So that one glance may gather blacks and

whites
Into a lifetime, — like my bean-etreak there.
Why, white tney whirl into, not black — for
mel"

*' Ay, but for me? The indubitable blacks.

Immeasurable miseries, here, there

And everywhere i' the world — world outride
thine

Paled off so opportunely, — body's plague,

Torment of soul, — where 's f oundT thy fellow-
ship

With wide humam^ all round about

Keeling beneath its burden ? What 's despair ?

Behold that man, that woman, child — nay,
brute!

Will any speck of white unblacken life

Splashed, splotched, dyed hell-deep now from
end to end

For him or her or it — who knows ? Not 1 1 "

^'NorI,SonI 'It* shall stand for bird, beast,

fish,
ReptUe, and insect even : take the last !
There 's the palm-aphis, minute miracle
As wondrous every whit as thou or I :
WeU, and his world's the palm-frond, there

he 's bom.



Lives, breeds, and dies in that circumference.



, Bpuesni

Who see the heaven above, the earth below.
Creation everywhere, — these, each and all
Claim certain reoogmtion from the tree
For special service rendered branch and bole.
Top-tuft and tap-root : — for thyself, thus sees,
Pauns furnish dates to eat, and leaves to shade,
— Maybe, thatch huts with, — have another use
Than strikes the aphis. So with me, my Son I
I know my own appointed patch i' the world.
What pleasures me or pains there: all out-
side—
How he, she, it, and even thou. Son, live.
Are pleased or pained, is past conjecture, once
I pry beneath the semblance, — all that 's fit.
To practise with, — reach where the fact may

lie
Fathom-deep lower. There 's the first and last
Of my philosophy. Blacks blur thy white ?
Not mine 1 Tne aphis feeds, nor finds his leaf
Untenable, because a lance-thmst, nay.
Lightning strikes sere a moss-patch close be-

ride.
Where certun other aphids live and love.
Restriction to his single inch of white.
That 's law for him, the aphis : but for me.
The man, the lar|[er«ouled, beside my stretch
Of blacks and whites, I see a world of woe
All round about me : one such burst of Uaok
Intolerable o'er the life I count
White in the main, and, yea— white's faintest

trace
Were clean abolished once and evermore.
Thus fare m^ fellows, swallowed up in gloom
So far as I discern : how far is that ?
God's care be Qod's I 'T is mine — to boast no

joy
Unsobered by such sorrows of my kind
As sully with their shade my life that shines."

** Reflected poeribilities of pain.
Forsooth, just chasten pleasure I Pain itself, —
Fact and not fancy, does not this affect
The general color ? "

** Here and there a touch
Taught me, betimes, the artifice of things —



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 183 of 198)