Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Sun's rays into a focus, — plain and true.
The yery Sun in litde : made fire bum
And henceforth do Man service— glass -con-
Though to a piiHKnnt cirde — all the same
Gomprisinff the Sun's self, but Sun disrobed
Of that else-unconceiyed essential flame
Borne b:^ no naked sight. Shall mind's eye

Aohingly to companion as it may
The supersubtle efBuence, and contriye
To follow beam and beam upon their way
Hand-breadth by hand-breaath,tiU sense faint—

Frustrate, eluded by unknown unguessed
Infinitude of action ? Idle quest I
Rather ask aid from optics. Sense, descry
The spectrum — mind, infer immensity I
Little? In little, light, warmth, life are

blessed —
Which, m the hirge, who sees to bless ? Not I
More than yourself : so, good my friend, keep

Trustful with— me ? with thee, sage Mande-




DoH, the diyinest women that haye walked
Our world were scarce those saints of whom we

My saint, for instance —worship if you willl
'T is pity poets need lustorians' skill :
What legendary 's worth a chroniele ?

Come, now I A ^:reat lord once upon a time
Visiteid— oh a king, of kings the prime.
To sign a treaty such as never was :
For the king's minister had lorought to pass
That this same duke — so style hun — must

Two of his dukedoms as an heritage
After his death to this exorbitant
Grayer of kingship. ** Let who lacks go scant,
Who owns much, give the more to I '' \^y

rebuke ?
So bids the deyil, so obeys the duke.

Now, as it happened, at his sister's house
— Duchess heraelf —indeed the very spouse
Of the king's uncle, — while the deed of ipit
Whereby our duke should cut his rights adrift
Was drawing, getting ripe to sign ai^ seal —
What does the frozen heart but uncongeal
And, shaming his transcendent kin and kith.
Whom do tl^ duke's eyes make acquaintance

A girl. *'' What, sister, may this wonder be ? "
** Nobody I Good as beautiiul ia she, .
With ffifts that match her goodness, no faint

I' the white : she were the pearl yon think you

But that she is — what corresponds to white ?
Some other stone, the true pearl's <mpo6ite.
As cheap as pearls are costly. She 's— now,

Her parentage! Once— twice— thrice? Foiled,

Drugs, duke, her father deals in— faugh, the

scents! —
Manna and senna — such medicaments
For payment he compounds you. Stay — stay

— stay !
1 11 have no rude speech wrong her ! Whither

The hot-head ? Ah, the sd^egracel Stk9 de-
Respect — compassion, rather ! right it serves
My folly, trusting secrets to a fool!
Already at it, is he ? She keeps cool —
Helped by her fsn's spread. Well, our state

For thus much license, and words break no

(Hearts, though, sometimes.)

Next mom 't was ** Reason, rate,
Rave, sister, on tiU doomsday I Sure as tate,
I wed that woman — what a woman is
Now that I know, who never knew till this J "
So swore the duke. ** I wed her: once again —
Rave, rate, and reason — spend your breath in
vain! "

At once was made a contract firm and fast.
Published the banns were, only marriage, last.
Required completion when the Church's rite

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Should bless and bid depart, make happy qnite
The coupled man and wife forerermore :
Which nte was soon to follow. Just before —
All things at all but end — the folk o' the bride
Flookeato a summons. Pomp the dnke defied :
** Of oeremony — so much as empowers,
Nanght that ezoeeds, suits best a tie like

ours" —
He smiled — ** all else were mere futility.
We TOW, God hears us : God and yon and I —
Let the world keep at distance ! This is why
We choose the smiplest forms that serre to

Lorer and lorer of the human kind.
No care of what degree — of kings or clowns —
Come blood and breeding. Courtly smiles and

ACsB of their mark, would idly soothe or strike
My style and yours — in one style merged

alike —
Qod^s man and woman merely. Long ago
'T was rounded in my ears '^Duke, wherefore

To use a privilege? Needs must one who

Pay rei^ning^s due: since statecraft so or-

Wed for the commonweal's sake I law pre-
One wife: but to submission license bribes
Unrulv nature : mistresses accept
— Well, at discretion I ' Prore I so inept
A scholar, thus instructed ? Dearest, be
Wife and all mistresses in one to me.
Now, henceforth, and forever ! " So smiled he.

Good : but the minister, the crafty one.
Got ear of what was doing — all but done —
Not sooner, though, than the king's very self,
Warned by the raster on how sheer a shelf
Rojralty's ship was like to split. ** I bar
The abomination ! Mix with muck my star ?
Shall earth behold prodigiously enorbed
An upstart marsh-bom meteor sun-absorbed 9
Nuptial me no such nuptials!" **Past dis-
Majesty speaks with wisdom absolute,"
Admired the mimster: ** ]{ret, all the same,
I would we may not — while we play his game,
The ducal meteor's — also lose our own.
The solar monarch's : we relieve your throne
Of an ungrraoious presence, like enough :
Balked of his project he departs in hu£P,
And so cuts short — dare I remind the long? —
Our not so unsuccessful bargaining.
The contract for eventual heritage
Happens to pari pauu reach the stage
Attained by just this other contract, — each
Unfixed by signature though fast in speech.
Off goes the duke in dudgeon — off withal
Go with him his two dukedoms past recalL
Ton save a fool from tasting folly's fruit.
Obtain small thanks thereby, and lose to boot
Sagacity's reward. The jest is grim :
The man will mulct you — for amercing him ?
Nay, f or . . . permit a poor similitude!
A witless wight in some fantastic mood

Would drown himself: you plunge into th»

Phick forth the

he, you save,
PuUs you dean under also for your pains.
Sire, little need that I should tax nay brains
To help your inspiration ! " *' Let him sink I
Always oontrivinsr " — hints the royal wink —
*^To keep ourselves dry while we claim his

Next day. the appointed

day for plighting

At eve, — so little time to lose, vou see.
Before the Church should wela indissolnUhr
Bond into bond, wed these who. side by side.
Sit each by other, bold groom, blushing bride, —
At the preliminary baiMuet, graced
By all the lady's kinsfolk come in haste
To share her triumph, — lo, a thundendap I
^^ Who importunes now ? " ** Such is my mia-

hap —
In the king's name ! No need that any stir
Except this lady ! " bids the mimster :
** With her I claim a word apart, no more :
For who gainsavs — a guard is at the door.
Hold, duke ! Submit you, lady, as I bow
To bun whose mouthpiece speaks his pleasure

It well ma^ happen I no whit arrest
Tour marriage : be it so, — we hope the best I
By your leave, gentles I Lady, pray yoo,

Duke, with my soul and body's deference I "

Doors shut, month
Copiously forth. *

qpoDs and persuasion flows
*What fledi shall dare op-

The king's command ? The matter in debate
— How plain it is I Yourself shall arbitrate.
Determine. Since the duke affects to rate
His prize in you beyond all goods of ear^
Accounts as naught old gains of rankandbirth.
Ancestral obligation, recent fame,
(We know his feats) — nay, ventures to dia-

Our will and pleasure almost — b^ report —
Waives in your favor dukeliness, m short, —
We — C^ is the king speaks) — who nu^t forth-
with stay
Such suicidal purpose, brush away
A bad example sname would else record^ —
Lean to indulgence rather. At his wora
We ti^e the duke : allow him to complete
The cession of his dukedoms, leave our feet
Their footstool when his own head, si^e ia

Sleeps sound. Nay, would the duke repair his

Handsomely, and our forfeited esteem
Recover, — what if wisely he redeem
The past, — in earnest of eood &ith, at ones
Give us such jurisdiction for the nonce
As may suffice — prevent occasion aim —
And constitute our actual ownership r
Concede this ^straightway be tne marriage

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JBt wamat of this paoar ! Things at rest,
This paper duly signed, down drons the bar,
To-morrow you become — from what ypn are,
The druggist's daughter — not the duke's mere

But the king's own adopted : heart and house
Open to you — the idol of a court^
* Which heaven might copy ' — sing our poet-
In this emergency, on you depends
The issue: mead what bliss the king intends I
Should the duke frown, should arguments and

Nay, tears if need be, prove in vain, — who

We leave the duke to his obduraov,
Cknnpanionless, — jou, madam, follow me
Without, where divers of the body-guard
Wait signal to enforce the king's award
Of strict seclusion : over yon at least
Vibratingly the sceptre threats increased
Precipitation I How avert its crash ? "


'* Re-enter, sir I A hand that 's calm, not rash.
Averts it I '' quietly the lady said.
" Yourself shaU witness."

At the table's head
Where, mid the hushed guests, still the duke

sat glued
In blank bewilderment, his spouse pursued
Her speech to end — syllablea quietude.

" Duke, I, your duchess of a day, could take
The hand you proffered me for love's sole sake.
Conscious my love matched yours ; as you, my-
Would waive, when need were, all but love —

from pelf
To potency. What fortune brings about
Haply in some far future, finds me out.
Faces me on a sudden here and now.
The better I Read — if beating heart allow —
Read this, and bid me rend to rags the shame I
I and vour conscience — hear and grant our

claim I
Never dare alienate God's giftyou hold
Simply in trust for himf Choose muck for

Could you so stumble in your choice, cajoled
By what I count my least of worthiness
— The youth, the beauty, — you renounce

them — yes.
With all that 's most too : love as well you lose.
Slain by what slavs in you the honor I Choose I
Dear — yet my husband — dare I love you

How the duke's wrath o'erboiled, — words,

words, and yet
More words, — I spare you such fool's fever^

They were not of one sort at all, one size.
As souls go — he and she. 'T is said, the eyes
Of all the lookers-on let tears fall fast.
The minister was mollified at last :

**Take a day, — two days even, ere through

Ton perish,^ two days' counsel — then d»-


'* If I shall save his honor and my soul ?
Husband, — this one last time, — you tear th«

Farewell, duke ! Sir, I follow in your train 1 **

So she went forth : theynever met a^iain.
The duke and she. The world paid compli-
(Is it worth noting ?) when, next day, she sent
Certain gifts back — '* jewelry fit to deck
Whom you call wife." I know not round what

They took to sparkling, in good time — weeks

Of all which was the pleasant consequence.
So much and no more — that a fervid youth.
Big-hearted boy, — but ten years old, in

truth —
Laid this to heart and loved, as boyhood can.
The unduchessed lady : boy and lad grew man :
He loved as man perchance may: did mean-
Good soldier^ervice, managed to beguile
The years, no few, until he found a chance :
Then, as at trumpet-summons to advance.
Outbroke tiie love that stood at arms so long.
Brooked no withstanding longer. They were

Whereon from camp and court alike he fled,
Renounced the sun-king, dropped off into nifi^t.
Evermore lost, a ruined sateihte :
And, oh, the exquisite delioiousness
That lapi>ed him in obscurity ! You guess
Such jov is fugitive : she died full soon.
He did his best to die — as sun, so moon
Left him, turned dusk to darkness absolute.
Failing of death — why, saintship seemed to

Yes, your sort, Don I* He trembled on the

Of monkhood : trick of cowl and taste of

He tried : then, kicked not at the pricks i>er-

But took again, for better or for worse,
The old way in the world, and, much the same
Man o' the outside, fairly played life's game.

** Now, Saint Scholastica, what time she fared

In Paynimrie, behold, a Hon glared

Right in her path! Her waist she promptly

Of sirdle, binds his teeth within his lips,
And, leashed all lamblike, to the Soldan's

Leads him." Ay, many a legend of the sort
Do you praiseworthily authenticate :
Spare me the rest. Tlus much of no debate

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AdnutB : my lady flooriahed in grand days
When to be dueheas was to danoe the hays
U p , down, across the heaven amid its host :
While to DO hailed the son's own self almost —
So dose the kinship — was — was —

Saint, for this.
Be yonxs the feet I stoop to — kneel and

So hnman ? Then the month too, if yon will I
Thanks to no legend but a ohroniole.

One leans to like the duke, too : np we 11 patch
Some sort of saintship for him — not to match
Hers — bat man's best and woman's worst

So nearly to the same thing, that we count
In man a miracle of f aithralness
If, while unfaithful somewhat, he lay stress
On the main fact that loye, when love indeed.
Is wholly solely loye from first to last —
Truth— all the rest a lie. Too likely, fast
Enough that necklace went to grace the throat
— Let 's say, of such a dancer as makes doat
The senses when the soul is satisfied —
Trogalia, say the Greeks — a sweetmeat tried
Approvingly by sated tongue and teeth,
Once body's proper meal consigned beneath
Such unconsidered munching.

Fancy's flight
Makes me a listener when, some sleepless night,
The duke reviewed his memories, and aghast
Found that the Present intercepts the l^uBt
With such effect as when a cloud enwraps
The moon and, moon-suffused, plays moon per-
To who walks under, till comes, late or soon,
A stumble : up he looks, and lo, the moon
Calm, dear, oonyincingly herself once more !
How could he 'scape the doud that thrust be-
Him and effulgence ? Speak, fod — duke, I


^Who bade you come, brisk-^narching bold
A terror with those black-balled worlds of
That black hair bristling solid-built from nape
To crown its coils about ? O dread surmise I
Take, tread on, trample under past escape
Tour capture, spou and trophy I Do — de-
Insults for one who, fallen once, ne'er shall

**Mock on, triumphant o'er the prostrate


ffh *Here lies he among the ftdse to

Love —
Love's loyal liegeman once : the very same
Who, scorning his weak fellows, towered

Inconstancy : yet why his faith de&me f

Lauffh *

Our cache's victor was at least no dove,
Ko dwarfish knight picked up our giaat't
glove —

***When, putting prowess to the proof, faith
Her champion to the challenge : had it
That merely virtue, wisdom, beauty — merged

All in one woman — merdy these advanced
Their claim to conquest, — hardly had he purged

His mind of memories, deamesses enhanced
Rather than harmed oy death, nor, disen-

** * Promptly had he abjured the old pretence
To prove nis kind's superior — first to last

Diqilay erect on his hearths eminence
AJk altar to the never-dying Past.

For such feat faith might boast fit play of
And easily disarm the iconoclast

Called virtue, wisdom, beauty : impudence

'* * Fought in their stead, and how could faith
but fall?
There came a bold she-shape brisk-marching,
No inch of her imperious stature, tall

As some war-ensnne ^von whose top was sent
One shattering volley out of eye's black ball.
And prone lay faith's defender ! * Moekeiy
Malice discharged in full ? In that event,

** My queenly impudence, I cover dose,

I wrap me round with loye of your black hair,
Black eyes, black every wicked inch of those
Limbs' war^tower tallness: so much truth
lives there
'Neath the dead heap of lies. And yet — who
What if such things are? No less, such
things were.
Then was the man your match whom now yon

** Treat as existent still. A second truth I
They held— this heap of Ues you rifirhtly
scorn —
A man who had approved himself in youth
More than a match for — you ? for sea-fbam-
Venus herself : you conquer him forsooth ?

'T is me his ghost : he died since left and lom,
As needs must Samson when his hair is shorn.

** Some day, and soon, be sure himself will rise,

Called into life by her who long a^
Left his soul whilingtime in flesh-disguise.
Ghosts tired of waiting can play tricks, yon
Tread, trample me — such sport we ghosts de>
Waiting the mom -star's reappearance —
You think we vanish soared by the cock's

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It leems as if ... or did the actual ohanoe
Startle me and perplex ? Let truth be said I
How miarht Uiis happen ? Dreamincr, blindfold

By Tisionary hand, did soul's advance
Pirecede mj body's, gain inheritance
Of fact by fancy — so that when I read
At length with waking ejea your Song, instead
Of mere bewilderment, with me first glance
Was but full recognition that in trance
Or mercJy thought's adventure some old dav
Of dim and done-with boyishness, or — well,
WhT might it not have been, the miracle
Broke on me as I took my sober way
Through veritable regions of our earth
And made discovery, many a wondrous one ?

Anyhow, fact or fancv, such its birth :
I was exploring some huge house, had gone
Throush room and room complacoitly, no

Anywhere of the signs of decent taste,
Adequate culture : wealth had run to waste
Nowise, nor penury was proved by stint :
All showed the Gk>lden Mean without a hint
Of brave extravagance that breaks the rule.
The master of the mansion was no fool
Assuredly, no genius just as sure !
Safe mediocrity had scorned the lure
Of now too much and now too little cost.
And satisfied me sight was never lost
Of moderate desigirs accomplishment
In calm completeness. On and on I went
With no more hope than fear of what came

Till lo, I push a door, sudden uplift^
A hangingt enter, chance upon a shift
Indeed of scene ! So — thus it is thou deck'st
High heaven, our low earth's briok-and-mortar


It was the Chapel. That a star, from murk
Which hid, should flashingly emerge at last,
Were small surprise : but from broad day I

Into a presence that turned shine to shade.
There ironted me the Rafael Mother-Maid,
Never to whom knelt votarist in shrine
By Nature's bounty helped, by Art's divine
More varied — beauty with magnificence —
Than this : from floor to roof one evidence
Of how far earth may rival heaven. No niche
Where glory was not prisoned to enrich
Man's nize with gold and gems, no space but

With color, gleamed with carving — hues which

Their outburst to a brush the painter fed
With rainbow-substance — rare shapes never

To actual flesh and Uood, which, brain-bom

Became the sculptor's dowry. Art's response
To earth's despair. And all seemed old yet

Youth, — in the marble's curve, the canvas'

Apparent, — wanted not the crowning thrill
Ox age the consecrator. Hands long still
Had worked here — could it be, what lent them

Retained a power to supervise, protect.
Enforce new lessons with the old, connect
Our life with theirs ? No merel^r modem touch
Told me that here the artist, doing much.
Elsewhere did more, perchance does better,

lives —
So needs must leam.

Well, these provocatives
Having fulfilled their office, forth I went
Big with anticipation — weU-nigh fear —
Of what next room and next for stsdrtied eyes
Might have in store, surprise beyond surprise.
Next room and next and next — what followed

Why, nothing I not one object to arrest
My passa^ — everywhere too manifest
The previous decent null and void of best
And worst, mere ordinary right and fit.
Calm commonplace which neither misBed, nor

Inch-high, inch-low, the placid mark proposed.

Armed with this instance, have I diagnosed
Your case, my Ghristopner? The man waa

And sane at startimpr : ail at once the ground
Qave way beneath ms step, a certain smoke
Curled up and caught him, or periiaps down

A fireball wrappineflesh and spirit both
In conflagration. Then — as heaven were loth
To linger— let earth understand too well
How heaven at need can operate — off fell
The flame-robe, and the untransfigured man
Resumed sobriety, — as he began.
So did he end nor alter pace, not ne !

Now, what I fain would know is — could it be
That he — whoe'er he was that furnished forth
The Chapel, making thus, from South to

Rafael touch Leighton, Miohelagnolo
Join Watts, was found but once combining so
The elder and the younger, taking stand
On Art's supreme, — or that yourself who sang
A Song where flute-breath silvers trumpet-
And stations you for once on either hand
With Milton and with Keats, empowered to

Affinity on just one point — (or blame
Or praise my judgment, thus it fronts you

full) —
How came it you resume the void and null.
Subside to insignifioanoei — live, die

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— Proved plainly two mere mortals who drew

One moment —that, to Art's hest hierarchy,
This, to the saperhnman poet-pair?
What if, in one point only, then and there
The oliherwise all-nnapproaohahle
Allowed impingement r Does the sphere pre>

To span the cube's breadth, cover end to end
The plane with its embrace? No, sorely I

Contact is contact, sphere's touch no whit less
Than cube's superimposure. Such success
Befell Smart only out of throngs between
Milton and Keats that donned the singing-
Smart, solely of such songmen, pierced the

'Twixt thing and word, lit language straight

from soul, —
Left no fine film-flake on the naked ooal
Live from the censer — shapely or uncouth,
flre-sufiPused through and through, one blaze

of truth
Undeadened b^ a lie, — (you have my mind) —
For, think I tms blaze outleapt with black be-
And blank before, when Hayley and the

rest . . .
But let the dead successors worst and best
Bury their dead : with life be my concern —
Tours with the fire-flame: what I fain would

Is just — (suppose me haply ignorant
Down to the common knowledge, doctors

Just this — why only once the fire-flame was :
No matter if the marvel came to pass
The way folk judged — if power too long sup-
Broke loose and maddened, as the vulgar

Or nmply^ brain-disorder (doctors said),
A turmoil of the partides disturbed,
Brain's workaday performance in your head,
Spurred spirit to wud action health had curbed,
And so verse issued in a cataract
Whence prose, before and af tor, unperturbed
Was wont to wend its way. Conceae the faSst
That here a poet was who always could —
Never before did — never after would —
Achieve the feat: how were such fact ex-

Was it that when, by rarest chance, there

Disguise from Nature, so that Truth remained
Naked, and whoso saw for once could toll
Us others of her majesty and might
In large, her lovelinesses infinite
In little, — straight you used the power where-
Sense, penetrating as through rind to pith
Each object, thoroughly revealed might view
And comprehend the old things thus made new.
So that while eye saw, soul to tongue could

Thing which struck word out, and onee

Real vision to right language, till heaven's

Pompous with sunset, stormrstirred sea's as-
On the swilled rock-ridge, earth's embosamed

Of tree and flower and weed, with all the life
That flies or swims or crawls, in peace or strif 69
Above^ below. — each had its note and name
For Man to know by, —Man who, now — Uie

As erst in Eden, needs that all he sees
Be named him ere he note by what decrees
Of strength and beautv to its end Desini
Ever thus operates — ^our thought and mine.
No matter for the many dissident) —
So did you sing your Song, so truth found vent
In words for once with you ?

Then — back was furied
The robe thus thrown aside, and straight the

Darkened into the old oft-catalogued

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 186 of 198)