Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Repository of thingB that sky, wave, land.
Or show or hide, clear late, aooretion-ologged
Now, just as long^ ago, by telling and
Re-teUings to satiety, which strike
Muffled upon the ear's drum. Very like
None was so startled as yourself when frienda
Came, hjuled your fast -returning wits :

*' Health mends
Importantly, for — to be plain with you —
This scribble on the wall was done — in Uen
Of pen and paper — with — ha, ha I — your key
Denting it on the wainscot I Doyou see
How wise our caution was? Thus mudi we

stopped
Of babble that had else grown print: and

lopped
From your trim bay-tree this unsightly bough —
Smart'iB who translated Horace I Write us

now" . . .
Why, what Smart did write —never afterward
One line to show that he, who paced the sward.
Had reached the zenith from his madhouse oelL

IX

Was it because you judged (J. know full well
You never had the fancy) — judged — as some —
That who makes poetry must reproduce
Thus ever and thus only, as they come.
Each strength, each beauty, everywhere diffuse
Throughout creation, so that eye and ear.
Seeing and hearing, straight smill recognize.
At touch of just a trait, the strength appear, —
Suggested by a line's h^ise see arise
Allevident the beauty, — fresh surprise
Startling at fresh achievement ? * So, indeed.
Wallows the whale's bulk in the waste of brine,
Nor otherwise its feathertufts make fine
Wild Virgin's Bower when stars faint off t»

seed!"
(My prose — your poetry I dare not give,
Pivpling too much my mere gray argument.)
— Was It because you judged — when fugitive



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WITH GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON



961



Was glofj found, and whoUy gone and spent
Such power of startling np deaf ear, blind eye,
At tmth's appearanoe, — that yon numbly bent
The head and, bidding yivid work good-by.
Doffed lyric dress and trod the world once more
A drab-clotiiied decent proseman as before ?
Strengths, beantiee, by one word's flash thus

laid bare
— That was effectual senrioe : made aware
Of strengths and beauties, Man but hears the

text,
Awaits your teaching. Nature ? What comee

next?
Why all the strength and beauty ? — to be

shown
Thus in one word's flash, thenceforth let alone
By Man who needs must deal with aught that 's

known
Neyer so lately and so little ? Friend,
First give us knowledge, then appoint its use I
Strength, beauty are the means: ignore their

end?
As well you stopped at proYing how profuse
Stones, stickB, nay stubble lie to left and right
Ready to help the builder, — careless quite
If he should take, or leave the same to strew
Earth idly, — as by word's flash bring in view
Strength, beauty, then bid who beholds the

same
Go on beholding. Why gains unemploved ?
Nature was made to be by Man enjoyed
First ; foUowed duly by enjoyment's fruit,
Instruction — haply leaving joy behind :
And you, the instructor, woma you slack pursuit
Of the main prize, as poet help mankind
Just to enjoy, there leave them ? Flay the fool,
Abjurin|: a superior privilege ?^
Please simply when your function is to rule —
B V thought incite to deed ? From edge to edge
Oi earth's round, strength and beauty every-
where
Pullulate — and must you particularize
All, each and every apparition ? Spare
Yourself and us the trouble ! Ears and eyes
Want so much strenp^th and beauty, and no less
Nor more, to learn life's lesson by. Oh, yes —
The other method 's favored in our day I
The end ere the beginning : as you may
Master the heavens before you study earth.
Make you f amOiar with the meteorS birth
Ere yon descend to scrutinize the rose I
1 say, o'erstep no least one of the rows
That lead man from the bottom where he plants
Foot first of all, to life's last ladder-top :
Arrived there, vain enough will seem the vaunts
Of those who say — "We scale the skies, then

drop
To earth — to find, how all things there are loth
To answer heavenly law : we understand
The meteor's course, and lo, the rose's growth —
How other than should be by law's command ! "
Would not you tell such — *' Friends, beware

lest fume
Offnscate sense : learn earth first ere presume
To teach heaven legislation. Law must be
Active in earth or nowhere : earth you see, —
Ot tiiere or not at all, Will, Power and Love
Admit discovery, — as below, above



Seek next law's oonfirmaticm I But reverse
The order, where 's the wonder things grow



Than, by the law your fancy formulates,
Thepr should be? Cease from anger at the fates
Which thwart ihemselves so madly. live and

learn,
Not first learn and then Hve, is our conoem.



WITH GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON



Ah, George Bnbb Dodington Lord Melcombe,

— no,
Yours was the wrong way! — always under-
stand.
Supposing that permissibly yon planned
How statesmanship — your trade — in outward

show
Might G^paxe as inspired by simple zeal
For serving country, king and commonweal,
(Though service tire to death the body, tease
The soul from out an o'ertasked patriot-drudge)
And vet should prove zeal's outward show agrees
In all respects — right reason being judge —
With inward care that, while the statesman

spends
Body uid soul tiius freely for the sake
Of public good, his private welfare take
No narm by such devotedness. Intends
Scripture aught else — let captious folk inr

quire —
Which teaches ** Laborers deserve their hire,
And who neglects his household bears the bell
Away of sinning from an infidel " ?
Wiseiier would fools that carp bestow a thought
How birds build nests; at outside, roughly

wrought;
Twig knots with twig, loam plasters up each

chink,
Leaving the inmate rudely lodged — you think ?
Peep but inside I That specious rude-and-

rough
Covers a aomioile where downv fluff
Embeds the ease-deserving architect,
Who toiled and moiled not merely to effect
'Twixt sprig and spray a stop-gap in the teeth
Of wind and weather, guard what swung be-
neath
From u^t only, but contrived himself
A snugmterior, warm and soft and sleek.
Of what material ? Oh, for that, you seek
How nature prompts eacn volatile ! Thus — pelf
Smoot^ens the human mudlark's lodgring, power
Demands some hardier wrappage to embrace
Robuster heart-beats : rock, not tree nor tower,
Contents the building eagle : rook shoves close
To brother rook on branch, while crow morose
Apart keeps balance pNerched on topmost bough.
No sort of bird but suits his taste somehow :
Nay, Darwin teUs of such as love the bower —
His bower-birds opportunely 3rield us yet
The lacking instance when at loss to get
A feathered parallel to what we find
The secret motor of some mightv mind
That worked such wonders — all for vanity !
Worked them to haply figure in the eye



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Of intimates as first of — doers' kind ?
Actors', that work in earnest sportively.
Paid by a sourish smile. How says the Sage ?
Birds bom to strut prepare a platform-stage
With sparkling stones and speckled shells, all

sorts
Of slimy rubbish, odds and ends and orts,
Whereon to pose and posture and engage
The priceless female simper.

II

I have gone
Thus into detail, G^rge Bubb Dodington,
Lest, when I take you presently to task
For the wrong way of working, you should ask
** What fool oonjeictures that profession means
Performance ? that who goes behind the scenes
Finds, — acting over, —still the soot-stuff

screens
Othello's visage, still the self -same cloak's
Bugle-bright-blackness half reveals half chokes
Hamlet's emotion, as ten minutes since ? "
No, each resumes his garb, stands — Moor or

prince —
Decently dn4>ed : just so with statesmanship t
All outside show, in short, is sham — why

wince?
Concede me — while our parley lasts I You trip
Afterwards — lay but this to heart I (there

lurks
Somewhere in all of us a lump which irks
Somewhat the spritelieet-scheming brain that 's

bent
On brave adventure, would but heart oonsent I)
— Here trip yon, that — your aim allowed as

right —
Your means thereto were wrong. Come, we,

this night.
Profess one purpose, hold one principle.
Are at odds only as to — not the will
But way of winning solace for oniselvee
— No matter if the ore for which zeal delves
Be gold or ooprolite, while zeal's pretence
Is — we do good to men at — whose expense
But ours ? who tire the body, tease the soul.
Simply that, running, we may readi fame's goal
And wreathe at last our brows with bay — the

State's
Disinterested slaves, nay — please the Fates —
Saviors and nothing leas : such lot has been t
Statesmandiip triumphs pedestalled, serene, —
O happy consummation I — brought about
By managing with skill the rabble-rout
For which we labor (never niind the name —
People or populace, for praise or blame)
Making them understand — their heaven, their

heU,
Their every hope and fear is ours as well.
Man's cause — what other can we have at heart ?
Wlience follows that the necessary part
High o'er Man's head we play, — and freelier

breathe
Just that the multitude which ^asps beneath
May reach the level where unstifled stand
Ourselves at vantage to put forth a hand.
Assist the prostrate pubfic. 'T is by right
Merely of such pretence, we reach the height



Where storms abound, to brave — iiaj« eoart

their stress,
Hiongh all too well aware — of pomp the less.
Of peace the more I But who are wb. to spurn
For peace' sake, duty's pointing ? Dp, then —

earn
Albeit no prize we may but martyrdom !
Now, such fit height to launch salvation £rom«
How get and gain ? Since help must needs be

craved
By would-be saviours of the else-unsaved.
How coax them to co-operate, lend a lift.
Kneel down and let us mount ?



You say, ''Make shife
By sham — the harsh word : preach and taaoh,

persuade
Somehow the Public — not despising aid
Of salutai^ artifice — we seek
Solely their good : our strength would raise tha

weak.
Our cultivated knowledge supplement
Their rudeness, rawness : why to us were lent
Ability except to come in use r
Who loves his kind must by all means induce
That kind to let his love play freely, pr^as
Li Man's behalf to full pmormanoe P' <

IV

*«-

Yes, George, we know I — whereat they Hear,

believe.
And bend the knee, and on the neck rec^v%
Who fawned and cringed to purpose ? Not Wi

George! *

Try simple falsehood on shrewd folk who f o^
Lies of superior fashion day by day y

And hour by hour ? With cra fts men versed ii

they
What chimoe of competition when the tools
Only a novice wields? Are knaves such f ooL
Dismterested i>atriots, spare your tongue ^
The tones thrice-silvery, cheek save smiles!

flung 1

Pearl-like profuse to swine — a herd, whereof I
No unit needs be taught, his neighbor's trougrK
S<»roe holds for who out grunts and whines 1 *

husks
Due to a wrinkled snout that shows sharp 1
No animal — much less our lordly Man —
Obeys its like : with strength all rule began.
The stoutest awes the pastare. Soon suoc<
Discrimination, — nicer power Man needs
To rule him than is bred of bone and thew :
Intelligence must move strength's self. Thf

too
Lasts but its time : the multitude at lenffth
Looks inside for intelligence and strength
And finds them here and there to pick

choose:
" All at your sendee, mine, see I " Ay,

who 's
My George, at this late day, to make his 1km
** In strength, intelligence, I rule the roast,
Beat, all and some, the ungraeed who <

your ranks ? "



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WITH GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON



963



** Oh, bat I loYe, wonld lead yon, gain yonr

thftukf
By unexampled Tearningr for Man's aake —
Passion that solely waits your help to take
Effect in action I " George, whioh one of ns
But holds with his own heart oommnnion thus :
*'' I am, if not of men the first and best.
Still — to receiye enjoyment — propeiest :
Which since by force I cannot, nor by wit
Most likel}r — craft must serve in place of it.
Flatter, cajole I If so I bring within
My net the gains whioh wit and force should

win.
What hinders ? " 'T is a trick we know of old :
Try, George, some other of tricks manifold I
The mnltitude means mass and mixture — right !
Are mixtures simple, prav, or composite ?
Diye into Man, jour medley : see the waste I
Sloth-stifled genius, energy disgraced ^
By ignorance, high idms with sorry skill.
Will without means and means in want of will
— Sure we might fish, from out the mothers' sons
That welter l^us, a dozen Dodingtons !
Why call up Dodington, and none beside.
To take his seat upon our backs and ride
As statesman conquering and to conquer? Well,
The last expedient, which must needs excel
Those old ones — this it is, — at any rate
Today's conception thus I formulate :
As simple force has been replaced, just so
Must smiple wit be : men haye got to know
Such wit as what ^ou boast is nowise held
The wonder once it was, but, paralleled
Too plentifully, counts not, — puts to shame
Modest possessors like yourselz who claim.
By virtue of it merely, power and place
— Which means the sweets of office. Since our

race
Teems with the like of you, some special gift.
Your very own, must coax our hands to lift,
And backs to bear you : is it just and right
To privilege your nature ?



" State things quite
Other than so "~ make answer! ** I pretend
No such communit]r with men. Perpend
My key to domination I Who would use
Man for his pleasure needs must introduce
The element that awes Man. Once for all.
His nature owns a Supernatural
In fact as well as phroBe — which found must be
— Where, in this doubting age ? Old mystery
Has served its turn — seen through and sent

adrift
To nothingness : new wizard-craft makes shift
Nowadays shorn of help by robe and book, —
Otherwise, elsewhere, tor success must look
Than chalked-ring, incantation-gibberish.
Somebody comes to conjure : that 's he ? Pish I
He 's like the roomful of rapt gazers, — there 's
No sort ai difference in the garb he wears
From ordinary dreesing, — gesture, speech.
Deportment, just like thos^of all and each
That eye their master of tm minute. Stay t
What of the something — call it how you may —
Uncanny in the — quack ? That 's ensr said I
Notice how the Pro fe ssor turns no head



And yet takes cognizance of who accepts,
Denies, is puzzled as to the adept's
Supremacy, yields up or lies in wait
To trvp the trickster I Doubtless, out of date
Are dealing with the devil : yet, the stir
Of mouth, its smile half smug half sinister.
Mock-modest boldness masked in diffidence, —
What if the man have — who knows how or

whence? —
Confederate potency nnguessed bv ns —
Prove no such cheat as he pretends ? "



Ay, thus
Had but my George played statesmanship's

new card
That carries all! '*Sinee we"— avers the

Bard-
** All of us have one human heart " — as good
As say — by all of us is understood ^
Right and wrong, true and &dse — in rough, at

least.
We own a common conscience. God, man,

beast —
How should we qualify the statesman-shape
I fano^ standing with our world agape ?
Disguise, flee, fight against with tooth and nail
Hie outrageous designation I ** Quack" men

quail
Before ? You see, a little year ago
Thev heard him thunder at the thing which, lo,
ToHiay he vaunts for unscathed, while what erst
Heaven-high he lauded, lies hell-low, accursed I
And yet where 's chanjge ? Who, awe-struck,

cares to point
Critical finger at a dubious joint
In armor, true ces triplex, breast and back
Binding about, defiant of attack.
An imperturbability that 's — ■ well.
Or innocence or impudence — how tell
One from the other? Could ourselves broach

Hes,
Yet brave mankind with those unaltered eyes.
Those lips that keep the quietude of truth?
Dare we attempt the like 7 What quick uncouth
Disturbance of thy smu^ economv.
O coward visage I Strai^t would all descry
Back on the man's brow the boy's blush once

morel
No : he goes deeper — could our sense explore —
finds conscience beneath conscience such as

ours.
Genius is not so rare, — prodigious powers —
WelL others boast such, — but a power like this
Mendacious intreindity — quid vts t
Besides, imposture plays another game,
Admits of no diversion from its aim
Of captivating hearts, sets zeal aflare
In every shape at every turn, — nowhere
Allows subsidence into ash. By stress
Of what does guile succeed but earnestness.
Earnest word, look and gesture? Touched

with aught
But earnestness, the levity were fraught
With ruin to guile's film -work. Grave is

guUe;
Here no act wants its qualifyins: smile.
Its covert pleasantry to neutralize



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The outward ardor. Can our ehief despise

Even while most he seems to adulate ?

As who should say '* What though it he my

fate
To deal with fools? Amongr the crowd must

lurk
Some few with faculty to judge my work
Spite of its way whien smts, they understand,
Tne orasB majority : — the Sacred Band,
No duping them forsooth I " So tells a touch
Of submtelligential nod and wink —
Turning foes friends. Coarse flattery moTCS

tne gorge:
Mine were the mode to awe the many, Qeorge I
They guess you hiUf desiMse them while most

Dent
On demonstratinpr that jora sole intent
Strives for their service. Sneer at them?

Yourself
'Tis ^ou disparage, — tricksy as an elf,
Sconung what most you stram to bring to pass,
LiMiffhi^lv careless, — triply cased in brass, —
While pushing strenuous to the end in view.
What follows ? Why, you formulate within
The vulgar headpiece this conception : ** Win
A master-mind to serve us needs we must.
One who, from motives we but take on trust,
Acts strangelier — haply wiselier than we

know



Stronglier, for certain. Did he say * I throw

Aside my good for yours, in all I ao

Care nothing for myself and all for you ' —



We should both understand and disbelieve :

Said he, * Your good I laugh at in my sleeve.

My own it is I solely labor at.

Protending yours the while ' — that, even that,

We, understanding well, give credence to.

And so will none of it. But here 'tis through

Our recognition of his service, wage

Well earned by work, he mounts to such a stage

Above competitors as all save Bubb

Would agonize to keep. Yet — here's the

^ rub —
So diehtly does he hold by our esteem
Which solely fixed him fast there, that we seem
Mocked every minute to our face, by gibe ^
And jest — scorn insuppressive : what ascribe
The rashness to? Our pay and praise to

boot —
Do these avail him to tread under foot
Something inside us all and each, that stands
Somehow instead of somewhat which com-
mands
' lie not ' ? Folk fear to jeopardize their soul.
Stumble at times, walk straight upon the

whole, —
That 's nature's simple instinct : what may be
The portent here, the influence such as we
Are strangers to r " —



Exact the <^bing I call
Man's dmpot, just the Supernatural
Which, George, was wholly out of — far be-
yond
Your theory and practice. You had conned
But to reject the precept ** To succeed
In gratifying selfishness and greed,



Asseverate such qualities exist
Nowise within yourself I then make aoquist
By all means, with no sort of fear I " Alack,
That well-worn lie is obsolete ! Fall back
On still a working pretext — *^ Hearth and

Home,
The Altar, love of England, hate of Rome " —
That 's serviceable lying — that perchance
Had screened you decentiy: but 'ware ad-
vance
By one step more in perspicacity
Oi these our dupes I At length they get to see
As tihrongh the earlier, this the latter plea —
And find the ereed and selfishness at source I
VerUum est aatriarioi : last resource
Should be to what but — exquisite disguise
Disguise-abjuring, truth that looks like lies,
Frajikness so sure to meet with unbelief ?
Say — you hold in contempt — ^not them in

cnief —
But first and foremost your own b%U I No use
In men but to make sport for you, induce
The puppets now to dance, now stand stoek-



Now knock their heads together, at your will ^
For will^s sake only — wnile each plays his

piurt
Submissive: why? through tenor at the

heart:
** Can it be — this bold man, whose hand we'saw
Openly pull the wires, obeys some law
Quite aoove Man's — nay, Qod's?" On face

fall they.
This was the secret missed, agun I say,
Out of your power to grasp oon^ption of.
Much less employ to purpose. Hence the soofE
That greets your very name : folk see but one
Fool more, as well as knave, in Dodington.



WITH FRANCIS FURINl



Nat, that^ Furini, never I at least

Mean to believe 1 What man you were I

know.
While you walked Tuscan earth, a painter-
priest,
Sometning about two hundred years ago.
Priest — you did duty punctual as the sun
That rose and set above Saint Sano's church.
Blessing MugeUo : of your flock not one
But showed a whiter fleece because of smirdi,
Your kind hands wiped it clear from : were

they poor ?
Bounty broke bread apace, — did marriage lag
For just the want of moneys that ensure
Fit hearth-and-home provision ? — straight your

bag
Unplumped itself, — reached hearts by way of

palms
Goodwill's shake had but tickled. All aboiiii
Mugello valley, felt some parish qualms '
At worship offered in bare walls without i
The comfort of a jicture ? — prompt such nreed
Our painter would supply, and throngs to si be
Witnessed that goodness — no unholy peerfi
Of gain — had coaxed from Don Funm— h fle



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WITH FRANCIS FURINI



96s



Whom prinoeB might in Tain implore to toil
For worldly profit— snoh a masterpiece.
Brief — pnest, yon poured profuse (^od's wine

and oil
Praiseworthily, I know : shall praising cease
When, priestly yesture pnt aside, mere man,
You stand for judgment ? Bather — what ac-
claim
— ** Good son, good hrother, friend in whom we



No fault nor flaw '* — salutes Furini^s name,

The loving as the liberal ! Enough :

Only to ope a lily, though for sake

Of settine free its scent, disturbs the rough

lioose gold about its anther. I shall take

No blaime in one more blazon, last of all —

Good painter were you : if in yeiy deed

I styled you great — what mooem art dares

call
Mt word in question ? Let who will take heed
Of what he seeks and misses in your brain
To balance that precision of the brush
Your hand could ply so deftly : all in Tain
Strives poet's power for outlet when the push
Is lost upon a barred and bolted gate
Of painter's impotenov. Agnolo —
Thme were alike the head and hand, bv fate
Doubly endowed I Who boasts head only — woe
To hand's presumption should brush emulate
Fancy's free passage bv the pen, and show
Thought wrecked and ruined where the inex-
pert
Foolhardy fingers half grasped, half let go
Film-wings the poet's pen arrests unhurt !
No — painter such as that miraculous
Michael, who deems you ? But the ample gift
Of gracinjg: walls else blank of tlus our house
Of fife with imagery, one bright drift
Poured forth by pencil, — man and woman

mere,
Glorified till half owned for gods, — the dear
Fleshly perfection of the human shape, —
This was apportioned vou whereby to praise
Heaven and bless earth. Who clumsily essays,
Bv slighting painter's craft, to prove the ape
Oi poet's pen-creation, just betrays
Twofold ineptitude.



By such sure ways
Do I return, Furini, to my first
And central confidence — that he I proved
Good priest, good man, good painter, and re-
hearsed
Praise upon praise to show — not simply loved
For virtue, but for wisdom honored too
Needs must Furini be, — it follows — who
Shall undertake to breed in me belief
That, on his death-bed, weakness played the

thief
With wisdom, folly ousted reason quite ?
Ldst to the chronicler ! With main and might —
So fame runs — did the poor soul beg his

friends
To buy and bum his hand-work, make amends
For having reproduced therein — (Ah me I
Sifirhs fame — that 's friend Filippo) — nudity I
Yes, I assure you : he would paint — not men



Merely — a pardonable fault — but when
He had to deal with — oh, not mother Eve
Alone, permissibly in Paradise
Nakea and unashamed, — but dared achieve
Dreadful distinction, at soul-safety's price.
By also lyinting women — (why the need ?)
Just as God made them : there, you have the

truth!
Tes, rosed from top to toe in flush of youth.
One foot upon the moss-fringe, would some



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 187 of 198)