Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 189 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 189 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

first printed in a small volume called I%e New
Amphion, published for the Edinbnzgli Um-
vexaity Union Fancy Fair in 1886.

Ah, but— because yon were stroek blind,

oould bless
Your sense no longer with the actual view
Of man and woman, those fair forms you drew
In happier days so duteously and true, —
Must I account my Gerard ae Lairesse
All sorrow-smitten ? He was hindered too
— Was this no hardship? — irom producing,

To us who still have eyes, the pageantry
Which passed and passed before his busy bnua
And, captured on his canvas, showed our sk^r
Traversed by fiiying slu4>es, earth stocked with

Of monsters, — centaurs bestial, satyrs lewd, —
Not without much Olympian glory, shapes
Of god and goddess in their gay escapes
From the severe serene : or haply jpaioed
The antique ways, god-connseUed, nymph-em-

Some earlv human kingly personage.
Such wonaers of the teeming poet Vage
Were still to be : nay, these indeed bigan—
Are not the pictures extant ? — till the baa
Of blindness struck both i>aletto fnun his

And pencil from his finger.

Blind — not dumb,
Else, Gerard, were my inmost bowels stirred
With pity beyond pity : no, the word
Was left upon your unmolested Hps :
Tour mouth unsealed, despite of eyes' eclipse.
Talked all brain's yearning into birth. I lack
Somehow the heart to wish your pnustice back
Which boasted hand's achievement in a score
Of veritable pictures, less or more.
Still to be seen: myself have seen them,^

To pay due homage to the man I loved
Because of that prodigious book he wrote
On Artistry's Ideal, by taking note.
Making aoouaintance with his artist-woa^.
So mv youth's piety obtained success
Of all too dubious sort : for, though it irk
To tell the issue, few or none would piem
From extant lines and colois, De Lairesse,

Digitized by




Your faonliy, although each deftly-|:ronped
And i^tly-oraered fignre-pieoe was ]adg«d
Worthy a prinoe's purchase in its dav.
Bearded experience bean not to be anped
Like boyish fancy : *t was a boy that bndged
No f oot^s breath from yonr risioned steps away
The while that memorable "' Walk '* he trudged
In your companionship, — the Book must say
Where, when and whither, — " Walk," come

what come may.
No measurer of steps on this ourelobe
Shall ever match for marrels. faustos* robe,
And Fortunatus' cap were gifts of price :
But —oh, your piece of sober sound advice
That artists should descry abundant worth
In trivial commonplace, nor groan at dearth
If fortune bade the painter's craft be plied
In vulgar town and country ! Why despond
Because hemmed round by Dutch canals?

The ugly actual, lo. on every side
Imagination's limitless domain
Dii^layed a wealth of wondrous sounds and

Ripe to be realized bv poet's brain
Acting on punter^s brush I ** Ye doubt ?

iPoor wights.
What if I set example, go before.
While you come after, and we both explore
Holland turned Dreamland, taking care to note
Objects whereto my pupils may devote
Attention with advantage ? "

That "Walk'

amid true wonders — none to

But huge to us ignobly oonmion-eensed.
Purblind, while plain could proper optics view
In that <Ad sepulchre by lightning spli<^
Whereof the fid bore carven, —any dolt
Imagines why, — Jove's v^ry thunderbolt :
You who could straight perceive, by glance at

This tomb must needs be Phaeton's! In a

Confirming that conjecture, dose on hand.
Behold, half out, half in the ploughedj^up sand,
A chariot-wheel explained its bolt-device :
What other than the Chariot of the Sun
Ever let drop the fike ? Consult the tome —
I bid inglorious tarriers-at-home —
For greater still surprise the while that *' Walk "
Went on and on, to end as it begun,
Chokef ull of chances, chaoges, eveTv one
No wMt less wondrous. What was there to balk
Us, who had eyes, from seeing: ? You with none
Missed not a marvel : wherefore ? Let uis talk.

Say am I right? Your sealed sense moved

Free from obstruction, to compassionate
Arii's power left powerless, and supply the blind
With lanoies worth all facts denied by &te.
Mind could invent thiagiB^ add to — take away,
At pleasure, l«ave out trifles mean and base
Wmch tez Idie^ght tihat ctmnot say them nay

Bu^ where mind pla^ the master, have no place.
And bent on banishing was mind, be sure.
All except beau^ from its mustmd tribe
Of objects appantional which lure
Painter to snow and poet to describe —
That imagery of the antioue song
Truer than truth's self. Fancy's rainbow-birth
Conceived 'mid clouds in Greece, could glance

Your passage o'er Dutch veritable earth.
As with ounelves, who see. familiar throng
About our pacings men ana women worth
Nowise a glance — so poets apprehend —
Since nauight avails portraying them in verse :
While painters turn upon the neel, intend
To spare their work the critic's ready curse
Due to the daily ^'^A undignified*


I who myself contentedly abide

Awake, nor want the wings of dream, — who

Earth's conmion surface, rough, smooth, dry or

— I understand alternatives, no less
Conceive your soul's leap, Gerard de Lairease I
How were it could I mingle false with true.
Boast, with the sifl[htB I see, your vision too ?
Advantage would it prove or detriment
If I saw double ? Could I gaze intent
Ou Dryope plucking the blossoms red.
As yon, whereat her lote-tree writhed and bled.
Yet lose no gain, no hard fast wide-awake
Having and nolding nature for the sake
Of nature only — nymph and lote-tree thus
Gained by the loss of truit not fabulous,
Apple of English homesteads, where I see
Nor seek more than crisp buds a struggling bee
Uncrumples, caught by sweet he clambers

through ?
Truly, a moot point : make it plain to me,
Who, bee-like, sate sense with the simply true.
Nor seek to heighten that sufficiency
By help of f eignings proper to the page —
Earth's surface-blank whereon the elaer age
Put color, poetizing — poured rich life
On what were else a dead ground — nothing-
Until the soUtary world grew rife
With Joves and Junoe, nymphs and satyrs. Yes,
The reason was, fancy composed the strife
'Twixt sense and soul : for sense, my De Lai-

Cannot content itself with outward things.
Mere beauty: soul must needs know wuenoe

there springs —
How, when and why — what sense but loves,

nor lists
To know at all.

Not one of man's acquisto
Ought he resigiiedlv to lose, methinks :
So, point me out which was it of the links
Snapt first, from out the chain which used to

Our earth to heaven, and yet for you, mnoe blind,
Subsisted still efficient and intact ?

Digitized by




Oh, we can fancy too I but somehow fact
Has got to — say, not so mnoh posh aside
Fancy, as to declare its place supplied
By fact unseen but no less fact the same,
Which mind bids sense accept. Is mind to

Or sense, — does that usurp, this abdicate ?
first of all, as you ** walked '' — were it too late
For us to walk, if so we willed ? Confess
We have the sober feet still, De Lairesse I
Why not the freakish brain too, that must needs
Supplement nature — not see flowers and weeds
Simplv as such, but link with each and all
The ultimate perfection — what we call
Rigrhtly enoufip the human shape divine ?
The rose ? No rose unless it disentwine
From Venus' wreath the while she bends to kiss
Her deathly love ?


Plain retrogression, this !
No, no : we poets go not back at all :
What yon did we could do — from great to small
Sinking assuredly : if this world last
One moment longer when Man finds its Past
Exceed its Present — blame the Protoplast I
If we no longer see as you of old,
'T is we see deeper. Progress for the bold !
You saw the bodjr, 't is the soul we see.
Try now I Bear witness while you walk with me,
I see as you : if we loose arms, stop pace,
'T is that you stand still, I conclude the race
Without your company. Come, walk once more
The " Walk : " if I to^ay as you of yore
Seejust like you the blind— then sight shall cry
— The whole long day quite gone through —
victory I


Thunders on thunders, doubling and redoubling
Doom o'er the mountain, while a sharp white

Kow shone, now sheared its rusty herbage,

Hardly the fir-boles, now discharged its ire
Full where some pine-tree's solitary spire
Crashed down, defiant to the last : till — lo,
The motive of the malice I — all aglow.
Circled with flame there yawned a sudden rift
I' the rock^ace, and I saw a form erect
Front and defy the outrage, while — as checked.
Chidden, beside him dauntless in the drift —
Cowered a heaped creature, wing and wing out-
In deprecation o'er the crouching head
Still hungry for the feast foregone awhile.
O thou, of scorn's unconquerable smile,
Was it when this — Jove's feathered fury —

Gore-glutted from the heart's core whence he

ripped —
This eagle -hound — neither reproach nor

prayer —
Baffled, in one more fierce attempt to tear
Fate's secret from thy safeguard, — was it the
That all these thunders rent earth, ruined air
To reach thee, pay thy patronage of men ?
He thundered, —to withdraw, as beast to lair.

Before the triumph on thy pallid brow.
Ghither the night again about thee now.
Hate on, love ever! Mom is breaking there —
The granite ridge pricks through the mista

turns gold
As wrong turns right. O laughters manifold
Of ocean's ripple at dull earth's despair !


But morning's laugh sets all the crags alight
Above the baffled tempest : tree and tree
Stir themselves from the stupor of the ni^htr
And every strangled branch resumes its wht
To breathe, shakes loose dark's dinging aregSt

waves free
In dripping glory. Prone the runnels plnnge.
While earui, distent with moisture like a sponge^
Smokes up, and leaves each plant its gem to see,
Each grass-blade's gloir-^tter. Had I known
The torrent now tumea nver ? —masterful
Making its rush o'er tumbled ravage — stone
And stub which barred the froths and foams :

no bull
Ever broke bounds in formidable sport
More overwhelmingly, till lo, the spasm
Sets him to dare t^t last mad leap : report
Who may — his fortunes in the deathly chasm
That swallows him in silence ! Rather turn
Whither, upon the upland, pedestalled
Into the broad day-splendor, whom discern
These eyes but thee, supreme one, rightly called
Moon-maid in heaven above and, here b^ow.
Earth's huntress-queen ? I note the gmth soe-

Saving fiom smirch that purity of snow
From breast to knee — snow's self with just the

Of the apple-blossom's heart-blush. Ah, the

Slack-strung her fingers grasp, where, ivory-
Horn curving blends with horn, a moonlike pair
Which mimic the brow's crescent sparkling so —
As if a star's live restless fragment wink^
Proud yet repugnant, captive in such hair !
What hope along the hillside, what far Uiss
Lets the crisp hair-plaits fall so low they kiss
Those lucid shoulders ? Must a mom so blithe
Needs have its sorrow when the twang and hisi
Tell that from out thy sheaf one shaft makes

Its victim, thou unerring Artemis ?
Why did the chamois stand so fair a mark
Arrested by the novel thaape he dreamed
Was bred of liquid marUe in the dark
Depths of the mountain's womb which ever

With novel births of wonder ? Not one spark
Of pity in that steel-gray glance which gleamed
At the poor boors protesting as it stamped
Idly the granite ? Xet me glide unseen
From thy proud presence : weU mayst thou be

Of all those strange and sudden deaths whioo

So oft Love's torch and Hymen's taper lit
For happy marriage till the maidens paled
And penshed on the temple-st^i, assailed

Digitized by




By — what except to envy must man's wit
Impute that sure implaoaole release
Of life from warmth aud joy? But death
means peace.

Noon is the conqueror, — not a spray, nor leaf,
Nor herb, nor blossom but has rendered up
Its morning dew : the valley seemed one cup
Of cloud-smoke, but the rapor's reign was brief ;
Sun-smitten, see, it hangs — the filmy haze —
Ghray-garmentingr the herblees mountain-side.
To soo^e die day's sharp glare : while far and

AboTe unclouded bums the sky, one blaze
With fierce immitigable blue, no bird
Ventures to spot by passage. E'en of peaks
Which still presume there, plain each pale point

In wan transparency of waste incurred
By oyeiKlaring : far from me be such 1
Deep in the hollow, rather, where combine
Tree, shrub and brier 'to roof with shade and

The renmant of some lily-strangled pool.
Edged round with mossy fringing soft and fine.
Smooth lie the bottom slabs, and oYcrhead
Watch elder, bramble, rose, and service-tree
And one beneficent ridi barberrv
Jewelled all over with fruit-pendants red.
What have I seen I O Satyr, well I know
How sad thy case, and what a world of woe
Was hid bjr the brown visage furry-framed
Only for mirth : who otherwise could think —
Marking thy mouth gape still on laughter's

Thine eyes a-swim with merriment unnamed
But haplv guessed at by their furtive wink ?
And all the while a heart was panting sick
Behind that shaggy bulwark of thy breast —
Passion it was that noade those breath-bursts

I took for mirth subsiding into rest.
So, it was L^rda — she of all the tr^
Of forest-thridding nymphs, — 't was only she
Turned from thy rustic homage in disdain.
Saw but that poor uncouth outside of thee.
And, from her circling sisters, mocked a pain
Echo had pitied — whom Pan loved in vam —
For she was wishful to partake thy glee,
Mimic thy mirth — who loved her not again,
Savage for Lyda's sake. She crouches there —
Th^r cruel beauty, slumberously laid
Supine on heaped-up beast«kins, unaware
Thy steps have traced her to the briery glade,
Thy greedy hands disclose the cradling lair.
Thy hot eyes reach and revel on the maid 1

Now, what should this be for? The sun's de-
Seems as he lingered lest he lose some act
I^ead and decisive, some prodigious fact
Like thunder from the saie sky's sapphirine
About to alter earth's conditions, packed
"With fate for nature's self that waits, aware
What mischief unsuspected in the air
Menaces momently a cataract.

Therefore it is that yonder space extends
Untrenched upon by any vagrant tree,
Slmib. weed well-nigh ; they keep their bounds,

leave free
The platform for what actors ? Foes or friends.
Here come they trooping silent : heaven sus-
Purpose the while they range themselves. I see I
Bent on a battle, two vast powers agree
This present and no after-contest ends
One or the other's grasp at rule in reach
Over the race of man — host fronting host.
As statue statue fronts — wrath-molten each^
Solidified by hate, — earth halved almost.
To close once more in chaos. Tet two shapea
Show prominent, each from the universe
Of minions round about him, that disperse
like cloud-obstruction when a bolt escapes.
Who flames first ? Macedonian, is it thou ?
A^, and who fronts thee. King Darius, drapes
His form with purple, fillet-fiuds his brow.

What, then the long day dies at last ? Abrupt
The sun that seemed, in stooping, sure to melt
Our mountain-ridge, is masteiid : black the

Of westward crags, his gold could not oormpt,
Barriers again the valley, lets the flow
Of lavidi glory waste itself away
— Whither ? For new climes, fresh eyes breaks

the day I
Night was not to be baffled. If the glow
Were all that's gone from us I IMd douds,

So filmily but now, discard no rose.
Sombre throughout the fleeciness that grows
A sullen iinif ormity. I note
Rather displeasure, — in the overspread
Change frcnn the swim of gold to one pale lead
Oppressive to malevolence, — than late
Those amorous yearnings when the aggregate
Of cloudlets pressed that e^tch and all migf t sate
Its passion and partake in relics red
Of day's bequeathment: now, a frown instead
Estranges, and affrights who needs must fare
On and on till his journey ends : but where ?
Caucasus ? Lost now in the ni^ht. Away
And far enough lies that Arcadia.
The human heroes tread the world's dark way
No longer. Yet I dimly see almost —
Yes, for my last adventure I 'T is a ghost.
So drops away the beauty I There he stands
Voiceless, scarce strives with deprecating

Enough I Stop further fooling, De Lairesse !
My fault, not yours ! Some fitter way express
Heart's satisfaction that the Past indeed
Is past, gives way before Life's best and last.
The all-including Future ! What were life
Did soul stand still therein, forego her strife
Through the ambiguous Present to the goal
Of some fdl-reconcuing Future ? Soul,
Nothing has been which shall not bettered be
Hereafter, — leave the root, by law's decree
Whence springs the ultimate and perfect tree I

Digitized by




Bii«y thee with imearthiDp: root ? Nay, climb —
Quit trunk, branch, leax and flower — reach,

rest snblime
Where f ruita^ ripens in the blaze of day I
Overlook, despise, forvet, throw flower away.
Intent on progress? r(o whit more than stop
Ascent therewith to dally, screen the top
SnfficieucT of yield by interposed
Twistwork boll foot gets free from. Wherefore

The poets — " Dream afresh old godlike shapes,
Recaptore ancient fable that escapes.
Push back reality, repeople earth
With yanished f aliseness. recognize no worth
In fact new-bom unless 't is rendered back
Pallid by fancy, as the western rack
Of fading cloud bequeaths the lake some gleam
Of its gone glory I "

Let things be —not seem,
I counsel rather, — do, and nowise dream I
Earth's young significance is all to learn :
The dead Greeklore lies buried in the urn
Where who seeks fire finds ashes. Ghost, for-
What was the best Greece babbled of as truth ?
'* A shade, a wretched nothing, — sad, thin,

Gold, dark, it holds on to the lost loves here.
If hand have haplv sprinkled o'er the dead
Three charitable dust-heaps, made mouth red
One moment by the sip of sacrifice :
Just so much comfort thaws the stubborn ice
Slow-Uiickeniiu: upward till it choke at length
llie last faint flutter craving — not for strength,
Not beauty, not the riches and the rule
O'er men that made life life indeed." Sad

Was Hades! Gladly,— might the dead but

To life back, — to the dregs once more would

Each inteiioper, drain the humblest onp
Fate mixes tor humanity.

Cheer up, —
Be death with me, as with Achilles ^st.
Of Man's calamities the last and worst :^
Take it so ! By proved potency that still
Makes perfect, be assured, conie what come will.
What once lives never dies — what here attains
To a beginning, has no end, still gains
And never loses aught : when* where, and how —
Lies in Law's lap. What 's death then ? Even

With so much knowledge is it hard to bear
Brief inter]>08ing ignorance ? Is care
For a creation found at fault just there —
There where the heart breaks bond and out-
runs time,
To reach not follow what shall be ?

Here 's rhyme
Such as one makes now, — say, when Spring

That miracle the Greek Bard sadly greets :
".Spring for the tree and herb — no Spnag for

Let Spring come: why, a man saluteB ber


Dance, yellows and whites and reds. —
Lead your gay o^gy, leaves, stalks, heads
Astir with the wind in the tulQ>-beds I

There 's sunshine ; scarcely a wind at all
Disturbs starved grass ana daiues small
On a certain mound by a churchyard walL

Dairies and grass be my heart's bedfellows
On the moimd wind spares and sunshine mel-
lows :
Dance yon, reds and whites and yellows !


The manuscript of the Grand March written
by Avison was in the possesion of Bro¥mi]|g'8
father, and a copy is given at the end of the
poem. The Be(fe who is two or Uiree ttmes
mentioned was Browning's teacher of moaic,
who was a learned contrapuntist.

How strange !— but, first of all^ the little faet
Which led my fancy forth. This Intter mom
Showed me no object in the stretch forlorn
Of garden-ground beneath my window, backed
By yon worn wall where&om the oreepor,

To clothe its brickwork, hangs now, rent and

By five months' cruel winter, — showed no.tom
And tattered ravage worse for eyes to see
Than just one ugly space of clearance, left
Bare even of the bones which used to be
Warm wrappage, safe embraoement: thia one

deft —
— Oh^ what a life and beauty filled it up
Startlmgly, when methought the rude clay cup
Ran over with poured bright wine I 'T waa a

Breast-deep there, tugging at his prize, de-
No whit by the fast-falling snow-flake : gain
Such prize my blackcap must by might and

The dodi-shred, still a-flutter from its nail
That ficsed a spray once. Now, what told the

To ihee, — no townsman but bom orchard-
thief, —
That here — surpassing moss-tuft, beard irom

Of sun-scorched barley, horsehairs long and

All proper country-pillage — here, no doubt.
Was just the aersip to steal should line thy nest
Superbly ? Off he flew, his bill possesMd
The booty sure to set his wife's each wing
I Greenly a-quiver. How they dimb and ding.

Digitized by




"Hang jpanoi-wiBe to bough, these bkuskoaps !

Seemed to a dty-dweller that the finch
Should stray so far to forage : at a pinch,
Was not the fine wool's self within his range
— fllohings on every fence? But no: the

Was of this rag of manufacture, spoiled
By art, and yet by nature near unsoiled.
New-suited to what scheming finch would

In comfort, this uncomfortable March.

Yet — by the first pink blossom on the

This was scarce stranger than that memory, —
In want of what should cheer the stay-at-home,
My soul, —must straight clap pinion, well-nigh

A century back, nor once close plume, descry
The appropriate rag to plunder, till she

pounced —
Pray, on what relic of a brain long still ?
What <^d-world work proved forage for the

Of memory the far-flyer ? ** March ** an-
I verily believe, the dead and gone
Name of a mnsic^maker : one of such
In England as did little or did much.
But, doing, had their day once. Avison I
Singly and solely for an air of thine.
Bold-stepping ^'^Maroh," foot stept to ere my

Gould stretch an octave, I overlooked the band
Of majesties familiar, to decline
On thee — not too conspicuous on the list
Of worthies who by help of pipe or wire
Expressed in sound rough rage or soft desire —
Thou, whilom of Newcastle organist !

So much could one — well, thinnish air effect I
Am I ungrateful? for, your March, styled

" Grand,"
Did veritably seem to grow, expand.
And greaten up to title as, unoneoked.
Dream-marchers marched, kept marching, slow

and sure,
In time, to tune, unchangeably the same.
From nowhere into nowhere, — out they came.
Onward they passed, and in they went. No

Of novel modulation pricked the flat^
Forthright persisting melody, — no hint
That discord, sound asleep beneath the flint.
Struck— might spring spark-like, claim due

Quenched in a concord. Not Yet, such the

Of quietude's immutability.
That somehow coldness gathered warmth, well-
Quickened^ — wluch could not be 1 — grew


With fife-shriek, cymbal-dash and trumpet-

To drum-accentuation: pacing turned
Striding, and striding grew ^pgAntic. spumed
At last the narrow space 'twixt earth and air.
So shook me back into my sober self.

And where woke I ? The March had set me

There whence I plucked the measure, as his

Frayed flannel-bit my blackcap. Great Johi*

Master of mine, learned, redoubtable,
It little needed thy consummate skill
To fitly figure such a bass I The key
Was — should not memory play me false —

Av, with the Greater Third, in Triple Time,
Three crochets to a bar : no chan^, I grant.
Except from Tonic down to Donunant.
And yet — and vet — if I could put in rhyme
The manner of that marching I — which had

— I wonder, where ? — but that my weak self

From out the ranks, to rub eyes disentranced
And feel that, after all the way advanced.

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 189 of 198)