Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Head
O* the House? * Through me Taurello's mis-
sive sped ;
My father's answer will by me return.
Behold t * For him,' he writes, * no moce eon-



With strife than, for his children, with fresh

^lots
Of Fnedrich. Old engagements out he Uots
For aye : Tanrello shall no more subserve.
Nor Eoelin impose.' Lest this unnerve
Tanrello at thisjuncture, slack his grip
Of Richard, suffer the occasion slip, —
L in his sons' default (who, mating with
£2ste, forsake Romano as the frith
Its mainsea for that firmland, sea makes head
Against) I stand^ Romano, — in their stead
Assume the statum they desert, and give
Still, as the Kaiser's representative, ^
Tanrello license he demands. Midmght —
Morning — bv noon to-^norrow, making li^t
Which ahe Ot the League's issue, we, in some
would gay weed

change Like yours, disguised together, may
^S^ _preoede

^•"o*- The arbitrators to Ferrara: reach
Him, let Taurello's noble accents teach
The rest ! Then say if I have misoonceived
Tour destiny, too readily believed
The Kaiser's cause your own I "

And Palma 's fled.
Though no affirmative disturbs the head,
A dying lamp^ame sinks and rises o'er,
like thiB alighted planet Pollnz wore.
Until, mom oreaking, he resolves to be
Qate-vein of this heurt's blood of Lombardy,
Soul of this bodv — to wield this aggregate
Of souls and bodies^ and so conquer fate
Though he should hve — a centre of disgust
Even — iq>art, core of the outward crust
He vivifies, assimilates. For thus
I bring Sordello to the n^iturous
Thus than. Exclaim at the crowd's cry, because
hsfing one round

oompMed Of life was quite acemnpliahed ; and
adrole, he found

Not only that c soul, whate'er its might.
Is insufficient to its oVn delight.
Both in corporeal ornms and in skill
By means of such to oody forth its Will—
And, after, insufficient to iHn>n8o
Men of that WilL oblige them recognise
The Hid by the RevMUed — but that, the last
Nor lightest of the struggles overpast,
Will he bade abdicate, which would not void
The thrime, mi^t sit there, suffer he enjoyed
Mankind, a vaned and divine array
Incapable of homage, the first way,
Nor fit to render inddentallv
Tribute connived at, taken by the by^
In jojs. If thus with warrant to resiBiDd
The Ignominious exile of mankind —
Whose proper service, ascertained intact
As yet, (to bo by him themselves made act,
Not watch Sordello acting each of them)
Was to secure — if the true diadem
Seemed imminent while our Sordello drank
The wisdom of that golden Palma,— thank
Verona's Ladv in her citadel
Founded by Cwuliah Brennus, legends tell :
And trul^ when she left him, the sun reared
A head like the first damberer's who peered
A-top the Capitol, his face on flame
With trinmphf triumphing till ManUus came.



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98



SORDELLO



Kor tHiAt too maoh my rhjrmes — that spring,

(DsDread,
Dispart, oisperse, lingering overhead
Like an escape of angels 1 Rather say,
The poet My transcendental platan I mounting
m^ pause gay

™^. (An archimage so oonits a novice-

«»'^®«"«» queen)

"With tremnlons silvered trunk, whence branches

sheen
Liuigh out, thick foliaged next, a-shiver soon
With colored buds, then glowing like the moon
Chie mild flame, — last a pause, a burst, and

all
Her ivor^ limbs are smothered by a fall,
Bloom-fimders and fruit-sparkles and leaf -dust,
Ending the weird work prosecuted just
For her amusement ; he decrepit, stark.
Dozes ; her uncontrolled delight may mark
Apart —

Yet not so, surely never so !
Only, as good my soul were suffered go
0*er the lagune : forth fare thee, put aside —
Entrance thy svnod, as a god may glide
Out of the world he fills, and leave it mute
For myriad ages as we men compute,
Returning into it without a break
Being O' the consciousness I They sleep,

reallv in and I awake

the flesh 0»er the lagune, being at Venice.
•*V«itoe, Note,

In just such songs as Eglamor (sav) wrote
With heart and soul and strength, for he be-
lieved
Himself achieving all to be achieved
By singer — in such songs you find alone
Completeness, judge the song and singer one.
And either purpose answered, his in it
Or its in him : while from true works (to wit
8ordello's dream-performances that will
Never be more than dreamed) escapes there

Some proof, the singer^s proper life was *neath
The life his son^ exhibits, this a sheath
To that ; a passion and a knowledge far
Transcending these, majestic as thej are.
Smouldered ; his lay was but an episode
In the bard^s life : which evidence you owed
To some slight weariness, some looking-ofp
Or start-away. The childish skit or scoff ^
In ** Charlemagne,*' (his poem, dreamed divine
In every point except one silly line
About the restiff daughters) — what may lurk
In that? **My life commenced before this

work,"
^ I interpret the sigiiificance
Of the bard's start aside and look askance) —
** Mv life continues after: on I fare
With no more stopping, possibly, no care

To note the undercurrent, the why
and how.

Where, when, o' the deeper life, as
thus just now.

But, silent, shall I cease to live ?
Alas

For you 1 who sigh, * When shall it come to pass
We read that storv ? How will he compress
iiie future gains, his life's true bi



And

watching

hiBOwn

life

timot,



Into the better lay which — that one flout,
Howe'er inopportune it be, lets out —
Engrosses him already, though professed
To meditate with us eternal rest.
And partnership in all his life haus found ? ' "
'T is out a sailor's promise, weather-bound:
*' Strike sail, slip cable, here the bark be moored
For once, the awning stretched, the poles as-
sured!
Noontide above ; except the wave's crisp dash,
Or buzz of colibri, or tortoise' splash.
The margin 's silent : out with every spoil
Made in our tracking, coil by migh^ coil.
This serpNent of a river to his hei^
I' the midst I Admire each treasure, as w&

spread
The bank, to help us tell our history
Aright : give ear, endeavor to descry
The groves of giant rushes, how they grew
Like demons' endlong tresses we sailed through.
What mountains yawned, forests to give us vent
Opened, each doleful side, yet on we went
Till • . . may that beetle (shake your ciq>) at-
test
The swinging of a land-wind from the West !'*
— Wherefore ? Ah yes, you frolic it to-day I
To-morrow, and, the pageant moved away
Down to the poorest tent-pole, we and yon
Part company : no other may pursue
Eastward vour voyage, be informed what fate
Intends, if triumph or decline await
The tempter of the everlasting steppe.

I muse this on a ruined pali^e-step
At Venice : why should I break off, nor sit
Longer upon m^r step, exhaust the fit
England gave birth to ? Who 's adorable

Enough reclaim a no Sordello's Will

Alack ! — be queen to me ? That Bassanese

Busied among her smoking fruit-boats ? These

Perhaps from our delicious Asolo

Who twinkle, pigeons o'er the portico

Not prettier, bma June lilies into sheaves

To deck the bridee-side chapel, dropping leaves

Becauaeit Soiled by their own loose g^-meal ?

is pleasant Ah, beneath

to be The cool arch stoops she, brownest

yonoK. cheek ! Her wreath

Endures a month — a half month — if I make

A queen of her, continue for her sake

Soraello's story P Nay, that Padnan girl

Splashes with barer lees where a live whirl

In the dead black Giudecca proves sea-weed

Drifting has sucked down three, four, all indeed

Save one pale-red striped, pale-blue turbaned

post
For gondolas.

You sad dishevelled ghost
That pluck at me and point, are you advised
I breathe ? Let stay those girls (e'en her dia-

guised
— Jewels i' the looks that love no crownet like
Their native field-buds and the green wheats

spike.
So fair I — who left this end of June's turmoil.
Shook off, as might a lily its gold soil.
Pomp, save a foolish gem or two, and free
In dream, came join the peasants o'er die sea).
Look they too happy, too tricked out ? Confess



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SORDELLO



99



There is snoh nkrgard stock of happiness

To shjtfe, that, do oDe^s uttermost, dear wretch,

One labors ineffectually to stretch

Would but ^t o'er you so that mother and ohil-

suffering dren, both

humanity May equitably flaunt the sumpter-

•now! clothl

Divide the robe yet farther : be content

With seeing just a score pre-eminent

Througrh shreds of it, acknowledged happy

wights,
EingrooBing what should furnish sll, br rights I
For, these in eyidenoe, you olearlier claim
A like garb for the rest, — grace all, the same
As these my peasants. i«ask youth and strength
And health for each of tou, not more — at length
<&own wise, who asked at home that the whole

race
Might add the q>irit*s to the body's grace,
Am all be dizened out as chieb and bards.
But in this ma^c weather one discards
Much old requirement. Venice seems a tyi>e
Of Life — 'twixt blue and blue extends, a stripe.
As .Life, the somewhat, hangs 'twizt naught

and naught :
*T is Venice, and *t is Life— as good you

sought
To spare me the Piazza's slippery stone
Or keen me to the unchokea canab alone.
As hinaer Life the eril with the good
Which make up liviiijg. rightly miderstood.
Which Only, do finisn something! Peasants,
instigates queens,

to tMks Take them, made happy by whatever
like this, means.

Parade them for the common credit, Touch
That a luckless residue, we send to crouch
In oomeis out of sight, was just as framed
For happiness, its fwrtion might have claimed
As weU, and so, obtaining joy, had stalked
Fastnous as any I — such my project, balked
Already ; I hardly venture to adjust
The first rags, when you find me. To mistrust
Me I — nor unreasonabhr. Too, no doubt,
Hare the true knack of tiring snitois out
With those thin lips on tremble, lashless eyes
Inveterately tear^hot — there, be wise.
Mistress of mine, there, there, as if I meant
Tou insult I — shall your friend (not slave) be

shent
For ^Making home ? Beside, care-bit erased
Broken-up beauties ever took my taste
Supremely : and I love you more, far more
Ulan her I looked should foot life's temple-
floor.
Years ago, leaguesat distance, when and where
A whiq>er came, ^* Let others seek ! — th;|r care
And doubt- Is found, thy life's provision ; if thy
lesalyoom- race

peiuntes Should be thy mistress, and into one
tt-^ face

The many &ces crowd ? " Ah, had I,
Or no, your secret ? Rough apparel — gnu
Ail ornaments save tag or tassel worn
To hint we are not thoroughly forlorn —
Slouch bonnet, unloop mantle, careless go
Alone (that 's saddest, but it must be so)
Through Venice, sing now and now glance aside,



Aught desultory or undignified, —
Then, ravtBhingest lady, will you pass
Or not each formidable group, the mass
Before the Basilic (that feast gone by,
Qod*B great day of the Corpus l>omini)
Aud, wistfully foregoing proper men.
Come timid up to me for alms ? And then
The luxury to hesitate, feign do
Some unexampled grace ! — when, whom but

you
Dare I bestow your own u^u ? And hear
Further before you say, it is to sneer
I call you ravishing ; for I regret
Little that she, whose early foot was set
Forth as she 'd plant it on a pedestal.
Now, i' the silent city, seems to fall
Toward me — no wreath, only a lip's unrest
To quiet, surcharged eyelids to be pr ess e d
Dry of their tears upon my bosom. Strange
Such sad chance should produce in thee such

change.
My loTe I Warped souls and bodies ! yet God

spoke
Of right-hand, foot and eye — selects our yoke,
Sordello, as your poetship may find I
So, sleep u|>on my shoulder, child, nor mind
Tlieir foolish talk ; we '11 manage reinstate
Your old worth ; aak moreover, when thejr pcate
Of evU men past hope, ** Don't each oontrive.
Despite the evil you abuse, to live P —
Keeping, each losel, through a maze of lies.
His own conceit of truth P to which he hies
By obscure windings, tortuous, if yon will.
But to himself not inaccessible ;
He sees truth, and his lies are for the crowd
Who cannot see ; some fancied riffht allowed
His vilest wrong, empowered the losel dutch
One pleasure from a multitude of such

Denied him." Then assert, '* All

men appear
To think all better than themselves,
by here

Trusting a crowd they wrong ; but really," say,
** All men think all men stupider than they.
Since, save themselves, no other comprehends
The complicated scheme to make amends
— Evil, the scheme by which, through Igoo-



whodeaUt



Good labors to exist." A slight advance, ~
Merely to find the sickness you die through.
And naught beside ! but if one can't eschew
One's portion in the common lot, at least
One can avoid an ignorance increased
Tenfold by dealing out hint after hint
How naugnt wero like dispensinpr without stint
The water of life — so easy to dispense
Beside, when one has probed the centra whence
€!ommotion 's bom — could tell you of it all I
** — Meantime, just meditate my madrigal
O' the miu^ort that conceaba dewdrop safe 1 '*
What, duUard ? we and vou in smothery chafe.
Babes, baldheads, stuinbled thus far into Zin
The Horrid, getting neither out nor in,
A hungry sun above us, sandi that bung
Our throats, — each dromedary lolls a tongue,
Bach camel chums a sick and frothy chap.
And you, 'twixt tales of Potiphar's mishap.
And sonnets on the earliest ass that spoke,



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SORDELLO



— Remark, you wonder aoy one needs choke
With founts about! Poteherd him, Gibeon-

ites!
While awkwardly enough yonr Moses smites
The rook, though he forego his Promised Land
Thereby, have Satan claim his carcass, and
Figure as Metaphysic Poet ... ah,
M^k ye the dim first oozings ? Meribah I
Then, quaffing at the fount my courage gained.
Recall — not that I prompt ye — who ex-
plained . . .
** Presumntuons ! *' interrupts one. Tou, not I
^Tis, brotner, manrel at and magnify
Let the Such office : ** office,'' quotha? can
poet taks we get

hiM own To the beginning of the office y;et ?
put, then, What do we here ? simply experiment
Each on the other's power and its intent
When elsewhere tasked, — if this of mine were

trucked
For yours to either's good,— we watch con-
struct.
In short, an engine : with a finished one.
What it can do, is all, ~ naofi^ht, how 't is done.
But this of ours yet in probation, dusk
A kernel of strange wheelwork throng its husk
Grows into shape dv quarters and by nalyes :
Remark this tooth's q>ring, wonder what that

yalve's
Fall bodes, presume each faculty's device.
Make out each other more or less precise —
Tlie scope of the whole engine 's to be proved :
We die: which means to say, the whole 'a

removed.
Dismounted wheel by wheel, this complex

gin.—
To be set up anew elsewhere, begin
A task indeed, but with a clearer dime
Ulan the murk lodgment of our buildioff-time.
And tiien, I grant you, it behoves forget
How 't is done — aJl that must amuse us yet
So long : and, while you turn upon your bed.
Pray that I be not busy slitting sted
Should any Or shredding brass, camped on some
object th«t virgin shore
he wM Under a cluster of fresh stars, be-
d»ll fore

I name a tithe o' the wheels I trust to do !

So occupied, then, are we : hitherto.
At present, and a weary while to come.
The office of ourselves, — nor blind nor dumb,
And seeing somewhat of man's state. — has been.
For the worst of us, to say they so nave seen ;
For the better, what it was they saw ; the best
Impart the gift of seeing to the rest :
** So that I glance," says such an one, '''' around,
And there 's no face but I can read profound
Disclosures in ; this stands for hope, that — fear,
And for a speech, a deed in proof, look here !
* Stoop, else the strings of oloesom, where the

nuts
O'erarch, will blind thee! Said I not? She

shuts
Both eyes this tune, so close the hazels meet !
Thua, prisoned in the Piombi, I repeat
Events one rove ocoasioiied, o'er and o'er.
Patting 'twixt me and madness evermore
Thy8weet8hi^>e,Zanze I Therefore stoop 1 '



Wt



* That's truth I »
Adjudge you) ^ the incarcerated youth
ould say that ! '

Touth? Phirathebard? Setdowia
That Plara spent his vouth in a grim town
Whose cramped iU-ieatured streets huddled

about
The minster for protection, never out
Of its black belfry's shade and its bdls' roar.
The brighter shone the suburb, — all the more
Uely and absolute that shade's reproof
Of any chance escape of joy, — some roof.
Taller than they, allowed the rest detect, —
Before the sole permitted laugh (suspect
Who coold. 't was meant for laughter, that

I>loaghed cheek's
Repulsive gleam 1) when the sun stopped both

peaks
Of the deft belfry like a fiery wedge.
Then sank, a huge flame on its socket edge.
With leavings on the gray glass oriel-pane
Ghastly^ some minutes more. No fear of rain —
The minster minded that I in heaps the dust
Lay everywhere. This town, the minster's trust.
Beside his Held Plara ; who, its denizen, bade
apriffhtUer hail

predeoea- In twice twelve sonnets, Tempe's
son. dewy vale."

*** Exact the town, the minster and the

street!' "
** As all mirth triumphs, sadness means defeat :
Lust triumphs and is gay. Love 's triumphed

o'er
And sad : but Ludo's sad. I said before.
Love 's sad, not Ludo ; one who loves may

be
As gay his love has leave to hope, as he
Downcast that lusts' desire escapes the springe :
' T iB of the mood itself I speak, what tinge
Determines it, else colorless, — or mirth.
Or melancholy, as from heaven or earth."
** * Ay, that 's the variation's gist ! '

Indeed?
Thus far advanced in saf etv then, proceed !
And having seen too what I saw, be bold
And next encounter what I do behold
(That 's sure) but bid you take on trust I "

Attack
The use and purpose of such sights ? Alack,
Not so unwisely does the crowd dispense
On Salinguerras praise in preference
One ought To the SordeUos : men of action^
not blame these !

batpraiae Who, seeing just as little as you
^^i please,

Tet turn that little to account, — engage
With, do not gaze at, — carry on. a stage.
The work o' tne world, not merely make report
The work existed ere their day ! In short.
When at some future no-time a brave band
Sees, using what it sees, dien shake my hand
In heaven, my brother I Meanwhile where 'i

the hurt
Of keeping the Makers-see on the alert.
At whose defection mortals stare aghast
As though heaven's bounteous wmdows wen

slammed fast
Inoontiiient ? Whereas all you, beneath,



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SORDELLO



loi



At an
«Tenta,liia
Ofwn Midi-
cnoemay:



Should soowlftt, bruise their Hps and break their

teeth
Who ply the pnllies, for nesleotiiig yon:
And tneref ore haTe I monlded, made anew
A Man, and mB him to be turned and tried.
Be angfy with or pleased at. On your tide,
Haye ye times, places, actors of your own ?

Try them upon iJordello when full-
grown.

And then — ab then I If Hercules
first parched

His foot in Egypt only to be marched
A sacrifice for Jove withpomp to suit,
What chance have I ? The demigod was mute
1111, at the altar, where time out of mind
Such guests became oblations, duwlets twined
His foreliead long enough, and he began
Slaving the slayers, nor escaped a man.
Tuce not affront, my gentle audience! whom
Ko Hercules shall make his hecatomb,
BelicTe, nor from his brows your chaplet rend —
That 's ;ronr kind suffrage, yours, my patron-

fnoul.
Whose great yerse blares unintermtttent on
like your own trumpeter at Marathon, —
You who^ Platna and Salamis being scant.
Put up with ^tna for a stimulant —
And did well. I acknowledged, as he loomed
Ghrer the midland sea last mouthy presumed
Long, lay demoliahed in the blazwg West
At eye, while towards him tilting cloudlets



Like Persian ships at Salamis. Friend,
A crest proud as desert while I declare
Had I a flawless ruby fit to wring
Tears of its color from that painted king
Who kst it, I would, for that smile which

went
To my heart, fling it in the sea, content.
What if Wearing your yerse in place, an
things amulet

farightfln, Soyereign against all passion, wear
wlioknowtt andfret!
My English Eyebright, if you are not g^ad
That, as 1 stopped my task awhile, the sad
DisheyeUed form, wherein I put mankind
To come at times and keei> my pact in mind,
Benewed me, — hear no crickets in Uie hedge,
Nor let a glowworm spot the riyer's edge
At home, and may the summer showers gush
Without a warning from the missel thruui 1
8o, to our business, now — Uie fate of such
As find our common nature — oyermuch
Demised because restricted and unfit
To bear the burden they impose on it —
Cling when they would discard it ; oraying

strength
To leM> from the allotted world, at lei«th
They ao leap, — flounder on without a term.
Each a god's germ, doomed to remain a germ
In unezpanded innincy, unless . . .
But Uiat 's the story — dull enough, confess I
lliere might be fitter subjects to allure ;
SdU, neither miscoiiceiye my portraiture
Nor msderyalue its adornments quaint :
What seems a fiend j>erehance may i>roye asaint.
Ponder a story ancient pens transmit^
Then say if jon condemn me or acqmt.



John the Beloyed, banished Antiooh
For Patmo^ bade coUectiyely his flock
Where- Farewell, but set apart the closing
upon, with eye

fw"^^ To comfort those his exile most
t^potot, would grieye.
He knew : a touching spectacle, that house
In motion to receiye him I Xanthus* spouse
You missed, made pan t h e r^s meat a month

since; but
Xanthus himself (his nenhew 'twas, ihey shut
^^wizt boards and sawed asunder), PoWcarp,
Soft Charide, next year no wheel ooula warp
To swear by Ciesar^s fortune, with the rest
Were ranged ; through whom Uie gray discipla

pressed,
Busfly blessixi^ ri^ht and left, just stopped
To pat one infant^i curls, the hangman cropped
Soon after, reached the portal. On its hinge
The door turns and he enters: what quick

twinge



Ruins the smiling mouth, those wide eyes ^
Whereon, why like some spectral candlestick's
Branch the disciple's arms ? Dead swooned he»



woke



Anon, heayed sigh, made shift to gasp, heart-
broke,
''Oct thee behind me, Satan I Haye I toiled
To no more purpose ? Is the gospel foiled
Here too, uid o'er my son's, my Xanthus*

hearth.
Portrayed with sooty garb and features

swarth —
Ah, Xanthus, am I to ihy roof beguiled
To see the — the — the Deyil domiciled ? "
Whereto sobbed Xanthus, ** Father, 'tis your-
self
Installed, a limning which our utmost pelf
Went to procure against to-morrow's loss ;
He takes And that 's no twy-prong, but a pat-
upthe toralcross,

thwiidof You 'repainted with I"
<"«»«'^ HSpuckered brows unfold—

And yon shall hear Sordello's story told.



BOOK THE FOURTH

Meantime Ferrara lay in rueful case ;

The lady-city, for whose sole embrace

Her pair of suitors struggled, felt their arms

A brawny mischief to the fnigile charms

They tugged for — one diBooyering that to

twist
Her tresses twice or thrice about his wrist
Secured a point of yantage — one, how best
He 'd parry that by planting in her breast
His elbow spike — each party too intent
«^ ^ For noticing,howe'er the battle went,
fered m^ Th® conqueror would but haye a

corpse to kiss.
** May Boniface be dnl^ damned for this 1 "
— Howled some old Qmbellin, as up he turned,
From the wet heap of rubbish where they

burned
His house, a little skull with datirling teeUi :
** A boon, sweet Christ — let Salinguerra seetha
In hell foroyer, Christ, and let myself



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102



SORDELLO



the purpose of a splendid



Be there to lansh at him I " — moaned some

young Goelf
Stunbling upon a shriyelled hand nailed fast
To the charred lintel of the doorway, last
Bis father stood within to bid him speed.
The thoroughfares were overran witn weed
— Docks, quitchgrass, loathy mallows no man

plants.
The stranger, none of its inhabitants
WhicbeTer Crept out of doois to taste fresh air
of the p«r- again,
ties was And ask
victor. train

Admitted on a morning ; every town
Of the East League was come by envoy down
To treat for Richard*s ransom : here you saw
The Vicentine, here snowy oxen draw
The Paduan carroch, its vermilion cross
On its white field. A-dptoe o'er the fosse
Looked Legate Montelungo wistfully
After the flock of steeples he mis^ht spy
In Esters time, gone (doubts he) long ago
To mend the ramparts : sure the laggards know
The Pope 's as good as here I They paced the



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 22 of 198)