Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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SORDELLO



121



IVofoae at natiire's pleasnre, men bejond
Hiese aotnal men I — and thus are over-fond
In tmnog^ horn Qood— the Best, bcm. foree
Diyioed ~ force eombined, an oeean*s eonne
From tluB oar sea whoae mere inteatuie panta
Might seem at timea snificient to our wanta.

Eztenial power? If none be adequate.
And he stand forth ordained (a prouder nte)
Himself a law to his own sf^ere ? — remore
All inoompletenesB, for that law, that Ioto f
Kay, if all other laws be feints, — tmth veiled
Helpfully to weak vision that had failed
To grasp anght bnt its special want, —for lore.
Embodied ? Stronger vision oonld endure
The unbodied want: no part ~ the whole of

tmth!
The People were himself ; nor, by the ruth
At their condition, was he less impelled

To alter the discrepancy beheld.

Than if, from the sound whole, a
sickly part

Subtracted were transformed, decked
out with art.
Hmh palmed on him as alien woe — theOuelf
To sueeor, proud that he forsook himself.
iDtemsl AU is himself ; all service, therefore,



he per*
eeive

■QOhf



moi* Mif- Alike, nor serving one part, immo-

floetheiit lates

Tlie rest: but all in timel ''That lance of

yours
Makes havoc soon with Malek and his Moors,
Hiat buekler'sUned with many a giant's beard.
Ere long, our chaminon, be the lance upreared,
The buckler wielded handsomely as now I
But view your escort, bear in mmd your vow.
Count the pale tracts of sand to pass ere that.
And, if you hope we struggle through the flat.
Put lance and buckler by 1 Next half-month



Mere sturdv exercise of mace and axe
To deave this dismal brake of nrickly-peir
Which bristling holds Gydippe by the hair,
Lamea barefoot Agathon: this felled, we 11

try
The pietaresque achievements by and by —
Nextlifel~

Ay. raDjy, mock, O People, urge
Tour daims! — tor thus he ventured, to the

verge.
Push a vain mummery which perchance dis-



Of his fast-slipping resolution thrust
Likewise : acoordinffly the Crowd — (as yet
He had unconsciously contrived forget,
I' the whole, to dwell o' the points . . . one

might assuage
Hie signal horrors easier than engage
WiHk a dim vulgar vast unobvious gnei
Not to be fancied off, nor gained relief
In brilliant fits, cured by a happy quirk,
Bnt by dim vulgar vast unobvious work
To ocnrrespood . . .) — this Crowd then, forth

tJiey stood.
'* And DOW content thy stronger vision, brood
On thy bne want : uncovered, turf by turf.
Study the corpse-nee through the taint-worms'



Down sank the People's Then ; up-rose their
Now
These sad ones render service to I And how
Hk^jm- Piteously little must that service
pstby prove

wjtkthe —Had surely proved in any case!
PJUP*** *• for, move

^^ * Bach other obstacle away, let youth

Beeome aware it had surprised a tmth
'T were service to impart— can tmth be seised.
Settled forthwith, and, of the captive eaaed^
Its captor find fresh prey, since tnis alit
So happily, no gesture luring it.
The earnest of a flock to foUow ? Vain,
Most vain ! a Hf e to spend ere this he chain
To the poor crowd's complacence : ere the crowd
Pronounce it captured, he descries a cloud
Its kin of twice the plume ; which he, in turn.
If he shall live as many lives, may lean
How to secure : not else. Then Mantua called
Back to his mind how .certain bards were
thralled

— Buds blasted, but of breath more like per^

fume
Than Naddo's staring nosegay's carrion bloom ;
Some insane rose that burnt heart out in sweets,
A spendthrift in the spring, no summer g r ooto ;
Soine Dularete, drunk with truths and wine.
Grown bestial, dresming how become divine.
Tet to surmount this obstacle, commence
With the commencement, merits crowning!

Hctito
Must tmth be casual truth, elicited
In qMtfks so mean, at intervals dispread
So rarely, that 't is like at no one time
Of the world's story has not truth, the prime
Of truth, the very truth which, loosed, had

hurled
The world's course right, been really in the

world

— Content the while with some mean spark by

dint
Of some chance-blow, the solitary hint
Of buried fire, which, rip earth's breast, would

stream
Sky-^irard!

SordeDo's miserable gleam
Was looked for at the moment : he would dash
This badge, and all it brou^t, to earth, —abash
Taurello thus, perhaps persuade him wrest
The Kaiser from lus purpose, — would attest
His own belief, in any case. Before
Of which, He dashes it however, think once
try now more!

the hiher- For, were that little, truly service ?
«nt force I " Ay,
I' the end, no doubt ; but meantime f PUin

you spy
Its ultimate effect, but many flaws
Of vision blur each intervening cause.
Were the day's fraction clear as the life's sum
Of service. Now as filled as teems To-come
With evidence of good — nor too minute
A share to vie with evil ! No dispute,
'T were fitliest maintAin the Gnelu in rule :
That makes your life's work: but you have to

school
Your day's work on these natures circumstanced



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122



SORDELLO



ThoB Tarioiuly, which yet, as each advanced
Or might impede the Gaelf rule, must be moved
Now, for Uie Then's sake, — hating what yon

loved.
Loving old natredfl ! Nor if one man bore
Brand npon temples while his fellow wore
The anreole, would it task you to decide:
But, porti<med duly out, the future vied
Never with the unparoelled present I 8mite
Or spare so much on warrant all so slight ?
The present^s complete sympathies to oreak.
Aversions bear with^ for a future's sake
So feeble ? Tito ruined throu(j^ one aneck.
The LegEite saved by his sole bshtish fleck ?
This were work, true, but work performed at

cost
Of other work ; aught gained here, elsewhere

lost.
For a new segment spoil an orb half-done ?
Rise with the People one step, and sink — one ?
Were it but one step, less than the whole face
Of things, your novel duty bids erase I
Harms to abolish ! What, the prophet aadih.
Tlie minstrel singeth vainly then ? Old faith,
Old courage, onlv bom because of harms.
Were not, from highest to the lowest, charms?
Flame may persist ; but is not glare as stanch ?
Where the salt marshes stagnate, crystals

branch;
Blood dries to crimson ; Evil *s beantified
In every shme. Thrust Beauty then aside
And banish Evil 1 Whereforo? After all.
Is Evil a result less natural
Than Qood ? For overlook the seasons' strife
With tree and flower, — the hideous animal life,
(Of which who seeks shall find a ninning taunt
How mueh For his solution, and endure the vaunt
of iium*8 Of nature's angel, as a child that
fflmv]* knows

nnor^d T ^niself befooled, unable to propose
Aught better than the fooling) — and but care
For men, for the mere People then and there, —
In these, could you but see that Good and 111
Claimed you ahke I Whence rose their claim

but still
From ni, as fruit of 111 ? What else could knit
Tou theirs but Sorrow ? Any free from it
Were also free from you ! Wnoee happiness
Could be distinguished in this morning's press
Of miseries ? — the fool's who passed a gioe
* On thee,' jeered he, * so wedded to th;r tribe.
Thou earnest green and yellow tokens m
Thy very face that thou art Ghibellin I '
Much hold on you that fool obtained! Nay

mount
Yet higher — and upon men's own account
How much Must evu stay : for, what is joy ? —
of m ought to heave

to be r»- Up one obstruction more, and com-
moTwir men leave

What was peculiar, by such act destroy
Itself; a partial death is eveij joy ;
The sensible escape, enfranchisement
Of a sphere's essence : once the vexed — ccmtent.
The cramped— at large, the growing circle-
round.
AH 's to begin again — some novel bound
To break, some new enlargement to entreat ;



The sphere though larger is not more complete.
Now tor Mankind's experience : who alone
Atight style the unobs^cted world his own ?
Whom palled Goito with its perfect thin^ ?
Sordello'sself : whereas for Mankind spnngs
Salvation by each hindrance interposed.
They climb ; life's view is not at once disclosed
To creatures caught up, on the summit left.
Heaven plain above them, yet of wings bereft :
But lower laid, as at the mountain's foot.
So, range on range, the girdling forests ^oot
Twixt your plain prospc^ and the throngs who

scale
Height after height, and pierce mists, veil by

veil.
Heartened with each discovery ; in their soul.
The Whole th^ seek by Parts — but, found that

Whole,
Could they revert, enjoy past gains? The space
Of time you judge so meagre to embrace
The Parts were more than plenty, once attained
The Whole, to quite exhaust it: naught were

gained
But leave to look — not leave to do : Beneath
Soon sates the looker — look above, and Death
Tempts ere a tithe of Life be tasted. live
First, and die soon enough, Sordello 1 GKve
If n- Body and spirit the first right they

moved, at claim,

what cost And pasture soul on a Tol u p t ooos
toSor- shame

^•^ ^ That you, a pageant^ty's denixen.
Are neither vilely lodged 'midst Lombard men —
Can force jov out of sorrow, seem to truck
Bright attributes away for sordid muck,
Tet manage from that very muck educe
Gold ; then subject nor scruple, to your emoe
The world's discaidingsl Thons^ real ingota

pay
Your pains, the dods that yielded them are

clay
To all beside, — would day remain, though

quenched
Your purging-fire; who's robbed then? Had

you wrenched
An ampler treasure forth I — As 't is, they crave
A share that ruins you and will not save
Them. Whj should sympathy command yon

quit
The course that makes your joy, nor will remit
Their woe? Would all arrive at joy? Reverse
Men win The order (time instructs you) nor
little coerce^

thereby; Each unit till, some predetermined
heloeea mode,

*^ * The total be emancipate ; men's road

Is one, men's times of travel many ; thwart
No enterprising soul's precocious start
Before the general march I If slow or &st
All straggle up to the same point at last.
Why grudge your having gained, a month ago.
The brakes at balm-shed, asphodels in blow.
While they were landlocked? Speed their Then,

but now
This badge would suffer you improve yonr

Now I "
His time of action for, against, or with
Our world (I labor to extract the pith



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SORDELLO



123



Of this his problem) greir. that eren-tide,

Gigantio with its power ot joy, beside

The irorld's etenuty of impotence

To profit thooffh at his whole joy's expense.

For he esa ** Make nothing of my day because

infinitely so brief ?

enjoy him- Rather make more : instead of joy,

■•*'» nse grief

Bef oie its novelty have time snbeide I

Wait not for the late savor, leave untried

Virtue, the creaming^ honey-wine, quick squeeze

Vice like a biting spirit from the lees

Of life ! Together let wrath, hatred, lust,

All tyrannies in every shape, be thrust

Upon this Now, which time may reason out

As minchiefs, far from benefits, no doubt ;

But long ere then Sordello will have slipped

Away : yon teach him at Goito^s crypt.

There ^s a bhmk issue to that fiery thrill.

Stirring, the few cope with the many, still :

So mudi of sand as, quiet, makes a mass

Unable to poduce three tufts of grass.

Shall, troubled bv the whirlwind, render void

The whole calm glebe *s endeavor : be employed I

And e'en though somewhat smart the Crowd for

this.
Contribute each his pang to make your bliss,
'TIS but one pang — one blood-drop to the bowl
Which brimful tempts the sluggish asp unoowl
At last, stains rudduy the dull red cape.
And, kindling orbs grav ss the unripe grape
Before, avails forthwith to disentranoe
The portent, soon to lead a mvstic dance
Among you 1 For, who sits alone in Rome ?
Have those great hands indeed hewn out a home.
And set me there to live ? Oh life, life-breath,
life-blood. — ere sleep, come travail, life ere

This fife stream on my soul, direct, oblique.
But alwajTs streaming I Hindrances? They

nique :
Helps ? such . . . but why repeat, my soul o'er-

toi>8
Each height, then every depth profoundlier

drops?
Enough that I can five, and would five I Wait
For some transcendent life reserved by Fate
To follow this? Oh, never! Fate, I trust
The same, my soul to ; for, as who flings dust.
Perchance (so facile was the deed) she checked
Tlie void with these materials to affect
My soul diversely : these consigned anew
To naught bv death, what marvel if she threw
A second and snperber spectacle
Before me? What may serve for sun. what still
Wander a moon above me ? What else wind
About me like the pleasures left behind.
And how shall some new flesh that is not flesh
Cling tome? What 's new laughter ? Soothes

the fresh
Sleep like sleep? FM^e'sexhaustlessformysake
In brave resource : but whether bids she slake
My thirst at this first rivulet, or count
No draught worth fip save from soma rocky

fount
Above i' the clouds, while here she 's provident
Of pure loquacious pearl, the soft tree-tent
Gums, with its ibce of reate and sedge, nor fail



The silver globules and gold-sparkling grail
At bottom r Oh, ^t were too absurd to slight
For the hereafter the to-day*s delight I
Quench thirst at this, then seek next well-qiring:

wear
Home-lilies ere strange lotus in my hair I
Here is the Crowd, whom I with freest heart
Offer to serve, contented for my part
Freed from To give life up in service, — only
a proUem- grant

MO obU- That I do serve ; if otherwise, why
gatioo, ^imt

Aught further of me ? If men cannot choose

But set aside life, why should I refuse

The gift? I take it— I, forone, engage

Never to falter through my pilgrimage —

Nor end it howling that the stock or stone

Were enviable, trulv : I« for one.

Will praise the world, you style mere anteroom

TopiUace — beitsol shalllassume

— My foot the courtly gait, my tongue the trope.

My mouth the smirk, before the ooors fly ope

One moment? What? with gnarders row on

row,
Oay swarms of varietry that come and go.
Pages to dice with, waiting-girls unlace
The plackets of, pert claimants help displace.
Heart-heavy sniton get a rank for, — hragh
At yon sleeK parasite, break his own stan
'Cross Beetle-brows the Usher ^s shoulder, — why.
Admitted to the presence by and by.
Should thou^t of having lost these make ma

grieve
Amon^ new joys I reach, for joys I leave ?
Cool citrine-OTystals, fierce pyropus-stone.
Are floor-work there I But do I let alone
That black-eyed peasant in the vestibule
Once and forever ?— Floor-work ? No such fool I
Rather, were heaven to forestall earth, I ^d say
I, ii it, must be blessed ? Then, my own way
And fto- Bless me 1 Give firmer arm and
oepting fleeter foot,

life on its 1 11 thank you : but to nomad wings
own terms, transmute
These limbs of mine — our greensward was so

soft!
Nor camp I on the thundei^«loud aloft :
We feel the bliss distinctUer, having thus
Engines subservient, not raisced un with us.
Better move palpably through heaven : nor,

freed
Of fleshj forsooth, from space to space proceed
'Mid flying synods of worlds I No: inheaven^s

marge
Show Titan still, recumbent o'er his targe
Solid with stars — the Centaur at his game.
Made tremulously out in hoary flame T

*' Life I Yet the very cop whose extreme dull
Dregs, even, I would qna£N was dashed, at full.
Aside so oft ; the death I fly, revealed
So oft a better life this life concealed.
And which sage, champion, martyr, through
Whicli,yet, each path

othera Have hunted fearlessly — the horrid

hare re- bath,

"<""?•*• TTie crippling -irons and the fiery
'^^^ chair.

'T was well for them ; let me become aware



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124



SORDELLO



As they, and I relinquish life, too I Let
What masteis life Hisclosft itself I Forget
Vam ordinances, I have one appeal —
I feel, am what 1 feel, know wnat I feel ;
So maoh is truth to me. What Is, then ? ^noe
One object, viewed diversely, may evince
Beanty and ugliness — this way attract.
That way repel, — why gloze upon the tact ?
Why must a single of the sides be right ?
What bids choose this and leave the opposite ?
Where ^s abstract Right for me ? — in youUi en-
dued
With Right still present, still to be pursued.
Through all the interchange of circles, rife
Each with its proper law and mode of life.
Each to be dwelt at ease in : where, to sway
Absolute with the Kaiser, or obey
Implicit with his serf of fluttering heart,
Or, like a sudden thought of Gk>a's, to start
Up, Brutus in the presence, then go shout
That some should pick the unstrung jewels out —
Each, well!"

And, as in moments when the past
Gave partially enfranchisement, he cast
Himself quite through mere secondary states
Of his 80ul*s essence, little loves and hates,
BeoMiae Into the mid deep yearnings overlaid
there is m By these ; as who should pierce hill,
life beyond plain, grove, glade,
li'^ And on into the ver^ nucleus probe

That first determined there exist a globe.
As that were easiest, half the globe dissolved.
So seemed Sordello^s closing-truth evolved
Bv his flesh-half ^s break up ; the sudden swell
Of his expanding soul showed HI and Well,
Sorrow and Joy, Beanty and Ugliness,
Virtue apd Vice, the Larger and the Less,
All qualities, in fine, recorded here.
Might be but modes of Time and this one sphere.
Urgent on these, but not of force to bind
Eternilnr, as Time — as Matter — Mind,
If Mind, Eternity, should choose assert
Their attributes within a Life : thus girt
With circumstance, next change beholds them

cinct
Quite otherwise — with Qood and 111 distinct,
Joys, sorrows, tending to a like result —
Contrived to render easy, difficult.
This or the other course of . . . wnat new bond
In place of flesh may stop their flight beyond
Its new sphere, as that course does harm or good
To its arrangements. Once this understood,
As suddenly he felt himflelf alone.
Quite out of Time and this world: all was

known.
What made the secret of his past despair?
— Most imminent when he seemed most aware
Of his own self-sufficiency ; made mad
By craving to expand the power he had,^
And not new power to be expanded ? — just
This made it : Soul on Matter being thrust,
Joy comes when so much Soul is wreaked in

Time
On Matter, — let the Soul^s attempt sublime
Matter beyond the scheme and so prevent
By more or less that deed's accomplishment,
And Sorrow follows : Sorrow how avoid ?
Let the employer match the thing employed,



Fit to the finite his infinity,

And thus proceed forever, m degree

And with Chanfred bat in kind the same, still

new condi- limited

tione of To the appointed oiroumstanoe and

eocoew, ^j^^

To all beyond. A sphere is but a sphere ;
Small, Oreat, are merely terms we bandy here ;
Since to the spirit ^s absoluteness all
Are like. Now, of the present sj^here we call
Life, are conditions ; take but tms among
Many ; the body was to be so long
Youthful, no longer: but, since no control
Tied to that body's purposes his soul.
She chose to understand the body's trade
More than the body's self — had fain conveyed
Her boundless, to the body's bounded lot.
Hence, the soul permanent, the body not, —
Scarcely its minute for enjoying here, —
The soul must needs instruct her weak compeer.
Run o'er its capabilities and wring
A Joy thence, she held worth experiencing :
Whichj far from half discovered even, — io.
The minute gone, the body's i>ower let go
Apportioned to Uiat joy's acquirement I Broke
Nor each Morning o'er earth, he yearned for
•a, inthie, all it woke —

Jiroduce From the volcano's vimor-flag, winds
•ilure. hobt

Black o'er the spread of sea, — down to the moist
Dale's silken barley-spikes sullied with rain.
Swayed earthwards, heavilv to rise again —
The SmalL a sphere as perfect as the Great
To the soul's absoluteness. Meditate
Too long on such a morning's cluster-chord
And the whole music it was framed afford, —
The chord's might half discovered, what should

pluck
One string, bis finger, was found palsy-struck
And then no marvel if the spirit, shovm
A saddest sight — the body lost alone
Through her officious proffered help, deprived
Of this and that enjoyment Fate contrived, —
Virtue, Good, Beauty, each allowed slip hence, —
Vaingloriously were fain, for recompense.
To stem the ruin even vet. protract
The body's term, supply tne power it lacked
From her infinity, compel it learn
These qualities were only Time's concern.
And body may, with spirit helping, barred —
Advance the same, vanquished — ootain reward.
Reap joy where sorrow was intended grow.
Of Wrong make Risht, and turn HI Good below.
And the result is, the poor body soon
Sinks under what was meant a wondrous boon.
Leaving its bright accomplice all aghast.

So much was plain then, proper m the past ;
To be complete for, satisfy the whole
Series of spheres — Eternity, his soul
Needs must exceed^ prove mcomplete for, each
Single sphere — Time. But does our know-
ledge reach
No farther ? Is the cloud of hindrance broke
But, even But by the failing of the fleshly yoke,
here, ia Its loves and hates, as now when
fsilore in- death lets soar
evitsMe ? Soidello, self-sufficient as before,
Thous^ during the mere space that shall elapse



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SORDELLO



125



Twizt his enthnlment in new boncU, Mrhaps?
Most life be erer just eaoaped, which should
Hare been enioyed ? — nay , might have been

and wouhL
Eaoh purpose ordezed right — the sonl 's no whit
Beyond tike body's purpose under it —
lake yonder brMulth of watery heayen, a bay.
And that sky-spaee of water, rar for ray
And star for star, one richness where they mixed
As this and that wing of an angel, fixed,
Tomnltnary splendois folded in
To die — would soul, proportioned thus, begin
£xcitinfi' discontent, or surelier quell
The body if, aspiring, it rebel ?
But how so order life ? Still brutalize
The soul, the sad world's way, with muffled eyes
To all that was before, all that shal 1 be
After this sphere — all and each qualitr
Sare some sole and immutable Gheat-Good
And Beauteous whither fate has loosed its hood
To follow? Neyer may some soul

see All
—The Great Before and After, and

the Small
Now, yet be sayed by this the sim-
plest lore,

And take the single course prescribed before.
As the king-bird with ages on his plumes
Trayeb to die in his ancestral glooms ?
But where descry the Loye that shall select
That eourse ? Here is a soul whom, to affect,
Nature has plied with all her means, from trees
And flowers e'en to the Multitude I — and these,
Decides he saye or no ? One word to end I

Ah, my Sordello, I this once befriend
And speak for ^ou. Of a Power aboye yon still
Which, utterly incomprehensible.
Is out of riyalry, which thus you can
..^ . Loye, though unloving all conceiyed
J535: byman-
^^^ What need! And of — none the

minutest duct
To that ont-nature, naught that would instruct
And so let rivalry begin to live —
But of a Power its representative
Who, being for authority the same, ^
€Soaununieati<Hi different, should chum
A course, the first chose but this last revealed —
This Human clear, ss that IHvine concealed —
What utter need I

What has Sordello found?
Or can his spirit go the mighty round.
End where poor E^amor begun ? So, says
Old fable, the two eagles went two ways
About the world : where, in the midst, they met,
Though on a shifting waste of sand, men set
Jove's temd|e. QnicK, what has Sordello found ?
For they approach— approach — that
Sordello foot's rebound

kwms : Palma ? No, Salingnerra though in



They mount, have reached the threshold, dash

theveu
Aside — and joa divine who sat there dead.
Under his foot the badge : still, Palma said,
A triumph lingering in the wide eyes.
Wider than some spent swimmer's if he spies
Help from above in his extreme despair,



But too



tnseot
knows



And, head far back on shoulder thrust, turns

there
With short quick passionate cry: as Palma

preaeed
In one great kiss, her lips upon his breast.
It beat.

B^ this, the hermit-bee has stopped
His da^r's tod at Uoito : the new-cropped
Dead vine-leaf answers, now 'tis eve, he bit.
Twirled so, and filed all day : the mansion 's fit,
Qod counselled for. As easy guess the word
That passed betwixt them, and become the

third
To the soft small unfrighted bee, as tax
Him with one fault — so, no remembrance
racks
Of the stone maidens and the font of

stone
He, creeping threu«^ the crevice,



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 27 of 198)