Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Useful to men, and dear to Qoa, as they I

A pretty thine to care about

So mightily, this single holiday I

But let the sun shine ! Wherefore repine ?

— With thee to lead me, O Day of nunc,
Down the grass path gray with dew.
Under the pine-wood, blind with boughs,
Where the swallow never flew

Nor vet cicala dared carouse —

No, dared carouse I iShe enters the slreeL

I. MORNING

Up the ffilMde, inside the Shrub-house, Ia!CA*s Wifs^
Ottdia, and her Paramour, the Oennan Sbbaia.

Sebald. [sings.] Let the watching lids wink !

Day's ablcuee wtih eyes^ think t
Deep into the night, drink 1



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Otttmo. Night ? Such may be your Rhine-
land nights, perhaps ;
Bat this blood-red beam through the shutter^s



131



r: let US see!
ght Uow



— We caU suak li^t, the
Mind how yoa grope your way,

these tall

Naked geraniums straggie ! Push the lattice
Behind that frame I — Nay, do I bid you? —

iMbald,
It shakes the dnst down 00 mel Why, of

course
The slide-bolt catches. Well, are you content.
Or most I find you something eiae to spoil ?
Kiss and be friends, my Sebakll Is't full

morning?
Oh, don't speak then I

tSeb. Ay, thus it used to be I

Ever your house was, I remember, shut
Till mid-day ; I observed that, as I strolled
On marnings through the vale here; country

girls
Were noisy, washing garments in the brook.
Hinds drove the slow white oxen up the hills:
But nO] your house was mute, would o|>e no eye I
And wisely : you were pbtting one thing there.
Nature, another outside. I looked up —
Bough white wood shutters, rusty iron bars.
Silent as death, blind in a flood of light.
Oh, I remember I — and the peasants laughed
And siud. ** The old man sleeps with the young

This house was his, this chair, this window —

his.

Ottx. Ah, the clear morning I IcanseeSaint

lfark*s;

That black streak 18 the belfry. StopiVioenn

Should lie . . . there's Padua, plam enough,

thatbfaiel
Look o^et my shoulder, follow my finser !

Seb. Homing?

It seems to me a night with a sun added.
Where's dew, Where's freshness? That bruised

plant, I bruised
Is getting throns^ the lattios yestareve.
Droops as it did. See, here 's my elbow's mark
r the dnst o' the silL
OttL Oh, shut the lattice, pray I

8eb. Let me lean out. I cannot scent blood
here.
Foul as the mom may be.

There, shut the world out !
How do vou feel now, Ottima ? There, curse
The world and all outside I Let us throw oS
This mask: how do you bear yourself ? Let's

out
WiUiallofitI
Ottx. Best never speak of it.

8eb. Best speak again ana yet again of iV.
Till words oease to be more than words. ** His

blood,"
For instance — let those two wordsmean, ** His

blood"
And nothing more. Notice, I 'U say them now,
''His blood."

Otti, Assuredly if I repented

The deed —
8eb, Repent? Who should repent, or why?



What puts that in your head? DidI
That! repented?
Oui. No; I said the deed .. .

Stb, '' The deed " and '' the event " — just
now it was
**Our passion^s fruit" — the devil take soch

cant!
Say, once and always, Luea was a wittol,
lara hisc ' *



Otti.



I cut-throat, you are



I brought it when we left the house above.
And glasses too — wine of both sorts. '^'



Here 's the wine ;

"^ ' tve.

Black?



White then ?

Seb, But am not I his out-throat? What
arevou?

Out, Tnere trudges on his business from the
Duomo
Benet the Capuchin, with his brown hood
And bare feet ; always in one place at church.
Close under the stone wall by the south entry.
I used to take him for a brown cold piece
Of the wall's self, as out of it he rose
To let me pass— at first. I say. I used:
Now. so has that dumb ngure lastened on me,
I ratner should account the plastered wall
A piece of him, so chilly does it strike.
'nus.Sebald?

^e6. No, the white wine — the white wine I
Well. Ottima, I pronused no new year
Should rise on us the ancient shameful wav ;
Nor does it rise. Pour on I To your black

eyeal
Doyou remember last damned New Year's day ?

Otti. You brought those foreign prints. We
looked at them
Over the wine and fruit. I had to scheme
To get him from the fire. Nothing but saying
His own set wants the proof-mark, roused him

up
To hunt them out.

8eb. 'Faith, he is not alive

To fondle you before my face.

Otti. Do you

Fondle me then I Who means to take your life
Forthat,mySebald?

Seb, Hark you, Ottima I

One thing to guard against. We 'U not make

much
One of the other — that is, not make more
Parade of warmth, childish officious coiL
Than yesterday : as if, sweet. I supposed
Proof upon proof were needed now, now first.
To show I love you — yes, still love you — love

you
In spite of Luca and what 's come to him
— Sure sign we had him ever in our thoughts.
White sneering old reproachful face and all I
We '11 even quarrel, love, at times, as if
We still could lose each other, were not tied
By this : conceive you ?

Ottt. Love I

Seb, Not tied so sure t

Because though I was wrought upon, have

struck
His insolence back into him — am I
So surely yours ? — therefore forever yours ?

Ottt. Love, to be wise, (one counsel pays
another,)



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Should we have — months ago, when fintwe

loTed,
For instanoe that May morning we two stole
Under the green ascent of sycamores —
If we had come npon a thing like that
Soddenly . . .
8eb, '^Athine"— thereasaln— *'athingl"
(hti. Then, Venns' body, nadwe come npon
My husband Lnca Qaddi^s murdered corpse
Within there, at his couch-foot, covered close —
Would you have pored upon it ? Why peisist
In poring now upon it ? For ^t is here
As much as there in the deserted house :
You cannot rid your eyes of it. For me,
Now he is dead! hate him worse : I hi^ . . .
Dare you stay here ? I would go back and hold
His two dead hands, and say, ** I hate you worse,
Luca, than "...

8e&. Off, off — take jonr hands off mine^
T is the hot evening — off 1 oh, morning is it ?
Otti, There *s one thing must be done ; yon

know what thing.
Come in and help to carry. We may sleep
Ainrwhere in the whole wide house to-ni^ht.
4Se6. What would come, think you, it we let

him lie
Just as he is ? Let him lie diere until
Tlie angels take him ! He is turned by this
Off from his face beside, as ^ou will see.
Oui, This dusty pane might serve for look-

ing^lass.
Three, four-^fonr gray hairs ! Is it so you said
A plait of hair should wave across my neck ?
No —this way. .

Seb, Ottima, I would sive jour neck.

Bach q>leiidid shoulder, both those breasts of

jrours.
That this were undone! Killing! Kill the

world.
So Luca lives again ! — ay, lives to sputter
His fulsome dotage on you — yes, and feign
Surprise that I return at eve to sup.
When all the morning I was loitering here —
Bid me dispatch my business and begone.
I would . • .
Oui. See!

Se6. No, I'll finish. Do yon think

I fear to speak the bare truth once for all ?
All we have talked of, is, at bottom, fine
To suffer ; there 's a recompense in guilt ;
One must be venturous and fortunate :
What is one voung for, else ? In age we 'U sigh
O^er the wild reckless wicked days flown over ;
Still, we have lived : the vice was in its place.
But to have eaten Lnca*s bread, have worn
His clothes, have felt his money swell my

purse —
Do lovers in romances sin that way ?
Whv, I was starving when I used to call
And teach yon music, starving while you

pluokea me
These flowers to smell !
OuL My poor lost friend !

8eb. He gave me

life, nothing less : what if he did reproach
My perfidy, and threaten, and do more —
Had he no right ? What was to wonder at ?
He sat by us at table quietly :



Why must you lean across till our cheeks

touched?
Could he do less than make pretence to strike ?
*Tis not the crime's sake — I'd commit ten

crimes
Greater, to have this crime wiped out, undone 1
And jrou — O how feel you ? Feel you for me ?

Oui. Well then, I love you better now than
ever.
And best (look at me while I speak to you) —
Best for the crime ; nor do I grieve, in truths
This mask, this simulated ignorance.
This affectation of simpUd^,
Falls off our crime ; this naKed crime of ours
May not now be looked over : look it down I
Oreiat ? let it be great ; but the joys it brought^
Pay they or no its price ? Come : they or it !
Speak not I The past, would you give up the

post
Such as it is, pleasure and crime together ?
Give up that noon I owned my love for yon ?
The garden's silence : even the single bee
Persisting in his toil, suddenly stopped^
And where he hid you only could snnmae
By some campanula chalice set a-swing.
Who stammered— '' Yes, I love yon ? "

Seb. And I drew

Back; put far back yourface with both my hands
Lest you should grow too full of me — your face
So seemed athirst for ifty whole soul and body !

Oui. And when I ventured to reoeite you
here.
Made yon steal hither in the mornings —

Seb. When

I used to look up 'neath the shrub-house here.
Till the red fire on its glazed windows spread
To a yellow haze ?

Out. Ah — my sign was, the sun

Inflamed the sere side of yon chestnut-tree
Nipped by the first frost.

Sib. Ton would always laogfa

At my wet boots : I had to stride thron^^ grass
Over my ankles.

Oui. Then our crowning night I

Seb. The July night?

Oui. The day of it too, Sebald !

When heaven's pillars seemed o'erbowed with

heat.
Its black-blue canopy suffered descend
Close on us both, to weigh down each to eaoh«
And smother up all life except our life.
So lay we till the storm came.

Seb. How it oaroe I

Oui. Buried in woods we lay, you recollect ;
Swift ran the seardiing tempest overiiead ;
And ever and anon some bright white shaft
Burned through the pine-tree roof, here burned

and there.
As if God's messenger through the close wood

screen
Plunged and replunged his weapon at a Tentore,
Feeling for g'nilty thee and me : then broke
The thunder like a whole sea overhead *^

Seb. Yes!

Otti.— While I stretched myself upcm yon,



To hands, my mouth to your hot moutn, and
shook {



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133



All my looks loose, and oorered jovl with

them —
Yon, Sebald, the same yon 1
iSe6. Slower, Ottima!

Otti, And as we lay —
8eb. Less vehemently I Love me I

Foi^ye me I Take not words, mere words, to

heart!
Yonr breath is worse than wine. Breathe slow.



soeakslowl
otleano



Do not lean on me !

Oai. Sebald, as we lay,

Kaing and falling onlr with onr pants.
Who said, ** Let deatn oome now ! *T is right

to die I
Bight to be punished ! Nanght completes sneh

bliss
Bntwoel" Who said that?

Seb. How did we erer rise ?

Was 't that we slept? Why did it end?

Out. I felt yon

Thpet into a pmnt the raffled ends
Of my loose locks 'twizt both yonr hnmid Ups.
My hair is fallen now : knot it again !

8^. I kiss yon now, dear Ottima, now and
now I
Tliis way? Will yon forgive me— be onoe

more
My great qneen ?

Otti. Bind it thriee abootm^ brow ;

Grown me yonr <ineen, your spirit's arbitress.
Magnificent in sin. Say that I

Seb. I crown yon

My great white qneen, my spirit's arbitress.
Magnificent . . .

[jFViom toUAout it heard the voice ofVatk ibagimg—

The year '« at the gpring
And day ^ sat the mom ;
Mamina *« at seven ;
The hillside '« dew-marled;
The lark ^s on the wing;
The snail ^ son the thorn:
God '» in his heaven —
AU 's right with the world I

[JhiTA passes.

Seb, God 's in his heaven ! Do yon hear
that? Whospoke?
Yon, yon spoke !

Ottt. Oh— that little ragged girl I

Sbe must have rested on the step: we give

th^iy>
Bnt this one holiday the whole jrear ronnd.
Did yon ever see onr silk-mills — their inside ?
There are ten silk-mills now belong to yon.
She stoops to pick my double heartsease . . .

She does not hear : call yon out louder !

Seb. Leave me I

Go. get yonr clothes on — dress those shoulders I

Oui. Sebald ?

Seb. Wipe off that paint I I hate yon.

Oai. Miserable t

Seb. My God, and she is emptied of it now I
Ontright now I — how miraculously gone
All o3 the grace — had she not strange grace
omoe?



Why, the Uank cheek hangs listless as it likes,
No purpose holds the features up together,
Only the cloven brow and puckered chin
Stay in their places : and the very hair.
That seemed to have a sort of life in it.
Drops, a dead web I
Otti. Speaktome— notof met

i8c6. — That ronnd great full-orbed face,
where not an ans'le
Broke the delicious incuJenoe — all broken !
Ottt. Tome — not of me I Ungrateful, per-
jured cheat!
A coward too : bnt ingrate 's worse than all !
Beggar — my slave — a fawning, cringing lie !
Leave me ! Betray me ! I can see yonr drift I
A lie that walks and eats and drinks !

Seb. My God I

Those morbid olive faultless shoulder-buules —
I should have known there was no blood be-
neath!
Otti. Yon hate me then? Yon hate me

then?
Se6. To think

She would succeed in her absurd attempt.
And fascinate by sinning, show herself
Superior — guilt from its excess superior
To innocence ! That little peasanvs voice
Has rioted all antin. Though I be lost,
I know which is the better, never fear.
Of vice or virtue, purity or lust.
Nature or trick ! I see what I have done.
Entirely now I Oh I am prond to feel
Such torments — let the world take credit

thence —
I, having done my deed, pay too its inioe I
Ihate,Ukte — curse yon I God's in nis heaven!
Ottt. -Me!

Me ! no, no, Sebald, not yourself — kill me !
Mine is the whole crime. Do but kill me —

then
Yourself — then — presently — first hear me

speak!
I always meant to kill myself — wait, yon I
Lean on my breast — not as a breast; don't

love me
The more because yon lean on me, my own
Heart's Sebald! There, there, both deaths
presently I^
iSe&. My brain is drowned now — quite
drowned: all I feel
Is ... is, at swift-recurring intervals,
A hurry-down within me, as of waters



Loosened to smother up some ghastly pit :

There thev go — whirls from a black nery sea I

Ottt. Not me — to him, O God, be merciful I



Talk by the way^ while PirrA is passing from the hOU
side to Oreana. Foreign Students 0/ painting and
sculpture, from Venice^ assembled opposite the house
of JuLBB, a young French statuary ^ at Passagno.

Ist Student, Attention ! My own post ii be-
neath this window, but the pomegranate dump
yonder will hide three or tour of you with a
little squeezing, and Schramm and his pipe
must lie flat m the balcony. Four, five —
who 's a defaulter ? We want everybody, for
Jules must not be suffered to hurt his bride
when the jest 's found out.



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2d Stud, All here I Only oar poet 's away
— never havinsr muoh meant to be present,
moonstrike him I The airs of that fellow, that
Oiovaoohino! He was in yiolent love with
himself, and had a fair prospect of thrivingr in
his suit, so unmolested was it,^ — when suddenly
a woman falls in love with him, too ; and out
of pore jealousy he takes himself off to Trieste,
immortal poem and all : whereto is this pro-
phetical epitaph appended already, as Blur
nhooks assures me, — ** Here a mammothrpoem
lies. Fouled to death by butter/ties.^* Uis own
fault, the simpleton ! Instead of cram^ coup-
lets, each like a knife in your entnuls, he
should write, says Bluphocks, both classically
and intelligibly. — ^sculapius^ an Epic. Cat-
alogue oftM drugs : Hebe's plaister — One strip
Cools your lip. Phabus* emulsion — One bottle
Clears your throttle. Mercury^ s bolus -— One box
Cures . . .

3d Stud. Subside, my fine fellow I If the
marriaee was over by ten o^clock, Jules will
certainly be here in a minute with his bride.

2d Stud. Good I — only, so should the poet's
muse have been uniTeinuly acceptable, sa^
Bluphocks, et canibus nostris . . . and Delia
not better known to our literary dogs than the
boy Oiovaochino I

1st Stud. To the point, now. Where's Gott-
lieb, the new-comer? Oh, — listen, Gottlieb,
to what has called down this piece of friendly
Tengeance on Jules^ of which we now assemble
to witness the windmg^up. We are all agreed,
all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out
on us in a fury by and by : I am spokesman —
the verses that are to undeceive Jules bear my
name of Lntwyche — but each professes him-
aelf alike insulted by this strutting stone-
aquarer, who came along from Paris to ofunich,
and thence with a crowd of us to Venice and
Poesagno here, but proceeds^ in a day or two
alone again — oh, alone indubitably ! — to
Rome and Florence. He, forsooth, take up his
portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heart-
less bunglers ! — so he was heard to call us all.
Now, isSohramm brutalized, I should like to
know? Am I heartless?

Gottlieb. Why, somewhat heartless ; for, sup-
pose Jules a coxcomb as much as you choose,
atill, for this mere coxcombry, you will have
brushed off— what do folks style it? — the
bloom of his life. Is it too late to alter?
These love-lettezs now, you call his — I can't
laugli at them.

wi Stud, Because you never read the sham
letters of our inditing which drew forth these.

Gott. His discovery of the truth will be
frightful.

4th Stud. That's the ioke. But you should
have joined us at the beginning: there's no
doubt he loves the girl — loves a model he
might hire by the hour !

Gott. See here! *' He has been accustomed,"
he writes, *^to have Canova's women about
him, in stone, and the worid's women beside
him, in flesh ; these bein^ as much below, as
those above, his soul's aspiration : but now he
is to have the reality." There you laugh



again ! I say, you wipe off the very dew of hia
youth.

1st Stud. Schramm 1 (Take the pipe oat of
his mouthj somebody I) Will Jules lose the
bloom of his youth ?

Schramm. Nothing worth keeping is ever
lost in this world : look at a blossom — it drops
I>resently, having done its service and lasted its
time : but fruits succeed, and where would be
the blossom's place could it continue ? As well
aihrm that your eye is no longer in your body,
because its earliest favorite, whatever it may
have first loved to look on, is dead and done
with -^ as that any affection is lost to the soul
when its first object, whatever happened first to
satisfy it. is superseded in due course. Keep
but ever looking, whether with the body's eye
or the mind's, and you will soon find somethinc^
to look on I Has a man done wondering at
women? — there follow men, dead and aliv^
to wonder at. Has he done wondering at men r
— there 's God to wonder at : and the faculty
of wonder may be, at the same time, old and
tired enough with respect to its first object, and
yet young and fresh sufficiently, so far as con-
cerns its novel one. Tlius . . .

1st Stud. Put Schramm's pipe into hia
mouth again! There, you see! Well, this
Jules ... a wretched fnbble — oh, I watched
his disportings at Possagno, the other day!
Canova\ gallery — youkiu>w: there he marches
fijst resolvedly past great works by the dozen
without vouchsafing an eye : all at once he stops
full at the PficAe^anctuua— cannot pass that
old acquaintance without a nod of encourage-
ment— "In your new place, beau^? Tl^
behave yourself as well here as at Munich — I
see you I " Next he posts himself deliberately
before the unfiniahea Pietii for half an hour
without moving, till up he starts of a sudden,
and thrusts his very nose into — I say, into —
the group ; by which eesture you are informed
that precisely the sole point he had not fully
mastered in Canova's practice was a certain
method of using the drill in the articulation of
the knee-ioint — and that, likewise, has he mas-
tered at length! Good-by, therefore, to poor
Canova— whose gallery no longer needs detain
his successor Jules, the predestinated novel
thinker in marble I

6ih Stud. Tell him about the women : go on
to the women I

1st Stud. Why, on that matter he could never
be su^rdlious enough . How should we be other
(he said) than the poor devils you see, with those
debasin|r habits we cherish ? He was not to
wallow m that mire, at least : he would wait,
and love only at the proper time, and meanwhile
put up with the Psiche-fanciuUa. Now, I hap-
penea to hear of a young Greek — real Greek
girl at Malamocco ; a true Islander, do you
see, with Alciphron's **hair like sea-moss'' —
Schramm knows ! — white and quiet as an ap-
parition, and fourteen years old at farthest. —
a daughter of Natalia, so she swears— that hag
Natalia^ho helps us to models at three lire an
hour. We selected this girl for the heroine of
our jest. So fiost, Jules received a scented



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135



letter— somebody hmd Men his TVdeiis si the
Aeademy, and my piotore was nothing to H : a
prof onnd admirer bade him perserere — would
make herself known to him ete long. (Paolina,
my little friend of the Fenice, transcribes di-
tinely.) And in due time, the mysterioos cor-
reqwiident gsye certain hints of her peculiar
charms — the pale cheeks, the black hair—
whatcTer, in snort, had struck as in our Mala-
moeeo model: we retained her name, too —
Phene, which is, by inteipretation, sea-eagle.
Now, think of Jules fincung himself distin-
guished from the herd of us by such a creature 1
In his very first answer he proposed marrying
his monitress : and itaey us oTcr these letters,
two, three times a day, to reoeiYe and dispatch I
I concocted the main of it : relations were in
the way— secrecy must be obserred — in fine,
would ne wed her cm trust, and only speak to
her when they were indiasolnbly united ? tit —
Bt — Here thcnr come I

edk Stud. Both of theml Heayen's lore,
speak softly, speak within yourselTSs t

Ikk Stud, Look at the bridegroom ! Half
bis hair in storm and half in calm, —patted
down over the left temple, — like a frothy cup
one blows on to cool it: and the same old bloase
that he murders the marble in.

2d Stud. Not a rich vest like yours, Hanni-
bsl Scratchy ! — rich, that your face may the
better set it o>ff .

eikStud. Andthebridel Yes, sure enough,
our Phene t Shovld jaa have known her in her
clothes ? How magnificently pale I

Gctt. She does not also take it for earnest, I
hope?

IM Stud. Oh, Natalia's oonceni, that kl
We settle with Natalia.

GtkStud. She does not speak — has eridently
let out no word. The only thing is, will she
equally remember the rest of her lesson, and
iqwat correctly all those Terses which are to
break the secret to Jules ?

Qott, How he gazes on her ! Pity ^pty 1

ht Stud. They go in : now, silence 1 Ton
three, — not nearer the window, mind, than that
pomegranate : just where the little girl, who a
few minutes ago passed us singing, is sea t ed I

II. NOON

Owr Oreaua. The haute nf Julss, toho eroue* it$
tkreskoldwitk Fbbsb: the it silent, on which Jvtm

hegini —

Do not die, Phene ! I am yours now, yon ^
Are mine now ^ let fate reach me how she likes.
If yon *11 not die : so, never die I Sit here —
Mr work-room's sing^ seat. I orer-lean
This length of hair and lustrous front ; they

turn
uke an entire flower upward : eyes, lips, last
Tour chin — no, last your throat turns: 'tis

their scent
PnDs down my fsce vpon yon. Nay, look erer
Tnis one way till I chau&:e, grow you— I could
Ghange into you, belored I

You by me,
Audi by yon; this is your hand in nune.



And side by side we nt : all 's true. Thank

God!
I hare spoken : speak yon !

O my Hf e to come t
My Tydeusmnst be carved that 's there in elay ;
Yet how be carved, with you about the room ?
Where must I phuse you? When I think that



This room-full of rough block-work seemed my
heaven

Without you I Shall I ever work again.

Get fairly into m^ old wavs again.

Bid each conception stand while, trait by trait,

My hand transfers its lineaments to stone ?

Will my mere fancies live near yon, their
truth —

The live truth, passing and repassing me.

Sitting beside me ?

Now speak I

Only first.

See, all your letters! Was't not well con-
trived?

Their hiding-place is Psyche's robe ; she keeps

Your letters next her skin : which drops out
foremost?

Ah, — this that swam down like a first moon-



Into my world 1

Again those eyes complete
Their melancholy survey, sweet and slow.
Of all my room holds ; to return and rest
On me, with pity, yet some wonder too :
As if God bade some tpuit plague a worid.



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 29 of 198)