Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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What a name I Was it love or praise ?

Speech half-asleep or song halt-awake ?
I must leam Spanisn, one of these davs.

Only for that slow sweet name's sake.

Roses, if I Uve and do well,

I may bring her, one of these days.
To fix you fast with as fine a spell.

Fit you each with Ms Spanisn phrase ;
But do not detain me now ; for sne lingers

There, like sunslune over the grouno.
And ever I see her soft white fingers

Searching after the bud she found.

Flower, you Spaniard, look that you grow nott

Sta^ as you are and be loved forever I
Bud, if I kiss you 't is that you blow not,

Mind, the shut pink moutli opens never !
For while it pouts, her fingers wrestle,

Twinkling the audacious leaves between.
Till round tney turn and down they nestle —

Is not the dear mark still to be seen?

Where I find her not, beauties vanish ;

Whither I follow her, beauties flee ;
Is there no method to tell her in Spanish

June 's twice June rince she breathed it with
Come, bud, show me the least of her traces.

Treasure my lady's lightest footfall I
— Ah, you may flout and turn up your faces —

Roses, you are not so fair after lUl I

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Flaflrne take aU your pedants, say 1 1

He who wrote what I hold in my hand.
Centuries back was so good as to die.

Leaving this rubbish to cumber the land ;
This, that was a book in its time,

Printed on paper and bound in leather,
Last month in the white of a matin-prime,

Jost when the birds sang all togetner.

Into the garden I brought it to read,

And under the arbute and laurustine
Bead it, so help me grace in my need.

From titlenpage to dosing line.
Chapter on chapter did I count.

As a curious traveller counts Stonehenge ;
Added up the mortal amount ;

And then proceeded to my revenge.

Yonder *s a plum-tree with a crevice

An owl would build in, were he but sage ;
For a lap of moss, like a fine pont-lavis

In a castle of the Middle Age,
Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber ;

When he *d be private, there might he spend
Hours alone in his lady*s chamber :

Into this crevice I dropped our friend.

Splash, went he, as under he ducked,
— At the bottom, I knew, rain-drippings

Next, a handful of bl o ss o ms I plucked
To bury him with, my bookshelf's magnate ;

Then I went in-doors, brought out a loaf.
Half a cheese, and a bottle of ChaUis ;

Lay on the nass and forgot the oaf
Over a jouy chapter of Rabelais.

Now, this morning, betwixt the moss

And gum that locked our friend in limbo,
A spider had spun his web across,

Aiid sat in the midst with arms akimbo :
So, I took pity, for leaming^s sake,^

And, de prq^ndit^ aooentibuM Uetis,
Canlate ! anoth I, as I got a rake ;

And up I fished his delectable treatise.

Here you have it, dry in the sun.

With all the binding all of a blister.
And great blue spots where the ink has run.

And reddish streaks that wink and glister
O'er the page so beautifully yvUow :

(Hl, well have the dn^ings played their
Did he guess how toadstools grow, this fel-

Here 's one stuck in his chapter six !

How did he like it when the lire creatures
Tiekled and toused and browsed him all
And wonn, aliur, eft, with serious features.

Came in, eaon one, for his right of trover?
—When the water-beetle with great blind deaf
Made of her eggs the stately deposit,

And the newt borrowed just so much of the
As tiled in the top of his black wife's closet f

AH that life and fun and romping.

All that frisking and twisting and coupling.
While slowly our poor friend's Imvcs were

And clasps wero craddng and covers suppling !
As if you had carried sour John Knox

To the play-house at Paris, Vienna or Munich,
Fastened nim into a front-row box,

And danced off the ballet with trousers and

Come, old martjrr ! What, torment enough is it?

Back to my room shall you take your sweet
Good-bve, mother-beetle ; husband-eft, mMek !

See the snue niche I have made on my shelf t
A's book shall prop you up. B's shaU cover yoot

Hero 's C to be grave with, or D to be gay.
And with E on each side, and F right over yon.

Dry-rot at ease till the Judgment-day I


When first printed in BelU and Pom^
granateij this poem was the seoond of a group
of two bearing the general title Camp and
Cioister, the first of the two being Incident rf
the French Camp,

Gb-BtB — thero go, my heart's abhorrence I

Water ^our dinned flower-pots, do I
If hate killed men. Brother Lawronoe,

(3od's blood, would not mine kill you I
What ? your myrtle-bush wants trimming ?

Oh, that rose has prior claims —
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming ?

Hell dry you up with its flames 1

At the meal we sit together :

ScUve tibi ! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather.

Sort of season, time of year :
Not a plenteous corh<Top : ecarcely

Dare we hope oak^aiU^ I doubt :
What '« the Latin name for **" parsley " t

What 's the Greek name for Swme's Snout?

Whew ! We '11 have our platter bumished«

Laid with oaro on our own shelf !
With a fire-new spoon we 'ro furnished.

And a goblet for ourself ,
Rinsed like something sacrificial

Ere 't is fit to touch our chaps —
Marked with L for our initial I

(He-he I Thero his lily snaps I)

Saint, forsooth I While brown Dolores

Sonata outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories.

Steeping tresses in the tsnk.
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs^

^ Can't I see his dead eye glow.

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Briglit M *t were a Barbory oomii's ?
(That IB, if he M let it show I)

When he finishes refection.

Knife and fork he never lays
Crosa-wiBe, to my recollection^

As do I, in Jesn's praise.
I Uie TVinity illastrate,

Drinking watered orange-pnlp —
In three sips the Arian &nstoato ;

While he drains his at one gulp.

Oh, those melons I If he 's able

We 're to have a feast I so nice 1
One goes to the Abbotts table.

All of ns get each a slice.
How go on vonr flowers ? None doable f

Not one fruit-sort can yon spy ?
Strange I — And I, too, at snch tronUe

Keep them close-nipped on the sly I

There 's a great text in Galatians,

Once yen trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,

One sore, if another fails :
If I trip him jnst a-dying.

Sure of heaven as sore can be, ^
Spin him ronnd and send him flying

Off to hell, a Manichee ?

Or. my scrofnlons French novel

On grav paper with blnnt tn>e I
Simply glance at it, von grovel

Hand and foot in Belial's gripe :
If I double down its pages

At the woeful sixteenth print.
When he jsathers his greengaees.

Ope a sieve and slip it in^t ?

Oi%there 's Satui ! — one might ventme

Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture

As he 'd miss till, past retrieve.
Blasted lay that rose-acacia

We 're so proud of I Hy, Zy, Hine • . •
'St, there 's Vespers ! Puma gratiSL

Ave, Virgo! GiHf-r — you swine I



Published first in Hood^s Magazine^ June,
1844. In Bells and Pomegranates it was grouped
with The Cor\fes8ional under the title France
and Spain.

Now that L tyiag thv glass mask tightly.
May gaze through these faint smokes curling

As thou pliest thy trade in this devil's-smithy —
Which is the poison to poison her, prithee ?

He is with her, and they know that I know
Where they are, what they do : they believe
my tears flow

While thev laugh, langh at me, at me fled to

the orear
£mpty church, to pray Qod. in, for them I — I

am here.

Chind away, moisten and mash up tfar paste.
Pound at thy powder, — I am not in haste I
Better sit thus, and observe thy strange thino.
Than go where men wait me imd dance at the

That in the mortar — you call it a gum?

Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozinga

And yonder soft phial, the ezquinte blue.
Sure to taste sweetly, — is that poison too ?

Had I but all of them, thee and thy

What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures I
To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,
A signet, a fan-mount, a filigree raaket !

Soon, at the Kiiig'& a mere lozenge to p^ive.
And Pauline should have jnst thirty mmutea to

live I
But to light a pastile, and EUse, with her head
And her breast and her arms and her hands,

should drop dead I

Qmck — is it finished ? The color 's too grim !
Why not soft like the {dual's, entidng and

Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and

And try it and taste, ere she fix and prefer I

What a drop I She 's not little, no minion like

That 's why she ensnared him : this never will

The soul from those masculine eye8,~8a7,

"no I"
To that pulse's magnificent come-and-go.

For only last night, as they whiqierecL I broiu^
My own eyes to b«sr on her so, that I thought
Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she

would fall
Shrivelled ; she fell not ; yet this does it all I

Not that I bid you spare her the pain ;
Let death be felt and the proof remain :
Brand, bum up, bite into its grace —
He is sure to remember her aying face I

Is it done ? Take my mask off I Nay, be not

It kills her, and this prevents seeing it dose :
The delicate droplet, my whole fortnne*s fee I
If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me P

Now, take all my jewels, goige gold to your

You mavkiss me, old man, on my mouth if yoa


But brush this dust oS me, lest horror it brings
Ere I know it — next moment I dimoe at the
King's I

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It 18 a lie — their Priesta, their Pope,
Their Saints, their . . . aU they fear or hope
Are lies, and lies — there I throoKh my door
And ceiling, there I and walls and floor.
There, lies, they lie — shall still be hurled
Till spite of them I reach the world I

Ton think Priests jnst and holy men!
Before they pnt me in this den
I was a human creature too.
With flesh and blood like one of you,
A ffirl that laughed in beautjr^s pride
Like lilies in your world outside.

I had a lorer — shame araunt I

This poor wrenched bodj, grim and gaunt.

Was kissed all over till it burned,

B^ lips the truest^ loye e'er turned

His heart's own tmt : one night they kissed

My soul out in a burning nust.

So, next day when the accustomed train
Of things grew round my sense again.
''That is a sin,'* I said: and slow
With downcast eyes to church 1 go.
And pass to the conf essitm-chair.
And tell the old mild father there.

But when I falter Beltran*s name,
''Hal '* quoth the father: "much I Uame
The sin ; yet wherefore ioly giieve ?
Despair not — strenuously retrieve I
Nay, I will turn this love of thine
To lawful lore, almost divine ;

** For he is yonnfl% and led astray,
This Beltran, and he schemes, men say.
To ehang^e the laws of churdi and state ;
So, thine shall 1)0 an angel's fate.
Who, ere the thunder breaks, should roll
Its cloiid away and save his souL

" For, when he Ues upcm thy breast,
Thon mayest demand and be possessed
Of all his plans, and next day steal
To me, and all those plans reveal.
That I and every priest, to purge
His soul, may fast and use the soonige."

That father's beard was long and white^
With love and truth bds brow seemed bright ;
I went back, all on fire with joy.
And, that same evening, bade the boy
Tell me, as lovers should, heart-free.
Something to prove his love of me.

He told me what he would not tell
For hope of heaven or fear of hell ;
And I lay listening in such pride I
And, soon as he had left my side,
Tkq>ped to the church by momiiig>-light
To save his soul in his deqtite.

I told the ftUher all lus schemes.
Who were his comrades, what tneir dreanv ;
" And now make haste," I said, " to pray
The one spot from bis soul away ;
To-night he comes, but not the same
Will look r* At night he never came.

Nor next night : on the after-mom.
I went forth with a strength new-born.
The church was empty ; something drew
My steps into the street ; I knew
It led me to the market-place:
Where, lo, on high, the tather's face I

That horrible black seaflFold dressed.
That sUpled block . . . God sink the rest I
That head strapped back, that blinding vest,
Those knotted hands and naked breast,
nil near one busy hangman pressed.

No part in aug^t they hope or fear I
No Leaven with them, no hell I — and here)
No earth, not so much space as pens
My body in their worst of dens
ButshsJl bear God and man my crv.

lies— 1

—and still, they lie I


In Beils and Pomegranate^ this poem was
the second of a group headed Qtieen- Worakip,
the first being R%uiel and the Lady qf TripolL

Shs should never have looked at me

If she meant I should not love her I
There are plenty . . . men. you call such,

I suppose . . . she may discover
AH her soul to, if she pleases,

And yet leave much as she found them :
But I 'm nut so, and she knew it

When she fixed me, glancing round them.

What? To fix me thus meant nothing?

But I can't tell (there 's my weakness)
What her look said I — no vue cant, sure.

About *' need to strew the bleakness
Of some lone shore with its pearl-seed,

That the sea feels " — no strange yearning
That such souls have, most to lavish

Where there 's chance of least returning."

Oh. we 're sunk enough here. God knows t

But not quite so sunk that moments,
Sure though seldom, are denied us.

When the spirit's true endowments
Stand out plainly from its false ones.

And apnrise it if pursuing
Or the right way or the wrong way.

To its triumph or undoing.

There are flashes struck from midnights,
There are fire-flames noondavs kiiwle,

Whereby piled-np honors perish.
Whereby swollen amhitinns dwindle,

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While just this ^r that poor impnlBe,
Which for onoe had pby unstifled,

Seems the aole work of a uf etime,
That away the rest hare trifled.

Doabt jaa if, in some soch moment.

As she fixed me, she felt dearly,
Aeea past the sonl existed,

llere an age 't is resting merely.
And hence fleets again for ages,

While the true end, sole and single,
It stops here for is, this love-wav.

With some other soul to mingie ?

Else it loses what it lived for.

And eternally most lose it ;
Better ends may be in prospect.

Deeper blisses (if yon choose it).
But this life's end and this loye-bliss

Hare been lost here. Doubt you whether
This she felt as, looking at me,

Mine and her souls rushed together ?

Oh, observe t Of course, next moment.

The world's honors, in derision.
Trampled out the light forever:

Never fear but there 's provision
Of the devil's to quench knowledge

Lest we walk the earth in rapture I
— Mftkiiig those who catch Qoo^b secret

Just so much more prize their capture I

Such am I : the secret 's mine now I

She has lost me, I have gained her ;
Her soul 's mine : and thus, |rrown perfect,

I shall pass my life's remamder.
Life will just hold out the proving

Both our powers, alone and blended :
And then, come the next life quickly I

This world's use will have been ended.


All 's over, then : does truth sound bitter

As one at first believes ?
Hark, 'tis the sparrows' good-night twitter

About your cottage eaves I

And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly,

I noticed that, to-day ;
One dav more bursts them open fully
— You know the red turns gray.

To-morrow we meet the same then, dearest ?

May I take your hand in mine ?
Here friends are we, — well, friends the merest

Keep much that I resign :

For each glance of the eye so bright and black
Though I keep with heart's endeavor, —

Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back.
Though it stay m my soul forever I —

Yet I win but say what mere friends say.

Or only a thought stronger ;
I will hold your hand but as long as all may.

Or so very little longer I



Sbb, as the prettiest graves will do in time.
Our poet's wants the freshness of its prime :
Spite of the sexton's browsing horse, the sods
Have struggled through its binding osier rods ;
Headstone and half-sunk footstone lean awry.
Wanting the brick-work promised by-and-by ;
How the minute gray lichens, plate o'er plate.
Have softened down the crisp^nt name and


So, the year 's done with I

(Jxwe me forever I)
All March begun with,

April's endeavor ;
May-wreaths that bound me

June needs must sever ;
Now snows fall round me.

Quenching June's fever —

(Love me forever !)


This and its companion piece were published
originally simply as Night and Morning.

Thb gray sea and the long black land ;
And the yellow half-moon large and low ;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep.
As I gain the cove with pushing prow.
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach ;

Three fields to cross till a farm appears ;

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And blue spurt of a lighted match.

And a voice leas loud, through its joys and

Than the two hearts beating each to each I


Rouin> the cape of a sudden came the
And the sun looked over the mountain's
And straight was a path of gold for him.
And the need of a world of men for me.


Nat but you, who do not love her.

Is she not pure gold, my mistress ?
Holds earth aught — speak truth — above her ?

Aught like this tress, see, and this tress.
And this last fairest tress of all.
So fair, see, ere I let it fall ?

Because ^ou spend your lives in praising ;
To praise, you search the wide world over :

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Tlien whT not vitneas, calmly saziiig.
If earth holds anght— speak tmth
Abore this treas, and this, I touch
But cannot praise, I love so mnoh I

— abore


Lkt *s contend no more, Love,

Strire nor weep :
All be as before. Love,

— Only sleep I

What so wild as words are ?

I and thou
In debate, as birds are,

Hawk on bough I

See the creature stalking:

While we speak I
Hush and hide the talking,

Cheek on cheek I

What so false as truth is.

False to thee ?
Where the serpent's tooth is

Shan the tree —

Where the apple reddens

NcTer pry —
Lest we lose our Edens,

Eye and I.

Be a god and hold me

With a charm !
Be a man and fold me

With thine arm I

Teach me, only teach. Lore !

As I oueht
I will speak thy speech, LoTe,

Think thy thou^t —

Meet, if thou require it.

Both demands,
Laying flesh and spirit

In thy hands.

That shall be to-morrow,

Not to-night :
I must bury sorrow

Out of sight :

— Must a little weep. Lore,

(Foolish me!)
And so fall asleep, Lore,

LoTcd by thee.


BsAunruL Erelyn Hop« is dead I
Sit and watch by her side an hour.

That is her book-shelf, this her bed ;
She i>lncked that piece of geranium-flower,

Bmnning to die too, in the glass ;
Little has yet been changed, I think :

The shutters are shut, no Bgfat majr pass
SaTC two long rays througn the hinge's chink.

Sixteen yean old when she died I

Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name ;
It was not her time to love ; beside.

Her life had many a hope and aim.
Duties enough and little cares.

And now was quiet, now astir,
nil Qod's hand beckoned unawares, —

And the sweet white brow is all of her.

Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope ?

What, your soul was pure and true.
The good stars met in your horoscope.

Blade you of spirit, fire and dew —
And, just because I was thrice as old

And our paths in the woiid diverged so wide.
Each was naught to each, must I be told ?

We were fellow mortals, naoght beside ?

No, indeed I for Ood abore

Is great to grant, as mighty to make.
And creates the love to reward the love :

I claim you still, for my own lore's sake I
Delayed it may be for more lires yet,

Tlm>ugh worlds I shaU trayerse, not a few :
Much is to leam, much to forget

Ere the time be come for twng yon.

But the time will come, — at last it will.

When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shaU say)
In the lower earth, in the years long still.

That body and soul so pure and gay ?
Why Tour hair was amber, I shaU diTine,

Ana your mouth d your own geraninm^s
red —
And what you would do with roe, in fine.

In the new life come in the old one's stead.

I hare lired (I shall say) so much nnce then.

Given up myself so many times,
Giuned me the gains of various men.

Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes ;
Yet one thin^, one, in my soul's full scope.

Either I missed or itself missed me :
And I want and find yon, Eve^ Hope I

What is the issue ? let us see I

I loved you, Evelyn, all the while I

My heart seemed full as it could hold ;
There was place and to spare for the frank
young smile,
And the red young mouth, and the hair's
young gold.
So, hush, — Iwill give you this leaf to keep :

See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand J
There, that is our secret : go to sleep I
You will wake, and remember, and under-


Whxbb the quiet-colored end of evening smiles

Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep


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Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray
or stop

As they crop —
Was the site once of a city great and gay,

(So they say)
Of our oountry^s very capital, its prince

Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far

Peace or war.

Now, — the country does not eyen boast a tree.

As ^ou see.
To distinguish slopes of yerdure, certain rills

fVom the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run

Into one,)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its

Up like fires
O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall

Bounding all.
Made of marble, men might march on nor be

Twelve abreast.

And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass

Never was I
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads

And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone.

Stock or stone —
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe

Long ago:
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of

Struck them tame ;
And that gloi^ and that shame alike, the gold

Bought and sold.

Now, — the single little turret that remains

On the plains.
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd

While the patching houseleek's head of blos-
som winks
Through the chinks —
liarks the basement whence a tower in ancient
Sprang sublime.
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots
As they raced.
And the monarch and his minions and his
Viewed the games.

And I know, while thus the quiet-colored eve

Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece

In such peace.
And the slopes and riUs in undistinguished

Melt away —
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair

Waits me tiiere
In the turret whence the charioteers caught

For the goal.

When the king looked, where she looks
breathless, duinb
TiU I come.

But he looked upon the city, every side.

Far and wide^
All the mountains topped with temples, all the

AH the causeys, bridges, aqueducts, — and then.

All the men I
When I do come, she will speak not, she will

Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace

Of my face,
"Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech

Eacn on each.

In one year they sent a million fighters forth

South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar hig^

As the sky,
Tet reserved a thousand chariots in full force —

Gbld, of course.
Oh heart I oh blood that freezes, blood that

Earth's returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin I

Shut them in,
Wiih their triimiphs and iheir glories and the
rest I

Love is best.


Oh, what a dawn of day I

How the March sun feels like May I

All is blue again

After last night's rain,
And the South dries the hawthorn-spray.

Only, my Love 's away I
I 'd as lief that the blue were gray.

Runnels, which rillets swell.
Must be dancing down the dell,

With a foaming head

On the beryl bed
Paven smooth as a hermit's cell ;

Each with a tale to tell,
Gould my Love but attend as well.

Dearest, three months ago !

When we lived blooked-up with snow, — •

When ihe wind would edge

In and in his wedge.
In, as far as the i>oint could go—

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 36 of 198)