Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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While Pure Art's birth is still the republic's.

Then one shall propose in aspeech (curt Tuscan,

Expurgate and sober, with scarcely an
"wimo,")
To end now our half-told tale of Cambnsoan,

And turn the bell-tower's o/t to aUitsimo :
And fine as the beak of a young beccaooia

The Campanile, the Duomo's fit ally.
Shall soar up in gold full fiftr braccia,

CompLeting Florence, as Florence Italy.

Shall I be alive that morning the scaffold

Is broken away, and the long^pent fire,
Like the golden hope of the world, nnbaffled

Springs from its sleep, and up goes the spire
While ^'God and the People ''^ phun for its
motto.

Thence the new tricolor fliq>s at the sky f
At least to foresee that glory of Giotto

And Florence together, the first am 1 1



"DE GUSTIBUS — "

YouB ghost will walk, ^on lover of trees.

Of our loves remain)

In an English lane.
By a comfield-side a-flntter with poppies.
Hark, those two in the hazel coppice —
A boy and a girl, if the good fates please.

Making love, say, —

The happier they I
Draw yourself up from the li^t of the moon.
And let them pass, as they will too soon.

With the beanflowers' boon.

And the blackbird's tune.

And May, and June I



What I love best in all the world
Is a castle, precipice-encnrled.
In a gash of the wind-erieved Apennine.
Or look for me, old f eUow of mine,
(If I get my heiad from out the mouth
O' the grave, and loose my spirit's bands.
And come again to the land of lands) —
In a searside house to the farther South,
Where the baked cicala dies of drouth,
And one sharp tree — 't is a cypress — stands,
By the many hundred years nd-msted,
Rough iron-spiked, ripe &uit-o'ercrusted.
My sentinel to guard the sands
To the water's edge. For, what expands
Before the house, but the great opaque
Blue breadth of sea without a break ?
While, in the house, forever crumbles
Some fragment of the frescoed walls.
From blisters where a scorpion sprawls.
A girl bare-footed brings, and tumbles
Down on the pavement, green-flesh meloos.



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SAUL



m



And lays there 's news to-day — the king
Was shot atj toaohed in the uver-wini
QoM with hiB Bourbon arm in a sling



in the liver-wing,
lasling:
hare not eau^t the f eloos.



-She .

Italy, mv Italy

Qoeen Mary's saying serves for me —

(When fortune's malice

Lost her, Calais)
Open my heart and yon will see
Qraved inside of it, ^* Italy."
Snoh Wen old are I and she :
So it always was, so shall ever be I



HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM ABROAD

This and the following poem were first pub-
fished along with Beer, whioh bore the name
Hen '« to Nel9on*8 Memory y nnder the general
\iinfSai!^H(me'Tkough8yfr€m Abroad, The final
member of the gronp, Home-ThtrnghU^from the
Seon was written nnder the same oironmstanoes
ss the poem. How Tlui/ brought tie Good News
fitm Ohewt to Aix,

Oh, to be in England

Now that April 's there.

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some noomii^, unaware.

That the krwest bonghs and the bmsh-wood



Roond the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf.
Wlule Uie ohaffinflh sings on the orehara bongh
In England— now I

And after April, when May follows.
And the whitethroat bnilds, and all the swal-
lows!
HsA, where my blosso m ed peaMree in the

Leans tothe field and soatters on the ekver
Blossoms and dewdrops — at the bent vpn^'^n

edge-
That 's the wise thmsh ; he sings each song

twice over,
Lest von should think he never conld recapture
Tlie first fine careless rapture I
And though the fields look rough with hoary

dew,
AU will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
— Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower I



HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM THE SEA

KoBLT, nobly Gape Saint Vincent to the North-
west died away ;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into

Cadiz Bay;
Bhdsh 'mid the bnmingwater, full in face Tra-
in the dimmest Northeast distanee dawned

QibraHar grand and gray :
**Here and here did England help me : how can
I help England ?" — say,



Whoso turns as I, this evening, torn to God to

praise and pray.
While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over

Africa.

SAUL

The first nine sections of this poem were
printed under the same title in No. Vn. of JBe/^
and PonugranateSy in 1845. The poem as en-
larged was published in Ifen and Women in
1856.

I

Said Abner, ** At last thou art oome I Ere I

telL ere thou speak,
Eks my cheeky wish me well I" Thenlsrished

it, and did kiss his cheek.
And he: **Sinoe the King, O my friend, for thy

countenance sent.
Neither drunken nor eaten have we; nor until

from his tent
Thou return with the jc^^ful assurance the King

livethyet.
Shan our lip with the honey be bright, with the

water be wet.
For out of the black mid-tent's silence, a space

of three davs.
Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants, of

prayer nor of praise.
To betoken that Saul and the Spirit have ended

their strife.
And that, &int in his triumph, the monarch

sinks back upon life.



^ Tet now m^ heart leaps, O beloved I Ghid's

child with his dew
On thy gracious gold hair, and those lilies still

living and blue
Just broken to twine round thy harp-strings, as

if no wild heat
Were now raging to torture the desert I "

III

Then I. as was meet.
Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose

on my feet.
And ran o'er the sand burnt to powder. The

tent was unlooped ;
I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and

under I stooped ;
Hands and^ knees on the slippery grass-patch,

all withered and gone.
That extends co the se«md enclosure, I groped

mywavon
Till I felt where the f ddskirts fly open. Then

once more I prayed.
And opened the f oidskirts and entered, and was

not afraid
But spoke, **Here is David, thy servant I"

And no voice replied.
At the first I saw naucHht but the blackness:

but soon I descried
A something more black than the blaekness—

the vast, the upright
Main prop which sustains the pavilion: and slow

mto sight



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Grew a firnre against it, gigantic and blackest

Then a Bonbeam, that hnzat through the tent-
roof, showed Saul.



He stood as erect as that tent-iwc^, both arms

stretched ont wide
On the great cross-support in the centre, that

goes to each side ;
He reuuced not a muscle, bnt hnng there as,

caught in his pangs
And waiting his change, the king«erpent all

heayily hangs.
Far away from his kind, in the pine, till delir-

erance come
With the spring-time, — so agonized Saul, drear

and stark, blind and damb.



Then I tnned my harp, — took off the lilies we

twine round its chords
Lest they snap 'neath the stress of the noontide

— those sunbeams like swords I
And I first played the tune all our sheep know,

as, one after one.
So docdle they come to the pen-door till folding

be done.
Hiey are white and untom by the bushes, for

lo, they have fed
Where uie long erassee stifle the water within

the stream^i bed ;
And BOW one after one seeks its lodging, as star

follows star
Into ere and the blue far above us, — so blue

and so far !

VI

— Then the tune for which quails on the corn-
land will ea<^ leave his mate
To fly after the player ; then, what makes the

crickets elate
Till for boldness they fight one another; and

then, what has weight
To set the quick jerboa a-musing outside his

sand house —
Thero aro none such as he for a wonder, half

bird and half mouse I
God made all the creatures and gave them our

love and our fear.
To give si^, we and they are his children, one

family hero.



Then I flayed the help-tune of our reapers,

their wine-song, when hand
C^rasps at hand, eye lights eye in good friend-
ship, and great hearts expand
And grow one in the sense of this world's life.

— And then, the last song
When the dead man is praised on his journey —

** Bear, bear him along.
With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets I

Aro balm seeds not nero
To console us ? The land has none left such as

he on the bier.
Ok, would we might keep thee, my brother! "

— And then, the glad chaunt



Of the marriage, — first go the young maidens^
next, she whom we vaunt

As the beautv, the pride of our dwelling. — And
then, the great inarch

Wherein man runs to man to assist him and
buttress an ardi

Naught can break ; who shall harm them, our
friends ? Then, the chorus intoned

As the Levites go up to the altar in glory en-
throned.

But I stopped hero: for hero in the darkness
Saul groaned.

VIII

And I paused, held my breath in such silence,
and listened apart ;

And the tent shook, tor mighty Saul shuddered :
and sparkles 'gan dut

From the jewels that woke in his turban, at
once with a start.

All its lordly male-sapphires, and rubies coura-
geous at heart.

Sothenead: but the body still moved not, still
hung thero erect.

And I bent once again to my playing, pursued
it unchecked,

Aslsang: —

IX

** Oh, our manhood's prime vigor I No spirit

feels waste.
Not a muscle is stopped in its playing nor sinew

unbraced.
Oh, the wild joys of living I the leaping from

rock up to rock.
The strong ronding of boughs from the fir-tree,

the cool silver shock
Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt

of the bear.
And the sultriness showing the lion is couched

in his lair.
And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with

gold dust divine,
A^d me locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, ths

fall draught of wine.
And the sleep in the dried river-channel whero

bulrushes tell
That the water was wont to go warbling so

softljr and well.
How good is man's life, the mero living! how

fit to emplov
All the heart and the soul and the senses for-
ever in joy !
Hast thou loved the white locks of thy father,

whose sword thou didst guard
When he trusted thee forth with the armies,

for glorious reward ?
Didst thou see the thin hands of thy mother,

held up as men sunsr
The low song of the nearl^r^eparted, and hear

her faint tongue
Joining in while it could to the witness, *" Let

one moro attest,
I have lived, seen God's hand through a life-
time, and all was for best ' ?
Then they sung through their tears in strong

triumph, not much, but the rest.



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SAUL



i8i



And thy broihen, the help and the eontest, the

working whence grew
Sueh result as, from seething grape-hnndles, the

spirit strained true :
And the friends of thv boyhood — that boyhood

of wonder and hope.
Present pronuse and wealth of the futore beyond

the eye's scope, —
TiH lo, thon art grown to a monarch ; a people

is thine;
And all gifts, which the world o£Pers singly, on

one head combine I
On one head, all the beaaty and strength, lore

and rage (like the throe
That, ar-work in the rock, helps its labor and



lets the gold go)
Bi^ ambition and deeds which



it, fa



crowning them, — all
Brought to buoe on the head of one cr eature —
KingSaulI"



And lo, with that leap of my spirit, — heart,

hand, harp and Toioe,
Baeh lifting Saul's name out of sorrow, each

bidding reioice
Sttul's fame m the light it was made for — as

when, dare I say.
The Lord's army, in rapture of serrice, strains

through its array.
And npsoareth the cherubim-chariot — ** Saul ! "

cried I. and stopped.
And waited the thing that should follow. Then

Saul, who hung propped
By the tent's eross-suppo^ in the centre, was

struck by his name.
Haire ye seen when Spring's arrowy summoDs

goes ri^t to the aim,
And some mountain, the last to withstand her,

that held (he alone.
While the vale laughed in freedom and flowers)

on a broad bust of stone
A year's snow bound about for a breastpUte. —

leares grasp of the sheet ? *

Fold on fold all at once it crowds thunderously

down to his feet.
And there fronts you, stark, black, but alire

Tet, your mountain of old.
With nis rents, the suooessiTe oequeathings of

ages untold —
Yea, each harm got in fighting jcnu battles,

each furrow and scar
Of his head thrust 'twixt you and the tempest

— all hail, there they are I
— Kow again to be softened with rerdure, again

hold the nest
Of the dore, tempt the goat and its young to

the green on his crest
For their food in the ardors of summer. One

long shudder thrilled
AH the tent till the rery air tingled, then sank

and was stilled
At the King's self left standing before me, re-
leased and aware.
What was gone, what remained? All to tra-

Terse^twixt hope and despair,
Death was past, life not come : so he waited.

Awhito his right hand



Held the brow, helped the eyes left too i

forthwith to remand
To their place what new objects ahoold enter:

't was Saul as before.
I looked up and dared gaie at those eyes, nor

was hurt any more
Than by slow pallid sunsets in autumn, ye

watch from the shore.
At their sad level gaae o'er the ocean — a sun's

slow decline
Orer hiUs which, resolred in stem silence, o'er-

lap and entwine
Base with base to knit strength more intensdy :

so, arm folded arm
O'er the chest whose slow heaTings subsided.



What spell or what charm,
(For awhile there was trouble within me,) what

next should I urge
To sustain him where soog had restored him ?

—Sow filled to the rerge
His oup with the wine of this life, pressing all

that it yields
Of mere fruitage, the strength and the beanty :

beyond, on what fieku,
CHean a Tintage more potent and perfect to

brighten the eye
And bring blood to the lip. and commend them

the cop they put by r
Hesaith,''Itk^ood;" still he drinks not : he

lets me pnuse life,
Qvrm assent, yet would die for his own part.



Then UauA&B grew rife
Whhdi had come long ago on the pasture, when

round me the sheep
Fed in silence— abore, the one eagle wheeled

slow as in sleep ;
And I lay in m y hollow and mused on the world

that might lie
'Neath his ken, though I saw but the strip

'twixt the hill and the sky:
And I laughed — ^^Since my days are ordained

to be passed with my fiooks.
Let me people at least, with my fancies, the

pUuns and the rocks.
Dream the life I am nerer to mix with, and

imajse the show
Of mankind as they lire in those fashions I

hardly shall know I
Schemes of life, its best rules and right uses,

the courage that gains.
And the prudence that keeps what men strive

for." And now these old trains
Of vague thought came a^n ; I grew surer ;

so, once more the stnng
Of my harp made response to my spirit, as

thus—

XIII

"Yea,myKin^,"
I began — **thou dost well m rejecting mere

comforts that spring
Fmn the mere mortal life held in common by

man and by brute :
Li our flesh grows the branch of this life, in our

soul it bears fruit.



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DRAMATIC LYRICS



ThoQ hut marked the alow rise of the tree, —

how its stem tremhled first
Till it passed the kid's lip, the stag's antler ;

then safely onthurst
The fan-hranches all roand ; and thou mindest

when these too, in turn,
Broke a-bloom and the palm-tree seemed per-
fect : yet more was to leam.
E'en the good that comes in with the palm-fmit.

Our dates shall we slight,
When their juice brings a cure for all sorrow ?

or care for the plight
Of the palm's self whose slow growth produced

them? Not so I stem and branch
Shall decay, nor be known in their place, while

the palmrwine shall stanch
Erery wound of man's spirit in winter. I pour

thee such wine.
Leave the flesh to the fate it was fit for I the

spirit be thine !
By the spirit, when asre shall o'ercome thee,

^ou still shalt enjoy
More indeed, than at first when inoonscious, the

life of a boy.
Crush that life, and behold its wine running I

Each deed thou hast done
Dies, revires, goes to work in the world ; until

e'en as the sun
Ixwking down on the earth, though clouds

spoil him, though tempests e£Paoe,
Can find nothing his own deed produced not,

must eyerywhere trace
Hie results of his past summer-piime, — so,

each ray of thy will,
Erery flash of thy passion and prowess, long

over, shall thrill
Thy whole people, the countless, with ardor,

till they too give forth
A like cheer to their sons, who in turn, fill the

South and the North
With the radiance thy deed was the germ of.

Carouse in the past I
But the license of age has its limit ; thou diest

at last :
As the lion when age dims his eyeball, the rose

at her height,
So with man — so ms power and his beauty for-
ever take flight.
No I Again a long draught of my soul-wine I

Look forth o^er the years I
Thou hast done now with eyes for the actual ;

begin with the seer's I
Is Saul dead? In the depth of the vale make

his tomb — bid arise
A gray mountain of marble heaped foursquare,

till, built to the skies,
Let it mark where the great first King slum-
bers : whose fame would ye know ?
Up above see the rock's naked face, where

the record shall go
In great characters cut by the scribe, — Such

was Saul, so he did :
With the safes directing the work, by the popu-
lace chid, —
For not half, they '11 affirm, is comprised there I

Which fault to amend.
In the grove with his kind grows the cedar,

whereon ihey shall spend



(See, in tablets 'tis level before them) their

praise, and record
With the gold of the graver, Saul's story, —

the statesman's great word
Side by side with the poet's sweet comment.

The river 's a-wave
With smooth paper-reeds grazing each other

when prophet-winds rave :
So the pen eives unborn generations their due

and their part
In thy being! Then, first of the mighty,

thank God that thou art 1 "



And behold while I sang . . . but O Thou who

didst ^;rant me that day.
And before it not seldom hast granted thy he^

to essay.
Carry on and complete an adventure, — my

shield and my sword
In that act where my soul was thy servant,

thy word was my word, —
Still be with me, who then at the summit of

human endeavor
And scaling the highest, man's thought couldi

gazed hopeless as ever
On the new stretch of heaven above me — till,

mighty to save.
Just one lift of thy hand cleared that distance

— God's throne from man's grave I
Let me tell out my tale to its ending — my

voice to my heart
Which can scarce dare believe in what marvels

last night I took part.
As this morning I gather the fragments, alone

with my sheep.
And still fear lest the terrible glory evanish

like sleep I
For I wake in the gray dewy covert, while

Hebron upheaves
The dawn struggling with night on his shoulder,

and Kidron retrieves
Slow the damage of yesterday's sunshine.

XV

I say then, —my song
While I sang thus, assuring the monarch, and

ever more strong
Made a proffer of ffood to console him — he

slowly resumed
His old motions and habitudes kingly. The

right hand replumed
His blade locks to their wonted composure, ad-
justed tiie swathes
Of his turban, and see —the huge sweat that

his countenance bathes.
He wipes off with the robe ; and he girds now

nis loins as of yore,
And feels slow for the armlets of price, with

tiie clasp set before.
He is Saul, ye remember in glory, — ere error

had bent
The broad brow from the daily communion;

and still, though much spent
Be the life ana the bearing that front you, the

same, God did choose.
To receive what a man may waste, desecratOk

never quite lose.



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SAUL



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80 sank be along by tbe tent-prop till, stayed

by the pile
Of bis armor and war-cloak and garments, be

leaned there awhile.
And sat out my singing, — one aim round the

tent-prop, to raise
His bent bead, and the other hnng slack — till

I touched on the i>raise
I foresaw from all men in all time, to the



oatient there ;
And tnos ended, the harp idling forward.

Then first I was Vare
That he sat, as I say, with my head jnst aboye

his yast knees
Which were thmst ont on each side around

me. like oak roots which please
To endrcie a lamb when it slumbers. I looked

up to know
If the beet I could do had brought solace : he

spoke not, but slow
lifted up the hand slack at lus side, till he laid

it with care
Soft and gisve. but in mild settled will, on my

brow : tnrou^ my hair
The large fingers were pushed, and he bent

back my bead, with kind power —
All my face back, intent to peruse it, as men do

a flower.
Thns held he me there with his great eyes that

scrutinized mine —
And oh. an my heart how it lored him ! but

where was the sign ?
I yeanied —-/* Could Ihe^ thee, my father,

inrenting a bliss,
I would add, to that life of the past, both the

future and this ;
I woold giro thee new life altogether, as good,

ages hence,
Aa this moment, — had lore but the warrant,

lore's heart to dispense ! "

XVI

^Dien the truth came upon me. No harp more
— no song more I outbroke —

XVII

** I have gone the whole round of creation : I

saw and I spoke :
I, a work of God's hand for that purpose, re-
oared in my brain
And p rono un ced on the rest of lus handwork —

returned him again
fiis creation's i^yproval or censure : I spoke as

I saw:
Ireport, as a man may of God's work —all 's

love, yet all 's law.
Now I lav down the judgeship he lent me.

Each faoultv tasked
To perceive him, has gained an abyss, where a

dewdrop was asked.
Have I knowled^ ? confounded it shrivels at

Wiwlom laid bore.
Have I forethought ? how purblind, how Uank,

to the Infinite Care I
Do I ta^ any faculty highest, to image suo-

oees?
I but open my eyes, — and perf eetion, no more

andnolesB,



In the kind I imagined, fuU-fronts me, and

God is seen God
In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the

soul and the clod.
And thus looking within and around me, I ever

renew
(With that stoop of the soul which in bending

upraises it too)
The submianon of man's nothing-perfect to

God's all-complete.
As by each new obeuanee in spirit, I dimb to

his feet.
Tet with all this abounding experience, this

deity known,
I shall dare to diicover some province, some

gift of my own.
There 's a faculty pleasant to exereise, hard to

hoodwink,
I am fain to keep still in abeyance, (I laug^ as

I think)
Lest, insisting to claim and parade in it, wot ye,

I worst
E'en the Giver in one gift. — Behold, I could

love if I durst I
But I sink the preteasicni as fearing a man may

o'ertake
God's own speed in the one way of love : I ab-
stain for love's sake.
— What, my soul f see thus far and no farther ?

when doors great and small,
IHne-andrninety flew ope at our touch, should

the hundredth i^ipall f
In the least things have fiuth, yet dirtrust in

the neatest of all?
Do I find love so full in my nature, God's ulti-
mate gift.
That I doubt his own love can compete with

it? Here, the parts shift ?
Here, the creature surpass the Creator, — the

end, what Began?
Would I fain in my impotent yearning do all

for this man.
And dare doubt he alone shall not help him,

who yet alone can ?
Would it ever have entered my mind, the bare

win, much less power.
To bestow on this Saul what I sang of, the

marveUous dower
Of the life he was gifted and filled with? to

make such a soul.
Such a bodv, and then such an earth for inspher-

ing the whole ?
And dou it not enter my mind (as my warm

tears attest)
These ^:ood things being giren, to go on, and

give one more, the best ?
Ay, to save and redeem and restore him, main-
tain at the height
This perfection, — succeed with life's day-
spring, death's minute of night ?
Interpose at the difficult minute, snatch Saul

the mistake,
Saul the failure, the ruin he seems now, — and

bid him awake
From the dream, the probation, the prelude, to

find himself set
Clear and safe in new light and new life, — a

new harmony yet



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To be nm, and oontinued, and ended — who

knows ? — or endure !
The man taoght enough by life's dream, of the

rest to make sure ;
By the pain-throb, triumphantly winning inten-

smed bliss, ^

And the next world's reward and repose, by the

straggles in this.

XVIII

**I belieye it! 'Tis thon, God, that givest,

'tis I who receive :
In the first is the last, in thy wiU is my power

to believe.
All 's one gift : thon canst grant it moreover,

as prompt to m^ prayer
As I breathe out this oreath, as I open these

arms to the air.
From thy will stream the worlds, life and na-
ture, thy dread Sabaoth :
I will ? — the mere atoms despise me I Why

am I not loth
To look that, even that in the face too? Why



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 38 of 198)