Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Gw. That 's their craft ?

And last year's orowders-ronnd and criers-forth
That strewed the garlands, overarched the

roads.
Lighted the bonfires, sang the loral songs !
Well 't is my comfort, you could never call me
The People's Friend ! The People keep theSx

word —
I keep my plaoe : don't doubt 1 11 entertain
The People when the Prince comes, and the

People
•Are talked of I Then, their speeches — no one
tonsrne



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COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



233



Found respite, not a pen had holiday

— For they wrote, too, as well as spoke, these

knaves I
Now see : we tax and tithe them, pill and poll,
They winoe and fret enoog^, but pay theTmost

— We manage that, — so, pay with a good grace
They might as well, it costs so little more.
But when we \e done with taxes, meet folk

next
Ontside the toll-booth and the rating-place.
In public — there they have us if they will.
We *re at their mercv after that, yon see I
For one tax not ten devils conld extort —
Over and above necessity, a grace ;
This prompt disbosoming of love, to wit —
Their vine-leaf wrappage of our tribute penny,
And crowning atteetati<m, all works well.
Yet this precisely do they thrust on us !
These eappings quick, t h e s e crook-and-cringingi

low.
Hand to the heart, and forehead to the knee.
With grin that shuts the eyes and opes the

mouth —
So tender they their love ; and. tender made^
Go home to curse us, the first ooit we ask.
As if their souls were any loneer theirs I
As if they had not given ample warrant
To who should clap a collar on their neck.
Rings in their nose, a goad to either flank,
Andf take them for the brute they boast them-
selves!
Stay — there 's a busde at the outer door —
And somebody entreating . . . that 's my name !
Adolf, — I hxMtd my name I

Adolf. T was probably

Thesmtor.

Gid, Oh, there is one f

Adolf, ^ithasuit

He 'd nin enforce in person.

Gmi. The good heart

— And the great fool I Justope the mid-door*s

fold!
Is that a lappet of his doak, I see ?

Adolf, u it bear plenteous sign of travel
... ay. .
The very doak my comrades tore I

GW. Why tore?

Adolf. He seeks the Duchess' presence in
that trim:
Since daybreak, was he posted hereabouts
Lest he should miss the moment.

Qui. Where *8 he now ?

A do(f. Qone for a minute possibly, not more :
They have ado enough to thrust him back.

Gui. Ay — but my name, I caught ?

Adolf. Oh , sir — he said

— What was it? — You had known him for-

merty.
And, he beBeved, would help him did you

guess
He waited now : you promised him as much :
Theoklpleal ^Faith, he 's back, — renews the

diarget
[Speaking at the door.] So long as the man

parleys, neace outside —
Nor be too ready with your halberts. there !
Otm, My horse beq>attered, as he blocked

the path



A thin sour man, not unlike somebodv.
Adolf. He holds a paper in his breast,
whereon
He glances when his cheeks flush and his brow
At each repulse —
Gau. I noticed he *d a brow.

Adolf. So glancing, he grows calmer, leans
awhile
Over the balustrade, adjusts his dress.
And presently turns round, quiet sffain,
With some new pretext for aomittance. —

Back!
[To GuiBBBT.1— Sir, he has seen yon! Now

cross haloerts ! Ha —
Pascal is prostrate — there lies Fabian too !
No passage! Whither would the mailwi^n

Close the doors quick <m me !
Gui. Tookte! He's here.

(Bnter, hattUp end toUk diaoomj^oted drest^ Valbmcb.)
Valence. Sir Guibert, will you help me ? —
Me, that come

Charged by your townsmen, all who starve at
Cleves,

To r epre s e nt their heigfats and depths of woe

Before our Duchess and obtain relief !

Such errands barricade such doors, it seems :

But not a common hindrance drives me back

On all the sad yet hopeful faces, lit

With hope for the first time, which sent me
forth.

Cleves, speak for me I Cleves' men and wo-
men, speak!

Who followed me — your strongest— many a
mile

That I might go the fresher from thdr ranks,

— Who sit— your weakest — by the dty gates.
To take me fuller of what news I bring

As I return — for I must needs return I

— Can 1 ? 'T were hard, no listener for their

wrongs.
To turn them back upon the old despair —
Harder, Sir Guibert, than imploring thus —
So, 1 do — anv wav you please — implore !
If you . . . but now should you remember

CUves?
Yet they of Cleves remember yon so well !
Ay, comment on each trait of von they keep.
Your words and deeds caught up at second

hand, —
Proud, I believe, at bottom of their hearts,
O^ the very levity and recklessness
Which only prove that you forget their wrongs,
Cleves, the grand town, whose men and women

starve.
Is Cleves forgotten ? Then, remember me !
You promised me that von would help me once
For other purpose : will you keep your word ?
Gui. And who may you be, friend ?
Vol. Valence of Cleves.

Gui. Valence of . . . not the advocate of

Cleves,
I owed my whole estate to, three years back ?
Ay, well may you keep silence! Why, my

lords.
You 've heard, I'm sure, how, Pentecost three

years,
I was so neariy ousted of my land



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234



COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



By some kiisye'srpreteixt — (eh f when yon re-
fused me

Your ugly daughter, Clugnet I) — and you 've
heard

How I recovered it by mirade

— (When I refused her I) Here's the very

friend,

— Valence of Cleves, all pa^es have to

thank!
Nay, Valence, this procedure 's vile in you !
I *m no more grateful than a courtier should.
But politic am I — I bear a brain.
Can cast about a little, might require
Your services a second time. I tried
To tempt you with advancement here to court

— " No ! " — well, for curiositv at least

To view our life here — " No P' — our Duchess,

then, —
A pretty woman 's worth some pains to see.
Nor is she spoiled, I take it, if a crown
Complete the tOTehead pale and tresses
pure . . .

Vai, Our city trusted me its miseries,
And I am come.

Gut. So much for taste ! But *'' come," —
So may yon be, for anything I know.
To b^ the Pope*s cross, or Sir Clugnet's

muighter,
And with an equal chance you get all three I
If it was ever worth your while to come.
Was not the proper way worth finding too ?

Vol. Straight to the palace-portal, sir, I



Gtw*. — And said? —

VaL — That I had brought the miseries
Of a whole city to relieve.

Guu — Which saying

Won your admittance ? You saw me, indeed.
And here, no doubt, you stand : as certainly,
Hy intervention, I sbiaU not dis^te,
Pkt>cures you audience ; which, if I procure, —
ThaJt paper 's closely written — by Saint Paul,
Here flock the Wrongs, follow the Remedies,
Chapter and verse. One, Two, A, B and C I
Perhaps you M enter, make a reverence.
And laimch these ** miseries" from first to
last?

Vol. How should they let me pause or turn
aside?

6au, [To Vauence.] My worthy sir, one
question I You We come straight
From Cleves, you tell us : heard you any talk
At (Heves about our lady ?

Vol. Much.

Oau, And what?

Vol, Her wish was to redress all wrongs she
knew.

Cfau* That, you believed ?

VaL You see me, sir I

Oau, —Nor stopped

Upon the road from Cleves to Juliers here,
For any — rumors you might find afloat ?

Val, I had my townsmen's wrongs to busy
me.

Oau. This is the lady's birthday, do you
know?
— Her day of pleasure ?

Vol. —That the great, I know.



For pleasure bom, should still be on the watch
To exclude pleasure when a duty offers :
Even as, for duty bom, the lowly too
May ever snatch a pleasure if in reach :
Both will have plenty of their birthright, sir I

Oau. [Aside to Guibsbt.] Sir Guibert,
here 's your man I No scruples now —
You 'U never find his like I Time presses hard«
I Ve seen your drift and Adolf's too, this whiley
But vou can't keep the hour of audience back
Much longer, and at noon the Prince arrives.
[FoirUing to Valbnob.] Entrust him with it —
fool no chance away !

Out. Him ?

Oau. — With the missive I What's the man
to her?

Out. No bad thought I — Yet, 'tis yours^
who ever played
The tempting serpent: else 't were no bad

thought I
I should — and do — mistrust it for your sake.
Or else . . .

{Enter an OiBcial toho eommunioaie* toith Adolf.)

Ado{f. The Duchess will receive the court t

Oui. Give us a moment, Adolf 1 Valence,
friend,
I'll help you. We of the service, you're to

mark.
Have special entry, while the herd . . . the folk
Outside, ^et access through our help alone ;
— Well, It is so, was so, and I suppose
So ever will be : your natural lot is, therefore.
To wait your turn and opportunity,
And probably miss both. Now, 1 engage
To set yon, here and in a minute's space.
Before the lady, with full leave to plead
Chapter and verse, and A, and B, and C,
To heart's content.

Val. I sricTC that I must ask, —

This being, yourself admit, the custom here, —
To whatuie price of such a favor mounts ?

Crtit. Just sol You 're not without a oourtier'a
tact.
Little at court, as vour quick instinct prompts.
Do such as we witnout a recompense.

Vol. Yours is?

Om. A trifle : here 's a document

'T is some one's duty to present her Grace —
I say, not mine — these say, not theirs — such

points
Have weight at court. Will you relieve us all
And take it ? Just say, ** I am bidden lay
This paper at the Duchess' feet I "

Vci. No more?

I thank you, sir !

Adfilf. Her (}race receives the court I

Gttt. [i4»u/e.]^ Now, «i<r«ii» corda^ quoth
the mass-priest I Do —
Whoever 's my fund saint, do let alone
These pushings to and fro, and pullings back ;
Peaceably let me han^ o' the devil's arm
The downward path, if you can't pluck me off
Ck>mpletely ! Let me live quite his, or yours !
[Tht Coorttors begin to range ihemtelvee^ and mov%

Unoard the door.
Ait&t me. Valence ! So. our famous Cleves
Lacks bread ? Yet don't we gallants buy theit
hMe?



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COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



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And dear enough — it bepnpim me, I know,
To keep my Tery grloves muged properly.
This, Yalenoe, is oar Qreatbtate JEUOl yoaoross ;
Ton gray um*8 veritable maroante.
The Pope's gift : and those salvers testify
The Eiinperor. Presently yon '11 set your foot
• • . Bat yon don't speak, friend Viuenoe I
Val. IshaUspeak.

Gail. [A tide to Gutbbrt.j Ghiibert — it were

no sach ongraoefol thinff
If jou and I, at nrst, seemed norroi^«traok
With the bad news. Look here, what you shall

do!
Soppoee yon, first, olap hand to sword and err
*'Yu)ld strangers oar aUegianoe? First I'll

perish
Beside your Grace ! " — and so give me the cue
To . . .

Gui. — Clap yoor hand to note-book and jot

down
That to reiode the Prinoe with ? I oonoeive.
[To Valbncb.] Do, Valence, speak, or I shall

half suspect
Ton *re plotting to supplant us, me the first,
I' the lady's favor I Is 't the grand harangue
Ton mean to make, that thus engrosses jrou ?
— Which of her virtues you 'U apostrophise f
Or is 't the fashion you aspire to start.
Of that close-curled, not unbecoming hair ?
Or what else ponder you ?

Val, My townsmen's wrongs.



ACT II

Jiocm. Bamn. The Prtttnet-dkmwtber.
The Dmmau and Bamtwm.

Dudwu. Announce that I am ready for the

court !
8abifne. 'TIS scarcely audience-hour, I think;

your Grace
Hay best oonsolt your own relief, no doubt^
And shun the crowd : but few can have arrived.
Buck, Let those not yet arrived, then, keep

away I
T was me, this day last year at Ravestein,
You hurried. It has been full time, beside,
This half -hour. Do you hesitate ?

Sab, Forgive me !

Buck. Stay, Sabyne ; let me hasten to make

sure
Of one true thanker : here with you begins
M^ audience, claim you first its privilege I
It is my birth's event they celebrate :
You need not wish me more such happy days.
But — ask some favor I Have you none to ask ?
Has Adolf none« then ? this was far from least
Of much I waited for impatiently.
Assure yourself I It seemed so natural
Your gift, beside this bunch of river-bells.
Should be the power and leave of doing good
To you, and greater pleasure to myself.
You ask my leave to-day to marry Adolf ?
The rest is my concern.

Sab, Your Grace is ever

Our lady of dear Ravestein, — but, for

Adolf . • .



Buck. **But*'? You have not, sure, changed
in your regard
And purpose towardi him ?
Sab. Wechange?

Buck. WeUthen? WeD?

Sab. How could we two be happy, and, most
like.
Leave Juliers, when — when . . . but 't is
audience-time !
DtiG^. '' When, if you left me, I were left
indeed!"
Would you subj<nn that? Bid the court

approach!
— Why should we play thus with each other,

Sabyne?
Do I not know, if courtiers prove remias^
If friends detain me, and get blame for it.
There is a cause ? Of last year's fervid tnroog
Scarce one half comes now.
Sab. [Aside.] One half f No, alas I

Buck. So can the mere suspicion of a cloud
Over my fortunes, strike each loyal heart.
They 've heard of this Prince Berthold; and,

forsooth.
Some foolihh arrogant pretence he makes.
May grow more f ooUsh and more arrosant.
They please to apprehend I I thank tneir love.
Admit them!
Sab. [Aside.] How much has she really

learned?
Buck. Surely, whoever 's absent, Tristan
waits?
~ Or at least Romnald, whom my father raised
From nothing —come, he's faithful to me,

come !
^byne, I should but be the iwouder — yes.
The fitter to comport myself aright)
Not Romuald ? Aavier — what said he to that ?
For Xavier hates a parasite, I know !

[BikMm goe» omL
Buck. Well, sunshine 's everywhere, and
summer too.
Next year 't is the old place a^ain, perhaps —
The water-breeie again, the birds again.

— It cannot be ! It is too late to be !
What part had I, or choice in all of it ?
Hither they brought me j I had not to think
Nor care, concern m^rseli with doing good
Or ill, my task was just — to live, — to live,
And, answering ends there was no need explain.
To render Juliers haopy — so they said.

All conld not have been falsehood: some was

love.
And wonder and obedience. I did all
They looked for : why then cease to do it now ?
Yet this is to be calmly set aside.
And — ere next birthday's dawn, for anght I

know.
Things change, a claimant may arrive, and

It cannot nor it shall not be ! His right ?
Well then, he has the right, and I have not,

— But who bade all of you surround my life
And dose its growth up with your ducai crown
Which, plucked off rudely, leaves me perishing?
I could have been like one of you, —loved, hoped.
Feared, lived and died like one of yon— but

you



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236



COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



Would take that life away and give me this,
And I will keep this I I will f aoe you I Come!
(Enter the Courtiers and Valbhcb.)
The Courtiers, Many such happy mornings

to your Grace !
DttcA. {Aside^cLstheypay their devoir. 1 The

same words, the same faces, — the same

love!
I have heen overf earftd. These are few ;
But these, at least, stand firmly: these are

mine.
As many come as niay : and if no more,
*T is that these few suffice — they do snffioe I
What succor may not next year bring me?

Plainly,
I feared too soon. [To ^e Courtiers.] I thank

you, sirs : all thanks I
Vol, [Aside^ as the Duchess passesfrom one

group to another, conversing, ] *TiB she —

the yision this day last year brought.
When, for a golden moment at our Cleves,
She tarried in her prog ress hither. Cleyes
Chose me to speak its welcome, and I spoke
— Not thi^ she could have noted the recluse

— Ungaiii&, old before his time — who gazed.
WelVHeaTen*s gifts are not wasted, and that

gaze
Kept, and shall keep me to the end, her own I
She was above it — out so would not sink
Mv gaze to earth I The People caught it, hers —
Thenceforward, mine ; but thus entirely mine.
Who shidl affirm, had she not raised my soul
Ere she retired and left me — them? She

turns —
There 's all her wondrous face at once I The

ground
Reels and . . .

iSuddmdy oeeupying himself with hi* paper.']

These wrongs of theirs I have to plead I
Duch, [To tAc Courtiers.] Nay, compliment
enough t and kindness* self
Should jpanse before it wish me more such years.
'T was fortunate that thus, ere youth escaped,
I tasted life's pure pleasure —one such, pure.
Is worth a thousand, mixed — and youth 's for

pleasure :
Mine is received ; let my age pay for it.
Gau, So, pay, and pleasure paid for, thinks
your Grace,
Should never go together ?

Gui. How, Sir Gaucelme ?

Hurry one's feast down unenjoyingly
At the snatched breathing^intervals of work ?
As good you saved it till the dull day's-end
When, stiff and sleepy, appetite is gone.
Eat first, then work upon the strength of food !
Duch, True: yon enable me to risk my
future.
By giving me a past beyond recall.
I Uved, a girl, one happy leisure year :
Let me endeavor to be the Ehiohess now I
And so, —what news. Sir Guibert, spoke you
of?
[As they advance a little^ and Ouibbbt speak*—'

— That gentleman ?

Vol, [Axide], I feel h«r eyes on me.
Out, [To Valknck.] The Duchess, sir,
indinee to hear your suit.



Advance I He is from Cleves.

Vol, [Coming forward,] [Aside."] Their

wrongs — their wrongs I
Duch, And yon, sir, are from Cleves? How

fresh in mind.
The hour or two I passed at aueenly Cleves I
She entertained me bravely, but the best
Of her good pageant seemed its standers-by
With insuppreesive joy on every face I
What says my ancient famous nappy Cleves ?
Vol, Take the truth, lady — yon are made

for truth I
So think my friends : nor do they less deserve
The having yon to take it, you snail think.
When you kiiow all — nay, when you only know
How, on that day you recollect at Cleves,
When the poor acquiescing multitude
Who thrust themselves with all their woes apart
Into unnoticed comers, that the few.
Their means sufficed to muster trapping for,
Mijgrht fill the foreground, occupy your sight
With joyous faces fit to bear away
And boast of as a sample of all Cleyes

— How, when to daylight these crept out onoe

more.
Clutching, unconscious, each his empty rags
Whence the scant coin, which had not half

bought bread.
That mom he shook forth, counted piece by

piece.
And, well-advisedly, on perfumes spent them
To bum, or flowers to strew, before your path

— How, when the golden flood of music and bliss
Ebbed, as their moon retreated, and again
Left the sharp black-point rocks of misery bare

— Then I, their friencl, had only to suggest
** Saw she the horror as she saw the pomp I ''
And as one man they cried, **He spesiks the

truth:
Show her the horror I Take from our own

mouths
Our wrongs and show them, she will see them.

tool"
This they cried, lady I I have brought the
wrongs.
Duch, Wrongs? Cleves has wrongs— ap-
parent now and thus ?
I thank you I In that paper ? Give it me !
Val, (There, Cleves!) In this I (What did
I promise, Cleves ?) ^
Our weavers, clothiers, spinners are reduced
Since . . . Oh, I crave jrour pardon I I forget
I buy the privilege of this approach.
And promptly would discharge my debt. I lay
This paper humbly at the Duchess' feet.

[Presenting Oubkst*8 paper.

Gui, Stay I for the present . . .

Duch, Stay, mr? I take au^ht

That teaches me their wrongs with greater pnde
Than this your ducal circlet. Thank you, sir I
[The Ducmns read* ha*tily ; then, turning to the Cour-
tiers—
What have I done to you ? Your deed or mine
Was it, this crowning me ? I gave myself
No more a title to your homage, no.
Than church-flowers, bom this season, wrote

the words
In the saint Vbook that sanctified them first.



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COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



237



For Booh a flower, joa plucked me ; well, yoa

erred —
Well, 'twas a weed; remove the eye-aore

quick I
But should YOU not remember it has lain
Steeped in the candles' glory, palely shrined.
Nearer God's Mother than most earthly things ?
—That if 't be faded 'tis with prayer's sole

breath —
That the one day it boasted was God's day ?
Still, I do thank ;rou I Had tou used respect.
Here might I dwmdle to my last white leaf.
Here lose life's latest freshness, which eyen yet
May yield some wandering insect rest and food :
So, Bmg me forth, and — all is best for all I
i After a pattse,] Prince Berthold, who art

Juliers' Duke it seems —
The King's choice, and the Emperor's, and the

Pope's —
Be mine, too ! Take this People I Tell not me
Of rescripts, precedents, authorities,
— But take them, from a heart that yearns to

give I
find out their love, —I could not ; find their

fear, —
I would not : find their like, — I never shall,
Ajnong the flowers ! [^Taking off her eorctutm

Colombe of Ravestein
Thanks God she is no longer Duchess here !
Vai. [Advancing to QviBKBT.] SirGuibert,

knight, they call yon — this of mine
Is the first step I ever set at court.
Yon dared make me your instrument, I find ;
For that, so sure as you and I are men.
We reckon to the utmost presently :
But as you are a courtier and I none,
Your knowledge may instruct me. I, already.
Have too far outrasfed. bv my ignorance
Of courtier-ways, this lady, to proceed
A second step and risk addreasmg her :
— I am degraded — you let me address I
Out of her presence, all is plain enough
What I shall do — but in her presence, too,
Snrelv there 's something proper to be done.
[To the otUrs.] You, gentles, tell me if I guess

aright —
Mar I not strike this man to earth ?

Tke Courtiers, [A$ Guibbbt tpringn forward^

withholding himJ] Let ^q I
— ^Die clothiers' spokesman, Gmbert ? Grace a

churl?
DucA. [To Valkncb.] Oh, be acquainted

with your party, sir !
He 's of the oldest lineage JuUers boasts ;
A lion crests him for a cognizance ;
"* Scorning to waver " — that 's his 'scutcheon's

word I
His office with the new Duke — probably
The same in honor as with me ; or more.
By so much as this gallant turn deserves.
Bfe 's now, I dare say, of a thousand times
The rank and influence that remain with her
Whose Dart you take ! So, lest for taking it
Yon suffer . . .

Vol. I may strike him then to earth ?

Qui, [FaUing on hi* knee.l Great and dear

laay, pardon me I Hear once I
Believe me and be merciful — be just I



I could not bring myself to give that paper
Without a keener pang than I dared meet

— And so felt Glugnet here, and Mauf rov here

— No one dared meet it. Protestation's cneap, —
But, if to die for yon did any good,

[To Gaucxlmb.] Would not I die, sir? Say

your worst of me I
But it does no good, that 's the mournful truth*
And since the Mat of a resistance, even.
Would just precipitate, on you the first,
A speedier ruin — I shall not deny,
8avmg myself indubitable pain,
I thought to give yon pleasure (who might say ?)
By showing that your only subject found
To oarnr the sad notice was the man
Predselv ignorant of its contents ;
A nameless, mere provincial advocate ;
One whom t was like you never saw before.
Never would see again. All has gone wrong :
But I meant right, God knows, and you, I trust t
Duch, A nameless advocate, this gentleman?

— (I pardon you, Sir Guibert !)

Crui. [Ritinq^ to Vai<knce.J Sir, and vou ?
Vcd, — Rejoice that you are ligptened of a

load.
Now, you have only me to reckon with.
Duck. One I have never seen, much leaa

obliged?
Vol, I>Burel8peak,hidy?
l>ti<:A. Dare you I Heard you not

I rule no longer ?

Vcd. Lftdyt i^ yonr rule

Were based alone on such a ground as these

iPoi$Uing to the Courtiers*
Could furnish yon, — abjure it! They have

hidden
A source of true dominion from your sight.
Duch, You hear them — no such source is

left . . .
Vol. HearClevesI

Whose haggard craftsmen rose to starve this

day.
Starve now. and wlQ lie down at night to starve^
Sure of a like to-morrow — but as sure
Of a most unlike morrow-after-that.
Since end things must, end howsoe'er things

may.
What curbs the brute-force instinct in its hour ?
What makes — instead of rising, all as one.
And teaching fingers, so expert to wield
Their tool, the broadsword's play or carbine's

trick,
— What makes that there 's an easier help, they

think.
For yon. whose name so few of them can spell,
Whose tace scarce one in every hundred saw, —
You simply have to understand their wrongs,
And wrongs wiU vanish— so, still trades are

plied,
And swords lie rusting, and myself stand here ?
There is a vision in the heart of each
Of justice, mercy, wisdom, tenderness ^



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 48 of 198)