Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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To wrong and pain, and knowledge of its cure :
And these embodied in a woman's form
That best transmits them, pure as first received.
From God above her, to mankind below.
Will you derive your rule from such a ground.
Or rather hold it by the suffrage, say.



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238



COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



Of this man — this — and this ?

Duch, [After a pause,] You come from Clevea :
How many are at Cleres of such a mind ?
Vol, [From his paper,] ** We, all the mann-

faoturers of Cleves — "
Dvch, Or stay, sir — lest I seem too oov-
etons —
Are yon my snbject ? such as yon describe.
Am I to you, though to no other man ?

Vol, [PVomAwjKiper.] — " Valence, ordained

▼our Advocate at Cleves " —
DtfcA. [heplacing the coronet,] Then I re-
main Cleves' Dachees I Take yon note,
While Cleves but yields one subject of this

stamp,
I stand her lady till she waves me off t
For her sake, all the Prince claims I withhold ;
Laugh at each menace ; and, hb power defy-
ing.
Return his miasive with its due contempt I

ICatHnff it away,
Gui, [Picking it up,] — Which to the Prince
I will deliver, lady,
(Note it down, Gauoelme) — with your message
too!
Duch, I think the office is a subject's, sir I
— Either . . . how style you him? — my special

euarder
The Marshal's — for who knows but yiolence
Hay follow the deliverv ? — Or, perhaps,
Hy Chancellor's — for law may be to urge
On its receiivt I — Or, even mv Chamberlain's —
For I may violate established form I
iTo Valbitcb. ] Sir, — for the half-hour till this

service euds,
Will you become all these to me ?

VcU, [Falling on his knee,] Hy liege I
Duck, Give me I

[Ths Oomtienpresent their badaes 0/ office,
[Putting them by,] Whatever was their virtue



They need new consecration. [Baising Va-

LBMCB.1 Are you mine ?
I will be Dnoheas yet I [She retiree.

The Courtiers. Our Duchess yet I

A glorious lady I Worthv- love and dread !
1 11 stand by her, — and Lwhate'er betide !
Gui, [ To VAUEMOB.] Well done, well done,

sir I I care not who knows.
You have done nobly and I envy you —
Though I am but unfurly used, 1 think :
For when one gets a place like this I hold.
One gets too the remark that its mere wa^^,
The paT and the preferment, make our prize.
Talk about zeal and faith apart from these.
We 're lau|rhed at — much would zeal and faith

subsist
Without these also I Yet, let these be stopped,
Our wages discontinue, — then, indeed.
Our zeal and faith, (we hear on every side,)
Are not released — naving been pledged away
I wonder, for what zeal amd faitn in turn ?
Hard money purchased me my place I No,

no —
I 'm right, sir — but ;rour wrong is better still.
If I had time and skill to argue it.
Therefore, I say, I'll serve yon, how you

please —



Ifyou like, — fight you, as you seem to wish —

J The kinder of me that, in sober truth,
'. never dreamed 1 did you any harm) . . .
Gau, — Or, kinder still, you 'U introduce, no
doubt.
His merits to the Prince who 's just at hand.
And let no hint drop he 's made Chancellor
And Chamberlain and Heaven knows what be-
side I
Clug, [To Valbncb.] You stare, young sir,
and threaten I Let me say.
That at your age, when first I came to court,
I was not much above a gentleman ;
While now . . •

Val, —You are Head-Lackey? With your
office
I have not yet been graced, sir !

Other Courtiers. [To Clugnet.] Let him talk !
Fidelity, disinterestedness,
Excuse so much I Men claim my worship erer
Who stanchly and steadfastly . • .
{Enter Adgu^
Adoif, The Prince arrives.

Courtiers. Ha? How?
Adolf, He leaves his guard a stage behind
At Aix, and enters almost by himself.
1st Court, The Prince I This foolish busi-
ness puts all out.
2d Court, Let Ghmoelme speak first I
2d Court, Better I began

About the state of Juliers: should one say
All 's prosperous and inviting him ?

4th Court. — Or rather,

AJl 's prostrate and imploring him ?

5th Court. That's best

Where 's the Cleves' paper, by the way ?

4th Court, [To Valbncb.] Sir — sir —

If you '11 but lend that paper — trust it me,
I '11 warrant . . .
bth Court. Softly, sir — the Marshal's duty I
Clug. Has not the Chamberlain a hearing
first
By virtue of his patent ?

Gau, Patents ? — Dnties ?

All that, my masters, must begin agun I
One word composes the whole controversy:
We 're simply now — the Prince's !
The Others. Ay — the Prince's I

(Enter Sabthb.)

Sab. Adolf I Bid . • . Oh, no time for
ceremony I
Where 's whom our lady calls her only subject ?
She needs him. Who is here the Duchess's ?
Val. [Starting from his reverie.] Most grate-
fully 1 follow to her feet.



ACT III

Afternoon. Bcsaa. The Veetibute.
Enter PsncB Bkbtbold and MxLcmoB.

BerthUd, A thriving little bnigh this Julien
looks.
[Haff-apartJ Keep Jnlieis, and as good you

kept Cologne :
Better try Aix, though ! —
Melchior. Please 't your Highness speak ?



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COLOMBE»S BIRTHDAY



239



Berth. [Aa btforeA Aiz, Cologne, Frankfort,

— Milan ; — Home I —
Mel, The Gr&Te.

More weary seems yonr Highness, I remark,
Than sundry oonquerors whose i>ath I Ve

watched
Thronffh fire and blood to any prize they gain.
I conla well wish you, for yonr proper sake.
Had met some shade of opposition here

— Fonnd a blnnt seneschal refuse unlock.
Or a scared usher lead your steps astray.

Ton must not look for next achievement's palm
So easUy : this will hurt your conquering.
Berth, My next ? Ay, as yon say, my next
and next !
Wen, I am tired, that 's truth, and moodr too,
This quiet entrance-morning : listen why I
Our little burgh, now, Juliers — 't is indeed
One Hnk, howeyer insignificant.
Of the great chain by which I reach my hope,

— A link I must secure ; but otherwise.
You M wonder I esteem it worJi my grasp.
Just see what life is, with its shifts and turns I
It happens now — this very nook — to be

A place that onoe . . . not a long while since,

neither —
When I lived an ambiguous hanger-on
Of foreign courts, and bore my claims abont,
Discarded by one kinsman, and the other
A poor priest merely, — then, I say, this place
Shone my ambition^s object ; to be Duke —
Seemed then, what to be Emperor seems now.
My rights were far from judged as plain and

sure
In those days as of late, I promise you :
And ^t was my day-dream. Lady CJolombe here
Might e*en compound the matter, pihr me.
Be struck, say, with my chivalry ana grace
<I was a boy I; — bestow her hand at length.
And make me Duke, in her right if not mine.
Here am I, Duke confessed, at Juliers now.
Hearken : if ever I be Elmperor,
Remind me what I felt ana said to-day I
Mel, All this consoles a bookish man like
me.
— And so win weariness cling to you. Wrong,
Wrong ! Had yon sought the lady*s court your-
self,—
Faced the redonbtables composing it.
Flattered this, threatened that man, bribed the

other, —
Pleaded by writ and word and deed, your



Conquered a footing inch by painful inch, —
And, after long years* stmgfirle, pounced at last
On her for prize, — the right life nad been lived.
And justice done to divers faculties
Shut in that brow. Yourself were vimble
As you stood victor, then ; whom now — (your

pardon!)
I am forced narrowly to search and see.
So are you hid by helps — this Pope, yonr

undo —
Your cousin, the other King! Youareamind, —
They, body : too much of mere legs-and-arms
Obstruc ts the mind so ! Match these with their

like:
Hfttoh mind with mind !



Berth, And where 's your mind to match ?
They show me le^s-and-arms to cope withal I
I 'd subjugate this city — where *s its mind ?
{The Coartiera enter dowly,)
Mel. Got out of sight when yon came troops
andaUI
And in its stead, here greets vou flesh-and-blood :
A smug economy of both, this first !

\^A» CLuemET bowe obeequUmdp.
Wen done, gout, aU considered I — I may go ?
Berth, Help me receive them I
Mel. Oh, they just win say

What yesterday at Aix their f eUows said, —
At Troves, the day before! Sir Prince, my

friend.
Why do you let your Uf e sUp thus ? — Meantime,
I have my little Juliers to achieve —
The understanding this tough Platonist,
Yonr holy uncle disinterred, Amelins :
Lend me a company of horse and foot.
To help me through his tractate — gain my
Duchy!
Berth. And Empire, after that is gained, win

be — ?
Mel. To help me through yonr uncle's com-
ment, Prince ! IG^ee.
Berth. Ah? Wen: he o*er^iefines— the schol-
ar's fault !
How do I let my life sHp? Say, this life,
I lead now, differs from the common life
Of other men in mere degree, not kind.
Of joys and griefs, — still there is such degree
Mere largeness in a life is something, sure, —



Enough to care about and struggle!

In this world : for this world, the size of things ;

The sort of things, for that to come, no donM.

A great is better than a Uttle aim :

Aim when I wooed Priscilla's rosy BMMrth

And failed so, under that gray convent-wall.

Was I more happy than I should be now

IB^ tkU time, the Oourtisn are ranged before Mm,
1i failing of my Elmpire ? Not a whit.
— Here comes the mind, it once had tasked me

sore
To balHe, but for my advantages !
An 's best as 'tis: these schoUrs talk and talk.

iSeaU Mmee^f.
The Courtiers. Welcome our Prince to Juliers !
— to his heritage !
Our dntif uUest service proffer we !
Clug. I, please your Highness, having exer-
cised
The function of Orand Chamberlain at court.
With ranch acceptance, as men testify . . .
Berth, I cannot greatly thank you, gentle-
men!
The Pope declares my daim to the Duchy

founded
On strictest justice — you concede it, therefore,
I do not wonder : and the kings my friends
Protest they mean to see such claim enforced, —
Yon easUy may offer to assist.
But there 's a slight discretionary power
To serve me in the matter, you *ve had long.
Though late you use it. This is weU to say —
But could you not have said it months ago ?
I*m not aenied my own Dake*s truncheon,
true —



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240



COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



'Tis flung me — I stoop down, and from the

ground
Pick i^ with all ^on plaoid standers-by :
And now I have it, gems and mire at once,
Grace go with it to my soiled hands, yon say !

Gut, (By Paol, the advocate our doughty
friend
Cats the best figure I)

Gau, If our ignorance

May haye offended, sure our lovalty . . .

£erth. Loyalty? Yours? On — of yourselves
yon speak !
I mean the Duchess all this time, I hope I
And since I have been forced repeat my daima
As if they never had been urged before.
As I began, so must I end, it seems.
The formal answer to the grave demand I
What says the lady?

Courtiers, [Ojte to another.] Ist Court. Mar-
shal I 2d Court, Orator!

Guu A variation of our mistrees' way !
Wipe off his boots* dust, Clugnetl — that, he
waits!

Ist Court, Your place !

2d Court, Just now it was your own 1

Gui. The devil's !

Berth, [To Guibbrt.] Come forward, friend
— yon with the paper, there !
Is Juliers the first citj I 've obtained ?
By this time, I mav boast proficiency
In each decorum ot the circumstance.
GKve it me as she gave it — the petition.
Demand, you style it ! What 's required, in

brief?
What title's reservation, appanage's
Allowance ? I heard all at Treves, last week.

Gau. [To GuiBSBT.] **Give it him as die
gave it!"

Gui. And why not?

[To Berthold.I The lady crushed your sum-
mons thus together.
And bade me, with the ver]|r greatest scorn
So fair a frame could hold, imorm yon . . .

Courtiers, Stop —

Idiot!

Gui. — Inform you she denied ^our claim,
Defied yourself ! (I tread upon his heel.
The blustering advocate !)

Berth. By heaven and earth !

Dare ^ou jest, sir?

Out. Did theyat Treves, last week ?

Berth. {Starting up.] Why then, I look much
bolaor than I knew.
And you prove better acton than I thought :
Since, as I live, I took yon as you entered
For just so man^ dearest friends of mine.
Fled from the sinking to the rising power
^The sneaking'st crew, in short, I e'er de-

spisedl
Whereas, I am alone here for the moment.
With every wldier left behind at Aix !
Silence ? That means the worst ? I thought

as much I
What follows next?

Courtiers. Ghucious Prince — he raves !

Gui. He asked the truth and why not get the
truth?



Berth. Am I a prisoner? Speak, will some*
body?

— But why stand paltering with imbeciles ?
Let me see her, or « . .

Gui. Her. without her leavei,

Shall no one see : she 's Duchess yet !

Courtiers. [Footsteps without^ cu they are dia-
mtting.] Good chance !
She 's here — the Lady Colombe's self I

Berth, 'Tiswelll

[Aside,] Array a handful thus against my

world?
Not ill done, truly ! Were not this a mind
To match one's mind with? Golombel Let

us wait!
I failed so, under that gray convent wall !
She comes.
Gui. The Duchess ! Strangers, range your-
selves!
[As the Ducans enters in eonvenation with Valsvcx,
BsBTBOLD and the Courtiers/a// tfaek a Utile,
Duch, Presagefull^ it beats, presaeefuUy,
My heart : the right is Berthol<r s and not mine.
Val. Grant that he hss the right, di^e I mis-
trust
Your power to acquiesce so patiently
As yon believe, in such a dream-like change
Of fortune ~ change abrupt, profound, oomr
plete?
Duch, Ah, the first bitterness is over now I
Bitter I may have felt it to coi^Eront
The truth, and ascertain those natures' yalue
I had so counted on ; that was a pang:
But I did bear it, and the worst is over.
Let the Prince take them !

Val, And take Juliers too ?

— Your people without crosses, wands and

c hw fw —
Only with hearts?

Duch. There I feel guilly, sir!

I cannot give up what I never had :
For I ruled these, not them— these stood be-
tween.
Shall I confess, sir ? I have heard by stealth
Of Berthold from the first; more news and

more:
Closer and closer swam the thunder cloud.
But I was safely housed with these, I knew.
At times when to the casement I would turn.
At a bird's passage or a fiower-trail's play,
I caught the storm's red glimpees on its edge —
Yet Iwas sure some one of all these friends
Would interpose : T followed the bird's fiight
Or plucked me flower — some one would inter*
posel
Val, Not one thought on the People — and

Gleves there !
Duch, Now, sadly conscious my real sway
was missed.
Its shadow goes without so much ref^t :
Else could I not again thus calmly bid you.
Answer Prince Berthold !

Val. Then you acquiesce?

Duch. Remember over whom it was I ruled I
Gui, [Stepping forward.] Prince Berthold,

yonder, craves an anoienoe, lady !
Duc/i. [To Valbmce.] I only have to tuin,
and I shall face



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COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



341



Prinee Berthold ! Oh, my Tery heart is nok !
It 18 the daughter of a line of Dukes
This seomfiu insolent adventurer
Will bid depart horn my dead father's halls I
I shall not answer him — dispute with him —
But, as he bids, depart I Plrevent it, sir !
Sir — but a mere day's respite I Uive for me
— What I shall call to mind I should have

urged
When time *s gone by — 't wiU all be mine, you

nrgel
A day — an hour — that I mvself may lay
Mvruledownl 'Tb toosudaen— mustnot be!
The world's to hear of it! Onoe done — for-
ever I
How win it read, sir ? How be song about ?
Prevent it !
Berth, [Apmroaching.] Tour frank indigna-
tion, laay.
Cannot escape me. Overbold I seem ;
But somewhat should be nardoned my smprise
At this reception, — this aefianoe, rather.
And if, for their and your sake, I rejoice
Tour virtues could inspire a trusty few
To make such gallant stand in jrour behalf,
I cannot but be sornr, for my own.
Tour friends should force me to retrace my



Snce I no longer am permitted speak
After the pleasant peaceful course prescribed
No lees by courtesy than relat i ons h ip —
Which I remember, if you once f onrot.
But never must attack pass unrepeued.
Suffer that, through you, I demand of these,
Who controverts my claim to Juliers ?

Duch, —Me

Ton sav, yon do not speak to —

Berth, Of your snbieots

I ask, then : whom do you accredit ? Where
Stand those should aonrer ?

Vol, [Advancing,] The lady is alone.

Berth, Alone, imd thus ? So weak and yet



so bold?
Vol, I said she
Berth, And weak» I said.

VcU, When is man strong until he feels
alone?
It was some lonely strength at first, be sure.
Created organs, such as uiose yon seek.
By which to give its varied purpose shape :
And, naming the selected mmistrants.
Took sword, and shield, and sceptre, — each, a

man!
That strength performed its work and pasMd

its way :
Ton see our ladv : there, the old shapes stand I

— A Marshal, Chamberlain, and Chancellor —
** Be helped their way, into their death put Hfe
And find advanta^ ! " —so yon counsel us.
But let strength reel alone, seek help itself, —
And, as the inland-hatched sea-creature hunts
The sea's breast out, — as, littered 'mid the

waves
Thc» desert-brute makes for the desert's joy,
80 turns our lady to her true resource.
Passing o'er hollow fictions, worn-out types,

— Ana I am first her instinct fastens on.
And prompt I say, as dear as heart can q>eak.



The People will not have yon ; nor shall have t

It is not merely I shall go bring Cleves

And fight yon to the last, — uiough that does

much.
And men and children, — ay, and women too,
Fighting for home, are rather to be feared
Than mercenaries fighting for their pay —
But, say you beat us, since such tnings have

been,
And, where this Julien laughed, you set your

foot
Upon a steaming bloody plash — what then ?
Stand you the more our lord that there you

stand?
Lord it o'er troops whose force you concentrate,
A pillared flame whereto all ardors tend —
Lord it 'mid priests whose schemes you amplify,
A cloud of smoke 'neath which all shadows

brood —
But never, in this gentle spot of earth.
Can you become our Colombo, our pla^-queen.
For whom, to furnish lilies for her hair.
We 'd pour our veins forth to enrich the soil I
— Our conqueror? Tes ! — Our despot ? TesI

-Our Duke?
Know vourself , know us I
Berth. [ Who ha$ been in thought,] Know your

ladv, alM>!
[ Very d^erentially,] — To whom I needs must

exculpate myself
For having made a rash demand, at least.
Wherefore to you, sir, who appear to be
ELer chief adviser, I submit my claims,

[OMngpapert,
Butj this step taken, take no further step.
Until the Duchess shall pronounce their worth.
Here be our meeting^plaoe ; at night, its time :
Till when I humbly take the lady^s leave !
[HewUhdrmn, At th$ DvcasM iumt to Valbikb,
tke Coarttors imier^tmge glumeea ond eome tonomra

aimu,

\$t Court, So, this was their device !

2d Court, No bad device !

dd Court, Ton 'd say they love each other,
Guibert's friend
From Cleves, and she, the Duchess I

4<A Court, — And moreover,

That all Prince Berthold comes for, is to help
Their loves 1

6th Court. Pray, Guibert, what is next to do ?

Qui. [Advancing.] I laid my office at the
Duchess' foot —

Others. Andl — andl — and I!

Duch, I took them, sirs.

Gill. [Apart to Valbncs.] And now, sir, I
am simple knight again —
Guibert, of the great ancient house, as yet
That never bore affront ; whate'er your birth, —
As thinsB stand now, I recognize yourself
(If you 'U accept experience of some date)
As like to be the leading man o' the time,
Therefore as much above me now, as I
Seemed above you this morning. Then. I of-

fered
To fight you: will you be as generous
And now fight me ?

VcU. Ask when my life is mine I

GiM. CTishennowl)



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242



COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



dug, [Apart to Valence, €u Gutbebt turns
from Aim.] You, sir, have insulted me
Qroaely, — will grant me, too, the selfsame f aror
You *Te granted him, just now, I make no ques-
tion?

Vol. I promise you, as hiin, sir.

Clug. ^ Do you so?

Handsomely said I I hold you to it, sir.
Yon *11 get me reinstated in my office
As you wiU Quibert I

Duch, I would be alone !

IThejf begin to retire dnwly : at YAunrcs it about to

follow •^
Alone, sir — only with my heart : vou stay !

Cratf. You hear that? Ah, fight breaks
upon me ! Cleves —
It was at Cleves some man harangued us all —
With great effect, — so those who Ustened said.
My thoughts being busy elsewhere : was this he ?
Guibert, — your strange, disinterested man !
Your unoorrupted, if uncourtly friend !
The modest worth you mean to patronize !
He cares about no Duch e ss es , not he I
His sole concern is with the wrongs of Cleves !
What, Guibert? What, it breaks on you at

Out. Would this hall's floor were a mine's
roof! IMbaqk
And in her very face . . .

Gau. Apply the match

That fired the train, — and where would you
bejpray ?

Out. With him I

Oau, Stand, rather, safe outside with me I
The mine 's charged : shall I furnish you the

match
And place you properly ? To the antechamber I

Gill. Cwi you ?

Oau. Try me I Your friend 's in fortune !

Otii. Quick —

To the antechamber ! He is pale with bliss !

Oau. No wonder ! Mark ner eyes !

Gta. To the antechamber !

[ The Coartien rttire.

Duck, Sar^ could you know all you have done
forme
Yon were content I You spoke, and I am saved.

Vol, Be not too sanguine, lady I Ere you
dream.
That transient flush of generosity
Fades off, perchance I The man, beside, is

gone, —
"Bbn we might bend ; but see, the papers here —
Ludterably his requirement stays.
And cold hard woids have we to deal with now.
In that large eye there seemed a latent pride.
To self-demal not incompetent.
But very like to hold itself dispensed
Fnmi such a grace : however, let us hope !
He is a noble spirit in noble form.
I wish he less had bent that brow to smile
As with the fancy how he could snbieot
Himself upon occasion to — himself I
From rudeness, violence, yon rest secure ;
But do not think your Duchy rescued yet !

DiicA. You, who have opened a new world
tome,
Win never take the faded language up



Of thatlleave? My Duchy — keeping it.
Or losing it —is that my sole world now ?

Vol. HI have I spoken if you thence despise
Juliers ; although the lowest, on true grounds.
Be worth more than the highest rule, on false :
Aspire to rule, on the true grounds 1

Duch. Nay, hear —

FalsCj I will never — rash, I would not be I
This IS indeed my birthday — soul and body.
Its hours have done on me the work of years.
You hold the requisition : ponder it !
If I have right, my duty's plain : if he —
Say so. nor ever change a tone of voice I
At nignt you meet the Prince ; meet me at eve !
TUl when, farewell ! This discomposes you ?
Believe in vour own nature, and its force
Of renovating mine ! I take my stand
Only as under me the earth is firm :
So, prove the first step stable, all will prove.
TuBt first, I choose — [Laping her hand on his]
—ttie next to take, choose you I

18 he withdrawe.

Val, [After a pause.] What drew down
this on me ? — on me, dead once.
She thus bids live, — since all I hitherto
Thought dead in me, youth's ardors and em-



Burst mto life before her, as she bids

Who needs them. Whither will this reacht

where end ?
Her hand's print bums on mine . . . Yet she's

above —
So very far above me ! All 's too plain :
I served her when the others sank away,
And she rewards me as such souls reward —
The changed voice, the suffusion of the cheek.
The eye's acceptance, the expressive hand,

— Reward, that's little, m her generous

thought.
Though all to me . . .

I cannot so discl^m
Heaven's gift, nor call it other than it is I
She loves me !
[Looking at the Prince's pap^.] — Which love,

these, perchance, foA>id.
Can I decide against myself —pronounce
She is the Duchess and no mate for me ?

— Cleves, help me I Teach me, — every hae^

gardfaoe, —
To sorrow and endure ! I will do right
Whatever be the issue. Help me, Cleves I

ACT IV

Evening. Sosvs. An Antechamber.

Enter the Courtiers.

Mau, Now, then, that we may speak —

how spring this mine ?
Oau. Is Guibert ready for its match ? He
cools!
Not 80 friend Valence with the Duchess there !
*'Stay, Valence! Are not you my better

self?"
And her cheek mantled —

Gvi. Well, she loves him, sir :

And more, — sinoe you wUl have it I grow
oooU —



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COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY



243



She '8 right : ha 's worth It.

Gau, For has deeds to-day ?

Say to I

&tii. What thonld I say beside?

Gau, Not this —



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 49 of 198)