Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Was finished, prone lay Uie false knight.

Prone as his lie, upon the ground :

Gismond flew at him, UMd no sleight
O' the sword, but open-breasted drove.
Cleaving till out the truth he dove.

Which done, he dragged him to my feet
And said, ^^ Here die, but end thy breath

In full confession, lest thou fleet
From my first, to God's second death !

Say, hast thou lied ? " And, '' I have lied

To God and her," he said, and died.

Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked
— What safe my heart holds, thoos^ no word

Could I repeat now, if I tasked
My powers forever, to a third

Dear even as yon are. Pass the rest

Until I sank upon his breast.

Over my head his arm he flung
Against the world ; and scarce I felt

His sword (that dripped by me and swung)
A little shifted in its belt :

For he began to say the while

How South our home lay many a mile.

So 'mid the shouting multitude
We two walked forth to never more

Return. My cousins have oursued
Their life, untroubled as before

I vexed them. Gauthier's dwelling-plaoe

God lighten I May his soul find grace !

Our elder boy has got the clear

Great brow ; though when his brother's black
Full eve shows scorn, it . . . Gismond here ?

Ana have von brought my tercel back ?
Ijust was teuing Adela
How many birds it struck since May.


First published in Bood^s Magazine^ August,
1844. It was rewritten, with five new coup-
lets, and was published in 1H45, in Dramatic
Romances and Lyrics^ or No. VIL of Bells and
Pomegranates. When it appeared in the Poeti-
cal Works of 1868, a fresh verse was added.
In 1844 the poem ended as follows : —

'* Oo btok and pnOae tugtAn
The early w»y, while I remafai.

** Be af»in the boy sU currd ;
I wm finkh with the world."

Theocrite grew old at home,
Gabriel dwelt in Peter*a dome.

MoBNENo, evening, noon and night,
'* Praise God ! " sang Theocrite.

Then to his poor trade he turned,
Whereby the daily meal was earned.

Hard he labored, long and well :
O'er his work the boy's curls felL

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Bot ever, at each period.

He stopped and san^, ** Praise Qod I *'

Then back acain his curls he threw,
1 oheerfol tamed to work anew.

Said Bhuse, the listening monk, ** Well done ;
I doubt not thou art heard, my son :

** As well as if thy yoioe to-day

Were praising God, the Pope^s great way.

'' This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome
Praises God from Peter's dome.*'

Said Theocrite, '' Would God that I

Might praise him that great way, and die I "

l^htpassed, day shone,
And Hieoorite was gone.

With God a day endures alway,
A thousand yean are but a day.

Qod said in heaTcn, '* Nor day nor ni^^
Now brings the voice of my delight."

Then Gabriel, like a rainbow's birth.
Spread his wings and sank to earth ;

Entered, in flesh, the empty cell,

liTcd there, and played the crafteman well ;

And morning, evening, noon and night.
Praised God in place of Theocrite.

And from a boy, to youth he grew :
The man put off the stripling^ hue :

The man matured and fell away
Into the season of decay :

And ever o'er the trade he bent.
And ever lived on earth content.

^e did Qod^B will ; to him, all one
If on the earth or in the sun.)

God said, ** A praise is in mine ear ;
There is no doubt in it, no fear :

**So sing old worlds, and so

New worlds that from my footstool gow

** Clearer loves sound other ways :
I miss my little human praise."

Then forth spnuig Gabriers wings, off fell
The flesh disguise, remained the cell.

'T was Easter Day : he flew to Rome,
And paused above Saint Peter's dome.

In the tiring-room dose by
The great outer gallery.

With his holy vestments dight.
Stood the new Pope, Theocrite :

And all his past career
Game back upon him clear.

Since when, a boy, he plied his trade.
Till on his ufe the sickness weighed ;

And in his cell, when death drew u«Nvy
An angel in a dream brought cheer :

And rising from the sickness drear.
He grew a priest, and now stood here.

To the East with praise he turned.
And on his sight the angel burned.

** I bore thee from thy c raf tsman's cell.
And set thee here ; I did not wdl.

** Vainly I left my angel-sphere,
Vain was thy dream of many a year.

" Thy voice's praise seemed weak ; ik

dropped —
Creation's chorus stopped I

** Qo back and praise agun
The early way, while I remain.

** With that weak voice of our HiiImih^
Take up creation's pausing strain.

** Back to the cell and poor employ :
Resume the craftsman and the boy I **

Theocrite grew old at home ;

A new Pope dwelt in Peter's dome.

One vanished as the other died :
They sought God side by side.


Of the million or two, more or less,
I rule and possess,
One man, for some cause undefined.
Was least to my mind.

I struck him, he grovelled of course ^-

For, what was his force ?

I pinned him to earth with my weight

And persistence of hate :

And ne lay, would not moan, would not eane^

As his lot might be worse.

** Were the object lees mean, would he stand

At the swing of my hand !

For obscurity helps him and blots

The hole where he squats."

So, I set my five wits on the stretch

To inveigle the wretch.

All in vam ! Gold and jewels I threw.

Still he couched there perdue ;

I tempted his blood and his flesh,

Hid in roses my mesh.

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Choicest oates and the flagon^t beat spilth :
StiU he kept to his filth.

Had he kith now or kin, were aocess

To his heart, did I press :

Just a son or a mother to seize !

No such bootr as these.

Were it simply a friend to porsiie

*Mid my million or two,

Who could pay me in person or pelf

What he owes me himself I

No: I could not bat smile throngrh my ehafe :

For the fellow lay safe

Ab his mates do, the midge and the nit,

— Through minutenesB, to wit.

Then a humor more great took its place

At the thought of his face,

Tlie droop, the low cares of the month.

The trouble uncouth

Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain

To nut out of its ptin.

Ana, ** no I " I admonished mysdf,

'* Is one mocked by an elf.

Is one balBed by toad or by rat ?

Tlie grayamen 's in that !

How the lion, who crouches to suit

"Bm back to my foot.

Would admire that I stand in debate !

But the small turns the great

If it Tezes you, — that is the thing !

Toad or rat tcx the king?

Hiough I waste half my realm to unearth

Toad or rat, *t is well worth ! "

So, I soberiy laid my last plan

To eztin^ruish the man.

Round his creep-hole, with neyer a break.

Ran my fires for his sake ;

Orer-head, did my thunder combine

With my undeiground mine :

Tt]1 I jooked £rom my labor content

To enjoy the event.

When sudden . . . how think ye, the end?

Did I say '' without friend '' ?

Say rather, from mam to blue marge

The whole sky grew his taree

With the sun^s self for Yisible boss.

While an Arm ran across

Which the earth heayed beneath like a breast

Where the wretoh was safe prest 1

Do you see ? Just my rengeance complete.

The man sprangr to his feet,

Stood erect, caught at God*s skirts, and prayed I

^So, J was afraid !


All I beliered is true I

I am able yet
All I want, to get

By a method as strange as new :
I^re I trust the same to you ?

If at night, when doors are shut,
Ana the wood- worm picks.
And the death-watch ticks.
And the bar has a flag of smut.
And a cat *s in the water-butt —

And the socket floate and flares.
And the house-beams groan.
And a foot unknown

Is surmised on the garret-stairs.

And the locks slip 1

And the spider, to senre his ends.

By a sudden thread.

Arms and le^ outspread.
On the table's midst descends.
Gomes to find, God knows what friends I-^

H since ere drew in, I sav,

I haye sat and brought

(So to speak) my thought
To bear on the woman away.
Till I felt my hair turn gray —

T1U I seemed to haye and hold.

In the vacancy

'Twixt the wiul and me.
From the haiz^^>lait*s chestnut-gold .
To the foot in its muslin fold —

Have and hold, then and there.

Her, from nead to foot,

Breathing and mute.
Passive and yet aware.
In the grasp of my steady stare —

Hold and have, there and then.

All her body and soul

That completes mjuwhole.
All that women add to men,
In the clutch of my steady ken —

Havinjgr and holdinpf, till

I imprint her »8t

On the void at last
As the sua does whom he will
By the cabtypiat's skill —

Then, — if my heart's strength sery«^

And through all and each

Of the veils I reach
To her soul and never swerve,
Knitting an iron nerve —

Command her soul to advance

And inform the shape

Which has made escape
And before mv countenance
Answers me glance for glance—

I, still with a gesture fit

Of my hands that best

Do my soul's behest.
Pointing the power from it,
While myself do steadfast sit—*

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Steadfast and still the same
On my object bent.
While the hands g^ve vent

To mv ardor and my aim

And break into very flame —

Then I reach, I must believe,

Not her soul in vain.

For to me ag^ain
It reachesj and past retrieve
Is wound m the toils I weave ;

And must follow as I require,

As befits a thrall.

Bringing: flesh and all.
Essence and earth-attire.
To the source of the tractile fire :

Till the house called hers, not mine,

With a growing weight

Seems to suffocate
If she break not its leaden line
And escape from its close confine.

Out of doors into the night I

On to the maze

Of the wild wood-ways,
Kot turning to left nor right
From the pathway, blind with sight —

Making through rain and wind
0*er the broken shrubs,
'Twizt the stems and stubs,
With a still, composed, strong mind,
Nor a care for the world behmd —

Swifter and still more swift,

As the crowding peace

Doth to jo^ increase
In the wide bhnd eyes uplift
Through the darkness and the drift I

While I — to the shape, 1 too

Feel my soul dilate

Nor a whit abate,
And relax not a geetiire due.
As I see my belief come true.

For, there I have I drawn or no

Life to that lip?

Do my fin^rs dip
In a flame which agam they throw
On the cheek that breaks aig;low ?

Ha I was the hair so first ?

What, unfilleted.

Made alive, and spread
Through the void with a rich outburst.
Chestnut gold-interspersed ?

Like the doors of a casket-shrine.

See, on either side,

Her two arms divide
Till the heart betwixt makes sign.
Take me, for I am thine t

" Now — now " — the door is heard 1
Hark, the stairs ! and near —

Nearer — and here —
'' Now I '' and at call the third
She enters without a word.

On doth she march and on

To the fancied shiqse ;

It is, past escape.
Herself, now : the dream is done
And the shadow and she are one.

first I will pray. Do Thou

That ownest the souL

Yet wilt grant control
To another, nor disallow
For a time, restrain me now I

I admonish me while I may.

Not to squander guilt.

Since re<;[uire Thou wUt
At my hand its price one day I
What the price is, who can say ?


(peter ronsard loquitur.)

** Hbioho," vawned one day King Francis,

** Distance all value enhances !

When a man ^s busy, whv, leisure

Strikes him as wonderful {>leasure :

'Faith, and at leisure once is he ?

Straightway he wants to be busy.

Here we Ve got peace : and agliast I 'm

Caught thinking war the true pastime.

Is there a reason in metre ?

GKve us your speech, master Peter I "

I who, if mortal dare say so.

Ne'er am at loss with my Naso,

"Sire," I replied, " joys prove cloudlets :

Men are the merest Ixions " —

Here the King whistled aloud, " Let 's

— Heigho — go look at our lions I "

Such are the sorrowful chances

If you talk fine to Eling Francis.

And so, to the courtyard proceeding

Our comnany, Francis was leading,

Increasea by new followers tenfola

Before he arrived at the penfold ;

Lords, ladies, like clouds which bedizen

At sunset the western horizon.

And Sir De Lorge pressed 'raid the foremost

With the dame he professed to adore most.

Oh, what a face ! One by fits eyed

Her, and the horrible pitside ;

For the penfold surrounded a hollow

Which led where the eye scarce dared follow.

And shelved to the chamber secluded

Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.

The King hailed his keeper, an Arab

As glossy and black as a scarab,

And bade him make sport and at once stir

Up and out of his den the old monster.

They opened a hole in the wire-work

Across it, and dropped there a firework.

And fled : one's heart's beating redoubled ;

A pause, while the int's mouth was troubled.

The blackness and silence so utter.

Digitized by




By the firework^s slow sparklinpr and qputter ;
Then earth in a sadden ooutortion
Gave out to our nze her abortion.
Such a brut« t Were I hiend Clement Bfarot
(Whose experience of nature 's but narrow,
And whose faculties moye in no small mist
When he versifies David the Psalmist)
I should study that brute to deeoribe you
lUum Juda Leonem de Tribu,

One's whole blood greV curdlinfir and creepy
To see the black mane, vast and heapy.
The tail in the air stiff and straining.
The wide eyes, nor waxing nor wamng,
As over the barrier which bounded
His platform, and us who surrounded
The oarrier, the^ reached and thev rested
On space that might stand him in best stead :
For who knew, he thought, what the amazement.
The eruption of clatter and blaie meant.
And if, m this minute of wonder.
No outlet, 'mid li^tning and thunder,
Liay broad, and, his shackles all shivered,
The Uon at last was delivered ?
Ay, that was the open sky overhead I
And you saw by the flash on his forehead.
By the hope in those eyes wide and steady,
He was leagues in the desert already,
Driviiw the flocks up the mountain.
Or catuke couched hard b^ the fountain
To waylay the date-gathering negreos :
Soenarded he entrance or egress.
"How he stands I " quoth the King : " we may

well swear,
(No novice, we Ve won our simrs elsewhere
And so can afford the confession,)
We exercise wholesome discretion
In keeping aloof &om his threshold.
Once hold you, those jaws want no treeh hold.
Their first would too pleasanUy purioin
The visitor's brisket or suricin :
But who 's he would proTC so fool-hardy ?
Not the best man of Marignan, pardie I "

The sentenee no sooner was uttered.
Than over the rails a glove fluttered.
Fell close to the lion, and rested :
The dame 't was, who flung it and jested
With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months j>ast; he sat there pursuing
His suit, weighing out with nonchalanoe
Fine speeches like gold from a balance.

Sound the trumpet, no true knight 's a tarrier I
De Lorge made one leap at the barrier.
Walked straight to the glove, — while the lion
Ne'er moved, kept his far-reaching eye on
The palm-tree-eoi^ desert-springs sapphire.
And the musky oiled skin of the J^aifir, —
Picked it ud, and as calmly retreated.
Leaped baoK where the lady was seated.
And fall in the face of its owner
Flung the glove.

** Your heart's queen, you dethrone her ?
Soshouldll"— cried the Kmg — "'twas mere

Not love, set that task to humanity I " ^

Lords and ladies alike turned with hmthing
From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing.

Not so, I ; for I caught an expression
In her brow's undisturbed Mlf-possesi

Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment, —

As if from no pleasing experiment

She rose, yet of pain not much heedful

So long as the process was needful, —

As if she had tried in a crucible.

To what ** speeches like gold " were redndiblev

And, flnding the finest prove copper,

Felt the smoke in her face was but proper ;

To know what she had not to trust to.

Was worth all the ashes and dust too.

She went out 'mid hooting and laughter;

Clement Marot stayed ; 1 followed after.

And asked, as a grace, what it all meant ?

If she wished not the rash deed's recaUment ?

'*ForI" — solspoke — ''amappet :

Human nature, — behooves that 1 know it 1 '*

She told me, ** Too long had I heaid

Of the deed proved alone by the word :

For my love — what De Loirge would not dare I

With my scorn — what De Lorge could com-

And the endless desoriptioiis of death
He would brave when my lip formed a breath,
I must reckon as braved, or, of course,
Doubt his word — and moreover, perforce,
For such gifts as no lady could q>um,
Must offer my love in return.
When I looked on your lion, it brought
All the dangers at once to my thoognt.
Encountered by all sorts of men.
Before he was lodged in his den,—
From the poor slave whose dub or bare hands
Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands,
With no King and no (^urt to applaud,
By no shame, should he shrink, overawed,
Tet to capture the creature made shift,
That his rude bovs might laugh at the gift,

— To the page who last lei4»ea o'er the fence
Of the pit, on no greater pretence

Than to get back the bonnet he dropped.

Lest his pa]r for a week should be stopped.

So, wiser I judged it to make

One trial what death for my sake '

Really meant, while the newer was jet mine.

Than to wait until time should define

Such a phrase not so simply as I,

Who took it to mean just to die.'

The blow a glove gives is but weak :

Does the mark yet discolor my cheek ?

But when the heart suffers a blow.

Will the pain pass so soon, do you know ? ^

I looked, as away she was sweeinng.

And saw a youth eagerly keeping

As close as ne dareato the doorway.

No doubt that a noble should more weigh

His life than befits a plebeian ;

And yet, had our brute been Nemean —

(I juoge by a certain calm fervor

The youth stepped with, forward to serve her)

— He 'd have scarce thought you did him the

worst turn

Digitized by




If you whispered, '* Friend, what you'd get,

first earn I"
And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married.
To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The Toioe of the Court, I dared augur.

For De Lorge. he made women with men yie,
Those in wonder and praise, these in envy ;
And in short stood so plain a head taller
That he wooed and won . . . how do you call

The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King's love, who loved her a week wdL
And 't was noticed he never would honor
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her)
With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching
His wife, from her chamber, those strayinfii
Sad ffloves she was always mislaying.
While the Kine took the closet to chat in, —
But of course uob adventure came pat in.
And never the King told the story.
How bringing a glove brought such glory.
But the wife simled — **Hj8 nerves are grown

Mine he brings now and utters no murmur."

Venienti occtttrite morbo !

With which moral I drop my theorbo.


I 'yb a Friend, over the sea ;

I like him, but he loves me.

It all firew out of the books I write ;

They find such favor in his sight

That he slaughters you with savage looks

Because vou don't admire my books.

He does himself though, — and if some vein

Were to snap to-night in this heavy brain,

To-morrow month, if I lived to try,

Round should I just turn quietly.

Or out of the bedclothes stretch my hand

Till I found him^ come from his foreign land

To be my nurse m this poor place.

And make my broth and wash m^ face

And light m^ fire and. all the while^

Bear with his old good-humored smile

That I told him ** Better have kept away

Than come and kill me, night ana day.

With, worse than fever throbs and shoots.

The creaking of his dnmsy boots."

I am as sure that this he would do.

As that Saint Paul's is striking two.

And I think I rather . . . woe is me I

— Yes, rather should see him than not see,
If lifting a hand could seat him there
Before me in the empty chair
To-night, when my head aches indeed,
And I can neither think nor read.
Nor make these purple fingers hold
The pen ; this garret 's freezing cold I

And I 've a Lady — there he wakes.
The laughing fiend and prince of snakes

"V^thin me, at her name, to pray

Fate send some creature in the way

Of my love for her, to be down-torn,

Upthrust and outward-borne.

So I mi^ht prove myself that sea

Of passion which I needs must be I

Call my thoughts false and my fancies quaint

And my style infirm and its fijgrnres faint,

All the critics say, and more blame yet.

And not one angry word you get.

But, please you, wonder I would put

My cheek beneath that lady's foot

Rather than trample under mine

The laurels of the Florentine,

And you shall see how the devil spends

A fire God gave for other ends I

I tell you, Istride up and down

This garret, crowned with love's best crown^

And feasted with love's perfect feast.

To think I kill for her, at least.

Body and soul and peace and fame.

Alike youth's end and manhood's fum,

— So is mv spirit, as flesh with sin.
Filled fulL eaten out and in

With the face of her, the eyes of her.

The lips, the little chin, the stir

Of shadow round her mouth ; and she

— I '11 tell you — cahnly would decree
That I should roast at a slow fire.

If that would compass her desire
And make her one whom they invite
To the famous ball to-morrow night.

There may be heaven ; there must be hell ;
Meantime, there is our earth here — well I


Both this poem and the following were writ-
ten after Browning s visit to Italy in 1844. Aa
originally published they were entitled Italg
in England and England in Italy, The dra-
matic incident in the former poem was not a
rescript of a particular historic incident.

That second time they hunted me

From hill to plain, from shore to sea,

And Austria, hounding far and wide

Her blood-hounds through the country-side.

Breathed hot and instant on my trace, —

I made six days a hiding-place

Of that dry green old aoueduct

Where I and Charles, when boys, have plucked

The fire-flies from the roof above.

Bright creeping through the moss they love :

— How long it seems smce Charles was lost I
Six days the soldiers crossed and crossed
The country in my very sight ;

And when that peril ceased at night.
The skv broke out in red dismav
With signal fires ; well, there I lay
Close covered o'er in my recess.
Up to the neck in ferns and cress.
Thinking on Mettemich our friend.
And Chules's miserable end,
And much beside, two days ; the third.

Digitized by




Hunger o'eroame me when I heard
The peaaanta from the Tillage go
To work among the maixe ; 70a know,
With na in Lomk>ardy, they bring
Proviaiona packed on mnlea, a string
With little bella that cheer their tadc,
And oaaka, and boughs on every cask
To keep the sun^s heat from the wine ;
These I let pass in jingling line.
And, dose on them, dear noisy crew,
The peasants from the village, too ;
For at the very rear would troop
Their wives and sisters in a group
To help, I knew. When thcse had 1
I threw my i^ove to strike the last.
Taking the chance : she did not start.
Much less cry out, but sto<med apart.
One instant rapidly glancedf round.
And saw me beckon from the ground ;
A wild bush grows and hides mv crypt ;
She picked my ^ove up while she stripped
A branch off, then rejomed the rest
With that ; my glove lay in her breast.
Then I drew brwith : they disappeared:
It waa for Italy I feared.

An hour, and she returned alone
Exactly where my glove waa thrown.
Meanwhile came many thoughts ; on me
Rested the hopes of Italy :
I had devised a certain tale
Which, when 't waa told her, could not fail
Persuade a peasant of its truth ;
I meant to oaXL a freak of youth
This hiding, and give hopes of pay,
And no temptation to betray.
But when I saw that woman's face.
Its calm simplicity of grace.
Our Italy's own attitude
In which she walked thus far, and stood,
Planting each naked foot so firm.
To crush the snake and spare the worm —
At first sight of her eyee, I said,
** I am that man upon whose head
They fix the price, because I hate
The Austrians over us : the State
Will give yon gold — oh, gold so much ! —
If you betray me to their dutch.
And be your death, for aught I know.
If once they find you saved their foe.
Now, vou must bring me food and drink.
And also paper, pen and ink.
And carry safe what I shall write

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 52 of 198)