Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 54 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 54 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Who could so carelessly accost him,

Henceforth never shall get free

Of his ghostly company.

His eyes that just a little wink

As deep I go into the merit

Of this ana that distinguished spirit —

His cheeks' raised color, soon to sink,

Digitized by




As loD^ I dwell on some stapendoos
And treroendons (Heaven defend ns I )
Penman's latest i>ieee of graphic.
Nay, mj very wrist grows warm
With his dragging weight of arm.
£*en so. swimmingly appears,
Throngn one's after^upper mnsings,
Some lost lady of old years
With her beauteous yain endeavor
And goodness unrepaid as ever ;
The nuw, accustomed to ref usinss.
We, puppies that we were . . . Oh noTer
Surely, mce of conscience, scrupled
Being aught like false, forsooth, to ?
Telling aught but honest truth to f
What a sin, had we centupled
Its possessor's ^ace and sweetness I
No I she heard m its completeness
Truth, for truth 's a weighty matter.
And truth, at issue, we can't flatter I
Well, 't is done with ; she 's exempt
From damning us throng such a sally ;
And so she glides, as down a valley.
Taking up with her contempt.
Past our reach ; and in, the flowers
Shut her unregarded hours.


Ohj oould I have him back ones more.

This Waring, but one half nlay more I

Back, with the ouiet face of yore,

So huninT ^<*^ acknowledgment ^

Like mine I I 'd fool him to his bent.

Feed, should not he, to heart's content ?

I 'd say, ** to only have conceived,

Planned your great works^ i^tart nom progress.

Surpasses little works achieved I "

I 'd lie so, I should be believed.

I 'd make such havoc of the claims

Of the dajr's distinguished names

To feast him with, as feasts an ogress

Her feverish sharp-toothed gold-crowned child I

Or as one feasts a creature rarely

Captured here, unreconciled

To capture ; and completelv gives

Its pettish humors license, biu«ly

Requiring that it lives.


Ichabod, Ichabod,
The glory is departed I
Travels Wariiwr East away ?
Who, of knowledge, by hearsay,
RepOTts a man upstarted
Somewhere as a god.
Hordes grown European-hearted,
Millions of the wild made tame
On a sudden at his fame ?
In Vishnu-land what Avatar ?
Or who in Moscow, toward the Czar,
With the demurest of footfalls
Over the Kremlin's pavement bright
With serpentine and syenite.
Steps, with five other Generals
That simultaneously take snuff.
For each to have pretext enoogh

And kerohiefwise unfold his sash

Which, softness' self, is yet the stuff

To hold fast where a steel chain sni4>8.

And leave the grand white neck no gash ?

Waring in Moscow, to those rough

Cold northern natures bom perhaps.

Like the lamb white maiden dear

From the circle of mute kings

Unable to repress the tear.

Each as his sceptre down he flings.

To Dian's fane at Taurica,

Where now a captive priestess, she alway

Blingles her tender grave Hellenic speecn

With theirs, tuned to the hailstone-beaten beach

As pours some pigeon, from the myrrhy lands

Kapt by the whirlblast to fierce Scythian

Where breed the swallowrs, her melodious 017
Amid their barbarous twitter I
In Russia ? Never ! ^ Spain were fitter I
Av, most likely 't is in Spain
That we and Waring meet again
Now, while he turns down that cool narrow lane
Into the blackness, out of grave Madrid
AU fire and shine, abrupt as when there 's slid
Its stiff gold blazmg paU
From some black oomn-lid.
Or, best of all,
I love to think

The leaving us was just a feint ;
Back here to London did he slink,
And now works on without a wink
Of sleep, and we are on the brink
Of something great in fresco-paint :
Some garret s ceiling, waUs aind floor,
Up and down and o^ and o'er
He splashes, as none splashed before
Since great Caldara Polidore.
Or Music means this land of ours
Some favor vet, to pity won
By Purcell from his KosyBowers, —
** GKve me my so-long promised son,
Let Waring end what 1 begun ! "
Then down he creeps and out he steals
Only when the night conceals
His face ; in Kent 't is cherry-time,
Or hops are picking : or at prime
Of March he wanders as, too happy,
Years a^ when he was young.
Some mdd eve when woods grew sappy
And the early moths had sprung
To life from many a trembling sheath
Woven the warm boughs beneath ;
While small birds said to themselves
What should soon be actual song.
And young gnats, by tens and twelves.
Made as if uiey were the throng
That crowd around and carry aloft
The sound they have nursed, so sweet and poreb^
Oat of a myriad noises soft.
Into a tone that can endure
Amid the noise of a July noon
When all God's creatures crave their boon.
All at once and all in tune.
And get it, happjr as Waring then.
Having first witmn his ken
What a man might do with men :
And far too glad, in the eveii-glow«

Digitized by




To mix with the world he meant to take
Into hia hand, he told too, so —
And oat of it his world to make,
To contract and to expand
As he shut or oped his hand.
O WarinfiT, what's to really be?
A dear sta^ and a crowd to see !
Some Gamck, say, out shaU not he
The heart of Hamlet's m3rstery plnck ?
Or, where most unclean beasts are rife,
Some Jnnios — am I ri^rht ? — shaU tuck
His sleeve, and forth with flavii^knif e !
Some Chatterton shall have the luck
Of callin(? Rowley into life !
Some one shall somehow run a-muck
With this old world for want of strife
Sound asleep. ContriveijDontrive
To rouse us, Waring I Who *s alive ?
Onr men scarce seem in earnest now.
Distingnished names ! — but 't is, somehow,
As if they nla^ed at being names
Still more distanguished, Uke the games
Of children. Turn our sport to earnest
'With, a visage of the sternest !

ring tne real omes back, oonfe
till better than our very best I



** When I last saw Waring . . ."
(How all turned to him who spoke I
You saw Waring? Truth or joke?
In land-travel or searfaring ?)

*^ We were sailing by Triest
Where a day or two we harbored :
A sunset was in the West,
When, looking over the vessel's side.
One oi our company espied
A sudden speck to larboard.
And as a searduck flies and awims
At once, so came the light craft up.
With its sole lateen sail that trims
And turns (the water round its rims
Dancing, as round a sinking cup)
And by us like a fish it curled,
And drew itself up dose beside.
Its flreat sail on the instant furled.
Ana o'er its thwarts a shrill voice cried,
(A neck as bronzed as a Lascar's)

Buy wine of us, you English brig ?
Or fruit, tobacco and dgars ?
A pilot for you to Triest ?
Without one, look you ne'er so big.
They 11 never let vou up the bay T
We natives should know best.*

I turned, and * justjthose fellows' wa:^^'
Our captain said, '
Are l^wg^iwg at i

J na
Our captain said, * The 'long-shore thieves
I in their sleeves.'

^In truth, the hoj leaned laughing back ;
And one, half-hidden by his side
Under the furled sml, soon I spied.
WiUi great grass hat and kerchief black,

Who looked up vrith his kingly throat
Said somewhat, while the atner shook
His hair back m>m his eyes to look
Their longest at us ; then the boat,
I know not how, turned sharply round.
Laying her whole side on the sea
As a leaping fish does ; from the lee
Into the weather, out somehow
Her sparkling path beneath our bow
And so went off, as with a bound.
Into the rosy and golden half
O' the skv, to overtake the sun
And reach the shore, like the sea-calf
Its singing cave ; vet I caught one
Glance ere away the boat quite passed.
And neither time nor toil could mar
Those features : so I saw the last
OfWaringI" — You? Oh, neverstar
Was lost here but it rose afar I
Look East, where whole new thousands are f
In Vishnn-land what Avatar ?


«• OiTe ** and «* It-ahaU-be-given-nnto-yon **

OriginaUy published in 1854, in conneotioii
with a poem by Mrs. Browning, A Plea far the
Ragged Schools qf London^ in a volume issued
for a bazaar to benefit the ** Refuge for Young
Dertitute Girls."

GRAin> rough old Martin Luther
Bloomed fables — flowers on furze.

The better the unoouther :
Do roses stick like burrs ?

A beggar asked an alms

One dav at an abbe^-door.
Said Luther ; but, seized with qualms,

The Abbot replied, *' We 're poor !

*• Poor, who had plenl^ once,
When gifts fell thick as rain :
But they give us naught, for the nonce,
And how should we give again ? "

Then the beegar. *^ See your sins I

Of old, unless I err^
Ye had brothers for inmates, twins.

Date and Dabitur.

** While Date was in good case
Dabitur flourished too :
For Dabitnr's lenten face
No wonder if Date rue.

** Would ye retrieve the one ?

Try and make plump the other I
When Date's penance is done,
Dabitur hdps his brother.

*Only, beware relapse ! "

The Abbot hun^ his head.
This beggar might be perhaps
An angel, Luther said.

Digitized by





80 far as our story approacbes the end,
Which do yoa pit^ the most of us three ? —

My friend, or the mistress of my friend
With her wanton eyes, or me ?

My friend was already too good to lose,

And seemed in the way of improTement

When she crossed his path with her hnnting-
And oTer him drew her net.

When I saw him tang^led in her toils^
A shame, said I, if she adds jmit him

To her nine-and-ninety other spoils,
llie hundredth for a whim t

And before my friend be wholly hers.

How easy to proye to him^ I said.
An eagle *s the game her pnde prefers.

Though she snaps at a wren instead I

» I gare her eyes my own eyes to take,
Jly nand sought hers as in earnest need.
And round she turned for my noble sake.
And gave me herself indeed.

The eagle am I, with mr fame in the world.
The wren is he, with nis maiden face.

— Tou look away and your lip is curled f
Patienoe, a moment*s space I

Por see, my friend goes shakhig and white ;

He eyes roe as the banlisk :
I haye turned, it appears, his day to night.

Eclipsing his sun^s disk.

And I did it, he thinks, as a yery thief :
" Though I love her — that, he oompre-
bends —

One should master one^s pasmons, (loye, in ohie^
And be loyal to one^s friends ! "

And she, — she lies in my hand as tame
As a pear late basking oyer a wall ;

Jost a touch to try and off it came ;
'T is mine, —can I let it fall?

With no mind to eat it. that *s the worst I
Were it thrown in the road, would the case

T was quenching a dozen blue-flies* thirst
When I gaye its stalk a twist.

And I, — what I seem to my friend, you see :
What I soon shall seem to his loye, yon

What 1 seem to myself, do yon ask of me ?
No hero, I confess.

^Tis an awkward thing to jAaj with souls,
And matter enough to save one's own :

Yet think of roj friend, and the burning ooals
He played with for bits of stone !

One likes to show the tmtii for the truth ;

That the woman was light is yery true :
But suppose she says, — Neyer mind that
youth 1

What wrong haye I done to yon ?

Well, anyhow, here the story stays.

So far at least as I understand ;
And, Robert Browning, yon writer of playi»

Here *s a subject uumb toyour hand T


I SAID — Then, dearest, since *ttB so,
Sinoe now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my loye ayails.
Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails.

Since this was written and needs must be —
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride ana thawtrf ulnoiin !
Take back the hope you gaye, — I claim
Only a memory of the same,
— And this beside, if you wiQ not blame.

Your leaye for one more last ride with me.

My mistress bent that brow of hers :
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through.
Fixed me a breathing^while or two

With life or death in the balance : right I
The blood replenished me again ;
My last thoui^t was at least not yain :
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
SojOne day more am I deified.

Who knows but the world may end to-ni^t ?

Hush ! if yon saw some western doud

All billowy-bosomed, oyer-bowed

By many benediotions — sun's

And moon's and eyening*star's at once —

And so, you, looking and loying best.
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star«hine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near.
Till flesh must fade for neayen was here I —
Thus leant she and lingered —joy and fear I

Thus lay she a moment on my breast.

Then we began to ride. My soul
Smoothed itiielf out, a lon^Hsramped scroE
Freshening and fluttering m the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.

What need to striye with a life awry ?
Had I said that, had I done this.
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she haye loyed me ? just as well
She might haye hated, who can tell I
Where had I been now if the worst befell f

And here we are riding, she and I.

Fail I alone, in words and deeds ?
Why, all men striye. and who succeeds?
We rode ; it seemed my spirit flew.
Saw other resums, cities new,
As the wond rushed by on either side.

Digitized by




I thongrht, — All labor, yet no less
Bear ap beneatli their ansacoesB.
Look at Uie end of work, contrast
Tlie petty done, the undone yast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past I
I hoped she would love me ; here we ride.

What hand and brain went ever paired ?
What heart alike conceived and dared ?
What act proved all its thought had been ?
What will but felt the fleshly screen ?

We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There *s many a crown for who can reach.
Ten lines, a statesman's life in each I
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier's doing I what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.

My riding is better, by their leave.

What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Tour brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only ; you expressed
Yon hold things beautiful the best.

And place them in rhjrme so, side bv side.
'Tis something, nay 't is much : but then.
Have yon yourself what *s best for men ?
Are you — poor, sick, old ere your time —
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turned a rhvme ?

Sing, riding 's a joy I For me, I ride.

And you, great sculptor — so, you gare
A score of yean to Art, her slave.
And that 's ^our Venus, whence we turn
Toyonder gprl that fords the bum I

You acqmesce, and shall I repine ? '
What, man of music^ you grown gray
With notes and nothmg else to say.
Is this your sole praise from a friend,
** Qreatly his opera's strains intend.
But in music we know how fashions end I "

I gave my youth ; but we ride, in fine.

Who knows what's fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sablimate
My being — had I signed the bond —
StiU one must lead some life beyond,^

fiLave a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal.
This gloTT-garland round my soul.
Could I descry such ? Try and test I
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best ?

Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.

And yet — she has not spoke so long I
What if heaven bo that, fair and strong
At life's best, with our eyes upturned
Whither life's flower is first discerned,

We, fixed so, ever should so abide ?
Wliat if we still ride on, we two.
With life forever old yet new.
Changed not in kind bnt in degree.
The instant made eternity, —
And heaven just prove that I and she

Ride, ride together, forever ri^e ?


A child's story

(H^rHUm/or, and imcribtd to^ W.M.Ou Younger)

Maoready's eldest son when a child was con-
fined to the house by illness, and Browning
wrote this jeu d^esprit to amuse the child and
give him a subject for illustrative drawings.

Hakklin Town 's in Brunswick,

Byf amous Hanover city ;
The river Weser, deep and wide.
Washes its wall on the southern side ;
A pleasanter spot you never q>ied ;

But. when begins my ditty,
Almost five nnndred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

They fought the dogs and killed the cats.

And bit the babies in the cradles.
And ate the cheeses out of the vats.

And licked the soup from the cooks' own
Split open the kegs of salted sprats.
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even Sfwiled the women's chats

By drowning their speaking

With shriekmg and sqneakmg
In fifty different sharps and flats.

At last the people in a body

To the Town Hall came flocking :
"'T is clear," cried they, "our Mayor 's a
noddy ;
And as for our Corporation — shocking
To think we buy go¥ms lined with ermine
For dolts that cairt or won't determine
What 's best to rid us of our vermin !
You ho^, because you 're old and obese.
To find in the furnr civic robe ease ?
Rouse up, sirs I Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we 're lacking.
Or, sure as fate, we 11 send you packing I "
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

An hour they sat in council ;

At length the Mayor broke silence :
" For a guilder I 'd my ermine gown sell,

I wish I were a mile hence I
It 's easy to bid one rack one's brain —
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I 've scratched it so, and all in vain.
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap I "
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber-door but a gentle tap ?
** Bless us," cried the Mavor, " what 's that ? *
(THitk the Ccnporation as he sat,

Digitized by




Liookii^ little thcrap;!! wondions fat ;
Nor brisrhter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opeued oyster.
Save when at noon his paunch grew rontmons
For a pli^ of turtle green and glatmoos)
*^ Only a scn^nng of shoes on the mat ?
Anvtmnglike the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat I "


*' Gome^ in I " — the Mayor cried, looking

And in aid oome the strangest figure I
His queer long ooat from heel to liead ^

Was half of yellow and half of red,
And he himself was tall and thin.
With sharp blue e^es, each like a nm.
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin.
No tuit on cheek nor beard on chin.
But lips where smiles went out and in ;
There was no guessing his kith and kin :
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: ** It 's as my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tomb-


He adTanced to the council-table :

And, ** Please your honors,*' said he, ** I 'm

By means of a secret charm, to draw

All creatures liying beneath the sun.

That creep or swim or fly or run,

After me so as you neyer saw I

And I chiefly use my charm

On creatures that do people harm,

The mole and toad and newt and viper ;

And people call me the Pied Piperf ^

(And nere they noticed round hu neck

A scarf of red and yellow stripe.

To match with his coat of the self-same cheque ;

And at the scarf's end hung a pipe ;

And lus fingers, they noticed, were erer stray-

As if impatient to be playing

Upon thu pipe, as low it dangled

Over his vesture so old>fangled.)

" Yet," said he, " poor jpiper as I am.

In Tartary I freed the Cham,

Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats ;

I eased in Asia the Nizam

Of a monstrous brood of vampire-bats :

And as for what your brain bewilders.

If I can rid your town of rats

Will you give me a thousand guilders ? "

**One? mtj thousand!" — was the exclama-

Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.


^ito the street the Piper stept.

Smiling first a Uttle smile.
As if he knew what magic uept

In Ida quiet pi|>e the while ;
Then, like a musical adept.
To blow the pipe his lips ne wrinkled.

And green and blue htB sharp eyes twinkled.
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled ;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered ;
And the muttering grow to a grumbling ;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling ;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Qnat rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats.
Brown rats, black rats, gray ratSj tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young fnskers.

Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins.
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers.

Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives —
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing.
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished I

— 8ave one who. stout as Julius CsBsar,
Swam across ana lived to carry

(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary :
Which was, '* At the first shrill notes of the

I heard a sound as of scraping tripe.

And putting apples, wondrous ripe,

Into a cider-press's gripe :

And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards.

And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards.

And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks.

And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks :

And it seemed as if a voice

fiSweeter fmr than by harp or by psaltery

Is breached) called out, * Oh rats, rejoice t

The world is grown to one vast drysalterv I

So munch <m, crunch on, take your nuncheon^

Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon ! '

And just as a oulk^ sugar-puncheon.

All ready staved, like a great sun shone

Glorious scarce an inch before me,

Just as methonght it said^ * Come, bore me I *

— I found the Weser rolling o'er me."


You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
" Go," cried the Mayor, ^* and get long poles.
Poke out the nests and block up the holes !
Consult with carpenters and builders.
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats I " — when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piperperked in the market-place,
With a. First, if you please, my thousand


A thousand guilders ! The Mayor looked blue;

So did the Corporation too.

For council dinners made rare havoc

With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;

And half the money would replenish

Their cellar's bigg^ butt with Rhenish.

To pay this sum to a wandering fellow

With a gypsy ooat of red and yellow !

** Beside,^ ^ quoth the Mayor with a knowing

** Our business was done at the river's brink ;

Digitized by




We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
Ajid what 's dead can't come to life, I think.
80, friend, we *re not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for

And a matter of money to pnt in your poke ;
Bnt as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as yon very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders 1 Come, take fifty I * '


The Piper's face fell, and he cried,

** No trifling ! I oan^t wait, beside !

I We promised to visit by dinner time

Bagdat, and accept the prime

Of the Head-Cook's pottage, all he 's rich in.

For having left, in the Calipn's kitchen,

Of a nest of scorpions no survivor :

WiUi him I proved no bargain-driver,

With you, don't think I '11 bate a stiver I

And folks who put me in a passion

May find me pipe after anotner fashion."


** How ?" cried the Mayor, '' d' ve think I brook

Being worse treated than a Cook ?

Insuked by a lazy ribald

With idle pipe and vesture piebald ?

You threaten us, fellow ? Do your worst.

Blow your pipe there till you burst I "


Once more he stept into the street.

And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane ;

And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
•Soft notes as yet musician's cunning

Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hus-

Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes dat-

Little hands clapping and little tongues chat-
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is

Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls.
And sparkling e^es and teeth like pearls.
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
Tlie wonderful music with shouting and laugh-


The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood.
Unable to move a step, or cry^
To the children merrily skipping by,
— Could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack.
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat.
As the Piper turned from the High ^treet

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 54 of 198)