Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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How he wonld take his pleasure once I '

** And it shall go hard bat I contrive

To listen the wnile, and laugh in mv tomb

At idleness which aspires to strive."



So ! While these wait the trump of doom.
How do their spirits pass, I wonder,
Nights and days in the narrow room ?

Still, I suppose, they sit and ponder
What a gift life was, ages ago.
Six steps out of the chapel yonder.

Only thev see not (Sod, I know,

Nor all that chivalry of his,

The soldier^aints who, row on row.

Bum UDward eaeh to his point of bUss —

Since, the end of life being manifest.

He had burned his way through the world to



I hear jrou reproach, ** But delay was beet,
For their end was a crime." — Oh, a crime will

do
As well, I reply, to serve for a test.

As a virtue golden through and through.

Sufficient to vindicate itself

And prove its worth at a moment's view I

Must a game be played for the sake of pelf ?
Where a button goes, 't were an epigram
To offer the stamp of the very Guelph.

The true has no value beyond the sham :

As well the oounter as com, I submit,

When your table 's a hat, and your prize, a



Stake your oounter as boldly every whit.
Venture as warily, use the same skilly
Do your best, whether winning or losmg it,

If yon choose to play I — ib my principle.
Let a man contend to the uttermost
For his life's set prize, be it what it will I

The oounter our lovers staked was lost

As surely as if it were lawful coin :

And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost

Is — the unHt lamp and the ungirt loin.
Though the end in sight was a vice, I say.
Ton of the virtue (we issue ioin)
How strive you ? DeU, fahula I

PORPHYRIA'S LOVER

First printed in Mr. Fox's Monthly Repository
in 1836, under the signature Z. When issued in



Bells and Pomegranates it was grouped with
Johannes Agricola in Meditation as No. II. of
Madhouse Cells. The poem has an interest as
the earliest, apparently, of Browning's mono-
logues.

The rain set early in to-night.

The sullen wind was soon awake.
It tore the elm-tops down for spite.

And did its worst to vex the lake :
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria ; straight

She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate

Blaze up, and all the cottage warm ;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl.

And laid her soiled gloves by. untied
Her hat and let the damp hair tail,

And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied.
She put my arm about her waist.

And made her smooth white shoulder bare
And all her yellow hair displaced.

And, stooping, made my cheek lie there.
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she lovea me — she

Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor.
To set its struggling i>assion free

From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And grive herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,

Nor could to-night*s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale

For love of her, and all in vain :
So, she was come through wind and rain»
Be sure I looked up at her eyes

Happy^ and proud ; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me ; surprise

Miade my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fiiir.

Perfectly pure and good : I found
A thing to do, and all her hair

In one long yellow string I wound
Three times ner little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she ;

I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,

I warily oped her lids : again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress

About her neck ; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:

I propped ner head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still :

The smiling rosy little head.
So glad it has its utmost will,

Tnat all it scorned at once is fled.
And I, its love, am gained instead !
Porphyria's love : she guessed not how

Her darling one wish would be heard»
And thus we sit together now.

And all night long we have not stirred.
And yet God has not sud a word I



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*CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"



287



•*CH1LDE ROLAND TO THE DARK
TOWER CAME»»

See Edgar^s song in Lectr,

Mt fint thoQKfat was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malieions eye
Askance to watch the working of his Ue
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more yictim gained thereby.

What else should he be set for, with his staff ?
What, saye to waylay with his lieSj ensnare
All travellers who might find lum posted
there.
And ask the road? I gnened what skull-like

laugh
Would broak, what omtoh 'gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dosty thoroughfare,

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree.
Hides the Dark Tower. Tet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed : neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried.
So much as gladness that some end mig^t be.

For, what with my whole world-wide wander-
ing.
What with mv search drawn out through

3rean, my nope
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obetrcrperous joy success would

brin^,—
I haitUy tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its soope.

As when a sick man very near to death
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears, and takes the farewell of each
friend.
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
FreeHer outside, (** since all is o*er,*' he saith,
^*And the blow fallen no grieving can



While some discuss if near the other graves
Be^ room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away.

With care about the banners, scarves and
staves:

And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest.
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So manv times among ** The Band " — to wit.
The knkrnts who to the Dark Tower's search

addressed
Their steps— that just to fail as they, seemed
best.
And all the doubt was now— should I be fit ?

So^^quiet as despair, I turned from him.
That hateful cripple, out of his highway
Into the path he pointed. All the day



Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its dose, yet shot one grim
Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

For mark I no sooner was I fairiy found
Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two.
Than, pausing to throw backward a last view

0*er the safe road, 't was gone ; gray plain all
round:

Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound.
I might go on ; naught eke remained to do.

So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starved ignoble nature ; nothing throve r
For flowers — as well expect a cedar grove I
But cockle, spurge, acconung to their bw
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe»
Ton M think : a burr had been a treasure
trove.

No ! penury, inertness and grimace.
In some strange sort, were the land's portion.

"See
Or shut your eves," said Nature peevishly,
** It nothing skills : I cannot help my case :
*T is the Last Judgment's fire must cure this
place,
Galome its clods and set my prisoners free.'*

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the nead was chopped ; the

bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes
and rents
In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to

balk
All hoiM of greenness ? 't is a brute must walk
Fashing their life out, with a brute's intents^

As for the grass, it crew as scant as hair
In leprosy : tlun dry blades pricked the mud
Which underneath looked kneaded up with
blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare.
Stood stupefied, however he came there :
Thrust out past service from the devil's stud I

Alive ? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red gaunt and coUoped neck

a-strain.
And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane ;

Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe ;

I never saw a bnite I hat«d so ;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
As a roan calls for wine before he fii^htSj
I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights.

Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.

Think first, fight afterwards — the soldier's art :
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

Not it ! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face
Beneath its garniture of curly ^Id,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace t
Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.



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288



DRAMATIC ROMANCES



CKles then, the soul of honor — there he stands

Frank as ten yean ago when kniffhted first.

What honest man should dare (ae said) he

darst.

Good — but the scene shifts— £angh I what

hangman hands
Pin to his OTeast a parchment ? Hisown bands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit npon and curst I

Better this present than a past like that ;
Back therefore to my darkening path again I
No sound, no sight as ^ as eye could strain.

Will the nif ht send a howlet or a bat ?

I asked: when something on the dismal flat
Came to airest my thoughts and change their
train.

A sudden little rirer crossed my path
As unexpected as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms ;
This, as it frothed by, might hare been a bath
Por the fiend's glowing hoof — to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and
spumes.

^ petty yet so spiteful I All along.
Low scrubber alders kneeled down orer it ;
Drenched 'vnllows flung them headlong in a
fit
Of mute deroair, a suioidal throng :
The river which had done them all the wrong,
Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no
whit.

Which, while I forded, —good saints, how I

To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek.
Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard I
— It may hare been a water-rat I speared.
But, ugh I it sounded like a baby^s shriek.

Glad was I when I reached the other bank.

Now for a better country. Vain presage !

Who were the strugglers, what war did they
wage.
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plaw ? Toads in a poisoned tank.

Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage —

The fi^t must so hare seemed in that fell
cirque.
What penned them there, with all the plain

to choose?
No footprint leading to that horrid mews.
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like gaUey-slaves the
Turk
Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

And more than that — a furlong on — why,
there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheeL
Or brake, not wheel — that harrow fit to reel
Hen's bodies out like silk ? with all the air
Of Tophet*s tool, on earth left unaware.
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steeL



Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a
wood.
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere

earth
Desperate and done with: (so a fool finds
mirth.
Makes a thing: and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes I) within a rood —
Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark Uack
dearth.

Now blotches rankling, colored gay and grim.
Now patches where some leanness of the

soSrT^
Broke into moss or substances like boils ;
Then came some palsied oak, a deft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as for as ever from the end I
Naught in the distance but the eyening,

naught
To point my footstep further! At the
thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend, '

Saued past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-
penned
That brushed my cap— perchance the g:uide
I sought.

For, looking up. aware I somehow grew,
'Spite of tiie dusk, the plain had given plaee
All round to monnt^ns — with such name to
grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in

view.
How thus they had surprised me, — solve it,
you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.

Yet half I seemed to recognize some trick
Of mischief happened to me, God knows

when —
In a bad dream perhaps. ^ Here ended, then,
Prosress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
Ab when a trap shuts — you 're inside the
deni

Bumingly it came on me all at once,
This was the place I those two hills on the

Crou^ed like two bulls locked horn in horn
infieht;
While to the left, a tall scalped mountain • . •

Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the mght I

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool's

heart.
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest's mocking

elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.



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A SOUUS TRAGEDY



289



Not see? because (^nigfatperiiapB? — whv,daj
Came back again for that I before it left,
The dying smuet kindled through a deft:
The hills, like slants at a hunting, lay.
Chin upon hana, to see the game at bay, —
**Now stab and end the oreatore— to the
heft!"

Kothear? whenncMsewasererywherel tttdled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears,
Of all the lost adyent ore r s my peeis, —

How soch a one was strong, and snoh was bold.



And soch was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost I one m omen t kndled the woe of
years.

There they stood, ranged aloi« the linifj^^
met
To Tiew the last of me, a HTing frame
For one more picture I in a shMt of flame
I saw them and I knew them alL And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my line I set.
And blew. ^Ckiide Bdcmdto tki Dark
Tower came.'^



A SOUUS TRAGEDY

ACT FIRST, BEDfO WHAT WAS CALLED THE POETRY OP CHIAPPINO'S LIPE;
AND ACT SECOND, ITS PROSE



This drama was fint pnntedwith Lmia as
the oondnding number of Betis and Pomegratk'
olefin April, 1846.

PERSONS

LvRoiiffo and BuuojA. betrothed loren.
OnAvnao, their frioM.
OeHnav, the Pope*t Legato.
-• lofr



Tun, 1&~. Piece, Fabmia.



ACT I

Insidt LcrroLTO** hotue, QnimnD, Sulaua.
EmUdia. What is it keeps Luitolfo? Ni^t's
fast falling,
And 'twas scarce sunset . . . had the are-bell
Sounded before he sought the Ptorost's house ?
I think not: all he had to say would take
Few minutes, such a rery few, to say I
How do you think. Chiappino ? If our lord
The PtoTost were less fnendly to your friend
Than ererybody here professes him,
I should begin to tremble —should not you ?
Why are tou silent when so many times
I turn and speak to you ?
Chiappino. That *s good I

Eu. You laugh I

Ch. Yes. I had fanned nothing that bMrs
price
In the whole world was left to call my own ;
And, ma^^be. felt a little pride thereat.
Up to a smgle man's or woman's lore,
Down to the right in my own flesh and blood,
l^ere 's nothing mine, I fancied, — till you

spoke:
—Counting, you see, as ** nothing " the permis-
sion
To study this peculiar lot of mine
In silenee : well, go silence with the rest
Of the world's good I What can I say, shall
J?



Eu, This, — lest yon, eTeamon than needs,
embitter
Our parting : say your wroogs haTO east, for



A cloud aoross 3rour qnrit I
CA. How a dond ?

Eu, No man nor woman lores you, did you

say?
Ch. My God, were 't not for thee I
Eu. Ay, God remaim,

Eren did men f oisake yon.

Ch. C^notsol

Were 't not for God, I mean, what hope of

truA —
Speaking truth, hearing truth, would stay with

man?
L now — the homeless friendless penniless
Proscribed and exiled wretch who qieak to

you,—
Ought to speak truth, yet could not, for my

death,
(The thing that tempts me most) he^ speaking

lies
About TOUT friendship and Luitolf o's courage
And all our townsfolk's eqnanimilj —
Through sheer incompetence to ria myself
Of the old miserable lying trick
Caufl^t from the liars I hare liyed with, — God,
Did I not turn to thee I It is thy prompting
I dare to be ashamed of, and thy counsel
Would die along my coward lip, I know.
But I do turn to thee. This crayen tongue,
These features which refuse the soul its way.
Reclaim thou I Giye me truth — truth, power

tospeak
— And after be sole p re se nt to approre
The spoken truth I Or, stay, that spoken truth.
Who knows but you, too, may approre ?

Eu. Ah, well-

Keep silence then, Chiappino I

Ch. You would hear, —

Yon shall now, — why the thing we please to

st^le
My gratitude to you and all your friends



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290



A SOUL'S TRAGEDY



For seryioe done me, is just gratitude

So much aa Toan was seirioe : no vhit more.

I was bom here, bo was Loitolf o ; both

At one time, much with the same oironmstance

Of rai^ and wealth ; and both, np to this night

Of partinflr company, have side by side

StiD fared, he in the sunshine — 1, the shadow.

"Why? "asks the world. " Because," replies

the world
To its complacent self. " these playfellows.
Who took at church the holy-water drop
Each from the other's finger, and so forth, —
Were of two moods : Luitolto was the proper
FHend-making, everywhere friend-findmg soul.
Fit for €tie su^diine, so, it followed him.
A happy-tempered bringer of the best
Out of the worst ; who Dears with what 's past

cure.
And puts so good a face on 't — wisely pasdve
Where action 's fruitless, while he remedies
In silence what the foolish rail against :
A man to smooth such natures as parade
Of opposition must exasperate ;
No ^neral gauntlet-gatherer for the weak
Agamst the strong, yet orer-scrupulous
At lucky junctures ; one who won't forego
The after-battle work of binding wounds.
Because, forsooth he ^d have to brin^ himself
To side with wound-inflictors for their leave I "
— Why do you gaze, nor help me to repeat
What oomes so gliblv from the conoonon mouth.
About Luitolf and his so-styled friend ?

Eu, Because, that friend's sense is ob-
scured . . .

Ch. I thought

Ton would be readier with the other half
Of the world's story, my half I Yet, 't is true.
For all the world does say it. Say your worst I
True, I thank God, 1 ever said ** yon sin,"
When a man did sin : if I could not say it,
I glared it at him ; if I could not glare it.



Iprayed against him ; then mjr part seemed over.
Oodhi mav begin yet : so it will, I trust.
JSti. If the world outraged yon, did we ?



Ch,

That you use well or ill ? It 's man, in me,
All your successes are an outrage to,
You all, whom sunshine follows, as yon sar I
Here 's our Faenza birthplace ; they send here
A provost from Ravenna : how he rules,
You can at times be eloquent about.
" Then, end his rule I ** — ** Ah yes, one stroke

does that !
But patience under wrong works slow and sure.
Must violence still bring peace forth? He,

beside.
Returns so blandly one's obeisance I ah —
Some latent virtue may be lingering yet,
Some human sjrmpathy which, once^ excite,
And all the lump wgre leavened quietly :
So, no more talk of striking, for this time I "
But I, as one of those he rues, won't bear
These pretty takings-up and layin^i^own
Our cause, just as you think occasion suits.
Enougn of earnest, is there ? You '11 play, will

you?
Diversify your tactics, give submission.
Obsequiousness and flattery a turn.



While we die in our misery patient deaths ?
We all are outraged then, and I the first :
I, for mankind, resent each shrug and smirk,
Each beck and bend, each ... all yon do and

are,
I hate I

Eu, We share a common censure, then.
'T is well you have not poor Luitolf o's part
Nor mine to point out in the wide offence.

Ch, Oh, snail I let you so escape me, lady ?
Come, on your own ground, lady, —from your-
self,
(Leaving the people's wrong, which most is

mme)
What have I got to be so grateful for ?
These three last fines, no doubt, one on the

other
Paid by Luitolf o?

Eu. Shame, Chiappino I

Ch, Shame

FallpresenUy on who deserves it most !
— Which is to see. He paid my fines — my^

friend.
Your prosperous smooth lover presently.
Then, scarce your wooer, — soon, your boa-

band: well —
I loved yon.

Eu, Hold I

Ch, You knew it, years ago*

When my Toice faltered and my eye grew dim
Because you gave me your silk mask to hold —
My Yoice that greatens when there's need to



The people's Provost to their heart's content,
—My eye, the Provost, who bears all men's

eyes.
Banishes now because he cannot bear, —
Yon knew . . . but yon do your parts — my

part J:
Sobeitl Yon flourish, I decay: all 'swell.
Eu, I hear this for the first time.
Ch, The fault's there?

Then my days spoke not, and my nights of fire
Were voiceless ? Then the very heart may

burst.
Yet all prove naught, because no mincing

speech
Tells l^snrely that thus it is and thus?
Eulalia, truce with toying for this once !
A banished fool, who troubles you to-night
For the last time — why, what 's to fear from

me?
Yon knew I loved you I

Eu, Not so, on taj faith !

You were my now-affianced lover's f nend —
Came in, went out with him, could speak as he»
All praise your ready parts and pre^ant wit ;
See how your words come from you m a crowd t
Luitolf o^s first to place you o'er himself
In all that challenges respect and love :
Yet yon were silent then, who blame me now.
I sav all this by fascination, sure :
I, all but wed to one I love, yet listen I
It must be, you are wronged, and that the

wroni^
Lnitolfo pities . . •

Ch, —You too pity? Do!

But hear first what my wrongs are ; so began



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A SOUL'S TRAGEDY



291



This talk and so shall end this talk. I say,
Was 't not enough that I must strive (I saw)
To grow so far familiar with your charms
As next contrive some way to win them — which
To do, an age seemed far too brief — for, see I
We all aspire to heaven ; and there lies heaven
Above ns : go there I Dare we go ? no, surely I
How dare we go without a reverent pause,
A growing less unfit for heaven ? Just so,
I dured not speak : the greater fool, it seems I
Was 't not enough to struggle with such foDy,
But 1 must have, beside, the very man
Whose slight free loose and incapacious soul
Gave his tongue scope to say whate*er be would

— Most have him load me with his benefits

— For fortune's fiercest stroke ?

Hu, Justice to him

That 's now entreatinflr, at his risk perhaps.
Justice for joa I Did he once call those acts
Of simple friendship — bounties, benefits f
Ch, No : the straight course had been to call

them thus.
Then, 1 had flung them back^ and kept myself
Unhampered, free as he to wm the prize
We both sought. But '' the gold was dross,"

he said :
**He loved me, and I loved him not: why

spurn
A trifle out of superfluil^ ?
He had forgotten he had done as much."
So had not! I Henceforth, try as I could
To take him at his word, there stood bv you
My benefactor ; who might speak and laugh
And urge his nothings, even banter me
Before you — but my tongue was tied. A

diearal
Let 's wake : your husband . . . how youshake

at that!
Good — my revenge I

Eu, Why should I shake? What forced
Or forces me to be Lnitolfo's bride ?

Ch. There 's my revenge, that nothing

forces yon.
No gratitude, no liking of the eye
Nor longing of the heart, but the poor bond
Of habit — here so manv times he came.
So much he spoke, — all these compose the tie
Thai pulls you from me. Well, ne paid my



Nor missed a cloak from wardrobe, dish from

table;
He spoke a good word to the Ptovost here.
Held me up when my fortunes fell away,
— It had not looked so well to let me drop, —
Men take pains to preserve a tree-stump, even.
Whose boughs they played beneath— much

more a friend.
But one grows tired of seeing, after the first.
Pains spent upon impracticabLe stuff
Like me. I could not change : yon know the

rest :
I Ve spoke my mind too fully out, by chance,
This morning to our Provost ; so, ere night
I leave the city on pain of death. And now
On mv account there 's gallant int er e os mon
Goesforward— that 's so graceful I —and anon
He '11 noisily come back : ** the intercession
Waa made and fails ; all 's over for us both ;



^T is vain contending ; I would better go."
And I do go — and straight to yon he turns
Light of a load ; and ease of that permits
His visage to renair the natural bland
CEconomy, sore broken late to suit
My discontent. Thus, all are pleased — yon,

with him.
He with himself, and all of you with me
— ''Who," say the citizens, '*had done ha

better



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 58 of 198)