Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Prattle fantastically on disease,
Its cause and cure — and I must hold my peace !

Thou wilt object — Why have I not ere this
Sought out the sage himself, the Nazarene
Who wrought tEds cure, inquiring at the

source.
Conferring with the frankness that befits ?



Alas ! it irrieveth me, the learned leech

Perished in a tumult many years ago.

Accused — our learning's fa^ — of wizardry.

Rebellion, to the setting up a rule

And creed prodigious as described to me.

His death, which happened when the eartl^

quake fell
(Prefiguring, as soon appeared, the kns
To occult learning in our lewd the sage
YHio lived there m the pyramid alone)
Was wrought by the maa people— that 's their

wont!
On vain recourse, as I conjecture it.
To his tried virtue, for miraculous nelp —
How could he stop the earUiquake ? That 's

their way I
The other imputations must be lies :
But take one, though I loathe to give it thee,
In mere respect for an^frgood man a fame.
(And after all, our patient Lazarus
Is stark mad ; should we count on what he

says?
Perhaps not : though in writing to a leech
'T is well to keep back nothing of a case.)
This man so cured regards the curer, then.
As — God forgive me 1 who but God himself.
Creator and sustainer of the world.
That came and dwelt in flesh on it awhile !
— 'Sayeth that such an one was bom and Uved,
Taught, healed the sick, broke bread at his

own house.
Then died, with Lazarus by, for aught I know.
And yet was . . . what 1 said nor choose re-



And must have so avouched himself, in fact.
In hearing of this very Lazarus
Who saii£ — but why all this of what he saith ?
Why write of trivial matters, things of price
Calfing at every moment for remark ?
I noti^ on the maigin of a nod
Blue-flowering borage, the Aleppo sort,
Aboundeth, very nitrous. It is strange I

Thv pardon for this long and tedious case.
Which, now that I reriew it, needs must seem
Unduly dwelt on, prolixly set forth I
Nor I myself discern in what is writ
Good causa for the peculiar interest
And awe indeed this man has touched me with.
Perhaps the journey's end, the weariness
Had wrought upon me first. I met him thus :
I crossed a ridge of short sharp broken hills
like an old lion's cheek teeth. Out there came
A moon made like a face with certain spots
Multiform, manifold, and menacing :
Then a wind rose behind me. So we met
In this old sleepy town at unaware.
The man and I. I send thee what is writ.
Regard it as a chance, a matter risked
To this ambi^iMus Syrian — he may lose,
Or steal, or give it thee with equal good.
Jerusalem's repose shall make amends
For time this letter wastes, thy time and mine ;
Till when, once more thy pardon and fare-
weUI

The very God I think, Abib ; dost thou think ?
So, the Au-Great, were the AJl-Loving too —



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PICTOR IGNOTUS



341



80, throngli the thunder comes a hanuui yoice
SayinfiT, ** O heart I made, a heart heats here I
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself I
Thou hast no power nor mayst oonoeiye of

mine.
Bat love I gare thee, with mTself to Ioto, '
And thon mnst lore me who haTe died for

theel"
The madman saith He said so : it



JOHANNES AGRICOLA IN MEDITATION

First published with the signatnre Z in T%e
Monthly Repantory in 1836. A quotation from
a Dictionary tf aU Religions followed the title
CD the first pnUioation, but b here transferred
to the notes.

Thebb *8 hearen abore, and night by night

I look right through its gorgeous roof ;
No suns and moons though e*er so bright

Avail to stop me ; splendor-proof

I keep the bro<»ds ot stars aloof :
For I intend to get to God,

For 't is to God I speed so fast.
For in God^s breast, my own abode.

Those shoals of danling glory, passed,

I lay my spirit down at last.
I Ue where 1 haye always lain,

God smiles as he has always smiled ;
"Ere suns and moons eould wax and wane.

Ere stars were thundergirt, or piled

The heayens, God thought on me his child ;
Ordained a Hf e for me, arrayed

Its drcumstanoes eyery one
To the minutest : ay, God said

This head this band should rest upon

Thus, ere he ^shioned star or sun.
And haying thus created me,

Thus rooted me. he bade me grow,
Oniltleea foreyer, like a tree

That buds and blooms, nor seeks to know

The law by which it prospers so:
But sure that thou^t and word and deed

All go to swell his loye for me,
He, made because that loye had need

Of something irreyenibly

Hedged solely its content to be.
Yes, yea, a tree which must ascend.

No poison-gourd foredoomed to stoop I
I haye <3od's warrant, could I blend

All hideous sins, as in a cnp.

To drink the mingled yenoms up ;
Secure my nature will oonyert

The draught to blossoming gladness fast :
While sweet dews turn to the gourd's hurt.

And bloat, and while they bloat it, blast.

As from the first its lot was cast.
For as I lie, smiled on, full-fed

By nnezhaosted power to bless,
I gaze below on heu*s fierce bed.

And those its wayes of flame oppress.

Swarming in ghastly wretchedness ;
Whose life on earth aspired to be

One altax^«moke, so pure t — to win
\f not loye like Goa*s loye for me.



At least to keep his anger in ;
* And all their striying turned to sin.
Priest, doctor, hermit, monk grown whita

With prayer, the broken-hearted nun.
The martyr, the wan acolyte.

The ince n se s w i nging child, — undone

Before God fashioned star or sun I
God, whom I praise ; how could I frsisn.

If such as I mi^t understand,
liake out and reckon on his ways.

And bargain for his loye, and stand.

Paying a price, at his right hand ?

PICTOR IGNOTUS

FLORENCE, I5 —

I COULD haye painted pictures Hke that youth's
Te praise so. How my soul springs up ! No

Stayed me —ah, thought which saddens whila
it soothes!
— Neyer did fate f orHd me. star by >tar,
To outburst on your night with all my gift
Of fires from God : nor would my nm haya
shrunk
From seconding my soul, with eyes uplift
And wide to hctfiyen, or, straight like than*
der, sunk
To the centre, of an instant j or around
Turned calmly and inquintiye, to scan
The license and the limit, space and bound.

Allowed to truth made yisible in man.
And, like that youth ye praise so, all I saw.

Oyer the canyas could my hand haye flung.
Each face obedient to its passion*s lawj
Each psssion dear proclaimed without a
tongue;
Whether Hope rose at once in all ihe blood,

A-tiptoe for the blessing of embrace.
Or RMtnre drooped the eyes, as when her brood
Pull down the nesting doyens heart to its
place;
Or Confidence lit swift the forehead up,
And locked the mouth fast, like a castle
brayed, —
O human faces, hath it spQt, my cup ?

What did ye give me that I haye not sayed f
Nor will I say Lhaye not dreamed (how welll)
Of going — I, in each new picture, — forth.
As, making new hearts beat and bosoms swell.
To Pope or Kaiser, East, West, South, or
North,
Bound for the calmly satisfied great State,

Or glad aspiring little burgh, it went.
Flowers cast upon the oar which bore the
freight.
Through old streets named afresh from the
eyent.
Tin it reached h<)me, where learned age should

My ^MC, and youth, the star not yet distinct
Aboye his hair, lie learning at my feet I —

Oh, thus to liye, I and mjr picture, linked
With loye about, and praise, till life should
end.

And then not go to heayen, but linger here.



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342



MEN AND WOMEN



Here on my earth, earth's every man my
friend* —
The thought grew irightfol, *fc was so wildly
dear!
But a voice changed it. Qlimpses of snch
sights
Have scared me, like the revels throng a
door
Of some strange house of idols at its rites I
This world seemed not the world it was be-
fore :
Mixed with my loving tmsting ones, there
trooped
. . . Who summoned those cold faces that
began
To press on me and judge me? Though I
stooped
Shrinking, as from the soldiery a nun,
They drew me forth, and spite of me . . .
enough I
These buy and sell our pictures, take and
give.
Count them for garniture and household-stuff.
And where they live needs must our pictures
live
And see their faces, listen to their prate.

Partakers of their dailv pettiness^
Discussed of, — ** This I love, or this I hate.

This likes me more, and this affects me less 1 "
Wherefore I chose my portion. If at whiles

My heart sinks^ as monotonous I paint
These endless cloisters and eternal aisles
With the same series. Virgin, Babe and
Saint,
With the same cold calm beautiful regard, —
At least no merchant traffics in my heart ;
Tie sanctuary's gloom at least shall ward
Vain tongues &om where my pictures stand
ojpart:
O^ prayer breaks the sOenoe of the shrine

While, blackening in the dailv candle-smoke.
They moulder on the damp wall's travertine,
'Mid echoes the light footstep never woke.
80, die my pictures T surely, gently die !
O youth, men praise so, — holdb their praise its
worth?
Blown harshly, keeps the trump its golden cry ?
Tastes sweet the water with such specks of
earth?



FRA LIPPO LIPPI

I AM poor brother Lippo« by your leave I
You need not clap your torches to my face.
Zooks, what 's to blame ? yon think you see a

monk I
"What, 't is past midnight, and you go the

rounds.
And here you catch me at an alley's end
Where spwtive ladies leave th^ doors ajar ?
The Carmine 's my cloister : hunt it up.
Do, — harry out^ u you must show your zeal,
Whateyer rat, there, haps on his wrong hole,
And nip each softling of a wee white mouse,
Weke^ weke^ that 's crept to keep him company !
Aha, you know your betters! Then, you ^11

take



Tour hand away that 's fiddling on my throat.
And please to know me likewise. Who am I ?
Why, one, sir, who is lodging with a friend
Throe streets off — he 's a certain • . . how d**

ye call?
Master — a . . . Cosimo of the Medici,
I' the house that caps the comer. Boh 1 you.

were best I
Remember and tell me, the day you 're hanged.
How yon affected such a guUet's-gripe I
But you, sir, it concerns you that your knaves
Pick up a manner nor discredit you :
Zooks, are we pilchards, that they sweep the

streets
And count fair prize what comes into their net ?
He 's Judas to a tittle, that man is I
Just such a face t Why, sir, you make amends.
Lord, I 'm not angry I JBid your hangdogs go
Drink out this quarter-florin to the health
Of the munificent House that harbors me
(And many more beside, lads I more beside !)
And all 's come square again. I 'd like his-

face —
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door
With the pike and lantern, — for the slave that

holds
John Baptist's head a-dangle by the hair
With one hand (^*Look you, now," as who>

should say)
And his weapon in the other, yet un wiped I
It 's not your chance to have a bit of onalk,
A wood-coal or the like ? or you should see I
Tes, I 'm the painter, since you style me so.
What, brother Lippo's doings, up and down,
Ton know them and they take you? like

enough!
I saw the proper twinkle in your eye —
*Tell you, I liked your looks at very first.
Let 's sit and set things straight now, hip to

haunch.
Here 's spring come, and the nights one makes

up bands
To roam the town and sing out carnival.
And I've been three weeks shut within my^

mew,
A-painting for the great man, saints and saints
And saints again. 1 could not paint all nijght —
Ouf ! I lea^d out of window tor fresh air.
There came a hurry of feet and little feet,
A sweep of lute-smngs, laughs, and whuts of

song.—
Flower o' the broom.

Take away love^ and our earth is a tomb I
Flower 0' the quince,

I let Lisa go, and what good in life since f
Flower 0' the thyme — and so on. Round they

went.
Scarce had the^ turned the comer when a titter
Like the skipping of rabbits by moonlight, —

three sum smmes.
And a face that looked up . . . zooks, sir,

flesh and blood.
That 's all I 'm made of ! Into shreds it went.
Curtain and counterpane and coverlet.
All the bed-furniture — a dozen knots.
There was a ladder I Down I let myself.
Hands and feet, scrambling somehow, and ao

dropped.



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FRA LIPPO LIPPI



343



And after them. I came up with the fnn
Hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well

met, —
FUnoer 6* the ro$e^

Jfl'*ve been merry, what matter who know$ t
And 80 as I was stealing back again
To get to bed and have a bit of sleep
£re J[ rise up to-morrow and go wors
On Jerome knocking at his poor old breast
With his great round stone to subdue the fleeh,
You snap me of the sudden. Ah, I see I
Though your eye twinkles still, you shake your

head —
Mine *s shayed — a monk, you say — the sting *s

in that!
If Master Cosimo announced himself.
Mum 's the word naturally ; but a monk I
Gome, what ami a beast for? tell us, now I
I was a baby when my mother died
And father died and left me in the street.
I starred there, God knows how, a year or two
On fig'flkins, melon-paringi, rinds and shucks.
Refuse and mbbidi. One fine frosty day.
My stomach being empty as your hat.
The wind doubled me up and down I went.
Oid Aunt Lapacda trussed rae with one hand^
(Its fellow was a stinger as I knew)
And so alon^ the wall, orer the bridge.
By the straight cut to the conyent. Six words

there,
While I stood mundung my first bread that

month :
*' So, boy, yon 're minded," quoth the good fat

&ther,
^^rmg his own month, 't was refection-time, —
*' To quit this yery miserable world ?
Will yon renounce*' . . . '* the mouthful of

bread?'* thought I;
By no means! Brief, they made a monk of

me;
I did renounce the world, its pride and greed.
Palace, farm, yilla, shop, and banking-house.
Trash, such as these poor deyils of Medici
Haye giyen their hearts to — all at ei|^t years

old.
WeD, rir, I found in time, yon may be sure,
'T was not for nothing — the good bellyful,
The warm serge and the rope that goes all

round.
And day-long blessed idleness beside I
*' Let's see what the urchin's fit for'*— that

came next.
Not oyermuch their way, I must confess.
Soch a to-do ! They tried me with their books ;
Lord, they'd haye taught me Latin in pure



1

Flower o' the clove.

All the Latin I construe is " amo,^^ I love !
But, mind you, when a boy stanres in the streets
^gfat ^eais together, as my fortune was,
Watcmng fdk^s faces to know who will fling
The bit of half-stripped grape-bunch he desires.
And who will curse or kick nim for his pains, —
Whksh gentleman processional and fine.
Holding a candle to the Sacrament,
Will wink and let him lift a plate and catch
The droppings of the wax to sell again.
Or hoDa for uie Eight and haye him whipped, —



How say I ? — nay, which dog bites, which lets



His bone trom the heap of offal in the street, —
Why, soul and sense of him grow sharp aUke,
He learns (be look of things, and none the less
For admonition from the hunger-pinch.
I had a store of such remarks, be sure.
Which, after I found leisure, turned to use.
I drew men's faces on my cop^-books.
Scrawled them within the antiphonary's marge.
Joined legs and arms to the long music-notes.
Found eyes and nose and chin for A's and B's,
And made a string of pictures of the worid
Betwixt the ins and outs of yerb and noun.
On the wall, the bench, the door. The monks

looked black.
** Nay," quoth the Prior, ** turn him out, d' ye

say?
In no wise. Lose a crow and catch a lark.
What if at last we get our man of parts.
We Carmelites, like those Camaldolese
And Preaching Friars, to do our church up fine
And put the front on it that ought to be I *^
And hereupon he bade me daub away.
Thank you I my head being crammed, the walls

aUank,
Neyer was such prompt disemburdening.
First, eyery sort of monk, the black and white,
I drew them, fat and lean : then, folk at church,
From good old gossips waiting to confess
Their cribs of barret^lroppingB, candle-ends, —
To the breathless fellow at the altap>f oot.
Fresh from his murder, safe and sitting there
With the little children round him in a row
Of admiration, half for hk brard and half
For that white an^r of his victim's son
Shaking a fist at him with one fierce arm.
Signing himself with the other because of Christ
(Whose sad face on the cross sees only this
After the passion of a thousand years)
Till some poor girl, her apron o'er her head,
(Which the intense eyes looked through) came

at eve
On tiptoe, said a word, dropped in a loaf.
Her pair of earrings and a bunch of flowers
(The brute took growling), prayed, and so was

gone.
Ipainted all, then cried ** 'T is ask and haye ;
Choose, for more 's ready I " — laid the ladder

flat.
And showed my coyered bit of doister-walL
The monks closed in a circle and pnused loud
Till checked, taught what to see and not to see.
Being simple bodies, — ** That 's the yery man I
Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog !
That woman 's like the Prior's niece who comes
To care about his asthma : it 's the life ! "
But there my triumph's straw-fire flared and

funked;
Their betters took their turn to see and say :
The Prior and the learned pulled a face
And stopped all that in no time. **How?

what 's here ?
Quite from the mark of punting, bless us all I
Faces, arms, legs, and bodies like the true
As much as pea and pea I it 's deyil's^sme I
Tour business is not to catch men with show.
With homage to the perishable clay.



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344



MEN AND WOMEN



Bat lift them orer it, ignore it all.
Make them forget there *8 saoh a thing as flesh.
Your business is to paint the sonls of men —
Man's sool, and it 's a fire, smoke ... no, it 's

not ...
It's Taper done np like a new-bom babe —
(In that shape when yon die it leaves yonr

month)
It*s . • . well, what matters talking, it's the

sonll
GiTe ns no more of body than shows soul I
Here *s GKotto, with his Saint a-praisin^ God,
That sets ns praising, — why not stop with him ?
Why put all thonprhts of praise out of our head
With wonder at Imes, colors, and what not ?
Paint the soul, never mind tne legs and anus !
Rub aQ out, try at it a second time.
Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts.
She's just my niece . . . Herodias, I would

say,—
Who went and danced and got men's heads out

off! ^

Have it all out ! " Now, is this sens^, I ask ?
A fine way to paint soul, by painting bodv
So iU, the eye can't stop there, must go lurther
And can't tare worse f Thus, yellow does for

white
When what you put for yellow 's simply black,
* any sort of meaning looks intense
n all beside itself means and looks naught.



n't a painter lift each foot in turn,
b and right foot, go a double step,



When
Whyo__

Left foot »uu riKUb AWb, Kv a uvuvao bmslt,

Make his flesh liker and his soul more like.
Both in their order ? Take the prettiest face.
The Prior's niece . . . patron-saint — is it so

pret^
You can't ^soever if it means hope, fear.
Sorrow or joy? won't beauty go with these ?
Suppose I 've made her eyes all right and blue,
CanH I take breath and ^ to add life's flash.
And then add soul and heighten them three-
fold?
Or say there 's beauty with no soul at all —

g never saw it — nut the case the same — )
yon get simple beauty and naught else.
You get about the best thing Oodinvents :
That^s somewhat : and you 'U find the soul you

have missed.
Within yourself, when you return him thanks.
'*■ Rub all out ! " Welt well, there 's my life,

innhortj
And so the thing has gone on ever since.
I 'm grown a man no doubt, I 've broken

bounds:
You should not take a fellow eight years old
And make him swear to never tarn the girls.
I 'm ray own master, paint now as I please —
Having a friend, you see, in the Comer-house I
Lord, it 's fast holding by the rings in front —
Those great rin^ serve more purposes than just
To plant a flag m, or tie up a horse I
Ana yet the old schooling sticks, the old grave

eyes
Are peeping o'er my shoulder as I work^
The heads shake still — *' It 's art's declme, my

son!
Yon 're not of the trae painters, great and old ;
Brother Angelico 's the man, yon 'U find ;



Brother Lorenzo stands his single peer :

Fag on at flesh, yon 'U never make the third ! **

Flower 6* the pine,

You ke^ your tnistr . . . manners^ and VU

stick to mine I
I'm not the third, then: bless us, they must

know!
Don't you think ihey 're the likeliest to know,
They with their Latin? So, I swallow my

rage.
Clench my teeth, suck my lips in tight, and

paint
To pl^se them — sometimes do and sometimes

don't ;
For, doing most, there 's pretty sure to come
A turn, some warm eve finds me at my sunts —
A laugh, a cry, the business of the world —
{Flower 6* the peach.

Death for ue all, and his own life for each /)
And my whole soul revolves, the cup runs over,
The worid and life 's too Ing to pass lor a dream.
And I do these wild things in sneer despite.
And play the fooleries you catch me at.
In pure rage I The old mill-horse^ out at grass
After hard years, throws up his stiff heels so.
Although the miller does not preach to him
The omy good of grass is to make chaff.
What would men have ? Do they like grass or

no —
May they or may n't they ? all I want 's the

thmg
Settled forever one way. As it is.
You tell too many lies and hurt yourself :
You don|t like what yon only like too much.
You do like what, if given you at your word.
You find abundantly detestable.
For me, I think I speak as I was taught ;
I tlw&ys see the garden and Qod there
A-making man's wife : and, my lesson learned.
The value and significance of flesh,
I can't unlearn ten minutes afterwards.

Yon understand me : I 'm a beast, I know.
But see, now — why, I see as certainly
As that the moming^star 's about to shine.
What will hap some day. We 've a youngster



Comes to our convent, studies what I do.
Slouches and stares and lets no atom drop :
His name is Gnidi — he 'U not mind the

monks —
They call him Hulking Tom, he lets them

talk-
He picks my practice up — he 'U paint apace,
I hope so — though I never live so long,
I know what 's sure to follow. You be judge I
You speak no Latin more than I, belike ;
However, you 're my man, you 've seen the

worid

— The beauty and the wonder and the power.
The shapes of things, their colors, lights and

shades.
Changes, surprises, — and God made it all!

— For what? Do you feel thankful, ay ot

no,
For this fair town's face, yonder river's line.
The mountain round it and the sky above.
Much more the figures of man, woman, child,



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FRA LIPPO LIPPI



345



llieseuethefnuneto? Whst 'b it aH about?
To be paned oyer, de«|»8ed ? or dwelt upon,
Wondered at? <^, this last of oonnef — yoa

nj,
fist nhj not do M well as say, — paint these
Just as they srs, careless what comes of it ?
God'e works— paint anyone, and coont it crime
To let a troth slip. Don't object, ** His works
Are here already ; nature is complete :
Suppose yon reproduce her — (which yon can't)
Theve 's no advantage I yon must beat her,

then."
For, don't yoa mark ? we 're made so that we

lOTO

first when we see them painted, things we

hare passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see ;
And 80 they are better,^ painted — better to us,
Whieh is the same thing. Art was given for

that;
God uses ns to help each other so.
Lending oar minds out. Have you noticed,

now,
Your oolhon's hanging face ? A bit of chalk.
And trust me but you should, though I How

moch more.
If I drew higher things with the same truth I
That were to take the Prior's pulpit-place.
Interpret God to all of you I Oh, oh.
It makes me mad to see what men shall do
And we in our graves ! This world 's no blot

for us,
Kor blank; it means intensely, and means

To fina its meanine is my meat and drink.
** Av, but you don't so instigate to prayer ! "
Strikes in the Prior : *^ when your meaning 's

plain
It does not say to folk — remember matins.
Or, mind yon fast next Friday ! " Why, for

this
Wbat need of art at an? A skull and bones.
Two bits of stick naOed crosswise, or, what 's



A bell to chime the hour with, does as well.
X paunted a Saint Laurence six months since
At Prato, splashed the fresco in fine style :
**Bow looks V my painting, now the scaffold's

down?"
X ask a brother : " Hugelv," he returns —
** Already not one phiz of your three slaves
Wbo torn the Deacon off his toasted side.
But 'a scratched and prodded to our heart's con-
tent.
The piouB people have so eased their own
With oomin^ to say prayers there in a rage:



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 69 of 198)