Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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ce yon this Christianity or not ?
oiay be false, but will ^on wish it tme ?
s it your yote to be so if it can ?
ist yon an instinct silenced long ago
at will break silence and enjoin you lore
lat mortified philosophy is hoane,
d all in Tain^ with bidding yon despise ?
'on desire faith — then yon We faitn enough :
at eke seeks God — nay, what else seek our^

selves?
I form a notion of me, we 11 suppose,
hearsar * it *s a favorable one :
It still*' (yon add), "there was no snoh

good man,
anse of contradiction in the facts,
prores, for instance, he was bom in Rome,
iBlongnun; yet thron^ont the tales of him
) he figures as an Englishman."
I, the two things are reconcilable,
would I rather you disoovered that,
joining — ** Still, what matter though they

be?
igram oonoems me nan^t, bom here or
there."

[re faith indeed — yon know not what yon

ask I
3d belief in God the Omnipotent,
iscient. Omnipresent, sears too much
sense oi conscious creatures to be borne.
ire the seeing him, no flesh shall dare.
> think, Ciiation's meant to show him

zorth I

it 's meant to hide him all it can,
that 's what all the blessed evil's for.
le in Time is to environ us,
breath, oar drop of dew, with shield

enough

ist that sight till we can bear its stress,
r a vertical sun, the exposed brain
idless eye and disempnsoned heart
certainly would wither up at once
mind, confronted with the truth of him.
ime and earth case-harden us to live j
eeblest sense is trusted most ; the child
God a moment, ichors o'er the place,
on aod grows to be a man like us.
me, faith means perpetual unbelief
iniet like the snake 'neath Biichael's foot
stands calm just because he feels it
writhe,
that 'a too ambitious, — here 's my box —

the excitation of a pinch
temn^ the torpor of the inade-noee
>n the imminent sneeze that never comes,
re it in peace," advise the simple folk :



Make it aware of peace by itching-fits.
Say I — let doubt occasion still more faith !

Yon 11 say, once aU believed, man, woman,

child.
In that dear middle-age these noodles praise.
How you 'd exult if 1 could put you back
Six hundred years, blot out cosmogony,
Geology, ethnology, what not,
(Greek endings, each the little passing-bell
That signifies some faith 's about to die).
And set you square with GenesiB again, ^
When such a traveller told you his last news.
He saw the a^k a-top of Ararat
But did not climb there since 't was getting

dusk
And robber-bands infest the mountain's foot !
How should von feel, I ask, in sneh an age.
How act ? As other people felt and did ;
With soul more blank than this decanter'f

knob,
BelieTe — and yet lie, kill« rob, f omioate.
Full in belieTs face, like the beast you 'd be I

No, when the fight begins within himself,
A man 's worth something. God stoopso'er his

head,
Satan looks up between his feet — both tug —
He 's left, hunself, i' the middle : the soni

wakes
And flrrows. Prolong that battle throng^ hia

life I
Never leave growing till the life to come !
Here, we 've got eaUous to the Virgin's winks
That used to puzzle people wholesomely :
Men have outgrown the shame of being fools.
What are the laws of nature, not to bend
If the Church bid them ? — brother Newman



Up with the Immaculate Conception, then —
On to the rack with faith I — is my advice.
Will not that hurry us upon our knees.
Knocking our breasts. It can't bo — yet it

shaUI
Who am I, the worm, to argne with my Pope ?
Low things confound the high things I '' and so

forth.
That '• better than acquitting God with grace
As some folk do. He's tried — no case ia

proved,
Philoeophy is lenient — he may go I

You *11 say, the old system 's not so obsolete
But men believe still : ay, but who and where ?
King Bomba's lazzaroni foster yet
The sacred flame, so Antonelli writes ;
But even of these, what ragamuffin-saint
Believes God watches him continually.
As he believes in fire that it will bum.
Or rain that it will drench him ? Break fire'fl

law.
Sin against rain, although the penalty
Bejust a singe or soaking ? *^ No," he smiles ;
** Tliose laws are laws that can enforce them>

selves."

The sum of all is — yes, my donbt is great.
My falUi 's still greater, than my faith 's enough.



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356



MEN AND WOMEN



I haTB read moeh, thought much, experienced

much.
Tet would die rather than avow my fear
The Naples' liqne&Mrtion may be ffuse.
When set to happen hv the palace-dook
Aeoording to the donas or dinner-time.
I hear yon recommend, I mi^t at least
Eliminate, deorassify my faith
Since I adopt it ; keeping what I mnst
And leaving what I can — snch points as this.
I won't — that is, I can't throw one awav.
Supposing there 's no truth in what I hold
Alxmt the need of trial to man's faith.
Still, when you bid me purify the same,
To such a process I discern no end.
Clearing off one excrescence to see two.
There 's ever a next in size, now grown as big.
That meets the knife : I cut and cut again I
first cut the Liquefaction, what comes last
But Fichte's clever out at God himself ?
Experimentalize on sacred things I
I trust nor hand nor eye nor heart nor brain
To stop .betimes. : they all get drunk alike.
The first step, 1 am master not to take.

You 'd find the cnttingwooess to your taste
As much as leaving growtiis of lies unpruned.
Nor see more danger in it, — you retort.
Your taste 's worth mine ; but my taste proves

more wise
When we consider that the steadfast hold
On the extreme end of the chain of faith
Gives all the advantage, makes the difference
With the rough purblind mass we seek to rule :
We are their lords, or they are free of us.
Just as we tighten or relax our hold.
So, other matters equal, we 'U revert
To the first problem — which, if solved my way
And thrown into the balance, turns the scale —
How we may lead a comfortable life,
How suit our luggage to the cabin's size.

Of course voa are remarking all this time
How narrowly and grossly I view life,
Respect the creatuiiB-coiiuorts, care to rule
The masses, and regard complacently
*' The cabin," in our old phrase. Well, I do.
I act for, talk for, live for this world now.
As this world prizes action, life and talk :
No prejudice to what next world may prove.
Whose new laws and requirements, my best

pledge
To observe then, is that I observe these now,
Shall do hereafter what I do meanwhile.
Let us concede (gratuitously though)
Next life relieves the soul of body, yields
Pure q>iritual enjoyment : well, my friend.
Why lose this life i' the meantime, nnce its use
May be to make the next life more intense ?

Do yon know, I have often had a dream
fWork it up in your next month's article)
Of man's poor spirit in its p rogress, still
Losing true life forever and a day
Through ever trying to be and ever being —
In the evolution of successive spheres —
"hffort its actual q>here and place of life.
Halfway into the next, which having reached,



It shoots with corresponding f odery

Halfway into the next still, on and off I

As when a traveller, bound frmn North to

South,
Scouts fur in Russia : what 's its use in France f
In France spurns flannel : where 's its need in

Spain?
In Spain drops cloth, too cumbrous for Algiers t
Linen goes next, ana last the skin itself,
A superfluity at Timbuctoo.
When, through his journey, was the fool at

ease?
I'm at ease now, friend ; worldly in this world,.
I take and like its way of life ; 1 think
My brothers, who administer the means,
live better tor my comfort — that 's sood too ;
And God, if he pronounce u|K>n such uFe.
^proves my service, which b better stOL
It he keep sdenoe, — why, for you or me
Or that brute beast pulled-up in to-day's

"Times,"
What odds is 't, save to ourselves, what life we

lead?

You meet me at this issue : you declare, —
All special-pleading done with — truth is truth.
And justifies itself oy undreamed ways.
You don't fear but it 's better, if we doubt.
To say so, act up to our truth perceived
However feebly. Do then, — act away !
'T is there I 'm on the watch for you. How

one acts
Is, both of us agree, our chief concern :
And how you 'llact is what I fain would see
If, like the candid person you appear,
Yon dare to make the most of your life's

scheme
As I of mine, live up to its full law
Since there 's no higher law that counterchecks.
Put natural religicm to the test
You've |ust demoUshed the revealed with-^

qmck,
Down to the root of all that checks your will.
All prohibition to lie, kill and thieve,
Or even to be an atheistic priest I
Suppose a pricking to incontinence —
Philosophers deduce you chastity
Or shame, from just the fact that at the first
Whoso embraced a woman in the field.
Threw dub down and forewent his brains be-
side.
So, stood a ready victim in the reach
Of any brother savage, club in hand ;
Hence saw the use of going out of sight
In wood or cave to prosecute his loves :
I read this in a French book t'other day.
Does law so analyzed coerce you much r
Oh, men spin clouds of fuzz where matters end.
But you who reach where the first thread be-

You 'if soon cut that ! — which means you can,

but won't.
Through certain instincts, blind, unreasoned-
out.
You dare not set aside, you can't teU why.
But there they are, and so you let them rule.
Then, friend, you seem as much a slave as I,
A liar, conscious coward and hypocrite.



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BISHOP BLOUGRAM»S APOLOGY



357



nthoat the good the shive expects to get,
a case he has a master after all !
oa own yonr instinctB ? why, what else do I,
Hio want, am made for, and most have a Ood
Ire I can be anght, do anght ? — no mere name
/ant, hot the tme thing with what proves its

tmth.
'o wit, a relation from that thing to me,
'onohing from head to foot — which touch I

feel,
ind with it take the rest, this Hfe of onrs !
live my life here ; yours yon dare not live.

— Not as I state it, who (you please snbjcnn)
Hsfigure such a life and call it names,
\rhik, to your mind, remains another way
'or simple men : knowledge and power have

rights,
tut Ignorance and weakness have rights too.
"here needs no crucial effort to find tmth
F here or there or anvwhere about :
l^e might to turn each side, try hard and see,
ind if we can\ be elad we 've earned at least
"he right, by one laborious proof the more,
'o graze in peace earth's pleasant pasturage,
len are not angels, neither are they brutes :
omething we may see, all we cannot see.
i^at need of lying ? I say, I see all,
jod swear to each detail the most minute
1 what I think a Pan's face — you, mere cloud :
swear I hear him q>eak and see him wink,
or fear, if once I drop the emphasis,
[ankind may doubt there 's anv doud at aU.
ou take the simple life — ready to see,
/^illing to see (for no cloud 's worth a face) —
jid leaying quiet what no strength can move,
nd which, who bids yon move? who has Uie

right?
jd you ; but you are God*s sheep, not mine :
^astor est tut Dominus" Ton find
this the pleasant pasture of our life
uch yon may eat without the least offence,
inch you don't eat because your maw objects,
inch you would eat but that your fellow-flock
pen ereat eyes at you and even butt,
nd toereupon you like your mates so well
on cannot please yourself, offending them ;
hou|^ when they seem exorbitantly sheep,
ou weigh your pleasure with their butts and

bleats
nd strike the balance. Sometimes certain

fears
eetrain you, real checks nnce yon find them

so;
>metimes you please yourself and nothing

checks:
nd thns you graie through life with not one

lie,
nd like it best.

But do yon, in truth's name ?
so, you beat — which means you are not I —
lio needs must make earth mme and feed my

fiU
ot nnii>l7 unbutted at, unbickered with,
at moUoned to Uie velvet of the sward
f those obsequious wethers' very selves.
9ok at me, sir ; my age is double youis:



f,



At yours, I knew beforehand, so enjoyed.
What now 1 diould be — as, permit the word*
I pretty well imagine your whole range
And stretch of tether twenty jears to come.
We both have minds and bodies much alike :
In truth's name, don't vou want my bishopries
My daily bread, my influence, and mv state ?
Yon 're young. I 'm old ; you must be old ana

day;
Will you find then, as I do hour by hour.
Women their lovers kneel to, who cut curis
From your fat la|>-do^'sear to grace a brooch <«•
Dukes, who petition just to kin your ring —
With much beside you know or may conceive ?
Suppose we die to-night : weU, here am I, ^
Such were my gains, life bore this fruit to

me^
While writing aU the same my articles
On music, poetry, the fictile vase
Found at Albano, chess, Anacreon's Greek.
But you — the highest honor in your life.
The thing yon 11 crown yonrseli with, all your

da;rs.
Is — dining here and drinking this last glass
I pour yon out in sign of amity
Before we part forever. Of yonr power
And social influence, worldly worth in short.
Judge what 's my estimation br the fact,
I do not condescend to enjoin, beseech.
Hint secrecy on one of all these words I
You 're shrewd and know that should you pub-
lish one
The worid would brand the lie — my enemiea

fint.
Who'd sneer — "the bidiop's an aroh-hypo-

crite
And knave nerhaps, but not so &ank a fod."
Whereas I shonla not dare for both my ears
Breathe one such syllable, smile one such smile.
Before the chaplain who reflects myself —
My shade 's so much more potent than your

flesh.
What 's your reward, seU-abnegating friend ?
Stood jrou confessed of those exceptional
And privileged great natures that dwarf mine —
A zealot with a mad ideal in reach,
A poet just about to print his ode,
A statesman with a scheme to stop this war,
An artist whose religion is his art —
I should have nothii^ to object : such men
Carry the fire, aU thinss grow warm to them.
Their drugget's worth my purple, they beat

me.
But you, — yon 're just as little those as I —
You, Gigadibs, who. thirty years of age,
Write statedly for Blackwood's Magazine,
Believe vou see two points in Hamlet's soul ^
Unseized bv the Germans yet — which view

you 'U print —
Meantime the best yon have to show being still
That lively lightsome article we took
Almost for the true Dickens, — what 's its



'' The Slum and Cellar, or Whitechapel life
Limned after dark I " it made me laugh, I know.
And pleased a month, and brought you in ten
pounds.
I —Success I recognize and compliment.



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358



MEN AND WOMEN



And therefore give yon, if yon ohooee, three

words
CDie oard and penoil-Boratch is quite enoojgrh)
Which whether here, in Dnblin or New York,
Will eret yon, prompt as at my eyebrow's wink,
Such terms as never you aspired to get
In all our own reyiews and some not oars.
Go write your lively sketches ! be the first
** Blougram, or The Eccentric Confidence " —
Or better simply say, ** The Outward-bound."
Why, men as soon would throw it in my teeth
As copy and quote the infamy chalked broad
About me on the church-door of^osite.
Ton will not wait for that experience though,
I fancy, howsoever you decioe.
To discontinue — not detesting, not
Defaming, but at least — despising me !



Over his wine so smiled and talked his hour
&rlve8ter Blougram, styled in partibus
JSpiseopus, nee non — (the deuce knows what
It *8 changed to by our novel hierarchy)
With Gigadibs the literary man,
Who placed with spdons, explored hia plate's

design,
And ranged the olive-stones about its edge.
While the great bishop roUed him out a mind
Long crumpled, till creased consciousness lay

smooth.

For Blougram, he beKeved, say, half he spoke.
The other portion, as he shapea it thus
For argumentatory purposes.
He felt his foe was foolish to dispute.
Some arbitrary accidental thougnts
That crossed his mind, amusing because new,
He chose to represent as fixtures there,
Invariable convictions (such they seemed
Beside his interlocutor's loose cards
Flung daily down, and not the same way twice).
While certain hell-deep instincts, man's weak

tongue
Is never bold to utter in their truth
Because styled hell-deep ('t is an old mistake
To place hell at the bottom of the earth).
He Ignored these, — not having in readiness
Their nomenclature and philosophy:
He said true things, but called them by wrong

names.
'' On the whole," he thou^rht, '' I jnstify myself
On every point where cavillers like this
Oppugn my life : he tries one kind of fence,
I dose, he 's worsted, that 's enough for him.
He 's on the ground : if ground should break

away
I take my stand on, there 's a firmer yet
Beneath it, both of us may sink and reach.
His ground was over mine and broke the first :
So, let him sit with me this many a year I "

He did not sit five minutes. Just a week
Sufficed his sudden healthy vehemence.
Something had struck him in the ** Outward-
bound"
Another way than Blougram's purpose was :
And having bought, not cabin-tnnntnre



But settler's-implements (enough for three)
And started for Australia — there, I hope,
By this time he has tested his first plough,
And studied his last chapter of Saint John.



CLEON

" As certain also of your own poets have said "'->

Glxon the poet (from the sprinkled isles,

Lily on lily, that o'erlaoe the sea.

And laugh their pride when the light wave lispe

To Protus in ^ Tyranny : much health !

They give thy letter to me, even now :
I read and seem as if I heard thee speak.
The master of thv gaUey still unlades
Gift after gift ; they block my court at last
And pile themselves along its portico
Royal with sunset, like a thought of thee :
And one white she-slave from the group dis-
persed
Of black and white slaves (like the chequer-
work
Pavement, at once m^ nation's work and gift.
Now covered with this settle-down of doves).
One lyric woman, in her crocus vest
Woven of sea-wools, with her two white hands
Gommends to me the strainer and the cup
Thy lip hath bettered ere it blesses mine.

Well-counselled, king, in thy munificence I
For so shall men remark, in such an act
Gf love for him whose song gives life its joy.
Thy reconiition of the use <» life ;
Nor call thy spirit barelv adequate
To help on life in straight ways, broad enough
For vulgar souk, bv ruling and the rest.
Thou^ in the didly building of thy tower.



Whether in fierce and sudden spasms of toU,
Or through dim lulls of unc^parent growth,
Or when the general work 'mid good acclaim
Climbed with the eye to cheer the architect, —
Didst ne'er engage in work for mere work's

sake —
Hadst ever in thv heart the luring hope
Of some eventual rest a-top of it.
Whence, all the tumult of the building hushed.
Thou first of men mightst look out to the East :
The vulgar saw thy tower, thou sawest the

sun.
For this, I promise on thy festival
To pour libation, looking o'er the sea.
Making this slave narrate thy fortunes, speak
Thy great words, and describe thy royal face —
Wishing thee wholly where Zeus fives the most,
Within the eventual element of calm.

Thy letter's first requirement meets me here.
It is as thou hast heara : in one short life
L Gleon, have effected all those things
Thou wonderingly dost enumerate.
That epos on thy hundred plates of gold
Is mine, — and also mine tae little onant.
So sure to rise from every fishing-buk
When, lights at prow, the seamen haul their net



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CLEON



359



te image oi the son-god on the phare,

>n tarn from the sun's self to see, is mine ;

e PoBoile, o'er-storied its whole length,

thoQ didst hear, with paintinsr« is mine too.

jiow the true proportions of a man

d woman also, not observed before ;

d I have written three books on the sool,

iving absoid all written hitherto,

d patting us to ignorance again.

r masie, — whir, I have oombined the moods,

enting one. In brief, all arts are mine ;

08 mnoh the people know and reooenize,

rooghout our seventeen islands. Marvel not.

t of these latter days, with greater mind

in our foremnneis, sinoe more composite,



>k not so great, beside their simple way,

wnoonlv
i mind-point ana no other at a time, —



a jndffe wno onlv sees one way at onoe.



apares the small part of a man of ns

ii some whole man of the heroic age,

at in his way — not onrs, nor meant for onn.

I oars is grctftter, had we skill to know :

, what we call this life of men on earth,

i sequence of the sonl's achievements here

ig. as I find mnoh reason to conceive,

nded to be viewed eventnally

I great whole, not analyzed to parts,

each port having reference to all, —

r shall a certain part, pronounced complete,

ore effacement by another part ?

I the thing done ? — then, what *s to do

again?
in the chequered pavement opposite,
xsse the artist made a perfect rnomb,
next a lozenge, then a trapezoid —
lid not overlay them, superimpose
new upon the old and blot it out,
laid them on a level in his work,
ing at last a picture ; there it lies,
irst the perfect separate forms were made,
portions of mankind ; and after, so,
rred the combination of the same,
vhere had been a progress, otherwise ?
dnd, made up of all the single men, —
ch a synthesis the labor enos.
mark me I those divine men of old time
t reached, thou sayest well, each at one

point
outside verge that rounds our faculty ;
where they reached, who can do more than

reach?

ces but little water just to touch
me one point the inside of a sphere,
as we turn the sphere, touch all the rest
e snooession : but the finer air
h not so palpably nor obviously,
zh no less universally, can touch
licle circumference of that emptied sphere,
it more fully than the water aid ;
> thnoe the weight of water in itself
ved into a subtler element,
ret the vulgar call the sphere first full
the Tisible height — and after, void ;
nowing air's more hidden properties,
has our soul, misknown, cries out to Zeus
idicate his purpose in our life :
itay we on the earth unless to ^rrow ?
since, I imaged, wrote the fiction out.



That he or other god descended here
And, once for all, showed simultaneously
What, in its nature, never can be shown.
Piecemeal or in succession ; — showed, I say.
The worth both absolute and relative
Of all his children from the birth of time.
His instruments for all appointed work.
I now go on to ima^re, — might we hear
The judgment which should give the due to

each.
Show where the labor lay and where the ease.
And prove Zeus' self, the latent everywhere t
This 18 a dream : — but no dream, let us hope.
That years and days, the summers and the

springs.
Follow each other with unwaning powers.
The grapes which dye thv wine are richer far.
Through culture, than the wild wealth of the

rock;
The suave plum than the savage-tasted drupe ;
The pastured honey-bee drops choicer sweet ;
The flowers turn double, and the leaves turn

flowers;
That young and tender crescent-moon, thy

slave,
Sleeinng above her robe as buoyed by clouds.
Refines upon the women of my youth.
What, and the soul alone deteriorates ?
I have not chanted verse like Homer, no —
Nor swept string like Terpander, no — nor

carved
And painted men like Phidias^ and his friend :
I am not great as they are, point by point.
But I have entered into sympathy
With these four, running these into one soul,
WhO| separate, ignored each other's art.
Say, is it nothing that I know them all ?
The wild flower was the larger : I have dashed
Rose-blood upon its petals, pricked its cup's
Honey with wine, and driven its seed to truit.
And show a better flower if not so large :
I stand mvself . Refer this to the gods
Whose gift alone it is I which, shall I dare
(All pride apwrt) upon the absurd pretext
That such a gift by chance lay in my hand.
Discourse of lightly or depreciate ?
It might have fallen to another's hand : what

then?
I pass too surely: let at least troth stay 1

And next, of what thou f ollowest on to ask.
This being vrith me as I declare, O king.
My works, in all these varicolored kindiB,
So d(me by me. accepted so by^ men —
Thou askest, it (my soul thus in men's hearts)
I must not be accounted to attain
The very crown and proper end of life ?
Inquiring thence how, now life doseth up,
I face death with success in my right hand :
Whether I fear death less than dost thyself
The fortunate of men ? *' For " (writest thou)
**Thon leavest much behind, while I leave



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 72 of 198)