Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Its coldnesSf were it cold.

Con, But how nroye, how ?

Nor. Prove in my life, jon ask ?

Con. Quick, Norbert — how ?

Nor. That 's easy told. 1 count life just a
stuff
To try the soul's strengrth on, educe the man.
Who keeps one end in view makes all things

serve
As with the body — he who hurls a lance
Or heaps up stone on stone, shows strengrth

So must I seize and task all means to prove
And show this soul of mine, you crown as yours.
And justify us both.

Con. Could 3rou write books.

Paint pictures I One sits down in poverty
And writes or paints, with pit^ for the nch.
Nor. And loves one's pamting and one's
writing, then.
And not one's mistress I All is best, believe,
And we best as no other than we are.
We live, and they experiment on life —
Those poets, nainters, aU who stand aloof
To overlook the farther. Let us be
The thing they look at I I might take your

face
And write of it and paint it —to what end ?
For whom ? what pale dictatress in the air
Feeds, smiling sadly, her fine ghost-like form
With earth's real blood and breath, the beaute-
ous life
She makes despised forever ? You are mine.
Made for me, not for others in the world.
Nor yet for that which I should call my art.
The cold calm power to see how fair you look.
I come to you ; I leave you not^ write
Or paint. You are, I am : let Kubens there
Paint us !
Con. So, best !

Nor. I understand jour soul.

You live, and rightly sympathize with life.
With action, power, success. This way is

straight;
And time were short beside, to let me change
The craft my childhood learnt: my craft

shall serve.
Men set me here to subjugate, enclose,
Manure their barren fives, and force thence

fruit
First for themselvee, and afterward for me
In the due tithe : the task of some one soul,
Through ways of work appointed by the world.



I am not bid create — men see no star
Transfiguring my brow to warrant that —
But find ana bind and bring to bear their wills.
So I began: to-night sees how 1 end.
What if it see, too, pow^'s first outbreak here
Amid the warmth, surprise and sympathy,
And instinctsof the heart that teach the head?
What if the people have discerned at length
The dawn of the next nature, novel brain
Whose will they venture in the place of theirs.
Whose work, they trust, shall find them as

novel ways
To untried heights which jret he only sees ?
I felt it when yon kissed me. See this Queen,
This people — in our phrase this mass of



See how the mass lies passive to my hand
Now that my hand is plastic, with you by
To make the muscles iron ! Oh, an end
Shall crown this issue as this crowns the firsti
My will be on the people I then, the strain.
The grappling of the potter with his clay.
The long uncertain smuggle, — the success
And consummation of the q>irit-work.
Some vase shu>e to the curl of the god's lip.
While rounded fair for human sense to see
The Graces in a dance men recognize
With turbulent iqiplause and laughs of heart I
So triumph ever shall renew itseu ;
Ever shall end in efforts higher yet.
Ever begin . . .

Con. I ever helping ?

Nor. Thus!

{At he emhraees her, the Qdsbh eniert,)

Con. BBst, madam ! So have I performed
my part.
You see your gratitude's true deocncy,
Norbert r A little slow in seeing it 1
Becnn, to end the sooner I What's a kiss?

Nor. Constance ?

Con. Why, must I teach it jaa. again ?

You want a witness to your dulness, nr ?
What was I saying these ten minutes long?
Then I repeat — when some young handsome



Like you has acted out a iMut like yours.
Is pleased to fall in love with one beyond.
So very far beyond him, as he says —
So hopelessly in love that but to speak
Would prove him mad, — he thinks judiciously*
And makes some insignificant good soul,
Like me, his friend, adviser, confidant.
And very stalking-horse to cover him
In following after what he dares not face —
When his end *s gained — (sir, do you under-
stand?)
When she, he dares not face, has loved him

first,
— BCay I not say so, madam ? — tops his hope.
And overpasses so his wildest dream.
With glad consent of all, and most of her
The confidant who brought the same about —
Why, in the moment when such joy explodes,
I do hold that the merest gentleman
Will not start rudelyfrom the stalking^orse,
Dismiss it with a " There, enough of you I "
Forget it, show his back unmannerly ;
But like a liberal heart will rather turn



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IN A BALCONY



371



And 8*7, ** A tingling time of hope was ours ;
Betwixt the fears ana falteringa, we two liyed
A ohanoefnl time in waiting for the orize :
The confidant, the Constance, serred not iU.
And though I shall forget her in good time.
Her nse heing answered now, as reason bids.
Nay as herself bids from her heart of hearts, —
Still, she has rights^ the first thanks go to her,
The first good praise goes to the prosperons



And the first — which is the last — rewarding

kiss.'*
Nor, Ckmstanoe, it is a dream — ah, see,

yon smile!
Can, So, now his part being prqperiy per-
* formed.

Madam, I torn to ^on and finish mine
As doly ; I do iastioe in my torn.
Yes, madam, he has loved yon — long and

well;
He oonld not hope to tell yon so — 't was I
Who served to prove your sonl accessible,
I led his thoughts on, drew them to their place
When they had wandered else into despair.
And kept love constant toward its natural aim.
Enough, my part is played ; you stoop half-way
And meet us royally and spare our fears :
T is like yourself. He thanks yon, so dp I.
Take him — with my full heart! my work is

praised
By what comes of it. Be you happy, both !
Tomself — the only one on earth who can —
Do all for him, mooh more than a mere heart
Which though warm is not useful in its warmth
As the silk vesture of a queen ! tcXd that
Around him gently, tenderly. For him —
For him, — he knows his own part !
Nor.



part!
Have you done ?



I take the jest at last. Should I speak now ?
Was yours the wager, Constance, foolish oil
Or did you but accept it? Well— at least



Toa lose by it.

Com. Nay, madam, 't is vonr turn !

Restrain him still from speech a little more.
And make him happier as more confident !
Tltj him, madam, pe is timid yet !
Hark, Norbert ! Do not shrink now ! Here I

yield
My whole right in you to the Queen, observe I
With her go put in practice the great schemes
You teem with, follow the career else closed —
Be all vou cannot be except by her !
Behold her ! — Madam, say for pita's sake
Anytiiiing — frankly sav you love him ! Else
He 11 not believe it : there 's more earnest in
His fear than you conceive : I know the man !
Jf or. I know the woman somewhat, and

confess
I thou^t she had jested better : she begins
To overehairge her part. I gravely wait
Your pleasure, madam : where is mv reward ?
Queen. Norbert, this wild girl (whom I

recognize
Scarce more than yon do, in her fancy-fit.
Eccentric speech and vaxiable mirth.
Not very wise perhaps and somewhat bold.
Yet suitable, the whole night's work being

strange)



— May still be right : I may do well to speak
And make authentic what appears a dream
To even myself. For, what ane says is true :
Yes, Norbert — ^hat you spoke just now of love,
Devotion, stirred no novel sense in me.
But justified a warmth felt long before.
Yes, from the first — I loved you, I shall say :
Strange ! but I do grow stronger^ now *t is said*
Your courage helps mine : you did well to speak
To-night, the ni^t that crowns your twelve-
months' tod:
But still I had not waited to discern
Your heart so long, believe me ! From the first
The source of so much seal was almost plain.
In absence even of your own words just now
Which hazarded the truth. *T is very strai^e.
But takes a happy ending — in your love
Which mine meets : be it so ! as you choose me,
So I choose yon.

Nor. And worthily you choose.

I will not be unworthy your esteem,
No, madam. I do love you ; I will meet
Your nature, now I know it. This was well.
1 see, — you dare and you are justified :
But none had ventured such experiment.
Less versed than yon in nobleness of heart.
Less confident of finding such in me.
Ijoy that thus yon test me era you grant
The dearest, richest, beauteousest and best
Of women to my arms : 't is like yourself.
So — back again into my part's set words —
Devotion to the uttermost is yours.
But no, you cannot, madam, even you.
Create in me the love our Constance does.
Or — something truer to the tra^o phrase —
Not yon magnolia-bell superb with scent
Invites a certain insect — that 'smyself —
But the small ejre-fiower nearer to the ground.
I take this lady.

Con. Stay — not hers, the trap —

Stay, Norbert — that mistake wero worst ot all I
He IS too cunning, madam ! It was I,
I, Norbert, who . . .

Nor. Yon, was it, Constance ? Then,

But for the grace of this diviueet hour
Which gives me you, I mieht not pardon hero !
I am the Queen's ; she only knows my brain :
She may experiment upon my heart
And I instruct her too oy the result.
But yon. Sweet, you who know me, who so long
Have told my heartbeats over, held my life
In those white hands of yours, — it is not well !

Con. Tush ! I have said it, did I not say it
all?
The life, for her — the heartbeats, for her sake !

Nor. Enough ! my cheek grows red, I think.
Your test ?
Thero 's not the meanest woman in the world,
Not she I least could love in all the world,
Whom^ did she love me, had love proved itself,
I daro insult as yon insult me now.
Constance, I could say, if it must be said,
** Take back the sonl yon offer, I keep mine ! "
But— '* Take the soul still quivering on your

hand,
The sonl so offered, which I cannot nse.
And, please you, give it to some playful friend.
For — what \ the trifle he requites me with ? "



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372



IN A BALCONY



I, tempt a woman, to amuse a man.

That two may mock her heart if itsnoonmb ?

No : fearing God and standiiifir 'neath his

heaven,
I would not dare insult a woman so,
Were she the meanest woman in the world,
And he, I cared to please, ten emperors I
Con, Norbert I

Nor, I lore once as I lire but once.

What case is this to think or talk about ?
I love yon. Would it mend the case at aU
If such a step as this killed love in me ?
Tour ]Mut were done : account to God for it !
But mine — could murdered love get up again.
And kneel to whom yon please to desjgnate.
And make you mirth ? It b too horrible.
Yon did not know tliis, Constance ? now yon

know
That body and soul have each one life, bat

one:
And here 's my love, here, living, at your feet.
Con, See tne Queen I Norbert — this one

more last word —
If thus you have taken jest for earnest — thus
Loved me in earnest . . .

Nor, Ah, no jest holds here I

Where is the laughter in which jests break np,
And what this horror that grows palnable ?
Madam — why grasp you thus the baioony ?
Have I done 01 ? Have I not spoken truth ?
How could I other ? Was it not your test.
To try me, what my love for Constance meant ?
Madam, your royal soul itself approves.
The first, Uiat I should choose thus I so one takes
A beg«ur, — asks him, what would buy his

And then approves the expected laugh of scorn
Returned as something noble from the rags.
8peak, Constance, I 'm the beggar I Ha,

what's this?
Yon two glare each at each like panthers now.
Constance, the world fiades; only yon stand

there!
Yon did not, in to-night's wild whirl of things,
Sell me — your soul of souls, for any price ?
No — no — 't is easy to believe in you I
Was it your love's mad trial to o'ertop
Mine by this vain self-sacrifice ? welL still —
Though I might curse, I love you. I am love
And cannot cnange : love 's self is at your feet I
ITke Quun goet otti.

Con, Feel my heart ; let it die against your
own!

Nor, Against my own. Explain not ; let tlus
be!
Hiis is life's height.

Con, Yours, yours, yours !

Nor, You and I —

Why care by what meanders we are here
I' the centre of the labyrinth ? Men have died
Trying to find this place, which we have found.

Con, Found, found 1

Nor. Sweet, never fear what she can do I
We are past harm now.



Con, On the breast of God*

I thought of men — as if you were a man.
Tempting him with a crown !

Nor, This must end here:

It is too perfect.

Con, There *s the musio stofmed.

What measured heavy tread ? It b one blase
About me and within me.

Nor, Oh, some death

Will run its sudden finger rounid this spark
And sever us from the rest I

Con, And so do welL

Now the doors open.

Nor. 'T is the guard comes.

Con. KisBl



BEN KARSHOOK'S WISDOM

The eighth line of the fourteenth seotion of
One Word More reads,

<• Ksrahiah, Cleon, Norbert snd the fifty.**
Originally It read,

" Ksrahook, Cleon, Norbert snd the fifty.**
The reference apparently was to the poem writ-
ten in April, 1854, and printed in The Keep-
sake^ an annus! edited by Miss Power, a niece of
Lady Blessington, in whom Dickens also took
an interest. It may have been Browning's
intention to include this poem in Jlf«n and Wo-
men^ but he never did place it there, and finally
dropped Karshook and substituted ir^iitthiuh,
who narrates his medical experience.



'* Would a man 'scape the rod? "
Rabbi Ben Karshook saith,

*' See that he turn to God

The day before his death."

** Ay. could a man inquire

When it shall come I " I say.
The Rabbi's eye shoots fire —
* ' Then let him turn to-day I "

II

Quoth a vourap: Sadducee :
*^ Reader of many rolls.

Is it so certain we
Have, as they tell us, souls ? ''



* Son, there is no reply I "
The Rabbi bit his beard

' Certain, a soul have / —
We may have none," he



Thus Karshook, the Hiram's-Hammer,
The Right-hand Temnle-column,

Taught babes in grace tneir grammar.
And struck the simple, solemn.



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JAMES LEE'S WIFE



373



DRAMATIS PERSONiE



Ths Yolmne bearing the title DrameUit Pet'
mmcB WM pabliahed in 1864 and the contents
femained nnohanged in anbeeqaent editions ex-
eept that two short poems were added in the
6d&^km of 1868. The first poem was however



oriinnaUy entitled Jamm i>e. Tlie first riz
stanzas of the sixth section of the poem were
first printed in 1896 in Bfr. Fox*s The Manjtklg
Bepotitory^ and bore the title merelj Lines,
with the signature Z.



JAMES LEE'S WIFE



JAMES LEE*S WIFE SPEAKS AT THE
WINDOW

Ah, Lotc, bttt a day
And the world has changed I

The son 's awar,
And the bird estranged ;

The wind has dronped.
And the sky 's deranged :

Summer has stopped.

Look in my eves I

Wilt thoa cfaai«e too?
Should I fear surprise ?

Shall I find aught new
In the old and dear.

In the good and true.
With the changing year?

Thouartaman,

But I am th^ lore.
For the lake, its swan ;

For the dell its dove ;
And for thee — (oh, haste I)

Me, to bend above.
Me, to hold embraced.



BY THE FIRESIDE

li an our %rB of shipwreck wood,

Oak and pine ?
Oh, for the ills half-undeistood,

The dim dead woe

Loiurago
fiefaUen this bitter coast of France I
Well, poor sailors took their chance ;

1 take mine.

A ruddy shaft our fire must shoot

O'er the sea:
Do sailors eye the easement — mute

Drenched and stark.

From their bark —
And envy, gnash their teeth for hate
O' the warm safe house and happy freight

— Thee and me?

Ood help you. sailors, at your need I

Spare tne curse !
For some ships, safe in port indeed*



Rot and rust.

Run to dust.
An through worms i* the wood, which erept,
Gnawed our hearts out while we slept :

Thatisi



Who Uved here before us two ?

Old-world pairs.
Did a woman ever— would I knew I —

Watch the man

With whom benn
Love*s voyage full-sail,— (now gnash jum t ee th Q
When planks start, open haU oeneath

Un



IN THE DOORWAY

The swallow has set her six young on the nn,

And looks seaward :
The water *s in stripes like a snake, olive-pale

To the leeward, —
On the weathep«de, black, qiotted white with

the wind.
** Good fortune departs, and disaster 's be-
hind," -
Hark, the wind with its wants and its infinite
waUl

Our fig-tree, that leaned for the saltness, has

Her five fingers.
Each leaf like a hand opened wide to the worid

Where there lingers
No glint of the gold, Summer sent for her sake ;
How the vines writhe in rows, each impaled on

its stake !
My heart shrivels up and my spirit shrinks
curled.

Yet here are we two; we have love, house



enough,
Vith the '



With the field there.
This house of four rooms, that field red and
rough.
Though it ]rield there.
For the rabbit that robs, scarce a blade or a

bent;
If a magpie alight now, it seems an event ;
And they both wiU be gone at November's re-
buff.

But whv must cold q>read ? but wherefore bring
change
To the spirit*



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374



DRAMATIS PERSONiC



God mMut should mate his with an infinite

ranpie.
And inherit
Hii power to pat life in the darkness and cold ?
Oh, UTe and love worthily^ bear and be bold !
Whom Snramer made fnenda of, let Winter

estrange!



ALONG THE BEACH

I will be quiet and talk with yon,

And reason why you are wrong.
Tou wanted my love — is that much true ?
And so I did love, so I do :

What has come of it all along ?

I took yon — how could I otherwise ?

For a world to me, and more ;
For all, loye neatens and glorifies
Till God *s aglow, to the bving eyes,

In what was mere earth before.

Tes, earth — jres, mere i^oble earth !

Now do I misFState. mistake ?
Do I wrong your weakness and call it worth?
Expect all narvest, dread no dearth.

Seal my sense up for your sake ?

Oh, Love, Love, no, Love I not so, indeed I
You were pust weak earth, I knew :

With much in you waste, with many a weed.

And plenty of passions run to seed.
But a little good grain too.

And such as you were, I took you for mine :

Did not you find me yours.
To watch the olive and wait the vine^
And wonder when rivers of oil and wine

Would fikiw, as the Book assures ?

Well, and if none of these good things came,

What did the failure prove ?
The man was my whole world, aU the same.
With his flowers to praise or his weeds to blame,

And, either or both, to love.

Yet this turns now to a fault — there ! there I

That I do love, watch too long.
And wait too well, and wearv and wear ;
And 'tis all an old story, and my despair

fit subject for some new song:

** How the light, light love, he has wings to fly

At suspicion of a bond :
My wisdom has bidden your pleasure good-by,
Wnich will turn up next in a laughing eye,

And why should you look beyond r '*



ON THE CLIFF

I leaned on the tnrf ,
I looked at a rock
Left dry by the surf ;



For the turf, to call it grass were to mock:
Dead to the roots, so deep was done
The work of the summer sun.

And the rock lay flat

As an anvil's face :

No iron like that !

Baked dry ; of a weed, of a shell, no tmcei

Sunshine outside, but ice at the core.

Death's altar by the lone shore.

On the turf, sprang gay

With his films of blue.

No cricket, I '11 say.

But a warhorse, barded and ohanfroned too.

The gift of a quizote-maffe to his knight.

Real fairy, with wings all right.

On the rock, they scorch

Like a drop of fire

From a brandished torch.

Fall two red fans of a butterfly:

No turf, no rock : in their ugly stead.

See, wonderful blue and red I

Is it not so

With the minds of men ?

Hie level and low.

The burnt and bare, in themselves ; but then

With such a blue and red grace, not theirs, —

Love setding unawares I



READING A BOOK, UNDER THE CLIFF

*' Still ailing. Wind? WOt be appeased or
no?

Which needs the other's office, thou or I V
Dost want to be disburdened of a woe.

And can, in truth, my voice untie
Its links, and let it go r

** Art thou a dumb, wronged thing that would
be righted.
Entrusting thus thy cause to me ? Forbear !
No tongue can mend such pleadings ; faith, re-
quited
With folsehood, — love, at last aware
Of scorn, — hopes, early blighted, —

** We have them ; but I know not any tone
So fit as thine to falter forth a sorrow :

Dost think men would go mad without a moan.
If they knew any way to boirow

A pathos like thy own r

"Which sigh wouldst mock, of aU the nghs?
The one

So long escaping from lips starved and blue.
That lasts while on her pallet-bed the nun

Stretches her length ; ner foot comes through
The straw she shivers on ;



'You had not thought she was so tall: and
It,
ank lids open, her lean fingers shut



spent,
Her shrun'



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JAMES LEE'S WIFE



375



Ckwe, eloM, their sharp and livid nails indent

The clammy palm ; then all is mute :
That way, the spint went.

** Or wonldst thon rather that X nnderstand
Thy will to help me ? — like the dofir I found

Once, pacing sad this solitary strand.
Who womd not take my food, poor honnd.

But whined and licked my hand.^'



All this, and more, comes from some yoan^
man's pride

Of power to see, — in failure and mistake.
Relinquishment, aispaoe, on every side, —

Merely examples tor his sake.
Helps to his path untried :

Instanees he must — simply recognize ?
(Ml, more than so 1 — must, with a learner's

Make dou oly prominent, twice emphasiie.

By added touches that reveal
The god in babe's disguise.

Oh, he knows what defeat means, and the
resti

Himself the undefeated that shall be :
Failure, disgrace, he flings them yon to test, —

His triumph, in etemi^
Too idsinly manifest I

WhencCj judge if he learn forthwith what the
wind

Means in its moaning — by the luuipy prompt
Instinctive way of youth, I mean ; for kmd

Cabn years, exacting their aocompt
Of pain, mature the nund :

And some midsummer morning, at the lull
Just about daybreak, as he looks aoroas

Amarkling foreign country, wonderful
To the sea's edge for eloom and gless,

Next minute must annul, —

Then, when the wind begins among the vines.
So low, so low, what shall it say out this?

*'Here is the change beginning, here the lines
Circumscribe beauty, set to bliss

The limit time assigns.''

Nothing can be as it has been before ;

Better, so caU it, only not the same.
To draw one beauty into our hearts' core,

And keep it changeless ! such our claim ;
So answered, —Nevermore I

<%nple ? Why this is the old woe o' the world :
Tune, to whose rise and fall we live ana
die.

Rise with it, then I Rejoice that man is hurled
From change to change unceasingly.

His soul's wings never furled 1

Thst'sanewi
Nothing



.v». still replies the &Mst,
lures: the wind moans, saying



We moan in acquiescence: there '■ life's paei.

PerhiHps probation — do i know ?
Gk>ddoes: endure his act 1

Only, for man, how bitter not to grave
On his soul's hands' palms one fair good wise
thing
Just as he grasped it! For himself, death's
wave;
While time first washes— ah, the sting 1 —
O'er all he 'd sink to save.



VII

AMONG THE ROCKS

Oh, good gigantic smile o' the brown old earth.
This antnnm morning! How he sets his
bones
To bask i' the sun, and thrusts out knees and

feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth ;
Listening the while, where on the heap of
stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitteis sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true ;
Such is life's trial, as old earth smiles and
knows.
If you loved only what were worth vour love.
Love were clear gain, and wholly well tor
you:
Make the low nature better by your throes I
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above !



BESIDE THE DRAWING-BOARD



* As like as a Hand to another Hand ! "

Whoever said that foolish thing,
Gould not have studied to understand

The eouncilB of God in fashioning.
Out of the infinite love of his heart.
This Hand, whose beauty* I praise, aimrt
From the world of wonder left to praise,
U I tried to learn the other ways
Of love in its skiU, or love in its power.
'* As like as a Hand to another Hand : '*
Who said that, never took his stand.
Found and followed, like me, an hour.
The beauty in this, — how free, how fine
To fear, almost, — of the limit-line !
As I looked at this, and learned and drew.

Drew and leamea, and looked again,
While fast the happy minutes flew,
Its beauty mounted into my brain.
And a fancy seized me ; I was fain
To efface my work, begin anew,
Kiss what before I onlv drew ;
Ay, laving the red chalk 'twixt my Hps,
With soul to help if the mere lips failed,
I kissed all right where the drawing ailed,



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 75 of 198)