Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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**' A miracle, ay — ot lust and impudence ;
Hear my new reasons ! " interposed the first : ^
** — Coupled vrith moro of mine I " pursued hia

peer.
** Beside, the precedents, the authorities I "
From both at once a cry vdth an echo, that !
That was a firobrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare

enough.
As hurtled thither and there heaped them-
selves
From earth's four comers, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death.
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians ? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome ! Justinian speak I
Nor modem Baldo, Bartolo be dumb !
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicttriis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parrioidiis ; Julia de
Something-orother jostled Lex this-and-that ;
i^ng Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul :
That nice decision of Dolabella, di ?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh I
Down to that choice example .Lilian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he

were,
Tet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naugnty spouse and faithless

friend;
A jtrue tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favored by our court I
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always — once again the case postponed.

Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a

month,
— Only on paper, pleadings all in print.
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men.



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417



noiM hj word of month than yon hear
now —
he oonrt ont all short with ** Jndced, yonr



}I PraifleQod! Wepro-

noanoe

t Ghiido deTilish and damnahle :
rife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
perfect pure, he muraered her for that :
r the Four who heli>ed the One, all FiTe —
, let employer and hirelings share alike
lilt ana guilt's reward, the death their

dnel"

IS the trial at end, do tou sunpose P
Ity yon find him, death yon doom him to ?
rere not Gnido, more than needs, a priest,
t and to spare I " — this was a not re-

senred ;

n this from epistles which hegin
where the print ends, — see the pen and

ink

9 adTocate, the ready at a i^inch I —
client hoasts the clerkly pririlege,
aken minor orders many enon^h,
9 still sufficient chrism upon his pate
utralize a bloodnitain : presbyter^
s tonsiams, subdiciconus,
do»f so he slips from underneath

power, the temporal, ahdes inside the

robe

vther Church : to her we make appeal

e Pope, the Church's head 1 '*

A parlous plea,
1 with noticeable effect, it-seems ;
le straiprh^" — resumes the xealous orator,
ig a £nend acquainted with the facts, —
B the word * clericality ' let fall,
lure stopped and freer broath was drawn
i considerate and responsible Home.'*
ty took the decent part, of course ;
by the husband, who was noble too :
r the matter of that, a churl would side
too-refined suscentibilil^,
lonor which, tender in the extreme,
to the quick, must roughly right itself
risks, not sit still and whine for law
Jew would, if you squeexed him to the
wall,

•trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it
seems,

the Emperor's Envoy had his say
y on the subject; might not see, un-
moved,

7 menaced throughout Christendom
) harsh measuro deidt her champion here.
', what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
lus youth up, reluctant to take life,
roy might be just and yet show grace ;
moro unlikely then, in extrame age,
ce a life thegeneral sense bade sparo.
I plain that Guide would go scatheless yet.

Oman promise, oh^ how short of shine !
npple down the pdes of hope we rear !
listory proves . . . nay, read Herodotus I
inly starting from a nap, as it wero.



A doM^eleep with one shut, one open orb.
Cried the Pope's great self, — Innooent by



And naturo too, and eidhtT-six years old,

Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, rope

Who had trod many lands, known many deed^

Probed many hearts, besinning with his own.

And now was far in readiness for Gbd, —

'T was he who first bade leave those sonls in



Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molimsts,
CGainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune.
Tlokling men's ears — the sect for a quarter of

an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, down-like,

loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-

while.
Taste some v i t u p e ration, bite awav.
Whether at marjoram-^rig or nrlio-clove.
Aught it may sport with, spou, and then qnt

forth,)
''Leave them alone," bade he, ''those Moli-

nistsl
Who may have other light than we perceive,
Orwhyis it the whole world hates them thus? "
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, *' Halt, deaf and

blind.
Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
To gather up the fragments of his feast.
These be the nephews of Pope Innocent 1 —
His own meal costs but five oarlines a day.
Poor-priest's allowance, for he daims no more."
— He cried of a sudden, this great good old

Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
" I have mastered the whole matter : I nothing

doubt.
Though Guide stood forth priest from head to

heel.
Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one, —
And further, wero he. from the tonsured scalp
To the sandaled sole of him, my son and

Christ's,
Instead of touching ns bj finger-tip
As yon assert, and p re s si ng up so close
Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe, —
I and Christ would renounce all riffht in him.
Am I not Pope, and presently to die.
And busied how to render my account.
And shall I wait a day ere I decide
On doing or not doing justice here P
Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
Hang up his four mates, two on either hand.
And end one business more ! "



li.



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The noble Rome, the Rome of Gnido's raak)
But at the city's newer Rayer end, —
The cavalciading promenaning place
Beside the sate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian wardens ereen with Springr.
'Neath the obelisk^twixt the fountains in the

Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness^ and — mj writer adds —
Remonstrant in its umversal gnet^
Since Quido had the suffrage of all Rome.

This ii the bookful ; thus far take the truth.
The untempered gold, the fact nntampered

with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made !
And what has hitherto come of it ? Who pre-

serres
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
PompiUa, more than Ademollo^s name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Sared by a stone from snowing broad the

Square
T^th scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of

force?
Able to take its own ptLtt as truth riiould.
Sufficient, self-sustaining ? Why, if so —
Tender 's a fire, into it goes my book.
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss ?
You know the tale already : I may ask.
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof, —
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husmind and wife, what manner of mankind.
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now.
The priest, declared the loyer of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her.
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi ; — his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both ?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime.
Those Coraparini, Pietro and his spouse, —
What say you to the right or wroiur of that.
When, at a known name whispered through the

door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas ni^htj
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved ;
And so did welcome devils and their death ?
I have been silent on that drcurastance
Although the couple passed for dose of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia*8 very parents : jrou know best.
Also that infant the ^r^at joy was for.
That Gaetano, the wife*s two-weeks* babe.
The husband's first-bom child, his son and heir.
Whose birth and being tumied his nig^t to

day —
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself ?

Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you I) and will have your proper
laugh



At the dark question, laugh it I I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and

truth
— Here is it all i* the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts oi

Rome^
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The paange of a centurv or so,
Decads ihnoo five, ana here's time paid his

ObliTion gone home with her harvesting,

And all left smooth again as scythe could

shave.
Far from beginning with yon London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried tmth'a

power
On likely people. **Have you met sueb



Is a tradition extant of such facts?

Your law-courts stand, your records frown

a-row :
What if I rove and rummage ? " *' — Why,

you 'U waste
Your pains and end as wise as you besan I "
Every one snickered : ** names and facts thus

old
Are newer much than Europe news we find
Down in to-day's Diario, Records, quotha ?
Why, the Fr^ch .burned them, what else do

the French ?
The rap-and-rending natioD ! And it tells
Against the Chnroh, no doubt, — another gird
At the Temporality, your Trial, of course ? "
** —Quite otherwise this time," sulmutted I :
** Clean for the Church and dead a^^dnst the

world.
The fiesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
** — The rarer and the happier I All the same.
Content you with your treasure of a book,
And waive What 's wanting 1 Take a friend'a

advice I
It 's not the custom of the country. Mend
Your wajrs indeed and we may stretch a point :
Go get you manned by Manning ana new-
manned
By Newman and, mayhap, wiBC-manned to boot
Bv Wiseman, and we 'U see or else we won't I
Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
Apretty piece of narrative enough.
Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would

think,
From the more curious annals of our kind.
Do 3rou tell the storv, now, in off-hand style.
Straight from the book ? Or simply him and

there,
fThe while you vault it through the loose and
„ large)

Hang to a hint ? Or is there book at all.
And don't you deal in poetry^ make-belieTe»
And the white lies it sounds like ? *'

Yes and no I
From the book, yes ; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was

Yes; bnt from something else surpaasing that.



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



419



ling of mine which, mixed ap with the



t bear hammer and be firm to file,
with fact 18 inst one fact the more ;
, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
!ed and so thrown fast the facts else free,
it throa{|^ riner and ring rnns the djereed
ndB the loose, one bar without a break,
my live soul and that inert stuif ,
attempting smithcraft, on the night
he day when — truth thus grasped and
ained —

ok was shut and done with and laid by
cream-colored massiTe agate, broad
the twin oherobs in the tarnished frame
nirror, tall thence to the ceilins^top.
)m the reading, and that slab 1 leant
>w on. the while I read and read,
1, to free myself and find the world^
pped out on the narrow terractf, buiH
e street and opposite the church,
3ed its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool ;
) Felioe-chnroh-side stretcned, aglow
b each square window fringed for fea-
vid,

I came the clear Toioe of the dotstered
les

g a chant made for midsummer mshts —
not what particular praise of God,
m came and went with June. Beneath
treet, quick shown by openings of the

ame fell sQentlT from dond to cloud,

than that gold snow Joto rained on

bodes,

nsmen walked by twos and threes, and

Iked,

r the blackness in de&ult of air —

auman sense beneath my feet :

I and out the terrace-plants, and round

loh of tall datura, waxed and waned

ip-fly lured there, wanting the white

»wer.

> roof o' the lighted church I looked

lot to the street's end, north away

le Roman gate to the Roman road

lYcr, till I felt the Apennine.

re would lie Arezzo, the man's town,

lan's trap and cage and torture-plaM,

stage where the priest played his part,

cle for angels, — ay, indeed,

y Arezzo ! Farther then I fared.

nv way on through Uie hot and dense,

rd, until I found the wayside inn

tlnuoTo's few mean hut-uke homes

together on the hill-foot bleak,
3ken only hj that tree or two
the sudden bloody splendor poured
e in day's departure by the sun
low house-roof of that squalid inn
bey three, for the first time and the
t,

and wife and priest, met face to face.
I went on again, the end was near.



in me aboiidied the death of tilings.



Deep calling unto deep : as then and there
Acted itself oyer asain once more -
I'he tragic |»ece. 1 saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night.
How it had run, this round from Rome to

Rome —
Beoanse, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
PorapUia's parents, as they thonsrht themselves.
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow inake a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it q»lashed and

spoiled.
Provided they might so hold high, keep dean
Their shild's soul, one soul white enough for

three.



And lift it to whatever star diould stoop.
What possible sphere of |>urer life than theirs
8houla oome in aid of whiteness hard to save.



i us depart in peace,
GuidoVwifer^



I saw Uie star stoop, that they strained to touch.
And did touch ana depose thdr treasore on.
As Guide Franceschim took away
Porapilia to be his forevermore.
While ther sang '' Now let
Having beheld thy glory. Guido's wue I "
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen.
Gilded star-fashion by a riint from hell ;
Having been heaved up. haled on its groM way.
By hands unguessed before, iuTinble help
From a dark orotherhood, and spedallv
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-laoea this,
CatFclawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster, —cloaked and

caped.
Making as they were priests, to mock God

move, —
Abate Paul. Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of PompiHa, rolled a^ain
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there —
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapor first,
Blown big by nether fires to appall dav :
It touch^ home, broke, and olastea iar and

wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured

for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the doud
And carried by tibe Prince o' the Power of the

Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a gray mother with a monkey-mien.
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too.
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
— Saw thero break through, breathe safe, at

Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losingso
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
Li recrudescency of baffled hate.
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



From body and aonl thiiB left them : all was

rare,
Fire laid and oaldron set, the obsoene ring

traced.
The yictim stripped and prostrate : what of

Qod?
The deavins: of a dond. a oiy, a crash.
Qnenohed lay their caiaron, cowered i' the dnst

the crew,
As, in a ^ory of armor like >Saint George,
Out agiun sprang the yonng good beanteons

priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms.
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom r the path did that priest come

upon.
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
— Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth —
Whom but a dosk misfeatored messenger.
No other than the angel of this life.
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must

suffice.
Nor prejudice the Prince o* the Power of the

Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last,

heaven's floor.
Now grate o' the tnu>, then outlet of the cage :
So took the lady, left the priest alone^
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again.
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone nurden-quarter : it was eve.
The second of the year, and oh so cold !
Ever and anon there flittered through the ur
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grasa-walk and the garden-mould.
All was ^ve, silent, sinister, — when, haP
Glimmennglv did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guide's eyes in

front.
And all flve found and footed it, the track.
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and

light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside.
While an inch outside were those blood-bright

eyes.
And black lips wrinklin&r o'er the flash of teeth.
And tongrues that lollea — O God that madest

man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one

whined —
That was the policy and master-stroke —
Deep in his taroat whispered what seemed a

name —
** Open to Caponsacchi I " Guido cried :
** Gabriel I " cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once.
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the

wolves
To them. Close eyes ! And when the corpses

lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their

woH-work done.
Were safe-embosomed by the night again.



I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst



way.



I worst watch of the night gives

And thero comes duly, to take cognizance.
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star —
And who despairs of a new daybreak now ?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five I
It reached them, and each felon writhed trans*

fixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet : stand or fall ?
*' I say, the spear should fall — should stand, I

say I "
Cried the world come to judgment, granting

Or deuing doom according to world's wont.
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's

crossrroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and

wrong.
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and

sheep wolves.
So that yon scarce distinguished fell from

fleece;
Till out spoke a mat guardian of the fold.
Stood np, put forth nis hand that held the

crook.
And motioned that the arrested point decline :
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled.
Rushed to the bottom and lay mined there.
Though still at the pit's month, despite the

smoke
0' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf, —
Vex truth a little longer : — less and less.
Because years came and went, and more and

more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn*
Till all at once the memory of the thing, —
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures

were, —
Which hitherto, however men supposed.
Had somehow plain and pillar-like pre vaUed
I' the midst of them, indisputably tact.
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not

graze,—
Whv, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature.
Dwindled into no bigger than a book.
Lay of the column ; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and

weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,^
Kicked it up, turned it over^ and recognized.
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
TUs square old yellow book, — could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.

This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom ; such allov.
Such substance of me interfused the gold



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421



Which, wrought into a shapely rinff therewith.
Hammered and filed, fingered and lavored, last
Lay ready for the renoyating wash
O' the water. ''How much of the tale was

true?"
I disappeared ; the book grew all in all ;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their

size, —
DoaUed in two, the crease upon them yet.
For more commodity of carnage, see I —
And these are letters, yeritable sheets
That brought post-haste the news to Florence,

writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find.
To stay the craving of a client there.
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Loreis of dead truth, did ye fare the worse ?
LoTczs of Htc truth, found ye false my tale ?

Well, now : there 's nothing in nor out o' the

world
Good ezce^ truth : yet this, the something else.
What 's tms then, which proves good yet seems

untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleola-

ble
O' the gold was not mine, — what *s your name

for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the

end? ^
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too ?
The somehow may be thishow.

Ifind first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
'*In the beginning God made heaven and

earth;'^
From which, no matter with what Hsp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence— that man,
Man, — as befits the made, the inferior thing, —
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in

turn.
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow, —
Formed to rise, reach at, if not ^rasp and gain
The good beyond him,— which attempt is

growth, —
Repeats God's process in man's due degree.
Attaining man s proportionate result, —
Chreates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act — conceives, o xp rossoo

too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so project his surplosage oi soul
In search of body, so add sdf to self
By owning what lay ownerless before, —
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms —
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been.
Yet, something dead roav get to live again.
Something with too mucn ufe or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once :
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes.
Makes new be^ning, starts the dead alive.
Completes the moomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin

wick,—



ELalf-bumed-out, all but quite-quenched wicks

o' the lamp
Stationed for temp l e sen i ce on this earth.
These indeed let him breathe on and relume I
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
— Blimic creation, galvanism for life.
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say — feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth.
And resting on a he — *' I rain a s^ost " ? ^^

** Because,'' he taught adepts, "man makes

not man.
Yet b^ a special gift, an art of arts.
More insight and more outsight and much more
Will to use both of these than boast mv mates,
I can detach from me, commission forth
Half of my soul ; which in its pilgrimage
O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world.
May chance upon some fra^nent of a whole,
Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disiMS,
Smoking flax that fed fire once : prompt therein
I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play.
Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last



(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
What shall be mistily seen, murmuringiy heard.
Mistakenly felt: then write my



with



Faust's I"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha

once? —
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing : he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain.
And prayed unto the Lord : and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the oouob,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands.
And stretohea him on the flesh ; the flesn waxed

warm :
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretehed him on the flesh again.
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.

£noiU[h of me L
The Book I I turn its medicinable kaves



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 83 of 198)