Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Count Guide Franceschini has confessed.
And is absolyed and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march.
Make by the longest way for Uie People's

Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award :
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach.
Two gallows and Mannaia orownii^ alL
How Guide made defence a second time.

Finally, even as thus by step and step

I led you from the level of to-day

Up to the summit of so long ago.

Here, whence I point you the wide prospect

round —
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Iiand you on mother-earth, no whit the worse.
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow : free to dwelL
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, com and wine,
Much catUe and the many-folded fieece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's homy eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags.
When morning broke and Spring was back once

more.
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, un-
reached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like, —
As Jack reached, ndpen of his beanstalk-
rungsl

A novel countrjy : I might make it mine
By chosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw :
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright lang^
Or, Anpist's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She f el^ arms wide, face foremost on the world.
Swooned there and so singed out the strength

of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn botlu
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Bather learn.

and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year I —
Red, green and blue that whirl mto a white.
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for your-
selves.
This man's act, changeable because alive !
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing

thought ;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top.
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside.
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep.
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for

bright.
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Tour sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs, — white styled, black stig-
matized, —
A-rolling, see them once on the other side



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r good men and yonr bad men erery one,

n Guido Fninoeschini to Gujr Fanz,

woold you mb yonr eyes and change yonr



L, British Public, ye who like me not,
I lore you !) — whom I yet hare lalxved for,
ihanoe more careful whoeo runs may read
n ent when all, it seemed, oould retA who

ran, —
thance more careless whoso reads may

praise
n mte when he who praised and read and
wrote

apt to find himself the selfoame me, —
1 labor had such issue, so I wrought
I arc. by fnrtheranoe of such alloy,
so, hj one spirt, take away its trace
justifiably golden, rounds my ring.

ng without a posy, and that ring mine f

no Love, half ancel and half bird,
all a wonder anofa wild desire, —
lest of hearts that erer braved the son,
I sanctuary within the holier blue,
sang a kindred soul out to his face, —
human at the red-ripe of the heart —
m the first summons from the darkling

earth
$hed thee amid thy chambers, blanched

their blue,
bared them of the glory — to drop down,
oil for man, to sufPer or to die, —

is the same roice: can thy soul know

change?
then, and hearken from the realms of help !
)r mav I commence my song, no^ due
\od who best taught song by gin of thee,
)pt with bent head and beseeching hand —
; still, despite the distance and the dark,
it was, again may be ; some interchange
race, some splendor once thy very thought,
i benediction anciently thy smile :
aver conclude, but raising hand and head
her where eyes, that cannot reach, yet



yearn
dl hope,



I hope, all sustainment, all reward,
r utmost up and on, —so blessing back
lose thy realms of help, that heaTcn thy

home,
) whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes

proud,
) wanness where, I think, thy foot may

faUI



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t, yoo, 1^, come too ? (Just the man I M

meet.)
lied by me and have a care o' the crowd :

way, while fresh folk go and get their

eU you like a book and save your shins,
-what a roaring day we Ve had ! Whose
fault?



Lorenzo in Luoina, —here 's a church
To hold a crowd at need, accommodate
All comers from the Corso I If this crush
Make not its priests ashamed of what they

show
For temple-room, don*t prick them to draw

purse
And down with bricks and mortar, eke us out
The beffgarly transept with its bit of apse
Into a aeeent space tor Christian ease.
Why, to-day*s lucky pearl is cast to swine.
Listen and estimate the luck they 'ye had I
(The right man, and I hold him.;

Sir. do ^ou see,
They laid both bodies in the church, this mom
The first thing, on the chancel two steps up,
Behind the little marble balustrade ;
Disposed them, Pietro the old murdered fool
To the ngkt of the altar, and his wretched wife
On the other side. In trying to count stabs.
People supposed VioUnte showed the most.
Till somebody enlained us that mistake :
His wounds had been dealt out indifferent

where.
But she took all her stabbings in the &ce.
Since punished thus solely for honor's sake.
Honoris catud, that 's the proper term.
A delicacy there is, our gallants hold.
When yon avenge year honor and onlv then,
That you disfigure the subject, fray the face.
Not just take ufeand end. in clownish guise.
It was Violante gave the nrst offence,
Qot therefore Uie coospicuons punishment :
While Pietro, who helped merely, lus mere

death
Answered the purpose, so his imoo went free.
We fancied even, tree as you please, that iaee
Showed itself still intolerably wronged ;
Was wrinkled over with resentment yet.
Nor calm at all, as murdered faces use.
Once the worst ended : an indignant air
O' the head there was — 'tis said the body

turned
Round and awav, rolled from Violante's side
Where they haa laid it lovinf-husband-like.
If so, if corpses can be sensitive.
Why did not he roll right down altar^tep.
Roll on through nave, roll fairly out of ohuroh,
Deprive Lorenzo of the spectacle,
Pay back thus the succ e s si on of affronts
Whereto this church had served as theatre ?
For see : at that same altar where he lies.
To that same inch of step, was brought the babe
For blessing after baptism, and there styled
PompiHa, and a string of names beside.
By his bad wife, some seventeen years 1^
Who purchased her snuplv to pahn on him.
Flatter his dotage and detraud the heirs.
Wait awhile ! Also to this very step
Did this Violante, twelve years afterward.
Bring, the mock-mother, that child-cheat full-
grown,
PomptVa, in pursuance of her plot,
And there brave Qod and man a second time
Bv Unking a new victim to the lie.
There, having made a match unknown to him.
She, stiU unknown to Pietro, tied the knot



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



Which nothing ents except this kind of knife ;
Tee, made her daughter, as the girl was held.
Many a man. and honest man beside.
And man of birth to boot, — clandestinely
Because of this, because of that, because
O' the derii's will to work his worst for



Confident she could top her part at need
And, when her husband must be told in turn,
Ply the wife's trade, play off the sex's trick
And, alternating worry with quiet qualms.
Bravado with submissiveness, prettily fool
Her Hetro into patience : so it proyed.
Ay, 'tis four years since man and wife they



This diudo Franceschini and this same
Pominlia, foolishly thought, falsely declared
A Gomparini and the couple's child :
Just at this altar where, beneath the piece
Of Master Quido Reni, Christ on cross, '
Second to naught observable in Rome,
That couple lie now, murdered yestereve.
Even the blind can see a providence here.

From dawn till now that it is ^rowing dusk,
A multitude has flocked and mled the church.
Coming and going, coming back again.
Till to count crazed one. Rome was at the

show.
People climbed up the columns, fought for

spikes
O' the chi4>el-rail to perch themselves upon,
Jumped over and so broke the wooden work
Painted like poiphyry to deceive the eve ;
Serve the priests right I The organ-loft was

crammed.
Women were fainting, no few fights ensued.
In short, it was a show repaid your pains :
For, though their room was scant undoubtedly,
Tet iJiey did manage matters, to be just,
A little at this Lorenzo. Body o' me I
I saw a body exposed once . . . never mind I
Enough that here the bodies had their due.
No stinginess in wax, a row all round.
And one big taper at each head and foot.

So, people pushed their way, and took their turn.
Saw, threw their eyes up, crossed themselves,

gave place
To pressure from behind, since all the world
Knew the old pair, could talk the tragedy
Over from first to last : Pompiliatoo,
Those who had known her — what 't was

worth to them I
Guide's acquaintance was in less request ;
The Count had lounged somewhat too long in

Rome,
Hade himself cheap ; with him were hand and

glove
Barbers and blear^yed, as the ancient sings.
Also he is alive and like to be :
Had he considerately died, — aha I
I jostled Luca Cixii on his staff.
Mute in the midst, the whole man one amaze,
Staring amain and crossing brow and breast.
"How now?" askedL^'Tisseventy years,"

quoth he,
^Siiioe I first saw, holding my father's hand.



Bodies set forth : a many have I seen,
Tet all was poor to this I live and see.
Here the world 's wickedness seals up the sum.*
What with Molinos' doctrine and this deed.
Antichrist surely comes and doomsday 's near.
May I depart in peace. I have seen my see."
'' Depart then," I advised, '' nor block the road
For youngsters still behindhand with such

sights I"
*' Why no," rejoins the venerable sire,
*^ I know it 's horrid, hideous past belief.
Burdensome far beyond what eye can bear ;
But they do promise, when Pompilia dies
I' the course o' the day, —and she can't outlive

night,—
Thej '11 bring her body also to expose
Beside the parents, one, two, three abreast ;
That were mdeed a sight wmoh. might I see,
I trust I should not last to see the Iulc ! "
Whereat I bade the senior spare his shanks.
Since doctors give her till to-night to live.
And tell us how the butchery happened. " Ah,
But you can't know I " sighs he, " I 'U not de-
spair:
Beside 1 'm useful at explaining things —
As, how the danger laid there at the feet.
Caused the pecmiar cuts ; I mind its make.
Triangular r the blade, a Genoese,
Armed with those little hook-teeth on the edge
To open in the fiesh nor shut again :
I like to teach a novice : I shall stay I "
And stay he did, and stay be sure he will.

A personage came bv the private door

At noon to have his look : I name no names :

Well then. His Eminence the Cardinal,

Whose servitor in honorable sort

Guide was onoe, the same who made the

match,
(Will you have the truth?) whereof we see

effect.
No sooner whisper ran he was arrived
Than up pops Curate Carlo, a brisk lad.
Who never lets a good occasion slip.
And volunteers improving the event.
We looked he'd give the history's self some

help,
Treat us to how the wife's confession went
(This morning she confessed her crime, we

know)
And, maybe, throw in something of the

Priest —
If he 's not ordered back, pumshed anew.
The gallant, Caponsacchi, Lucifer
I' the nirden where Pompilia, Eve-like, lured
Her Adam Guide to his nnlt and fall.^
Think you wegot a s]>rig of speech akin
To this from Carlo, with the Cardinal there ?
Too wary he was, too widely awake, I trow.
He did the murder in a dozen words ;
Then said that all such outrages crop forth
I' the course of nature, when Molinos' tares
Are sown for wheat, flourish and choke the

Church:
So slid on to the abominable sect
And the philosophic sin — we ' ve heard all that.
And the Cardinal too, (who book-made on the

same)



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;, for the murder, left it where he f omid.

bat he's quick, the Curate, minds his

gamel
I, uter all, we hare the main o' the fact :
B could not well be simpler, — mapped, as it
were,

follow the murder's maze from source to

sea,
the red line, past mistake : one sees indeed

only how all was and must hare been,

cannot other than be to the end of time,
n out here by the Ruspoli I Do yon hold
do was so prodigiously to blame ?
drtain cousin of yours has told you so ?
otly I Here 's a friend shall set you right,
him but have the handsel of your ear.

se wretched Comparini were once gay
I i^alUard, of the modest middle class :
a m this quarter seren^ years ago,
i married young, they hved the accustomed

life,
Bens as they were of good repute :
., childless^ naturally took their ease
h only their two sdves to care about

use the wealth for : wealthy is the word,
e Pietro was possessed of house and land ~
specially one house, when good days
smiled,
''ia Vittoria, the aspeetable street
)re he lived mainly ; but another house
ass pretension did he buy betimes.
Tills, meant for jaunts and jollity,
le Pauline district, to be private Uiere —

what puts murder in an enemy's head.
MTcr, — here 's the worm i' the core, the

germ
le rottenness and ruin which arrived, —
>wned some usufruct, had moneys' use
long, but to determine with his life
dirr default : so, Pietro craved an heir,

storr always old and always new)

his fool's-eyes fast on the visible good
wealth for certain, opened them owl-wide
srtune's sole piece of fbrgetfulness,
child that should have been and would not
be.

te, seventeen years ago, conceive his glee
n first Vidante, 'twixt a smile and blnsh,
I touch of agitation proper too,
>unoed that, spite of her unpromising age,
miracle would in time be raianif est,
eir's birth was to happen : and it did.
)how or other, — how, all in good time I
trick, a sleight of hand vou are to hear, —
ild was bom, Pompilia, tor his jov,
thing at once and prop, a fairy-gifL
ants' grace or, say, grant df the good

God,—
dle-pm's end I What imbeciles are we I
. now : if some one could have prophesied,
r love of you, for likiiur to your wife,
lertake to crush a snake I spy
ing itself i' the soft of both jour breasts,
me yon babe to strangle pamlessly I
U soar to the safe : you 'll have your cry-
ing out.



Then sleep, then wake, than sleep, then eiMi

your days
In peace and plenty, mixed with mild regret.
Thirty srears hence when Christmas takes old

folk"-
How had old Pietro sprung up, crossed himself.
And kicked the conjurer ! Whereas you and I,
Being wise with after-wit, had clapped our

hands;
Nay, added, in the old fool's interest,
** Strangle the black-eyed babe, so far so good.
But on condition you relieve the man
O' the wife and throttle him Violante too —
She is the mischief I "

We had hit the mark.
She, whose trick brought the babe into the

world.
She it was, when the babe was nown a girl,
Judsed a new trick should reinforce the old,
Sena visor to the lie now somewhat spent
By twelve years' service ; lest Eve's rule de>

dine
Over this Adam of hers, whose cabbage-plot
Throve dubiously since turned fools'-paradise.
Spite of a nightingale on every stump.
Retro's estate was dwindling day bv day.
While he, rapt far above such munoane care.
Crawled all-fonrs with his baby pick-a-back.
Sat at serene cats'-cradle with nis child.
Or took the measured tslhiesii, top to toe.
Of what was grown a great girl twelve years

old:
Till sudden at the door a tap discreet,
A visitor's premonitory cou^h.
And poverly had reached him in her rounds.

This came when he was past the working-time.
Had learned to dandle and forgot to dig.
And who must but Violante cast about.
Contrive and task that head of hers again ?
She who had caught one fish could make that

catch
Abig|cer still, in angler's policy :
So, with an angler's mercy for the bait,
Hraminnow was set wriggling on its barb
AqMossed to mid-stream ; which means, this

grown girl
With uie great eyes and bounty of black hair
And first crisp vouth that tempts a jaded taste.
Was whiskecf i' the way of a certain man, who

snapped.

Count Guide Franceschini the Aretine
Was head of an old noble house enouj^
Not over-rich, you can't have everything,
But such a man as riches rub against.
Readily stick to, — one with a right to them
Bom in the blood : '^was in his very brow
Always to knit itself against the world.
Beforehand so, when that world stinted due
Service and suit : the world ducks and defers.
As such folks do, he had come up to Rome
To better his fortune, and, since many years.
Was friend and follower of a cardinal ;
Waiting the rather thus on providence.
That a shrewd vonnger poorer brother yet.
The Abate Paolo, a regular priest,



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



Had long smce tried his poweis and found he

swam
"With the deftest on the Galilean pool :
But then he was a web-foot, free o' the wave.
And no ambiguous dab-«hick hatched to strut,
Humbled bjr any fond attempt to swim
When fiercer fowl usurped his dunghill-top ~
A whole priest, Paolo, no mere piece of one.
Like Guido tacked thus to the Churches tail !
Guido moreover, as the head o* the house.
Claiming the mam prize, not the lesser luck,
The centre lily, no mere ohickweed fringe.

He waited and learned waiting, thirty years ;
•Got promise, missed performance — what would

you have ?
No petty post rewards a nobleman
For spendmg youth in splendid lackey-work,
And there *s concurrence for each rarer prize ;
When that falls, rougher hand and readier foot
Push aside Guido spite of his black looks.
The end was, Ghiido, when the warning showed,
The first white hair i' the glass, gave up the

game.
Determined on retumiii|r to his town,
liaking the best of bad mcurable.
Patching the old palace up and lin|:ering there
The customarv lite out with his km.
Where honor helps to spice the scanty bread.

Just as he trimmed his lamp and girt his loins
To go his loumey and be wise at home.
In the right mood of disappointed worth.
Who but Violante sudden spied her prey
(Where was I with that angleiHninile ?)
And threw her bait, Fompilia, where he

sulked -
A gleam V the gloom !

What if he gained thus much.
Wrong out this sweet drop from the bitter

JPast,
Bore ofiE this rose-bud from the prickly brake
To justify such torn clothes and scratched

hands,
And, after all, brought something back from

Rome?
Would not a wife serve at Arezzo well
To light the dark house, lend a look of vouth
To the mothers face grown meagre, left alone
And famished with the erabtiness of hope,
Old Donna Beatrice ? Wire you want
Would you play funily-representative,
Carry vou elder- brotherly, high and right
O'er what may prove the natural petulance
Of the third brother, younger, greedier still,
Girolarao, also a fledgreling priest,
Beginning life in turn with callow beak
Agape for luck, no luck had stopped and

stilled.
Such were the pinks and grays about the bait
Persuaded Guido gulp down hook and all.

What constituted him so choice a catch,
You question ? Past his prime and poor beside !
Ask that of any she who knows the trade.
Why first, here was a nobleman with friends,
A palace one might mn to and be safe



When presently the threatened fate should fall,
A big-browed master to block doorway up,
Parley with people bent on pushing bjr.
And praying the mild Pietro quick dear

scores:
Is birth a privilege and power or no ?
Also — but jud^ of the result desired,
Bv the price paid and manner of the sale.
The Count was made woo, win and wed at

once :
Asked, and was haled for answer, lest the heat
iShould cool, to 8an Lorenzo, one blind eve,
And had Pompilia put into his arms
O* the sly there, by a hasty candle-blink.
With sanction of some priestpoonf ederate
Plroperiy paid to make short work and sure.

So did old Pietro's dauprhter change her style

For Guido Franceschim's lady-wi^

Ere Guido knew it well ; and why this haste

And scramble and indecent secrecy ?

** Lest Pietro, all the while in ignorance.

Should get to learn, gainsay and break the

match:
HiB peevishness had promptly put amde
Such honor and refused the proffered boon,
Pleased to become authoritative once.
She remedied the wilful man's mistake — "
Did our discreet Violante. Rather say.
Thus did she lest the object of her game,
Guido the gulled one, give him but a chance,
A moment's respite, time for thinking twice.
Might count the cost before he sold himself.
And try the clink of coin they paid him witn.

But coin paid, bargain struck and business

done,
Onoe the clandestine marriage over thus.
All parties made perforce the best o' the fiust ;
Pietro could play vast induration off.
Be ignorant and astounded^ dupe, poor soul.
Please you, of daughter, wue and son-4ii4aw.
While Guido found himself in flagrant fault,
Must e'en do suit and service, soothe, subdue
A father not unreasonably chafed.
Bring him to terms by paying son's devoir.
Pleasant initiation I

The end, this :
Guide's broad back was saddled to bear all —
Pietro, Violante, and Pompilia too, —
Three lots cast confidently in one lap.
Three dead-weights with one arm to lift the

three
Out of their limbo up to life again.
The Roman household was to strike fresh root
In a new soil, graced with a novel name,
GKlt with an auen glory, Aretine
Henceforth and never Koman any more.
By treaty and engagement ; thus it ran :
Pompilia's dowry for Pompilia's self
As a thing of course, — she paid her own ex»

pense ;
No loss nor gain there : but the couple, tou see,
The^, for their part, turned over first of dU.
Their fortune in its rags and rottenness
To Guido, fusion and confusion, he
And his with them and theirs, — whatever rag



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With ooiii reaidiuuy fell on floor

When iJrother Paolo's energetio shake

Should do the relics justice: since 'twas

thought,
Onoe Tnlnerable Pietro out of reach.
That, left at Rome as representative.
The Abate, backed by a potent patron here,
And otherwise with porple flushing him.
Might play a good game with the creditor,
Hake up a muiety which, great or small,
Should go to the common stock — if anything,
Onido's, 80 far repapaent of the cost
AboQt to be, — and if. as looked more like^
Nothing, — why, all the nobler cost were his
Who guaranteed, for better or for worse.
To Pietro and Violante, house and home.
Kith and kin, with the pick of company
And life 0' the fat o' the land while life should

last.
How say yon to the bargain at first blush ?
Why did a middle-aged not-silly man
Show himself thus besotted all at once ?
Quoth Solomon, one black eye does it alL

Thar went to Arezzo. — Pietro and his spouse,
With jnst the dusk o* the day of life to spend,
Ea^er to use the twilight, taste a treaty
£njov for once with neither sta^ nor stmt
The luxury of lord-and-lady-ship.
And realize the stuff and nonsense long
A-simmer in their noddles | rent the fume
Bom there and bred, the citizen's conceit
How fares nobiHt^ while crossing earth.
What rampart or invisible body-guard
Keeps off the taint of common life from such.
They had not fed for nothing on the tales
Of grandees who ^ve banquets worthy Jove,
Spending gold as if Plutus paid a whim.
Served with obeisances as when . . . what God ?
r 'm at the end of my tether ; 't is enough
You understand what they came primed to see:
fVhiJe Guide who should minister the sight,
Stay all this qualmish greediness of soul
Vith apples and with flagons — for his part,
Vaa set on life di Terse as pole from pole :
nst of the fleeh, lust of the eye, — what else
^as he just now awake from, sick and sage,
ffcer the very debauch they would begin? —
rppose such stuff and nonsense really were,
lat bubble, they were bent on blowing big,
; had blown already till he burst his cheeks,
id hence found soapsuds bitter to the tongue.
hoped now to walk softly all his days
soberness of spirit, if haply so,
chine and paring he might furnish forth
rufpd board, bare sustenance, no more,
times, that could not well grow worse,
should mend.

s minded then, two parties mean to meet
make each otner happy. The first week,
fancy strikes fact ana explodes in full.
is, " shrieked the Comparini, '* this the



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 85 of 198)