Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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speak and right herself from first lH last,
ht the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
e for the bov*8 concerns, to save the son
m the sire, her two-weeks* infant orphaned

thus.
1 — with best smile of all reserved for him —
don that sire and husband from the heart,
lirade, so tell your Molinists I

re she Hee in the long white lazar-house.
le has beoieged, these two days, never

donbt.
it Annans where she waits her death, to

hear
ugh but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the

hinge
m the reluctant wicket opes at last,
; in, on now this and now that pret^ioe,
many by half, — complain the men of

art.—
a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
tne dne visit— justice must be done ;



They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly, — a soul
To shrive; 'twas Brother Celestine^s own

right.
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old

friends.
Pushed in to nave their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears — but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the oenefit begm.
The miracle was snapped up by somebodv, —
Her palsied limb 'gim prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclotnes merely, — how much

more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried I
Cavalier Carlo — well, there 's some excuse
For him — Maratta who paints Virgins so —
He too must fee the porter and slip bv
With pencil cut and paper squared, ana straight
There was he figuring away at face :
** A lovelier face is not in Rome,'^ cried he,
** Shipped like a peacock's egg, the pure as

That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair.
Black this and black the other f Mighty fine —
But nobody cared ask to paint the same.
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago, when, ask and have.
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough.
As much unoomplimented as uncropped
Bv comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh ?
'Tis just a flower's fate : past parterre we trip.
Till peradventure some one plucks our

sleeve —
** Ton blossom at the brier's end, that 's the

rose
Two jealous people fought for yesterday
And killed each other: see, there's undis-

turbod
A pretty pool at the root, of rival red I "
Then cry we, ** Ah, the perfect paragon I "
Then crave we, ** Just one keepsake-leaf for



Truth lies between : there 's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed.
Ruined : who did it shall account to Christ —
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found.
And thus flings back. Go practise if yon

please
With men and women : leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake I — so I say.

Somebodv at the bedside said much more,

Took on him to exnlain the secret cause

O' the crime : quotn he, ** Such crimes are very

rife.
Explode nor make us wonder nowadays.
Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin :
Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot I "
*'Nay," groaned the Augustinian, ** what's

there new?



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442



THE RING AND THE BOOK



Crime will not fail to flare up from men's

hearts
While hearts are men's and so bom criminal ;
Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
Molinos may go whistle to the wind
That waits outside a certain church, yon

know I"

Though really it does seem as if she here,
Poropilia, livmg so and dying thus,
Has nad undue experience how ronch crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to

learn
— Not you. not I, not eren Molinos' self —
What Quiao Franceschini's heart could hold ?
Thus saintship is effected probably ;
No sparing samts the process I — which the more
Tends to the reconoihng us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and alL

For see now : Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen vears ago, all Rome mi^ht note
And quote for nappy ~ - se^ the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton s trump.
What could they be but happy ? — balanced so.
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high.
Nor poor nor richer than comports with esse,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and

scorned.
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick.
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the iust degree.
All at me mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's yery souls
Ton saw the adequate half with half to match.
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked

naught.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
^e acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union ^ve the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But as 't is said a body^ rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live loreverj — accordingly
Holds a germ — sand-gram weight too much i'

^ the scale —
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release, —
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here :
** With mortals much must go, but something

stays ;
Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred — ** Our life shall leave no

fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear

seed.
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up ; not supplant themselves
But put m evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a

child.
'* 'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete.



One flesh : God says so : let him do his work f '



Now, one reminder of this gnawing want.
One special prick o' the maggot at the core.
Always befell when, as the day came rounds
A certain yearly sum, — our Inetro being.
As the long name runs, an usufructuary, —
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of nioney, his till death, not afterward.
Failing an heir : an heir would take and take,
A child of t-heirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt — the stranger else seized alL
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped.
Making their mill go ; but when wheel wore out.
The wave would find a spiice and sweep^ on free
And, half-armile off, grind some neighbor's



Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more :
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, naving asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merdful.
And his and her prayer granted at the last :
Let the old miU-stone moulder, — wheel un-
worn.
Quartz from the quarry, shot -into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist —
Their house continued to them by an heir.
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own coiuession at full length
Made in the first remorse : 't was Jubuee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt.
So much was plain from what had happened

since.
Misfortune on misfortune ; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the heieht.
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all : thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whii
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty -and -under. Sm she

blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir, — why, tell her first
Who wft he ? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their

gate
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spenathrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob bre^

shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she

wrought,
Good, dearly and incontestably I Her cheat —
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion ? See tbe girl I
A body most like — a soul too probably —
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull-
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade.
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome

chance?



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Ve]l then, she had caught up this castaway :
'hJB ft-a^ egg, some oareleas wild bird

dropped,
he had picked from where it waited the foot-
fall,
nd pat in her own breast till forth broke finch
.ble to sing God praise on mornings now.
iThat 80 excessive harm was done? — she
asked.

which demand the dreadful answer eomee -^
or that same daed, now at Lorenzo's church,
oth agents, conscious and inconscious, lie ;
rhile she, the deed was done to benefit,

ies abo, the most lamentable of things,
onder where curious people count her breaths,
Uoulate how long vet the little life
iispilt may serve tneir turn nor spoil the show,
ive them their story, then the chureh its
group.

'ell, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
the midst of Pietro here. Violante there,
ich, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
lining the other round her preciousness —
NO walls that go about a garden-plot
here a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
' some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Iched by two exiles and borne far away,
btiently glorifies their solitude, —
»ar by year mounting, grade by grade sur-
mount
le builded brick-work, vet is oomoassed still,
111 hidden happily and shielded sate, —
9e why should miracle have graced the

ground?
it on the twelfth sun that brought April

there
tiat meant that laugh ? The coping-stone

was reached:
7, above towered a light tuft of bloom
be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
ne good to or else harm to from outside :
tnpilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
me enclosed still, the rest would be the
world's,
which was taught our couple though ob-
tuse,
ce walls have can, when one day brought a

priest,
cwth-inannered sof t-speeched sleek-cheeked

-visitor,
) notable Abate Paolo — known
younger brother of a Tuscan house
erect the actual representative,
nt Gnido, had employed his youth and age
iultnre of Rome's most productive plant —
uxlinal : but years pass and change comes,
oken of which, here was our Paolo brounit
broach a weighty business. Might he speaJc ?

— to Violante somehow caught alone
lie Pietro took his after-dinner dose,

1 the young maiden, busily as befits,

ded Her brmder-frame three chambers off.

- giTingr now his great flap-hat a gloss

h flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing



The silk from out its cr ease s o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again.
Hut never disengagmg. once engaged.
The thin clear gray hold of his eyes on her —
He dissertated on that Tuscan house.
Those Franoeschini, — very old they were —
Not rich however — oh. not rich, at least.
As people look to be wno,^ low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all the^ can
By favor of the money-bag ! 'tis fair —
Do all gifts go together ? Hut don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor f
Say rather, well enough — i' the way, indeed,
Ua, ha* to fortune better than the best :
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith.
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps

warm.
Would but the Count have patience — there 's

the point I
For he was slipping into years apace.
And years make men restless — they needs

must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured.
Some sparkle, though from topmost beacon-tip.
That warrants life a harbor through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Ouido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces, — fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Qo fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say,^ 't was the wiser wish : the Count
Proved wanting in ambition, — let us avouch.
Since truth is best, — in callousness of heart.
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honors hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture : his — no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed),
Hunable but self-sustaining, calm and cold.
Having, as one who puts hi# hand to the plough.
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel —
Poor brother Guide I All too plain j he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dmginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a c^narry and, very like, as bare —
Since to this comes old grandeur nowadays —
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hillside, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vlttiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear^brum ache : naught else

would serve
B , to light his mother's visage^ up

1^ [md youth, hope, gayety again,

H find straightway, woo ana haply win

A ' away triumphant back, some wife.

1^ ', the man was rational in his way :

H Lbate, — ouidit he to interpose ?

U r straining still his tutelage

(I od leaps over elder-brothership)

A lis difficulty : then let go,

Leave the poor fellow in peace I Would that

be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,



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444



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Spite of himself : then happy be his dole !

Indeed, the Abaters little interest

Was somewhat nearly tonohed i' the ease, they

saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent^
Beftan his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
FuQ soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phcenix* tail.
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome, — no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass I
The Gist narae-peckinfi: credit>«oratcmng: fowl
Would drop her unfleoged cuckoo in our nest
To ffather gjayness there, give voice at length
Ana shMne the brood . . . but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth I
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame — having our own :
No worldly aggrandizement — such we fly :
But if some wonder of a womanVheart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth.
Tender and true — tradition teUs of such —
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours —
If ^me good girl (a girL since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthv (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand, —
There were the lady-love predestinate I
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye —
Sointillant, rutilant, frateraal fire, —
Roving round every way had seized the prize
— The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty I
Gome, cards on table : was it true or false
That nere — here in tnis very tenement —
Tea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed throarh the sheath that saved it from

the sun? •
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guide's house and hand and

heart?
He came to see ; had spoken, he could no less —
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm^ were, —well, the matter was off his

mind.

Then with the great air did he kiss, devoulL
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly, — as if the Pope came

next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile.
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their treetop-tuft of bloom above the wall.
And came now to apprise them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine.
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck.
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with —
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn.
Look very wise, a little woeful too.
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand.



SalW forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps.
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlen

lounge, —
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be.
And have congratulation from the wond.

Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-faoe

And told him Hercules was just the heir

To the stubble once a cornfield, and brick-heap

Where used to be a dwelline^place now bumeo.

Guido and Franceschini ; a Count, — ay :

But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship ?

No!
All gone except sloth, pride, n^Musity,
Humors of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin, — nuned to a

head
By the rankljr-flalted soil — a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs.
He haa hung on long, and now, let go, said

some.
Shaken off, said others, — but in any case
Hred of the trade and something worse for



Was wanting to change town for country quick.
Go home again : let fietro help him home !
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse.
Had pricked for comfortaole quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and ff^tened so ;
But Guido. over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slinuiess, starved outside.
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was

this!
What^ was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked.
The httle provision for his old age snuffed ?
** Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list.
But have more merey on our wit than vaunt
Your bargain as we burgesses who brag !
Why, Goodman DuUard, if a friend must speak^
Would the Count, think you, stoop to you ana

yours
Were there the value of one penny-piece
To rattle 'twixt his palms — or likelier lau|4i.
Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe r '*

Home a^:ain, shaking oft the puzzled nate.
Went Pietro to announce a change inaeed.
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort, — the taper, quenched so soon.
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink —
Congratulate there was one hope the less.
Not misery the more : and so an end.

The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his

fate.
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow :
Violante wiped away the transient tear.
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams.
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagacious-



Found neifirhbors' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips^ malice, fairly wrapped hersdf
In her integrity three folds about.
And, letting pass a little day or two.
Threw, even over that integrity.
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil



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445



rhat hid ber, matron-wifle, from head to foot,

bid, by the hand holdiiig a girl yeiled too,

itood, one dim end of a December day,

n 8amt Lorenzo on the altar«tep —

u8t where she lies now and that girl will lie —

hily with fifty candles* compan^r

few, in the place of the poor wmking one

Thioh saw ~ doors shnt and sacristan made

sure—*
L priest — perhaps Abate Paolo — wed
fmdo ohmaestinely, irreyocably
'o his Pompilia aged thirteen years
jid five months, — witness the chnieh regis-
ter,—
ompilia, (thns become Count Gkiido's wife
landestinely, irreyocably his,)
^ho all the while had b<»ne, from first to last,
B brisk a part i* the bargain, as yon lamb,
rooght forth from basket and set ont for

sale,
ears while they chaffer, wary market^man
nd yolnble hoosewife, o*er itj — each in tnm
itting the curly calm inconsoious head,
ith the shambles ready round the comer

there,
hen the talk's talked out and a bargain
struck*

ansfer complete, why. Retro was apprised,
olante sobbed the sobs and prayed the

I>rayers,
td said the serpent tempted so she fell,
1 Pietro had to clear his brow apace
d make the best of matters :' wrath at first, —
w else ? pacification presently,
ly not ? — could flesh withstand the impur-

pled oncj
9 yery Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend ?
lo, justifiably sumamed a hinge,'*
BW where the mollifying oil should drop
cure the creak o' the yalye, — considerate
frailty, patient in a naughty world,
eyen yolunteered to superyise
I rough draught of those marriage-artidea
led in a hurry by^ Pietro, since reyoked :
st 's politic, suspicion does the harm,
re is out one way to browbeat this world, ^
ab - founder doubt, and repay scorn in

kind, —
ro OB trusting, namely, till faith moye
intains.

And fiaith here made the mountains moye.
r, frieods whose zeal cried ** Caution ere

too late r» —
e ** Pause ere jump, with both feet joined,

on slough 1 " —
iselled *^If rashness then, now temper-
ance I " —
rd for their pains that Retro had closed

eyes,
pea and was in the middle of the mire,
ay and all, just what should sink a man.^
he mere raarriasre, Guido gained forthwith
ry, his wife's ri^t ; no rescinding there :
Pietroj w^hy must he needs ratify
gift Violante gaye, nay down one doit
liaed in first f ool'a-nuny ? Grasp the bag



Lest the son's sendee flag, — b reascm and

rhvme,
Aboye aU when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind ! The parents cast their

lot
Into the lap o' the daughter : and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Retro's whole having and holding, house and

field.
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favor of Guido. As for the usufruct —
The interest now, the principal anon.
Would Guido please to wait, at Retro's death :
Till when, he must support the oouple's cha^.
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries,

pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at diMsretion deal them orts.
Bread-bounty in Arezao the strange place, —
They who had lived deliciously ami rolled.
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, ^*' jump " bade the Cardinal I
And neck-deep in a mmute there flounced they.

But ihey touched bottom at Arezzo : there —
Four months' experience of how craft and

greed.
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutif^ and bestialise, —
Four months* taste of apportioned insolenoe,
Cruel^ graduated, dose oy dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board.
And lo, the work was done, success clapped



The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stapid

dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose.
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so ;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skm at least :
Lfcft Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is.
And, careless what came after, carried their

wrongs
To Rome, — I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise.
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence.
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.

Retro went back to beg from door to door.
In hope that raemoi^ not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance — after the natural

laugh,
And tributary " Just as we foretold — "
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was.
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante : ever ahead i' the march.
Quick at the by-road and the cut-across.
She went first to the best adviser. God —
Whose finger unmistakably was lelt
In lUl this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie I
But here too was what Holy Year would help.
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin



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THE RING AND THE BOOK



Impoonble and supposed for Jubilee* sake :
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
*^ I will," said she, ** go bum out this bad hole
That breeds the scorpion, balk the plaerue at



Of hope to further plague by progeny :
I will confess my faulty bepnnished, ves.
But pardoned too : &>aint reter pays for all.*'

So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the

dome.
Through the great door new-broken for the

nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up Uie left nave to the formidable throne.
Fell into file with this the prisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
^e poor repugnant PenitentiarT
Set at Uiis gully-hole o* the world's discharge
To help the frig^tf ullest of filth have yent,



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 88 of 198)