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The Englishman In Italy

Written by: Robert Browning | Biography
 | Quotes (91) |
 (PIANO DI SORRENTO.
) Fortu, Frotu, my beloved one, Sit here by my side, On my knees put up both little feet! I was sure, if I tried, I could make you laugh spite of Scirocco; Now, open your eyes— Let me keep you amused till he vanish In black from the skies, With telling my memories over As you tell your beads; All the memories plucked at Sorrento —The flowers, or the weeds, Time for rain! for your long hot dry Autumn Had net-worked with brown The white skin of each grape on the bunches, Marked like a quail's crown, Those creatures you make such account of, Whose heads,—specked with white Over brown like a great spider's back, As I told you last night,— Your mother bites off for her supper; Red-ripe as could be.
Pomegranates were chapping and splitting In halves on the tree: And betwixt the loose walls of great flintstone, Or in the thick dust On the path, or straight out of the rock side, Wherever could thrust Some burnt sprig of bold hardy rock-flower Its yellow face up, For the prize were great butterflies fighting, Some five for one cup.
So, I guessed, ere I got up this morning, What change was in store, By the quick rustle-down of the quail-nets Which woke me before I could open my shutter, made fast With a bough and a stone, And look through the twisted dead vine-twigs, Sole lattice that's known! Quick and sharp rang the rings down the net-poles, While, busy beneath, Your priest and his brother tugged at them, The rain in their teeth: And out upon all the flat house-roofs Where split figs lay drying, The girls took the frails under cover: Nor use seemed in trying To get out the boats and go fishing, For, under the cliff, Fierce the black water frothed o'er the blind-rock No seeing our skiff Arrive about noon from Amalfi, —Our fisher arrive, And pitch down his basket before us, All trembling alive With pink and grey jellies, your sea-fruit, —You touch the strange lumps, And mouths gape there, eyes open, all manner Of horns and of humps.
Which only the fisher looks grave at, While round him like imps Cling screaming the children as naked And brown as his shrimps; Himself too as bare to the middle— —You see round his neck The string and its brass coin suspended, That saves him from wreck.
But today not a boat reached Salerno, So back to a man Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards Grape-harvest began: In the vat, half-way up in our house-side, Like blood the juice spins, While your brother all bare-legged is dancing Till breathless he grins Dead-beaten, in effort on effort To keep the grapes under, Since still when he seems all but master, In pours the fresh plunder From girls who keep coming and going With basket on shoulder, And eyes shut against the rain's driving, Your girls that are older,— For under the hedges of aloe, And where, on its bed Of the orchard's black mould, the love-apple Lies pulpy and red, All the young ones are kneeling and filling Their laps with the snails Tempted out by this first rainy weather,— Your best of regales, As tonight will be proved to my sorrow, When, supping in state, We shall feast our grape-gleaners (two dozen, Three over one plate) With lasagne so tempting to swallow In slippery ropes, And gourds fried in great purple slices, That colour of popes.
Meantime, see the grape-bunch they've brought you,— The rain-water slips O'er the heavy blue bloom on each globe Which the wasp to your lips Still follows with fretful persistence— Nay, taste, while awake, This half of a curd-white smooth cheese-ball, That peels, flake by flake, Like an onion's, each smoother and whiter; Next, sip this weak wine From the thin green glass flask, with its stopper, A leaf of the vine,— And end with the prickly-pear's red flesh That leaves through its juice The stony black seeds on your pearl-teeth .
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Scirocco is loose! Hark! the quick, whistling pelt of the olives Which, thick in one's track, Tempt the stranger to pick up and bite them, Though not yet half black! How the old twisted olive trunks shudder! The medlars let fall Their hard fruit, and the brittle great fig-trees Snap off, figs and all,— For here comes the whole of the tempest No refuge, but creep Back again to my side and my shoulder, And listen or sleep.
O how will your country show next week When all the vine-boughs Have been stripped of their foliage to pasture The mules and the cows? Last eve, I rode over the mountains; Your brother, my guide, Soon left me, to feast on the myrtles That offered, each side, Their fruit-balls, black, glossy and luscious,— Or strip from the sorbs A treasure, so rosy and wondrous, Of hairy gold orbs! But my mule picked his sure, sober path out, Just stopping to neigh When he recognized down in the valley His mates on their way With the faggots, and barrels of water; And soon we emerged From the plain, where the woods could scarce follow And still as we urged Our way, the woods wondered, and left us, As up still we trudged Though the wild path grew wilder each instant, And place was e'en grudged 'Mid the rock-chasms, and piles of loose stones (Like the loose broken teeth Of some monster, which climbed there to die From the ocean beneath) Place was grudged to the silver-grey fume-weed That clung to the path, And dark rosemary, ever a-dying, That, 'spite the wind's wrath, So loves the salt rock's face to seaward,— And lentisks as staunch To the stone where they root and bear berries,— And.
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what shows a branch Coral-coloured, transparent, with circlets Of pale seagreen leaves— Over all trod my mule with the caution Of gleaners o'er sheaves, Still, foot after foot like a lady— So, round after round, He climbed to the top of Calvano, And God's own profound Was above me, and round me the mountains, And under, the sea, And within me, my heart to bear witness What was and shall be! Oh Heaven, and the terrible crystal! No rampart excludes Your eye from the life to be lived In the blue solitudes! Oh, those mountains, their infinite movement! Still moving with you— For, ever some new head and breast of them Thrusts into view To observe the intruder—you see it If quickly you turn And, before they escape you, surprise them— They grudge you should learn How the soft plains they look on, lean over, And love (they pretend) -Cower beneath them; the flat sea-pine crouches The wild fruit-trees bend, E'en the myrtle-leaves curl, shrink and shut— All is silent and grave— 'Tis a sensual and timorous beauty— How fair, but a slave! So, I turned to the sea,—and there slumbered As greenly as ever Those isles of the siren, your Galli; No ages can sever The Three, nor enable their sister To join them,—half-way On the voyage, she looked at Ulysses— No farther today; Though the small one, just launched in the wave, Watches breast-high and steady From under the rock, her bold sister Swum half-way already.
Fortu, shall we sail there together And see from the sides Quite new rocks show their faces—new haunts Where the siren abides? Shall we sail round and round them, close over The rocks, though unseen, That ruffle the grey glassy water To glorious green? Then scramble from splinter to splinter, Reach land and explore, On the largest, the strange square black turret With never a door, Just a loop to admit the quick lizards; Then, stand there and hear The birds' quiet singing, that tells us What life is, so clear! The secret they sang to Ulysses, When, ages ago, He heard and he knew this life's secret, I hear and I know! Ah, see! The sun breaks o'er Calvano— He strikes the great gloom And flutters it o'er the mount's summit In airy gold fume! All is over! Look out, see the gipsy, Our tinker and smith, Has arrived, set up bellows and forge, And down-squatted forthwith To his hammering, under the wall there; One eye keeps aloof The urchins that itch to be putting His jews'-harps to proof, While the other, through locks of curled wire, Is watching how sleek Shines the hog, come to share in the windfalls —An abbot's own cheek! All is over! Wake up and come out now, And down let us go, And see the fine things got in order At Church for the show Of the Sacrament, set forth this evening; Tomorrow's the Feast Of the Rosary's Virgin, by no means Of Virgins the least— As you'll hear in the off-hand discourse Which (all nature, no art) The Dominican brother, these three weeks, Was getting by heart.
Not a post nor a pillar but's dizened With red and blue papers; All the roof waves with ribbons, each altar A-blaze with long tapers; But the great masterpiece is the scaffold Rigged glorious to hold All the fiddlers and fifers and drummers And trumpeters bold, Not afraid of Bellini nor Auber, Who, when the priest's hoarse, Will strike us up something that's brisk For the feast's second course.
And then will the flaxen-wigged Image Be carried in pomp Through the plain, while in gallant procession The priests mean to stomp.
And all round the glad church lie old bottles With gunpowder stopped, Which will be, when the Image re-enters, Religiously popped.
And at night from the crest of Calvano Great bonfires will hang, On the plain will the trumpets join chorus, And more poppers bang! At all events, come—to the garden, As far as the wall, See me tap with a hoe on the plaster Till out there shall fall A scorpion with wide angry nippers! .
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"Such trifles"—you say? Fortu, in my England at home, Men meet gravely today And debate, if abolishing Corn-laws Is righteous and wise —If 'tis proper, Scirocco should vanish In black from the skies!



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