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Love Among The Ruins

Written by: Robert Browning | Biography
 | Quotes (91) |

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles
 Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop
 As they crop— 
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
 (So they say)
Of our country's very capital, its prince
 Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
 Peace or war.


Now—the country does not even boast a tree,
 As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
 From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
 Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
 Up like fires
O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
 Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest,
 Twelve abreast.


And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
 Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads
 And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
 Stock or stone— 
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
 Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
 Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
 Bought and sold.


Now,—the single little turret that remains
 On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks
 Through the chinks— 
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
 Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
 As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
 Viewed the games.


And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
 Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
 In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
 Melt away— 
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
 Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
 For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
 Till I come.


But he looked upon the city, every side,
 Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades'
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,—and then,
 All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
 Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
 Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
 Each on each.


In one year they sent a million fighters forth
 South and north,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
 As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force— 
 Gold, of course.
Oh, heart! oh, blood that freezes, blood that burns!
 Earth's returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
 Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest.
 Love is best!