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Best Famous Robert Browning Poems

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Written by Robert Browning | |

My Last Duchess

That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.
I call That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said "Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus.
Sir, 'twas not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps Frà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy.
She had A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace—all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, Or blush, at least.
She thanked men—good! but thanked Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody's gift.
Who'd stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech—which I have not—to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark"—and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, —E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop.
Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together.
There she stands As if alive.
Will't please you rise? We'll meet The company below, then.
I repeat, The Count your master's known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretense Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughter's self as I avowed At starting, is my object.
Nay, we'll go Together down, sir.
Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!


Written by Jorge Luis Borges | |

Browning Decides To Be A Poet

 in these red labyrinths of London
I find that I have chosen
the strangest of all callings,
save that, in its way, any calling is strange.
Like the alchemist who sought the philosopher's stone in quicksilver, I shall make everyday words-- the gambler's marked cards, the common coin-- give off the magic that was their when Thor was both the god and the din, the thunderclap and the prayer.
In today's dialect I shall say, in my fashion, eternal things: I shall try to be worthy of the great echo of Byron.
This dust that I am will be invulnerable.
If a woman shares my love my verse will touch the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens; if a woman turns my love aside I will make of my sadness a music, a full river to resound through time.
I shall live by forgetting myself.
I shall be the face I glimpse and forget, I shall be Judas who takes on the divine mission of being a betrayer, I shall be Caliban in his bog, I shall be a mercenary who dies without fear and without faith, I shall be Polycrates, who looks in awe upon the seal returned by fate.
I will be the friend who hates me.
The persian will give me the nightingale, and Rome the sword.
Masks, agonies, resurrections will weave and unweave my life, and in time I shall be Robert Browning.


Written by Walter Savage Landor | |

To Robert Browning

 There is delight in singing, though none hear
Beside the singer; and there is delight
In praising, though the praiser sits alone
And see the praised far off him, far above.
Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's, Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee, Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale No man hath walked along our roads with step So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue So varied in discourse.
But warmer climes Give brighter plumage, stronger wing; the breeze Of Alpine heights thou playest with, borne on Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.


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Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | |

On the Death of Robert Browning

 He held no dream worth waking; so he said,
He who stands now on death's triumphal steep,
Awakened out of life wherein we sleep
And dream of what he knows and sees, being dead.
But never death for him was dark or dread; "Look forth," he bade the soul, and fear not.
Weep, All ye that trust not in his truth, and keep Vain memory's vision of a vanished head As all that lives of all that once was he Save that which lightens from his word; but we, Who, seeing the sunset-colored waters roll, Yet know the sun subdued not of the sea, Nor weep nor doubt that still the spirit is whole, And life and death but shadows of the soul.


Written by Henry Van Dyke | |

Robert Browning

 How blind the toil that burrows like the mole, 
In winding graveyard pathways underground,
For Browning's lineage! What if men have found
Poor footmen or rich merchants on the roll
Of his forbears? Did they beget his soul? 
Nay, for he came of ancestry renowned 
Through all the world, -- the poets laurel-crowned
With wreaths from which the autumn takes no toll.
The blazons on his coat-of-arms are these: The flaming sign of Shelley's heart on fire, The golden globe of Shakespeare's human stage, The staff and scrip of Chaucer's pilgrimage, The rose of Dante's deep, divine desire, The tragic mask of wise Euripides.


Written by Robert Browning | |

Another Way Of Love

 I.
June was not over Though past the fall, And the best of her roses Had yet to blow, When a man I know (But shall not discover, Since ears are dull, And time discloses) Turned him and said with a man's true air, Half sighing a smile in a yawn, as 'twere,--- ``If I tire of your June, will she greatly care?'' II.
Well, dear, in-doors with you! True! serene deadness Tries a man's temper.
What's in the blossom June wears on her bosom? Can it clear scores with you? Sweetness and redness.
_Eadem semper!_ Go, let me care for it greatly or slightly! If June mend her bower now, your hand left unsightly By plucking the roses,---my June will do rightly.
III.
And after, for pastime, If June be refulgent With flowers in completeness, All petals, no prickles, Delicious as trickles Of wine poured at mass-time,--- And choose One indulgent To redness and sweetness: Or if, with experience of man and of spider, June use my June-lightning, the strong insect-ridder, And stop the fresh film-work,---why, June will consider.


Written by Robert Browning | |

Verse-Making Was Least of My Virtues

 Verse-making was least of my virtues: I viewed with despair 
Wealth that never yet was but might be--all that verse-making were 
If the life would but lengthen to wish, let the mind be laid bare.
So I said, "To do little is bad, to do nothing is worse"-- And made verse.
Love-making,--how simple a matter! No depths to explore, No heights in a life to ascend! No disheartening Before, No affrighting Hereafter,--love now will be love ever more.
So I felt "To keep silence were folly:"--all language above, I made love.


Written by Robert Browning | |

A Serenade At The Villa

 I.
That was I, you heard last night, When there rose no moon at all, Nor, to pierce the strained and tight Tent of heaven, a planet small: Life was dead and so was light.
II.
Not a twinkle from the fly, Not a glimmer from the worm; When the crickets stopped their cry, When the owls forbore a term, You heard music; that was I.
III.
Earth turned in her sleep with pain, Sultrily suspired for proof: In at heaven and out again, Lightning!---where it broke the roof, Bloodlike, some few drops of rain.
IV.
What they could my words expressed, O my love, my all, my one! Singing helped the verses best, And when singing's best was done, To my lute I left the rest.
V.
So wore night; the East was gray, White the broad-faced hemlock-flowers: There would be another day; Ere its first of heavy hours Found me, I had passed away.
VI.
What became of all the hopes, Words and song and lute as well? Say, this struck you---``When life gropes ``Feebly for the path where fell ``Light last on the evening slopes, VII.
``One friend in that path shall be, ``To secure my step from wrong; ``One to count night day for me, ``Patient through the watches long, ``Serving most with none to see.
'' VIII.
Never say---as something bodes--- ``So, the worst has yet a worse! ``When life halts 'neath double loads, ``Better the taskmaster's curse ``Than such music on the roads! IX.
``When no moon succeeds the sun, ``Nor can pierce the midnight's tent ``Any star, the smallest one, ``While some drops, where lightning rent, ``Show the final storm begun--- X.
``When the fire-fly hides its spot, ``When the garden-voices fail ``In the darkness thick and hot,--- ``Shall another voice avail, ``That shape be where these are not? XI.
``Has some plague a longer lease, ``Proffering its help uncouth? ``Can't one even die in peace? ``As one shuts one's eyes on youth, ``Is that face the last one sees?'' XII.
Oh how dark your villa was, Windows fast and obdurate! How the garden grudged me grass Where I stood---the iron gate Ground its teeth to let me pass!


Written by Robert Browning | |

Song from Paracelsus

 HEAP cassia, sandal-buds and stripes 
 Of labdanum, and aloe-balls, 
Smear'd with dull nard an Indian wipes 
 From out her hair: such balsam falls 
 Down sea-side mountain pedestals, 
From tree-tops where tired winds are fain, 
Spent with the vast and howling main, 
To treasure half their island-gain.
And strew faint sweetness from some old Egyptian's fine worm-eaten shroud Which breaks to dust when once unroll'd; Or shredded perfume, like a cloud From closet long to quiet vow'd, With moth'd and dropping arras hung, Mouldering her lute and books among, As when a queen, long dead, was young.


Written by Robert Browning | |

To Edward Fitzgerald

 I chanced upon a new book yesterday;
I opened it, and, where my finger lay
'Twixt page and uncut page, these words I read -
Some six or seven at most - and learned thereby
That you, Fitzgerald, whom by ear and eye
She never knew, "thanked God my wife was dead.
" Aye, dead! and were yourself alive, good Fitz, How to return you thanks would task my wits.
Kicking you seems the common lot of curs - While more appropriate greeting lends you grace, Surely to spit there glorifies your face - Spitting from lips once sanctified by hers.


Written by Robert Browning | |

De Gustibus---

 I.
Your ghost will walk, you lover of trees, (If our loves remain) In an English lane, By a cornfield-side a-flutter with poppies.
Hark, those two in the hazel coppice--- A boy and a girl, if the good fates please, Making love, say,--- The happier they! Draw yourself up from the light of the moon, And let them pass, as they will too soon, With the bean-flowers' boon, And the blackbird's tune, And May, and June! II.
What I love best in all the world Is a castle, precipice-encurled, In a gash of the wind-grieved Apennine Or look for me, old fellow of mine, (If I get my head from out the mouth O' the grave, and loose my spirit's bands, And come again to the land of lands)--- In a sea-side house to the farther South, Where the baked cicala dies of drouth, And one sharp tree---'tis a cypress---stands, By the many hundred years red-rusted, Rough iron-spiked, ripe fruit-o'ercrusted, My sentinel to guard the sands To the water's edge.
For, what expands Before the house, but the great opaque Blue breadth of sea without a break? While, in the house, for ever crumbles Some fragment of the frescoed walls, From blisters where a scorpion sprawls.
A girl bare-footed brings, and tumbles Down on the pavement, green-flesh melons, And says there's news to-day---the king Was shot at, touched in the liver-wing, Goes with his Bourbon arm in a sling: ---She hopes they have not caught the felons.
Italy, my Italy! Queen Mary's saying serves for me--- (When fortune's malice Lost her---Calais)--- Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, ``Italy.
'' Such lovers old are I and she: So it always was, so shall ever be!


Written by Robert Browning | |

Cavalier Tunes: Marching Along

 Kentish Sir Byng stood for his King,
Bidding the crop-headed Parliament swing:
And, pressing a troop unable to stoop
And see the rogues flourish and honest folk droop,
Marched them along, fifty score strong,
Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
God for King Charles! Pym and such carles To the Devil that prompts 'em their treasonous parles! Cavaliers, up! Lips from the cup, Hands from the pasty, nor bite take nor sup Till you're-- (Chorus) Marching along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
Hampden to hell, and his obsequies' knell.
Serve Hazelrig, Fiennes, and young Harry as well! England, good cheer! Rupert is near! Kentish and loyalists, keep we not here (Chorus) Marching along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song? Then, God for King Charles! Pym and his snarls To the Devil that pricks on such pestilent carles! Hold by the right, you double your might; So, onward to Nottingham, fresh for the fight, (Chorus) March we along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song!


Written by Robert Browning | |

Cavalier Tunes: Give a Rouse

 King Charles, and who'll do him right now? 
King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? 
Give a rouse: here's, in Hell's despite now, 
King Charles! 

Who gave me the goods that went since? 
Who raised me the house that sank once? 
Who helped me to gold I spent since? 
Who found me in wine you drank once? 
(Chorus) 
King Charles, and who'll do him right now? 
King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? 
Give a rouse: here's, in Hell's despite now, 
King Charles! 
To whom used my boy George quaff else, 
By the old fool's side that begot him? 
For whom did he cheer and laugh else, 
While Noll's damned troopers shot him? 
(Chorus) 
King Charles, and who'll do him right now? 
King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? 
Give a rouse: here's, in Hell's despite now, 
King Charles!


Written by Robert Browning | |

Instans Tyrannus

 I.
Of the million or two, more or less, I rule and possess, One man, for some cause undefined, Was least to my mind.
II.
I struck him, he grovelled of course--- For, what was his force? I pinned him to earth with my weight And persistence of hate: And he lay, would not moan, would not curse, As his lot might be worse.
III.
``Were the object less mean, would he stand ``At the swing of my hand! ``For obscurity helps him and blots ``The hole where he squats.
'' So, I set my five wits on the stretch To inveigle the wretch.
All in vain! Gold and jewels I threw, Still he couched there perdue; I tempted his blood and his flesh, Hid in roses my mesh, Choicest cates and the flagon's best spilth: Still he kept to his filth.
IV.
Had he kith now or kin, were access To his heart, did I press: Just a son or a mother to seize! No such booty as these.
Were it simply a friend to pursue 'Mid my million or two, Who could pay me in person or pelf What he owes me himself! No: I could not but smile through my chafe: For the fellow lay safe As his mates do, the midge and the nit, ---Through minuteness, to wit.
V.
Then a humour more great took its place At the thought of his face, The droop, the low cares of the mouth, The trouble uncouth 'Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain To put out of its pain.
And, ``no!'' I admonished myself, ``Is one mocked by an elf, ``Is one baffled by toad or by rat? ``The gravamen's in that! ``How the lion, who crouches to suit ``His back to my foot, ``Would admire that I stand in debate! ``But the small turns the great ``If it vexes you,---that is the thing! ``Toad or rat vex the king? ``Though I waste half my realm to unearth ``Toad or rat, 'tis well worth!'' VI.
So, I soberly laid my last plan To extinguish the man.
Round his creep-hole, with never a break Ran my fires for his sake; Over-head, did my thunder combine With my underground mine: Till I looked from my labour content To enjoy the event.
VII.
When sudden .
.
.
how think ye, the end? Did I say ``without friend''? Say rather, from marge to blue marge The whole sky grew his targe With the sun's self for visible boss, While an Arm ran across Which the earth heaved beneath like a breast Where the wretch was safe prest! Do you see? Just my vengeance complete, The man sprang to his feet, Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed! ---So, _I_ was afraid!


Written by Robert Browning | |

Over the Sea our Galleys Went

 Over the sea our galleys went,
With cleaving prows in order brave,
To a speeding wind and a bounding wave,

A gallant armament:
Each bark built out of a forest-tree,

Left leafy and rough as first it grew,
And nailed all over the gaping sides,
Within and without, with black bull-hides,
Seethed in fat and suppled in flame,
To bear the playful billows' game:
So, each good ship was rude to see,
Rude and bare to the outward view,

But each upbore a stately tent
Where cedar-pales in scented row
Kept out the flakes of the dancing brine,
And an awning drooped the mast below,
In fold on fold of the purple fine,
That neither noontide nor star-shine
Nor moonlight cold which maketh mad,

Might pierce the regal tenement.
When the sun dawned, oh, gay and glad We set the sail and plied the oar; But when the night-wind blew like breath, For joy of one day's voyage more, We sang together on the wide sea, Like men at peace on a peaceful shore; Each sail was loosed to the wind so free, Each helm made sure by the twilight star, And in a sleep as calm as death, We, the voyagers from afar, Lay stretched along, each weary crew In a circle round its wondrous tent Whence gleamed soft light and curled rich scent, And with light and perfume, music too: So the stars wheeled round, and the darkness past, And at morn we started beside the mast, And still each ship was sailing fast! Now, one morn, land appeared!--a speck Dim trembling betwixt sea and sky: "Avoid it," cried our pilot, "check The shout, restrain the eager eye!" But the heaving sea was black behind For many a night and many a day, And land, though but a rock, drew nigh; So, we broke the cedar pales away, Let the purple awning flap in the wind, And a statue bright was on every deck! We shouted, every man of us, And steered right into the harbour thus, With pomp and paean glorious.
A hundred shapes of lucid stone! All day we built its shrine for each, A shrine of rock for every one, Nor paused we till in the westering sun We sat together on the beach To sing because our task was done.
When lo! what shouts and merry songs! What laughter all the distance stirs! A loaded raft with happy throngs Of gentle islanders! "Our isles are just at hand," they cried, "Like cloudlets faint in even sleeping; Our temple-gates are opened wide, Our olive-groves thick shade are keeping For these majestic forms"--they cried.
Oh, then we awoke with sudden start From our deep dream, and knew, too late, How bare the rock, how desolate, Which had received our precious freight: Yet we called out--"Depart! Our gifts, once given, must here abide.
Our work is done; we have no heart To mar our work,"--we cried.