Best Famous Robert Browning Poems

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Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Glove

 (PETER RONSARD _loquitur_.
) ``Heigho!'' yawned one day King Francis, ``Distance all value enhances! ``When a man's busy, why, leisure ``Strikes him as wonderful pleasure: `` 'Faith, and at leisure once is he? ``Straightway he wants to be busy.
``Here we've got peace; and aghast I'm ``Caught thinking war the true pastime.
``Is there a reason in metre? ``Give us your speech, master Peter!'' I who, if mortal dare say so, Ne'er am at loss with my Naso, ``Sire,'' I replied, ``joys prove cloudlets: ``Men are the merest Ixions''--- Here the King whistled aloud, ``Let's ``---Heigho---go look at our lions!'' Such are the sorrowful chances If you talk fine to King Francis.
And so, to the courtyard proceeding, Our company, Francis was leading, Increased by new followers tenfold Before be arrived at the penfold; Lords, ladies, like clouds which bedizen At sunset the western horizon.
And Sir De Lorge pressed 'mid the foremost With the dame he professed to adore most.
Oh, what a face! One by fits eyed Her, and the horrible pitside; For the penfold surrounded a hollow Which led where the eye scarce dared follow, And shelved to the chamber secluded Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.
The King bailed his keeper, an Arab As glossy and black as a scarab,*1 And bade him make sport and at once stir Up and out of his den the old monster.
They opened a hole in the wire-work Across it, and dropped there a firework, And fled: one's heart's beating redoubled; A pause, while the pit's mouth was troubled, The blackness and silence so utter, By the firework's slow sparkling and sputter; Then earth in a sudden contortion Gave out to our gaze her abortion.
Such a brute! Were I friend Clement Marot (Whose experience of nature's but narrow, And whose faculties move in no small mist When he versifies David the Psalmist) I should study that brute to describe you _Illim Juda Leonem de Tribu_.
One's whole blood grew curdling and creepy To see the black mane, vast and heapy, The tail in the air stiff and straining, The wide eyes, nor waxing nor waning, As over the barrier which bounded His platform, and us who surrounded The barrier, they reached and they rested On space that might stand him in best stead: For who knew, he thought, what the amazement, The eruption of clatter and blaze meant, And if, in this minute of wonder, No outlet, 'mid lightning and thunder, Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered, The lion at last was delivered? Ay, that was the open sky o'erhead! And you saw by the flash on his forehead, By the hope in those eyes wide and steady, He was leagues in the desert already, Driving the flocks up the mountain, Or catlike couched hard by the fountain To waylay the date-gathering negress: So guarded he entrance or egress.
``How he stands!'' quoth the King: ``we may well swear, (``No novice, we've won our spurs elsewhere ``And so can afford the confession,) ``We exercise wholesome discretion ``In keeping aloof from his threshold; ``Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold, ``Their first would too pleasantly purloin ``The visitor's brisket or surloin: ``But who's he would prove so fool-hardy? ``Not the best man of Marignan, pardie!'' The sentence no sooner was uttered, Than over the rails a glove flattered, Fell close to the lion, and rested: The dame 'twas, who flung it and jested With life so, De Lorge had been wooing For months past; he sat there pursuing His suit, weighing out with nonchalance Fine speeches like gold from a balance.
Sound the trumpet, no true knight's a tarrier! De Lorge made one leap at the barrier, Walked straight to the glove,---while the lion Neer moved, kept his far-reaching eye on The palm-tree-edged desert-spring's sapphire, And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir,--- Picked it up, and as calmly retreated, Leaped back where the lady was seated, And full in the face of its owner Flung the glove.
``Your heart's queen, you dethrone her? ``So should I!''---cried the King---``'twas mere vanity, ``Not love, set that task to humanity!'' Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing.
Not so, I; for I caught an expression In her brow's undisturbed self-possession Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment,--- As if from no pleasing experiment She rose, yet of pain not much heedful So long as the process was needful,--- As if she had tried in a crucible, To what ``speeches like gold'' were reducible, And, finding the finest prove copper, Felt the smoke in her face was but proper; To know what she had _not_ to trust to, Was worth all the ashes and dust too.
She went out 'mid hooting and laughter; Clement Marot stayed; I followed after, And asked, as a grace, what it all meant? If she wished not the rash deed's recalment? ``For I''---so I spoke---``am a poet: ``Human nature,---behoves that I know it!'' She told me, ``Too long had I heard ``Of the deed proved alone by the word: ``For my love---what De Lorge would not dare! ``With my scorn---what De Lorge could compare! ``And the endless descriptions of death ``He would brave when my lip formed a breath, ``I must reckon as braved, or, of course, ``Doubt his word---and moreover, perforce, ``For such gifts as no lady could spurn, ``Must offer my love in return.
``When I looked on your lion, it brought ``All the dangers at once to my thought, ``Encountered by all sorts of men, ``Before he was lodged in his den,--- ``From the poor slave whose club or bare hands ``Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands, ``With no King and no Court to applaud, ``By no shame, should he shrink, overawed, ``Yet to capture the creature made shift, ``That his rude boys might laugh at the gift, ``---To the page who last leaped o'er the fence ``Of the pit, on no greater pretence ``Than to get back the bonnet he dropped, ``Lest his pay for a week should be stopped.
``So, wiser I judged it to make ``One trial what `death for my sake' ``Really meant, while the power was yet mine, ``Than to wait until time should define ``Such a phrase not so simply as I, ``Who took it to mean just `to die.
' ``The blow a glove gives is but weak: ``Does the mark yet discolour my cheek? ``But when the heart suffers a blow, ``Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?'' I looked, as away she was sweeping, And saw a youth eagerly keeping As close as he dared to the doorway.
No doubt that a noble should more weigh His life than befits a plebeian; And yet, had our brute been Nemean--- (I judge by a certain calm fervour The youth stepped with, forward to serve her) ---He'd have scarce thought you did him the worst turn If you whispered ``Friend, what you'd get, first earn!'' And when, shortly after, she carried Her shame from the Court, and they married, To that marriage some happiness, maugre The voice of the Court, I dared augur.
For De Lorge, he made women with men vie, Those in wonder and praise, these in envy; And in short stood so plain a head taller That he wooed and won .
how do you call her? The beauty, that rose in the sequel To the King's love, who loved her a week well.
And 'twas noticed he never would honour De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her) With the easy commission of stretching His legs in the service, and fetching His wife, from her chamber, those straying Sad gloves she was always mislaying, While the King took the closet to chat in,--- But of course this adventure came pat in.
And never the King told the story, How bringing a glove brought such glory, But the wife smiled---``His nerves are grown firmer: ``Mine he brings now and utters no murmur.
'' _Venienti occurrite morbo!_ With which moral I drop my theorbo.
*1 A beetle.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

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 Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Last Ride Together

I said---Then, dearest, since 'tis so, Since now at length my fate I know, Since nothing all my love avails, Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails, Since this was written and needs must be--- My whole heart rises up to bless Your name in pride and thankfulness! Take back the hope you gave,---I claim ---Only a memory of the same, ---And this beside, if you will not blame, Your leave for one more last ride with me.
My mistress bent that brow of hers; Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs When pity would be softening through, Fixed me, a breathing-while or two, With life or death in the balance: right! The blood replenished me again; My last thought was at least not vain: I and my mistress, side by side Shall be together, breathe and ride, So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end tonight? III.
Hush! if you saw some western cloud All billowy-bosomed, over-bowed By many benedictions---sun's And moon's and evening-star's at once--- And so, you, looking and loving best, Conscious grew, your passion drew Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too, Down on you, near and yet more near, Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!--- Thus leant she and lingered---joy and fear! Thus lay she a moment on my breast.
Then we began to ride.
My soul Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry? Had I said that, had I done this, So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well She might have hated, who can tell! Where had I been now if the worst befell? And here we are riding, she and I.
Fail I alone, in words and deeds? Why, all men strive and who succeeds? We rode; it seemed my spirit flew, Saw other regions, cities new, As the world rushed by on either side.
I thought,---All labour, yet no less Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast The petty done, the undone vast, This present of theirs with the hopeful past! I hoped she would love me; here we ride.
What hand and brain went ever paired? What heart alike conceived and dared? What act proved all its thought had been? What will but felt the fleshly screen? We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There's many a crown for who can reach, Ten lines, a statesman's life in each! The flag stuck on a heap of bones, A soldier's doing! what atones? They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
My riding is better, by their leave.
What does it all mean, poet? Well, Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell What we felt only; you expressed You hold things beautiful the best, And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
'Tis something, nay 'tis much: but then, Have you yourself what's best for men? Are you---poor, sick, old ere your time--- Nearer one whit your own sublime Than we who never have turned a rhyme? Sing, riding's a joy! For me, I ride.
And you, great sculptor---so, you gave A score of years to Art, her slave, And that's your Venus, whence we turn To yonder girl that fords the burn! You acquiesce, and shall I repine? What, man of music, you grown grey With notes and nothing else to say, Is this your sole praise from a friend, ``Greatly his opera's strains intend, ``Put in music we know how fashions end!'' I gave my youth; but we ride, in fine.
Who knows what's fit for us? Had fate Proposed bliss here should sublimate My being---had I signed the bond--- Still one must lead some life beyond, Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal, This glory-garland round my soul, Could I descry such? Try and test! I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best? Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.
And yet---she has not spoke so long! What if heaven be that, fair and strong At life's best, with our eyes upturned Whither life's flower is first discerned, We, fixed so, ever should so abide? What if we still ride on, we two With life for ever old yet new, Changed not in kind but in degree, The instant made eternity,--- And heaven just prove that I and she Ride, ride together, for ever ride?
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

A Grammarians Funeral

Let us begin and carry up this corpse, Singing together.
Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes Each in its tether Sleeping safe on the bosom of the plain, Cared-for till cock-crow: Look out if yonder be not day again Rimming the rock-row! That's the appropriate country; there, man's thought, Rarer, intenser, Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought, Chafes in the censer.
Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop; Seek we sepulture On a tall mountain, citied to the top, Crowded with culture! All the peaks soar, but one the rest excels; Clouds overcome it; No! yonder sparkle is the citadel's Circling its summit.
Thither our path lies; wind we up the heights: Wait ye the warning? Our low life was the level's and the night's; He's for the morning.
Step to a tune, square chests, erect each head, 'Ware the beholders! This is our master, famous calm and dead, Borne on our shoulders.
Sleep, crop and herd! sleep, darkling thorpe and croft, Safe from the weather! He, whom we convoy to his grave aloft, Singing together, He was a man born with thy face and throat, Lyric Apollo! Long he lived nameless: how should spring take note Winter would follow? Till lo, the little touch, and youth was gone! Cramped and diminished, Moaned he, ``New measures, other feet anon! ``My dance is finished?'' No, that's the world's way: (keep the mountain-side, Make for the city!) He knew the signal, and stepped on with pride Over men's pity; Left play for work, and grappled with the world Bent on escaping: ``What's in the scroll,'' quoth he, ``thou keepest furled? ``Show me their shaping, ``Theirs who most studied man, the bard and sage,--- ``Give!''---So, he gowned him, Straight got by heart that hook to its last page: Learned, we found him.
Yea, but we found him bald too, eyes like lead, Accents uncertain: ``Time to taste life,'' another would have said, ``Up with the curtain!'' This man said rather, ``Actual life comes next? ``Patience a moment! ``Grant I have mastered learning's crabbed text, ``Still there's the comment.
``Let me know all! Prate not of most or least, ``Painful or easy! ``Even to the crumbs I'd fain eat up the feast, ``Ay, nor feel queasy.
'' Oh, such a life as he resolved to live, When he had learned it, When he had gathered all books had to give! Sooner, he spurned it.
Image the whole, then execute the parts--- Fancy the fabric Quite, ere you build, ere steel strike fire from quartz, Ere mortar dab brick! (Here's the town-gate reached: there's the market-place Gaping before us.
) Yea, this in him was the peculiar grace (Hearten our chorus!) That before living he'd learn how to live--- No end to learning: Earn the means first---God surely will contrive Use for our earning.
Others mistrust and say, ``But time escapes: ``Live now or never!'' He said, ``What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes! ``Man has Forever.
'' Back to his book then: deeper drooped his head _Calculus_ racked him: Leaden before, his eyes grew dross of lead: _Tussis_ attacked him.
``Now, master, take a little rest!''---not he! (Caution redoubled, Step two abreast, the way winds narrowly!) Not a whit troubled Back to his studies, fresher than at first, Fierce as a dragon He (soul-hydroptic with a sacred thirst) Sucked at the flagon.
Oh, if we draw a circle premature, Heedless of far gain, Greedy for quick returns of profit, sure Bad is our bargain! Was it not great? did not he throw on God, (He loves the burthen)--- God's task to make the heavenly period Perfect the earthen? Did not he magnify the mind, show clear Just what it all meant? He would not discount life, as fools do here, Paid by instalment.
He ventured neck or nothing---heaven's success Found, or earth's failure: ``Wilt thou trust death or not?'' He answered ``Yes: ``Hence with life's pale lure!'' That low man seeks a little thing to do, Sees it and does it: This high man, with a great thing to pursue, Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding nine to one, His hundred's soon hit: This high man, aiming at a million, Misses an unit.
That, has the world here---should he need the next, Let the world mind him! This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed Seeking shall find him.
So, with the throttling hands of death at strife, Ground he at grammar; Still, thro' the rattle, parts of speech were rife: While he could stammer He settled _Hoti's_ business---let it be!--- Properly based _Oun_--- Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic _De_, Dead from the waist down.
Well, here's the platform, here's the proper place: Hail to your purlieus, All ye highfliers of the feathered race, Swallows and curlews! Here's the top-peak; the multitude below Live, for they can, there: This man decided not to Live but Know--- Bury this man there? Here---here's his place, where meteors shoot, clouds form, Lightnings are loosened, Stars come and go! Let joy break with the storm, Peace let the dew send! Lofty designs must close in like effects Loftily lying, Leave him---still loftier than the world suspects, Living and dying.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

From ‘Paracelsus'


TRUTH is within ourselves; it takes no rise 
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all, Where truth abides in fullness; and around, Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in, This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW, Rather consists in opening out a way Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape, Than in effecting entry for a light Supposed to be without.
II I knew, I felt, (perception unexpressed, Uncomprehended by our narrow thought, But somehow felt and known in every shift And change in the spirit,—nay, in every pore Of the body, even,)—what God is, what we are What life is—how God tastes an infinite joy In infinite ways—one everlasting bliss, From whom all being emanates, all power Proceeds; in whom is life for evermore, Yet whom existence in its lowest form Includes; where dwells enjoyment there is he: With still a flying point of bliss remote, A happiness in store afar, a sphere Of distant glory in full view; thus climbs Pleasure its heights for ever and for ever.
The centre-fire heaves underneath the earth, And the earth changes like a human face; The molten ore bursts up among the rocks, Winds into the stone’s heart, outbranches bright In hidden mines, spots barren river-beds, Crumbles into fine sand where sunbeams bask— God joys therein! The wroth sea’s waves are edged With foam, white as the bitten lip of hate, When, in the solitary waste, strange groups Of young volcanos come up, cyclops-like, Staring together with their eyes on flame— God tastes a pleasure in their uncouth pride.
Then all is still; earth is a wintry clod: But spring-wind, like a dancing psaltress, passes Over its breast to waken it, rare verdure Buds tenderly upon rough banks, between The withered tree-roots and the cracks of frost, Like a smile striving with a wrinkled face; The grass grows bright, the boughs are swoln with blooms Like chrysalids impatient for the air, The shining dorrs are busy, beetles run Along the furrows, ants make their ade; Above, birds fly in merry flocks, the lark Soars up and up, shivering for very joy; Afar the ocean sleeps; white fishing-gulls Flit where the strand is purple with its tribe Of nested limpets; savage creatures seek Their loves in wood and plain—and God renews His ancient rapture.
Thus He dwells in all, From life’s minute beginnings, up at last To man—the consummation of this scheme Of being, the completion of this sphere Of life: whose attributes had here and there Been scattered o’er the visible world before, Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant To be united in some wondrous whole, Imperfect qualities throughout creation, Suggesting some one creature yet to make, Some point where all those scattered rays should meet Convergent in the faculties of man.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

A Pretty Woman


That fawn-skin-dappled hair of hers,
And the blue eye
Dear and dewy,
And that infantine fresh air of hers!


To think men cannot take you, Sweet,
And enfold you,
Ay, and hold you,
And so keep you what they make you, Sweet!


You like us for a glance, you know— 
For a word's sake,
Or a sword's sake,
All's the same, whate'er the chance, you know.
IV And in turn we make you ours, we say— You and youth too, Eyes and mouth too, All the face composed of flowers, we say.
V All's our own, to make the most of, Sweet— Sing and say for, Watch and pray for, Keep a secret or go boast of, Sweet.
VI But for loving, why, you would not, Sweet, Though we prayed you, Paid you, brayed you In a mortar—for you could not, Sweet.
VII So, we leave the sweet face fondly there— Be its beauty Its sole duty! Let all hope of grace beyond, lie there! VIII And while the face lies quiet there, Who shall wonder That I ponder A conclusion? I will try it there.
IX As,—why must one, for the love forgone, Scout mere liking? Thunder-striking Earth,—the heaven, we looked above for, gone! X Why with beauty, needs there money be— Love with liking? Crush the fly-king In his gauze, because no honey bee? XI May not liking be so simple-sweet, If love grew there 'Twould undo there All that breaks the cheek to dimples sweet? XII Is the creature too imperfect, say? Would you mend it And so end it? Since not all addition perfects aye! XIII Or is it of its kind, perhaps, Just perfection— Whence, rejection Of a grace not to its mind, perhaps? XIV Shall we burn up, tread that face at once Into tinder And so hinder Sparks from kindling all the place at once? XV Or else kiss away one's soul on her? Your love-fancies!— A sick man sees Truer, when his hot eyes roll on her! XVI Thus the craftsman thinks to grace the rose,— Plucks a mould-flower For his gold flower, Uses fine things that efface the rose.
XVII Rosy rubies make its cup more rose, Precious metals Ape the petals,— Last, some old king locks it up, morose! XVIII Then, how grace a rose? I know a way! Leave it rather.
Must you gather? Smell, kiss, wear it—at last, throw away!
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

A Lovers Quarrel

Oh, what a dawn of day! How the March sun feels like May! All is blue again After last night's rain, And the South dries the hawthorn-spray.
Only, my Love's away! I'd as lief that the blue were grey, II.
Runnels, which rillets swell, Must be dancing down the dell, With a foaming head On the beryl bed Paven smooth as a hermit's cell; Each with a tale to tell, Could my Love but attend as well.
Dearest, three months ago! When we lived blocked-up with snow,--- When the wind would edge In and in his wedge, In, as far as the point could go--- Not to our ingle, though, Where we loved each the other so! IV.
Laughs with so little cause! We devised games out of straws.
We would try and trace One another's face In the ash, as an artist draws; Free on each other's flaws, How we chattered like two church daws! V.
What's in the `Times''?---a scold At the Emperor deep and cold; He has taken a bride To his gruesome side, That's as fair as himself is bold: There they sit ermine-stoled, And she powders her hair with gold.
Fancy the Pampas' sheen! Miles and miles of gold and green Where the sunflowers blow In a solid glow, And---to break now and then the screen--- Black neck and eyeballs keen, Up a wild horse leaps between! VII.
Try, will our table turn? Lay your hands there light, and yearn Till the yearning slips Thro' the finger-tips In a fire which a few discern, And a very few feel burn, And the rest, they may live and learn! VIII.
Then we would up and pace, For a change, about the place, Each with arm o'er neck: 'Tis our quarter-deck, We are seamen in woeful case.
Help in the ocean-space! Or, if no help, we'll embrace.
See, how she looks now, dressed In a sledging-cap and vest! 'Tis a huge fur cloak--- Like a reindeer's yoke Falls the lappet along the breast: Sleeves for her arms to rest, Or to hang, as my Love likes best.
Teach me to flirt a fan As the Spanish ladies can, Or I tint your lip With a burnt stick's tip And you turn into such a man! Just the two spots that span Half the bill of the young male swan.
Dearest, three months ago When the mesmerizer Snow With his hand's first sweep Put the earth to sleep: 'Twas a time when the heart could show All---how was earth to know, 'Neath the mute hand's to-and-fro? XII.
Dearest, three months ago When we loved each other so, Lived and loved the same Till an evening came When a shaft from the devil's bow Pierced to our ingle-glow, And the friends were friend and foe! XIII.
Not from the heart beneath--- 'Twas a bubble born of breath, Neither sneer nor vaunt, Nor reproach nor taunt.
See a word, how it severeth! Oh, power of life and death In the tongue, as the Preacher saith! XIV.
Woman, and will you cast For a word, quite off at last Me, your own, your You,--- Since, as truth is true, I was You all the happy past--- Me do you leave aghast With the memories We amassed? XV.
Love, if you knew the light That your soul casts in my sight, How I look to you For the pure and true And the beauteous and the right,--- Bear with a moment's spite When a mere mote threats the white! XVI.
What of a hasty word? Is the fleshly heart not stirred By a worm's pin-prick Where its roots are quick? See the eye, by a fly's foot blurred--- Ear, when a straw is heard Scratch the brain's coat of curd! XVII.
Foul be the world or fair More or less, how can I care? 'Tis the world the same For my praise or blame, And endurance is easy there.
Wrong in the one thing rare--- Oh, it is hard to bear! XVIII.
Here's the spring back or close, When the almond-blossom blows: We shall have the word In a minor third There is none but the cuckoo knows: Heaps of the guelder-rose! I must bear with it, I suppose.
Could but November come, Were the noisy birds struck dumb At the warning slash Of his driver's-lash--- I would laugh like the valiant Thumb Facing the castle glum And the giant's fee-faw-fum! XX.
Then, were the world well stripped Of the gear wherein equipped We can stand apart, Heart dispense with heart In the sun, with the flowers unnipped,--- Oh, the world's hangings ripped, We were both in a bare-walled crypt! XXI.
Each in the crypt would cry ``But one freezes here! and why? ``When a heart, as chill, ``At my own would thrill ``Back to life, and its fires out-fly? ``Heart, shall we live or die? ``The rest.
settle by-and-by!'' XXII.
So, she'd efface the score, And forgive me as before.
It is twelve o'clock: I shall hear her knock In the worst of a storm's uproar, I shall pull her through the door, I shall have her for evermore!
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

Aix In Provence

 Christ God who savest man, save most
Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
Chose time and place and company
To suit it; when he struck at length
My honour, 'twas with all his strength.
And doubtlessly ere he could draw All points to one, he must have schemed! That miserable morning saw Few half so happy as I seemed, While being dressed in queen's array To give our tourney prize away.
I thought they loved me, did me grace To please themselves; 'twas all their deed; God makes, or fair or foul, our face; If showing mine so caused to bleed My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped A word, and straight the play had stopped.
They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen By virtue of her brow and breast; Not needing to be crowned, I mean, As I do.
E'en when I was dressed, Had either of them spoke, instead Of glancing sideways with still head! V.
But no: they let me laugh, and sing My birthday song quite through, adjust The last rose in my garland, fling A last look on the mirror, trust My arms to each an arm of theirs, And so descend the castle-stairs--- VI.
And come out on the morning-troop Of merry friends who kissed my cheek, And called me queen, and made me stoop Under the canopy---(a streak That pierced it, of the outside sun, Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)--- VII.
And they could let me take my state And foolish throne amid applause Of all come there to celebrate My queen's-day---Oh I think the cause Of much was, they forgot no crowd Makes up for parents in their shroud! VIII.
However that be, all eyes were bent Upon me, when my cousins cast Theirs down; 'twas time I should present The victor's crown, but .
there, 'twill last No long time .
the old mist again Blinds me as then it did.
How vain! IX, See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk With his two boys: I can proceed.
Well, at that moment, who should stalk Forth boldly---to my face, indeed--- But Gauthier, and he thundered ``Stay!'' And all stayed.
``Bring no crowns, I say! X.
``Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet ``About her! Let her shun the chaste, ``Or lay herself before their feet! ``Shall she whose body I embraced ``A night long, queen it in the day? ``For honour's sake no crowns, I say!'' XI.
I? What I answered? As I live, I never fancied such a thing As answer possible to give.
What says the body when they spring Some monstrous torture-engine's whole Strength on it? No more says the soul.
Till out strode Gismond; then I knew That I was saved.
I never met His face before, but, at first view, I felt quite sure that God had set Himself to Satan; who would spend A minute's mistrust on the end? XIII.
He strode to Gauthier, in his throat Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth With one back-handed blow that wrote In blood men's verdict there.
North, South, East, West, I looked.
The lie was dead, And damned, and truth stood up instead.
This glads me most, that I enjoyed The heart of the joy, with my content In watching Gismond unalloyed By any doubt of the event: God took that on him---I was bid Watch Gismond for my part: I did.
Did I not watch him while he let His armourer just brace his greaves, Rivet his hauberk, on the fret The while! His foot .
my memory leaves No least stamp out, nor how anon He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.
And e'en before the trumpet's sound Was finished, prone lay the false knight, Prone as his lie, upon the ground: Gismond flew at him, used no sleight O' the sword, but open-breasted drove, Cleaving till out the truth he clove.
Which done, he dragged him to my feet And said ``Here die, but end thy breath ``In full confession, lest thou fleet ``From my first, to God's second death! ``Say, hast thou lied?'' And, ``I have lied ``To God and her,'' he said, and died.
Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked ---What safe my heart holds, though no word Could I repeat now, if I tasked My powers forever, to a third Dear even as you are.
Pass the rest Until I sank upon his breast.
Over my head his arm he flung Against the world; and scarce I felt His sword (that dripped by me and swung) A little shifted in its belt: For he began to say the while How South our home lay many a mile.
So 'mid the shouting multitude We two walked forth to never more Return.
My cousins have pursued Their life, untroubled as before I vexed them.
Gauthier's dwelling-place God lighten! May his soul find grace! XXI.
Our elder boy has got the clear Great brow; tho' when his brother's black Full eye slows scorn, it .
Gismond here? And have you brought my tercel*1 back? I just was telling Adela How many birds it struck since May.
*1 A male of the peregrine falcon.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

Garden Francies

THE FLOWER'S NAME Here's the garden she walked across, Arm in my arm, such a short while since: Hark, now I push its wicket, the moss Hinders the hinges and makes them wince! She must have reached this shrub ere she turned, As back with that murmur the wicket swung; For she laid the poor snail, my chance foot spurned, To feed and forget it the leaves among.
Down this side ofthe gravel-walk She went while her rope's edge brushed the box: And here she paused in her gracious talk To point me a moth on the milk-white phlox.
Roses, ranged in valiant row, I will never think that she passed you by! She loves you noble roses, I know; But yonder, see, where the rock-plants lie! III.
This flower she stopped at, finger on lip, Stooped over, in doubt, as settling its claim; Till she gave me, with pride to make no slip, Its soft meandering Spanish name: What a name! Was it love or praise? Speech half-asleep or song half-awake? I must learn Spanish, one of these days, Only for that slow sweet name's sake.
Roses, if I live and do well, I may bring her, one of these days, To fix you fast with as fine a spell, Fit you each with his Spanish phrase; But do not detain me now; for she lingers There, like sunshine over the ground, And ever I see her soft white fingers Searching after the bud she found.
Flower, you Spaniard, look that you grow not, Stay as you are and be loved for ever! Bud, if I kiss you 'tis that you blow not: Mind, the shut pink mouth opens never! For while it pouts, her fingers wrestle, Twinkling the audacious leaves between, Till round they turn and down they nestle--- Is not the dear mark still to be seen? VI.
Where I find her not, beauties vanish; Whither I follow ber, beauties flee; Is there no method to tell her in Spanish June's twice June since she breathed it with me? Come, bud, show me the least of her traces, Treasure my lady's lightest footfall! ---Ah, you may flout and turn up your faces--- Roses, you are not so fair after all! II.
Plague take all your pedants, say I! He who wrote what I hold in my hand, Centuries back was so good as to die, Leaving this rubbish to cumber the land; This, that was a book in its time, Printed on paper and bound in leather, Last month in the white of a matin-prime Just when the birds sang all together.
Into the garden I brought it to read, And under the arbute and laurustine Read it, so help me grace in my need, From title-page to closing line.
Chapter on chapter did I count, As a curious traveller counts Stonehenge; Added up the mortal amount; And then proceeded to my revenge.
Yonder's a plum-tree with a crevice An owl would build in, were he but sage; For a lap of moss, like a fine pont-levis In a castle of the Middle Age, Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber; When he'd be private, there might he spend Hours alone in his lady's chamber: Into this crevice I dropped our friend.
Splash, went he, as under he ducked, ---At the bottom, I knew, rain-drippings stagnate: Next, a handful of blossoms I plucked To bury him with, my bookshelf's magnate; Then I went in-doors, brought out a loaf, Half a cheese, and a bottle of Chablis; Lay on the grass and forgot the oaf Over a jolly chapter of Rabelais.
Now, this morning, betwixt the moss And gum that locked our friend in limbo, A spider had spun his web across, And sat in the midst with arms akimbo: So, I took pity, for learning's sake, And, _de profundis, accentibus ltis, Cantate!_ quoth I, as I got a rake; And up I fished his delectable treatise.
Here you have it, dry in the sun, With all the binding all of a blister, And great blue spots where the ink has run, And reddish streaks that wink and glister O'er the page so beautifully yellow: Oh, well have the droppings played their tricks! Did he guess how toadstools grow, this fellow? Here's one stuck in his chapter six! VII.
How did he like it when the live creatures Tickled and toused and browsed him all over, And worm, slug, eft, with serious features, Came in, each one, for his right of trover? ---When the water-beetle with great blind deaf face Made of her eggs the stately deposit, And the newt borrowed just so much of the preface As tiled in the top of his black wife's closet? VIII.
All that life and fun and romping, All that frisking and twisting and coupling, While slowly our poor friend's leaves were swamping And clasps were cracking and covers suppling! As if you bad carried sour John Knox To the play-house at Paris, Vienna or Munich, Fastened him into a front-row box, And danced off the ballet with trousers and tunic.
Come, old martyr! What, torment enough is it? Back to my room shall you take your sweet self.
Good-bye, mother-beetle; husband-eft, _sufficit!_ See the snug niche I have made on my shelf! A.
's book shall prop you up, B.
's shall cover you, Here's C.
to be grave with, or D.
to be gay, And with E.
on each side, and F.
right over you, Dry-rot at ease till the Judgment-day!
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Englishman In Italy

) 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 .
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.
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! .
"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!
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Italian In England

 That second time they hunted me
From hill to plain, from shore to sea,
And Austria, hounding far and wide
Her blood-hounds through the countryside,
Breathed hot and instant on my trace,— 
I made six days a hiding-place
Of that dry green old aqueduct
Where I and Charles, when boys, have plucked
The fire-flies from the roof above,
Bright creeping throuoh the moss they love.
—How long it seems since Charles was lost! Six days the soldiers crossed and crossed The country in my very sight; And when that peril ceased at night, The sky broke out in red dismay With signal-fires; well, there I lay Close covered o'er in my recess, Up to the neck in ferns and cress, Thinking on Metternich our friend, And Charles's miserable end, And much beside, two days; the third, Hunger o'ercame me when I heard The peasants from the village go To work among the maize; you know, With us, in Lombardy, they bring Provisions packed on mules, a string With little bells that cheer their task, And casks, and boughs on every cask To keep the sun's heat from the wine; These I let pass in jingling line, And, close on them, dear noisy crew, The peasants from the village too; For at the very rear would troop Their wives and sisters in a group To help, I knew; when these had passed, I threw my glove to strike the last, Taking the chance: she did not start, Much less cry out, but stooped apart One instant, rapidly glanced round, And saw me beckon from the ground; A wild bush grows and hides my crypt, She picked my glove up while she stripped A branch off, then rejoined the rest With that; my glove lay in her breast: Then I drew breath: they disappeared; It was for Italy I feared.
An hour, and she returned alone Exactly where my glove was thrown.
Meanwhile come many thoughts; on me Rested the hopes of Italy; I had devised a certain tale Which, when 'twas told her, could not fail Persuade a peasant of its truth; I meant to call a freak of youth This hiding, and give hopes of pay, And no temptation to betray.
But when I saw that woman's face, Its calm simplicity of grace, Our Italy's own attitude In which she walked thus far, and stood, Planting each naked foot so firm, To crush the snake and spare the worm— At first sight of her eyes, I said, "I am that man upon whose head They fix the price, because I hate The Austrians over us: the State Will give you gold—oh, gold so much, If you betray me to their clutch! And be your death, for aught I know, If once they find you saved their foe.
Now, you must bring me food and drink, And also paper, pen, and ink, And carry safe what I shall write To Padua, which you'll reach at night Before the Duomo shuts; go in, And wait till Tenebrae begin; Walk to the Third Confessional, Between the pillar and the wall, And Kneeling whisper whence comes peace? Say it a second time; then cease; And if the voice inside returns, From Christ and Freedom: what concerns The cause of Peace?—for answer, slip My letter where you placed your lip; Then come back happy we have done Our mother service—I, the son, As you daughter of our land!" Three mornings more, she took her stand In the same place, with the same eyes: I was no surer of sunrise Than of her coming: we conferred Of her own prospects, and I heard She had a lover—stout and tall, She said—then let her eyelids fall, "He could do much"—as if some doubt Entered her heart,—then, passing out, "She could not speak for others—who Had other thoughts; herself she knew:" And so she brought me drink and food.
After four days, the scouts pursued Another path: at last arrived The help my Paduan friends contrived To furnish me: she brought the news: For the first time I could not choose But kiss her hand and lay my own Upon her head—"This faith was shown To Italy, our mother;—she Uses my hand and blesses thee!" She followed down to the seashore; I left and never saw her more.
How very long since I have thought Concerning—much less wished for—aught Beside the good of Italy, For which I live and mean to die! I never was in love; and since Charles proved false, nothing could convince My inmost heart I had a friend; However, if I pleased to spend Real wishes on myself—say, Three— I know at least what one should be; I would grasp Metternich until I felt his red wet throat distil In blood through these two hands; and next, —Nor much for that am I perplexed— Charles, perjured traitor, for his part, Should die slow of a broken heart Under his new employers; last —Ah, there, what should I wish? For fast Do I grow old and out of strength.
— If I resolved to seek at length My father's house again, how scared They all would look, and unprepared! My brothers live in Austria's pay —Disowned me long ago, men say; And all my early mates who used To praise me so—perhaps induced More than one early step of mine— Are turning wise; while some opine "Freedom grows License," some suspect "Haste breeds Delay," and recollect They always said, such premature Beginnings never could endure! So, with a sullen "All's for best," The land seems settling to its rest.
I think, then, I should wish to stand This evening in that dear, lost land, Over the sea the thousand miles, And know if yet that woman smiles With the calm smile; some little farm She lives in there, no doubt; what harm If I sate on the door-side bench, And, while her spindle made a trench Fantastically in the dust, Inquired of all her fortunes—just Her children's ages and their names, And what may be the husband's aims For each of them—I'd talk this out, And sit there, for and hour about, Then kiss her hand once more, and lay Mine on her head, and go my way.
So much for idle wishing—how It steals the time! To business now.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

Rabbi Ben Ezra

 Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith 'A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!'

Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sighed 'Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall?'
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearned 'Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!'

Not for such hopes and fears
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
Poor vaunt of life indeed, Were man but formed to feed On joy, to solely seek and find and feast: Such feasting ended, then As sure an end to men; Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast? Rejoice we are allied To That which doth provide And not partake, effect and not receive! A spark disturbs our clod; Nearer we hold of God Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.
Then, welcome each rebuff That turns earth's smoothness rough, Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go! Be our joys three-parts pain! Strive, and hold cheap the strain; Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe! For thence,--a paradox Which comforts while it mocks,-- Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail: What I aspired to be, And was not, comforts me: A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.
What is he but a brute Whose flesh has soul to suit, Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play? To man, propose this test-- Thy body at its best, How far can that project thy soul on its lone way? Yet gifts should prove their use: I own the Past profuse Of power each side, perfection every turn: Eyes, ears took in their dole, Brain treasured up the whole; Should not the heart beat once 'How good to live and learn?' Not once beat 'Praise be Thine! I see the whole design, I, who saw power, see now love perfect too: Perfect I call Thy plan: Thanks that I was a man! Maker, remake, complete,--I trust what Thou shalt do!' For pleasant is this flesh; Our soul, in its rose-mesh Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest; Would we some prize might hold To match those manifold Possessions of the brute,--gain most, as we did best! Let us not always say, 'Spite of this flesh to-day I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!' As the bird wings and sings, Let us cry 'All good things Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!' Therefore I summon age To grant youth's heritage, Life's struggle having so far reached its term: Thence shall I pass, approved A man, for aye removed From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.
And I shall thereupon Take rest, ere I be gone Once more on my adventure brave and new: Fearless and unperplexed, When I wage battle next, What weapons to select, what armour to indue.
Youth ended, I shall try My gain or loss thereby; Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold: And I shall weigh the same, Give life its praise or blame: Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.
For note, when evening shuts, A certain moment cuts The deed off, calls the glory from the grey: A whisper from the west Shoots--'Add this to the rest, Take it and try its worth: here dies another day.
' So, still within this life, Though lifted o'er its strife, Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last, This rage was right i' the main, That acquiescence vain: The Future I may face now I have proved the Past.
' For more is not reserved To man, with soul just nerved To act to-morrow what he learns to-day: Here, work enough to watch The Master work, and catch Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.
As it was better, youth Should strive, through acts uncouth, Toward making, than repose on aught found made: So, better, age, exempt From strife, should know, than tempt Further.
Thou waitedst age: wait death nor be afraid! Enough now, if the Right And Good and Infinite Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own With knowledge absolute, Subject to no dispute From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.
Be there, for once and all, Severed great minds from small, Announced to each his station in the Past! Was I, the world arraigned, Were they, my soul disdained, Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last! Now, who shall arbitrate? Ten men love what I hate, Shun what I follow, slight what I receive; Ten, who in ears and eyes Match me: we all surmise, They this thing, and I that: whom shall my soul believe? Not on the vulgar mass Called 'work,' must sentence pass, Things done, that took the eye and had the price; O'er which, from level stand, The low world laid its hand, Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice: But all, the world's coarse thumb And finger failed to plumb, So passed in making up the main account; All instincts immature, All purposes unsure, That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount: Thoughts hardly to be packed Into a narrow act, Fancies that broke through language and escaped; All I could never be, All, men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
Ay, note that Potter's wheel, That metaphor! and feel Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,-- Thou, to whom fools propound, When the wine makes its round, 'Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!' Fool! All that is, at all, Lasts ever, past recall; Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure: What entered into thee, That was, is, and shall be: Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.
He fixed thee mid this dance Of plastic circumstance, This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest: Machinery just meant To give thy soul its bent, Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.
What though the earlier grooves, Which ran the laughing loves Around thy base, no longer pause and press? What though, about thy rim, Skull-things in order grim Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress? Look not thou down but up! To uses of a cup, The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's peal, The new wine's foaming flow, The Master's lips a-glow! Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what need'st thou with earth's wheel? But I need, now as then, Thee, God, who mouldest men; And since, not even while the whirl was worst, Did I,--to the wheel of life With shapes and colours rife, Bound dizzily,--mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst: So, take and use Thy work: Amend what flaws may lurk, What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim! My times be in Thy hand! Perfect the cup as planned! Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Guardian-Angel

Dear and great Angel, wouldst thou only leave That child, when thou hast done with him, for me! Let me sit all the day here, that when eve Shall find performed thy special ministry, And time come for departure, thou, suspending Thy flight, mayst see another child for tending, Another still, to quiet and retrieve.
Then I shall feel thee step one step, no more, From where thou standest now, to where I gaze, ---And suddenly my head is covered o'er With those wings, white above the child who prays Now on that tomb---and I shall feel thee guarding Me, out of all the world; for me, discarding Yon heaven thy home, that waits and opes its door.
I would not look up thither past thy head Because the door opes, like that child, I know, For I should have thy gracious face instead, Thou bird of God! And wilt thou bend me low Like him, and lay, like his, my hands together, And lift them up to pray, and gently tether Me, as thy lamb there, with thy garment's spread? IV.
If this was ever granted, I would rest My bead beneath thine, while thy healing hands Close-covered both my eyes beside thy breast, Pressing the brain, which too much thought expands, Back to its proper size again, and smoothing Distortion down till every nerve had soothing, And all lay quiet, happy and suppressed.
How soon all worldly wrong would be repaired! I think how I should view the earth and skies And sea, when once again my brow was bared After thy healing, with such different eyes.
O world, as God has made it! All is beauty: And knowing this, is love, and love is duty.
What further may be sought for or declared? VI.
Guercino drew this angel I saw teach (Alfred, dear friend!)---that little child to pray, Holding the little hands up, each to each Pressed gently,---with his own head turned away Over the earth where so much lay before him Of work to do, though heaven was opening o'er him, And he was left at Fano by the beach.
We were at Fano, and three times we went To sit and see him in his chapel there, And drink his beauty to our soul's content ---My angel with me too: and since I care For dear Guercino's fame (to which in power And glory comes this picture for a dower, Fraught with a pathos so magnificent)--- VIII.
And since he did not work thus earnestly At all times, and has else endured some wrong--- I took one thought his picture struck from me, And spread it out, translating it to song.
My love is here.
Where are you, dear old friend? How rolls the Wairoa at your world's far end? This is Ancona, yonder is the sea.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.
What else should he be set for, with his staff? What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare All travellers who might find him posted there, And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare, If at his council I should turn aside Into that ominous tract which, all agree, Hides the Dark Tower.
Yet acquiescingly I did turn as he pointed: neither pride Nor hope rekindling at the end descried, So much as gladness that some end might be.
For, what with my whole world-wide wandering, What with my search drawn out through years, my hope Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope With that obstreperous joy success would bring, - I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring My heart made, finding failure in its scope.
As when a sick man very near to death Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end The tears and takes the farewell of each friend, And hears one bid the other go, draw breath Freelier outside, ('since all is o'er,' he saith, 'And the blow fallen no grieving can amend';) While some discuss if near the other graves Be room enough for this, and when a day Suits best for carrying the corpse away, With care about the banners, scarves and staves: And still the man hears all, and only craves He may not shame such tender love and stay.
Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest, Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ So many times among 'The Band' - to wit, The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed Their steps - that just to fail as they, seemed best, And all the doubt was now - should I be fit? So, quiet as despair, I turned from him, That hateful cripple, out of his highway Into the path he pointed.
All the day Had been a dreary one at best, and dim Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.
For mark! no sooner was I fairly found Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two, Than, pausing to throw backward a last view O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round: Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound.
I might go on; naught else remained to do.
So, on I went.
I think I never saw Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve: For flowers - as well expect a cedar grove! But cockle, spurge, according to their law Might propagate their kind, with none to awe, You'd think: a burr had been a treasure-trove.
No! penury, inertness and grimace, In some strange sort, were the land's portion.
'See Or shut your eyes,' said Nature peevishly, 'It nothing skills: I cannot help my case: 'Tis the Last Judgement's fire must cure this place, Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.
' If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents Were jealous else.
What made those holes and rents In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to balk All hope of greeness? 'tis a brute must walk Pushing their life out, with a brute's intents.
As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare, Stood stupefied, however he came there: Thrust out past service from the devil's stud! Alive? he might be dead for aught I know, With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain, And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I never saw a brute I hated so; He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards - this soldier's art: One taste of the old time sets all to rights.
Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face Beneath its garniture of curly gold, Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold An arm in mine to fix me to the place, That way he used.
Alas, one night's disgrace! Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.
Giles then, the soul of honour - there he stands Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good - but the scene shifts - faugh! what hangman-hands Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands Read it.
Poor traitor, spit upon and curst! Better this present than a past like that; Back therefore to my darkening path again! No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet or a bat? I asked: when something on the dismal flat Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.
A sudden little river crossed my path As unexpected as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms; This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath For the fiend's glowing hoof - to see the wrath Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.
So petty yet so spiteful! All along, Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it; Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit Of mute despair, a suicidal throng: The river which had done them all the wrong, Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.
Which, while I forded, - good saints, how I feared To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek, Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard! - It may have been a water-rat I speared, But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.
Glad was I when I reached the other bank.
Now for a better country.
Vain presage! Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage, Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank, Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage - The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.
What penned them there, with all the plain to choose? No foot-print leading to that horrid mews, None out of it.
Mad brewage set to work Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.
And more than that - a furlong on - why, there! What bad use was that engine for, that wheel, Or brake, not wheel - that harrow fit to reel Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware, Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.
Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood, Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth, Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes!) within a rood - Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.
Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim, Now patches where some leanness of the soil's Broke into moss or substances like boils; Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.
And just as far as ever from the end! Naught in the distance but the evening, naught To point my footstep further! At the thought, A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend, Sailed past, not beat his wide wing dragon-penned That brushed my cap - perchance the guide I sought.
For, looking up, aware I somehow grew, 'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place All round to mountains - with such name to grace Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surprised me, - solve it, you! How to get from then was no clearer case.
Yet half I seemed to recognise some trick Of mischief happened to me, God knows when - In a bad dream perhaps.
Here ended, the, Progress this way.
When, in the very nick Of giving up, one time more, came a click As when a trap shuts - you're inside the den! Burningly it came on me all at once, This was the place! those two hills on the right, Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight; While to the left, a tall scalped mountain.
Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce, After a life spent training for the sight! What in the midst lay but the Tower itself? The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart, Built of brown stone, without a counterpart In the whole world.
The tempest's mocking elf Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf He strikes on, only when the timbers start.
Not see? because of night perhaps? - why, day Came back again for that! before it left, The dying sunset kindled through a cleft: The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay, Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay, - 'Now stab and end the creature - to the heft!' Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled Increasing like a bell.
Names in my ears Of all the lost adventurers my peers, - How such a one was strong, and such was bold, And such was fortunate, yet each of old Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met To view the last of me, a living frame For one more picture! in a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all.
And yet Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, And blew.
'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

Any Wife To Any Husband


My love, this is the bitterest, that thou
Who art all truth and who dost love me now
As thine eyes say, as thy voice breaks to say— 
Shouldst love so truly and couldst love me still
A whole long life through, had but love its will,
Would death that leads me from thee brook delay!


I have but to be by thee, and thy hand
Would never let mine go, thy heart withstand
The beating of my heart to reach its place.
When should I look for thee and feel thee gone? When cry for the old comfort and find none? Never, I know! Thy soul is in thy face.
III Oh, I should fade—'tis willed so! might I save, Galdly I would, whatever beauty gave Joy to thy sense, for that was precious too.
It is not to be granted.
But the soul Whence the love comes, all ravage leaves that whole; Vainly the flesh fades—soul makes all things new.
IV And 'twould not be because my eye grew dim Thou couldst not find the love there, thanks to Him Who never is dishonoured in the spark He gave us from his fire of fires, and bade Remember whence it sprang nor be afraid While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark.
V So, how thou wouldst be perfect, white and clean Outside as inside, soul and soul's demesne Alike, this body given to show it by! Oh, three-parts through the worst of life's abyss, What plaudits from the next world after this, Couldst thou repeat a stroke and gain the sky! VI And is it not the bitterer to think That, disengage our hands and thou wilt sink Although thy love was love in very deed? I know that nature! Pass a festive day Thou dost not throw its relic-flower away Nor bid its music's loitering echo speed.
VII Thou let'st the stranger's glove lie where it fell; If old things remain old things all is well, For thou art grateful as becomes man best: And hadst thou only heard me play one tune, Or viewed me from a window, not so soon With thee would such things fade as with the rest.
VIII I seem to see! we meet and part: 'tis brief: The book I opened keeps a folded leaf, The very chair I sat on, breaks the rank; That is a portrait of me on the wall— Three lines, my face comes at so slight a call; And for all this, one little hour's to thank.
IX But now, because the hour through years was fixed, Because our inmost beings met amd mixed, Because thou once hast loved me—wilt thou dare Say to thy soul and Who may list beside, "Therefore she is immortally my bride, Chance cannot change that love, nor time impair.
X "So, what if in the dusk of life that's left, I, a tired traveller, of my sun bereft, Look from my path when, mimicking the same, The fire-fly glimpses past me, come and gone? - Where was it till the sunset? where anon It will be at the sunrise! what's to blame?" XI Is it so helpful to thee? canst thou take The mimic up, nor, for the true thing's sake, Put gently by such efforts at at beam? Is the remainder of the way so long Thou need'st the little solace, thou the strong? Watch out thy watch, let weak ones doze and dream! XII "—Ah, but the fresher faces! Is it true," Thou'lt ask, "some eyes are beautiful and new? Some hair,—how can one choose but grasp such wealth? And if a man would press his lips to lips Fresh as the wilding hedge-rose-cup there slips The dew-drop out of, must it be by stealth? XIII "It cannot change the love kept still for Her, Much more than, such a picture to prefer Passing a day with, to a room's bare side.
The painted form takes nothing she possessed, Yet while the Titian's Venus lies at rest A man looks.
Once more, what is there to chide?" XIV So must I see, from where I sit and watch, My own self sell myself, my hand attach Its warrant to the very thefts from me— Thy singleness of soul that made me proud, Thy purity of heart I loved aloud, Thy man's truth I was bold to bid God see! XV Love so, then, if thou wilt! Give all thou canst Away to the new faces—disentranced— (Say it and think it) obdurate no more, Re-issue looks and words from the old mint— Pass them afresh, no matter whose the print Image and superscription once they bore! XVI Re-coin thyself and give it them to spend,— It all comes to the same thing at the end, Since mine thou wast, mine art, and mine shalt be, Faithful or faithless, sealing up the sum Or lavish of my treasure, thou must come Back to the heart's place here I keep for thee! XVII Only, why should it be with stain at all? Why must I, 'twixt the leaves of coronal, Put any kiss of pardon on thy brow? Why need the other women know so much And talk together, "Such the look and such The smile he used to love with, then as now!" XVIII Might I die last and shew thee! Should I find Such hardship in the few years left behind, If free to take and light my lamp, and go Into thy tomb, and shut the door and sit Seeing thy face on those four sides of it The better that they are so blank, I know! XIX Why, time was what I wanted, to turn o'er Within my mind each look, get more and more By heart each word, too much to learn at first, And join thee all the fitter for the pause 'Neath the low door-way's lintel.
That were cause For lingering, though thou called'st, If I durst! XX And yet thou art the nobler of us two.
What dare I dream of, that thou canst not do, Outstripping my ten small steps with one stride? I'll say then, here's a trial and a task— Is it to bear?—if easy, I'll not ask— Though love fail, I can trust on in thy pride.
XXI Pride?—when those eyes forestall the life behind The death I have to go through!—when I find, Now that I want thy help most, all of thee! What did I fear? Thy love shall hold me fast Until the little minute's sleep is past And I wake saved.
—And yet, it will not be!