Dramatic Romances
by Robert Browning
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



By Robert Browning

Introduction and Notes: Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke

From the edition of Browning's poems published by Thomas Y. Crowell and Company, New York, in 1898.

Editing conventions:

Stanza and section numbers have been moved to the left margin, and periods that follow them have been removed.

Periods have been omitted after Roman numerals in the titles of popes and nobles.

Quotation marks have been left only at the beginning and end of a multi-line quotation, and at the beginning of each stanza within the quotation, instead of at the beginning of every line, as in the printed text.


Introduction Incident of the French Camp The Patriot My Last Duchess Count Gismond The Boy and the Angel Instans Tyrannus Mesmerism The Glove Time's Revenges The Italian in England The Englishman in Italy In a Gondola Waring The Twins A Light Woman The Last Ride Together The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child's Story The Flight of the Duchess A Grammarian's Funeral The Heretic's Tragedy Holy-Cross Day Protus The Statue and the Bust Porphyria's Lover "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"


[The Dramatic Romances,...] enriched by some of the poems originally printed in Men and Women, and a few from Dramatic Lyrics as first printed, include some of Browning's finest and most characteristic work. In several of them the poet displays his familiarity with the life and spirit of the Renaissance—a period portrayed by him with a fidelity more real than history—for he enters into the feelings that give rise to action, while the historian is busied only with the results growing out of the moving force of feeling.

The egotism of the Ferrara husband outraged at the gentle wife because she is as gracious toward those who rendered her small courtesies, and seemed as thankful to them as she was to him for his gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name, opens up for inspection the heart of a husband at a time when men exercised complete control over their wives, and could satisfy their jealous, selfish instincts by any cruel methods they chose to adopt, with no one to say them "nay." The highly developed artistic sense shown by this husband is not incompatible with his consummate selfishness and cruelty, as many tales of that time might be brought forward to illustrate. The husband in "The Statue and the Bust" belongs to the same type, and the situation there is the inevitable outcome of a civilization in which women were not consulted as to whom they would marry, and naturally often fell a prey to love if it should come to them afterwards. Weakness of will in the case of the lovers in this poem wrecked their lives; for they were not strong enough to follow either duty or love. Another glimpse is caught of this period when husbands and brothers and fathers meted out what they considered justice to the women in "In a Gondola." "The Grammarian's Funeral" gives also an aspect of Renaissance life—the fervor for learning characteristic of the earlier days of the Renaissance when devoted pedants, as Arthur Symons says in referring to this poem, broke ground in the restoration to the modern world of the civilization and learning of ancient Greece and Rome. Again, "The Heretic's Tragedy" and "Holy-Cross Day" picture most vividly the methods resorted to by the dying church in its attempts to keep control of the souls of a humanity seething toward religious tolerance.

With only a small space at command, it is difficult to decide on the poems to be touched upon, especially where there is not one but would repay prolonged attention, due no less to the romantic interest of the stories, the marvellous penetration into human motives, the grasp of historical atmospheres, than to the originality and perfection of their artistry.

A word must be said of "The Flight of the Duchess" and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," both poems which have been productive of many commentaries, and both holding their own amid the bray [sic] of critics as unique and beautiful specimens of poetic art. Certainly no two poems could be chosen to show wider diversity in the poet's genius than these.

The story told by the huntsman in "The Flight of the Duchess" is interesting enough simply as a story, but the telling of it is inimitable. One can see before him the devoted, kindly man, somewhat clumsy of speech, as indicated by the rough rhymes, and characteristically drawing his illustrations from the calling he follows. Keen in his critical observation of the Duke and other members of the household, he, nevertheless, has a tender appreciation of the difficulties of the young Duchess in this unloving artificial environment.

When the Gypsy Queen sings her song through his memory of it, the rhymes and rhythm take on a befitting harmoniousness and smoothness contrasting finely with the remainder of the poem.

By means of this song, moreover, the horizon is enlarged beyond the immediate ken of the huntsman. The race-instinct, which has so strong a hold upon the Gypsies, is exalted into a wondrous sort of love which carries everything before it. This loving reality is also set over against the unloving artificiality of the first part of the poem. The temptation is too strong for the love-starved little Duchess, and even the huntsman and Jacinth come under her hypnotic spell.

Very different in effect is "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." The one, rich in this lay of human emotion, couched in the simple language of reality; the other, a symbolic picture of the struggle and aspiration of the soul. Interpreters have tried to pin this latter poem down to the limits of an allegory, and find a specific meaning for every phrase and picture, but it has too much the quality of the modern symbolistic writing to admit of any treatment so prosaic. In this respect it resembles music. Each mind will draw from it an interpretation suited to its own attitude and experiences. Reduced to the simplest possible lines of interpretation, it symbolizes the inevitable fate which drives a truth-seeking soul to see the falsity of ideals once thought absolute, yet in the face of the ruin of those ideals courage toward the continuance of aspiration is never for a moment lost.

As a bit of art, it is strikingly imaginative, and suggests the picture-quality of the tapestried horse, which Browning himself says was the chief inspiration of the poem. It is a fine example of the way in which the "strange and winged" fancy of the poet may take its flight from so simple an object as this tapestried horse, evidently a sorry beast too, in its needled presentment, or the poetic impulse would not have expressed itself in the vindictive, "I never saw a horse [sic] I hated so."



You know, we French stormed Ratisbon: A mile or so away, On a little mound, Napoleon Stood on our storming-day; With neck out-thrust, you fancy how, Legs wide, arms locked behind, As if to balance the prone brow Oppressive with its mind.


Just as perhaps he mused, "My plans That soar, to earth may fall, 10 Let once my army-leader Lannes Waver at yonder wall." Out 'twixt the battery-smokes there flew A rider, bound on bound Full-galloping; nor bridle drew Until he reached the mound.


Then off there flung in smiling joy, And held himself erect By just his horse's mane, a boy: You hardly could suspect 20 (So tight he kept his lips compressed Scarce any blood came through) You looked twice ere you saw his breast Was all but shot in two.


"Well," cried he, "Emperor, by God's grace "We've got you Ratisbon! "The Marshal's in the market-place, And you'll be there anon To see your flag-bird flap his vans Where I, to heart's desire, 30 Perched him—" The chief's eye flashed; his plans Soared up again like fire.


The chief's eye flashed, but presently Softened itself, as sheathes A film the mother-eagle's-eye When her bruised eaglet breathes, "You're wounded!" "Nay," the soldier's pride Touched to the quick, he said: "I'm killed, Sire!" And his chief beside, Smiling the boy fell dead. 40

NOTES: "Incident of the French Camp." A story of modest heroism. The incident related is said by Mrs. Orr to be a true one of the siege of Ratisbon by Napoleon in 1809—except that the real hero was a man.

I. Ratisbon: (German Regensburg), an ancient city of Bavaria on the right bank of the Danube, has endured seventeen sieges since the tenth century, the last one being that of Napoleon, 1809.

II. Lannes: Duke of Montebello, one of Napoleon's generals.




It was roses, roses, all the way, With myrtle mixed in my path like mad: The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway, The church-spires flamed, such flags they had, A year ago on this very day.


The air broke into a mist with bells, The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries. Had I said, "Good folk, mere noise repels— But give me your sun from yonder skies!" They had answered, "And afterward, what else?" 10


Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun To give it my loving friends to keep! Nought man could do, have I left undone: And you see my harvest, what I reap This very day, now a year is run.


There's nobody on the house-tops now— Just a palsied few at the windows set; For the best of the sight is, all allow, At the Shambles' Gate—or, better yet, By the very scaffold's foot, I trow. 20


I go in the rain, and, more than needs, A rope cuts both my wrists behind; And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds, For they fling, whoever has a mind, Stones at me for my year's misdeeds.


Thus I entered, and thus I go! In triumphs, people have dropped down dead. "Paid by the world, what dost thou owe Me?"—God might question; now instead, 'Tis God shall repay: I am safer so. 30

NOTES: "The Patriot" is a hero's story of the reward and punishment dealt him for his services within one year. To act regardless of praise or blame, save God's, seems safer.



That's my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will't please you sit and look at her? I said "Fra 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) 10 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 Fra 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 20 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 favour 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, 30 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 40 Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, E'en that 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 pretence 50 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!

NOTES: "My Last Duchess" puts in the mouth of a Duke of Ferrara, a typical husband and art patron of the Renaissance, a description of his last wife, whose happy nature and universal kindliness were a perpetual affront to his exacting self-predominance, and whose suppression, by his command, has made the vacancy he is now, in his interview with the envoy for a new match, taking precaution to fill more acceptably.

3. Fra Pandolf, and 56. Claus of Innsbruck, are imaginary.




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, 10 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; 20 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!


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— 30


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—


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 40 Of much was, they forgot no crowd Makes up for parents in their shroud!


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!


See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk With his two boys: I can proceed. 50 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!"


"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!" 60


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 70 Himself to Satan; who would spend A minute's mistrust on the end?


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 80 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. 90


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! 100 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 for ever, 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 110 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! 120


Our elder boy has got the clear Great brow; tho' when his brother's black Full eye shows scorn, it... Gismond here? And have you brought my tercel back? I just was telling Adela How many birds it struck since May.

NOTES: "Count Gismond: Aix in Provence" illustrates, in the person of the woman who relates to a friend an episode of her own life, the power of innate purity to raise up for her a defender when caught in the toils woven by the unsuspected envy and hypocrisy of her cousins and Count Gauthier, who attempt to bring dishonor upon her, on her birthday, with the seeming intention of honoring her. Her faith that the trial by combat between Gauthier and Gismond must end in Gismond's victory and her vindication reflects most truly, as Arthur Symons has pointed out, the medieval atmosphere of chivalrous France.

124. Tercel: a male falcon.


Morning, evening, noon and night, "Praise God!" sang Theocrite.

Then to his poor trade he turned, Whereby the daily meal was earned.

Hard he laboured, long and well; O'er his work the boy's curls fell.

But ever, at each period, He stopped and sang, "Praise God!"

Then back again his curls he threw, And cheerful turned to work anew. 10

Said Blaise, the listening monk, "Well done; I doubt not thou art heard, my son:

As well as if thy voice to-day Were praising God, the Pope's great way.

This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome Praises God from Peter's dome."

Said Theocrite, "Would God that I Might praise him, that great way, and die!"

Night passed, day shone, And Theocrite was gone. 20

With God a day endures alway, A thousand years are but a day.

God said in heaven, "Nor day nor night Now brings the voice of my delight."

Then Gabriel, like a rainbow's birth Spread his wings and sank to earth; . Entered, in flesh, the empty cell, Lived there, and played the craftsman well;

And morning, evening, noon and night, Praised God in place of Theocrite. 30

And from a boy, to youth he grew: The man put off the stripling's hue:

The man matured and fell away Into the season of decay:

And ever o'er the trade he bent, And ever lived on earth content.

(He did God's will; to him, all one If on the earth or in the sun.)

God said, "A praise is in mine ear; There is no doubt in it, no fear: 40

So sing old worlds, and so New worlds that from my footstool go.

Clearer loves sound other ways: I miss my little human praise."

Then forth sprang Gabriel's wings, off fell The flesh disguise, remained the cell.

'Twas Easter Day: he flew to Rome, And paused above Saint Peter's dome.

In the tiring-room close by The great outer gallery, 50

With his holy vestments dight, Stood the new Pope, Theocrite:

And all his past career Came back upon him clear,

Since when, a boy, he plied his trade, Till on his life the sickness weighed;

And in his cell, when death drew near, An angel in a dream brought cheer:

And rising from the sickness drear He grew a priest, and now stood here. 60

To the East with praise he turned, And on his sight the angel burned.

"I bore thee from thy craftsman's cell And set thee here; I did not well.

"Vainly I left my angel-sphere, Vain was thy dream of many a year.

"Thy voice's praise seemed weak; it dropped— Creation's chorus stopped!

"Go back and praise again The early way, while I remain. 70

"With that weak voice of our disdain, Take up creation's pausing strain.

"Back to the cell and poor employ: Resume the craftsman and the boy!"

Theocrite grew old at home; A new Pope dwelt in Peter's dome.

One vanished as the other died: They sought God side by side.

NOTES: "The Boy and the Angel." An imaginary legend illustrating the worth of humble, human love to God, who missed in the praise of the Pope, Theocrite, and of the Angel Gabriel, the precious human quality in the song of the poor boy, Theocrite.



Of the million or two, more or less I rule and possess, One man, for some cause undefined, Was least to my mind.


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. 10


"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, 20 Choicest cates and the flagon's best spilth: Still he kept to his filth.


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! 30 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.


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. 40 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? 50 Though I waste half my realm to unearth Toad or rat, 'tis well worth!"


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. 60


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, 70 Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed! —So, I was afraid!

NOTES: "Instans Tyrannus" is a despot's confession of one of his own experiences which showed him the inviolability of the weakest man who is in the right and who can call the spiritual force of good to his aid against the utmost violence or cunning.—"Instans Tyrannus," or the threatening tyrant, suggested by Horace, third Ode in Book III:

"Justum et tenacem proposti vlrum, Non civium ardor prava jubentium, Non vultus instantis tyranni," etc.

[The just man tenacious of purpose is not to be turned aside by the heat of the populace nor the brow of the threatening tyrant.]



All I believed is true! I am able yet All I want, to get By a method as strange as new: Dare I trust the same to you?


If at night, when doors are shut, And the wood-worm picks, And the death-watch ticks, And the bar has a flag of smut, And a cat's in the water-butt— 10


And the socket floats and flares, And the house-beams groan, And a foot unknown Is surmised on the garret-stairs, And the locks slip unawares—


And the spider, to serve his ends, By a sudden thread, Arms and legs outspread, On the table's midst descends, Comes to find, God knows what friends!— 20


If since eve drew in, I say, I have sat and brought (So to speak) my thought To bear on the woman away, Till I felt my hair turn grey—


Till I seemed to have and hold, In the vacancy 'Twixt the wall and me, From the hair-plait's chestnut gold To the foot in its muslin fold— 30


Have and hold, then and there, Her, from head to foot Breathing and mute, Passive and yet aware, In the grasp of my steady stare—


Hold and have, there and then, All her body and soul That completes my whole, All that women add to men, In the clutch of my steady ken— 40


Having and holding, till I imprint her fast On the void at last As the sun does whom he will By the calotypist's skill—


Then,—if my heart's strength serve, And through all and each Of the veils I reach To her soul and never swerve, Knitting an iron nerve— 50


Command her soul to advance And inform the shape Which has made escape And before my countenance Answers me glance for glance—


I, still with a gesture fit Of my hands that best Do my soul's behest, Pointing the power from it, While myself do steadfast sit— 60


Steadfast and still the same On my object bent, While the hands give vent To my ardour and my aim And break into very flame—


Then I reach, I must believe, Not her soul in vain, For to me again It reaches, and past retrieve Is wound in the toils I weave; 70


And must follow as I require, As befits a thrall, Bringing flesh and all, Essence and earth-attire To the source of the tractile fire:


Till the house called hers, not mine, With a growing weight Seems to suffocate If she break not its leaden line And escape from its close confine. 80


Out of doors into the night! On to the maze Of the wild wood-ways, Not turning to left nor right From the pathway, blind with sight—


Making thro' rain and wind O'er the broken shrubs, 'Twixt the stems and stubs, With a still, composed, strong mind, Nor a care for the world behind— 90


Swifter and still more swift, As the crowding peace Doth to joy increase In the wide blind eyes uplift Thro' the darkness and the drift!


While I—to the shape, I too Feel my soul dilate Nor a whit abate, And relax not a gesture due, As I see my belief come true. 100


For, there! have I drawn or no Life to that lip? Do my fingers dip In a flame which again they throw On the cheek that breaks a-glow?


Ha! was the hair so first? What, unfilleted, Made alive, and spread Through the void with a rich outburst, Chestnut gold-interspersed? 110


Like the doors of a casket-shrine, See, on either side, Her two arms divide Till the heart betwixt makes sign, Take me, for I am thine!


"Now—now"—the door is heard! Hark, the stairs! and near— Nearer—and here— "Now!" and at call the third She enters without a word. 120


On doth she march and on To the fancied shape; It is, past escape, Herself, now: the dream is done And the shadow and she are one.


First I will pray. Do Thou That ownest the soul, Yet wilt grant control To another, nor disallow For a time, restrain me now! 130


I admonish me while I may, Not to squander guilt, Since require Thou wilt At my hand its price one day! What the price is, who can say?

NOTES: "Mesmerism." With a continuous tension of will, whose unbroken concentration impregnates the very structure of the poem, a mesmerist describes the processes of the act by which he summons shape and soul of the woman he desires; and then reverent perception of the sacredness of the soul awes him from trespassing upon another's individuality.


(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!" 10 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, 20 Increased by new followers tenfold Before he 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 30 And shelved to the chamber secluded Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.

The King hailed his keeper, an Arab As glossy and black as a scarab, 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, 40 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 Illum Juda Leonem de Tribu. 50 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, 60 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 70 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: 80 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 fluttered, 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. 90

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 Ne'er 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? 100 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,— 110 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? 120 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, 130 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, 140 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 150 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 160 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. 170

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 180 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. 190

NOTES: "The Glove" gives a transcript from Court life, in Paris, under Francis I. In making Ronsard the mouthpiece for a deeper observation of the meaning of the incident he is supposed to witness and describe than Marot and the rest saw, characteristic differences between these two poets of the time are brought out, the genuineness of courtly love and chivalry is tested, and to the original story of the glove is added a new view of the lady's character; a sketch of her humbler and truer lover, and their happiness; and a pendent scene showing the courtier De Lorges, having won a beauty for his wife, in the ignominious position of assisting the king to enjoy her favors and of submitting to pleasantries upon his discomfiture. The original story as told by Poullain de St. Croix in his Essais Historiques sur Paris ran thus: "One day whilst Francis I amused himself with looking at a combat between his lions, a lady, having let her glove drop, said to De Lorges, 'If you would have me believe that you love me as much as you swear you do, go and bring back my glove.' De Lorges went down, picked up the glove from amidst the ferocious beasts, returned, and threw it in the lady's face; and in spite of all her advances and cajoleries would never look at her again.'' Schiller running across this anecdote of St. Croix, in 1797, as he writes Goethe, wrote a poem on it which adds nothing to the story. Leigh Hunt's 'The Glove and the Lions' adds some traits. It characterizes the lady as shallow and vain, with smiles and eyes which always seem'd the same.'' She calculates since "king, ladies, lovers, all look on," that "the occasion is divine" to drop her glove and "prove his love, then look at him and smile"; and after De Lorges has returned and thrown the glove, "but not with love, right in the lady's face,'' Hunt makes the king rise and swear "rightly done! No love, quoth he, but vanity, sets love a task like that!'' This is the material Browning worked on; he makes use of this speech of the king's, but remodels the lady's character wholly, and gives her an appreciative lover, and also a keen-eyed young poet to tell her story afresh and to reveal through his criticism the narrowness of the Court and the Court poets.

12. Naso: Ovid. Love of the classics and curiosity as to human nature were both characteristic of Peter Ronsard (1524-1585), at one time page to Francis I, the most erudite and original of French medieval poets.

45. Clement Marot: (1496-1544), Court poet to Francis I. His nature and verse were simpler than Ronsard's, and he belonged more peculiarly to his own day.

48. Versifies David: Marot was suspected of Protestant leanings which occasioned his imprisonment twice, and put him in need of the protection Francis and his sister gave him. Among his works were sixty-five epistles addressed to grandees, attesting his courtiership, and the paraphrase of forty-nine of the Psalms to which Ronsard alludes.

50. Illum Juda, etc.: that lion of the tribe of Judah.

89. Venienti, etc.: Meet the coming disease; that is, if evil be anticipated, don't wait till it seizes you, but dare to assure yourself and then forestall it as the lady did.

190. Theorbo: an old Italian stringed instrument such as pages used.


I've a Friend, over the sea; I like him, but he loves me. It all grew out of the books I write; They find such favour in his sight That he slaughters you with savage looks Because you don't admire my books. He does himself though,—and if some vein Were to snap tonight in this heavy brain, To-morrow month, if I lived to try, Round should I just turn quietly, 10 Or out of the bedclothes stretch my hand Till I found him, come from his foreign land To be my nurse in this poor place, And make my broth and wash my face And light my fire and, all the while, Bear with his old good-humoured smile That I told him "Better have kept away Than come and kill me, night and day, With, worse than fever throbs and shoots, The creaking of his clumsy boots." 20 I am as sure that this he would do, As that Saint Paul's is striking two. And I think I rather... woe is me! —Yes, rather would see him than not see, If lifting a hand could seat him there Before me in the empty chair To-night, when my head aches indeed, And I can neither think nor read Nor make these purple fingers hold The pen; this garret's freezing cold! 30

And I've a Lady—there he wakes, The laughing fiend and prince of snakes Within me, at her name, to pray Fate send some creature in the way Of my love for her, to be down-torn, Upthrust and outward-borne, So I might prove myself that sea Of passion which I needs must be! Call my thoughts false and my fancies quaint And my style infirm and its figures faint, 40 All the critics say, and more blame yet, And not one angry word you get. But, please you, wonder I would put My cheek beneath that lady's foot Rather than trample under mine That laurels of the Florentine, And you shall see how the devil spends A fire God gave for other ends! I tell you, I stride up and down This garret, crowned with love's best crown, 50 And feasted with love's perfect feast, To think I kill for her, at least, Body and soul and peace and fame, Alike youth's end and manhood's aim, —So is my spirit, as flesh with sin, Filled full, eaten out and in With the face of her, the eyes of her, The lips, the little chin, the stir Of shadow round her mouth; and she —I'll tell you,—calmly would decree 60 That I should roast at a slow fire,

If that would compass her desire And make her one whom they invite To the famous ball to-morrow night.

There may be heaven; there must be hell; Meantime, there is our earth here—well!

NOTES: "Time's Revenges." An author soliloquizes in his garret over the fact that he possesses a friend who loves him and would do anything in his power to serve him, but for whom he cares almost nothing. At the same time he himself loves a woman to such distraction that he counts himself crowned with love's best crown while sacrificing his soul, his body, his peace, and his fame in brooding on his love, while she could calmly decree that he should roast at a slow fire if it would compass her frivolously ambitious designs. Thus his indifference to his friend is avenged by the indifference the lady shows toward him.

46. The Florentine: Dante. Used here, seemingly, as a symbol of the highest attainments in poesy, his (the speaker's) reverence for which is so great that he would rather put his cheek under his lady's foot than that poetry should suffer any indignity at his hands; yet in spite of all the possibilities open to him through his enthusiasm for poetry, he prefers wasting his entire energies upon one unworthy of him.


That second time they hunted me From hill to plain, from shore to sea, And Austria, hounding far and wide Her blood-hounds thro' the country-side, 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 thro' the moss they love: 10 —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, 20 And much beside, two days; the third, Hunger overcame 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, 30 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. 40 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 came many thoughts: on me Rested the hopes of Italy. 50 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, 60 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. 70 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; 80 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 the daughter of our land!"

Three mornings more, she took her stand In the same place, with the same eyes: I was no surer of sun-rise 90 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 100 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 sea-shore; I left and never saw her more. 110

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, what shall now convince My inmost heart I have a friend? However, if I pleased to spend Real wishes on myself—say, three— I know at least what one should be. 120 I would grasp Metternich until I felt his red wet throat distil In blood thro' 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 130 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 140 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 150 If I sat 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 an hour about, Then kiss her hand once more, and lay Mine on her head, and go my way. 160

So much for idle wishing—how It steals the time! To business now.

NOTES: "The Italian in England." An Italian patriot who has taken part in an unsuccessful revolt against Austrian dominance, reflects upon the incidents of his escape and flight from Italy to the end that if he ever should have a thought beyond the welfare of Italy, he would wish first for the discomfiture of his enemies and then to go and see once more the noble woman who at the risk of her own life helped him to escape. Though there is no exact historical incident upon which this poem is founded, it has a historical background. The Charles referred to (lines 8, 11, 20, 116, 125) is Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano, of the younger branch of the house of Savoy. His having played with the patriot in his youth, as the poem says, is quite possible, for Charles was brought up as a simple citizen in a public school, and one of his chief friends was Alberta Nota, a writer of liberal principles, whom he made his secretary. As indicated in the poem, Charles at first declared himself in sympathy, though in a somewhat lukewarm manner, with the rising led by Santa Rosa against Austrian domination in 1823, and upon the abdication of Victor Emanuel he became regent of Turin. But when the king Charles Felix issued a denunciation against the new government, Charles Albert succumbed to the king's threats and left his friends in the lurch. Later the Austrians marched into the country, Santa Rosa was forced to retreat from Turin, and, with his friends, he who might well have been the very patriot of the poem was obliged to fly from Italy.

19. Metternich: the distinguished Austrian diplomatist and determined enemy of Italian independence.

76. Tenebrae: darkness. "The office of matins and lauds, for the three last days in Holy Week. Fifteen lighted candles are placed on a triangular stand, and at the conclusion of each psalm one is put out till a single candle is left at the top of the triangle. The extinction of the other candles is said to figure the growing darkness of the world at the time of the Crucifixion. The last candle (which is not extinguished, but hidden behind the altar for a few moments) represents Christ, over whom Death could not prevail.'' (Dr. Berdoe)


Piano di Sorrento

Fortu, Fortu, 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; 10 All the Plain saw me gather, I garland —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—speckled white Over brown like a great spider's back, As I told you last night— 20 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 rockside, Wherever could thrust Some burnt sprig of bold hardy rock-flower Its yellow face up, 30 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 thro' the twisted dead vine-twigs, Sole lattice that's known. 40 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, 50 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, 60 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 to-day not a boat reached Salerno, So back, to a man, 70 Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards Grape-harvest began. In the vat, halfway up in our houseside, 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 80 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 90 Tempted out by this first rainy weather,— Your best of regales, As to-night 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. 100 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, each smoother and whiter; Next, sip this weak wine 110 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 thro' 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, Tho' not yet half black! 120 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 130 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, or, rosy and wondrous, Those hairy gold orbs! 140 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 150 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, 160 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 lad Till, round after round, 170 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. 180 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) 190 —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 200 The Three, nor enable their sister To join them,—halfway On the voyage, she looked at Ulysses— No farther to-day, Tho' the small one, just launched in the wave, Watches breast-high and steady From under the rock, her bold sister Swum halfway already. Fortu, shall we sail there together And see from the sides 210 Quite new rocks show their faces, new haunts Where the siren abides? Shall we sail round and round them, close over The rocks, tho' 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, 220 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 230 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, 240 While the other, thro' locks of curled wire, Is watching how sleek Shines the hog, come to share in the windfall —Chew, 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. To-morrow's the Feast 250 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 pillar nor post but is dizened With red and blue papers; All the roof waves with ribbons, each altar A-blaze with long tapers; 260 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 270 Thro' the plain, while in gallant procession The priests mean to stomp. 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. 280 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 to-day And debate, if abolishing Corn-laws Be righteous and wise 290 —If 'twere proper, Scirocco should vanish In black from the skies!

NOTES: "The Italian in England." An Italian patriot who has taken part in an unsuccessful revolt against Austrian dominance, reflects upon the incidents of his escape and flight from Italy to the end that if he ever should have a thought beyond the welfare of Italy, he would wish first for the discomfiture of his enemies and then to go and see once more the noble woman who at the risk of her own life helped him to escape. Though there is no exact historical incident upon which this poem is founded, it has a historical background. The Charles referred to (lines 8, 11, 20, 116, 125) is Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano, of the younger branch of the house of Savoy. His having played with the patriot in his youth, as the poem says, is quite possible, for Charles was brought up as a simple citizen in a public school, and one of his chief friends was Alberta Nota, a writer of liberal principles, whom he made his secretary. As indicated in the poem, Charles at first declared himself in sympathy, though in a somewhat lukewarm manner, with the rising led by Santa Rosa against Austrian domination in 1823, and upon the abdication of Victor Emanuel he became regent of Turin. But when the king Charles Felix issued a denunciation against the new government, Charles Albert succumbed to the king's threats and left his friends in the lurch. Later the Austrians marched into the country, Santa Rosa was forced to retreat from Turin, and, with his friends, he who might well have been the very patriot of the poem was obliged to fly from Italy.

19. Metternich: the distinguished Austrian diplomatist and determined enemy of Italian independence.

76. Tenebrae: darkness. "The office of matins and lauds, for the three last days in Holy Week. Fifteen lighted candles are placed on a triangular stand, and at the conclusion of each psalm one is put out till a single candle is left at the top of the triangle. The extinction of the other candles is said to figure the growing darkness of the world at the time of the Crucifixion. The last candle (which is not extinguished, but hidden behind the altar for a few moments) represents Christ, over whom Death could not prevail.'' (Dr. Berdoe)


He sings.

I send my heart up to thee, all my heart In this my singing. For the stars help me, and the sea bears part; The very night is clinging Closer to Venice' streets to leave one space Above me, whence thy face May light my joyous heart to thee its dwelling-place.

She speaks.

Say after me, and try to say My very words, as if each word Came from you of your own accord, 10 In your own voice, in your own way: "This woman's heart and soul and brain Are mine as much as this gold chain She bids me wear, which (say again) I choose to make by cherishing A precious thing, or choose to fling Over the boat-side, ring by ring." And yet once more say... no word more! Since words are only words. Give o'er!

Unless you call me, all the same, 20 Familiarly by my pet name, Which if the Three should hear you call, And me reply to, would proclaim At once our secret to them all. Ask of me, too, command me, blame— Do, break down the partition-wall 'Twixt us, the daylight world beholds Curtained in dusk and splendid folds! What's left but—all of me to take? I am the Three's: prevent them, slake 30 Your thirst! 'Tis said, the Arab sage, In practising with gems, can loose Their subtle spirit in his cruce And leave but ashes: so, sweet mage, Leave them my ashes when thy use Sucks out my soul, thy heritage!

He sings.


Past we glide, and past, and past! What's that poor Agnese doing Where they make the shutters fast? Grey Zanobi's just a-wooing 40 To his couch the purchased bride: Past we glide!


Past we glide, and past, and past! Why's the Pucci Palace flaring Like a beacon to the blast? Guests by hundreds, not one caring If the dear host's neck were wried: Past we glide!

She sings.


The moth's kiss, first! Kiss me as if you made believe 50 You were not sure, this eve, How my face, your flower, had pursed Its petals up; so, here and there You brush it, till I grow aware Who wants me, and wide ope I burst..


The bee's kiss, now! Kiss me as if you entered gay My heart at some noonday, A bud that dares not disallow The claim, so all is rendered up, 60 And passively its shattered cup Over your head to sleep I bow.

He sings.


What are we two? I am a Jew, And carry thee, farther than friends can pursue, To a feast of our tribe; Where they need thee to bribe The devil that blasts them unless he imbibe. Thy... Scatter the vision for ever! And now As of old, I am I, thou art thou! 70


Say again, what we are? The sprite of a star, I lure thee above where the destinies bar My plumes their full play Till a ruddier ray Than my pale one announce there is withering away Some... Scatter the vision forever! And now, As of old, I am I, thou art thou!

He muses.

Oh, which were best, to roam or rest? The land's lap or the water's breast? 80 To sleep on yellow millet-sheaves, Or swim in lucid shallows just Eluding water-lily leaves, An inch from Death's black fingers, thrust To lock you, whom release he must; Which life were best on Summer eves?

He speaks, musing.

Lie back; could thought of mine improve you? From this shoulder let there spring A wing; from this, another wing; Wings, not legs and feet, shall move you! 90 Snow-white must they spring, to blend With your flesh, but I intend They shall deepen to the end, Broader, into burning gold, Till both wings crescent-wise enfold Your perfect self, from 'neath your feet To o'er your head, where, lo, they meet As if a million sword-blades hurled Defiance from you to the world!

Rescue me thou, the only real! 100 And scare away this mad ideal That came, nor motions to depart! Thanks! Now, stay ever as thou art!

Still he muses.


What if the Three should catch at last Thy serenader? While there's cast Paul's cloak about my head, and fast Gian pinions me, Himself has past His stylet thro' my back; I reel; And... is it thou I feel?


They trail me, these three godless knaves, 110 Past every church that saints and saves, Nor stop till, where the cold sea raves By Lido's wet accursed graves, They scoop mine, roll me to its brink, And... on thy breast I sink!

She replies, musing.

Dip your arm o'er the boat-side, elbow-deep, As I do: thus: were death so unlike sleep, Caught this way? Death's to fear from flame or steel, Or poison doubtless; but from water—feel! Go find the bottom! Would you stay me? There! 120 Now pluck a great blade of that ribbon-grass To plait in where the foolish jewel was, I flung away: since you have praised my hair, 'Tis proper to be choice in what I wear.

He speaks.

Row home? must we row home? Too surely Know I where its front's demurely Over the Giudecca piled; Window just with window mating, Door on door exactly waiting, All's the set face of a child: 130 But behind it, where's a trace Of the staidness and reserve, And formal lines without a curve, In the same child's playing-face? No two windows look one way O'er the small sea-water thread Below them. Ah, the autumn day I, passing, saw you overhead! First, out a cloud of curtain blew, Then a sweet cry, and last came you— 140 To catch your lory that must needs Escape just then, of all times then, To peck a tall plant's fleecy seeds, And make me happiest of men. I scarce could breathe to see you reach So far back o'er the balcony To catch him ere he climbed too high Above you in the Smyrna peach That quick the round smooth cord of gold, This coiled hair on your head, unrolled, 150 Fell down you like a gorgeous snake The Roman girls were wont, of old, When Rome there was, for coolness' sake To let lie curling o'er their bosoms. Dear lory, may his beak retain Ever its delicate rose stain As if the wounded lotus-blossoms Had marked their thief to know again!

Stay longer yet, for others' sake Than mine! What should your chamber do? 160 —With all its rarities that ache In silence while day lasts, but wake At night-time and their life renew, Suspended just to pleasure you Who brought against their will together These objects, and, while day lasts, weave Around them such a magic tether That dumb they look: your harp, believe, With all the sensitive tight strings Which dare not speak, now to itself 170 Breathes slumberously, as if some elf Went in and out the chords, his wings Make murmur wheresoe'er they graze, As an angel may, between the maze Of midnight palace-pillars, on And on, to sow God's plagues, have gone Through guilty glorious Babylon. And while such murmurs flow, the nymph Bends o'er the harp-top from her shell As the dry limpet for the nymph 180 Come with a tune he knows so well. And how your statues' hearts must swell! And how your pictures must descend To see each other, friend with friend! Oh, could you take them by surprise, You'd find Schidone's eager Duke Doing the quaintest courtesies To that prim saint by Haste-thee-Luke! And, deeper into her rock den, Bold Castelfranco's Magdalen 190 You'd find retreated from the ken Of that robed counsel-keeping Ser— As if the Tizian thinks of her, And is not, rather, gravely bent On seeing for himself what toys Are these, his progeny invent, What litter now the board employs Whereon he signed a document That got him murdered! Each enjoys Its night so well, you cannot break 200 The sport up, so, indeed must make More stay with me, for others' sake.

She speaks.


To-morrow, if a harp-string, say, Is used to tie the jasmine back That overfloods my room with sweets, Contrive your Zorzi somehow meets My Zanze! If the ribbon's black, The Three are watching: keep away!


Your gondola—let Zorzi wreathe A mesh of water weeds about 210 Its prow, as if he unaware Had struck some quay or bridge-foot stair! That I may throw a paper out As you and he go underneath. There's Zanze's vigilant taper; safe are we. Only one minute more to-night with me? Resume your past self of a month ago! Be you the bashful gallant, I will be The lady with the colder breast than snow. Now bow you, as becomes, nor touch my hand 220 More than I touch yours when I step to land, And say, "All thanks, Siora!"— Heart to heart And lips to lips! Yet once more, ere we part, Clasp me and make me thine, as mine thou art!

[He is surprised, and stabbed.

It was ordained to be so, sweet!—and best Comes now, beneath thine eyes, upon thy breast. Still kiss me! Care not for the cowards! Care Only to put aside thy beauteous hair My blood will hurt! The Three, I do not scorn To death, because they never lived: but I 230 Have lived indeed, and so—(yet one more kiss)—can die!

NOTES: "In a Gondola" is a lyric dialogue between two Venetian lovers who have stolen away in a gondola spite of "the three"—"Himself'," perhaps a husband, and "Paul" and "Gian," her brothers—whose vengeance discovers them at the end, but not before their love and danger have moved them to weave a series of lyrical fancies, and led them to a climax of emotion which makes Life so deep a joy that Death is of no account.

"The first stanza was written,'' writes Browning, "to illustrate Maclise's picture, for which he was anxious to get some line or two. I had not seen it, but from Forster's description, gave it to him in his room impromptu.... When I did see it I thought the serenade too jolly, somewhat, for the notion I got from Forster, and I took up the subject in my own way.''

113. Lido's... graves: Jewish tombs were there.

127. Giudecca: a canal of Venice.

155. Lory: a kind of parrot.

186. Schidone's eager Duke: an imaginary painting by Bartolommeo Schidone of Modena (1560-1616).

188. Haste-thee-Luke: the English form of the nickname, Luca-fa-presto, given Luca Giordano (1632-1705), a Neapolitan painter, on account of his constantly being goaded on in his work by his penurious and avaricious father.

190. Castelfranco: the Venetian painter, Giorgione, called Castelfranco, because born there, 1478, died 1511.

193. Tizian: (1477-1516). The pictures are all imaginary, but suggestive of the style of each of these artists.


[Mr. Alfred Domett, C.M.G., author of "Ranolf and Amohia," full of descriptions of New Zealand scenery.]


What's become of Waring Since he gave us all the slip, Chose land-travel or seafaring, Boots and chest or staff and scrip, Rather than pace up and down Any longer London town?


Who'd have guessed it from his lip Or his brow's accustomed bearing, On the night he thus took ship Or started landward?—little caring 10 For us, it seems, who supped together (Friends of his too, I remember) And walked home thro' the merry weather, The snowiest in all December. I left his arm that night myself For what's-his-name's, the new prose-poet Who wrote the book there, on the shelf— How, forsooth, was I to know it If Waring meant to glide away Like a ghost at break of day? 20 Never looked he half so gay!


He was prouder than the devil: How he must have cursed our revel! Ay and many other meetings, Indoor visits, outdoor greetings, As up and down he paced this London, With no work done, but great works undone, Where scarce twenty knew his name. Why not, then, have earlier spoken, Written, bustled? Who's to blame 30 If your silence kept unbroken? "True, but there were sundry jottings, Stray-leaves, fragments, blurs and blottings, Certain first steps were achieved Already which (is that your meaning?) Had well borne out whoe'er believed In more to come!" But who goes gleaning Hedgeside chance-glades, while full-sheaved Stand cornfields by him? Pride, o'erweening Pride alone, puts forth such claims 40 O'er the day's distinguished names.


Meantime, how much I loved him, I find out now I've lost him. I who cared not if I moved him, Who could so carelessly accost him, Henceforth never shall get free Of his ghostly company, His eyes that just a little wink As deep I go into the merit Of this and that distinguished spirit— 50 His cheeks' raised colour, soon to sink, As long I dwell on some stupendous And tremendous (Heaven defend us!) Monstr'-inform'-ingens-horrend-ous Demoniaco-seraphic Penman's latest piece of graphic. Nay, my very wrist grows warm With his dragging weight of arm. E'en so, swimmingly appears, Through one's after-supper musings, 60 Some lost lady of old years With her beauteous vain endeavour And goodness unrepaid as ever; The face, accustomed to refusings, We, puppies that we were... Oh never Surely, nice of conscience, scrupled Being aught like false, forsooth, to? Telling aught but honest truth to? What a sin, had we centupled Its possessor's grace and sweetness! 70 No! she heard in its completeness Truth, for truth's a weighty matter, And truth, at issue, we can't flatter! Well, 'tis done with; she's exempt From damning us thro' such a sally; And so she glides, as down a valley, Taking up with her contempt, Past our reach; and in, the flowers Shut her unregarded hours.


Oh, could I have him back once more, 80 This Waring, but one half-day more! Back, with the quiet face of yore, So hungry for acknowledgment Like mine! I'd fool him to his bent. Feed, should not he, to heart's content? I'd say, "to only have conceived, Planned your great works, apart from progress, Surpasses little works achieved!" I'd lie so, I should be believed. I'd make such havoc of the claims 90 Of the day's distinguished names To feast him with, as feasts an ogress Her feverish sharp-toothed gold-crowned child! Or as one feasts a creature rarely Captured here, unreconciled To capture; and completely gives Its pettish humours license, barely Requiring that it lives.


Ichabod, Ichabod, The glory is departed! 100 Travels Waring East away? Who, of knowledge, by hearsay, Reports a man upstarted Somewhere as a god, Hordes grown European-hearted, Millions of the wild made tame On a sudden at his fame? In Vishnu-land what Avatar? Or who in Moscow, toward the Czar, With the demurest of footfalls 110 Over the Kremlin's pavement bright With serpentine and syenite, Steps, with five other Generals That simultaneously take snuff, For each to have pretext enough And kerchiefwise unfold his sash Which, softness' self, is yet the stuff To hold fast where a steel chain snaps, And leave the grand white neck no gash? Waring in Moscow, to those rough 120 Cold northern natures born perhaps, Like the lamb-white maiden dear From the circle of mute kings Unable to repress the tear, Each as his sceptre down he flings, To Dian's fane at Taurica, Where now a captive priestess, she alway Mingles her tender grave Hellenic speech With theirs, tuned to the hailstone-beaten beach As pours some pigeon, from the myrrhy lands 130 Rapt by the whirlblast to fierce Scythian strands Where breed the swallows, her melodious cry Amid their barbarous twitter! In Russia? Never! Spain were fitter! Ay, most likely 'tis in Spain That we and Waring meet again Now, while he turns down that cool narrow lane Into the blackness, out of grave Madrid All fire and shine, abrupt as when there's slid Its stiff gold blazing pall 140 From some black coffin-lid. Or, best of all, I love to think The leaving us was just a feint; Back here to London did he slink, And now works on without a wink Of sleep, and we are on the brink Of something great in fresco-paint: Some garret's ceiling, walls and floor, Up and down and o'er and o'er 150 He splashes, as none splashed before Since great Caldara Polidore. Or Music means this land of ours Some favour yet, to pity won By Purcell from his Rosy Bowers— "Give me my so-long promised son, Let Waring end what I begun!" Then down he creeps and out he steals Only when the night conceals His face; in Kent 'tis cherry-time, 160 Or hops are picking: or at prime Of March he wanders as, too happy, Years ago when he was young, Some mild eve when woods grew sappy And the early moths had sprung To life from many a trembling sheath Woven the warm boughs beneath; While small birds said to themselves What should soon be actual song, And young gnats, by tens and twelves, 170 Made as if they were the throng That crowd around and carry aloft The sound they have nursed, so sweet and pure, Out of a myriad noises soft, Into a tone that can endure Amid the noise of a July noon When all God's creatures crave their boon, All at once and all in tune, And get it, happy as Waring then, Having first within his ken 180 What a man might do with men: And far too glad, in the even-glow, To mix with the world he meant to take Into his hand, he told you, so— And out of it his world to make, To contract and to expand As he shut or oped his hand. Oh Waring, what's to really be? A clear stage and a crowd to see! Some Garrick, say, out shall not he 190 The heart of Hamlet's mystery pluck? Or, where most unclean beasts are rife, Some Junius—am I right?—shall tuck His sleeve, and forth with flaying-knife! Some Chatterton shall have the luck Of calling Rowley into life! Some one shall somehow run a muck With this old world for want of strife Sound asleep. Contrive, contrive To rouse us, Waring! Who's alive? 200 Our men scarce seem in earnest now. Distinguished names!—but 'tis, somehow, As if they played at being names Still more distinguished, like the games Of children. Turn our sport to earnest With a visage of the sternest! Bring the real times back, confessed Still better than our very best!



"When I last saw Waring..." (How all turned to him who spoke! 210 You saw Waring? Truth or joke? In land-travel or sea-faring?)


"We were sailing by Triest Where a day or two we harboured: A sunset was in the West, When, looking over the vessel's side, One of our company espied A sudden speck to larboard. And as a sea-duck flies and swims At once, so came the light craft up, 220 With its sole lateen sail that trims And turns (the water round its rims Dancing, as round a sinking cup) And by us like a fish it curled, And drew itself up close beside, Its great sail on the instant furled, And o'er its thwarts a shrill voice cried, (A neck as bronzed as a Lascar's) 'Buy wine of us, you English Brig? Or fruit, tobacco and cigars? 230 A pilot for you to Triest? Without one, look you ne'er so big, They'll never let you up the bay! We natives should know best.' I turned, and 'just those fellows' way,' Our captain said, 'The 'long-shore thieves Are laughing at us in their sleeves.'


"In truth, the boy leaned laughing back; And one, half-hidden by his side Under the furled sail, soon I spied, 240 With great grass hat and kerchief black, Who looked up with his kingly throat, Said somewhat, while the other shook His hair back from his eyes to look Their longest at us; then the boat, I know not how, turned sharply round, Laying her whole side on the sea As a leaping fish does; from the lee Into the weather, cut somehow Her sparkling path beneath our bow 250 And so went off, as with a bound, Into the rosy and golden half O' the sky, to overtake the sun And reach the shore, like the sea-calf Its singing cave; yet I caught one Glance ere away the boat quite passed, And neither time nor toil could mar Those features: so I saw the last Of Waring!"—You? Oh, never star Was lost here but it rose afar! 260 Look East, where whole new thousands are! In Vishnu-land what Avatar?

NOTES: "Waring." In recounting the sudden disappearance from among his friends of a man proud and sensitive, who with fine powers of intellect yet incurred somewhat of disdain because of his failure to accomplish anything permanent, expression is given to the deep regret experienced by his friends now that he has left them, his absence having brought them to a truer realization of his worth. If only Waring would come back, the speaker, at least, would give him the sympathy and encouragement he craved instead of playing with his sensibilities as he had done. Conjectures are indulged in as to Waring's whereabouts. The speaker prefers to think of him as back in London preparing to astonish the world with some great masterpiece in art, music, or literature. Another speaker surprises all by telling how he had seen the "last of Waring" in a momentary meeting at Trieste, but the first speaker is certain that the star of Waring is destined to rise again above their horizon.

1. Waring: Alfred Domett (born at Camberwell Grove, Surrey, May 20, 1811), a friend of Browning's, distinguished as a poet and as a Colonial statesman and ruler. His first volume of poems was published in 1832. Some verses of his in Blackwood's, 1837, attracted much attention to him as a rising young poet. In 1841 he was called to the bar, and in 1841 went out to New Zealand among the earliest settlers. There he lived for thirty years, filling several important official positions. His unceremonious departure for New Zealand with no leave-takings was the occasion of Browning's poem, which is said by Mrs. Orr to give a lifelike sketch of Domett's character. His "star" did, however, rise again for his English friends, for he returned to London in 1871. The year following saw the publication of his "Ranolf and Amohia," a New Zealand poem, in the course of which he characterizes Browning as "Subtlest Asserter of the Soul in Song." He met Browning again in London, and was one of the vice-presidents of the London Browning Society. Died Nov.12, 1877.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse