From any prolonged study of Browning's poetry we become conscious of certain dominant qualities of style that may be thought of quite apart from his themes or message. That his style has the defect of its qualities has already been pointed out. Here we may appropriately indicate those qualities as positive elements of his power. His diction, rich alike in the most learned words and the most colloquial, is responsive to all demands. His power of phrasing runs the whole gamut from the most pellucid simplicity to the most triumphant originality. His figures of speech, drawn from all realms, are penetrating in quality, of startling aptness. Equally characteristic is his versification, varying as it does from passages of melodic smoothness and grace to lines as strident, broken, and harsh as the thought they dramatically reflect. In narration, whether in the brilliant rapidity and ease of a short poem like "Herve Riel" or in the sustained flow of a long story like that of Pompilia, we find unusual skill. In disquisition, in the presentation of complicated and elusive intellectual processes, there is a quite unmatched agility and dexterity. Probably no two forms of poetry contain more of Browning's most noteworthy work than the lyric, especially the reflective love lyric, and that form which is distinctively his own, the dramatic monologue. In his best poems in this last form he has no competitor. It is in the presentation of character through the medium of dramatic monologue that he most fully reveals the unerring precision of his analysis, his lightning glance into the heart of a mystery, the ease with which he tracks a motive or mood or thought to its last hiding place, and his consequent passion and fire of sympathy or scorn.
Finally, whether we consider Browning's style or subject matter or philosophy of life, we become growingly conscious of his force. The "clear Virgilian line" of Tennyson is the outcome of a nature instinctively aristocratic and aloof. Browning is out in the thick of the fight and almost vociferously demands a hearing. Whatever makes his thought clear, vivid, active, forcible, seems to him, however prosaic it may appear at first glance, proper poetic material. The immediate effect of his verse is the rousing of the mind to great issues. His tremendous sincerity results in a dispelling of mists, a stripping off of husks. His demand for the truth is a trumpet note of challenge to our doubt or fear or indifference. His penetrating study of human problems leads to an inevitable widening of the horizon of comprehension and sympathy on the part of his readers. And his courage and optimism constitute an inspiration and stimulus of an uncommonly virile sort.
It has been said that Browning is "not a poet, but a literature," and in work so vast and varied that it can be thus characterized there must be wide extremes of value. It is almost certain that portions of his work cannot live. They are too difficult, too unliterary. But in the portions where great thought finds adequate form, the product is a priceless gift and one not equaled by any other poet of his age.
[Footnote 1: The Century, December, 1881, Vol. XXIII, pp. 189-200.]
[Footnote 2: See the article by Mr. F. J. Furnivall in the Pall Mall Gazette for April, 1890.]
[Footnote 3: The first production of Pippa Passes was given in Copley Hall, Boston, in 1899, with an arrangement in six scenes by Miss Helen A. Clarke. The Return of the Druses was arranged and presented by Miss Charlotte Porter in 1902 and was a dramatic success. A Blot in the 'Scutcheon was brought out by Macready, with Phelps in the chief part and with Miss Helen Faucit as Mildred. It was played to crowded houses and received much applause. It was revived by Phelps at Sadler's Wells in 1848; and by the Browning Society in 1885 at St. George's Hall, London. In the winter of that year the play was given in Washington by Lawrence Barrett. It has also within a few years been admirably presented by Mrs. Lemoyne in New York and elsewhere. Colombe's Birthday, which was published in 1844, was not put upon the stage till 1853, when it was performed at the Haymarket Theater in London with Lady Martin (Helen Faucit) as Colombe. It was performed in Boston in 1854 and enthusiastically received. It was revived in 1885 with Miss Alma Murray as Colombe, when it was commented on as being "charming on the boards, clearer, more direct in action, more picturesque, more full of delicate surprises than one imagines it in print." It was also successfully produced at McVicker's Theater, Chicago, in November, 1894, with Miss Marlowe as Colombe.]
[Footnote 4: An interesting corroboration of Mrs. Browning's words is found in the fact that the 1868 edition of Browning's works, by Smith Elder and Co., was reprinted as Numbers 1-19 of the Official Guide of the Chicago and Alton R. R., and Monthly Reprint and Advertiser, edited by Mr. James Charlton. A copy is in the British Museum. The reprint appeared in 1872-1874. See Mrs. Orr's bibliography.]
[Footnote 5: A particularly interesting dramatic event was Mrs. Lemoyne's presentation of In a Balcony at Wallack's Theater, New York, in the autumn of 1900. Mrs. Lemoyne was the Queen, Otis Skinner was Norbet, and Eleanor Robson was Constance. See The Bookman, 12, 387.]
[Footnote 6: Mrs. Bronson has given a vivid picture of the Brownings at Asolo and at Venice in the Century Magazine for 1900 and 1902.]
[Footnote 7: See Miss E. M. Clark in Poet-Lore, Volume II. page 480 (1890).]
[Footnote 8: Poet-Lore, Volume II. page 246 (1890).]
The great number of books and articles on Browning and his work is shown by the Bibliography of Biography and Criticism prepared by John P. Anderson of the British Museum and printed in William Sharp's Life of Robert Browning. The selection to be given here can hardly more than suggest this large amount of material.
The 1888-9 edition of Browning's Works by Smith, Elder and Company incorporates Browning's last revisions and his own punctuation. The Macmillan edition in nine volumes in 1894 reproduces this text.
For biographical material important books are:
The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett 1845-1846, two volumes, 1902, Harper Brothers.
The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Edited with Biographical Additions by Frederic G. Kenyon. Macmillan, 1897. (Two volumes in one, 1899.)
The Life and Letters of Robert Browning by Mrs. A. Sutherland Orr in 1891. A new edition, revised and in part rewritten by Mr. Frederick G. Kenyon, was brought out by Houghton, Mifflin and Company in 1908. Mrs. Orr and Mr. Kenyon were both friends of Browning and could speak with authority on many details of his life.
Robert Browning, Personalia, by Edmund Gosse. Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1890. This book consists of a reprint of two articles, one from The Century Magazine on "The Early Career of Robert Browning," and one from The New Review entitled "Personal Impressions." These articles are of exceptional interest because Mr. Gosse lived near Mr. Browning at Warwick Crescent and they were on terms of close friendship. In Critical Kit-Kats, 1896, Mr. Gosse gives the story of Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Robert Browning. In Bookman Biographies, edited by W. Robertson Nicholl. Hodder and Stoughton, London. Many interesting illustrations.
The Century Magazine for 1900 and 1902 gives Mrs. Bronson's account of Browning at Asolo and at Venice.
For general handbooks see:
The Browning Cyclopaedia. Edward Berdoe, Macmillan, 1902. Elaborate analysis of each poem. Many textual notes. Interpretations often involved and far-fetched to the point of being untenable.
Handbook of Robert Browning's Works. Mrs. A. Sutherland Orr. First edition, 1885; sixth edition, 1891. Republished by Bell and Sons, London, 1902. Explanatory analysis of each poem. Edition of 1902 contains complete bibliography of Browning's works. Written at the request of the London Browning Society.
For criticism see, as books varying widely in point of view and scope, but each of distinct interest:
An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's Poetry. Hiram Corson. Boston, 1886.
An Introduction to the Study of Browning. Arthur Symons. London, Cassell and Company, 1886.
Life of Robert Browning. William Sharp. Walter Scott and Company, London, 1897.
The Poetry of Robert Browning. Stopford A. Brooke. Crowell and Company, 1902.
Robert Browning. G. K. Chesterton. Macmillan, 1903.
Robert Browning. C. H. Herford. Dodd, Mead and Company, 1905.
Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, by George Santayana, Scribners, 1900, contains an interesting presentation of Browning's work in a chapter entitled "The Poetry of Barbarism."
Browning Study Programmes by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke, Crowell and Company, 1900, is a series of studies on separate poems or on groups of poems. Often very suggestive and helpful. In Poet-Lore, edited by Miss Clarke and Miss Porter, are, passim, many other valuable studies and notes on Browning. The Camberwell edition of Browning's poems, edited by Miss Clarke and Miss Porter with excellent annotations, was published by Crowell and Company in 1898.
The London Browning Society's Papers and The Boston Browning Society's Papers contain much valuable material on separate poems or on various phases of Browning's life and work.
May 7, 1812. Robert Browning born in Camberwell, London. 1824. Incondita ready for publication. 1825. Shelley and Keats read. 1826. Left Mr. Ready's school. 1833. Pauline published anonymously. 1833-4. Travels in Russia and Italy. 1835. Paracelsus. 1837. Strafford. Acted May 1, 1837, Covent Garden. 1840. Sordello. 1841-6. Bells and Pomegranates. 1841. No. I. Pippa Passes. 1842. No. II. King Victor and King Charles. 1842. No. III. Dramatic Lyrics. 1843. No. IV. The Return of the Druses. 1843. No. V. A Blot in the 'Scutcheon. Acted Feb. 11, 1843, Drury Lane. 1844. No. VI. Colombe's Birthday. Acted April 25, 1853, Haymarket. 1845. No. VII. Dramatic Romances and Lyrics. 1846. No. VIII. Luria and A Soul's Tragedy. Jan. 10, 1845. Correspondence between Mr. Browning and Miss Barrett begun. May 20, 1845. Their first meeting. Sept. 12, 1846. Their marriage at Marylebone Church, London. Oct. 1846. to April, 1847. In Pisa. April 20, 1847. Arrival at Florence. May 1848. Settled in permanent home at Casa Guidi. 1849. Poems by Robert Browning. Two volumes. March 9, 1849. Birth of Wiedemann (or "Penini") Browning. March 1849. Death of Browning's mother. 1850. Christmas Eve and Easter Day. June 1851. Mrs. Browning's Casa Guidi Windows. 1852. Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. With an introductory essay by Robert Browning. 1855. Men and Women. In two volumes. Oct. 1856. Mrs. Browning's Aurora Leigh. June 1860. Browning found the "Yellow Book." June 29, 1861. Mrs. Browning died. She was buried in Florence. July 1861. Browning left Florence. 1862. Established himself at 19 Warwick Crescent, London, where he lived twenty-five years. 1863. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. In three volumes. Chapman and Hall. 1863. Selections from the Poetical Works of Robert Browning. [Editors, B.W. Proctor and John Forster.] 1864. Dramatis Personae. 1866. Browning's father died and Sarianna came to live with her brother. 1868. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. In six volumes. Smith, Elder and Company. 1868-9. The Ring and the Book. In four volumes. 1871. Balaustion's Adventure. 1871. Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society. 1872. Fifine at the Fair. 1873. Red Cotton Night-Cap Country. 1875. Aristophanes' Apology. 1875. The Inn Album. July 1876. Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper. 1877. The Agamemnon of AEschylus translated. 1878. La Saisiaz; The Two Poets of Croisic. Aug. 1878. Browning first revisited Italy. 1879. Dramatic Idyls. 1880. Dramatic Idyls. Second Series. 1881. The London Browning Society established. 1883. Jocoseria. 1884. Ferishtah's Fancies. 1887. Browning moved to De Vere Gardens. 1887. Poetic and Dramatic Works of Robert Browning. Riverside edition: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. 1888-9. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. In sixteen volumes. Smith, Elder and Company. [All the works collected by the author except Asolando.] Dec. 12, 1889. Asolando. Dec. 12, 1889. Robert Browning died in the Palazzo Rezzonica, his son's home in Venice. Dec. 31, 1889. Buried in Westminster Abbey.
POEMS AND PLAYS
SONGS FROM PARACELSUS
"HEAP CASSIA, SANDAL-BUDS, AND STRIPES"
Heap cassia, sandal-buds, and stripes Of labdanum, and aloe-balls, Smeared with dull nard an Indian wipes From out her hair; such balsam falls Down sea-side mountain pedestals, 5 From tree-tops where tired winds are fain, Spent with the vast and howling main, To treasure half their island-gain.
And strew faint sweetness from some old Egyptian's fine worm-eaten shroud 10 Which breaks to dust when once unrolled; Or shredded perfume, like a cloud From closet long to quiet vowed, With mothed and dropping arras hung, Moldering her lute and books among, 15 As when a queen, long dead, was young.
"OVER THE SEA OUR GALLEYS WENT"
Over the sea our galleys went With cleaving prows in order brave To a speeding wind and a bounding wave— A gallant armament; 20 Each bark built out of a forest-tree Left leafy and rough as first it grew, And nailed all over the gaping sides, Within and without, with black bull-hides, Seethed in fat and suppled in flame, 25 To bear the playful billows' game. So each good ship was rude to see, Rude and bare to the outward view, But each upbore a stately tent Where cedar pales in scented row 30 Kept out the flakes of the dancing brine, And an awning drooped the mast below, In fold on fold of the purple fine, That neither noontide nor starshine Nor moonlight cold which maketh mad, 35 Might pierce the regal tenement. When the sun dawned, oh, gay and glad We set the sail and plied the oar; But when the night-wind blew like breath, For joy of one day's voyage more, 40 We sang together on the wide sea, Like men at peace on a peaceful shore; Each sail was loosed to the wind so free, Each helm made sure by the twilight star, And in a sleep as calm as death, 45 We, the voyagers from afar, Lay stretched along, each weary crew In a circle round its wondrous tent Whence gleamed soft light and curled rich scent, And with light and perfume, music too. 50 So the stars wheeled round, and the darkness passed, And at morn we started beside the mast, And still each ship was sailing fast.
Now one morn land appeared—a speck Dim trembling betwixt sea and sky. 55 "Avoid it," cried our pilot, "check The shout, restrain the eager eye!" But the heaving sea was black behind For many a night and many a day, And land, though but a rock, drew nigh; 60 So we broke the cedar pales away, Let the purple awning flap in the wind, And a statue bright was on every deck! We shouted, every man of us, And steered right into the harbor thus, 65 With pomp and paean glorious.
A hundred shapes of lucid stone! All day we built its shrine for each, A shrine of rock for everyone, Nor paused till in the westering sun 70 We sat together on the beach To sing because our task was done. When lo! what shouts and merry songs! What laughter all the distance stirs! A loaded raft with happy throngs 75 Of gentle islanders! "Our isles are just at hand," they cried, "Like cloudlets faint in even sleeping; Our temple-gates are opened wide, Our olive-groves thick shade are keeping 80 For these majestic forms"—they cried. Oh, then we awoke with sudden start From our deep dream, and knew, too late, How bare the rock, how desolate, Which had received our precious freight. 85 Yet we called out—"Depart! Our gifts once given must here abide. Our work is done; we have no heart To mar our work"—we cried.
"THUS THE MAYNE GLIDETH"
Thus the Mayne glideth 90 Where my Love abideth. Sleep's no softer; it proceeds On through lawns, on through meads, On and on, whate'er befall, Meandering and musical, 95 Though the niggard pasturage Bears not on its shaven ledge Aught but weeds and waving grasses To view the river as it passes, Save here and there a scanty patch 100 Of primroses too faint to catch A weary bee. And scarce it pushes Its gentle way through strangling rushes Where the glossy kingfisher Flutters when noon-heats are near, 105 Glad the shelving banks to shun, Red and steaming in the sun, Where the shrew-mouse with pale throat Burrows, and the speckled stoat; Where the quick sandpipers flit 110 In and out the marl and grit That seems to breed them, brown as they. Naught disturbs its quiet way, Save some lazy stork that springs, Trailing it with legs and wings, 115 Whom the shy fox from the hill Rouses, creep he ne'er so still.
Kentish Sir Byng stood for his King, Bidding the crop-headed Parliament swing; And, pressing a troop unable to stoop And see the rogues nourish and honest folk droop, Marched them along, fifty-score strong, 5 Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song:
God for King Charles! Pym and such carles To the Devil that prompts 'em their treasonous parles! Cavaliers, up! Lips from the cup, Hands from the pasty, nor bite take nor sup. 10 Till you're— CHORUS.—Marching along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
Hampden to hell, and his obsequies' knell Serve Hazelrig, Fiennes, and young Harry as well! 15 England, good cheer! Rupert is near! Kentish and loyalists, keep we not here, CHORUS.—Marching along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song?
Then, God for King Charles! Pym and his snarls 20 To the Devil that pricks on such pestilent carles! Hold by the right, you double your might; So, onward to Nottingham, fresh for the fight. CHORUS.—March we along, fifty-score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song!
GIVE A ROUSE
King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? Give a rouse; here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles!
Who gave me the goods that went since? 5 Who raised me the house that sank once? Who helped me to gold I spent since? Who found me in wine you drank once? CHORUS.— King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? 10 Give a rouse; here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles!
To whom used my boy George quaff else, By the old fool's side that begot him? For whom did he cheer and laugh else, 15 While Noll's damned troopers shot him? CHORUS.— King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? Give a rouse; here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles! 20
BOOT AND SADDLE
Boot, saddle, to horse, and away! Rescue my castle before the hot day Brightens to blue from its silvery gray, CHORUS.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!
Ride past the suburbs, asleep as you'd say; 5 Many's the friend there, will listen and pray "God's luck to gallants that strike up the lay— CHORUS.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
Forty miles off, like a roebuck at bay, Flouts Castle Brancepeth the Roundheads' array; 10 Who laughs, "Good fellows ere this, by my fay, CHORUS.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
Who? My wife Gertrude; that, honest and gay, Laughs when you talk of surrendering, "Nay! I've better counselors; what counsel they? 15 CHORUS.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
THE LOST LEADER
Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a riband to stick in his coat— Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us, Lost all the others she lets us devote; They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver, 5 So much was theirs who so little allowed; How all our copper had gone for his service! Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud! We that had loved him so, followed him, honored him, Lived in his mild and magnificent eye, 10 Learned his great language, caught his clear accents, Made him our pattern to live and to die! Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us, Burns, Shelley, were with us—they watch from their graves! He alone breaks from the van and the freemen, 15 —He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves! We shall march prospering—not through his presence; Songs may inspirit us—not from his lyre; Deeds will be done—while he boasts his quiescence, Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire. 20 Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more, One task more declined, one more footpath untrod, One more devils'-triumph and sorrow for angels, One wrong more to man, one more insult to God! Life's night begins; let him never come back to us! 25 There would be doubt, hesitation and pain, Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight, Never glad confident morning again! Best fight on well, for we taught him—strike gallantly, Menace our heart ere we master his own; 30 Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us, Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!
"HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM GHENT TO AIX"
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he; I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three; "Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gatebolts undrew; "Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through; Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest, 5 And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place; I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight, Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right, 10 Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit, Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear; At Boom a great yellow star came out to see; 15 At Dueffeld 'twas morning as plain as could be; And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime, So Joris broke silence with, "Yet there is time!"
At Aershot up leaped of a sudden the sun, And against him the cattle stood black every one, 20 To stare through the mist at us galloping past, And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last, With resolute shoulders, each butting away The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray;
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back 25 For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track; And one eye's black intelligence—ever that glance O'er its white edge at me, his own master, askance! And the thick, heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on. 30
By Hasselt Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "Stay spur! Your Roos galloped bravely—the fault's not in her; We'll remember at Aix"—for one heard the quick wheeze Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees, And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank, 35 As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank. So we were left galloping, Joris and I, Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky; The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh, 'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff; 40 Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white, And "Gallop," gasped Joris, "for Aix is in sight!"
"How they'll greet us!"—and all in a moment his roan Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone; And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight 45 Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate, With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim, And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.
Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall, Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all, 50 Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear, Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer; Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good, Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is—friends flocking round 55 As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground; And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine, As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine, Which (the burgesses voted by common consent) Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent. 60
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, 5 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 of the gravel-walk She went while her robe's edge brushed the box; 10 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; 15 But yonder, see, where the rock-plants lie!
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. 20 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, 25 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, 30 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 forever! Bud, if I kiss you 'tis that you blow not; 35 Mind, the shut pink month 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? 40
Where I find her not, beauties vanish; Whither I follow her, 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, 45 Treasure my lady's lightest footfall! —Ah, you may flout and turn up your faces— Roses, you are not so fair after all!
MEETING AT NIGHT
The gray sea and the long black land; And the yellow half-moon large and low; And the startled little waves that leap In fiery ringlets from their sleep, As I gain the cove with pushing prow, 5 And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach; Three fields to cross till a farm appears; A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch And blue spurt of a lighted match, 10 And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears, Than the two hearts beating each to each!
PARTING AT MORNING
Round the cape of a sudden came the sea, And the sun looked over the mountain's rim; And straight was a path of gold for him, And the need of a world of men for me.
Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead! Sit and watch by her side an hour. That is her book-shelf, this her bed; She plucked that piece of geranium-flower, Beginning to die too, in the glass; 5 Little has yet been changed, I think; The shutters are shut, no light may pass Save two long rays through the hinge's chink.
Sixteen years old when she died! Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name; 10 It was not her time to love; beside, Her life had many a hope and aim, Duties enough and little cares, And now was quiet, now astir, Till God's hand beckoned unawares— 15 And the sweet white brow is all of her.
Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope? What, your soul was pure and true, The good stars met in your horoscope, Made you of spirit, fire, and dew— 20 And just because I was thrice as old And our paths in the world diverged so wide, Each was naught to each, must I be told? We were fellow mortals, naught beside?
No, indeed! for God above 25 Is great to grant, as mighty to make, And creates the love to reward the love; I claim you still, for my own love's sake! Delayed it may be for more lives yet, Through worlds I shall traverse, not a few; 30 Much is to learn, much to forget Ere the time be come for taking you.
But the time will come—at last it will, When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shall say) In the lower earth, in the years long still, 35 That body and soul so pure and gay? Why your hair was amber, I shall divine, And your mouth of your own geranium's red— And what you would do with me, in fine, In the new life come in the old one's stead. 40
I have lived (I shall say) so much since then, Given up myself so many times, Gained me the gains of various men, Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes; Yet one thing, one, in my soul's full scope, 45 Either I missed or itself missed me; And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope! What is the issue? let us see!
I loved you, Evelyn, all the while! My heart seemed full as it could hold; 50 There was place and to spare for the frank young smile, And the red young mouth, and the hair's young gold. So, hush—I will give you this leaf to keep; See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand! There, that is our secret; go to sleep! 55 You will wake, and remember, and understand.
LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
Where the quiet-colored end of evening smiles, Miles and miles On the solitary pastures where our sheep Half-asleep Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray or stop 5 As they crop— Was the site once of a city great and gay (So they say) Of our country's very capital, its prince Ages since 10 Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far Peace or war.
Now—the country does not even boast a tree, As you see, To distinguish slopes of verdure; certain rills 15 From the hills Intersect and give a name to (else they run Into one) Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires Up like fires 20 O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall Bounding all, Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed, Twelve abreast.
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass 25 Never was! Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads And embeds Every vestige of the city, guessed alone, Stock or stone— 30 Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe Long ago; Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame Struck them tame; And that glory and that shame alike, the gold 35 Bought and sold.
Now—the single little turret that remains On the plains, By the caper overrooted, by the gourd Overscored, 40 While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks Through the chinks— Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time Sprang sublime, And a burning ring, all around, the chariots traced 45 As they raced, And the monarch and his minions and his dames Viewed the games.
And I know, while thus the quiet-colored eve Smiles to leave 50 To their folding all our many-tinkling fleece In such peace, And the slopes and rills in undistinguished gray Melt away— That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair 55 Waits me there In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul For the goal, When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb Till I come. 60
But he looked upon the city, every side, Far and wide, All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades' Colonnades, All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts—and then, 65 All the men! When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand, Either hand On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace Of my face, 70 Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech Each on each.
In one year they sent a million fighters forth South and North, And they built their gods a brazen pillar high 75 As the sky, Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force— Gold, of course. O heart! O blood that freezes, blood that burns! Earth's returns 80 For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin! Shut them in, With their triumphs and their glories and the rest! Love is best.
UP AT A VILLA—DOWN IN THE CITY
(AS DISTINGUISHED BY AN ITALIAN PERSON OF QUALITY)
Had I but plenty of money, money enough and to spare, The house for me, no doubt, were a house in the city-square; Ah, such a life, such a life, as one leads at the window there!
Something to see, by Bacchus, something to hear, at least! There, the whole day long, one's life is a perfect feast; 5 While up at a villa one lives, I maintain it, no more than a beast.
Well now, look at our villa! stuck like the horn of a bull Just on a mountain-edge as bare as the creature's skull, Save a mere shag of a bush with hardly a leaf to pull! —I scratch my own, sometimes, to see if the hair's turned 10 wool.
But the city, oh, the city—the square with the houses! Why? They are stone-faced, white as a curd, there's something to take the eye! Houses in four straight lines, not a single front awry; You watch who crosses and gossips, who saunters, who hurries by; Green blinds, as a matter of course, to draw when the sun gets 15 high; And the shops with fanciful signs which are painted properly.
What of a villa? Though winter be over in March by rights, 'Tis May perhaps ere the snow shall have withered well off the heights: You've the brown plowed land before, where the oxen steam and wheeze, And the hills over-smoked behind by the faint gray 20 olive-trees.
Is it better in May, I ask you? You've summer all at once; In a day he leaps complete with a few strong April suns. 'Mid the sharp short emerald wheat, scarce risen three fingers well, The wild tulip, at end of its tube, blows out its great red bell Like a thin clear bubble of blood, for the children to pick 25 and sell.
Is it ever hot in the square? There's a fountain to spout and splash! In the shade it sings and springs; in the shine such foam-bows flash On the horses with curling fish-tails, that prance and paddle and pash Round the lady atop in her conch—fifty gazers do not abash, Though all that she wears is some weeds round her waist in a 30 sort of sash.
All the year long at the villa, nothing to see though you linger, Except yon cypress that points like death's lean lifted forefinger. Some think fireflies pretty when they mix i' the corn and mingle, Or thrid the stinking hemp till the stalks of it seem a-tingle. Late August or early September, the stunning cicala is 35 shrill, And the bees keep their tiresome whine round the resinous firs on the hill. Enough of the seasons—I spare you the months of the fever and chill.
Ere you open your eyes in the city, the blessed church-bells begin; No sooner the bells leave off than the diligence rattles in; You get the pick of the news, and it costs you never a pin. 40 By and by there's the traveling doctor gives pills, lets blood, draws teeth; Or the Pulcinello-trumpet breaks up the market beneath. At the post office such a scene-picture—the new play, piping hot! And a notice how, only this morning, three liberal thieves were shot. Above it, behold the Archbishop's most fatherly of rebukes, 45 And beneath, with his crown and his lion, some little new law of the Duke's! Or a sonnet with flowery marge, to the Reverend Don So-and-so, Who is Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Saint Jerome, and Cicero; "And, moreover" (the sonnet goes rhyming), "the skirts of Saint Paul has reached, Having preached us those six Lent-lectures more unctuous than 50 ever he preached." Noon strikes—here sweeps the procession! our Lady borne smiling and smart With a pink gauze gown all spangles, and seven swords stuck in her heart! Bang-whang-whang goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife; No keeping one's haunches still; it's the greatest pleasure in life.
But bless you, it's dear—it's dear! fowls, wine, at double 55 the rate. They have clapped a new tax upon salt, and what oil pays passing the gate It's a horror to think of. And so the villa for me, not the city! Beggars can scarcely be choosers; but still—ah, the pity, the pity! Look, two and two go the priests, then the monks with cowls and sandals, And the penitents dressed in white shirts, a-holding the 60 yellow candles; One, he carries a flag up straight, and another a cross with handles, And the Duke's guard brings up the rear, for the better prevention of scandals; Bang-whang-whang goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife. Oh, a day in the city-square, there is no such pleasure in life!
A TOCCATA OF GALUPPI'S
O Galuppi, Baldassare, this is very sad to find! I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove me deaf and blind; But although I take your meaning, 'tis with such a heavy mind!
Here you come with your old music, and here's all the good it brings. What, they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were 5 the kings, Where Saint Mark's is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?
Aye, because the sea's the street there; and 'tis arched by ... what you call Shylock's bridge with houses on it, where they kept the carnival; I was never out of England—it's as if I saw it all.
Did young people take their pleasure when the sea was warm in 10 May? Balls and masks begun at midnight, burning ever to mid-day, When they made up fresh adventures for the morrow, do you say?
Was a lady such a lady, cheeks so round and lips so red— On her neck the small face buoyant, like a bell-flower on its bed, O'er the breast's superb abundance where a man might base his 15 head?
Well, and it was graceful of them—they'd break talk off and afford —She, to bite her mask's black velvet—he, to finger on his sword, While you sat and played Toccatas, stately at the clavichord?
What? Those lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh, Told them something? Those suspensions, those solutions—"Must 20 we die?" Those commiserating sevenths—"Life might last! we can but try!"
"Were you happy?"—"Yes."—"And are you still as happy?"—"Yes. And you?" —"Then, more kisses!"—"Did I stop them, when a million seemed so few?" Hark, the dominant's persistence till it must be answered to!
So an octave struck the answer. Oh, they praised you, I dare 25 say! "Brave Galuppi! that was music! good alike at grave and gay! I can always leave off talking when I hear a master play!"
Then they left you for their pleasure; till in due time, one by one, Some with lives that came to nothing, some with deeds as well undone, Death stepped tacitly and took them where they never see the 30 sun.
But when I sit down to reason, think to take my stand nor swerve, While I triumph o'er a secret wrung from nature's close reserve, In you come with your cold music till I creep through every nerve.
Yes, you, like a ghostly cricket, creaking where a house was burned: "Dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what Venice 35 earned. The soul, doubtless, is immortal—where a soul can be discerned.
"Yours for instance; you know physics, something of geology, Mathematics are your pastime; souls shall rise in their degree; Butterflies may dread extinction—you'll not die, it cannot be!
"As for Venice and her people, merely born to bloom and drop, 40 Here on earth they bore their fruitage, mirth and folly were the crop; What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?
"Dust and ashes!" So you creak it, and I want the heart to scold. Dear dead women, with such hair, too—what's become of all the gold Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown 45 old.
OLD PICTURES IN FLORENCE
The morn when first it thunders in March, The eel in the pond gives a leap, they say; As I leaned and looked over the aloed arch Of the villa-gate this warm March day, No flash snapped, no dumb thunder rolled 5 In the valley beneath where, white and wide And washed by the morning water-gold, Florence lay out on the mountain-side.
River and bridge and street and square Lay mine, as much at my beck and call, 10 Through the live translucent bath of air, As the sights in a magic crystal ball. And of all I saw and of all I praised, The most to praise and the best to see Was the startling bell-tower Giotto raised; 15 But why did it more than startle me?
Giotto, how, with that soul of yours, Could you play me false who loved you so? Some slights if a certain heart endures Yet it feels, I would have your fellows know! 20 I' faith, I perceive not why I should care To break a silence that suits them best, But the thing grows somewhat hard to bear When I find a Giotto join the rest.
On the arch where olives overhead 25 Print the blue sky with twig and leaf (That sharp-curled leaf which they never shed) 'Twixt the aloes, I used to lean in chief, And mark through the winter afternoons, By a gift God grants me now and then, 30 In the mild decline of those suns like moons, Who walked in Florence, besides her men.
They might chirp and chaffer, come and go For pleasure or profit, her men alive— My business was hardly with them, I trow, 35 But with empty cells of the human hive— With the chapter-room, the cloister-porch, The church's apsis, aisle, or nave, Its crypt, one fingers along with a torch, Its face set full for the sun to shave. 40
Wherever a fresco peels and drops, Wherever an outline weakens and wanes Till the latest life in the painting stops, Stands One whom each fainter pulse-tick pains; One, wishful each scrap should clutch the brick, 45 Each tinge not wholly escape the plaster, —A lion who dies of an ass's kick, The wronged great soul of an ancient Master.
For oh, this world and the wrong it does! They are safe in heaven with their backs to it, 50 The Michaels and Rafaels, you hum and buzz Round the works of, you of the little wit! Do their eyes contract to the earth's old scope, Now that they see God face to face, And have all attained to be poets, I hope? 55 'Tis their holiday now, in any case.
Much they reck of your praise and you! But the wronged great souls—can they be quit Of a world where their work is all to do, Where you style them, you of the little wit, 60 Old Master This and Early the Other, Not dreaming that Old and New are fellows: A younger succeeds to an elder brother, Da Vincis derive in good time from Dellos.
And here where your praise might yield returns, 65 And a handsome word or two give help, Here, after your kind, the mastiff girns And the puppy pack of poodles yelp. What, not a word for Stefano there, Of brow once prominent and starry, 70 Called Nature's Ape and the world's despair For his peerless painting? (See Vasari.)
There stands the Master. Study, my friends, What a man's work comes to! So he plans it, Performs it, perfects it, makes amends 75 For the toiling and moiling, and then, sic transit! Happier the thrifty blind-folk labor, With upturned eye while the hand is busy, Not sidling a glance at the coin of their neighbor! 'Tis looking downward that makes one dizzy. 80
"If you knew their work you would deal your dole." May I take upon me to instruct you? When Greek Art ran and reached the goal, Thus much had the world to boast in fructu— The Truth of Man, as by God first spoken, 85 Which the actual generations garble, Was re-uttered, and Soul (which Limbs betoken) And Limbs (Soul informs) made new in marble.
So you saw yourself as you wished you were, As you might have been, as you cannot be; 90 Earth here, rebuked by Olympus there: And grew content in your poor degree With your little power, by those statues' godhead, And your little scope, by their eyes' full sway, And your little grace, by their grace embodied, 95 And your little date, by their forms that stay.
You would fain be kinglier, say, than I am? Even so, you will not sit like Theseus. You would prove a model? The Son of Priam Has yet the advantage in arms' and knees' use. 100 You're wroth—can you slay your snake like Apollo? You're grieved—still Niobe's the grander! You live—there's the Racers' frieze to follow: You die—there's the dying Alexander.
So, testing your weakness by their strength, 105 Your meager charms by their rounded beauty, Measured by Art in your breadth and length, You learned—to submit is a mortal's duty. —When I say "you" 'tis the common soul, The collective, I mean—the race of Man 110 That receives life in parts to live in a whole, And grow here according to God's clear plan.
Growth came when, looking your last on them all, You turned your eyes inwardly one fine day And cried with a start—What if we so small 115 Be greater and grander the while than they? Are they perfect of lineament, perfect of stature? In both, of such lower types are we Precisely because of our wider nature; For time, theirs—ours, for eternity. 120
Today's brief passion limits their range; It seethes with the morrow for us and more. They are perfect—how else? they shall never change; We are faulty—why not? we have time in store. The Artificer's hand is not arrested 125 With us; we are rough-hewn, nowise polished; They stand for our copy, and, once invested With all they can teach, we shall see them abolished.
'Tis a life-long toil till our lump be leaven— The better! What's come to perfection perishes. 130 Things learned on earth we shall practice in heaven: Works done least rapidly, Art most cherishes. Thyself shalt afford the example, Giotto! Thy one work, not to decrease or diminish, Done at a stroke, was just (was it not?) "O!" 135 Thy great Campanile is still to finish.
Is it true that we are now, and shall be hereafter, But what and where depend on life's minute? Hails heavenly cheer or infernal laughter Our first step out of the gulf or in it? 140 Shall Man, such step within his endeavor, Man's face, have no more play and action Than joy which is crystallized forever, Or grief, an eternal petrifaction?
On which I conclude, that the early painters, 145 To cries of "Greek Art and what more wish you?"— Replied, "To become now self-acquainters, And paint man, man, whatever the issue! Make new hopes shine through the flesh they fray, New fears aggrandize the rags and tatters: 150 To bring the invisible full into play! Let the visible go to the dogs—what matters?"
Give these, I exhort you, their guerdon and glory For daring so much, before they well did it. The first of the new, in our race's story, 155 Beats the last of the old; 'tis no idle quiddit. The worthies began a revolution, Which if on earth you intend to acknowledge, Why, honor them now! (ends my allocution) Nor confer your degree when the folk leave college. 160
There's a fancy some lean to and others hate— That, when this life is ended, begins New work for the soul in another state, Where it strives and gets weary, loses and wins: Where the strong and the weak, this world's congeries, 165 Repeat in large what they practiced in small, Through life after life in unlimited series; Only the scale's to be changed, that's all.
Yet I hardly know. When a soul has seen By the means of Evil that Good is best, 170 And, through earth and its noise, what is heaven's serene— When our faith in the same has stood the test— Why, the child grown man, you burn the rod, The uses of labor are surely done; There remaineth a rest for the people of God; 175 And I have had troubles enough, for one.
But at any rate I have loved the season Of Art's spring-birth so dim and dewy; My sculptor is Nicolo the Pisan, My painter—who but Cimabue? 180 Nor ever was a man of them all indeed, From these to Ghiberti and Ghirlandajo, Could say that he missed my critic-meed. So, now to my special grievance—heigh-ho!
Their ghosts still stand, as I said before, 185 Watching each fresco flaked and rasped, Blocked up, knocked out, or whitewashed o'er: —No getting again what the church has grasped! The works on the wall must take their chance; "Works never conceded to England's thick clime!" 190 (I hope they prefer their inheritance Of a bucketful of Italian quicklime.)
When they go at length, with such a shaking Of heads o'er the old delusion, sadly Each master his way through the black streets taking, 195 Where many a lost work breathes though badly— Why don't they bethink them of who has merited? Why not reveal while their pictures dree Such doom, how a captive might be out-ferreted? Why is it they never remember me? 200
Not that I expect the great Bigordi, Nor Sandro to hear me, chivalric, bellicose; Nor the wronged Lippino; and not a word I Say of a scrap of Fra Angelico's; But are you too fine, Taddeo Gaddi, 205 To grant me a taste of your intonaco, Some Jerome that seeks the heaven with a sad eye? Not a churlish saint, Lorenzo Monaco?
Could not the ghost with the close red cap, My Pollajolo, the twice a craftsman, 210 Save me a sample, give me the hap Of a muscular Christ that shows the draftsman? No Virgin by him the somewhat petty, Of finical touch and tempera crumbly— Could not Alesso Baldovinetti 215 Contribute so much, I ask him humbly?
Margheritone of Arezzo, With the grave-clothes garb and swaddling barret (Why purse up mouth and beak in a pet so, You bald old saturnine poll-clawed parrot?) 220 Not a poor glimmering Crucifixion, Where in the foreground kneels the donor? If such remain, as is my conviction, The hoarding it does you but little honor.
They pass; for them the panels may thrill, 225 The tempera grow alive and tinglish; Their pictures are left to the mercies still Of dealers and stealers, Jews and the English, Who, seeing mere money's worth in their prize, Will sell it to somebody calm as Zeno 230 At naked High Art, and in ecstasies Before some clay-cold vile Carlino!
No matter for these! But Giotto, you, Have you allowed, as the town-tongues babble it— Oh, never! it shall not be counted true— 235 That a certain precious little tablet Which Buonarroti eyed like a lover— Was buried so long in oblivion's womb And, left for another than I to discover, Turns up at last! and to whom?—to whom? 240
I, that have haunted the dim San Spirito, (Or was it rather the Ognissanti?) Patient on altar-step planting a weary toe! Nay, I shall have it yet! Detur amanti! My Koh-i-noor—or (if that's a platitude) 245 Jewel of Giamschid, the Persian Sofi's eye; So, in anticipative gratitude, What if I take up my hope and prophesy?
When the hour grows ripe, and a certain dotard Is pitched, no parcel that needs invoicing, 250 To the worse side of the Mont Saint Gothard, We shall begin by way of rejoicing; None of that shooting the sky (blank cartridge), Nor a civic guard, all plumes and lacquer, Hunting Radetzky's soul like a partridge 255 Over Morello with squib and cracker.
This time we'll shoot better game and bag 'em hot— No mere display at the stone of Dante, But a kind of sober Witanagemot (Ex: "Casa Guidi," quod videas ante) 260 Shall ponder, once Freedom restored to Florence, How Art may return that departed with her. Go, hated house, go each trace of the Loraine's, And bring us the days of Orgagna hither!
How we shall prologuize, how we shall perorate, 265 Utter fit things upon art and history, Feel truth at blood-heat and falsehood at zero rate, Make of the want of the age no mystery; Contrast the fructuous and sterile eras, Show—monarchy ever its uncouth cub licks 270 Out of the bear's shape into Chimaera's, While Pure Art's birth is still the republic's.
Then one shall propose in a speech (curt Tuscan, Expurgate and sober, with scarcely an "issimo,") To end now our half-told tale of Cambuscan, 275 And turn the bell-tower's alt to altissimo: And find as the beak of a young beccaccia The Campanile, the Duomo's fit ally, Shall soar up in gold full fifty braccia, Completing Florence, as Florence, Italy. 280
Shall I be alive that morning the scaffold Is broken away, and the long-pent fire, Like the golden hope of the world, unbaffled Springs from its sleep, and up goes the spire While "God and the People" plain for its motto, 285 Thence the new tricolor flaps at the sky? At least to foresee that glory of Giotto And Florence together, the first am I!
Your ghost will walk, you lover of trees, (If our loves remain) In an English lane, By a cornfield-side a-flutter with poppies. Hark, those two in the hazel coppice— 5 A boy and a girl, if the good fates please, Making love, say— The happier they! Draw yourself up from the light of the moon, And let them pass, as they will too soon, 10 With the bean-flowers' boon, And the blackbird's tune, And May, and June!
What I love best in all the world Is a castle, precipice-encurled, 15 In a gash of the wind-grieved Apennine. Or look for me, old fellow of mine, (If I get my head from out the mouth O' the grave, and loose my spirit's bands, And come again to the land of lands)— 20 In a sea-side house to the farther South, Where the baked cicala dies of drouth, And one sharp tree—'tis a cypress—stands, By the many hundred years red-rusted, Rough iron-spiked, ripe fruit-o'ercrusted, 25 My sentinel to guard the sands To the water's edge. For, what expands Before the house, but the great opaque Blue breadth of sea without a break? While, in the house, forever crumbles 30 Some fragment of the frescoed walls, From blisters where a scorpion sprawls. A girl bare-footed brings, and tumbles Down on the pavement, green-flesh melons, And says there's news today—the king 35 Was shot at, touched in the liver-wing, Goes with his Bourbon arm a sling: —She hopes they have not caught the felons. Italy, my Italy! Queen Mary's saying serves for me— 40 (When fortune's malice Lost her—Calais)— Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, "Italy." Such lovers old are I and she: 45 So it always was, so shall ever be!
HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM ABROAD
Oh, to be in England Now that April's there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf 5 Round the elm-tree hole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England—now!
And after April, when May follows, And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows! 10 Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge Leans to the field and scatters on the clover Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge— That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture 15 The first fine careless rapture! And though the fields look rough with hoary dew, All will be gay when noontide wakes anew The buttercups, the little children's dower —Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower! 20
HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM THE SEA
Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the Northwest died away; Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay; Bluish 'mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay; In the dimmest Northeast distance dawned Gibraltar grand and gray; "Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?"—say, 5 Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray, While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
Said Abner, "At last thou art come! Ere I tell, ere thou speak, Kiss my cheek, wish me well!" Then I wished it, and did kiss his cheek. And he, "Since the King, O my friend, for thy countenance sent, Neither drunken nor eaten have we; nor until from his tent Thou return with the joyful assurance the King liveth yet, 5 Shall our lip with the honey be bright, with the water be wet. For out of the black mid-tent's silence, a space of three days, Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants, of prayer nor of praise, To betoken that Saul and the Spirit have ended their strife, And that, faint in his triumph, the monarch sinks back upon 10 life.
"Yet now my heart leaps, O beloved! God's child with his dew On thy gracious gold hair, and those lilies still living and blue Just broken to twine round thy harp-strings, as if no wild heat Were now raging to torture the desert!"
Then I, as was meet, Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose on my feet, 15 And ran o'er the sand burnt to powder. The tent was unlooped; I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and under I stooped; Hands and knees on the slippery grass-patch, all withered and gone, That extends to the second enclosure, I groped my way on Till I felt where the foldskirts fly open. Then once more I 20 prayed, And opened the foldskirts and entered, and was not afraid But spoke, "Here is David, thy servant!" And no voice replied. At the first I saw naught but the blackness; but soon I descried A something more black than the blackness—the vast, the upright Main prop which sustains the pavilion; and slow into sight 25 Grew a figure against it, gigantic and blackest of all. Then a sunbeam, that burst through the tent-roof, showed Saul.
He stood as erect as that tent-prop, both arms stretched out wide On the great cross-support in the center, that goes to each side; He relaxed not a muscle, but hung there as, caught in his 30 pangs And waiting his change, the king-serpent all heavily hangs, Far away from his kind, in the pine, till deliverance come With the springtime—so agonized Saul, drear and stark, blind and dumb.
Then I tuned my harp—took off the lilies we twine round its chords Lest they snap 'neath the stress of the noontide—those 35 sunbeams like swords! And I first played the tune all our sheep know as, one after one, So docile they come to the pen-door till folding be done. They are white and untorn by the bushes, for lo, they have fed Where the long grasses stifle the water within the stream's bed; And now one after one seeks its lodging, as star follows star 40 Into eve and the blue far above us—so blue and so far!
—Then the tune for which quails on the cornland will each leave his mate To fly after the player; then, what makes the crickets elate Till for boldness they fight one another; and then, what has weight To set the quick jerboa a-musing outside his sand house— 45 There are none such as he for a wonder, half bird and half mouse! God made all the creatures and gave them our love and our fear, To give sign, we and they are his children, one family here.
Then I played the help-tune of our reapers, their wine-song, when hand Grasps at hand, eye lights eye in good friendship, and great 50 hearts expand And grow one in the sense of this world's life.—And then, the last song When the dead man is praised on his journey—"Bear, bear him along, With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets! Are balm seeds not here To console us? The land has none left such as he on the bier. Oh, would we might keep thee, my brother!"—And then, the glad 55 chaunt Of the marriage—first go the young maidens, next, she whom we vaunt As the beauty, the pride of our dwelling.—And then, the great march Wherein man runs to man to assist him and buttress an arch Naught can break; who shall harm them, our friends?—Then, the chorus intoned As the Levites go up to the altar in glory enthroned. 60 But I stopped here; for here in the darkness Saul groaned.
And I paused, held my breath in such silence, and listened apart; And the tent shook, for mighty Saul shuddered; and sparkles 'gan dart From the jewels that woke in his turban, at once with a start, All its lordly male-sapphires, and rubies courageous at 65 heart. So the head; but the body still moved not, still hung there erect. And I bent once again to my playing, pursued it unchecked, As I sang:
"Oh, our manhood's prime vigor! No spirit feels waste, Not a muscle is stopped in its playing nor sinew unbraced. 70 Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock, The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver shock Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt of the bear, And the sultriness showing the lion is couched in his lair. And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with gold dust 75 divine, And the locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, the full draft of wine, And the sleep in the dried river-channel where bulrushes tell That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well. How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy! 80 Hast thou loved the white locks of thy father, whose sword thou didst guard When he trusted thee forth with the armies, for glorious reward? Didst thou see the thin hands of thy mother, held up as men sung The low song of the nearly-departed, and hear her faint tongue Joining in while it could to the witness, 'Let one more 85 attest, I have lived, seen God's hand through a lifetime, and all was for best'? Then they sung through their tears in strong triumph, not much, but the rest. And thy brothers, the help and the contest, the working whence grew Such result as, from seething grape-bundles, the spirit strained true; And the friends of thy boyhood—that boyhood of wonder and 90 hope, Present promise and wealth of the future beyond the eye's scope— Till lo, thou art grown to a monarch; a people is thine; And all gifts, which the world offers singly, on one head combine! On one head, all the beauty and strength, love and rage (like the throe That, a-work in the rock, helps its labor and lets the gold 95 go) High ambition and deeds which surpass it, fame crowning them—all Brought to blaze on the head of one creature—King Saul!"
And lo, with that leap of my spirit—heart, hand, harp, and voice, Each lifting Saul's name out of sorrow, each bidding rejoice Saul's fame in the light it was made for—as when, dare I 100 say, The Lord's army, in rapture of service, strains through its array, And upsoareth the cherubim-chariot—"Saul!" cried I, and stopped, And waited the thing that should follow. Then Saul, who hung propped By the tent's cross-support in the center, was struck by his name. Have ye seen when Spring's arrowy summons goes right to the 105 aim, And some mountain, the last to withstand her, that held (he alone, While the vale laughed in freedom and flowers) on a broad bust of stone A year's snow bound about for a breastplate—leaves grasp of the sheet? Fold on fold all at once it crowds thunderously down to his feet, And there fronts you, stark, black, but alive yet, your 110 mountain of old, With his rents, the successive bequeathings of ages untold— Yea, each harm got in fighting your battles, each furrow and scar Of his head thrust 'twixt you and the tempest—all hail, there they are! —Now again to be softened with verdure, again hold the nest Of the dove, tempt the goat and its young to the green on his 115 crest For their food in the ardors of summer. One long shudder thrilled All the tent till the very air tingled, then sank and was stilled At the King's self left standing before me, released and aware. What was gone, what remained? All to traverse, 'twixt hope and despair; Death was past, life not come: so he waited. Awhile his 120 right hand Held the brow, held the eyes left too vacant forthwith to remand To their place what new objects should enter: 'twas Saul as before. I looked up and dared gaze at those eyes, nor was hurt any more Than by slow pallid sunsets in autumn, ye watch from the shore, At their sad level gaze o'er the ocean—a sun's slow decline 125 Over hills which, resolved in stern silence, o'erlap and entwine Base with base to knit strength more intensely: so, arm folded arm O'er the chest whose slow heavings subsided.
What spell or what charm, (For, awhile there was trouble within me) what next should I urge To sustain him where song had restored him?—Song filled to 130 the verge His cup with the wine of this life, pressing all that it yields Of mere fruitage, the strength and the beauty; beyond, on what fields, Glean a vintage more potent and perfect to brighten the eye And bring blood to the lip, and commend them the cup they put by? He saith, "It is good"; still he drinks not; he lets me 135 praise life, Gives assent, yet would die for his own part.
Then fancies grew rife Which had come long ago on the pasture, when round me the sheep Fed in silence—above, the one eagle wheeled slow as in sleep; And I lay in my hollow and mused on the world that might lie 'Neath his ken, though I saw but the strip 'twixt the hill 140 and the sky; And I laughed—"Since my days are ordained to be passed with my flocks, Let me people at least, with my fancies, the plains and the rocks, Dream the life I am never to mix with, and image the show Of mankind as they live in those fashions I hardly shall know! Schemes of life, its best rules and right uses, the courage 145 that gains, And the prudence that keeps what men strive for." And now these old trains Of vague thought came again; I grew surer; so, once more the string Of my harp made response to my spirit, as thus—
"Yea, my King," I began—"thou dost well in rejecting mere comforts that spring From the mere mortal life held in common by man and by 150 brute: In our flesh grows the branch of this life, in our soul it bears fruit. Thou hast marked the slow rise of the tree—how its stem trembled first Till it passed the kid's lip, the stag's antler; then safely outburst The fan-branches all round; and thou mindest when these too, in turn Broke a-bloom and the palm-tree seemed perfect; yet more was 155 to learn, E'en the good that comes in with the palm-fruit. Our dates shall we slight, When their juice brings a cure for all sorrow? or care for the plight Of the palm's self whose slow growth produced them? Not so! stem and branch Shall decay, nor be known in their place, while the palm-wine shall stanch Every wound of man's spirit in winter. I pour thee such 160 wine. Leave the flesh to the fate it was fit for! the spirit be thine! By the spirit, when age shall o'ercome thee, thou still shalt enjoy More indeed, than at first when inconscious, the life of a boy. Crush that life, and behold its wine running! Each deed thou hast done Dies, revives, goes to work in the world; until e'en as the 165 sun Looking down on the earth, though clouds spoil him, though tempests efface, Can find nothing his own deed produced not, must everywhere trace The results of his past summer-prime—so, each ray of thy will, Every flash of thy passion and prowess, long over, shall thrill Thy whole people, the countless, with ardor, till they too 170 give forth A like cheer to their sons, who in turn, fill the South and the North With the radiance thy deed was the germ of. Carouse in the past! But the license of age has its limit; thou diest at last; As the lion when age dims his eyeball, the rose at her height, So with man—so his power and his beauty forever take 175 flight. No! Again a long draft of my soul-wine! Look forth o'er the years! Thou hast done now with eyes for the actual; begin with the seer's! Is Saul dead? In the depth of the vale make his tomb—bid arise A gray mountain of marble heaped four-square, till, built to the skies, Let it mark where the great First King slumbers; whose fame 180 would ye know? Up above see the rock's naked face, where the record shall go In great characters cut by the scribe—Such was Saul, so he did; With the sages directing the work, by the populace chid— For not half, they'll affirm, is comprised there! Which fault to amend, In the grove with his kind grows the cedar, whereon they 185 shall spend (See, in tablets 'tis level before them) their praise, and record With the gold of the graver, Saul's story—the statesman's great word Side by side with the poet's sweet comment. The river's a-wave With smooth paper-reeds grazing each other when prophet-winds rave: So the pen gives unborn generations their due and their part 190 In thy being! Then, first of the mighty, thank God that thou art!"
And behold while I sang ... but O Thou who didst grant me that day, And before it not seldom hast granted thy help to essay, Carry on and complete an adventure—my shield and my sword In that act where my soul was thy servant, thy word was my 195 word— Still be with me, who then at the summit of human endeavor And scaling the highest, man's thought could, gazed hopeless as ever On the new stretch of heaven above me—till, mighty to save, Just one lift of thy hand cleared that distance—God's throne from man's grave! Let me tell out my tale to its evening—my voice to my heart 200 Which can scarce dare believe in what marvels last night I took part, As this morning I gather the fragments, alone with my sheep, And still fear lest the terrible glory evanish like sleep! For I wake in the gray dewy covert, while Hebron upheaves The dawn struggling with night on his shoulder, and Kidron 205 retrieves Slow the damage of yesterday's sunshine.
I say then—my song While I sang thus, assuring the monarch, and ever more strong Made a proffer of good to console him—he slowly resumed His old motions and habitudes kingly. The right hand replumed His black locks to their wonted composure, adjusted the 210 swathes Of his turban, and see—the huge sweat that his countenance bathes, He wipes off with the robe; and he girds now his loins as of yore, And feels slow for the armlets of price, with the clasp set before. He is Saul, ye remember in glory—ere error had bent The broad brow from the daily communion; and still, though 215 much spent Be the life and the bearing that front you, the same, God did choose To receive what a man may waste, desecrate, never quite lose. So sank he along by the tent-prop till, stayed by the pile Of his armor and war-cloak and garments, he leaned there awhile, And sat out my singing—one arm round the tent-prop, to 220 raise His bent head, and the other hung slack—till I touched on the praise I foresaw from all men in all time, to the man patient there; And thus ended, the harp falling forward. Then first I was 'ware That he sat, as I say, with my head just above his vast knees Which were thrust out on each side around me, like oak-roots 225 which please To encircle a lamb when it slumbers. I looked up to know If the best I could do had brought solace; he spoke not, but slow Lifted up the hand slack at his side, till he laid it with care Soft and grave, but in mild settled will, on my brow; through my hair The large fingers were pushed, and he bent back my head, 230 with kind power— All my face back, intent to peruse it, as men do a flower. Thus held he me there with his great eyes that scrutinized mine—And oh, all my heart how it loved him! but where was the sign? I yearned—"Could I help thee, my father, inventing a bliss, I would add, to that life of the past, both the future and 235 this; I would give thee new life altogether, as good, ages hence, As this moment—had love but the warrant, love's heart to dispense!"
Then the truth came upon me. No harp more—no song more! outbroke—
"I have gone the whole round of creation; I saw and I spoke; I, a work of God's hand for that purpose, received in my 240 brain And pronounced on the rest of his handwork—returned him again His creation's approval or censure; I spoke as I saw; I report, as a man may of God's work—all's love, yet all's law. Now I lay down the judgeship he lent me. Each faculty tasked To perceive him, has gained an abyss, where a dewdrop was 245 asked. Have I knowledge? confounded it shrivels at Wisdom laid bare. Have I forethought? how purblind, how blank, to the Infinite Care! Do I task any faculty highest, to image success? I but open my eyes—and perfection, no more and no less, In the kind I imagined, full-fronts me, and God is seen God 250 In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the soul and the clod. And thus looking within and around me, I ever renew (With that stoop of the soul which in bending upraises it too) The submission of man's nothing-perfect to God's all-complete, As by each new obeisance in spirit, I climb to his feet. 255 Yet with all this abounding experience, this deity known, I shall dare to discover some province, some gift of my own. There's a faculty pleasant to exercise, hard to hoodwink, I am fain to keep still in abeyance (I laugh as I think), Lest, insisting to claim and parade in it, wot ye, I worst 260 E'en the Giver in one gift.—Behold, I could love if I durst! But I sink the pretension as fearing a man may o'ertake God's own speed in the one way of love; I abstain for love's sake. —What, my soul? see thus far and no farther? when doors great and small, Nine-and-ninety flew ope at our touch, should the hundredth 265 appall? In the least things have faith, yet distrust in the greatest of all? Do I find love so full in my nature, God's ultimate gift, That I doubt his own love can compete with it? Here, the parts shift? Here, the creature surpass the Creator—the end what Began? Would I fain in my impotent yearning do all for this man, 270 And dare doubt he alone shall not help him, who yet alone can? Would it ever have entered my mind, the bare will, much less power, To bestow on this Saul what I sang of, the marvelous dower Of the life he was gifted and filled with? to make such a soul, Such a body, and then such an earth for insphering the 275 whole? And doth it not enter my mind (as my warm tears attest) These good things being given, to go on, and give one more, the best? Aye, to save and redeem and restore him, maintain at the height This perfection—succeed with life's day-spring, death's minute of night? Interpose at the difficult minute, snatch Saul the mistake, 280 Saul the failure, the ruin he seems now—and bid him awake From the dream, the probation, the prelude, to find himself set Clear and safe in new light and new life—a new harmony yet To be run, and continued, and ended—who knows?—or endure! The man taught enough, by life's dream, of the rest to make 285 sure; By the pain-throb, triumphantly winning intensified bliss, And the next world's reward and repose, by the struggles in this.
"I believe it! 'Tis thou, God, that givest, 'tis I who receive: In the first is the last, in thy will is my power to believe. All's one gift; thou canst grant it moreover, as prompt to 290 my prayer As I breathe out this breath, as I open these arms to the air. From thy will, stream the worlds, life and nature, thy dread Sabaoth: I will?—the mere atoms despise me! Why am I not loath To look that, even that in the face too? Why is it I dare Think but lightly of such impuissance? What stops my 295 despair? This;—'tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do! See the King—I would help him but cannot, the wishes fall through. Could I wrestle to raise him from sorrow, grow poor to enrich, To fill up his life, starve my own out, I would—knowing which, I know that my service is perfect. Oh, speak through me now! 300 Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst thou—so wilt thou! So shall crown thee the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost crown— And thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave up nor down One spot for the creature to stand in! It is by no breath, Turn of eye, wave of hand, that salvation joins issue with 305 death! As thy Love is discovered almighty, almighty be proved Thy power, that exists with and for it, of being Beloved! He who did most, shall bear most; the strongest shall stand the most weak. 'Tis the weakness in strength, that I cry for! my flesh, that I seek In the Godhead! I seek and I find it. O Saul, it shall be 310 A Face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me, Thou shalt love and be loved by, forever: a Hand like this hand Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee! See the Christ stand!"
I know not too well how I found my way home in the night. There were witnesses, cohorts about me, to left and to 315 right, Angels, powers, the unuttered, unseen, the alive, the aware; I repressed, I got through them as hardly, as strugglingly there, As a runner beset by the populace famished for news— Life or death. The whole earth was awakened, hell loosed with her crews; And the stars of night beat with emotion, and tingled and 320 shot Out in fire the strong pain of pent knowledge; but I fainted not, For the Hand still impelled me at once and supported, suppressed All the tumult, and quenched it with quiet, and holy behest, Till the rapture was shut in itself, and the earth sank to rest. Anon at the dawn, all that trouble had withered from earth— 325 Not so much, but I saw it die out in the day's tender birth; In the gathered intensity brought to the gray of the hills; In the shuddering forests' held breath; in the sudden wind-thrills; In the startled wild beasts that bore off, each with eye sidling still Though averted with wonder and dread; in the birds stiff and 330 chill That rose heavily, as I approached them, made stupid with awe: E'en the serpent that slid away silent—he felt the new law. The same stared in the white humid faces upturned by the flowers; The same worked in the heart of the cedar and moved the vine-bowers: And the little brooks witnessing murmured, persistent and 335 low, With their obstinate, all but hushed voices—"E'en so, it is so!"
All that I know Of a certain star Is, it can throw (Like the angled spar) Now a dart of red, 5 Now a dart of blue; Till my friends have said They would fain see, too, My star that dartles the red and the blue! Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled: 10 They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it. What matter to me if their star is a world? Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.
TWO IN THE CAMPAGNA
I wonder do you feel today As I have felt since, hand in hand, We sat down on the grass, to stray In spirit better through the land, This morn of Rome and May? 5
For me, I touched a thought, I know, Has tantalized me many times, (Like turns of thread the spiders throw Mocking across our path) for rhymes To catch at and let go. 10
Help me to hold it! First it left The yellowing fennel, run to seed There, branching from the brickwork's cleft, Some old tomb's ruin; yonder weed Took up the floating weft, 15
Where one small orange cup amassed Five beetles—blind and green they grope Among the honey-meal; and last, Everywhere on the grassy slope I traced it. Hold it fast! 20
The champaign with its endless fleece Of feathery grasses everywhere! Silence and passion, joy and peace, An everlasting wash of air— Rome's ghost since her decease. 25
Such life here, through such lengths of hours, Such miracles performed in play, Such primal naked forms of flowers, Such letting nature have her way While heaven looks from its towers! 30
How say you? Let us, O my dove, Let us be unashamed of soul, As earth lies bare to heaven above! How is it under our control To love or not to love? 35
I would that you were all to me, You that are just so much, no more, Nor yours nor mine, nor slave nor free! Where does the fault lie? What the core O' the wound, since wound must be? 40
I would I could adopt your will, See with your eyes, and set my heart Beating by yours, and drink my fill At your soul's springs—your part my part In life, for good and ill. 45
No. I yearn upward, touch you close, Then stand away. I kiss your cheek, Catch your soul's warmth—I pluck the rose And love it more than tongue can speak— Then the good minute goes. 50
Already how am I so far Out of that minute? Must I go Still like the thistle-ball, no bar, Onward, whenever light winds blow, Fixed by no friendly star? 55
Just when I seemed about to learn! Where is the thread now? Off again! The old trick! Only I discern— Infinite passion, and the pain Of finite hearts that yearn. 60
IN THREE DAYS
So, I shall see her in three days And just one night, but nights are short, Then two long hours, and that is morn. See how I come, unchanged, unworn! Feel, where my life broke off from thine, 5 How fresh the splinters keep and fine— Only a touch and we combine!
Too long, this time of year, the days! But nights, at least the nights are short. As night shows where her one moon is, 10 A hand's-breadth of pure light and bliss, So life's night gives my lady birth And my eyes hold her! What is worth The rest of heaven, the rest of earth?
O loaded curls, release your store 15 Of warmth and scent, as once before The tingling hair did, lights and darks Outbreaking into fairy sparks, When under curl and curl I pried After the warmth and scent inside, 20 Through lights and darks how manifold— The dark inspired, the light controlled! As early Art embrowns the gold.
What great fear, should one say, "Three days That change the world might change as well 25 Your fortune; and if joy delays, Be happy that no worse befell!" What small fear, if another says, "Three days and one short night beside May throw no shadow on your ways; 30 But years must teem with change untried, With chance not easily defied, With an end somewhere undescried." No fear!—or if a fear be born This minute, it dies out in scorn. 35 Fear? I shall see her in three days And one night, now the nights are short, Then just two hours, and that is morn.
A PICTURE AT FANO
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 5 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 10 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 15 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 20 Me, as thy lamb there, with thy garment's spread?
If this was ever granted, I would rest My head beneath thine, while thy healing hands Close-covered both my eyes beside thy breast, Pressing the brain, which too much thought expands, 25 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 30 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? 35
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 40 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 45 —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)—
And since he did not work thus earnestly 50 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? 55 This is Ancona, yonder is the sea.
Ah, did you once see Shelley plain, And did he stop and speak to you, And did you speak to him again? How strange it seems and new!
But you were living before that, 5 And also you are living after; And the memory I started at— My starting moves your laughter!
I crossed a moor, with a name of its own And a certain use in the world no doubt, 10 Yet a hand's-breadth of it shines alone 'Mid the blank miles round about:
For there I picked up on the heather, And there I put inside my breast A molted feather, an eagle-feather! 15 Well, I forget the rest.
INCIDENT OF THE FRENCH CAMP
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, 5 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 15 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 25 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 35 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
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: Fra Pandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will't please you sit and look at her? I said 5 "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 15 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 favor at her breast, 25 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 35 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 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; 45 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 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, 55 Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
THE BOY AND THE ANGEL
Morning, evening, noon, and night, "Praise God!" sang Theocrite.
Then to his poor trade he turned, Whereby the daily meal was earned.
Hard he labored, long and well; 5 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 today Were praising God, the Pope's great way.
"This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome 15 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, 25 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, 35 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 45 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, 55 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, 65 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; 75 A new Pope dwelt in Peter's dome.
One vanished as the other died; They sought God side by side.
THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN;
A CHILD'S STORY
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick, By famous Hanover city; The river Weser, deep and wide, Washes its wall on the southern side; A pleasanter spot you never spied; 5 But when begins my ditty, Almost five hundred years ago, To see the townsfolk suffer so From vermin was a pity.
Rats! 10 They fought the dogs and killed the cats, And bit the babies in the cradles, And ate the cheeses out of the vats, And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles, Split open the kegs of salted sprats, 15 Made nests inside men's Sunday hats, And even spoiled the women's chats By drowning their speaking With shrieking and squeaking In fifty different sharps and flats. 20
At last the people in a body To the Town Hall came flocking: "'Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy; And as for our Corporation—shocking To think we buy gowns lined with ermine 25 For dolts that can't or won't determine What's best to rid us of our vermin! You hope, because you're old and obese, To find in the furry civic robe ease? Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking 30 To find the remedy we're lacking, Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!" At this the Mayor and Corporation Quaked with a mighty consternation.
An hour they sat in council; 35 At length the Mayor broke silence: "For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell, I wish I were a mile hence! It's easy to bid one rack one's brain— I'm sure my poor head aches again, 40 I've scratched it so, and all in vain. Oh, for a trap, a trap, a trap!" Just as he said this, what should hap At the chamber door but a gentle tap? "Bless us," cried the Mayor, "what's that?" 45 (With the Corporation as he sat, Looking little though wondrous fat; Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister Than a too-long-opened oyster, Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous 50 For a plate of turtle green and glutinous) "Only a scraping of shoes on the mat? Anything like the sound of a rat Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"