Selections from the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning
by Robert Browning
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"Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger— 55 And in did come the strangest figure! His queer long coat from heel to head Was half of yellow and half of red, And he himself was tall and thin, With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin, 60 And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin, No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin, But lips where smiles went out and in; There was no guessing his kith and kin; And nobody could enough admire 65 The tall man and his quaint attire. Quoth one: "It's as my great-grandsire, Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone, Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"


He advanced to the council-table: 70 And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able, By means of a secret charm, to draw All creatures living beneath the sun, That creep or swim or fly or run, After me so as you never saw! 75 And I chiefly use my charm On creatures that do people harm, The mole and toad and newt and viper; And people call me the Pied Piper." (And here they noticed round his neck 80 A scarf of red and yellow stripe, To match with his coat of the self-same check; And at the scarf's end hung a pipe; And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying As if impatient to be playing 85 Upon this pipe, as low it dangled Over his vesture so old-fangled.) "Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am, In Tartary I freed the Cham, Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats; 90 I eased in Asia the Nizam Of a monstrous brood of vampire-bats: And as for what your brain bewilders, If I can rid your town of rats Will you give me a thousand guilders?" 95 "One? fifty thousand!"—was the exclamation Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.


Into the street the Piper stepped, Smiling first a little smile, As if he knew what magic slept 100 In his quiet pipe the while; Then, like a musical adept, To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled, And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled, Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled; 105 And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered, You heard as if an army muttered; And the muttering grew to a grumbling; And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling; And out of the houses the rats came tumbling. 110 Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats, Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats, Grave old plodders, gay young friskers, Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins, Cocking tails and pricking whiskers, 115 Families by tens and dozens, Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives— Followed the Piper for their lives. From street to street he piped advancing, And step for step they followed dancing, 120 Until they came to the river Weser, Wherein all plunged and perished! —Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar, Swam across and lived to carry (As he, the manuscript he cherished) 125 To Rat-land home his commentary: Which was, "At the first shrill notes of the pipe, I heard a sound as of scraping tripe, And putting apples, wondrous ripe, Into a cider-press's gripe: 130 And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards, And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards, And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks, And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks: And it seemed as if a voice 135 (Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery Is breathed) called out, 'O rats, rejoice! The world is grown to one vast drysaltery! So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon, Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!' 140 And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon, All ready staved, like a great sun shone Glorious scarce an inch before me, Just as methought it said, 'Come, bore me!' —I found the Weser rolling o'er me." 145


You should have heard the Hamelin people Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple. "Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles, Poke out the nests and block up the holes! Consult with carpenters and builders, 150 And leave in our town not even a trace Of the rats!"—when suddenly, up the face Of the Piper perked in the market-place, With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"


A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue; 155 So did the Corporation, too. For council dinners made rare havoc With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock; And half the money would replenish Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish. 160 To pay this sum to a wandering fellow With a gypsy coat of red and yellow! "Beside," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink, "Our business was done at the river's brink; We saw with our eyes the vermin sink, 165 And what's dead can't come to life, I think. So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink From the duty of giving you something for drink, And a matter of money to put in your poke; But as for the guilders, what we spoke 170 Of them, as you very well know, was in joke. Beside, our losses have made us thrifty. A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!"


The Piper's face fell, and he cried, "No trifling! I can't wait, beside! 175 I've promised to visit by dinner time Bagdat, and accept the prime Of the Head-Cook's pottage, all he's rich in, For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen, Of a nest of scorpions no survivor; 180 With him I proved no bargain-driver, With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver! And folks who put me in a passion May find me pipe after another fashion."


"How?" cried the Mayor, "d'ye think I brook 185 Being worse treated than a Cook? Insulted by a lazy ribald With idle pipe and vesture piebald? You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst, Blow your pipe there till you burst!" 190


Once more he stepped into the street, And to his lips again Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane; And ere he blew three notes (such sweet Soft notes as yet musician's cunning 195 Never gave the enraptured air) There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling; Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering, Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering, 200 And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering, Out came the children running. All the little boys and girls, With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls, And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls, 205 Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.


The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood As if they were changed into blocks of wood, Unable to move a step, or cry 210 To the children merrily skipping by, —Could only follow with the eye That joyous crowd at the Piper's back. But how the Mayor was on the rack, And the wretched Council's bosoms beat, 215 As the Piper turned from the High Street To where the Weser rolled its waters Right in the way of their sons and daughters! However he turned from South to West, And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed, 220 And after him the children pressed; Great was the joy in every breast. "He never can cross that mighty top! He's forced to let the piping drop, And we shall see our children stop!" 225 When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side, A wondrous portal opened wide, As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed; And the Piper advanced and the children followed, And when all were in to the very last, 230 The door in the mountain-side shut fast. Did I say, all? No! One was lame, And could not dance the whole of the way; And in after years, if you would blame His sadness, he was used to say— 235 "It's dull in our town since my playmates left! I can't forget that I'm bereft Of all the pleasant sights they see, Which the Piper also promised me. For he led us, he said, to a joyous land, 240 Joining the town and just at hand, Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew And flowers put forth a fairer hue, And everything was strange and new; The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here, 245 And their dogs outran our fallow deer, And honey-bees had lost their stings, And horses were born with eagles' wings: And just as I became assured My lame foot would be speedily cured, 250 The music stopped and I stood still, And found myself outside the hill, Left alone against my will, To go now limping as before, And never hear of that country more!" 255


Alas, alas for Hamelin! There came into many a burgher's pate A text which says that heaven's gate Opes to the rich at as easy rate As the needle's eye takes a camel in! 260 The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South, To offer the Piper, by word of mouth, Wherever it was men's lot to find him, Silver and gold to his heart's content, If he'd only return the way he went, 265 And bring the children behind him. But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavor, And Piper and dancers were gone forever, They made a decree that lawyers never Should think their records dated duly 270 If, after the day of the month and year, These words did not as well appear, "And so long after what happened here On the Twenty-second of July, Thirteen hundred and seventy-six"; 275 And the better in memory to fix The place of the children's last retreat, They called it the Pied Piper's Street— Where anyone playing on pipe or tabor Was sure for the future to lose his labor. 280 Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern To shock with mirth a street so solemn; But opposite the place of the cavern They wrote the story on a column, And on the great church-window painted 285 The same, to make the world acquainted How their children were stolen away, And there it stands to this very day. And I must not omit to say That in Transylvania there's a tribe 290 Of alien people who ascribe The outlandish ways and dress On which their neighbors lay such stress, To their fathers and mothers having risen Out of some subterraneous prison 295 Into which they were trepanned Long time ago in a mighty band Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land, But how or why, they don't understand.


So, Willy, let me and you be wipers 300 Of scores out with all men—especially pipers! And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice, If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!



You're my friend: I was the man the Duke spoke to; I helped the Duchess to cast off his yoke, too; So here's the tale from beginning to end, My friend! 5


Ours is a great wild country: If you climb to our castle's top, I don't see where your eye can stop; For when you've passed the cornfield country, Where vineyards leave off, flocks are packed, 10 And sheep-range leads to cattle-tract, And cattle-tract to open-chase, And open-chase to the very base Of the mountain where, at a funeral pace, Round about, solemn and slow, 15 One by one, row after row, Up and up the pine-trees go, So, like black priests up, and so Down the other side again To another greater, wilder country, 20 That's one vast red drear burnt-up plain, Branched through and through with many a vein Whence iron's dug, and copper's dealt; Look right, look left, look straight before— Beneath they mine, above they smelt, 25 Copper-ore and iron-ore, And forge and furnace mold and melt And so on, more and ever more, Till at the last, for a bounding belt, Comes the salt sand hoar of the great seashore, 30 —And the whole is our Duke's country.


I was born the day this present Duke was— (And O, says the song, ere I was old!) In the castle where the other Duke was— (When I was happy and young, not old!) 35 I in the kennel, he in the bower: We are of like age to an hour. My father was huntsman in that day; Who has not heard my father say That, when a boar was brought to bay, 40 Three times, four times out of five, With his huntspear he'd contrive To get the killing-place transfixed, And pin him true, both eyes betwixt? And that's why the old Duke would rather 45 He lost a salt-pit than my father, And loved to have him ever in call; That's why my father stood in the hall When the old Duke brought his infant out To show the people, and while they passed 50 The wondrous bantling round about, Was first to start at the outside blast As the Kaiser's courier blew his horn, Just a month after the babe was born. "And," quoth the Kaiser's courier, "since 55 The Duke has got an heir, our Prince Needs the Duke's self at his side"; The Duke looked down and seemed to wince, But he thought of wars o'er the world wide, Castles a-fire, men on their march, 60 The toppling tower, the crashing arch; And up he looked, and awhile he eyed The row of crests and shields and banners Of all achievements after all manners, And "aye," said the Duke with a surly pride. 65 The more was his comfort when he died At next year's end, in a velvet suit, With a gilt glove on his hand, his foot In a silken shoe for a leather boot, Petticoated like a herald, 70 In a chamber next to an ante-room, Where he breathed the breath of page and groom, What he called stink, and they, perfume: —They should have set him on red Berold Mad with pride, like fire to manage! 75 They should have got his cheek fresh tannage Such a day as today in the merry sunshine! Had they stuck on his fist a rough-foot merlin! (Hark, the wind's on the heath at its game! Oh, for a noble falcon-lanner 80 To flap each broad wing like a banner, And turn in the wind, and dance like flame!) Had they broached a white-beer cask from Berlin —Or if you incline to prescribe mere wine Put to his lips, when they saw him pine, 85 A cup of our own Moldavia fine, Cotnar for instance, green as May sorrel And ropy with sweet—we shall not quarrel.


So, at home, the sick, tall, yellow Duchess Was left with the infant in her clutches, 90 She being the daughter of God knows who: And now was the time to revisit her tribe. Abroad and afar they went, the two, And let our people rail and gibe At the empty hall and extinguished fire, 95 As loud as we liked, but ever in vain, Till after long years we had our desire, And back came the Duke and his mother again.


And he came back the pertest little ape That ever affronted human shape; 100 Full of his travel, struck at himself. You'd say he despised our bluff old ways? —Not he! For in Paris they told the elf Our rough North land was the Land of Lays, The one good thing left in evil days; 105 Since the Mid-Age was the Heroic Time, And only in wild nooks like ours Could you taste of it yet as in its prime, And see true castles, with proper towers, Young-hearted women, old-minded men, 110 And manners now as manners were then. So, all that the old Dukes had been, without knowing it, This Duke would fain know he was, without being it; 'Twas not for the joy's self, but the joy of his showing it, Nor for the pride's self, but the pride of our seeing it, 115 He revived all usages thoroughly worn-out, The souls of them fumed-forth, the hearts of them torn-out: And chief in the chase his neck he periled On a lathy horse, all legs and length, With blood for bone, all speed, no strength; 120 —They should have set him on red Berold With the red eye slow consuming in fire, And the thin stiff ear like an abbey-spire!


Well, such as he was, he must marry, we heard: And out of a convent, at the word, 125 Came the lady in time of spring. —Oh, old thoughts they cling, they cling! That day, I know, with a dozen oaths I clad myself in thick hunting-clothes Fit for the chase of urochs or buffle 130 In winter-time when you need to muffle. But the Duke had a mind we should cut a figure, And so we saw the lady arrive: My friend, I have seen a white crane bigger! She was the smallest lady alive, 135 Made in a piece of nature's madness, Too small, almost, for the life and gladness That overfilled her, as some hive Out of the bears' reach on the high trees Is crowded with its safe, merry bees: 140 In truth, she was not hard to please! Up she looked, down she looked, round at the mead, Straight at the castle, that's best indeed To look at from outside the walls; As for us, styled the "serfs and thralls," 145 She as much thanked me as if she had said it, (With her eyes, do you understand?) Because I patted her horse while I led it; And Max, who rode on her other hand, Said, no bird flew past but she inquired 150 What its true name was, nor ever seemed tired— If that was an eagle she saw hover, And the green and gray bird on the field was the plover. When suddenly appeared the Duke: And as down she sprung, the small foot pointed 155 On to my hand—as with a rebuke, And as if his backbone were not jointed, The Duke stepped rather aside than forward, And welcomed her with his grandest smile; And, mind you, his mother all the while 160 Chilled in the rear, like a wind to Nor'ward; And up, like a weary yawn, with its pulleys Went, in a shriek, the rusty portcullis; And, like a glad sky the north-wind sullies, The lady's face stopped its play, 165 As if her first hair had grown gray; For such things must begin some one day.


In a day or two she was well again; As who should say, "You labor in vain! This is all a jest against God, who meant 170 I should ever be, as I am, content And glad in His sight; therefore, glad I will be." So, smiling as at first, went she.


She was active, stirring, all fire— Could not rest, could not tire— 175 To a stone she might have given life! (I myself loved once, in my day) —For a shepherd's, miner's, huntsman's wife, (I had a wife, I know what I say) Never in all the world such an one! 180 And here was plenty to be done, And she that could do it, great or small, She was to do nothing at all. There was already this man in his post, This in his station, and that in his office, 185 And the Duke's plan admitted a wife, at most, To meet his eye, with the other trophies, Now outside the hall, now in it, To sit thus, stand thus, see and be seen, At the proper place in the proper minute, 190 And die away the life between. And it was amusing enough, each infraction Of rule—(but for after-sadness that came) To hear the consummate self-satisfaction With which the young Duke and the old dame 195 Would let her advise, and criticize, And, being a fool, instruct the wise, And, child-like, parcel out praise or blame: They bore it all in complacent guise, As though an artificer, after contriving 200 A wheel-work image as if it were living, Should find with delight it could motion to strike him! So found the Duke, and his mother like him: The lady hardly got a rebuff— That had not been contemptuous enough, 205 With his cursed smirk, as he nodded applause, And kept off the old mother-cat's claws.


So, the little lady grew silent and thin, Paling and ever paling, As the way is with a hid chagrin; 210 And the Duke perceived that she was ailing, And said in his heart, "'Tis done to spite me, But I shall find in my power to right me!" Don't swear, friend! The old one, many a year, Is in hell, and the Duke's self ... you shall hear. 215


Well, early in autumn, at first winter-warning, When the stag had to break with his foot, of a morning, A drinking-hole out of the fresh tender ice That covered the pond till the sun, in a trice, Loosening it, let out a ripple of gold, 220 And another and another, and faster and faster, Till, dimpling to blindness, the wide water rolled; Then it so chanced that the Duke our master Asked himself what were the pleasures in season, And found, since the calendar bade him be hearty, 225 He should do the Middle Age no treason In resolving on a hunting-party. Always provided, old books showed the way of it! What meant old poets by their strictures? And when old poets had said their say of it, 230 How taught old painters in their pictures? We must revert to the proper channels, Workings in tapestry, paintings on panels, And gather up woodcraft's authentic traditions: Here was food for our various ambitions, 235 As on each case, exactly stated— To encourage your dog, now, the properest chirrup, Or best prayer to Saint Hubert on mounting your stirrup— We of the household took thought and debated. Blessed was he whose back ached with the jerkin 240 His sire was wont to do forest-work in; Blesseder he who nobly sunk "ohs" And "ahs" while he tugged on his grandsire's trunk-hose; What signified hats if they had no rims on, Each slouching before and behind like the scallop, 245 And able to serve at sea for a shallop, Loaded with lacquer and looped with crimson? So that the deer now, to make a short rhyme on't, What with our Venerers, Prickers, and Verderers, Might hope for real hunters at length and not murderers, 250 And, oh, the Duke's tailor, he had a hot time on't!


Now you must know that when the first dizziness Of flap-hats and buff-coats and jack-boots subsided, The Duke put this question, "The Duke's part provided, Had not the Duchess some share in the business?" 255 For out of the mouth of two or three witnesses Did he establish all fit-or-unfitnesses: And, after much laying of heads together, Somebody's cap got a notable feather By the announcement with proper unction 260 That he had discovered the lady's function; Since ancient authors gave this tenet, "When horns wind a mort and the deer is at siege, Let the dame of the castle prick forth on her jennet, And, with water to wash the hands of her liege 265 In a clean ewer with a fair toweling, Let her preside at the disemboweling." Now, my friend, if you had so little religion As to catch a hawk, some falcon-lanner, And thrust her broad wings like a banner 270 Into a coop for a vulgar pigeon; And if day by day and week by week You cut her claws, and sealed her eyes, And clipped her wings, and tied her beak, Would it cause you any great surprise 275 If, when you decided to give her an airing, You found she needed a little preparing? —I say, should you be such a curmudgeon, If she clung to the perch, as to take it in dudgeon? Yet when the Duke to his lady signified, 280 Just a day before, as he judged most dignified, In what a pleasure she was to participate— And, instead of leaping wide in flashes, Her eyes just lifted their long lashes, As if pressed by fatigue even he could not dissipate, 285 And duly acknowledged the Duke's forethought, But spoke of her health, if her health were worth aught, Of the weight by day and the watch by night, And much wrong now that used to be right, So, thanking him, declined the hunting— 290 Was conduct ever more affronting? With all the ceremony settled— With the towel ready, and the sewer Polishing up his oldest ewer, And the jennet pitched upon, a piebald, 295 Black-barred, cream-coated, and pink eye-balled— No wonder if the Duke was nettled! And when she persisted nevertheless— Well, I suppose here's the time to confess That there ran half round our lady's chamber 300 A balcony none of the hardest to clamber; And that Jacynth, the tire-woman, ready in waiting, Stayed in call outside, what need of relating? And since Jacynth was like a June rose, why, a fervent Adorer of Jacynth of course was your servant; 305 And if she had the habit to peep through the casement, How could I keep at any vast distance? And so, as I say, on the lady's persistence, The Duke, dumb-stricken with amazement, Stood for a while in a sultry smother, 310 And then, with a smile that partook of the awful, Turned her over to his yellow mother To learn what was held decorous and lawful; And the mother smelt blood with a cat-like instinct, As her cheek quick whitened through all its quince-tinct. 315 Oh, but the lady heard the whole truth at once! What meant she?—Who was she?—Her duty and station, The wisdom of age and the folly of youth, at once, Its decent regard and its fitting relation— In brief, my friend, set all the devils in hell free 320 And turn them out to carouse in a belfry And treat the priests to a fifty-part canon, And then you may guess how that tongue of hers ran on! Well, somehow or other it ended at last And, licking her whiskers, out she passed; 325 And after her—making (he hoped) a face Like Emperor Nero or Sultan Saladin, Stalked the Duke's self with the austere grace Of ancient hero or modern paladin, From door to staircase—oh, such a solemn 330 Unbending of the vertebral column!


However, at sunrise our company mustered; And here was the huntsman bidding unkennel, And there 'neath his bonnet the pricker blustered, With feather dank as a bough of wet fennel; 335 For the courtyard walls were filled with fog You might have cut as an ax chops a log— Like so much wool for color and bulkiness; And out rode the Duke in a perfect sulkiness, Since, before breakfast, a man feels but queasily, 340 And a sinking at the lower abdomen Begins the day with indifferent omen. And lo, as he looked around uneasily, The sun plowed the fog up and drove it asunder This way and that from the valley under; 345 And, looking through the court-yard arch, Down in the valley, what should meet him But a troop of gypsies on their march? No doubt with the annual gifts to greet him.


Now, in your land, gypsies reach you only 350 After reaching all lands beside; North they go, South they go, trooping or lonely, And still, as they travel far and wide, Catch they and keep now a trace here, a trace there, That puts you in mind of a place here, a place there 355 But with us, I believe they rise out of the ground, And nowhere else, I take it, are found With the earth-tint yet so freshly embrowned: Born, no doubt, like insects which breed on The very fruit they are meant to feed on. 360 For the earth—not a use to which they don't turn it, The ore that grows in the mountain's womb, Or the sand in the pits like a honeycomb, They sift and soften it, bake it and burn it— Whether they weld you, for instance, a snaffle 365 With side-bars never a brute can baffle; Or a lock that's a puzzle of wards within wards; Or, if your colt's forefoot inclines to curve inwards, Horseshoes they hammer which turn on a swivel And won't allow the hoof to shrivel. 370 Then they cast bells like the shell of the winkle That keep a stout heart in the ram with their tinkle; But the sand—they pinch and pound it like otters; Commend me the gypsy glass-makers and potters! Glasses they'll blow you, crystal-clear, 375 Where just a faint cloud of rose shall appear, As if in pure water you dropped and let die A bruised black-blooded mulberry; And that other sort, their crowning pride, With long white threads distinct inside, 380 Like the lake-flower's fibrous roots which dangle Loose such a length and never tangle, Where the bold sword-lily cuts the clear waters, And the cup-lily couches with all the white daughters: Such are the works they put their hand to, 385 The uses they turn and twist iron and sand to. And these made the troop, which our Duke saw sally Toward his castle from out of the valley, Men and women, like new-hatched spiders, Come out with the morning to greet our riders. 390 And up they wound till they reached the ditch, Whereat all stopped save one, a witch That I knew, as she hobbled from the group, By her gait directly and her stoop, I, whom Jacynth was used to importune 395 To let that same witch tell us our fortune. The oldest gypsy then above ground; And, sure as the autumn season came round, She paid us a visit for profit or pastime, And every time, as she swore, for the last time. 400 And presently she was seen to sidle Up to the Duke till she touched his bridle, So that the horse of a sudden reared up As under its nose the old witch peered up With her worn-out eyes, or rather eye-holes 405 Of no use now but to gather brine, And began a kind of level whine Such as they used to sing to their viols When their ditties they go grinding Up and down with nobody minding; 410 And then, as of old, at the end of the humming Her usual presents were forthcoming —A dog-whistle blowing the fiercest of trebles (Just a seashore stone holding a dozen fine pebbles), Or a porcelain mouthpiece to screw on a pipe-end— 415 And so she awaited her annual stipend. But this time the Duke would scarcely vouchsafe A word in reply; and in vain she felt With twitching fingers at her belt For the purse of sleek pine-marten pelt, 420 Ready to put what he gave in her pouch safe— Till, either to quicken his apprehension, Or possibly with an after-intention, She was come, she said, to pay her duty To the new Duchess, the youthful beauty. 425 No sooner had she named his lady Than a shine lit up the face so shady, And its smirk returned with a novel meaning— For it struck him, the babe just wanted weaning; If one gave her a taste of what life was and sorrow, 430 She, foolish today, would be wiser tomorrow; And who so fit a teacher of trouble As this sordid crone bent well-nigh double? So, glancing at her wolf-skin vesture, (If such it was, for they grow so hirsute 435 That their own fleece serves for natural fur-suit) He was contrasting, 'twas plain from his gesture, The life of the lady so flower-like and delicate With the loathsome squalor of this helicat. I, in brief, was the man the Duke beckoned 440 From out of the throng, and while I drew near He told the crone—as I since have reckoned By the way he bent and spoke into her ear With circumspection and mystery— The main of the lady's history, 445 Her frowardness and ingratitude: And for all the crone's submissive attitude I could see round her mouth the loose plaits tightening, And her brow with assenting intelligence brightening, As though she engaged with hearty goodwill 450 Whatever he now might enjoin to fulfill, And promised the lady a thorough frightening. And so, just giving her a glimpse Of a purse, with the air of a man who imps The wing of the hawk that shall fetch the hernshaw, 455 He bade me take the gypsy mother And set her telling some story or other Of hill or dale, oak-wood or fernshaw, To wile away a weary hour For the lady left alone in her bower, 460 Whose mind and body craved exertion And yet shrank from all better diversion.


Then clapping heel to his horse, the mere curveter, Out rode the Duke, and after his hollo Horses and hounds swept, huntsman and servitor, 465 And back I turned and bade the crone follow. And what makes me confident what's to be told you Had all along been of this crone's devising, Is, that, on looking round sharply, behold you, There was a novelty quick as surprising: 470 For first, she had shot up a full head in stature, And her step kept pace with mine nor faltered, As if age had foregone its usurpature, And the ignoble mien was wholly altered, And the face looked quite of another nature, 475 And the change reached too, whatever the change meant, Her shaggy wolf-skin cloak's arrangement: For where its tatters hung loose like sedges, Gold coins were glittering on the edges, Like the band-roll strung with tomans 480 Which proves the veil a Persian woman's: And under her brow, like a snail's horns newly Come out as after the rain he paces, Two unmistakable eye-points duly Live and aware looked out of their places. 485 So, we went and found Jacynth at the entry Of the lady's chamber standing sentry; I told the command and produced my companion, And Jacynth rejoiced to admit anyone, For since last night, by the same token, 490 Not a single word had the lady spoken: They went in both to the presence together, While I in the balcony watched the weather.


And now, what took place at the very first of all, I cannot tell, as I never could learn it: 495 Jacynth constantly wished a curse to fall On that little head of hers and burn it, If she knew how she came to drop so soundly Asleep of a sudden and there continue The whole time sleeping as profoundly 500 As one of the boars my father would pin you 'Twixt the eyes where life holds garrison, —Jacynth forgive me the comparison! But where I begin my own narration Is a little after I took my station 505 To breathe the fresh air from the balcony, And, having in those days a falcon eye, To follow the hunt through the open country, From where the bushes thinlier crested The hillocks, to a plain where's not one tree. 510 When, in a moment, my ear was arrested By—was it singing, or was it saying, Or a strange musical instrument playing In the chamber?—and to be certain I pushed the lattice, pulled the curtain, 515 And there lay Jacynth asleep, Yet as if a watch she tried to keep, In a rosy sleep along the floor With her head against the door; While in the midst, on the seat of state, 520 Was a queen—the gypsy woman late, With head and face downbent On the lady's head and face intent: For, coiled at her feet like a child at ease, The lady sat between her knees, 525 And o'er them the lady's clasped hands met, And on those hands her chin was set, And her upturned face met the face of the crone Wherein the eyes had grown and grown As if she could double and quadruple 530 At pleasure the play of either pupil —Very like, by her hands' slow fanning, As up and down like a gor-crow's flappers They moved to measure, or bell-clappers. I said, "Is it blessing, is it banning, 535 Do they applaud you or burlesque you Those hands and fingers with no flesh on?" But, just as I thought to spring in to the rescue, At once I was stopped by the lady's expression: For it was life her eyes were drinking 540 From the crone's wide pair above unwinking, —Life's pure fire received without shrinking, Into the heart and breast whose heaving Told you no single drop they were leaving —Life, that filling her, passed redundant 545 Into her very hair, back swerving Over each shoulder, loose and abundant, As her head thrown back showed the white throat curving; And the very tresses shared in the pleasure, Moving to the mystic measure, 550 Bounding as the bosom bounded. I stopped short, more and more confounded, As still her cheeks burned and eyes glistened, As she listened and she listened: When all at once a hand detained me, 555 The selfsame contagion gained me, And I kept time to the wondrous chime, Making out words and prose and rhyme, Till it seemed that the music furled Its wings like a task fulfilled, and dropped 560 From under the words it first had propped, And left them midway in the world: Word took word as hand takes hand, I could hear at last, and understand, And when I held the unbroken thread, 565 The gypsy said: "And so at last we find my tribe. And so I set thee in the midst, And to one and all of them describe What thou saidst and what thou didst, 570 Our long and terrible journey through, And all thou art ready to say and do In the trials that remain: I trace them the vein and the other vein That meet on thy brow and part again, 575 Making our rapid mystic mark; And I bid my people prove and probe Each eye's profound and glorious globe Till they detect the kindred spark In those depths so dear and dark, 580 Like the spots that snap and burst and flee, Circling over the midnight sea. And on that round young cheek of thine I make them recognize the tinge, As when of the costly scarlet wine 585 They drip so much as will impinge And spread in a thinnest scale afloat One thick gold drop from the olive's coat Over a silver plate whose sheen Still through the mixture shall be seen. 590 For so I prove thee, to one and all, Fit, when my people ope their breast, To see the sign, and hear the call, And take the vow, and stand the test Which adds one more child to the rest— 595 When the breast is bare and the arms are wide, And the world is left outside. For there is probation to decree, And many and long must the trials be Thou shalt victoriously endure, 600 If that brow is true and those eyes are sure; Like a jewel-finder's fierce assay Of the prize he dug from its mountain-tomb— Let once the vindicating ray Leap out amid the anxious gloom, 605 And steel and fire have done their part And the prize falls on its finder's heart; So, trial after trial past, Wilt thou fall at the very last Breathless, half in trance 610 With the thrill of the great deliverance, Into our arms forevermore; And thou shalt know, those arms once curled About thee, what we knew before, How love is the only good in the world. 615 Henceforth be loved as heart can love, Or brain devise, or hand approve! Stand up, look below, It is our life at thy feet we throw To step with into light and joy; 620 Not a power of life but we employ To satisfy thy nature's want; Art thou the tree that props the plant, Or the climbing plant that seeks the tree— Canst thou help us, must we help thee? 625 If any two creatures grew into one, They would do more than the world has done: Though each apart were never so weak, Ye vainly through the world should seek For the knowledge and the might 630 Which in such union grew their right: So, to approach at least that end, And blend—as much as may be, blend Thee with us or us with thee— As climbing plant or propping tree, 635 Shall someone deck thee, over and down, Up and about, with blossoms and leaves? Fix his heart's fruit for thy garland-crown, Cling with his soul as the gourd-vine cleaves, Die on thy boughs and disappear 640 While not a leaf of thine is sere? Or is the other fate in store, And art thou fitted to adore, To give thy wondrous self away, And take a stronger nature's sway? 645 I foresee and could foretell Thy future portion, sure and well: But those passionate eyes speak true, speak true, Let them say what thou shalt do! Only be sure thy daily life, 650 In its peace or in its strife, Never shall be unobserved; We pursue thy whole career, And hope for it, or doubt, or fear— Lo, hast thou kept thy path or swerved, 655 We are beside thee in all thy ways, With our blame, with our praise, Our shame to feel, our pride to show, Glad, angry—but indifferent, no! Whether it be thy lot to go, 660 For the good of us all, where the haters meet In the crowded city's horrible street; Or thou step alone through the morass Where never sound yet was Save the dry quick clap of the stork's bill, 665 For the air is still, and the water still, When the blue breast of the dipping coot Dives under, and all is mute. So, at the last shall come old age, Decrepit as befits that stage; 670 How else wouldst thou retire apart With the hoarded memories of thy heart, And gather all to the very least Of the fragments of life's earlier feast, Let fall through eagerness to find 675 The crowning dainties yet behind? Ponder on the entire past Laid together thus at last, When the twilight helps to fuse The first fresh with the faded hues, 680 And the outline of the whole, As round eve's shades their framework roll, Grandly fronts for once thy soul. And then as, 'mid the dark, a gleam Of yet another morning breaks, 685 And like the hand which ends a dream, Death, with the might of his sunbeam, Touches the flesh and the soul awakes, Then"—— Aye, then indeed something would happen! But what? For here her voice changed like a bird's; 690 There grew more of the music and less of the words; Had Jacynth only been by me to clap pen To paper and put you down every syllable With those clever clerkly fingers, All I've forgotten as well as what lingers 695 In this old brain of mine that's but ill able To give you even this poor version Of the speech I spoil, as it were, with stammering —More fault of those who had the hammering Of prosody into me and syntax, 700 And did it, not with hobnails but tin-tacks! But to return from this excursion— Just, do you mark, when the song was sweetest, The peace most deep and the charm completest, There came, shall I say, a snap— 705 And the charm vanished! And my sense returned, so strangely banished, And, starting as from a nap, I knew the crone was bewitching my lady, With Jacynth asleep; and but one spring made I 710 Down from the casement, round to the portal, Another minute and I had entered— When the door opened, and more than mortal Stood, with a face where to my mind centered All beauties I ever saw or shall see, 715 The Duchess: I stopped as if struck by palsy. She was so different, happy and beautiful, I felt at once that all was best, And that I had nothing to do, for the rest, But wait her commands, obey and be dutiful. 720 Not that, in fact, there was any commanding; I saw the glory of her eye, And the brow's height and the breast's expanding, And I was hers to live or to die. As for finding what she wanted, 725 You know God Almighty granted Such little signs should serve wild creatures To tell one another all their desires, So that each knows what his friend requires, And does its bidding without teachers. 730 I preceded her: the crone Followed silent and alone; I spoke to her, but she merely jabbered In the old style; both her eyes had slunk Back to their pits; her stature shrunk; 735 In short, the soul in its body sunk Like a blade sent home to its scabbard. We descended, I preceding; Crossed the court with nobody heeding; All the world was at the chase, 740 The courtyard like a desert-place, The stable emptied of its small fry; I saddled myself the very palfrey I remember patting while it carried her, The day she arrived and the Duke married her. 745 And, do you know, though it's easy deceiving Oneself in such matters, I can't help believing The lady had not forgotten it either, And knew the poor devil so much beneath her Would have been only too glad for her service 750 To dance on hot plowshares like a Turk dervise, But, unable to pay proper duty where owing it, Was reduced to that pitiful method of showing it: For though the moment I began setting His saddle on my own nag of Berold's begetting, 755 (Not that I meant to be obtrusive) She stopped me, while his rug was shifting, By a single rapid finger's lifting, And, with a gesture kind but conclusive, And a little shake of the head, refused me— 760 I say, although she never used me, Yet when she was mounted, the gypsy behind her, And I ventured to remind her, I suppose with a voice of less steadiness Than usual, for my feeling exceeded me, 765 —Something to the effect that I was in readiness Whenever God should please she needed me— Then, do you know, her face looked down on me With a look that placed a crown on me, And she felt in her bosom—mark, her bosom— 770 And, as a flower-tree drops its blossom, Dropped me ... ah, had it been a purse Of silver, my friend, or gold that's worse, Why, you see, as soon as I found myself So understood—that a true heart so may gain 775 Such a reward—I should have gone home again, Kissed Jacynth, and soberly drowned myself! It was a little plait of hair Such as friends in a convent make To wear, each for the other's sake— 780 This, see, which at my breast I wear, Ever did (rather to Jacynth's grudgment), And ever shall, till the Day of Judgment. And then—and then—to cut short—this is idle, These are feelings it is not good to foster— 785 I pushed the gate wide, she shook the bridle, And the palfrey bounded—and so we lost her.


When the liquor's out why clink the cannikin? I did think to describe you the panic in The redoubtable breast of our master the mannikin, 790 And what was the pitch of his mother's yellowness, How she turned as a shark to snap the spare-rib Clean off, sailors says, from a pearl-diving Carib, When she heard, what she called the flight of the feloness —But it seems such child's play, 795 What they said and did with the lady away! And to dance on, when we've lost the music, Always made me—and no doubt makes you—sick. Nay, to my mind, the world's face looked so stern As that sweet form disappeared through the postern, 800 She that kept it in constant good humor, It ought to have stopped; there seemed nothing to do more. But the world thought otherwise and went on, And my head's one that its spite was spent on; Thirty years are fled since that morning, 805 And with them all my head's adorning. Nor did the old Duchess die outright, As you expect, of suppressed spite, The natural end of every adder Not suffered to empty its poison-bladder; 810 But she and her son agreed, I take it, That no one should touch on the story to wake it, For the wound in the Duke's pride rankled fiery, So, they made no search and small inquiry— And when fresh gypsies have paid us a visit, I've 815 Noticed the couple were never inquisitive, But told them they're folks the Duke don't want here, And bade them make haste and cross the frontier. Brief, the Duchess was gone and the Duke was glad of it, And the old one was in the young one's stead, 820 And took, in her place, the household's head, And a blessed time the household had of it! And were I not, as a man may say, cautious How I trench, more than needs, on the nauseous, I could favor you with sundry touches 825 Of the paint-smutches with which the Duchess Heightened the mellowness of her cheek's yellowness (To get on faster) until at last her Cheek grew to be one master-plaster Of mucus and fucus from mere use of ceruse: 830 In short, she grew from scalp to udder Just the object to make you shudder.


You're my friend— What a thing friendship is, world without end! How it gives the heart and soul a stir-up 835 As if somebody broached you a glorious runlet, And poured out, all lovelily, sparklingly, sunlit, Our green Moldavia, the streaky syrup, Cotnar as old as the time of the Druids— Friendship may match with that monarch of fluids; 840 Each supples a dry brain, fills you its ins-and-outs, Gives your life's hourglass a shake when the thin sand doubts Whether to run on or stop short, and guarantees Age is not all made of stark sloth and arrant ease. I have seen my little lady once more, 845 Jacynth, the gypsy, Berold, and the rest of it, For to me spoke the Duke, as I told you before; I always wanted to make a clean breast of it: And now it is made—why, my heart's blood, that went trickle, Trickle, but anon, in such muddy driblets, 850 Is pumped up brisk now, through the main ventricle. And genially floats me about the giblets. I'll tell you what I intend to do: I must see this fellow his sad life through— He is our Duke, after all, 855 And I, as he says, but a serf and thrall. My father was born here, and I inherit His fame, a chain he bound his son with; Could I pay in a lump I should prefer it, But there's no mine to blow up and get done with: 860 So, I must stay till the end of the chapter. For, as to our middle-age-manners-adapter, Be it a thing to be glad on or sorry on, Some day or other, his head in a morion And breast in a hauberk, his heels he'll kick up, 865 Slain by an onslaught fierce of hiccup. And then, when red doth the sword of our Duke rust, And its leathern sheath lie o'ergrown with a blue crust, Then I shall scrape together my earnings; For, you see, in the churchyard Jacynth reposes, 870 And our children all went the way of the roses. It's a long lane that knows no turnings. One needs but little tackle to travel in; So, just one stout cloak shall I indue: And for a staff, what beats the javelin 875 With which his boars my father pinned you? And then, for a purpose you shall hear presently, Taking some Cotnar, a tight plump skinful, I shall go journeying, who but I, pleasantly! Sorrow is vain and despondency sinful. 880 What's a man's age? He must hurry more, that's all; Cram in a day what his youth took a year to hold: When we mind labor, then only, we're too old— What age had Methusalem when he begat Saul? And at last, as its haven some buffeted ship sees, 885 (Come all the way from the north-parts with sperm oil) I hope to get safely out of the turmoil And arrive one day at the land of the gypsies, And find my lady, or hear the last news of her From some old thief and son of Lucifer, 890 His forehead chapleted green with wreathy hop, Sunburned all over like an AEthiop. And when my Cotnar begins to operate And the tongue of the rogue to run at a proper rate, And our wine-skin, tight once, shows each flaccid dent, 895 I shall drop in with—as if by accident— "You never knew, then, how it all ended, What fortune good or bad attended The little lady your Queen befriended?" —And when that's told me, what's remaining? 900 This world's too hard for my explaining. The same wise judge of matters equine Who still preferred some slim four-year-old To the big-boned stock of mighty Berold, And, for strong Cotnar, drank French weak wine, 905 He also must be such a lady's scorner! Smooth Jacob still robs homely Esau: Now up, now down, the world's one see-saw. —So, I shall find out some snug corner Under a hedge, like Orson the wood-knight, 910 Turn myself round and bid the world good night; And sleep a sound sleep till the trumpet's blowing Wakes me (unless priests cheat us laymen) To a world where will be no further throwing Pearls before swine that can't value them. Amen! 915



Let us begin and carry up this corpse, Singing together. Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes Each in its tether Sleeping safe on the bosom of the plain, 5 Cared-for till cock-crow; Look out if yonder be not day again Rimming the rock-row! That's the appropriate country; there, man's thought, Rarer, intenser, 10 Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought, Chafes in the censer. Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop; Seek we sepulture On a tall mountain, citied to the top, 15 Crowded with culture! All the peaks soar, but one the rest excels; Clouds overcome it; No! yonder sparkle is the citadel's Circling its summit. 20 Thither our path lies; wind we up the heights; Wait ye the warning? Our low life was the level's and the night's; He's for the morning. Step to a tune, square chests, erect each head, 25 'Ware the beholders! This is our master, famous, calm, and dead, Borne on our shoulders.

Sleep, crop and herd! sleep, darkling thorpe and croft, Safe from the weather! 30 He, whom we convoy to his grave aloft, Singing together, He was a man born with thy face and throat, Lyric Apollo! Long he lived nameless; how should Spring take note 35 Winter would follow? Till lo, the little touch, and youth was gone! Cramped and diminished, Moaned he, "New measures, other feet anon! My dance is finished"? 40 No, that's the world's way: (keep the mountain-side, Make for the city!) He knew the signal, and stepped on with pride Over men's pity; Left play for work, and grappled with the world 45 Bent on escaping: "What's in the scroll," quoth he, "thou keepest furled? Show me their shaping, Theirs who most studied man, the bard and sage— Give!"—So, he gowned him, 50 Straight got by heart that book to its last page: Learned, we found him. Yea, but we found him bald, too, eyes like lead, Accents uncertain: "Time to taste life," another would have said, 55 "Up with the curtain!" This man said rather, "Actual life comes next? Patience a moment! Grant I have mastered learning's crabbed text, Still there's the comment. 60 Let me know all! Prate not of most or least, Painful or easy! Even to the crumbs I'd fain eat up the feast, Aye, nor feel queasy." Oh, such a life as he resolved to live, 65 When he had learned it, When he had gathered all books had to give! Sooner, he spurned it. Image the whole, then execute the parts— Fancy the fabric 70 Quite, ere you build, ere steel strike fire from quartz. Ere mortar dab brick!

(Here's the town-gate reached: there's the market-place Gaping before us.) Yea, this in him was the peculiar grace 75 (Hearten our chorus!) That before living he'd learn how to live— No end to learning: Earn the means first—God surely will contrive Use for our earning. 80 Others mistrust and say, "But time escapes: Live now or never!" He said, "What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes! Man has Forever." Back to his book then: deeper drooped his head: 85 Calculus racked him: Leaden before, his eyes grew dross of lead: Tussis attacked him. "Now, master, take a little rest!"—not he! (Caution redoubled, 90 Step two abreast, the way winds narrowly!) Not a whit troubled, Back to his studies, fresher than at first, Fierce as a dragon He (soul-hydroptic with a sacred thirst) 95 Sucked at the flagon. Oh, if we draw a circle premature, Heedless of far gain, Greedy for quick returns of profit, sure Bad is our bargain! 100 Was it not great? did not he throw on God, (He loves the burthen)— God's task to make the heavenly period Perfect the earthen? Did not he magnify the mind, show clear 105 Just what it all meant? He would not discount life, as fools do here, Paid by installment. He ventured neck or nothing—heaven's success Found, or earth's failure: 110 "Wilt thou trust death or not?" He answered, "Yes! Hence with life's pale lure!" That low man seeks a little thing to do, Sees it and does it: This high man, with a great thing to pursue, 115 Dies ere he knows it. That low man goes on adding one to one, His hundred's soon hit: This high man, aiming at a million, Misses an unit. 120 That, has the world here—should he need the next, Let the world mind him! This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed Seeking shall find him. So, with the throttling hands of death at strife, 125 Ground he at grammar; Still, through the rattle, parts of speech were rife: While he could stammer He settled Hoti's business—let it be!— Properly based Oun— 130 Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De, Dead from the waist down. Well, here's the platform, here's the proper place: Hail to your purlieus, All ye highfliers of the feathered race, 135 Swallows and curlews! Here's the top-peak; the multitude below Live, for they can, there: This man decided not to Live but Know— Bury this man there? 140 Here—here's his place, where meteors shoot, clouds form, Lightnings are loosened, Stars come and go! Let joy break with the storm, Peace let the dew send! Lofty designs must close in like effects: 145 Loftily lying, Leave him—still loftier than the world suspects, Living and dying.


(See Edgar's song in Lear)

My first thought was, he lied in every word, That hoary cripple, with malicious eye Askance to watch the working of his lie On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored 5 Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.

What else should he be set for, with his staff? What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare All travelers who might find him posted there, And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh 10 Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

If at his counsel I should turn aside Into the ominous tract which, all agree, Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly 15 I did turn as he pointed: neither pride Nor hope rekindling at the end descried, So much as gladness that some end might be.

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering, What with my search drawn out through years, my hope 20 Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope With that obstreperous joy success would bring, I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring My heart made, finding failure in its scope. As when a sick man very near to death 25 Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end The tears, and takes the farewell of each friend, And hears one bid the other go, draw breath Freelier outside ("since all is o'er," he saith, "And the blow fallen no grieving can amend"); 30

While some discuss if near the other graves Be room enough for this, and when a day Suits best for carrying the corpse away, With care about the banners, scarves, and staves; And still the man hears all, and only craves 35 He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest, Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ So many times among "The Band"—to wit, The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed 40 Their steps—that just to fail as they, seemed best, And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?

So, quiet as despair, I turned from him, That hateful cripple, out of his highway Into the path he pointed. All the day 45 Had been a dreary one at best, and dim Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

For mark! no sooner was I fairly found Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two, 50 Than, pausing to throw backward a last view O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; gray plain all round: Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound. I might go on; naught else remained to do.

So, on I went. I think I never saw 55 Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve; For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove! But cockle, spurge, according to their law Might propagate their kind, with none to awe, You'd think; a bur had been a treasure-trove. 60

No! penury, inertness, and grimace, In some strange sort, were the land's portion. "See Or shut your eyes," said Nature peevishly, "It nothing skills; I cannot help my case; 'Tis the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place, 65 Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free."

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to balk 70 All hope of greenness? 'tis a brute must walk Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood. 75 One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare, Stood stupefied, however he came there; Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know, With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain, 80 And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I never saw a brute I hated so; He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. 85 As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draft of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier's art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights. 90

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face Beneath its garniture of curly gold, Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold An arm in mine to fix me to the place, That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace! 95 Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.

Giles then, the soul of honor—there he stands Frank as ten years ago when knighted first. What honest man should dare (he said) he durst. Good—but the scene shifts—faugh! what hangman hands 100 Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and cursed!

Better this present than a past like that; Back therefore to my darkening path again! No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain. 105 Will the night send a howlet or a bat? I asked; when something on the dismal flat Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

A sudden little river crossed my path As unexpected as a serpent comes. 110 No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms; This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath For the fiend's glowing hoof—to see the wrath Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

So petty yet so spiteful! All along, 115 Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it; Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit Of mute despair, a suicidal throng; The river which had done them all the wrong, Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit. 120

Which, while I forded—good saints, how I feared To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek, Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard! It may have been a water-rat I speared, 125 But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.

Glad was I when I reached the other bank. Now for a better country. Vain presage! Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage, Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank 130 Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank, Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage—

The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque. What penned them there, with all the plain to choose? No footprint leading to that horrid mews, 135 None out of it. Mad brewage set to work Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

And more than that—a furlong on—why, there! What bad use was that engine for, that wheel, 140 Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware, Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood, 145 Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth Desperate and done with—so a fool finds mirth, Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes!—within a rood, Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth. 150

Now blotches rankling, colored gay and grim, Now patches where some leanness of the soil's Broke into moss or substances like boils; Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim 155 Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as far as ever from the end! Naught in the distance but the evening, naught To point my footstep further! At the thought, A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend, 160 Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned That brushed my cap—perchance the guide I sought.

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew, 'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place All round to mountains—with such name to grace 165 Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view. How thus they had surprised me—solve it, you! How to get from them was no clearer case.

Yet half I seemed to recognize some trick Of mischief happened to me, God knows when— 170 In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then, Progress this way. When, in the very nick Of giving up, one time more, came a click As when a trap shuts—you're inside the den!

Burningly it came on me all at once, 175 This was the place! those two hills on the right, Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight; While to the left, a tall scalped mountain ... Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce, After a life spent training for the sight! 180

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself? The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart, Built of brown stone, without a counterpart In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf 185 He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night perhaps?—why, day Came back again for that! before it left, The dying sunset kindled through a cleft; The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay, 190 Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay— "Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!"

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears Of all the lost adventurers my peers— 195 How such a one was strong, and such was bold, And such was fortunate, yet each of old Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.

There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met To view the last of me, a living frame 200 For one more picture! in a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all. And yet Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, And blew. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."


I only knew one poet in my life: And this, or something like it, was his way.

You saw go up and down Valladolid, A man of mark, to know next time you saw. His very serviceable suit of black 5 Was courtly once and conscientious still, And many might have worn it, though none did; The cloak, that somewhat shone and showed the threads, Had purpose, and the ruff, significance. He walked and tapped the pavement with his cane, 10 Scenting the world, looking it full in face, An old dog, bald and blindish, at his heels. They turned up, now, the alley by the church, That leads nowhither; now, they breathed themselves On the main promenade just at the wrong time; 15 You'd come upon his scrutinizing hat, Making a peaked shade blacker than itself Against the single window spared some house Intact yet with its moldered Moorish work— Or else surprise the ferrel of his stick 20 Trying the mortar's temper 'tween the chinks Of some new shop a-building, French and fine. He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade, The man who slices lemons into drink, The coffee-roaster's brazier, and the boys 25 That volunteer to help him turn its winch. He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye, And fly-leaf ballads on the vender's string, And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall. He took such cognizance of men and things, 30 If any beat a horse, you felt he saw; If any cursed a woman, he took note; Yet stared at nobody—you stared at him, And found, less to your pleasure than surprise, He seemed to know you and expect as much. 35 So, next time that a neighbor's tongue was loosed, It marked the shameful and notorious fact, We had among us, not so much a spy, As a recording chief-inquisitor, The town's true master if the town but knew! 40 We merely kept a governor for form, While this man walked about and took account Of all thought, said and acted, then went home, And wrote it fully to our Lord the King Who has an itch to know things, he knows why, 45 And reads them in his bedroom of a night. Oh, you might smile! there wanted not a touch, A tang of ... well, it was not wholly ease As back into your mind the man's look came. Stricken in years a little—such a brow 50 His eyes had to live under!—clear as flint On either side the formidable nose Curved, cut and colored like an eagle's claw. Had he to do with A's surprising fate? When altogether old B disappeared 55 And young C got his mistress—was't our friend, His letter to the King, that did it all? What paid the bloodless man for so much pains? Our Lord the King has favorites manifold, And shifts his ministry some once a month; 60 Our city gets new governors at whiles— But never word or sign, that I could hear, Notified to this man about the streets The King's approval of those letters conned The last thing duly at the dead of night. 65 Did the man love his office? Frowned our Lord, Exhorting when none heard—"Beseech me not! Too far above my people—beneath me! I set the watch—how should the people know? Forget them, keep me all the more in mind!" 70 Was some such understanding 'twixt the two?

I found no truth in one report at least— That if you tracked him to his home, down lanes Beyond the Jewry, and as clean to pace, You found he ate his supper in a room 75 Blazing with lights, four Titians on the walls, And twenty naked girls to change his plate! Poor man, he lived another kind of life In that new stuccoed third house by the bridge, Fresh-painted, rather smart than otherwise! 80 The whole street might o'erlook him as he sat, Leg crossing leg, one foot on the dog's back, Playing a decent cribbage with his maid (Jacynth, you're sure her name was) o'er the cheese And fruit, three red halves of starved winter-pears, 85 Or treat of radishes in April. Nine, Ten, struck the church clock, straight to bed went he.

My father, like the man of sense he was, Would point him out to me a dozen times; "'St—'St," he'd whisper, "the Corregidor!" 90 I had been used to think that personage Was one with lacquered breeches, lustrous belt, And feathers like a forest in his hat, Who blew a trumpet and proclaimed the news, Announced the bull-fights, gave each church its turn, 95 And memorized the miracle in vogue! He had a great observance from us boys; We were in error; that was not the man.

I'd like now, yet had haply been afraid, To have just looked, when this man came to die, 100 And seen who lined the clean gay garret-sides And stood about the neat low truckle-bed, With the heavenly manner of relieving guard. Here had been, mark, the general-in-chief, Through a whole campaign of the world's life and death, 105 Doing the King's work all the dim day long, In his old coat and up to knees in mud, Smoked like a herring, dining on a crust— And, now the day was won, relieved at once! No further show or need for that old coat, 110 You are sure, for one thing! Bless us, all the while How sprucely we are dressed out, you and I! A second, and the angels alter that. Well, I could never write a verse—could you? Let's to the Prado and make the most of time. 115


I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave! You need not clap your torches to my face. Zooks, what's to blame? you think you see a monk! What, 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds, And here you catch me at an alley's end 5 Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar? The Carmine's my cloister: hunt it up, Do—harry out, if you must show your zeal, Whatever rat, there, haps on his wrong hole, And nip each softling of a wee white mouse, 10 Weke, weke, that's crept to keep him company! Aha, you know your betters! Then, you'll take Your hand away that's fiddling on my throat, And please to know me likewise. Who am I? Why, one, sir, who is lodging with a friend 15 Three streets off—he's a certain ... how d'ye call? Master—a ... Cosimo of the Medici, I' the house that caps the corner. Boh! you were best! Remember and tell me, the day you're hanged, How you affected such a gullet's-gripe! 20 But you, sir, it concerns you that your knaves Pick up a manner nor discredit you: Zooks, are we pilchards, that they sweep the streets And count fair prize what comes into their net? He's Judas to a tittle, that man is! 25 Just such a face! Why, sir, you make amends. Lord, I'm not angry! Bid your hangdogs go Drink out this quarter-florin to the health Of the munificent House that harbors me (And many more beside, lads! more beside!) 30 And all's come square again. I'd like his face— His, elbowing on his comrade in the door With the pike and lantern—for the slave that holds John Baptist's head a-dangle by the hair With one hand ("Look you, now," as who should say) 35 And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped! It's not your chance to have a bit of chalk, A wood-coal, or the like? or you should see! Yes, I'm the painter, since you style me so. What, brother Lippo's doings, up and down, 40 You know them and they take you? like enough! I saw the proper twinkle in your eye— 'Tell you, I liked your looks at very first. Let's sit and set things straight now, hip to haunch. Here's spring come, and the nights one makes up bands 45 To roam the town and sing out carnival, And I've been three weeks shut within my mew, A-painting for the great man, saints and saints And saints again. I could not paint all night— Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air. 50 There came a hurry of feet and little feet, A sweep of lute-strings, laughs, and whifts of song— Flower o' the broom, Take away love, and our earth is a tomb! Flower o' the quince, 55 I let Lisa go, and what good in life since? Flower o' the thyme—and so on. Round they went. Scarce had they turned the corner when a titter Like the skipping of rabbits by moonlight—three slim shapes, And a face that looked up ... zooks, sir, flesh and blood, 60 That's all I'm made of! Into shreds it went, Curtain and counterpane and coverlet, All the bed-furniture—a dozen knots, There was a ladder! Down I let myself, Hands and feet, scrambling somehow, and so dropped, 65 And after them. I came up with the fun Hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well met— Flower o' the rose, If I've been merry, what matter who knows? And so I was stealing back again 70 To get to bed and have a bit of sleep Ere I rise up tomorrow and go work On Jerome knocking at his poor old breast With his great round stone to subdue the flesh, You snap me of the sudden. Ah, I see! 75 Though your eye twinkles still, you shake your head— Mine's shaved—a monk, you say—the sting's in that! If Master Cosimo announced himself, Mum's the word naturally; but a monk! Come, what am I a beast for? tell us, now! 80 I was a baby when my mother died And father died and left me in the street. I starved there, God knows how, a year or two On fig-skins, melon-parings, rinds and shucks, Refuse and rubbish. One fine frosty day, 85 My stomach being empty as your hat, The wind doubled me up and down I went. Old Aunt Lapaccia trussed me with one hand (Its fellow was a stinger as I knew), And so along the wall, over the bridge, 90 By the straight cut to the convent. Six words there, While I stood munching my first bread that month: "So, boy, you've minded," quoth the good fat father, Wiping his own mouth—'twas refection-time— "To quit this very miserable world? 95 Will you renounce" ... "the mouthful of bread?" thought I; By no means! Brief, they made a monk of me; I did renounce the world, its pride and greed, Palace, farm, villa, shop, and banking-house, Trash, such as these poor devils of Medici 100 Have given their hearts to—all at eight years old. Well, sir, I found in time, you may be sure, 'Twas not for nothing—the good bellyful, The warm serge and the rope that goes all round, And day-long blessed idleness beside! 105 "Let's see what the urchin's fit for"—that came next. Not overmuch their way, I must confess. Such a to-do! They tried me with their books; Lord, they'd have taught me Latin in pure waste! Flower o' the clove, 110 All the Latin I construe is "amo," I love! But, mind you, when a boy starves in the streets Eight years together, as my fortune was, Watching folk's faces to know who will fling The bit of half-stripped grape-bunch he desires, 115 And who will curse or kick him for his pains— Which gentleman processional and fine, Holding a candle to the Sacrament, Will wink and let him lift a plate and catch The droppings of the wax to sell again, 120 Or holla for the Eight and have him whipped— How say I?—nay, which dog bites, which lets drop His bone from the heap of offal in the street— Why, soul and sense of him grow sharp alike, He learns the look of things, and none the less 125 For admonition from the hunger-pinch. I had a store of such remarks, be sure, Which, after I found leisure, turned to use. I drew men's faces on my copy books, Scrawled them within the antiphonary's marge, 130 Joined legs and arms to the long music-notes, Found eyes and nose and chin for A's and B's, And made a string of pictures of the world Betwixt the ins and outs of verb and noun, On the wall, the bench, the door. The monks looked black. 135 "Nay," quoth the Prior, "turn him out, d'ye say? In no wise. Lose a crow and catch a lark. What if at last we get our man of parts, We Carmelites, like those Camaldolese And Preaching Friars, to do our church up fine 140 And put the front on it that ought to be!" And hereupon he bade me daub away. Thank you! my head being crammed, the walls a blank, Never was such prompt disemburdening. First, every sort of monk, the black and white, 145 I drew them, fat and lean: then, folk at church, From good old gossips waiting to confess Their cribs of barrel-droppings, candle-ends— To the breathless fellow at the altar-foot, Fresh from his murder, safe and sitting there 150 With the little children round him in a row Of admiration, half for his beard and half For that white anger of his victim's son Shaking a fist at him with one fierce arm, Signing himself with the other because of Christ 155 (Whose sad face on the cross sees only this After the passion of a thousand years) Till some poor girl, her apron o'er her head, (Which the intense eyes looked through) came at eve On tiptoe, said a word, dropped in a loaf, 160 Her pair of earrings and a bunch of flowers (The brute took growling), prayed, and so was gone. I painted all, then cried, "'Tis ask and have; Choose, for more's ready!"—laid the ladder flat, And showed my covered bit of cloister-wall. 165 The monks closed in a circle and praised loud Till checked, taught what to see and not to see, Being simple bodies—"That's the very man! Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog! That woman's like the Prior's niece who comes 170 To care about his asthma: it's the life!" But there my triumph's straw-fire flared and funked; Their betters took their turn to see and say: The Prior and the learned pulled a face And stopped all that in no time. "How? what's here? 175 Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all! Faces, arms, legs, and bodies like the true As much as pea and pea! It's devil's-game! Your business is not to catch men with show, With homage to the perishable clay, 180 But lift them over it, ignore it all, Make them forget there's such a thing as flesh. Your business is to paint the souls of men—- Man's soul, and it's a fire, smoke ... no, it's not ... It's vapor done up like a new-born babe— 185 (In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth) It's ... well, what matters talking, it's the soul! Give us no more of body than shows soul! Here's Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God, That sets us praising—why not stop with him? 190 Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head With wonder at lines, colors, and what not? Paint the soul; never mind the legs and arms! Rub all out; try at it a second time. Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts, 195 She's just my niece ... Herodias, I would say— Who went and danced and got men's heads cut off! Have it all out!" Now, is this sense, I ask? A fine way to paint soul, by painting body So ill the eye can't stop there, must go further, 200 And can't fare worse! Thus, yellow does for white When what you put for yellow's simply black, And any sort of meaning looks intense When all beside itself means and looks naught. Why can't a painter lift each foot in turn, 205 Left foot and right foot, go a double step, Make his flesh liker and his soul more like, Both in their order? Take the prettiest face, The Prior's niece ... patron-saint—is it so pretty You can't discover if it means hope, fear, 210 Sorrow, or joy? Won't beauty go with these? Suppose I've made her eyes all right and blue, Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash, And then add soul and heighten them three-fold? Or say there's beauty with no soul at all— 215 (I never saw it—put the case the same—) If you get simple beauty and naught else, You get about the best thing God invents: That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed, Within yourself, when you return Him thanks. 220 "Rub all out!" Well, well, there's my life, in short, And so the thing has gone on ever since. I'm grown a man no doubt; I've broken bounds: You should not take a fellow eight years old And make him swear to never kiss the girls. 225 I'm my own master, paint now as I please— Having a friend, you see, in the Corner-house! Lord, it's fast holding by the rings in front— Those great rings serve more purposes than just To plant a flag in, or tie up a horse! 230 And yet the old schooling sticks, the old grave eyes Are peeping o'er my shoulder as I work, The heads shake still—"It's art's decline, my son! You're not of the true painters, great and old; Brother Angelico's the man, you'll find; 235 Brother Lorenzo stands his single peer: Fag on at flesh, you'll never make the third!" Flower o' the pine, You keep your mist ... manners, and I'll stick to mine! I'm not the third, then: bless us, they must know! 240 Don't you think they're the likeliest to know, They with their Latin? So, I swallow my rage, Clench my teeth, suck my lips in tight, and paint To please them—sometimes do and sometimes don't; For, doing most, there's pretty sure to come 245 A turn, some warm eve finds me at my saints— A laugh, a cry, the business of the world— (Flower o' the peach, Death for us all, and his own life for each!) And my whole soul revolves, the cup runs over, 250 The world and life's too big to pass for a dream, And I do these wild things in sheer despite, And play the fooleries you catch me at, In pure rage! The old mill-horse, out at grass After hard years, throws up his stiff heels so, 255 Although the miller does not preach to him The only good of grass is to make chaff. What would men have? Do they like grass or no— May they or mayn't they? All I want's the thing Settled forever one way. As it is, 260 You tell too many lies and hurt yourself: You don't like what you only like too much, You do like what, if given you at your word, You find abundantly detestable. For me, I think I speak as I was taught; 265 I always see the garden and God there A-making man's wife: and, my lesson learned, The value and significance of flesh, I can't unlearn ten minutes afterwards.

You understand me: I'm a beast, I know. 270 But see, now—why, I see as certainly As that the morning-star's about to shine, What will hap some day. We've a youngster here Comes to our convent, studies what I do, Slouches and stares and lets no atom drop: 275 His name is Guidi—he'll not mind the monks— They call him Hulking Tom, he lets them talk— He picks my practice up—he'll paint apace. I hope so—though I never live so long, I know what's sure to follow. You be judge! 280 You speak no Latin more than I, belike; However, you're my man, you've seen the world —The beauty and the wonder and the power, The shapes of things, their colors, lights, and shades Changes, surprises—and God made it all! 285 —For what? Do you feel thankful, aye or no, For this fair town's face, yonder river's line, The mountain round it and the sky above, Much more the figures of man, woman, child, These are the frame to? What's it all about? 290 To be passed over, despised? or dwelt upon, Wondered at? oh, this last of course!—you say. But why not do as well as say—paint these Just as they are, careless what comes of it? God's works—paint any one, and count it crime 295 To let a truth slip. Don't object, "His works Are here already; nature is complete: Suppose you reproduce her—(which you can't) There's no advantage! you must beat her, then." For, don't you mark? we're made so that we love 300 First when we see them painted, things we have passed Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see; And so they are better, painted—better to us, Which is the same thing. Art was given for that; God uses us to help each other so, 305 Lending our minds out. Have you noticed, now, Your cullion's hanging face? A bit of chalk, And trust me but you should, though! How much more, If I drew higher things with the same truth! That were to take the Prior's pulpit-place, 310 Interpret God to all of you! Oh, oh, It makes me mad to see what men shall do And we in our graves! This world's no blot for us, Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good: To find its meaning is my meat and drink. 315 "Aye, but you don't so instigate to prayer!" Strikes in the Prior: "when your meaning's plain It does not say to folk—remember matins, Or, mind you fast next Friday!" Why, for this What need of art at all? A skull and bones, 320 Two bits of stick nailed crosswise, or, what's best, A bell to chime the hour with, does as well. I painted a Saint Laurence six months since At Prato, splashed the fresco in fine style: "How looks my painting, now the scaffold's down?" 325 I ask a brother: "Hugely," he returns— "Already not one phiz of your three slaves Who turn the Deacon off his toasted side, But's scratched and prodded to our heart's content, The pious people have so eased their own 330 With coming to say prayers there in a rage: We get on fast to see the bricks beneath. Expect another job this time next year, For pity and religion grow i' the crowd— Your painting serves its purpose!" Hang the fools! 335

—That is—you'll not mistake an idle word Spoke in a huff by a poor monk, God wot, Tasting the air this spicy night which turns The unaccustomed head like Chianti wine! Oh, the church knows! don't misreport me, now! 340 It's natural a poor monk out of bounds Should have his apt word to excuse himself: And hearken how I plot to make amends. I have bethought me: I shall paint a piece ... There's for you! Give me six months, then go, see 345 Something in Sant' Ambrogio's! Bless the nuns! They want a cast o' my office. I shall paint God in the midst, Madonna and her babe, Ringed by a bowery, flowery angel-brood, Lilies and vestments and white faces, sweet 350 As puff on puff of grated orris-root When ladies crowd to Church at midsummer. And then i' the front, of course a saint or two— Saint John, because he saves the Florentines, Saint Ambrose, who puts down in black and white 355 The convent's friends and gives them a long day, And Job, I must have him there past mistake, The man of Uz (and Us without the z, Painters who need his patience). Well, all these Secured at their devotion, up shall come 360 Out of a corner when you least expect, As one by a dark stair into a great light, Music and talking, who but Lippo! I!— Mazed, motionless, and moonstruck—I'm the man! Back I shrink—what is this I see and hear? 365 I, caught up with my monk's-things by mistake, My old serge gown and rope that goes all round, I, in this presence, this pure company! Where's a hole, where's a corner for escape? Then steps a sweet angelic slip of a thing 370 Forward, puts out a soft palm—"Not so fast!" —Addresses the celestial presence, "nay— He made you and devised you, after all, Though he's none of you! Could Saint John there draw— His camel-hair make up a painting-brush? 375 We come to brother Lippo for all that, Iste perfecit opus!" So, all smile— I shuffle sideways with my blushing face Under the cover of a hundred wings Thrown like a spread of kirtles when you're gay 380 And play hot cockles, all the doors being shut, Till, wholly unexpected, in there pops The hothead husband! Thus I scuttle off To some safe bench behind, not letting go The palm of her, the little lily thing 385 That spoke the good word for me in the nick, Like the Prior's niece ... Saint Lucy, I would say. And so all's saved for me, and for the church A pretty picture gained. Go, six months hence! Your hand, sir, and good-by: no lights, no lights! 390 The street's hushed, and I know my own way back, Don't fear me! There's the gray beginning. Zooks!



But do not let us quarrel any more. No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once: Sit down and all shall happen as you wish. You turn your face, but does it bring your heart? I'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear, 5 Treat his own subject after his own way, Fix his own time, accept too his own price, And shut the money into this small hand When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly? Oh, I'll content him—but tomorrow, Love! 10 I often am much wearier than you think, This evening more than usual, and it seems As if—forgive now—should you let me sit Here by the window with your hand in mine And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole, 15 Both of one mind, as married people use, Quietly, quietly the evening through, I might get up tomorrow to my work Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try. Tomorrow, how you shall be glad for this! 20 Your soft hand is a woman of itself, And mine the man's bared breast she curls inside. Don't count the time lost, neither; you must serve For each of the five pictures we require: It saves a model. So! keep looking so— 25 My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds! —How could you ever prick those perfect ears, Even to put the pearl there! oh, so sweet— My face, my moon, my everybody's moon, Which everybody looks on and calls his, 30 And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn, While she looks—no one's: very dear, no less. You smile? why, there's my picture ready made, There's what we painters call our harmony! A common grayness silvers everything— 35 All in a twilight, you and I alike —You, at the point of your first pride in me (That's gone you know)—but I, at every point; My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down To yonder sober, pleasant Fiesole. 40 There's the bell clinking from the chapel-top; That length of convent-wall across the way Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside; The last monk leaves the garden; days decrease, And autumn grows, autumn in everything. 45 Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape As if I saw alike my work and self And all that I was born to be and do, A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God's hand. How strange now looks the life He makes us lead; 50 So free we seem, so fettered fast we are! I feel He laid the fetter: let it lie! This chamber for example—turn your head— All that's behind us! You don't understand Nor care to understand about my art, 55 But you can hear at least when people speak: And that cartoon, the second from the door —It is the thing, Love! so such thing should be— Behold Madonna!—I am bold to say. I can do with my pencil what I know, 60 What I see, what at bottom of my heart I wish for, if I ever wish so deep— Do easily, too—when I say, perfectly, I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge, Who listened to the Legate's talk last week, 65 And just as much they used to say in France. At any rate 'tis easy, all of it! No sketches first, no studies, that's long past: I do what many dream of, all their lives, —Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do, 70 And fail in doing. I could count twenty such On twice your fingers, and not leave this town, Who strive—you don't know how the others strive To paint a little thing like that you smeared Carelessly passing with your robes afloat— 75 Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says, (I know his name, no matter)—so much less! Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged. There burns a truer light of God in them, In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain, 80 Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine. Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know, Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me, Enter and take their place there sure enough, 85 Though they come back and cannot tell the world. My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here. The sudden blood of these men! at a word— Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too. I, painting from myself and to myself, 90 Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame Or their praise either. Somebody remarks Morello's outline there is wrongly traced, His hue mistaken; what of that? or else, Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that? 95 Speak as they please, what does the mountain care? Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-gray Placid and perfect with my art: the worse! I know both what I want and what might gain, 100 And yet how profitless to know, to sigh "Had I been two, another and myself, Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt. Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth The Urbinate who died five years ago. 105 ('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.) Well, I can fancy how he did it all, Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see, Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, Above and through his art—for it gives way; 110 That arm is wrongly put—and there again— A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines, Its body, so to speak: its soul is right, He means right—that, a child may understand. Still, what an arm! and I could alter it: 115 But all the play, the insight and the stretch— Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out? Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul, We might have risen to Rafael, I and you! Nay, Love, you did give all I asked, I think— 120 More than I merit, yes, by many times. But had you—oh, with the same perfect brow, And perfect eyes, and more than perfect mouth, And the low voice my soul hears, as a bird The fowler's pipe, and follows to the snare— 125 Had you, with these the same, but brought a mind! Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged "God and the glory! never care for gain. The present by the future, what is that? Live for fame, side by side with Agnolo! 130 Rafael is waiting: up to God, all three!" I might have done it for you. So it seems: Perhaps not. All is as God overrules. Beside, incentives come from the soul's self; The rest avail not. Why do I need you? 135 What wife had Rafael, or has Agnolo? In this world, who can do a thing, will not; And who would do it, cannot, I perceive: Yet the will's somewhat—somewhat, too, the power— And thus we half-men struggle. At the end, 140 God, I conclude, compensates, punishes. 'Tis safer for me, if the award be strict, That I am something underrated here, Poor this long while, despised, to speak the truth. I dared not, do you know, leave home all day, 145 For fear of chancing on the Paris lords. The best is when they pass and look aside; But they speak sometimes; I must bear it all. Well may they speak! That Francis, that first time, And that long festal year at Fontainebleau! 150 I surely then could sometimes leave the ground, Put on the glory, Rafael's daily wear, In that humane great monarch's golden look— One finger in his beard or twisted curl Over his mouth's good mark that made the smile, 155 One arm about my shoulder, round my neck, The jingle of his gold chain in my ear, I, painting proudly with his breath on me, All his court round him, seeing with his eyes, Such frank French eyes, and such a fire of souls 160 Profuse, my hand kept plying by those hearts— And, best of all, this, this, this face beyond, This in the background, waiting on my work, To crown the issue with a last reward! A good time, was it not, my kingly days? 165 And load you not grown restless ... but I know— 'Tis done and past; 'twas right, my instinct said; Too live the life grew, golden and not gray, And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt Out of the grange whose four walls make his world. 170 How could it end in any other way? You called me, and I came home to your heart. The triumph was—to reach and stay there; since I reached it ere the triumph, what is lost? Let my hands frame your face in your hair's gold, 175 You beautiful Lucrezia that are mine! "Rafael did this, Andrea painted that; The Roman's is the better when you pray, But still the other's Virgin was his wife"— Men will excuse me. I am glad to judge 180 Both pictures in your presence; clearer grows My better fortune, I resolve to think. For, do you know, Lucrezia, as God lives, Said one day Agnolo, his very self, To Rafael ... I have known it all these years ... 185 (When the young man was flaming out his thoughts Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see, Too lifted up in heart because of it) "Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how, 190 Who, were he set to plan and execute As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings, Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!" To Rafael's!—And indeed the arm is wrong. I hardly dare ... yet, only you to see, 195 Give the chalk here—quick, thus the line should go! Aye, but the soul! he's Rafael! rub it out! Still, all I care for, if he spoke the truth, (What he? why, who but Michel Agnolo? Do you forget already words like those?) 200 If really there was such a chance, so lost— Is, whether you're—not grateful—but more pleased. Well, let me think so. And you smile indeed! This hour has been an hour! Another smile? If you would sit thus by me every night 205 I should work better, do you comprehend? I mean that I should earn more, give you more. See, it is settled dusk now; there's a star; Morello's gone, the watch-lights show the wall, The cue-owls speak the name we call them by. 210 Come from the window, love—come in, at last, Inside the melancholy little house We built to be so gay with. God is just. King Francis may forgive me: oft at nights When I look up from painting, eyes tired out, 215 The walls become illumined, brick from brick Distinct, instead of mortar, fierce bright gold, That gold of his I did cement them with! Let us but love each other. Must you go? That Cousin here again? He waits outside? 220 Must see you—you, and not with me? Those loans? More gaming debts to pay? You smiled for that? Well, let smiles buy me! Have you more to spend? While hand and eye and something of a heart Are left me, work's my ware, and what's it worth? 225 I'll pay my fancy. Only let me sit The gray remainder of the evening out, Idle, you call it, and muse perfectly How I could paint, were I but back in France, One picture, just one more—the Virgin's face, 230 Not yours this time! I want you at my side To hear them—that is, Michel Agnolo— Judge all I do and tell you of its worth. Will you? Tomorrow, satisfy your friend. I take the subjects for his corridor, 235 Finish the portrait out of hand—there, there, And throw him in another thing or two If he demurs; the whole should prove enough To pay for this same Cousin's freak. Beside, What's better and what's all I care about, 240 Get you the thirteen scudi for the ruff! Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he, The Cousin! what does he to please you more?

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