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Title: Men and Women
Author: Browning, Robert, 1812-1889
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Men and Women" ***

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Introduction and Notes: Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke, from the
edition of Browning's poems published by Thomas Y. Crowell and
Company, New York, in 1898.


Editing conventions: The digraphs have been silently rendered as
"ae" or "oe."

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a-circumflex.  Similarly, u-umlaut is rendered as "ue."

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

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

In keeping with contemporary practice, commas have been deleted when
they precede dashes and spaces deleted in such contractions as
"there's" where the printed text has "there 's."

In references to Bible verses, Roman numerals have been changed to
Arabic numerals (e. g., "John iii.16" is changed to "John 3:16").



MEN AND WOMEN

BY

ROBERT BROWNING


CONTENTS
  Introduction (by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke)
  "Transcendentalism:  A Poem in Twelve Books"
  How It Strikes a Contemporary
  Artemis Prologizes
  An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab
    Physician
  Johannes Agricola in Meditation
  Pictor Ignotus
  Fra Lippo Lippi
  Andrea del Sarto
  The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church
  Bishop Blougram's Apology
  Cleon
  Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli
  One Word More


INTRODUCTION

Thirteen years after the publication, in 1855, of the Poems, in two
volumes, entitled "Men and Women," Browning reviewed his work and
made an interesting reclassification of it.  He separated the
simpler pieces of a lyric or epic cast--such rhymed presentations
of an emotional moment, for example, as "Mesmerism" and "A Woman's
Last Word," or the picturesque rhymed verse telling a story of an
experience, such as "Childe Roland" and "The Statue and the
Bust"--from their more complex companions, which were almost
altogether in blank verse, and, in general, markedly personified a
typical man in his environment, a Cleon or Fra Lippo, a Rudel or a
Blougram.  These boldly sculptured figures he set apart from the
others as the fit components of the more closely related group which
ever since has constituted the division now known as "Men and
Women."

Possibly the poet took some pleasure in thus bringing to confusion
those critics who, beginning first to take any notice of his work
after the issue of these volumes of 1855, discovered therein poems
they praised chiefly by means of contrasting them with foregoing
work they found unnoticeable and later work they declared
inscrutable.  Their bland discrimination, at any rate, in favor of
"Men and Women" became henceforth inapplicable, since the poet not
only cast out from the division they elected to honor the little
lyrical pieces that caught their eye, but also brought to the front,
from his earlier neglected work of the same kind as the monologues
retained, his Johannes Agricola of 1836, Pictor Ignotus of 1845, and
Rudel of 1842. Later criticism, moreover, that even yet assumes to
ring the old changes of discrimination against everything but "Men
and Women," is made not merely inapplicable by this re-arrangement,
but uninformed, a meaningless echo of a borrowed opinion which has
had the very ground from under it shifted.

The self-criticism of which this re-arrangement gives a hint is more
valuable.

All the shorter poems accumulated up to this period, various as they
are in theme and metrical form, are uniform in the fashioning of
their contour and color. As soon as this underlying uniformity of
make is recognized it may be seen to be the coloring and relief
belonging to any sort of poetic material, whether ordinarily
accounted dramatic material or not, which is imaginatively
externalized and made concrete. This peculiarity of make Browning
early acknowledged in his estimate of his shorter poems as
characteristic of his touch, when he called his lyrics and romances
dramatic. He became consciously sensitive later to slight variations
effected by his manipulation in shape and shade which it yet takes a
little thought to discern, even after his own redivision of his
work has given the clew to his self-judgments.

Not only events, deeds, and characters--the usual subject-matter
moulded and irradiated by dramatic power--but thoughts, impressions,
experiences, impulses, no matter how spiritualized or complex or
mobile, are transfused with the enlivening light of his creative
energy in his shorter poems. Perhaps the very path struck out
through them by the poet in his re-division may be traced between
the leaves silently closing together again behind him if it be
noticed that among these poems there are some with footholds firmly
rooted in the earth and others whose proper realm is air. These have
wings for alighting, for flitting thither and hither, or for
pursuing some sudden rapt whirl of flight in Heaven's face at
fancy's bidding. They are certainly not less original than those
other solider, earth-fast poems, but they are less unique. Being
motived in transient fancy, they are more akin to poems by other
hands, and could be classed more readily with them by any observer,
despite all differences, as little poetic romances or as a species
of lyric.

They were probably first found praiseworthy, not only because they
were simpler, but because, being more like work already understood
and approved, adventurous criticism was needed to taste their
quality. The other longer poems in blank verse, graver and more
dignified, yet even more vivid, and far more life-encompassing,
which bore the rounded impress of the living human being, instead of
the shadowy motion of the lively human fancy--these are the birth of
a process of imaginative brooding upon the development of man by
means of individuality throughout the slow, unceasing flow of human
history. Browning evidently grew aware that whatever these poems of
personality might prove to be worth to the world, these were the
ones deserving of a place apart, under the early title of "Men and
Women," which he thought especially suited to the more roundly
modelled and distinctively colored exemplars of his peculiar
faculty.

In his next following collection, under the similar descriptive
title of "Dramatis Personae," he added to this class of work,
shaping in the mould of blank verse mainly used for "Men and Women"
his personifications of the Medium Mr. Sludge, the embryo theologian
Caliban, the ripened mystical saint of "A Death in the Desert";
while Abt Vogler, the creative musician, Rabbi ben Ezra, the
intuitional philosopher, and the chastened adept in loving, James
Lee's wife, although held within the embrace of their maker's
dramatic conception of them, as persons of his stage, were made to
pour out their speech in rhyme as Johannes Agricola in the earlier
volume uttered his creed and Rudel his love-message, as if the heat
of their emotion-moved personality required such an outlet.  Some
such general notion as this of the scope of this volume, and of the
design of the poet in the construction, classification, and orderly
arrangement of so much of his briefer work as is here contained
seems to be borne out upon a closer examination.  On the threshold
of this new poetic world of personality stands the Poet of the poem
significantly called "Transcendentalism," who is speaking to another
poet about the too easily obvious, metaphor-bare philosophy of his
opus in twelve books.  That the admonishing poet is stationed there
at the very door-sill of the Gallery of Men and Women is surely not
accidental, even if Browning's habit of plotting his groups of poems
symmetrically by opening with a prologue-poem sounding the right
key, and rounding the theme with an epilogue, did not tend to prove
it intentional. It is an open secret that the last poem in "Men and
Women," for instance, is an epilogue of autobiographical interest,
gathering up the foregoing strains of his lyre, for a few last
chords, in so intimate a way that the actual fall of the fingers may
be felt, the pausing smile seen, as the performer turns towards the
one who inspired "One Word More."  The appropriateness of
"Transcendentalism" as a prologue need be no more of a secret than
that of "One Word More" as an epilogue, although it is left to
betray itself.  Other poets writing on the poet, Emerson for
example, and Tennyson, place the outright plain name of their
thought at the head of their verses, without any attempt to make
their titles dress their parts and keep as thoroughly true to their
roles as the poems themselves.  But a complete impersonation of his
thought in name and style as well as matter is characteristic of
Browning, and his personified poets playing their parts together in
"Transcendentalism" combine to exhibit a little masque exemplifying
their writer's view of the Poet as veritably as if he had named it
specifically "The Poet."  One poet shows the other, and brings him
visibly forward; but even in such a morsel of dramatic workmanship
as this, fifty-one lines all told, there is the complexity and
involution of life itself, and, as ever in Browning's monologues,
over the shoulder of the poet more obviously portrayed peers as
livingly the face of the poet portraying him. And this one--the
admonishing poet--is set there with his "sudden rose," as if to
indicate with that symbol of poetic magic what kind of spell was
sought to be exercised by their maker to conjure up in his house of
song the figures that people its niches. Could a poem be imagined
more cunningly devised to reveal a typical poetic personality, and a
typical theory of poetic method, through its way of revealing
another?  What poet could have composed it but one who himself
employed the dramatic method of causing the abstract to be
realizable through the concrete image of it, instead of the contrary
mode of seeking to divest the objective of its concrete form in
order to lay bare its abstract essence? This opposite theory of the
poetic function is precisely the Boehme mode, against which the
veiled dramatic poet, who is speaking in favor of the Halberstadtian
magic, admonishes his brother, while he himself in practical
substantiation of his theory of poetics brings bodily in sight the
boy-face above the winged harp, vivified and beautiful himself,
although his poem is but a shapeless mist.

Not directly, then, but indirectly, as the dramatic poet ever
reveals himself, does the sophisticated face of the subtle poet of
"Men and Women" appear as the source of power behind both of the
poets of this poem, prepossessing the reader of the verity and
beauty of the theory of poetic art therein exemplified.  Such an
interpretation of "Transcendentalism," and such a conception of it
as a key to the art of the volume it opens, chimes in harmoniously
with the note sounded in the next following poem, "How it Strikes a
Contemporary."  Here again a typical poet is personified, not,
however, by means of his own poetic way of seeing, but of the
prosaic way in which he is seen by a contemporary, the whole, of
course, being poetically seen and presented by the
over-poet. Browning himself, and in such a manifold way that the
reader is enabled to conceive as vividly of the talker and his
mental atmosphere and social background--the people and habitudes of
the good old town of Valladolid--as of the betalked-of Corregidor
himself; while by the totality of these concrete images an
impression is conveyed of the dramatic mode of poetic expression
which is far more convincing than any explicit theoretic statement
of it could be, because so humanly animated.

"Artemis Prologizes" seems to have been selected to close this
little opening sequence of poems on the poet, because that fragment
of a larger projected work could find place here almost as if it
were a poet's exercise in blank verse. Its smooth and spacious
rhythm, flawless and serene as the distant Greek myth of the hero
and the goddess it celebrates, is in striking contrast with the
rougher, but brighter and more humanly colloquial blank verse of
"Bishop Blougram's Apology," for example, or the stiff carefulness
of the "Epistle" of Karshish.  It might alone suffice, by comparison
with the metrical craftsmanship of the other poems of "Men and
Women," to assure the observant reader that never was a good workman
more baselessly accused of metrical carelessness than the poet who
designedly varies his complicated verse-effects to suit every inner
impulse belonging to his dramatic subject.  A golden finish being in
place in this statuesque, "Hyperion"-like monologue of Artemis,
behold here it is, and none the less perfect because not merely the
outcome of the desire to produce a polished piece of poetic
mechanism.

Browning, perhaps, linked his next poem, "The Strange Medical
Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician," with the calm
prologizing of the Hellenic goddess, by association of the "wise
pharmacies" of AEsculapius, with the inquisitive sagacity of
Karshish, "the not-incurious in God's handiwork."  By this ordering
of the poems, the reader may now enjoy, at any rate, the contrasts
between three historic phases of wisdom in bodily ills: the phase
presented in the dependence of the old Greek healer upon simple
physical effects, soothing "with lavers the torn brow," and laying
"the stripes and jagged ends of flesh even once more"; and the
phases typified, on the one side, by the ingenious Arab, sire of the
modern scientist, whose patient correlation of facts and studious,
sceptical scrutiny of cause and effect are caught in the bud in the
diagnosis transmitted by Karshish to Abib, and, on the other side,
by the Nazarene physician, whose inspired secret of summoning out of
the believing soul of man the power to control his body--so baffled
and fascinated Karshish, drawing his attention in Lazarus to just
that connection of the known physical with the unknown psychical
nature which is still mystically alluring the curiosity of
investigators.

From the childlike, over-idealizing mood of Lazarus toward the God
who had succored him, inducing in him so fatalistic an indifference
to human concerns, there is but a step to the rapture of absolute
theology expressed in the person of Johannes Agricola.  Such poems
as these put before the cool gaze of the present century the very
men of the elder day of religion. Their robes shine with an
unearthly light, and their abstracted eyes are hypnotized by the
effulgence of their own haloes.  Yet the poet never fails to
insinuate some naive foible in their personification, a numbness of
the heart or an archaism of soul, which reveals the possessed one as
but a human brother, after all, shaped by his environment, and
embodying the spirit of an historic epoch out of which the current
of modern life is still streaming.

The group of art poems which follows similarly presents a dramatic
synthesis of the art of the Renaissance as represented by three
types of painters. The religious devotion of the monastic painter,
whose ecstatic spirit breathes in "Pictor Ignotus," probably gives
this poem its place adjoining Agricola and Lazarus.  His artist's
hankering to create that beauty to bless the world with which his
soul refrains from grossly satisfying, unites the poem with the two
following ones.  In the first of these the realistic artist, Fra
Lippo, is graphically pictured personally ushering in the high noon
of the Italian efflorescence. In the second, the gray of that day of
art is silvering the self-painted portrait of the prematurely
frigid and facile formalist, Andrea del Sarto.  In "Pictor Ignotus"
not only the personality of the often unknown and unnamed
painting-brother of the monasteries is made clear, but also the
nature of his beautiful cold art and the enslavement of both art and
personality to ecclesiastical beliefs and ideals. In "Fra Lippo
Lippi" not alone the figure of the frolicsome monk appears caught in
his pleasure-loving escapade, amid that picturesque knot of
alert-witted Florentine guards, ready to appreciate all the good
points in his story of his life and the protection the arms of the
Church and the favor of the Medici have afforded his genius, but,
furthermore, is illustrated the irresistible tendency of the
art-impulse to expand beyond the bounds set for it either by laws of
Church or art itself, and to find beauty wheresoever in life it
chooses to turn the light of its gaze. So, also, in "Andrea del
Sarto," the easy cleverness of the unaspiring craftsman is not
embodied apart from the abject relationship which made his very soul
a bond-slave to the gross mandates of "the Cousin's whistle."  Yet
in all three poems the biographic and historic conditions
contributing toward the individualizing of each artist are so
unobtrusively epitomized and vitally blended, that, while scarcely
any item of specific study of the art and artists of the Renaissance
would be out of place in illustrating the essential truth of the
portraiture and assisting in the better appreciation of the poem,
there is no detail of the workmanship which does not fall into the
background as a mere accessory to the dominant figure through whose
relationship to his art his station in the past is made clear.

This sort of dramatic synthesis of a salient, historical epoch is
again strikingly disclosed in the following poem of the Renaissance
period, "The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church."  In
this, again, the art-connoisseurship of the prelacy, so important
an element in the Italian movement towards art-expression, is
revealed to the life in the beauty-loving personality of the dying
bishop.  And by means, also, of his social ties with his nephews,
called closer than they wish about him now; with her whom "men would
have to be their mother once"; with old Gandolf, whom he fancies
leering at him from his onion-stone tomb; and with all those strong
desires of the time for the delight of being envied, for marble
baths and horses and brown Greek manuscripts and mistresses, the
seeds of human decay planted in the plot of Time, known as the
Central Renaissance, by the same lingering fleshliness and
self-destroying self-indulgence as was at home in pagan days, are
livingly exposed to the historic sense.

Is the modern prelate portrayed in "Bishop Blougram's Apology," with
all his bland subtlety, complex culture, and ripened perceptions,
distant as the nineteenth century from the sixteenth, very different
at bottom from his Renaissance brother, in respect to his native
hankering for the pleasure of estimation above his fellows?
Gigadibs is his Gandolf, whom he would craftily overtop.  He is the
one raised for the time above the commonalty by his criticism of the
bishop, to whom the prelate would fain show how little he was to be
despised, how far more honored and powerful he was among men.  As
for Gigadibs, it is to be noticed that Browning quietly makes him do
more than leer enviously at his complacent competitor from a
tomb-top.  The "sudden healthy vehemence" that struck him and made
him start to test his first plough in a new world, and read his last
chapter of St. John to better purpose than towards
self-glorification beyond his fellows, is a parable of the more
profitable life to be found in following the famous injunction of
that chapter in John's Gospel, "Feed my sheep!" than in causing
those sheep to motion one, as the bishop would have his obsequious
wethers of the flock motion him, to the choice places of the sward.

So, as vivid a picture of the materialism and monopolizing of the
present century sowing seeds of decay and self-destruction in the
movement of this age toward love of the truth, of the beauty of
genuineness in character and earnestness in aim, is portrayed
through the realistic personality of the great modern bishop, in his
easy-smiling after-dinner talk with Gigadibs, the literary man, as
is presented of the Central Renaissance period in the companion
picture of the Bishop of Saint Praxed's.

In Cleon, the man of composite art and culture, the last ripe
fruitage of Greek development, is personified and brought into
contact, at the moment of the dawn of Christianity in Europe, with
the ardent impulse the Christian ideal of spiritual life supplied to
human civilization. How close the wise and broad Greek culture came
to being all-sufficing, capable of effecting almost enough of
impetus for the aspiring progress of the world, and yet how much it
lacked a warmer element essential to be engrafted upon its lofty
beauty, the reader, upon whose imaginative vision the personality of
Cleon rises, can scarcely help but feel.

The aesthetic and religious or philosophical interests vitally
conceived and blended, which link together so many of the main poems
of "Men and Women," close with "Cleon."  Rudel, the troubadour,
presenting, in the self-abandonment of his offering of love to the
Lady of Tripoli, an impersonation of the chivalric love
characteristic of the Provencal life of the twelfth century,
intervenes, appropriately, last of all, between the preceding poems
and the epilogue, which devotes heart and brain of the poet himself,
with the creatures of his hand, to his "Moon of Poets."

As these poetic creations now stand, they all seem, upon
examination, to incarnate the full-bodied life of distinctive types
of men, centred amid their relations with other men within a
specific social environment, and fulfilling the possibilities for
such unique, dramatic syntheses as were revealed but partially or in
embryo here and there among the other shorter poems of this period
of the poet's growth.

In one important particular the re-arrangement of the "Men and
Women" group of poems made its title inappropriate.  The graceful
presence and love-lit eyes of the many women of the shorter
love-poems were withdrawn, and Artemis, Andrea del Sarto's wife, the
Prior's niece--"Saint Lucy, I would say," as Fra Lippo
explains--and, perhaps, the inspirer of Rudel's chivalry, too, the
shadowy yet learned and queenly Lady of Tripoli, alone were left to
represent the "women" of the title.  As for minor inexactitudes,
what does it matter that the advantage gained by nicely selecting
the poems properly belonging together, both in conception and
artistic modelling, was won at the cost of making the reference
inaccurate, in the opening lines of "One Word More," to "my fifty
men and women, naming me the fifty poems finished"?--Or that the
mention of Roland in line 138 is no longer in place with Karshish,
Cleon, Lippo, and Andrea, now that the fantastic story of Childe
Roland's desperate loyalty is given closer companionship among the
varied experiences narrated in the "Dramatic Romances"?  While as
for the mention of the Norbert of "In a Balcony"--which was
originally included as but one item along with the other contents of
"Men and Women"--that miniature drama, although it stands by itself
now, is still near enough at hand in the revised order to account
for the allusion. These are all trifles--mere sins against literal
accuracy. But the discrepancy in the title occasioned by the absence
of women is of more importance.  It is of especial interest, in
calling attention to the fact that the creator of Pompilia,
Balaustion, and the heroine of the "Inn Album"--all central figures,
whence radiate the life and spiritual energy of the work they
ennoble--had, at this period, created no typical figures of women in
any degree corresponding to those of his men.

CHARLOTTE PORTER
HELEN A. CLARKE


"TRANSCENDENTALISM: A POEM IN TWELVE BOOKS"

1855

Stop playing, poet! May a brother speak?
'Tis you speak, that's your error.  Song's our art:
Whereas you please to speak these naked thoughts
Instead of draping them in sights and sounds.
--True thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up!
But why such long prolusion and display,
Such turning and adjustment of the harp,
And taking it upon your breast, at length,
Only to speak dry words across its strings?
Stark-naked thought is in request enough:                  10
Speak prose and hollo it till Europe hears!
The six-foot Swiss tube, braced about with bark,
Which helps the hunter's voice from Alp to Alp--
Exchange our harp for that--who hinders you?

But here's your fault; grown men want thought, you think;
Thought's what they mean by verse, and seek in verse.
Boys seek for images and melody,
Men must have reason--so, you aim at men.

Quite otherwise! Objects throng our youth,'tis true;
We see and hear and do not wonder much:                    20
If you could tell us what they mean, indeed!
As German Boehme never cared for plants
Until it happed, a-walking in the fields,
He noticed all at once that plants could speak,
Nay, turned with loosened tongue to talk with him.
That day the daisy had an eye indeed--
Colloquized with the cowslip on such themes!
We find them extant yet in Jacob's prose.
But by the time youth slips a stage or two
While reading prose in that tough book he wrote            30
(Collating and emendating the same
And settling on the sense most to our mind)
We shut the clasps and find life's summer past.
Then, who  helps more, pray, to repair our loss--
Another Boehme with a tougher book
And subtler meanings of what roses say--
Or some stout Mage like him of Halberstadt,
John, who made things Boehme wrote thoughts about?
He with a "look you!" vents a brace of rhymes,
And in there breaks the sudden rose herself,               40
Over us, under, round us every side,
Nay, in and out the tables and the chairs
And musty  volumes, Boehme's book and all--
Buries us with a glory, young once more,
Pouring heaven into this shut house of life.

So come, the harp back to your heart again!
You are a poem, though your poem's naught.
The best of all you showed before, believe,
Was your own  boy-face o'er the finer chords
Bent, following the cherub at the top                      50
That points to God with his paired half-moon wings.


NOTES

"Transcendentalism" is a criticism, placed in the mouth of a poet,
of another poet, whose manner of singing is prosaic, because it
seeks to transcend (or penetrate beyond) phenomena, by divesting
poetic expression of those concrete embodiments which enable it to
appeal to the senses and imagination.  Instead of bare abstractions
being suited to the developed mind, it is the primitive mind, which,
like Boehme's, has the merely metaphysical turn, and expects to
discover the unincarnate absolute essence of things. The maturer
mind craves the vitalizing method of the artist who, like the
magician of Halberstadt, recreates things bodily in all their
beautiful vivid wholeness.  Yet the poet who sincerely holds so
fragmentary a conception of art is himself a poem to the poet who
holds the larger view.  His boy-face singing to God above his
ineffective harp-strings is a concrete image of this sort of poetic
transcendentalism.

[It is obvious that Browning uses the Halberstadt and not the Boehme
method in presenting this embodiment of his subject.  The
supposition of certain commentators that Browning is here picturing
his own artistic method as transcendental is a misconception of his
characteristic theory of poetic art, as shown here and elsewhere.]

22. Boehme: Jacob, an "inspired" German shoemaker (1575-1624), who
wrote "Aurora," "The Three Principles," etc., mystical commentaries
on Biblical events.  When twenty-five years old, says Hotham in
"Mysterium Magnum," 1653, "he was surrounded by a divine Light and
replenished with heavenly Knowledge . . . going abroad into the
Fieldes to a Greene before Neys-Gate at Gorlitz and viewing the
Herbes and Grass of the Fielde, in his inward light he saw into
their Essences .  . . and from that Fountain of Revelation wrote ," on the signatures of things, the "tough book" to
which Browning refers.

37. Halberstadt: Johann Semeca, called Teutonicus, a canon of
Halberstadt in Germany, who was interested in the unchurchly study
of mediaeval science and reputed to be a magician, possessing the
vegetable stone supposed to make plants grow at will, having the
same power over organic life that the philosopher's stone of the
alchemists had over minerals, so that, like Albertus Magnus, another
such mage of the Middle Ages, he could cause flowers to spring up in
the midst of winter.


HOW IT STRIKES A CONTEMPORARY

1855

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
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:
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 mouldered Moorish work--
Or else surprise the ferret 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
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 vendor'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.
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,
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
And young C. got his mistress, was't our friend,
His letter to the King, that did it all?
What paid the Woodless 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.
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
Blazing with lights, four Titians on the wall,
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,
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,
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 happy 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,
Thro' a whole campaign of the world's life and death,
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.

NOTES

"How it Strikes a Contemporary" is a portrait of the Poet as the
unpoetic gossiping public of his day sees him.  It is humorously
colored by the alien point of view of the speaker, who suspects
without understanding either the greatness of the poet's spiritual
personality and mission, or the nature of his life, which is
withdrawn from that of the commonalty, yet spent in clear-sighted
universal sympathies and kindly mediation between Humanity and its
God.

3. Valladolid: the royal city of the kings of Castile, before Philip
II moved the Court to Madrid, where Cervantes, Calderon, and Las
Casas lived and Columbus died.

76. Titian: pictures by the Venetian, Tiziano Vecellio (1477-1576),
glowing in color, presumably of large golden-haired women like his
famous Venus.

90. Corregidor: the Spanish title for a magistrate, literally, a
corrector, from corregir, to correct.


ARTEMIS PROLOGIZES

1842

I am a goddess of the ambrosia courts,
And save by Here, Queen of Pride, surpassed
By none whose temples whiten this the world.
Through heaven I roll my lucid moon along;
I shed in hell o'er my pale people peace;
On earth I, caring for the creatures, guard
Each pregnant yellow wolf and fox-bitch sleek,
And every feathered mother's callow brood,
And all that love green haunts and loneliness.
Of men, the chaste adore me, hanging crowns                10
Of poppies red to blackness, bell and stem,
Upon my image at Athenai here;
And this dead Youth, Asclepios bends above,
Was dearest to me.  He, my buskined step
To follow through the wild-wood leafy ways,
And chase the panting stag, or swift with darts
Stop the swift ounce, or lay the leopard low,
Neglected homage to another god:
Whence Aphrodite, by no midnight smoke
Of tapers lulled, in jealousy despatched                   20
A noisome lust that, as the gad bee stings,
Possessed his stepdame Phaidra for himself
The son of Theseus her great absent spouse.
Hippolutos exclaiming in his rage
Against the fury of the Queen, she judged
Life insupportable; and, pricked at heart
An Amazonian stranger's race should dare
To scorn her, perished by the murderous cord:
Yet, ere she perished, blasted in a scroll
The fame of him her swerving made not swerve.              30
And Theseus, read, returning, and believed,
And exiled, in the blindness of his wrath,
The man without a crime who, last as first,
Loyal, divulged not to his sire the truth,
Now Theseus from Poseidon had obtained
That of his wishes should be granted three,
And one he imprecated straight--"Alive
May ne'er Hippolutos reach other lands!"
Poseidon heard, ai ai! And scarce the prince
Had stepped into the fixed boots of the car                40
That give the feet a stay against the strength
Of the Henetian horses, and around
His body flung the rein, and urged their speed
Along the rocks and shingles at the shore,
When from the gaping wave a monster flung
His obscene body in the coursers' path.
These, mad  with terror, as the sea-bull sprawled
Wallowing  about their feet, lost care of him
That reared them; and the master-chariot-pole
Snapping beneath their plunges like a reed,                50
Hippolutos, whose feet were trammelled fast,
Was yet dragged forward by the circling rein
Which either hand directed; nor they quenched
The frenzy of their flight before each trace,
Wheel-spoke and splinter of the woful car,
Each boulder-stone, sharp stub and spiny shell,
Huge fish-bone wrecked and  wreathed amid the sands
On that detested beach, was bright with blood
And morsels of his flesh; then fell the steeds
Head foremost, crashing in their mooned fronts,            60
Shivering with sweat, each white eye horror-fixed.
His people, who had witnessed all afar,
Bore back the ruins of Hippolutos.
But when his sire, too swoln with pride, rejoiced
(Indomitable as a man foredoomed)
That vast Poseidon had fulfilled his prayer,
I, in a flood of glory visible,
Stood o'er my dying votary and, deed
By  deed, revealed, as all took place, the truth.
Then Theseus lay the wofullest of men,                     70
And  worthily; but ere the death-veils hid
His face, the murdered prince full pardon breathed
To his rash sire.  Whereat Athenai wails.

So I, who ne'er forsake my votaries,
Lest in the cross-way none the honey-cake
Should tender, nor pour out the dog's hot life;
Lest at my fane the priests disconsolate
Should dress my image with some faded poor
Few crowns, made favors of, nor dare object
Such slackness to my worshippers who turn                  80
Elsewhere the trusting heart and loaded hand,
As they had climbed Olumpos to report
Of Artemis and nowhere found her throne--
I interposed: and, this eventful night
(While round the funeral pyre the populace
Stood with fierce light on their black robes which bound
Each sobbing head, while yet their hair they clipped
O'er the dead body of their withered prince,
And, in his palace, Theseus prostrated
On the cold hearth, his brow cold as the slab              90
'T was bruised on, groaned away the heavy grief--
As the pyre fell, and down the cross logs crashed
Sending a crowd of sparkles through the night,
And the gay fire, elate with mastery,
Towered like a serpent o'er the clotted jars
Of wine, dissolving oils and frankincense,
And splendid gums like gold) my potency
Conveyed the perished man to my retreat
In the thrice-venerable forest here.
And this white-bearded sage who squeezes now              100
The berried plant, is Phoibos' son of fame,
Asclepios, whom my  radiant brother taught
The doctrine of each herb and flower and root,
To know  their secret'st virtue and express
The saving soul of all: who so has soothed
With layers the torn brow and murdered cheeks,
Composed the hair and brought its gloss again,
And called the red bloom to the pale skin back,
And laid the strips and lagged ends of flesh
Even once more, and slacked the sinew's knot              110
Of every tortured limb--that now he lies
As if mere sleep possessed him underneath
These interwoven oaks and pines.  Oh cheer,
Divine presenter of the healing rod,
Thy snake, with ardent throat and lulling eye,
Twines his lithe spires around! I say, much cheer!
Proceed thou with thy wisest pharmacies!
And ye, white crowd of woodland sister-nymphs,
Ply, as the sage directs, these buds and leaves
That strew the turf around the twain! While I             120
Await, in fitting silence, the event.

NOTES

"Artemis Prologizes" represents the goddess Artemis awaiting the
revival of the youth Hippolytus, whom she has carried to her woods
and given to Asclepios to heal. It is a fragment meant to introduce
an unwritten work and carry on the story related by Euripides in
"Hippolytus," which see.


AN EPISTLE
CONTAINING THE STRANGE MEDICAL EXPERIENCE
OF KARSHISH, THE ARAB PHYSICIAN

1855

Karshish, the picker-up of learning's crumbs,
The not-incurious in God's handiwork
(This man's-flesh he hath admirably made,
Blown like a bubble, kneaded like a paste,
To coop up and keep down on earth a space
That puff of vapor from his mouth, man's soul)
--To Abib, all-sagacious in our art,
Breeder in me of what poor skill I boast,
Like me inquisitive how pricks and cracks
Befall the flesh through too much stress and strain,       10
Whereby the wily vapor fain would slip
Back and rejoin its source before the term--
And aptest in contrivance (under God)
To baffle it by deftly stopping such--
The vagrant Scholar to his Sage at home
Sends greeting (health and  knowledge, fame with peace)
Three samples of true snakestone--rarer still,
One of the other sort, the melon-shaped,
(But fitter, pounded fine, for charms than drugs)
And writeth now the twenty-second time.                    20

My journeyings were brought to Jericho:
Thus I resume.  Who studious in our art
Shall count a little labor un-repaid?
I have shed sweat enough, left flesh and bone
On many a flinty furlong of this land.
Also, the country-side is all on fire
With rumors of a marching hitherward:
Some say Vespasian comes, some, his son.
A black lynx snarled and pricked a tufted ear;
Lust of my blood inflamed his yellow balls:                30
I cried and threw my staff and he was gone.
Twice have the robbers stripped and beaten me,
And once a town declared me for a spy;
But at the end, I reach Jerusalem,
Since this poor covert where I pass the night,
This Bethany, lies scarce the distance thence
A man with plague-sores at the third degree
Runs till he drops down dead.  Thou laughest here!
'Sooth, it elates me, thus reposed and safe,
To void the stuffing of my travel-scrip                    40
And share with thee whatever Jewry yields.
A viscid choler is observable
In tertians, I was nearly bold to say;
And  falling-sickness hath a happier cure
Than our school wots of: there's a spider here
Weaves no web, watches on the ledge of tombs,
Sprinkled with mottles on an ash-gray back;
Take five and drop them . . . but who knows his mind,
The Syrian runagate I trust this to?
His service payeth me a sublimate                          50
Blown up his nose to help the ailing eye.
Best wait: I reach Jerusalem at morn,
There set in order my experiences,
Gather what most deserves, and give thee all--
Or I might add, Judaea's gum-tragacanth
Scales off in purer flakes, shines clearer-grained,
Cracks 'twixt the pestle and the porphyry,
In fine exceeds our produce.  Scalp-disease
Confounds me, crossing so with leprosy--
Thou hadst admired one sort I gained at Zoar--             60
But zeal outruns discretion.  Here I end.

Yet stay: my Syrian blinketh gratefully,
Protesteth his devotion is my price--
Suppose I write what harms not, though he steal?
I half resolve to tell thee, yet I blush,
What set me off a-writing first of all,
An itch I had, a sting to write, a tang!
For, be it this town's barrenness--or else
The Man had  something in the look of him--
His case has struck me far more than 'tis worth.           70
So, pardon if--(lest presently I lose
In the great press of novelty at hand
The care and pains this somehow stole from me)
I bid thee take the thing while fresh in mind,
Almost in sight--for, wilt thou have the truth?
The very man  is gone from me but now,
Whose ailment is the subject of discourse.
Thus then, and let thy better wit help all!

'Tis but a case of mania--subinduced
By epilepsy, at the turning-point                          80
Of trance prolonged unduly some three days:
When, by  the exhibition of some drug
Or spell, exorcisation, stroke of art
Unknown to me and which 't were well to know,
The evil thing out-breaking all at once
Left the man whole and sound of body indeed,
But, flinging (so to speak) life's gates too wide,
Making a clear house of it too suddenly,
The first conceit that entered might inscribe
Whatever it was minded on the wall                         90
So plainly at that vantage, as it were,
(First come, first served) that nothing subsequent
Attaineth to erase those fancy-scrawls
The just-returned and new-established soul
Hath gotten now so thoroughly by heart
That henceforth she will read or these or none.
And first--the  man's own firm conviction rests
That he was dead (in fact they buried him)
--That he was dead and then restored to life
By a Nazarene physician of his tribe:                     100
--'Sayeth, the same bade "Rise," and he did rise.
"Such cases are diurnal," thou wilt cry.
Not so this figment!--not, that such a fume,
Instead of giving way to time and health,
Should eat itself into the life of life,
As saffron tingeth flesh, blood, bones and all!
For see, how he takes up the after-life.
The man--it is one Lazarus a Jew,
Sanguine, proportioned, fifty years of age,
The body's habit wholly laudable,                         110
As much, indeed, beyond the common health
As he were made and put aside to show.
Think, could we penetrate by any drug
And bathe the wearied soul and worried flesh,
And bring it clear and fair, by three days' sleep!
Whence has the man the balm that brightens all?
This grown man eyes the world now like a child.
Some elders of his tribe, I should premise,
Led in their friend, obedient as a sheep,
To bear my inquisition.  While they spoke,                120
Now sharply, now with sorrow, told the case,
He listened not except I spoke to him,
But folded his two hands and let them talk,
Watching the flies that buzzed: and yet no fool.
And that's a sample how his years must go.
Look, if a beggar, in fixed middle-life,
Should find a treasure, can he use the same
With straitened habits and with tastes starved small,
And take at once to his impoverished brain
The sudden element that changes things,                   130
That sets the undreamed-of rapture at his hand
And puts the cheap old joy in the scorned dust?
Is he not such an one as moves to mirth--
Warily parsimonious, when no need,
Wasteful as drunkenness at undue times?
All prudent counsel as to what befits
The golden mean, is lost on such an one:
The man's fantastic will is the man's law.
So here--we  call the treasure knowledge, say,
Increased beyond the fleshly faculty--                    140
Heaven opened to a soul while yet on earth,
Earth forced on a soul's use while seeing heaven:
The man is witless of the size, the sum,
The value in proportion of all things,
Or whether it be little or be much.
Discourse to him of prodigious armaments
Assembled to besiege his city now,
And of the passing of a mule with gourds--
'T is one! Then take it on the other side,
Speak of some trifling fact, he will gaze rapt            150
With stupor at its very littleness,
(Far as I see) as if in that indeed
He caught prodigious import, whole results;
And so will turn to us the bystanders
In ever the same stupor (note this point)
That we too see not with his opened eyes.
Wonder and doubt come wrongly into play,
Preposterously, at cross purposes.
Should his child sicken unto death, why, look
For scarce abatement of his cheerfulness,                 160
Or pretermission of the daily craft!
While a word, gesture, glance from that same child
At play or in the school or laid asleep,
Will startle him to an agony of fear,
Exasperation, just as like.  Demand
The reason why--"'t is but a word," object--
"A gesture"--he regards thee as our lord
Who lived there in the pyramid alone,
Looked at us (dost thou mind?) when, being young,
We both would unadvisedly recite                          170
Some charm's beginning, from that book of his,
Able to bid the sun throb wide and burst
All into stars, as suns grown old are wont.
Thou and the child have each a veil alike
Thrown o'er your heads, from under which ye both
Stretch your blind hands and trifle with a match
Over a mine of Greek fire, did ye know!
He holds on firmly to some thread of life--
(It is the life to lead perforcedly)
Which runs across some vast distracting orb               180
Of glory on either side that meagre thread,
Which, conscious of, he must not enter yet--
The spiritual life around the earthly life:
The law of that is known to him as this,
His heart and brain move there, his feet stay here.
So is the man perplext with impulses
Sudden to start off crosswise, not straight on,
Proclaiming what is right and wrong across,
And not along, this black thread through the blaze--
"It should be" balked by "here it cannot be."             190
And oft the man's soul springs into his face
As if he saw again and heard again
His sage that bade him "Rise" and he did rise.
Something, a word, a tick o' the blood within
Admonishes: then back he sinks at once
To ashes, who was very fire before,
In sedulous recurrence to his trade
Whereby he earneth him the daily bread;
And studiously the humbler for that pride,
Professedly the faultier that he knows                    200
God's secret, while he holds the thread of life.
Indeed the especial marking of the man
Is prone submission to the heavenly will--
Seeing it, what it is, and why it is.
'Sayeth, he will wait patient to the last
For that same death which must restore his being
To equilibrium, body loosening soul
Divorced even now by premature full growth:
He will live, nay, it pleaseth him to live
So long as God please, and just how God please.           210
He even seeketh not to please God more
(Which  meaneth, otherwise) than as God please.
Hence, I perceive not he affects to preach
The doctrine of his sect whate'er it be,
Make proselytes as madmen thirst to do:
How can he give his neighbor the real ground,
His own conviction? Ardent as he is--
Call his great truth a lie, why, still the old
"Be it as God please" reassureth him.
I probed the sore as thy disciple should:                 220
"How, beast," said I, "this stolid carelessness
Sufficeth thee, when Rome is on her march
To stamp out like a little spark thy town,
Thy tribe, thy crazy tale and thee at once?"
He merely looked with his large eyes on me.
The man is apathetic, you deduce?
Contrariwise, he loves both old and young,
Able and weak, affects the very brutes
And birds--how say I? flowers of the field--
As a wise workman  recognizes tools                       230
In a master's workshop, loving what they make.
Thus is the man as harmless as a lamb:
Only impatient, let him do his best,
At ignorance and carelessness and sin--
An indignation which is promptly curbed:
As when in certain travel I have feigned
To be an ignoramus in our art
According to some preconceived design,
And happed to hear the land's practitioners
Steeped in conceit sublimed by ignorance,                 240
Prattle fantastically on disease,
Its cause and cure--and I must hold my peace!

Thou wilt object--Why have I not ere this
Sought out the sage himself, the Nazarene
Who wrought this cure, inquiring at the source,
Conferring with the frankness that befits?
Alas! it grieveth me, the learned leech
Perished in a tumult many years ago,
Accused--our learning's fate--of wizardry,
Rebellion, to the setting up a rule                       250
And creed prodigious as described to me.
His death, which happened when the earthquake fell
(Prefiguring, as soon appeared, the loss
To  occult learning in our lord the sage
Who lived there in the pyramid alone)
Was wrought by the mad people--that's their wont!
On vain recourse, as I conjecture it,
To his tried virtue, for miraculous help--
How could he stop the earthquake?  That's their way!
The other imputations must be lies;                       260
But take one, though I loathe to give it thee,
In mere respect for any good man's fame.
(And after all, our patient Lazarus
Is stark mad; should we count on what he says?
Perhaps not: though in writing to a leech
'Tis well to keep back nothing of a case.)
This man so cured regards the curer, then,
As--God forgive me! who but God himself,
Creator and sustainer of the world,
That came and dwelt in flesh on it awhile!                270
--'Sayeth that such an one was born and lived,
Taught, healed the sick, broke bread at his own house;
Then died, with Lazarus by, for aught I know,
And yet was  .  . . what I said nor choose repeat,
And must have so avouched himself, in fact,
In hearing of this very Lazarus
Who saith--but why all this of what he saith?
Why write of trivial matters, things of price
Calling at every moment for remark?
I noticed on the margin of a pool                         280
Blue-flowering borage, the Aleppo sort,
Aboundeth, very nitrous.  It is strange!

Thy pardon for this long and tedious case,
Which, now that I review it, needs must seem
Unduly dwelt on, prolixly set forth!
Nor I myself discern in what is writ
Good cause for the peculiar interest
And awe indeed this man has touched me with.
Perhaps the journey's end, the weariness
Had wrought upon me first.  I met him thus:               290
I crossed a ridge of short sharp broken hills
Like an old lion's cheek teeth.  Out there came
A moon made like a face with certain spots
Multiform, manifold and menacing:
Then a wind rose behind me.  So we met
In this old sleepy town at unaware,
The man and I.  I send thee what is writ.
Regard it as a chance, a matter risked
To this ambiguous Syrian--he may lose,
Or steal, or give it thee with equal good.                300
Jerusalem's repose shall make amends
For time this letter wastes, thy time and mine;
Till when, once more thy pardon and farewell!

The very God! think, Abib; dost thou think?
So, the All-Great, were the All-Loving too--
So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, "0 heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself!
Thou hast no power nor mayst conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,                310
And thou must love me who have died for thee!"
The madman saith He said so: it is strange.

NOTES

"An Epistle" gives the observations and opinions of Karshish, the
Arab physician, writing to Abib, his master, upon meeting with
Lazarus after he has been raised from the dead.  Well versed in
Eastern medical lore, he tries to explain the extraordinary
phenomenon according to his knowledge.  He attributes Lazarus'
version of the miracle to mania induced by trance, and the means
used by the Nazarene physician to awaken him, and strengthens his
view by describing the strange state of mind in which he finds
Lazarus--like a child with no appreciation of the relative values of
things.  Through his renewal of life he had caught a glimpse of it
from the infinite point of view, and lives now only with the desire
to please God.  His sole active quality is a great love for all
humanity, his impatience manifests itself only at sin and ignorance,
and is quickly curbed.  Karshish, not able to realize this new plane
of vision in which had been revealed to Lazarus the equal worth of
all things in the divine plan, is incapable of understanding
Lazarus; but in spite of his attempt to make light of the case, he
is deeply impressed by the character of Lazarus, and has besides a
hardly acknowledged desire to believe in this revelation, told of by
Lazarus, of God as Love.  Professor Corson says of this poem: "It
may be said to polarize the idea, so often presented in Browning's
poetry, that doubt is a condition of the vitality of faith."

17. Snakestone: a name given to any substance used as a remedy for
snake-bites; for example, some are of chalk, some of animal
charcoal, and some of vegetable substances.

28. Vespasian: Nero's general who marched against Palestine in 66,
and was succeeded in the command, when he was proclaimed Emperor
(70-79), by his son, Titus.

29. Black lynx: the Syrian lynx is distinguished by black ears.

43. Tertians: fevers, recurring every third day; hence the name.

44.  Falling-sickness: epilepsy. Caesar's disease ("Julius Caesar,"
I. 2, 258).

45.  There's a spider here: "The habits of the aranead here
described point very clearly to some one of the Wandering group,
which stalk their prey in the open field or in divers
lurking-places, and are distinguished by this habit from the other
great group, known as the Sedentary spiders, because they sit or
hang upon their webs and capture their prey by means of silken
snares.  The next line is not determinative of the species, for
there is a great number of spiders any one of which might be
described as 'Sprinkled with mottles on an ash-gray back.'  We have
a little Saltigrade or Jumping spider, known as the Zebra spider
(Epiblemum scenicum), which is found in Europe, and I believe also
in Syria.  One often sees this species and its congeners upon the
ledges of rocks, the edges of tombstones, the walls of buildings,
and like situations, hunting their prey, which they secure by
jumping upon it.  So common is the Zebra spider, that I might think
that Browning referred to it, if I were not in doubt whether he
would express the stripes of white upon its ash-gray abdomen by the
word 'mottles.'  However, there arc other spiders belonging to the
same tribe (Saltigrades) that really are mottled.  There are also
spiders known as the Lycosids or Wolf spiders or Ground spiders,
which are often of an ash-gray color, and marked with little whitish
spots after the manner of Browning's Syrian species.  Perhaps the
poet had one of these in mind, at least he accurately describes
their manner of seeking prey.  The next line is an interrupted one,
'Take five and drop them. . . .' Take five what?  Five of these
ash-gray mottled spiders?  Certainly.  But what can be meant by the
expression 'drop them'?  This opens up to us a strange chapter in
human superstition.  It was long a prevalent idea that the spider in
various forms possessed some occult power of healing, and men
administered it internally or applied it externally as a cure for
many diseases.  Pliny gives a number of such remedies.  A certain
spider applied in a piece of cloth, or another one ('a white spider
with very elongated thin legs'), beaten up in oil is said by this
ancient writer upon Natural History to form an ointment for the
eyes.  Similarly, 'the thick pulp of a spider's body, mixed with the
oil of roses, is used for the ears.'  Sir Matthew Lister, who was
indeed the father of English araneology, is quoted in Dr. James's
Medical Dictionary as using the distilled water of boiled black
spiders as an excellent cure for wounds."  (Dr. H. C. McCook in
Poet-lore, Nov., 1889.)

53. Gum-tragacanth: yielded by the leguminous shrub, Astragalus
tragacantha.

60. Zoar: the only one that was spared of the five cities of the
plain (Genesis 14. 2).

108. Lazarus . . . fifty years of age: in The Academy, Sept. 16,
1896, Dr. Richard Garnett says: "Browning commits an oversight, it
seems to me, in making Lazarus fifty years of age at the eve of the
siege of Jerusalem, circa 68 A. D."  The miracle is supposed to have
been wrought about 33 A. D., and Lazarus would then have been only
fifteen, although according to tradition he was thirty when he was
raised from the dead, and lived only thirty years after.  Upon this
Prof. Charles B. Wright comments in Poet-lore, April, 1897: "I
incline to think that the oversight is not Browning's.  Let us stand
by the tradition and the resulting age of sixty-five. . . . Karshish
is simply stating his professional judgment.  Lazarus is given an
age suited to his appearance--he seems a man of fifty.  The years
have touched him lightly since 'heaven opened to his soul.'
. . . And that marvellous physical freshness deceives the very leech
himself."

177. Greek fire: used by the Byzantine Greeks in warfare, first
against the Saracens at the siege of Constantinople in 673 A. D.
Therefore an anachronism in this poem.  Liquid fire was, however,
known to the ancients, as Assyrian bas-reliefs testify.  Greek fire
was made possibly of naphtha, saltpetre, and sulphur, and was thrown
upon the enemy from copper tubes; or pledgets of tow were dipped in
it and attached to arrows.

281. Blue-flowering borage: (Borago officianalis).  The ancients
deemed this plant one of the four "cordial flowers," for cheering
the spirits, the others being the rose, violet, and alkanet. Pliny
says it produces very exhilarating effects.


JOHANNES AGRICOLA IN MEDITATION

1842

There's heaven above, and night by night
  I look right through its gorgeous roof;
No suns and moons though e'er so bright
  Avail to stop me; splendor-proof
  I keep the broods of stars aloof:
For I intend to get to God,
  For 't is to God I speed so fast,
For in God's  breast, my own abode,
  Those shoals of dazzling glory, passed,
  I lay my spirit down at last.                            10
I lie where I have always lain,
  God smiles as he has always smiled;
Ere suns and moons could wax and wane,
  Ere stars were thundergirt, or piled
  The heavens, God thought on me his child;
Ordained a life for me, arrayed
  Its circumstances every one
To the minutest; ay, God said
  This head this hand should rest upon
  Thus, ere he fashioned star or sun.                      20
And having thus created me,
  Thus rooted me, he bade me grow,
Guiltless forever, like a tree
  That buds and blooms, nor seeks to know
  The law by which it prospers so:
But sure that thought and word and deed
  All go to swell his love for me,
Me, made because that love had need
  Of something irreversibly
  Pledged solely its content to be.                        30
Yes, yes, a tree which must ascend,
  No poison-gourd foredoomed to stoop!
I have God's warrant, could I blend
  All hideous sins, as in a cup,
  To drink the mingled venoms up;
Secure my nature will convert
  The draught to blossoming gladness fast:
While sweet dews turn to the gourd's hurt,
  And bloat, and while they bloat it, blast,
  As from the first its lot was cast.                      40
For as I lie, smiled on, full-fed
  By unexhausted power to bless,
I gaze below on hell's fierce bed,
  And those its waves of flame oppress,
  Swarming in ghastly wretchedness;
Whose life on earth aspired to be
  One altar-smoke, so pure!--to win
If not love like God's love for me,
  At least to keep his anger in;
  And all their striving turned to sin.                    50
Priest, doctor, hermit, monk grown white
  With prayer, the broken-hearted nun,
The martyr, the wan acolyte,
  The incense-swinging child--undone
  Before God fashioned star or sun!
God, whom I praise; how could I praise,
  If such as I might understand,
Make out and reckon on his ways,
  And bargain for his love, and stand,
Paying a price, at his right hand?                         60

NOTES

"Johannes Agricola in Meditation" presents the doctrine of
predestination as it appears to a devout and poetic soul whose
conviction of the truth of such a doctrine has the strength of a
divine revelation. Those elected for God's love can do nothing to
weaken it, those not elected can do nothing to gain it, but it is
not his to reason why; indeed, he could not praise a god whose ways
he could understand or for whose love he had to bargain.

Johannes Agricola: (1492-1566), Luther's secretary, 1519, afterward
in conflict with him, and author of the doctrine called by Luther
antinomian, because it rejected the Law of the Old Testament as of
no use under the Gospel dispensation.  In a note accompanying the
first publication of this poem, Browning quotes from "The Dictionary
of All Religions" (1704): "They say that good works do not further,
nor evil works hinder salvation; that the child of God cannot sin,
that God never chastiseth him, that murder, drunkenness, etc., are
sins in the wicked but not in him, that the child of grace being
once assured of salvation, afterwards never doubteth . . . that God
doth not love any man for his holiness, that sanctification is no
evidence of justification."  Though many antinomians taught thus,
says George Willis Cooke in his "Browning Guide Book," it does not
correctly represent the position of Agricola, who in reality held
moral obligations to be incumbent upon the Christian, but for
guidance in these he found in the New Testament all the principles
and motives necessary.


PICTOR IGNOTUS

FLORENCE, 15-

1845

I could have painted pictures like that youth's
  Ye praise so.  How my soul springs up! No bar
Stayed me--ah, thought which saddens while it soothes!
  --Never  did fate forbid me, star by star,
To outburst on your night with all my gift
  Of fires from God: nor would my flesh have shrunk
From seconding my soul, with eyes uplift
  And wide to heaven, or, straight like thunder, sunk
To the centre, of an instant; or around
  Turned calmly and inquisitive, to scan                   10
The license and the limit, space and bound,
  Allowed to truth made visible in man.
And, like that youth ye praise so, all I saw,
  Over the canvas could my hand have flung,
Each face obedient to its passion's law,
  Each passion clear proclaimed without a tongue;
Whether Hope rose at once in all the blood,
  A-tiptoe for the blessing of embrace,
Or Rapture drooped the eyes, as when her brood
  Pull down the nesting dove's heart to its place;         20
Or Confidence lit swift the forehead up,
  And locked the mouth fast, like a castle braved--
0 human faces, hath it spilt, my cup?
  What did ye give me that I have not saved?
Nor will I say I have not dreamed (how well!)
  Of going--I, in each new picture--forth,
As, making new  hearts beat and bosoms swell,
  To Pope or Kaiser, East, West, South, or North,
Bound for the calmly-satisfied great State,
  Or glad aspiring little burgh, it went,                  30
Flowers cast upon the car which bore the freight,
  Through old streets named afresh from the event,
Till it reached home, where learned age should greet
  My face, and youth, the star not yet distinct
Above his hair, lie learning at my feet!--
  Oh, thus to live, I and my picture, linked
With love about, and praise, till life should end,
  And then not go to heaven, but linger here,
Here on my earth, earth's every man my friend--
  The thought grew frightful, 't was so wildly dear!       40
But a voice changed it.  Glimpses of such sights
  Have scared me, like the revels through a door
Of some strange house of idols at its rites!
  This world seemed not the world it was before:
Mixed with my loving trusting ones, there trooped
  . . . Who  summoned those cold faces that begun
To press on me and judge me?  Though I stooped
  Shrinking, as from the soldiery a nun,
They drew me forth, and spite of me . . . enough!
  These buy and sell our pictures, take and give,          50
Count them for garniture and household-stuff,
  And where they live needs must our pictures live
And see their faces, listen to their prate,
  Partakers of their daily pettiness,
Discussed of--"This I love, or this I hate,
  This like® me more, and this affects me less!"
Wherefore I chose my portion.  If at whiles
  My heart sinks, as monotonous I paint
These endless cloisters and eternal aisles
  With the same series.  Virgin, Babe and Saint,           60
With the same cold calm beautiful regard--
  At least no merchant traffics in my heart;
The sanctuary's gloom at least shall ward
  Vain tongues from where my pictures stand apart;
Only prayer breaks the silence of the shrine
  While, blackening in the daily candle-smoke,
They moulder on the damp wall's travertine,
  'Mid echoes the light footstep never woke.
So, die my pictures! surely, gently die!
  O youth, men praise so--holds their praise its worth?    70
Blown harshly, keeps the trump its golden cry?
  Tastes sweet the water with such specks of earth?

NOTES

"Pictor Ignotus" is a reverie characteristic of a monastic painter
of the Renaissance who recognizes, in the genius of a youth whose
pictures are praised, a gift akin to his own, but which he has never
so exercised, spite of the joy such free human expression and
recognition of his power would have given him, because he could not
bear to submit his art to worldly contact.  So he has chosen to sink
his name in unknown service to the Church, and to devote his fancy
to pure and beautiful but cold and monotonous repetitions of sacred
themes.  His gentle regret that his own pictures will moulder
unvisited is half wonderment that the youth can endure the sullying
of his work by secular fame.

67. Travertine: a white limestone, the name being a corruption of
, from  , now Tivoli, near Rome, whence this
stone comes.


FRA LIPPO LIPPI

1855

1 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
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
, , 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
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!
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)
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
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--
--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,
That's all I'm made of! Into shreds it went,               61
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,
And after them.  I came up with the fun
Hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well met--

And so as I was stealing back again                        70
To get to bed and have a bit of sleep
Ere I rise up to-morrow 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!
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,
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're minded," quoth the good fat father
Wiping his own mouth, 't was refection-time--
"To quit this very miserable world?
Will you renounce" . . . "the mouthful of bread?" thought I;
By no means!  Brief, they made a monk of me;
1 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,
'T  was not for nothing--the good bellyful,
The warm serge and the rope that goes all round,
And day-long blessed idleness beside!
"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!

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,
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
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.
"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,
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
(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 "'T is ask and have;
Choose, for more's ready!"--laid the ladder flat,
And showed  my covered bit of cloister-wall.
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?
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--
(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,
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,
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--
(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.
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;
Brother Lorenzo stands his single peer:
Fag on at flesh, you'll never make the third!"

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
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,
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 may n'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;
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:
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!
--For what?  Do you feel thankful, ay 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
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,
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.
"Ay, 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?"
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!

--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
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
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?
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?
We come to brother Lippo for all that,
"  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
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-bye: 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!

NOTES

"Fra Lippo Lippi" is a dramatic monologue which incidentally conveys
the whole story of the occurrence the poem starts from--the seizure
of Fra Lippo by the City Guards, past midnight, in an equivocal
neighborhood--and the lively talk that arose thereupon, outlines the
character and past life of the Florentine artist-monk (1412-1469)
and the subordinate personalities of the group of officers; and
makes all this contribute towards the presentation of Fra Lippo as a
type of the more realistic and secular artist of the Renaissance who
valued flesh, and protested against the ascetic spirit which strove
to isolate the soul.

7. The Carmine: monastery of the Del Carmine friars.

17. Cosimo: de' Medici (1389-1464), Florentine statesman and patron
of the arts.

23. Pilchards: a kind of fish.

53. Flower o' the broom: of the many varieties of folk-songs in
Italy that which furnished Browning with a model for Lippo's songs
is called a stornello.  The name is variously derived.  Some take it
as merely short for ritornillo; others derive it from a storno, to
sing against each other, because the peasants sing them at their
work, and as one ends a song, another caps it with a fresh one, and
so on.  These stornelli consist of three lines. The first usually
contains the name of a flower which sets the rhyme, and is five
syllables long.  Then the love theme is told in two lines of eleven
syllables each, agreeing by rhyme, assonance, or repetition with the
first.  The first line may be looked upon as a burden set at the
beginning instead of, as is more familiar to us, at the end.  There
are also stornelli formed of three lines of eleven syllables without
any burden.  Browning has made Lippo's songs of only two lines, but
he has strictly followed the rule of making the first line,
containing the address to the flower, of five syllables.  The
Tuscany versions of two of the songs used by Browning are as
follows:

"Flower of the pine!  Call me not ever happy heart again, But call
me heavy heart, 0 comrades mine."

"Flower of the broom!  Unwed thy mother keeps thee not to lose That
flower from the window of the room."

67. Saint Laurence: the church of San Lorenzo.

88. Aunt Lapaccia: by the death of Lippo's father, says Vasari, he
"was left a friendless orphan at the age of two . . . under the care
of Mona Lapaccia, his aunt, who brought him up with very great
difficulty till his eighth year, when, being no longer able to
support the burden, she placed him in the Convent of the
Carmelites."

121. The Eight: the magistrates of Florence.

130. Antiphonary: the Roman Service-Book, containing all that is
sung in the choir--the antiphones, responses, etc.; it was compiled
by Gregory the Great.

131. joined legs and arms to the long music-notes: the musical
notation of Lippo's day was entirely different from ours, the notes
being square and oblong and rather less suited for arms and legs
than the present rounded notes.

139. Camaldolese: monks of Camaldoli.--Preaching Friars: the
Dominicans.

189. Giotto: reviver of art in Italy, painter, sculptor, and
architect (1266-1337).

196. Herodias: Matthew xiv.6-11.

235. Brother Angelico: Fra Angelico, Giovanni da Fiesole
(1387-1455), flower of the monastic school of art, who was said to
paint on his knees.

236. Brother Lorenzo: Lorenzo Monaco, of the same school.

276. Guidi : Tommaso Guidi, or Masaccio, nicknamed "Hulking Tom"
(1401-1429).  [Vasari makes him Lippo's predecessor.  Browning
followed the best knowledge of his time in making him, instead,
Lippo's pupil.  Vasari is now thought to be right.]

323. A Saint Laurence . . . at Prato: near Florence, where Lippi
painted many saints. [Vasari speaks of a Saint Stephen painted there
in the same realistic manner as Browning's Saint Laurence, whose
martyrdom of broiling to death on a gridiron affords Lippo's powers
a livelier effect.]  The legend of this saint makes his fortitude
such that he bade his persecutors turn him over, as he was "done on
one side."

346. Something in Sant Ambrogio's: picture of the Virgin crowned
with angels and saints, painted for Saint Ambrose Church, now at the
Belle Arti in Florence.  Vasari says by means of it he became known
to Cosimo.  Browning, on the other hand, crowns his poem with
Lippo's description of this picture as an expiation for his pranks.

354. Saint John: the Baptist; see reference to camel-hair, line 375
and Matthew iii. 4.

355. Saint Ambrose: (340-397), Archbishop of Milan.

358. Man of Uz : Job i. 1.

377. : this one completed the work.

381. Hot cockles: an old-fashioned game.


ANDREA DEL SARTO

(CALLED "THE FAULTLESS PAINTER")

1855

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,
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 to-morrow.  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,
Both of one mind, as married people use,
Quietly, quietly the evening through,
I might get up to-morrow to my work
Cheerful and fresh as ever.  Let us try.
To-morrow, 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--
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--
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.
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,
But you can hear at least when people speak:
And that cartoon, the second from the door
--It is the thing.  Love! so such things 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,
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--
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,
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,
Sightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
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.
('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:
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--
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 over-rules.
Beside, incentives come from the soul's self;
The rest avail not.  Why do I need you?
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.
'T is 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,
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,
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?
And had you not grown restless . . . but I know--
'T is done and past; 't was 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,
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's . . . I have known it all these years . . .
(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,
Give the chalk here--quick, thus the line should go!
Ay, 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
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,
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?
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?  To-morrow, satisfy your friend.
I take the subjects for his corridor,
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?

  I am grown  peaceful as old age to-night.
I regret little, I would change still less.
Since there my past life lies, why alter it?
The very wrong to Francis!--it is true
I took his coin, was tempted and complied,
And built this house and sinned, and all is said.
My father and my mother died of want.                     250
Well, had I riches of my own? you see
How one gets rich!  Let each one bear his lot.
They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died:
And I have labored somewhat in my time
And not been paid profusely.  Some good son
Paint my two hundred pictures--let him try!
No doubt, there's something strikes a balance.  Yes,
You loved me quite enough, it seems to-night.
This must suffice me here. What would one have?
In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance--        260
Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
Meted on each side by the angel's reed,
For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo and me
To cover--the  three first without a wife,
While I have mine!  So--still they overcome
Because there's still Lucrezia--as I choose.

Again the Cousin's whistle!  Go, my Love.

NOTES

"Andrea del Sarto." This monologue reveals, beside the personalities
of both Andrea and Lucretia and the main incidents of their lives,
the relations existing between Andrea's character, his choice of a
wife, and the peculiar quality of his art; the whole serving, also,
to illustrate the picture on which the poem is based. The gray tone
that silvers the picture pervades the poem with an air of helpless,
resigned melancholy, and sets forth the fatal quality of facile
craftsmanship joined with a flaccid spirit.  --Mr. John Kenyon,
Mrs. Browning's cousin, asked Browning to get him a copy of the
picture of Andrea and his wife in the Pitti Palace.  Browning, being
unable to find one, wrote this poem describing it, instead.  Andrea
(1486-1531), because his father was a tailor, was called del Sarto,
also, il pittore senza errori, "the faultless painter."

2.  Lucrezia: di Baccio del Fede, a cap-maker's widow, says Vasari,
who ensnared Andrea "before her husband's death, and who delighted
in trapping the hearts of men."

15.  Fiesole: a hillside city on the Arno, three miles west of
Florence.

93.  Morello: the highest of the Apennine mountains north of
Florence.

105. The Urbinate: Raphael Santi (1483-1520), so called because born
     at Urbino.

106. Vasari: painter and writer of the "Lives of the Most Excellent
Italian Painters," which supplied Browning with material for this
poem and for "Fra Lippo."

130. Agnolo: Michel Agnolo Buonarotti, painter, sculptor, and
1architect (1475-564).

149. Francis: Francis I of France (1494-1547), who invited Andrea to
his Court at Fontainebleau, where he was loaded with gifts and
honors, until, says Vasari, "came to him certain letters from
Florence written to him by his wife . . . with bitter complaints,"
when, taking "the money which the king confided to him for the
purchase of pictures and statues, . . . he set off . . .  having
sworn on the Gospels to return in a few months.  Arrived in
Florence, he lived joyously with his wife for some time, making
presents to her father and sisters, but doing nothing for his own
parents, who died in poverty and misery.  When the period specified
by the king had come . . . he found himself at the end not only of
his own money but . . . of that of the king."

184. Agnolo . . . to Rafael: Angelo's remark is given thus by
Bocchi, "Bellezze di Firenze"; "There is a bit of a manikin in
Florence who, if he chanced to be employed in great undertakings as
you have happened to be, would compel you to look well about you."

210.  Cue-owls: the owl's cry gives it its common name in various
languages and countries; the peculiarity of its cry as to the
predominant sound of oo or ow naming the species.  This Italian
ulo> is probably the , of the same family as our cat-owl.
Buffon gives its note, , ; hence the Latin name,
.

241.  Scudi: Italian coins.

261.  The New Jerusalem: Revelation 21.15-17.

263.  Leonard: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), painter, sculptor,
architect, and engineer, who, together with Rafael and Agnolo,
incarnates the genius of the Renaissance.  He visited the same Court
to which Andrea was invited, and was said to have died in the arms
of Francis I.


THE BISHOP ORDERS HIS TOMB AT SAINT PRAXED'S CHURCH

ROME,  15-

1845

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
Nephews--sons mine . . . ah God, I know not!  Well--
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What's done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
And thence ye may perceive the world's a dream.
Life, how and what is it?  As here I lie                   10
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
"Do I live, am I dead?"  Peace, peace seems all.
Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine.  I fought
With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
--Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
He graced his carrion with.  God curse the same!
Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence            20
One sees the pulpit o' the epistle-side,
And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
And up into the aery dome where live
The angels, and a sunbeam's sure to lurk;
And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
And 'neath my tabernacle take my rest,
With those nine columns round me, two and two,
The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.                30
--Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone,
Put me where I may look at him!  True peach,
Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
Draw close: that conflagration of my church
--What then?  So much was saved if aught were missed!
My sons, ye would not be my death?  Go dig
The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood,
Drop water gently till the surface sink,
And if ye find . . . Ah God, I know not, I! . . .
Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,                 40
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
Some lump, ah God, of ,
Big as a Jew's head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o'er the Madonna's breast . . .
Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,
That brave Frascati villa with its bath,
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father's globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!            50
Swift as a weaver's shuttle fleet our years:
Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
Did I say basalt for my slab, sons?  Black--
'T  was ever antique-black I meant!  How else
Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?
The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance
Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so,
The Saviour at his sermon on the mount,
Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan                       60
Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off,
And Moses with the tables . . . but I know
Ye mark me not!  What do they whisper thee,
Child of my bowels, Anselm?  Ah, ye hope
To revel down my  villas while I gasp
Bricked o'er with beggar's mouldy travertine
Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
Nay, boys, ye love me--all of jasper, then!
'T is jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
My bath must needs be left behind, alas!                   70
One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
There's plenty jasper somewhere in the world--
And have I not Saint Praxed's ear to pray
Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
--That's if ye carve my epitaph aright,
Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully's every word,
No gaudy ware like Gandolf's second line--
Tully, my masters?  Ulpian serves his need!
And then how I shall lie through centuries,                80
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eaten all day long,
And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point,
And let the bedclothes, for a mortcloth, drop
Into great laps and folds of sculptor's-work:              90
And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
About the life before I lived this life,
And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mount,
Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
And marble's language, Latin pure, discreet,
--Aha, ELUCESCEBAT quoth our friend?
No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best!                     100
Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.
All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
My villas!  Will ye ever eat my heart?
Ever your eyes were as a lizard's quick,
They glitter like your mother's for my soul,
Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
With grapes, and add a vizor and a Term,
And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down,             110
To comfort me on my entablature
Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
"Do I live, am I dead?"  There, leave me, there!
For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
To death--ye wish it--God, ye wish it! Stone--
Gritstone, a-crumble!  Clammy squares which sweat
As if the corpse they keep were oozing through--
And no more lapis to delight the world!
Well go!  I bless ye.  Fewer tapers there,
But in a row: and, going, turn your backs                 120
--Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
And leave me in my  church, the church for peace,
That I may  watch at leisure if he leers--
Old Gandolf, at me, from his onion-stone,
As still he envied me, so fair she was!

NOTES

"The Bishop orders his Tomb" This half-delirious pleading of the
dying prelate for a tomb which shall gratify his luxurious artistic
tastes and personal rivalries, presents dramatically not merely the
special scene of the worldly old bishop's petulant struggle against
his failing power, and his collapse, finally, beneath the will of
his so-called nephews, it also illustrates a characteristic gross
form of the Renaissance spirit encumbered with Pagan survivals,
fleshly appetites, and selfish monopolizings which hampered its
development.-- "It is nearly all that I said of the Central
Renaissance--its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy,
ignorance of itself, love of art, of luxury, and of good Latin--in
thirty pages of the 'Stones of Venice,' put into as many lines,
Browning's being also the antecedent work" (Ruskin).  The Church of
St.Praxed is notable for the beauty of its stone-work and mosaics,
one of its chapels being so extraordinarily rich that it was called
, or the Garden of Paradise; and so, although the
bishop and his tomb there are imaginary, it supplies an appropriate
setting for the poetic scene.

1.  Vanity, saith the preacher: Ecclesiastes 1.2.

21.  Epistle-side: the right-hand side facing the altar, where the
epistle is read by the priest acting as celebrant, the gospel being
read from the other side by the priest acting as assistant.

25.  Basalt: trap-rock, leaden or black in color.

31.  Onion stone: for the Italian , a kind of
greenish-white marble splitting into coats like an onion, ;
hence so called.

41.  Olive-frail: a basket made of rushes, used for packing olives.

42. Lapis lazuli: a bright blue stone.

46. Frascati: near Rome, on the Alban hills.

48. God the Father's globe: in the group of the Trinity adorning the
altar of Saint Ignatius at the church of Il Gesu in Rome.

51. Weaver's shuttle: Job 7.6.

54. Antique-black: Nero antico.  Browning gives the English
equivalent for the name of this stone.

58. Tripod: the seat with three feet on which the priestess of
Apollo sat to prophesy, an emblem of the Delphic oracle.

Thyrsus: the ivy-coiled staffer spear stuck in a pine-cone, symbol
of Bacchic orgy.  These, with the other Pagan tokens and pictures,
mingle oddly but significantly with the references to the Saviour,
Saint Praxed, and Moses.  See also line 92, where Saint Praxed is
confused with the Saviour, in the mind of the dying priest.  Saint
Praxed, the virgin daughter of a Roman Senator and friend of Saint
Paul, in whose honor the Bishop's Church is named, is again brought
forward in lines 73-75 in a queer capacity which pointedly
illustrates the speaker and his time.

66. Travertine: see note "Pictor Ignotus," 67.

68. jasper: a dark green stone with blood-red spots, susceptible of
high polish.

77. Tully's: Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-46 B. C.).

79. Ulpian: a Roman jurist (170-228 A. D.), belonging to the
degenerate age of Roman literature.

99. : he was illustrious; formed from , an
inceptive verb from : in post classic Latin.

102. Else I give the Pope my villas: perhaps a threat founded on the
custom of Julius II and other popes, according to Burckhardt, of
enlarging their power "by making themselves heirs of the cardinals
and clergy . . .  Hence the splendor of tile tombs of the prelates
. . . a part of the plunder being in this way saved from the hands
of the Pope."

108. A vizor and a Term: a mask, and a bust springing from a square
pillar, representing the Roman god Terminus, who presided over
boundaries.


BISHOP BLOUGRAM'S APOLOGY

1855

  No more wine? then we'll push back chairs and talk.
A final glass for me, though: cool, i' faith!
We ought to have our Abbey back, you see.
It's different, preaching in basilicas,
And doing duty in some masterpiece
Like this of brother Pugin's, bless his heart!
I doubt if they're half baked, those chalk rosettes,
Ciphers and stucco-twiddlings everywhere;
It's just like breathing in a lime-kiln: eh?
These hot long ceremonies of our church                    10
Cost us a little--oh, they pay the price,
You take me--amply pay it!  Now, we'll talk.

  So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs.
No deprecation--nay, I beg you, sir!
Beside 't is our engagement: don't you know,
I promised, if you'd watch a dinner out,
We'd see truth dawn together?--truth that peeps
Over the glasses' edge when dinner's done,
And body gets its sop and holds its noise
And leaves soul free a little.  Now's the time:            20
Truth's break of day!  You do despise me then.
And if I say, "despise me"--never fear!
1 know you do not in a certain sense--
Not in my arm-chair, for example: here,
I well imagine you respect my place
(, worldly circumstance)
Quite to its value--very much indeed:
--Are up to the protesting eyes of you
In pride at being seated here for once--
You'll turn it to such capital account!                    30
When somebody, through years and years to come,
Hints of the bishop--names me--that's enough:
"Blougram?  I knew him"--(into it you slide)
"Dined with him once, a Corpus Christi Day,
All alone, we two; he's a clever man:
And after dinner--why, the wine you know--
Oh, there was wine, and good!--what with the wine . . .
'Faith, we began upon all sorts of talk!
He's no bad fellow, Blougram; he had seen
Something of mine he relished, some review:                40
He's quite above their humbug in his heart,
Half-said as much, indeed--the  thing's his trade.
I warrant, Blougram 's sceptical at times:
How otherwise?  I liked him, I confess!"
, my dear sir, as we say at Rome,
Don't you protest now! It's fair give and take;
You have had your turn and spoken your home-truths:
The hand's mine now, and here you follow suit.

  Thus much conceded, still the first fact stays--
You do despise me; your ideal of life                      50
Is not the bishop's: you would not be I.
You would like better to be Goethe, now,
Or Buonaparte, or, bless me, lower still,
Count D'Orsay--so you did what you preferred,
Spoke as you thought, and, as you cannot help,
Believed or disbelieved, no matter what,
So long as on that point, whate'er it was,
You loosed your mind, were whole and sole yourself.
--That, my ideal never can include,
Upon that element of truth and worth                       60
Never be based! for say they make me Pope--
(They can't--suppose it for our argument!)
Why, there I'm at my tether's end, I've reached
My height, and not a height which pleases you:
An unbelieving Pope won't do, you say.
It's like those eerie stories nurses tell,
Of how some actor on a stage played Death,
With pasteboard crown, sham orb and tinselled dart,
And called himself the monarch of the world;
Then, going in the tire-room afterward,                    70
Because the play was done, to shift himself,
Got touched upon the sleeve familiarly,
The moment he had shut the closet door,
By Death himself.  Thus God might touch a Pope
At unawares, ask what his baubles mean,
And whose part he presumed to play just now.
Best be yourself, imperial, plain and true!

So, drawing comfortable breath again,
You weigh and find, whatever more or less
I boast of my ideal realized                               80
Is nothing in the balance when opposed
To your ideal, your grand simple life,
Of which you will not realize one jot.
I am much, you are nothing; you would be all,
I would be merely much: you beat me there.

No, friend, you do not beat me: hearken why!
The common problem, yours, mine, every one's,
Is--not to fancy what were fair in life
Provided it could be--but, finding first
What may be, then find how to make it fair                 90
Up to our means: a very different thing!
No abstract intellectual plan of life
Quite irrespective of life's plainest laws,
But one, a man, who is man and nothing more,
May lead within a world which (by your leave)
Is Rome or London, not Fool's-paradise.
Embellish Rome, idealize away,
Make paradise of London if you can,
You're welcome, nay, you're wise.

                                    A  simile!
We mortals cross the ocean of this world                  100
Each in his average cabin of a life;
The best's not big, the worst yields elbow-room.
Now for our six months' voyage--how prepare?
You come on shipboard with a landsman's list
Of things he calls convenient: so they are!
An India screen is pretty furniture,
A piano-forte is a fine resource,
All Balzac's novels occupy one shelf,
The new edition fifty volumes long;
And little Greek books, with the funny type               110
They get up well at Leipsic, fill the next:
Go on! slabbed marble, what a bath it makes!
And Parma's pride, the Jerome, let us add!
'T were pleasant could Correggio's fleeting glow
Hang full in face of one where'er one roams,
Since he more than the others brings with him
Italy's self--the marvellous Modenese!--
Yet was not on your list before, perhaps.
--Alas, friend, here's the agent . . . is 't the name?
The captain, or whoever's master here--                   120
You see him screw his face up; what's his cry
Ere you set foot on shipboard?  "Six feet square!"
If you won't understand what six feet mean,
Compute and purchase stores accordingly--
And if, in pique because he overhauls
Your Jerome, piano, bath, you come on board
Bare--why, you cut a figure at the first
While sympathetic landsmen see you off;
Not afterward, when long ere half seas over,
You peep up from your utterly naked boards                130
Into some snug and well-appointed berth,
Like mine for instance (try the cooler jug--
Put back the other, but don't jog the ice!)
And mortified you mutter "Well and good;
He sits enjoying his sea-furniture;
'Tis stout and proper, and there's store of it;
Though I've the better notion, all agree,
Of fitting rooms up.  Hang the carpenter,
Neat ship-shape fixings and contrivances--
I would have brought my Jerome, frame and all!"           140
And meantime you bring nothing: never mind--
You've proved your artist-nature: what you don't
You might bring, so despise me, as I say.

  Now  come, let's backward to the starting-place.
See my way: we're two college friends, suppose.
Prepare together for our voyage, then;
Each note and check the other in his work--
Here's mine, a bishop's outfit; criticise!
What's wrong?  why won't you be a bishop too?

  Why first, you don't believe, you don't and can't,      150
(Not statedly, that is, and fixedly
And absolutely and exclusively)
In any revelation called divine.
No dogmas nail your faith; and what remains
But say so, like the honest man you are?
First, therefore, overhaul theology!
Nay, I too, not a fool, you please to think,
Must find believing every whit as hard:
And if I do not frankly say as much,
The ugly consequence is clear enough.                     160

   Now wait, my friend: well, I do not believe--
If you'll accept no faith that is not fixed,
Absolute and exclusive, as you say.
You're wrong--I mean  to prove it in due time.
Meanwhile, I know where difficulties lie
I could not, cannot solve, nor ever shall,
So give up hope accordingly to solve--
(To you, and over the wine).  Our dogmas then
With both of us, though in unlike degree,
Missing full credence--overboard with them!               170
I mean to meet you on your own premise:
Good, there go mine in company with yours!

  And now what are we? unbelievers both,
Calm and complete, determinately fixed
To-day, to-morrow and forever, pray?
You'll guarantee me that?  Not so, I think!
In no wise! all we've gained is, that belief,
As unbelief before, shakes us by fits,
Confounds us like its predecessor.  Where's
The gain? how can we guard our unbelief,                  180
Make it bear fruit to us?--the problem here.
Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides--
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as nature's self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul,
Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring,
Round the ancient idol, on his base again--
The grand Perhaps!  We look on helplessly.                190
There the old misgivings, crooked questions are--
This good God--what he could do, if he would,
Would, if he could--then must have done long since:
If so, when, where and how? some way must be--
Once feel about, and soon or late you hit
Some sense, in which it might be, after all.
Why not, "The Way, the Truth, the Life?"

                                    --That way
Over the mountain, which who stands upon
Is apt to doubt if it be meant for a road;
While, if he views it from the waste itself,              200
Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow,
Not vague, mistakable! what's a break or two
Seen from the unbroken desert either side?
And then (to bring in fresh philosophy)
What if the breaks themselves should prove at last
The most consummate of contrivances
To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith?
And so we stumble at truth's very test!
All we have gained then by our unbelief
Is a life of doubt diversified by faith,                  210
For one of faith diversified by doubt:
We called the chess-board white--we call it black.

  "Well," you rejoin, "the end's no worse, at least;
We've reason for both colors on the board:
Why not confess then, where I drop the faith
And you the doubt, that I'm as right as you?"

  Because, friend, in the next place, this being so,
And both things even--faith and unbelief
Left to a man's choice--we'll proceed a step,
Returning to our image, which I like.                     220

  A man's choice, yes--but a cabin-passenger's--
The man made for the special life o' the world--
Do you forget him? I remember though!
Consult our ship's conditions and you find
One and but one choice suitable to all;
The choice, that you unluckily prefer,
Turning things topsy-turvy--they or it
Going to the ground.  Belief or unbelief
Bears upon life, determines its whole course,
Begins at its beginning.  See the world                   230
Such as it is--you made it not, nor I;
I mean to take it as it is--and you,
Not so you'll take it--though you get naught else.
I know the special kind of life I like,
What suits the most my idiosyncrasy,
Brings out the best of me and bears me fruit
In power, peace, pleasantness and length of days.
I find that positive belief does this
For me, and unbelief, no whit of this.
--For you, it does, however?--that, we'll try!            240
'T is clear, I cannot lead my life, at least,
Induce the world to let me peaceably,
Without declaring at the outset, "Friends,
I absolutely and peremptorily
Believe!"--I say, faith is my waking life:
One sleeps, indeed, and dreams at intervals,
We know, but waking's the main point with us,
And my provision's for life's waking part.
Accordingly, I use heart, head and hand
All day, I build, scheme, study, and make friends;        250
And when night overtakes me, down I lie,
Sleep, dream a little, and get done with it,
The sooner the better, to begin afresh.
What's midnight's doubt before the dayspring's faith?
You, the philosopher, that disbelieve,
That recognize the night, give dreams their weight--
To be consistent you should keep your bed,
Abstain from healthy acts that prove you man,
For fear you drowse perhaps at unawares!
And certainly at night you'll sleep and dream,            260
Live through the day and bustle as you please.
And so you live to sleep as I to wake,
To unbelieve as I to still believe?
Well, and the common sense o' the world calls you
Bed-ridden--and its good things come to me.
Its estimation, which is half the fight,
That's the first-cabin comfort I secure:
The next . . . but you perceive with half an eye!
Come, come, it's best believing, if we may;
You can't but own that!
                         Next, concede again,             270
If once we choose belief, on all accounts
We can't be too decisive in our faith,
Conclusive and exclusive in its terms,
To suit the world which gives us the good things.
In every man's career are certain points
Whereon he dares not be indifferent;
The world detects him clearly, if he dare,
As baffled at the game, and losing life.
He may care little or he may care much
For riches, honor, pleasure, work, repose,                280
Since various theories of life and life's
Success are extant which might easily
Comport with either estimate of these;
And whoso chooses wealth or poverty,
Labor or quiet, is not judged a fool
Because his fellow would choose otherwise;
We let him choose upon his own account
So long as he's consistent with his choice.
But certain points, left wholly to himself,
When once a man has arbitrated on,                        290
We say he must succeed there or go hang.
Thus, he should wed the woman he loves most
Or needs most, whatsoe'er the love or need--
For he can't wed twice.  Then, he must avouch,
Or follow, at the least, sufficiently,
The form of faith his conscience holds the best,
Whate'er the process of conviction was:
For nothing can compensate his mistake
On such a point, the man himself being judge:
He cannot wed twice, nor twice lose his soul.             300

  Well now, there's one great form of Christian faith
I happened to be born in--which to teach
Was given me as I grew up, on all hands,
As best and readiest means of living by;
The same on examination being proved
The most pronounced moreover, fixed, precise
And absolute form of faith in the whole world--
Accordingly, most  potent of all forms
For working on the world.  Observe, my  friend!
Such as you know me, I am free to say,                    310
In these hard latter days which hamper one,
Myself--by no immoderate exercise
Of intellect and learning, but the tact
To let external forces work for me,
--Bid the street's stones be bread and they are bread;
Bid Peter's creed, or rather, Hildebrand's,
Exalt me o'er my fellows in the world
And make my life an ease and joy and pride;
It does so--which for me 's a great point gained,
Who have a soul and body that exact                       320
A comfortable care in many ways.
There's power in me and will to dominate
Which I must exercise, they hurt me else:
In many ways I need mankind's respect,
Obedience, and the love that's born of fear:
While at the same time, there's a taste I have,
A toy of soul, a titillating thing,
Refuses to digest these dainties crude.
The naked life is gross till clothed upon:
I must take what men offer, with a grace                  330
As though I would not, could I help it, take
An uniform I wear though over-rich--
Something imposed on me, no choice of mine;
No fancy-dress worn for pure fancy's sake
And despicable therefore! now folk kneel
And kiss my hand--of course the Church's hand.
Thus I am made, thus life is best for me,
And thus that it should be I have procured;
And thus it could not be another way,
I venture to imagine.

                       You'll reply,                      340
So far my choice, no doubt, is a success;
But were I made of better elements,
With nobler instincts, purer tastes, like you,
I hardly would account the thing success
Though it did all for me I say.

                                 But, friend,
We speak of what is; not of what might be,
And how 'twere better if 'twere otherwise.
I am the man you see here plain enough:
Grant I'm a beast, why, beasts must lead beasts' lives!
Suppose I own at once to tail and claws;                  350
The tailless man exceeds me: but being tailed
I'll lash out lion fashion, and leave apes
To dock their stump and dress their haunches up.
My business is not to remake myself,
But make the absolute best of what God made.
Or--our first simile--though you prove me doomed
To a viler berth still, to the steerage-hole,
The sheep-pen or the pig-stye, I should strive
To make what use of each were possible;
And as this cabin gets upholstery,                        360
That hutch should rustle with sufficient straw.

  But, friend, I don't acknowledge quite so fast
I fail of all your manhood's lofty tastes
Enumerated  so complacently,
On the mere ground that you forsooth can find
In this particular life I choose to lead
No fit provision for them.  Can you not?
Say you, my fault is I address myself
To grosser estimators than should judge?
And that's no way of holding up the soul,                 370
Which, nobler, needs men's praise perhaps, yet knows
One wise man's verdict outweighs all the fools'--
Would like the two, but, forced to choose, takes that.
I pine among my million imbeciles
(You think) aware some dozen men of sense
Eye me and know me, whether I believe
In the last winking Virgin, as I vow,
And am a fool, or disbelieve in her
And am a knave--approve in neither case,
Withhold their voices though I look their way:            380
Like Verdi when, at his worst opera's end
(The thing they gave at Florence--what's its name?)
While the mad houseful's plaudits near outbang
His orchestra of salt-box, tongs and bones,
He looks through all the roaring and the wreaths
Where sits Rossini patient in his stall.

  Nay, friend, I meet you with an answer here--
That even your prime men who appraise their kind
Are men still, catch a wheel within a wheel,
See more in a truth than the truth's simple self,         390
Confuse themselves.  You see lads walk the street
Sixty the minute; what's to note in that?
You see one lad o'erstride a chimney-stack;
Him you must watch--he's sure to fall, yet stands!
Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demirep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books--
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway: one step aside,                    400
They're classed and done with.  I, then, keep the line
Before your sages--just the men to shrink
From the gross weights, coarse scales and labels broad
You offer their refinement.  Fool or knave?
Why needs a bishop be a fool or knave
When there's a thousand diamond weights between?
So, I enlist them.  Your picked twelve, you'll find,
Profess themselves indignant, scandalized
At thus being held unable to explain
How a superior man who disbelieves                        410
May not believe as well: that's Schelling's way!
It's through my coming in the tail of time,
Nicking the minute with a happy tact.
Had I been born three hundred years ago
They'd say, "What's strange?  Blougram of course believes;"
And, seventy years since, "disbelieves of course."
But now, "He may believe; and yet, and yet
How can he?"  All eyes turn with interest.
Whereas, step off the line on either side--
You, for example, clever to a fault,                      420
The rough and ready man who write apace,
Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less--
You disbelieve!  Who wonders and who cares?
Lord So-and-so--his coat bedropped with wax,
All Peter's chains about his waist, his back
Brave with the needlework of Noodledom--
Believes!  Again, who wonders and who cares?
But I, the man of sense and learning too,
The able to think yet act, the this, the that,
I, to believe at this late time of day!                   430
Enough; you see, I need not fear contempt.

  --Except it's yours! Admire me as these may,
You don't.  But whom at least do you admire?
Present your own perfection, your ideal,
Your pattern man for a minute--oh, make haste,
Is it Napoleon you would have us grow?
Concede the means; allow his head and hand,
(A large concession, clever as you are)
Good!  In our common primal element
Of unbelief (we can't believe, you know--                 440
We're still at that admission, recollect!)
Where do you find--apart from, towering o'er
The secondary temporary aims
Which satisfy the gross taste you despise--
Where do you find his star?--his crazy trust
God knows through what or in what? it's alive
And shines and leads him, and that's all we want.
Have we aught in our sober night shall point
Such ends as his were, and direct the means
Of working out our purpose straight as his,               450
Nor bring a moment's trouble on success
With after-care to justify the same?
--Be a Napoleon, and yet disbelieve--
Why, the man's mad, friend, take his light away!
What's the vague good o' the world, for which you dare
With comfort to yourself blow millions up?
We neither of us see it! we do see
The blown-up millions--spatter of their brains
And writhing of their bowels and so forth,
In that bewildering entanglement                          460
Of horrible eventualities
Past calculation to the end of time!
Can I mistake for some clear word of God
(Which were my ample warrant for it all)
His puff of hazy instinct, idle talk,
"The State, that's I," quack-nonsense about crowns,
And (when one beats the man to his last hold)
A vague idea of setting things to rights,
Policing people efficaciously,
More to their profit, most of all to his own;             470
The whole to end that dismallest of ends
By an Austrian marriage, cant to us the Church,
And resurrection of the old regime?
Would I, who hope to live a dozen years,
Fight Austerlitz for reasons such and such?
No: for, concede me but the merest chance
Doubt may be wrong--there's judgment, life to come
With just that chance, I dare not.  Doubt proves right?
This present life is all?--you offer me
Its dozen noisy years, without a chance                   480
That wedding an archduchess, wearing lace,
And getting called by divers new-coined names,
Will drive off ugly thoughts and let me dine,
Sleep, read and chat in quiet as I like!
Therefore I will not.

                       Take another case;
Fit up the cabin yet another way.
What say you to the poets? shall we write
Hamlet, Othello--make the world our own,
Without a risk to run of either sort?
I can't!--to put the strongest reason first.              490
"But try," you urge, "the trying shall suffice;
The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life:
Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!"
Spare my self-knowledge--there's no fooling me!
If I prefer remaining my poor self,
I say so not in self-dispraise but praise.
If I'm a Shakespeare, let the well alone;
Why should I try to be what now I am?
If I'm no Shakespeare, as too probable--
His power and consciousness and self-delight              500
And all we want in common, shall I find--
Trying forever? while on points of taste
Wherewith, to speak it humbly, he and I
Are dowered alike--I'll ask you, I or he,
Which in our two lives realizes most?
Much, he imagined--somewhat, I possess.
He had the imagination; stick to that!
Let him say, "In the face of my soul's works
Your world is worthless and I touch it not
Lest I should wrong them"--I'll withdraw my plea.         510
But does he say so? look upon his life!
Himself, who only can, gives judgment there.
He leaves his towers and gorgeous palaces
To build the trimmest house in Stratford town;
Saves money, spends it, owns the worth of things,
Giulio Romano's pictures, Dowland's lute;
Enjoys a show, respects the puppets, too,
And none more, had he seen its entry once,
Than "Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal."
Why then should I who play that personage,                520
The very Pandulph Shakespeare's fancy made,
Be told that had the poet chanced to start
From where I stand now (some degree like mine
Being just the goal he ran his race to reach)
He would have run the whole race back, forsooth,
And left being Pandulph, to begin write plays?
Ah, the earth's best can be but the earth's best!
Did Shakespeare live, he could but sit at home
And get himself in dreams the Vatican,
Greek busts, Venetian paintings, Roman walls,             530
And English books, none equal to his own,
Which I read, bound in gold (he never did).
--Terni's fall, Naples' bay and Gothard's top--
Eh, friend?  I could not fancy one of these;
But, as I pour this claret, there they are:
I've gained them--crossed St. Gothard last July
With ten mules to the carriage and a bed
Slung inside; is my hap the worse for that?
We want the same things, Shakespeare and myself,
And what I want, I have: he, gifted more,                 540
Could fancy he too had them when he liked,
But not so thoroughly that, if fate allowed,
He would not have them ...also in my sense.
We play one game; I send the ball aloft
No less adroitly that of fifty strokes
Scarce five go o'er the wall so wide and high
Which sends them back to me: I wish and get.
He struck balls higher and with better skill,
But at a poor fence level with his head,
And hit--his Stratford house, a coat of arms,             550
Successful dealings in his grain and wool--
While I receive heaven's incense in my nose
And style myself the cousin of Queen Bess.
Ask him, if this life's all, who wins the game?

   Believe--and our whole argument breaks up.
Enthusiasm's the best thing, I repeat;
Only, we can't command it; fire and life
Are all, dead matter's nothing, we agree:
And be it a mad dream or God's very breath,
The fact's the same--belief's fire, once in us,           560
Makes of all else mere stuff to show itself;
We penetrate our life with such a glow
As fire lends wood and iron--this turns steel,
That burns to ash--all's one, fire proves its power
For good or ill, since men call flare success.
But paint a fire, it will not therefore burn.
Light one in me, I'll find it food enough!
Why, to be Luther--that's   a life to lead,
Incomparably better than my own.
He comes, reclaims God's earth for God, he says,          570
Sets up God's rule again by simple means,
Re-opens a shut book, and all is done.
He flared out in the flaring of mankind;
Such Luther's luck was: how shall such be mine?
If he succeeded, nothing's left to do:
And if he did not altogether--well,
Strauss is the next advance.  All Strauss should be
I might be also.  But to what result?
He looks upon no future: Luther did.
What can I gain on the denying side?                      580
Ice makes no conflagration.  State the facts,
Read the text right, emancipate the world--
The emancipated world enjoys itself
With scarce a thank-you: Blougram told it first
It could not owe a farthing--not to him
More than Saint Paul! 't would press its pay, you think?
Then add there's still that plaguy hundredth chance
Strauss may be wrong.  And so a risk is run--
For what gain? not for Luther's, who secured
A real heaven in his heart throughout his life,           590
Supposing death a little altered things.

  "Ay, but since really you lack faith," you cry,
"You run the same risk really on all sides,
In cool indifference as bold unbelief.
As well be Strauss as swing 'twixt Paul and him.
It's not worth having, such imperfect faith,
No more available to do faith's work
Than unbelief like mine.  Whole faith, or none!"

  Softly, my friend!  I must dispute that point.
Once own the use of faith, I'll find you faith.           600
We're back on Christian ground.  You call for faith;
I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists.
The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say,
If faith o'ercomes doubt.  How I know it does?
By life and man's free will.  God gave for that!
To mould life as we choose it, shows our choice:
That's our one act, the previous work's his own.
You criticise the soul? it reared this tree--
This broad life and whatever fruit it bears!
What matter though I doubt at every pore,                 610
Head-doubts, heart-doubts, doubts at my fingers' ends,
Doubts in the trivial work of every day,
Doubts at the very bases of my soul
In the grand moments when she probes herself--
If finally I have a life to show,
The thing I did, brought out in evidence
Against the thing done to me underground
By hell and all its brood, for aught I know?
I say, whence sprang this? shows it faith or doubt?
All's doubt in me; where's break of faith in this?        620
It is the idea, the feeling and the love,
God means mankind  should strive for and show forth
Whatever be the process to that end--
And not historic knowledge, logic sound,
And metaphysical acumen, sure!
"What think ye of Christ," friend? when all's done and said,
Like you this Christianity or not?
It may be false, but will you wish it true?
Has it your vote to be so if it can?
Trust you an instinct silenced long ago                   630
That will break silence and enjoin you love
What mortified philosophy is hoarse,
And all in vain, with bidding you despise?
If you desire faith--then you've faith enough:
What else seeks God--nay, what else seek ourselves?
You form a notion of me, we'll suppose,
On hearsay; it's a favorable one:
"But still" (you add) "there was no such good man,
Because of contradiction in the facts.
One proves, for instance, he was born in Rome,            640
This Blougram; yet throughout the tales of him
I see he figures as an Englishman."
Well, the two things are reconcilable.
But would I rather you discovered that,
Subjoining--"Still, what matter though they be?
Blougram concerns me naught, born here or there."

  Pure faith indeed--you know not what you ask!
Naked belief in God the Omnipotent,
0mniscient, Omnipresent, sears too much
The sense of conscious creatures to be borne.             650
It were the seeing him, no flesh shall dare.
Some think, Creation's meant to show him forth:
I say it's meant to hide him all it can,
And that's what all the blessed evil's for.
Its use in Time is to environ us,
Our breath, our drop of dew, with shield enough
Against that sight till we can bear its stress.
Under a vertical sun, the exposed brain
And lidless eye and disemprisoned heart
Less certainly would wither up at once                    660
Than mind, confronted with the truth of him.
But time and earth case-harden us to live;
The feeblest sense is trusted most; the child
Feels God a  moment, ichors o'er the place,
Plays on and grows to be a man like us.
With me, faith means perpetual unbelief
Kept quiet like the snake 'neath Michael's foot
Who stands calm just because he feels it writhe.
Or, if that's too ambitious--here's my box--
I need the excitation of a pinch                          670
Threatening the torpor of the inside-nose
Nigh on the imminent sneeze that never comes.
"Leave it in peace" advise the simple folk:
Make it aware of peace by itching-fits,
Say I--let doubt occasion still more faith!

   You 'll say, once all believed, man, woman, child,
In that dear middle-age these noodles praise.
How you'd exult if I could put you back
Six hundred years, blot out cosmogony,
Geology, ethnology, what not,                             680
(Greek endings, each the little passing-bell
That signifies some faith's about to die)
And set you square with Genesis again--
When such a traveller told you his last news,
He saw the ark a-top of Ararat
But did not climb there since 'twas getting dusk
And robber-bands infest the mountain's foot!
How should you feel, I ask, in such an age,
How act?  As other people felt and did;
With soul more blank than this decanter's knob,           690
Believe--and  yet lie, kill, rob, fornicate
Full in belief's face, like the beast you'd be!

   No, when the fight begins within himself,
A man's worth something.  God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet--both tug--
He's left, himself, i' the middle: the soul wakes
And grows.  Prolong that battle through his life!
Never leave growing till the life to come!
Here, we've got callous to the Virgin's winks
That used to puzzle people wholesomely:                   700
Men have outgrown the shame of being fools.
What are the laws of nature, not to bend
If the Church bid them?--brother Newman asks.
Up with the Immaculate Conception, then--
On to the rack with faith!--is my advice.
Will not that hurry us upon our knees,
Knocking our breasts, "It can't be--yet it shall!
Who am I, the worm, to argue with my Pope?
Low things confound the high things!" and so forth.
That's better than acquitting God with grace              710
As some folk do.  He's tried--no case is proved,
Philosophy is lenient--he may go!

   You'll say, the old system's not so obsolete
But men believe still: ay, but who and where?
King Bomba's lazzaroni foster yet
The sacred flame, so Antonelli writes;
But even of these, what ragamuffin-saint
Believes God watches him continually,
As he believes in fire that it will burn,
Or rain that it will drench him?  Break fire's law,       720
Sin against rain, although the penalty
Be just a singe or soaking?  "No," he smiles;
"Those laws are laws that can enforce themselves."

   The sum  of all is--yes, my doubt is great,
My faith's still greater, then my faith's enough.
I have read much, thought much, experienced much,
Yet would die rather than avow my fear
The Naples' liquefaction may be false,
When set to happen by the palace-clock
According to the clouds or dinner-time.                   730
I hear you recommend, I might at least
Eliminate, decrassify my faith
Since I adopt it; keeping what I must
And leaving what I can--such points as this.
I won't--that  is, I can't throw one away.
Supposing there's no truth in what I hold
About the need of trial to man's faith,
Still, when you bid me purify the same,
To such a process I discern no end.
Clearing off one excrescence to see two,                  740
There's ever a next in size, now grown as big,
That meets the knife: I cut and cut again!
First cut the Liquefaction, what comes last
But Fichte's clever cut at God himself?
Experimentalize on sacred things!
I trust nor hand nor eye nor heart nor brain
To stop betimes: they all get drunk alike.
The first step, I am master not to take.

   You'd find the cutting-process to your taste
As much as leaving growths of lies unpruned,              750
Nor see more danger in it--you retort.
Your taste's worth mine; but my taste proves more wise
When we consider that the steadfast hold
On the extreme end of the chain of faith
Gives all the advantage, makes the difference
With the rough purblind mass we seek to rule:
We are their lords, or they are free of us,
Justas we tighten or relax our hold.
So, other matters equal, we'll revert
To the first problem--which, if solved my way             760
And thrown into the balance, turns the scale--
How we may lead a comfortable life,
How suit our luggage to the cabin's size.

  Of course you are remarking all this time
How narrowly and grossly I view life,
Respect the creature-comforts, care to rule
The masses, and regard complacently
"The  cabin," in our old phrase.  Well, I do.
I act for, talk for, live for this world now,
As this world prizes action, life and talk:               770
No prejudice to what next world may prove,
Whose new laws and requirements, my best pledge
To observe then, is that I observe these now,
Shall do hereafter what I do meanwhile.
Let us concede (gratuitously though)
Next life relieves the soul of body, yields
Pure spiritual enjoyment: well, my friend,
Why lose this life i' the meantime, since its use
May be to make the next life more intense?

   Do you know, I have often had a dream                  780
(Work it up in your next month's article)
Of man's poor spirit in its progress, still
Losing true life forever and a day
Through ever trying to be and ever being--
In the evolution of successive spheres--
Before its actual sphere and place of life,
Halfway into the next, which having reached,
It shoots with corresponding foolery
Halfway into the next still, on and off!
As when a traveller, bound from North to South,           790
Scouts far in Russia: what's its use in France?
In France spurns flannel: where's its need in Spain?
In Spain drops cloth, too cumbrous for Algiers!
Linen goes next, and last the skin itself,
A superfluity at Timbuctoo.
When, through his journey, was the fool at ease?
I'm at ease now, friend; worldly in this world,
I take and like its way of life; I think
My brothers, who administer the means,
Live better for my comfort--that's good too;              800
And God, if he pronounce upon such life,
Approves my service, which is better still.
If he keep silence--why, for you or me
Or that brute beast pulled-up in to-day's "Times,"
What odds is 't, save to ourselves, what life we lead?

   You meet me at this issue: you declare--
All special-pleading done with--truth is truth,
And justifies itself by undreamed ways.
You don't fear but it's better, if we doubt,
To say so, act up to our truth perceived                  810
However feebly.  Do then--act away!
'T  is there I'm on the watch for you.  How one acts
Is, both of us agree, our chief concern:
And how you 'll act is what I fain would see
If, like the candid person you appear,
You dare to make the most of your life's scheme
As I of mine, live up to its full law
Since there's no higher law that counterchecks.
Put natural religion to the test
You've just demolished the revealed with--quick,          820
Down to the root of all that checks your will,
All prohibition to lie, kill and thieve,
Or even to be an atheistic priest!
Suppose a pricking to incontinence--
Philosophers deduce you chastity
Or shame, from just the fact that at the first
Whoso embraced  a woman in the field,
Threw club down and forewent his brains beside,
So, stood a ready victim in the reach
Of any brother savage, club in hand;                      830
Hence saw the use of going out of sight
In wood or cave to prosecute his loves:
I read this in a French book t' other day.
Does law so analyzed coerce you much?
Oh, men spin clouds of fuzz where matters end,
But you who reach where the first thread begins,
You'll soon cut that!--which means you can, but won't,
Through certain instincts, blind, unreasoned-out,
You dare not set aside, you can't tell why,
But there they are, and so you let them rule.             840
Then, friend, you seem as much a slave as I,
A liar, conscious coward and hypocrite,
Without the good the slave expects to get,
In case he has a master after all!
You own your instincts? why, what else do I,
Who want, am  made for, and must have a God
Ere I can be aught, do aught?--no mere name
Want, but the true thing with what proves its truth,
To wit, a relation from that thing to me,
Touching from head to foot--which touch I feel,           850
And with it take the rest, this life of ours!
I live my life here; yours you dare not live,

   --Not as I state it, who (you please subjoin)
Disfigure such a life and call it names.
While, to your mind, remains another way
For simple men: knowledge and power have rights,
But ignorance and weakness have rights too.
There needs no crucial effort to find truth
If here or there or anywhere about:
We ought to turn each side, try hard and see,             860
And if we can't, be glad we've earned at least
The right, by one laborious proof the more,
To graze in peace earth's pleasant pasturage.
Men are not angels, neither are they brutes:
Something we  may see, all we cannot see.
What need of lying? I say, I see all,
And  swear to each detail the most minute
In what I think a Pan's face--you, mere cloud:
I swear I hear him speak and see him wink,
For fear, if once I drop the emphasis,                    870
Mankind  may doubt there's any cloud at all.
You take the simple life--ready to see,
Willing to see (for no cloud 's worth a face)--
And leaving quiet what no strength can move,
And which, who bids you move? who has the right?
I bid you; but you are God's sheep, not mine;
<"Pastor est tui Dominus.">  You find
In this the pleasant pasture of our life
Much you may eat without the least offence,
Much you don't eat because your maw objects,              880
Much you would eat but that your fellow-flock
Open great eyes at you and even butt,
And thereupon you like your mates so well
You cannot please yourself, offending them;
Though when they seem exorbitantly sheep,
You weigh your pleasure with their butts and bleats
And strike the balance.  Sometimes certain fears
Restrain you, real checks since you find them so;
Sometimes you please yourself and nothing checks:
And thus you graze through life with not one lie,         890
And like it best.

                   But do you, in truth's name?
If so, you beat--which means you are not I--
Who needs must make earth mine and feed my fill
Not simply unbutted at, unbickered with,
But motioned to the velvet of the sward
By those obsequious wethers' very selves.
Look at me. sir; my age is double yours:
At yours, I knew beforehand, so enjoyed,
What now I should be--as, permit the word,
I pretty well imagine your whole range                    900
And stretch of tether twenty years to come.
We both have minds and bodies much alike:
In truth's name, don't you want my bishopric,
My daily bread, my influence and my state?
You're young.  I'm old; you must be old one day;
Will you find then, as I do hour by hour,
Women their lovers kneel to, who cut curls
From your fat lap-dog's ear to grace a brooch--
Dukes, who petition just to kiss your ring--
With much beside you know or may conceive?                910
Suppose we die to-night: well, here am I,
Such were my gains, life bore this fruit to me,
While writing all the same my articles
On music, poetry, the fictile vase
Found at Albano, chess, Anacreon's Greek.
But you--the highest honor in your life,
The thing you'll crown yourself with, all your days,
Is--dining here and drinking this last glass
I pour you out in sign of amity
Before we part forever.  Of your power                    920
And social influence, worldly worth in short,
Judge what's my estimation by the fact,
I do not condescend to enjoin, beseech,
Hint secrecy on one of all these words!
You're shrewd and know that should you publish one
The world would brand the lie--my enemies first,
Who'd sneer--"the  bishop's an arch-hypocrite
And knave perhaps, but not so frank a fool."
Whereas I should not dare for both my ears
Breathe one such syllable, smile one such smile,          930
Before the chaplain who reflects myself--
My shade's so much more potent than your flesh.
What's your reward, self-abnegating friend?
Stood you confessed of those exceptional
And privileged great natures that dwarf mine--
A zealot with a mad ideal in reach,
A poet just about to print his ode,
A statesman with a scheme to stop this war,
An artist whose religion is his art--
I should have nothing to object: such men                 940
Carry the fire, all things grow warm to them,
Their drugget's worth my purple, they beat me.
But you--you 're just as little those as I--
You, Gigadibs, who, thirty years of age,
Write statedly for Blackwood's Magazine,
Believe you see two points in Hamlet's soul
Unseized by the Germans yet--which view you'll print--
Meantime the best you have to show being still
That lively lightsome article we took
Almost for the true Dickens--what's its name?             950
"The Slum and Cellar, or Whitechapel life
Limned after dark!" it made me laugh, I know,
And pleased a month, and brought you in ten pounds.
--Success I recognize and compliment,
And therefore give you, if you choose, three words
(The card and pencil-scratch is quite enough)
Which whether here, in Dublin or New York,
Will get you, prompt as at my eyebrow's wink,
Such terms as never you aspired to get
In all our own reviews and some not ours.                 960
Go write your lively sketches! be the first
"Blougram, or The Eccentric Confidence"--
Or better simply say, "The Outward-bound."
Why, men as soon would throw it in my teeth
As copy and quote the infamy chalked broad
About me on the church-door opposite.
You  will not wait for that experience though,
I fancy, howsoever you decide,
To discontinue--not detesting, not
Defaming, but at least--despising me!                     970
__________________________________________

   Over his wine so smiled and talked his hour
Sylvester Blougram, styled --(the deuce knows what
It's changed to by our novel hierarchy)
With Gigadibs the literary man,
Who played with spoons, explored his plate's design,
And ranged the olive-stones about its edge,
While the great bishop rolled him out a mind
Long crumpled, till creased consciousness lay smooth.

   For Blougram, he believed, say, half he spoke.         980
The other portion, as he shaped it thus
For argumentatory purposes,
He felt his foe was foolish to dispute.
Some arbitrary accidental thoughts
That crossed his mind, amusing because new,
He chose to represent as fixtures there,
Invariable convictions (such they seemed
Beside his interlocutor's loose cards
Flung daily down, and not the same way twice)
While certain hell-deep instincts, man's weak tongue      990
Is never bold to utter in their truth
Because styled hell-deep ('t is an old mistake
To place hell at the bottom of the earth)
He ignored these--not having in readiness
Their nomenclature and philosophy:
He said true things, but called them by wrong names.
"On the whole," he thought, "I justify myself
On every point where cavillers like this
Oppugn my life: he tries one kind of fence,
I close, he's worsted, that's enough for him.            1000
He's on the ground: if ground should break away
I take my stand on, there's a firmer yet
Beneath it, both of us may sink and reach.
His ground was over mine and broke the first:
So, let him sit with me this many a year!"

He did not sit five minutes.  Just a week
Sufficed his sudden healthy vehemence.
Something had struck him in the "Outward-bound"
Another way than Blougram's purpose was:
And having bought, not cabin-furniture                   1010
But settler's-implements (enough for three)
And started for Australia--there, I hope,
By this time he has tested his first plough,
And studied his last chapter of St. John.

NOTES

"Bishop Blougram's Apology" is made over the wine after dinner to
defend himself from the criticisms of a doubting young literary man,
who despises him because he considers that he cannot be true to his
convictions in conforming to the doctrines of the Catholic Church.
He builds up his defence from the proposition that the problem of
life is not to conceive ideals which cannot be realized, but to find
what is and make it as fair as possible.  The bishop admits his
unbelief, but being free to choose either belief or unbelief, since
neither can be proved wholly true, chooses belief as his guiding
principle, because he finds it the best for making his own life and
that of others happy and comfortable in this world.  Once having
chosen faith on this ground, the more absolute the form of faith,
the more potent the results; besides, the bishop has that desire of
domination in his nature, which the authorization of the Church
makes safer for him.  To Gigadibs' objection that were his nature
nobler, he would not count this success, he replies he is as God
made him, and can but make the best of himself as he is.  To the
objection that he addresses himself to grosser estimators than he
ought, he replies that all the world is interested in the fact that
a man of his sense and learning, too, still believes at this late
hour.  He points out the impossibility of his following an ideal
like Napoleon's, for, conceding the merest chance that doubt may be
wrong, and judgment to follow this life, he would not dare to
slaughter men as Napoleon had for such slight ends.  As for
Shakespeare's ideal, he can't write plays like his if he wanted to,
but he has realized things in his life which Shakespeare only
imagined, and which he presumes Shakespeare would not have scorned
to have realized in his life, judging from his fulfilled ambition to
be a gentleman of property at Stratford.  He admits, however, that
enthusiasm in belief, such as Luther's, would be far preferable to
his own way of living, and after this, enthusiasm in unbelief, which
he might have if it were not for that plaguy chance that doubt may
be wrong.  Gigadibs interposes that the risk is as great for cool
indifference as for bold doubt.  Blougram disputes that point by
declaring that doubts prove faith, and that man's free will
preferring to have faith true to having doubt true tips the balance
in favor of faith, and shows that man's instinct or aspiration is
toward belief; that unquestioning belief, such as that of the Past,
has no moral effect on man, but faith which knows itself through
doubt is a moral spur.  Thus the arguments from expediency,
instinct, and consciousness, all bear on the side of faith, and
convince the bishop that it is safer to keep his faith intact from
his doubts.  He then proves that Gigadibs, with all his assumption
of superiority in his frankness of unbelief, is in about the same
position as himself, since the moral law which he follows has no
surer foundation than the religious law the bishop follows, both
founded upon instinct.  The bishop closes as he began, with the
consciousness that rewards for his way of living are of a
substantial nature, while Gigadibs has nothing to show for his
frankness, and does not hesitate to say that Gigadibs will consider
his conversation with the bishop the greatest honor ever conferred
upon him.  The poet adds some lines, somewhat apologetic for the
bishop, intimating that his arguments were suited to the calibre of
his critic, and that with a profounder critic he would have made a
more serious defence.  Speaking of a review of this poem by Cardinal
Wiseman (1801-1865), Browning says in a letter to a friend, printed
in , May, 1896: "The most curious notice I ever had was
from Cardinal Wiseman on --, himself.  It was in the
, a Catholic journal of those days, and certified to be his
by Father Prout, who said nobody else would have dared put it in."
This review praises the poem for its "fertility of illustration and
felicity of argument," and says that "though utterly mistaken in the
very groundwork of religion, though starting from the most unworthy
notions of the work of a Catholic bishop, and defending a
self-indulgence every honest man must feel to be disgraceful, [it]
is yet in its way triumphant."

6. Brother Pugin: (1810-1852), an eminent English architect, who,
becoming a Roman Catholic, designed many structures for that Church.

34. Corpus Christi Day: Thursday after Trinity Sunday, when the
Feast of the Sacrament of the Altar is celebrated.

45. Che: what.

54. Count D' Orsay: (1798-1852), a clever Frenchman, distinguished
as a man of fashion, and for his drawings of horses.

113. Parma's pride, the 'Jerome . . . Correggio . . .  the Modenese:
the picture of Saint Jerome in the Ducal Academy at Parma, by
Correggio, who was born in the territory of Modena, Italy.

184. A chorus-ending from Euripides: the Greek dramatist, Euripides
(480 B. C.- 406 B. C.), frequently ended his choruses with this
thought--sometimes with slight variations in expression: "The Gods
perform many things contrary to our expectations, and those things
which we looked for are not accomplished; but God hath brought to
pass things unthought of."

316. Peter's . . . or rather, Hildebrand's: the claim of Hildebrand,
Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for temporal power and authority
exceeding Saint Peter's, the founder of the Roman Church.

411. Schelling: the German philosopher (1775-1854).

472. Austrian marriage: the marriage of Marie Louise, daughter of
the Emperor of Austria, to Napoleon I.

475. Austerlitz: fought with success by Napoleon, in 1805, against
the coalition of Austria, Russia, and England, and resulting in the
alliance mentioned with Austria and fresh overtures to the Papal
power and the old French nobility.

514. Trimmest house in Stratford: New Place, a mansion in the heart
of the town, built for Sir Hugh Clopton, and known for two centuries
as his "great house," bought with nearly an acre of ground by
Shakespeare, in 1597.

516. Giulio Romano: Italian painter (1492-1546), referred to in
"Winter's Tale," v. ii. 105.  --Dowland: English musician, praised
for his lute-playing in a sonnet in "The Passionate Pilgrim,"
attributed to Shakespeare.

519. "Pandulph," etc.: quotation from "King John," iii. i. 138.

568. Luther: Martin (1483-1546), whose enthusiasm reformed the
Church.

577. Strauss: (1808-1874), one of the Tuebingen philosophers, author
of a Rationalistic "Life of Jesus."

626. "What think ye," etc.: Matthew 22.42.

664. Ichors o'er the place: ichor=serum, which exudes where the skin
is broken, coats the hurt, and facilitates its healing.

667. Snake 'neath Michael's foot: Rafael's picture in the Louvre of
Saint Michael slaying the dragon.

703. Brother Newman: John Henry (1801-1890), leader of the
Tractarian movement at Oxford, which approached the doctrines of the
Roman Church.  The last (90th) tract was entirely written by him.
The Bishop of Oxford was called upon to stop the series, and in 1845
Dr. Newman entered the Romish Church.

715. King Bomba: means King Puffcheek, King Liar, a sobriquet given
to Ferdinand II, late king of the Two Sicilies.  --Lazzaroni: Naples
beggars, so called from the Lazarus of the Parable, Luke 16.20.

716. Antonelli: Cardinal, secretary of Pope Pius IX.

728. Naples' liquefaction: the supposed miracle of the liquefaction
of the blood of Saint Januarius the Martyr.  A small quantity of it
is preserved in a crystal reliquary in the great church at Naples,
and when brought into the presence of the head of the saint, it
melts.

732. Decrassify: make less crass or gross.

744. Fichte: (1761-1814), celebrated German metaphysician, who
defined God as the "moral order of the universe."

877. "": the Lord is your shepherd.

915. Anacreon: Greek lyric poet of the sixth century B. C.

972. , etc.: "In countries where the Roman
Catholic faith is not regularly established, as it was not in
England before the time of Cardinal Wiseman, there were no bishops
of sees in the kingdom itself, but they took their titles from
heathen lands."


CLEON

"As certain also of your own poets have said"--

1855

Cleon the poet (from the sprinkled isles,
Lily on lily, that o'erlace the sea,
And laugh their pride when the light wave lisps "Greece")--
To Protus in his Tyranny: much health!

   They give thy letter to me, even now:
I read and seem as if I heard thee speak.
The master of thy galley still unlades
Gift after gift; they block my court at last
And pile themselves along its portico
Royal with sunset, like a thought of thee:                 10
And one white she-slave from the group dispersed
Of black and white slaves (like the chequer-work
Pavement, at once my nation's work and gift,
Now covered with this settle-down of doves),
One lyric woman, in her crocus vest
Woven of sea-wools, with her two white hands
Commends to me the strainer and the cup
Thy lip hath bettered ere it blesses mine.

   Well-counselled, king, in thy munificence!
For so shall men remark, in such an act                    20
Of love for him whose song gives life its joy,
Thy recognition of the use of life;
Nor call thy spirit barely adequate
To help on life in straight ways, broad enough
For vulgar souls, by ruling and the rest.
Thou, in the daily building of thy tower--
Whether in fierce and sudden spasms of toil,
Or through dim lulls of unapparent growth,
Or when the general work 'mid good acclaim
Climbed with the eye to cheer the architect--              30
Didst ne'er engage in work for mere work's sake--
Hadst ever in thy heart the luring hope
Of some eventual rest a-top of it,
Whence, all the tumult of the building hushed,
Thou first of men mightst look out to the East:
The vulgar saw thy tower, thou sawest the sun.
For this, I promise on thy festival
To pour libation, looking o'er the sea,
Making this slave narrate thy fortunes, speak
Thy great words, and describe thy royal face--             40
Wishing thee wholly where Zeus lives the most,
Within the eventual element of calm.

   Thy letter's first requirement meets me here.
It is as thou hast heard: in one short life
I, Cleon, have effected all those things
Thou wonderingly dost enumerate.
That epos on thy hundred plates of gold
Is mine--and also mine the little chant,
So sure to rise from every fishing-bark
When, lights at prow, the seamen haul their net.           50
The image of the sun-god on the phare,
Men turn from the sun's self to see, is mine;
The Poecile, o'er-storied its whole length,
As thou didst hear, with painting, is mine too.
I know the true proportions of a man
And woman also, not observed before;
And I have written three books on the soul,
Proving absurd all written hitherto,
And putting us to ignorance again.
For music--why, I have combined the moods,                 60
Inventing one.  In brief, all arts are mine;
Thus much the people know and  recognize,
Throughout our seventeen islands.  Marvel not.
We of these latter days, with greater mind
Than our forerunners, since more composite,
Look not so great, beside their simple way,
To a judge who only sees one way at once,
One mind-point and no other at a time--
Compares the small part of a man of us
With some whole man of the heroic age,                     70
Great in his way--not ours, nor meant for ours.
And ours is greater, had we skill to know:
For, what we call this life of men on earth,
This sequence of the soul's achievements here
Being, as I find much reason to conceive,
Intended to be viewed eventually.
As a great whole, not analyzed to parts,
But each part having reference to all--
How shall a certain part, pronounced complete,
Endure effacement by another part?                         80
Was the thing done?--then, what's to do again?
See, in the chequered pavement opposite,
Suppose the artist made a perfect rhomb,
And next a lozenge, then a trapezoid--
He did not overlay them, superimpose
The new upon the old and blot it out,
But laid them on a level in his work,
Making at last a picture; there it lies.
So, first the perfect separate forms were made,
The portions of mankind; and after, so,                    90
Occurred the combination of the same.
For where had been a progress, otherwise?
Mankind, made up of all the single men--
In such a synthesis the labor ends.
Now mark me! those divine men of old time
Have reached, thou sayest well, each at one point
The outside verge that rounds our faculty;
And where they reached, who can do more than reach?
It takes but little water just to touch
At some one point the inside of a sphere,                 100
And, as we turn the sphere, touch all the rest
In due succession: but the finer air
Which not so palpably nor obviously,
Though no less universally, can touch
The whole circumference of that emptied sphere,
Fills it more fully than the water did;
Holds thrice the weight of water in itself
Resolved into a subtler element.
And yet the vulgar call the sphere first full
Up to the visible height--and after, void;                110
Not knowing air's more hidden properties.
And thus our soul, misknown, cries out to Zeus
To vindicate his purpose in our life:
Why stay we on the earth unless to grow?
Long since, I imaged, wrote the fiction out,
That he or other god descended here
And, once for all, showed simultaneously
What, in its nature, never can be shown,
Piecemeal or in succession;--showed, I say,
The worth both absolute and relative                      120
Of all his children from the birth of time,
His instruments for all appointed work.
I now go on to image--might we hear
The judgment which should give the due to each,
Show where the labor lay and where the ease,
And prove Zeus' self, the latent everywhere!
This is a dream;--but no dream, let us hope,
That years and days, the summers and the springs,
Follow each other with unwaning powers.
The grapes which dye thy wine are richer far,             130
Through culture, than the wild wealth of the rock;
The wave plum than the savage-tasted drupe;
The pastured honey-bee drops choicer sweet;
The flowers turn double, and the leaves turn flowers;
That young and tender crescent-moon, thy slave,
Sleeping above her robe as buoyed by clouds,
Refines upon the women of my youth.
What, and the soul alone deteriorates?
I have not chanted verse like Homer, no--
Nor swept string like Terpander, no--nor carved           140
And painted men like Phidias and his friend;
I am not great as they are, point by point.
But I have entered into sympathy
With these four, running these into one soul,
Who, separate, ignored each other's art.
Say, is it nothing that I know them all?
The wild flower was the larger; I have dashed
Rose-blood upon its petals, pricked its cup's
Honey with  wine, and driven its seed to fruit,
And show a better flower if not so large:                 150
I stand myself.  Refer this to the gods
Whose gift alone it is! which, shall I dare
(All pride apart) upon the absurd pretext
That such a gift by chance lay in my hand,
Discourse of lightly or depreciate?
It might have fallen to another's hand: what then?
I pass too surely: let at least truth stay!

   And next, of what thou followest on to ask.
This being with me as I declare, 0 king,
My works, in all these varicolored kinds,                 160
So done by me, accepted so by men--
Thou askest, if (my soul thus in men's hearts)
I must not be accounted to attain
The very crown and proper end of life?
Inquiring thence how, now life closeth up,
I face death with success in my right hand:
Whether I fear death less than dost thyself
The fortunate of men?  "For" (writest thou)
"Thou leavest much behind, while I leave naught.
Thy life stays in the poems men shall sing,               170
The pictures men shall study; while my life,
Complete and whole now in its power and joy,
Dies altogether with my brain and arm,
Is lost indeed; since, what survives myself?
The brazen statue to o'erlook my grave,
See on the promontory which I named.
And that--some supple courtier of my heir
Shall use its robed and sceptred arm, perhaps,
To fix the rope to, which best drags it down.
I go then: triumph thou, who dost not go!"                180

  Nay, thou art worthy of hearing my whole mind.
Is this apparent, when thou turn'st to muse
Upon the scheme of earth and man in chief,
That admiration grows as knowledge grows?
That imperfection means perfection hid,
Reserved in part, to grace the after-time?
If, in the morning of philosophy,
Ere aught had been recorded, nay perceived,
Thou, with the light now in thee, couldst have looked
On all earth's tenantry, from worm to bird,               190
Ere man, her last, appeared upon the stage--
Thou wouldst have seen them perfect, and deduced
The perfectness of others yet unseen.
Conceding which--had Zeus then questioned thee
"Shall I go on a step, improve on this,
Do more for visible creatures than is done?"
Thou wouldst have answered, "Ay, by making each
Grow conscious in himself--by that alone.
All's perfect else: the shell sucks fast the rock,
The fish strikes through the sea, the snake both swims    200
And slides, forth range the beasts, the birds take flight,
Till life's mechanics can no further go--
And all this joy in natural life is put
Like fire from off thy finger into each,
So exquisitely perfect is the same.
But 't is pure fire, and they mere matter are;
It has them, not they it: and so I choose
For man, thy last premeditated work
(If I might add a glory to the scheme)
That a third thing should stand apart from both,          210
A quality arise within his soul,
Which, intro-active, made to supervise
And feel the force it has, may view itself,
And so be happy."  Man might live at first
The animal life: but is there nothing more?
In due time, let him critically learn
How he lives; and, the more he gets to know
Of his own life's adaptabilities,
The more joy-giving will his life become.
Thus man, who hath this quality, is best.                 220

   But thou, king, hadst more reasonably said:
"Let progress end at once--man make no step
Beyond the natural man, the better beast,
Using his senses, not the sense of sense."
In man there's failure, only since he left
The lower and inconscious forms of life.
We called it an advance, the rendering plain
Man's spirit might grow conscious of man's life,
And, by new lore so added to the old,
Take each step higher over the brute's head.              230
This grew the only life, the pleasure-house,
Watch-tower and treasure-fortress of the soul,
Which whole surrounding flats of natural life
Seemed only fit to yield subsistence to;
A tower that crowns a country.  But alas,
The soul now climbs it just to perish there!
For thence we  have discovered ('t is no dream--
We know  this, which we had not else perceived)
That there's a world of capability
For joy, spread round about us, meant for us,             240
Inviting us; and still the soul craves all,
And still the flesh replies, "Take no jot more
Than ere thou clombst the tower to look abroad!
Nay, so much less as that fatigue has brought
Deduction to it."  We struggle, fain to enlarge
Our bounded physical recipiency,
Increase our power, supply fresh oil to life,
Repair the waste of age and sickness: no,
It skills not! life's inadequate to joy,
As the soul sees joy, tempting life to take.              250
They praise a fountain in my garden here
Wherein a Naiad sends the water-bow
Thin from her tube; she smiles to see it rise.
What if I told her, it is just a thread
From that great river which the hills shut up,
And mock  her with my  leave to take the same?
The artificer has given her one small tube
Past power to widen or exchange--what boots
To know she might spout oceans if she could?
She cannot lift beyond her first thin thread;             260
And so a man can use but a man's joy
While he sees God's.  Is it for Zeus to boast,
"See, man, how happy I live, and despair--
That I may be still happier--for thy use!"
If this were so, we could not thank our Lord,
As hearts beat on to doing; 'tis not so--
Malice it is not.  Is it carelessness?
Still, no.  If care--where is the sign? I ask,
And get no answer, and agree in sum,
0 king, with thy profound discouragement,                 270
Who seest the wider but to sigh the more.
Most progress is most failure: thou sayest well.

  The last point now:--thou dost except a case--
Holding joy not impossible to one
With artist-gifts--to such a man as I
Who leave behind me living works indeed;
For, such a poem, such a painting lives.
What? dost thou verily trip upon a word,
Confound the accurate view of what joy is
(Caught somewhat  clearer by my eyes than thine)          280
With feeling joy? confound the knowing how
And showing how to live (my faculty)
With actually living?--Otherwise
Where is the artist's vantage o'er the king?
Because in my great epos I display
How divers men young, strong, fair, wise, can act--
Is this as though I acted? if I paint,
Carve the young Phoebus, am I therefore young?
Methinks I'm older that I bowed myself
The many years of pain that taught me art!                290
Indeed, to know is something, and to prove
How all this beauty might be enjoyed, is more;
But, knowing naught, to enjoy is something too.
Yon rower, with the moulded muscles there,
Lowering the sail, is nearer it than I.
I can write love-odes: thy fair slave's an ode.
I get to sing of love, when grown too gray
For being beloved: she turns to that young man,
The muscles all a-ripple on his back.
I know the joy of kingship: well, thou art king!          300

   "But," sayest thou--(and I marvel, I repeat,
To find thee trip on such a mere word) "what
Thou writest, paintest, stays; that does not die:
Sappho survives, because we sing her songs,
And AEschylus, because we read his plays!"
Why, if they live still, let them come and take
Thy slave in my despite, drink from thy cup,
Speak in my place.  Thou diest while I survive?
Say rather that my fate is deadlier still,
In this, that every day my sense of joy                   310
Grows more acute, my soul (intensified
By power and insight) more enlarged, more keen;
While every day my hairs fall more and more,
My hand shakes, and the heavy years increase--
The horror quickening still from year to year,
The consummation coming past escape
When I shall know most, and yet least enjoy--
When all my works wherein I prove my worth,
Being present still to mock me in men's mouths,
Alive still, in the praise of such as thou,               320
I, I the feeling, thinking, acting man,
The man who loved his life so over-much,
Sleep in my urn.  It is so horrible,
I dare at times imagine to my need
Some future state revealed to us by Zeus,
Unlimited in capability
For joy, as this is in desire for joy,
--To seek which, the joy-hunger forces us:
That, stung by straitness of our life, made strait
On purpose to make prized the life at large--             330
Freed by the throbbing impulse we call death,
We burst there as the worm into the fly,
Who, while a worm still, wants his wings.  But no!
Zeus has not yet revealed it; and alas,
He must have done so, were it possible!

   Live long and happy, and in that thought die;
Glad for what was!  Farewell.  And for the rest,
I cannot tell thy messenger aright
Where to deliver what he bears of thine
To one called Paulus; we have heard his fame              340
Indeed, if Christus be not one with him--
I know not, nor am troubled much to know.
Thou canst not think a mere barbarian Jew,
As Paulus proves to be, one circumcised,
Hath access to a secret shut from us?
Thou wrongest our philosophy, 0 king,
In stooping to inquire of such an one,
As if his answer could impose at all!
He writeth, doth he? well, and he may write.
Oh, the Jew findeth scholars! certain slaves              350
Who touched on this same isle, preached him and Christ;
And (as I gathered from a bystander)
Their doctrine could be held by no sane man.

NOTES

"Cleon" expresses the approach of Greek thought at the time of
Christ towards the idea of immortality as made known by Cleon, a
Greek poet writing in reply to a Greek patron whose princely gifts
and letter asking comment on the philosophical significance of death
have just reached him.  The important conclusions reached by Cleon
in his answer are that the composite mind is greater than the minds
of the past, because it is capable of accomplishing much in many
lines of activity, and of sympathizing with each of those simple
great minds that had reached the highest possible perfection "at one
point."  It is, indeed, the necessary next step in development,
though all classes of mind fit into the perfected mosaic of life, no
one achievement blotting out any other.  This soul and mind
development he deduces from the physical development he sees about
him.  But since with the growth of human consciousness and the
increase of knowledge comes greater capability to the soul for joy
while the failure of physical powers shuts off the possibility of
realizing joy, it would have been better had man been left with
nothing higher than mere sense like the brutes.  Dismissing the idea
of immortality through one's works as unsatisfactory to the
individual, he finally concludes that a long and happy life is all
there is to be hoped for, since, had the future life which he has
sometimes dared to hope for been possible, Zeus would long before
have revealed it.  He dismisses the preaching of one Paulus as
untenable.

"As certain also of your own poets have said": this motto hints that
Paul's speech at Athens (Acts 17.22-28) suggests and justifies
Browning's conception of such Greek poets as Cleon seeking "the
Lord, if haply they might feel after him."  Paul's quotation, "For
we are also his offspring," is from the "Phoenomena" by Aratus, a
Greek poet of his own town of Tarsus.

1.  Sprinkled isles: probably the Sporades, so named because they
were scattered, and in opposition to the Cyclades, which formed a
circle around Delos.

51.  Phare: light-house.  The French authority, Allard, says that
though there is no mention in classical writings of any light-house
in Greece proper, it is probable that there was one at the port of
Athens as well as at other points in Greece.  There were certainly
several along both shores of the Hellespont, besides the famous
father of all light-houses, on the island of Pharos, near
Alexandria.  Hence the French name for light-house, phare.

53.  Poecile: the portico at Athens painted with battle pictures by
Polygnotus the Thasian.

60.  Combined the moods: in Greek music the scales were called moods
or modes, and were subject to great variation in the arrangement of
tones and semitones.

83.  Rhomb . . . lozenge . . . trapezoid: all four-sided forms, but
differing as to the parallel arrangement of their sides and the
obliquity of their angles.

140.  Terpander: musician of Lesbos (about 650 B. C.), who added
three strings to the four-stringed Greek lyre.

141.  Phidias: the Athenian sculptor (about 430 B. C.)  --and his
friend: Pericles, ruler of Athens (444-429 B.C.).  Plutarch speaks
of their friendship in his Life of Pericles.

304.  Sappho: poet of Lesbos, supreme among lyricists (about 600
B. C.).  Only fragments of her verse remain.

305.  AEschylus: oldest of the three great Athenian dramatists
(525-472 B. C.).

340.  Paulus; we have have heard his fame: Paul's mission to the
Gentiles carried him to many of the islands in the AEgean Sea as
well as to Athens and Corinth (Acts 13-21).


RUDEL TO THE LADY OF TRIPOLI

1842

I
I know a Mount, the gracious Sun perceives
First, when he visits, last, too, when he leaves
The world; and, vainly favored, it repays
The day-long glory of his steadfast gaze
By no change of its large calm front of snow.
And underneath the Mount, a Flower I know,
He cannot have perceived, that changes ever
At his approach; and, in the lost endeavor
To live his life, has parted, one by one,
With all a flower's true graces, for the grace             10
Of being but a foolish mimic sun,
With ray-like florets round a disk-like face.
Men nobly call by many a name the Mount
As over many  a land of theirs its large
Calm front of snow like a triumphal targe
Is reared, and still with old names, fresh names vie,
Each to its proper praise and own account:
Men call the Flower, the Sunflower, sportively.

II
Oh, Angel of the East, one, one gold look
Across the waters to this twilight nook,                   20
--The far sad waters.  Angel, to this nook!

III
Dear Pilgrim, art thou for the East indeed?
Go!--saying ever as thou dost proceed,
That I, French Rudel, choose for my device
A sunflower outspread like a sacrifice
Before its idol.  See! These inexpert
And hurried fingers could not fail to hurt
The woven picture; 't is a woman's skill
Indeed; but nothing baffled me, so, ill
Or well, the work is finished.  Say, men feed              30
On songs I sing, and therefore bask the bees
On my flower's breast as on a platform broad:
But, as the flower's concern is not for these
But solely for the sun, so men applaud
In vain this Rudel, he not looking here
But to the East--the East!  Go, say this, Pilgrim dear!


NOTES

"Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli": Rudel symbolizes his love as the
aspiration of the sunflower that longs only to become like the sun,
so losing a flower's true grace, while the sun does not even
perceive the flower.  He imagines himself as a pilgrim revealing to
the Lady of Tripoli by means of this symbol the entire sinking of
self in his love for her.  Even men's praise of his songs is no more
to him than the bees which bask on a sunflower are to it.

Rudel was a Provencal troubadour, and lived in the twelfth century.
The Crusaders, returning from the East, spread abroad wonderful
reports of the beauty, learning, and wit of the Countess of Tripoli,
a small duchy on the Mediterranean, north of Palestine.  Rudel,
although never having seen her, fell in love with her and composed
songs in honor of her beauty, and finally set out to the East in
pilgrim's garb.  On his way he was taken ill, but lived to reach the
port of Tripoli.  The countess, being told of his arrival, went on
board the vessel.  When Rudel heard she was coming, he revived, said
she had restored him to life by her coming, and that he was willing
to die, having seen her.  He died in her arms; she gave him a rich
and honorable burial in a sepulchre of porphyry on which were
engraved verses in Arabic.


ONE WORD MORE

TO E. B. B.

1855

[Originally appended to the collection of Poems called "Men and
Women," the greater portion of which has now been, more correctly,
distributed under the other titles of this edition.-R. B.]


I
There they are, my fifty men and women
Naming me the fifty poems finished!
Take them, Love, the book and me together:
Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.

II
Rafael made a century of sonnets,
Made and wrote them in a certain volume
Dinted with the silver-pointed pencil
Else he only used to draw Madonnas:
These, the world might view--but one, the volume.
Who that one, you ask? Your heart instructs you.           10
Did she live and love it all her life-time?
Did she drop, his lady of the sonnets,
Die, and let it drop beside her pillow
Where it lay in place of Rafael's glory,
Rafael's cheek so duteous and so loving--
Cheek, the world was wont to hail a painter's,
Rafael's cheek, her love had turned a poet's?
You and I would rather read that volume,
(Taken to his beating bosom by it)
Lean and list the bosom-beats of Rafael,                   20
Would we not?  than wonder at Madonnas--
Her, San Sisto names, and Her, Foligno,
Her, that visits Florence in a vision,
Her, that's left with lilies in the Louvre--
Seen by us and all the world in circle.

IV
You and I will never read that volume.
Guido Reni, like his own eye's apple
Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it.
Guido Reni dying, all Bologna
Cried, and the world cried too, "Ours, the treasure!"      30
Suddenly, as rare things will, it vanished.

V
Dante once prepared to paint an angel:
Whom to please? You whisper "Beatrice."
While he mused  and traced it and retraced it,
(Peradventure with a pen corroded
Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for,
When, his left-hand i' the hair o' the wicked,
Back he held the brow and pricked its stigma,
Bit into the live man's flesh, for parchment,
Loosed him, laughed to see the writing rankle,             40
Let the wretch go festering through Florence)--
Dante, who loved well because he hated,
Hated wickedness that hinders loving,
Dante standing, studying his angel--
In there broke the folk of his Inferno.
Says he--"Certain people of importance"
Such he gave his daily dreadful line to)
"Entered and would  seize, forsooth, the poet."
Says the poet--"Then I stopped my  painting."
You and I would rather see that angel,                     50
Painted by the tenderness of Dante,
Would we not?--than read a fresh Inferno.

VII
You and I will never see that picture.
While he mused on love and Beatrice,
While he softened o'er his outlined angel,
In they broke, those "people of importance;"
We and Bice bear the loss forever.

VIII
What of Rafael's sonnets, Dante's picture?
This: no artist lives and loves, that longs not
Once, and only once, and for one only,                     60
(Ah,  the prize !) to find his love a language
Fit and fair and simple and sufficient--
Using nature that's an art to others,
Not, this one time, art that's turned his nature.
Ay, of all the artists living, loving,
None but would forego his proper dowry--
Does he paint? he fain would write a poem--
Does he write? he fain would paint a picture,
Put to proof art alien to the artist's,
Once, and only once, and for one only,                     70
So to be the man and leave the artist,
Gain the man's joy, miss the artist's sorrow.

IX
Wherefore?  Heaven's gift takes earth's abatement!
He who smites the rock and spreads the water,
Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath him,
Even he, the minute makes immortal,
Proves, perchance, but mortal in the minute,
Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing.
While he smites, how can he but remember,
So he smote before, in such a peril,                       80
When they stood and mocked--"Shall smiting help us?"
When they drank and sneered--"A   stroke is easy!"
When they wiped their mouths and went their journey,
Throwing him  for thanks--"But drought was pleasant."
Thus old memories mar the actual triumph;
Thus the doing savors of disrelish;
Thus achievement lacks a gracious somewhat;
O'er-importuned brows becloud the mandate,
Carelessness or consciousness--the gesture.
For he bears an ancient wrong about him,                   90
Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces,
Hears, yet one time more, the 'customed prelude--
"How shouldst thou, of all men, smite, and save us?"
Guesses what is like to prove the sequel--
"Egypt's flesh-pots-nay, the drought was better."

X
Oh, the crowd must have emphatic warrant!
Theirs, the Sinai-forehead's cloven brilliance,
Right-arm's rod-sweep, tongue's imperial fiat.
Never  dares the man put off the prophet.

XI
Did he love one face from out the thousands,              100
(Were she Jethro's daughter, white and wifely,
Were she but the Ethiopian bondslave),
He would envy yon dumb patient camel,
Keeping a reserve of scanty water
Meant to save his own life in the desert;
Ready in the desert to deliver
(Kneeling down to let his breast be opened)
Hoard and life together for his mistress.

XII
I shall never, in the years remaining,
Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues,            110
Make you music that should all-express me;
So it seems: I stand on my attainment.
This of verse alone, one life allows me;
Verse and nothing else have I to give you.
Other heights in other lives, God willing;
All the gifts from all the heights, your own, Love!

XIII
Yet a semblance of resource avails us--
Shade so finely touched, love's sense must seize it.
Take these lines, look lovingly and nearly,
Lines I write the first time and the last time.           120
He who works in fresco, steals a hair brush,
Curbs the liberal hand, subservient proudly,
Cramps his spirit, crowds its all in little,
Makes a strange art of an art familiar,
Fills his lady's missal-marge with flowerets.
He who blows thro' bronze, may breathe thro' silver,
Fitly serenade a slumbrous princess.
He who writes, may write for once as I do.

XIV
Love, you saw me gather men and women,
Live or dead or fashioned by my fancy,                    130
Enter each and all, and use their service,
Speak from every mouth--the speech, a poem.
Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,
Hopes and tears, belief and disbelieving:
I am mine and yours--the rest be all men's,
Karshish, Cleon, Norbert and the fifty.
Let me speak this once in my true person,
Not as Lippo, Roland or Andrea,
Though the fruit of speech be just this sentence;
Pray you, look on these my men and women,                 140
Take and keep my fifty poems finished;
Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also!
Poor the speech; be how I speak, for all things.
Not but that you know me!  Lo, the moon's self!
Here in London, yonder late in Florence,
Still we find her face, the thrice-transfigured.
Curving on a sky imbrued with color,
Drifted over Fiesole by twilight,
Came she, our new crescent of a hair's-breadth.
Full she flared it, lamping Samminiato,                   150
Rounder 'twixt the cypresses and rounder,
Perfect till the nightingales applauded.
Now, a piece of her old self, impoverished,
Hard to greet, she traverses the houseroofs,
Hurries with unhandsome thrift of silver,
Goes dispiritedly, glad to finish.

XVI
What, there's nothing in the moon noteworthy?
Nay: for if that moon could love a mortal,
Use, to charm him (so to fit a fancy),
All her magic ('tis the old sweet mythos),                160
She would turn a new side to her mortal,
Side unseen of herdsman, huntsman, steersman--
Blank to Zoroaster on his terrace,
Blind to Galileo on his turret,
Dumb to Homer, dumb to Keats--him, even!
Think, the wonder of the moonstruck mortal--
When she turns round, comes again in heaven,
Opens out anew for worse or better!
Proves she like some portent of an iceberg
Swimming full upon the ship it founders,                  170
Hungry with huge teeth of splintered crystals?
Proves she as the paved work of a sapphire
Seen by Moses when he climbed the mountain?
Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu
Climbed and saw the very God, the Highest,
Stand upon the paved work of a sapphire.
Like the bodied heaven in his clearness
Shone the stone, the sapphire of that paved work,
When they ate and drank and saw God also!

XVII
What were seen? None knows, none ever shall know.         180
Only this is sure--the sight were other,
Not the moon's same side, born late in Florence,
Dying now impoverished here in London.
God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her!

XVIII
This I say of me, but think of you, Love!
This to you--yourself my moon of poets!
Ah, but that's the world's side, there's the wonder,
Thus they see you, praise you, think they know you!       190
There, in turn I stand with them and praise you--
Out of my own self, I dare to phrase it.
But the best is when I glide from out them,
Cross a step or two of dubious twilight,
Come out on the other side, the novel
Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,
Where I hush and bless myself with silence.

XIX
Oh, their Rafael of the dear Madonnas,
Oh, their Dante of the dread Inferno,
Wrote one song--and in my  brain I sing it,               200
Drew one angel--borne, see, on my bosom!
                                       R.  B.

NOTES

"One Word More" is the dedication to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
which was appended to "Men and Women" as first published when it
contained fifty poems since distributed under other titles.

The poet, recalling how Rafael when he would all-express his love,
wrote sonnets to the loved one, and how Dante prepared to paint an
angel for Beatrice, draws the conclusion that there is no artist but
longs to give expression to his supreme love in some other art than
his own which would be the medium of a spontaneous, natural outburst
of feeling in a way impossible in the familiar forms of his own art.
Thus he would gain a man's joy and miss the artist's sorrow, for,
like the miracles of Moses, the work of the artist is subject to the
cold criticism of the world, which expects him nevertheless always
to be the artist, and has no sympathy for him as a man.  Since there
is no other art but poetry in which it is possible for Browning to
express himself, he will at least drop his accustomed dramatic form
and speak in his own person; though it be poor, let it stand as a
symbol for all-expression.  Yet does she not know him, for he has
shown her his soul-side as one might imagine the moon showing
another side to a mortal lover, which would remain forever as much a
mystery to the outside world as the vision seen by Moses, etc.
Similarly, he has admired the side his moon of poets has shown the
whole world in her poetry, but he blesses himself with the thought
of the other side which he alone has seen.

5. Century of sonnets: Rafael is known to have written four love
sonnets on the back of sketches for his wall painting, the
"Disputa," which are still preserved in collections, one of them in
the British Museum.  The Italian text of these sonnets with English
translations are given in Wolzogen's Life of him translated by
F. E. Bunntt.  Did he ever write a hundred?  It is supposed that
the lost book once owned by Guido Reni, apparently the one referred
to in stanza iv, was a book of drawings.  Perhaps these also bore
sonnets on their backs, or Browning guessed they did.

10.  Who that one: Margarita, a girl Rafael met and loved in Rome,
two portraits of whom exist--one in the Barberini Palace, Rome, the
other in the Pitti, in Florence.  They resemble the Sistine and
other Madonnas by Rafael.

21. Madonnas, etc.: "San Sisto," now in Dresden; "Foligno," in the
Vatican, Rome; the one in Florence is called "del Granduca," and
represents her appearing in a vision; the one in the Louvre, called
"La Belle Jardinire," is seated in a garden among lilies.

32. Dante once, etc.: "On that day," writes Dante, "Vita Nuova,"
xxxv, "which fulfilled the year since my lady had been made of the
citizens of eternal life, remembering of her as I sat alone, I
betook myself to draw the resemblance of an angel upon certain
tablets."  That this lady was Beatrice Portinari, as Browning
supposes, Dante's devotion to her, in both "The New Life" and "The
Divine Comedy," should leave no doubt.  Yet the literalness of
Mr. W. M.  Rossetti makes him obtuse here, as he and other
commentators seem to be in their understanding of Browning
throughout this stanza.  Browning evidently contrasts Dante's
tenderness here towards Beatrice with the remorselessness of his pen
in the "Inferno" (see Cantos 32 and 33), where he stigmatized his
enemies as if using their very flesh for his parchment, so that ever
after in the eyes of all Florence they seemed to bear the marks of
the poet's hate of their wickedness.  It was people of this sort,
grandees of the town, Browning fancies, who again "hinder loving,"
breaking in upon the poet and seizing him unawares forsooth at this
intimate moment of loving artistry.  "Chancing to turn my head,"
Dante continues, "I perceived that some were standing beside me to
whom I should have given courteous greeting, and that they were
observing what I did: also I learned afterwards that they had been
there a while before I perceived them."  The tender moment was over.
He stopped the painting, simply saying, "Another was with me."

74. He who smites the rock: Moses, whose experience in smiting the
rock for water (Exodus 17.1-7; Numbers 20.1-11) is likened to the
sorrow of the artist, serving a reckless world.

97.  Sinai-forehead's . . . brilliance: Exodus 19.9, 16; 34.30.

101. Jethro's daughter: Moses' wife, Zipporah (Exodus 2.16, 21).

102. AEthiopian bondslave: Numbers 12.1.

122. Liberal hand: the free hand of the fresco-painter cramped to do
the exquisite little designs fit for the missal marge = margin of a
Prayer-book.

150. Samminiato: San Miniato, a church in Florence.

161. Turn a new side, etc.: the side turned away from the earth
which our world never sees.

163. Zoroaster: (589-513 B. C.), founder of the Persian religion,
and worshipper of light, whose habit it was to observe the heavens
from his terrace,

164. Galileo: (1564-1642), constructor of the first telescope,
leading him to discover that the Milky Way was an assemblage of
starry worlds, and the earth a planet revolving on its axis and
about an orbit, for which opinion he was tried and condemned.  When
forced to retire from his professorship at Padua, he continued his
observations from his own house in Florence.

164. Dumb to Homer, dumb to Keats: Homer celebrates the moon in the
"Hymn to Diana" (see Shelley's translation), and makes Artemis
upbraid her brother Phoebus when he claims that it is not meet for
gods to concern themselves with mortals (Iliad, xxi. 470).  Keats,
in "Endymion," sings of her love for a mortal.

174. Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, etc.: Exodus 24.1, 10.





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