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Introduction to Robert Browning by Hiram Corson

Part 5 out of 8

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And wish for our souls a like retreat,
And wonder at the moss.

35.

Stoop and kneel on the settle under,
Look through the window's grated square:
Nothing to see! For fear of plunder,
The cross is down and the altar bare,
As if thieves don't fear thunder.

36.

We stoop and look in through the grate,
See the little porch and rustic door,
Read duly the dead builder's date;
Then cross the bridge that we crossed before,
Take the path again -- but wait!

37.

Oh moment one and infinite!
The water slips o'er stock and stone;
The West is tender, hardly bright:
How gray at once is the evening grown --
One star, its chrysolite!

38.

We two stood there with never a third,
But each by each, as each knew well:
The sights we saw and the sounds we heard,
The lights and the shades made up a spell
Till the trouble grew and stirred.

--
St. 37, 38. "Mr. Browning's most characteristic feeling for nature
appears in his rendering of those aspects of sky, or earth, or sea,
of sunset, or noonday, or dawn, which seem to acquire some sudden
and passionate significance; which seem to be charged with
some spiritual secret eager for disclosure; in his rendering of
those moments which betray the passion at the heart of things,
which thrill and tingle with prophetic fire. When lightning searches
for the guilty lovers, Ottima and Sebald [in `Pippa Passes'],
like an angelic sword plunged into the gloom, when the tender twilight
with its one chrysolite star, grows aware, and the light and shade
make up a spell, and the forests by their mystery, and sound,
and silence, mingle together two human lives forever
[`By the Fireside'], when the apparition of the moon-rainbow
appears gloriously after storm, and Christ is in his heaven
[`Christmas Eve'], when to David the stars shoot out the pain
of pent knowledge and in the grey of the hills at morning there dwells
a gathered intensity [`Saul'], -- then nature rises from her sweet ways
of use and wont, and shows herself the Priestess, the Pythoness,
the Divinity which she is. Or rather, through nature, the Spirit of God
addresses itself to the spirit of man." -- Edward Dowden.

39.

Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
And the little less, and what worlds away!
How a sound shall quicken content to bliss,
Or a breath suspend the blood's best play,
And life be a proof of this!

40.

Had she willed it, still had stood the screen
So slight, so sure, 'twixt my love and her:
I could fix her face with a guard between,
And find her soul as when friends confer,
Friends -- lovers that might have been.

41.

For my heart had a touch of the woodland time,
Wanting to sleep now over its best.
Shake the whole tree in the summer-prime,
But bring to the last leaf no such test!
"Hold the last fast!" runs the rhyme.

42.

For a chance to make your little much,
To gain a lover and lose a friend,
Venture the tree and a myriad such,
When nothing you mar but the year can mend:
But a last leaf -- fear to touch!

43.

Yet should it unfasten itself and fall
Eddying down till it find your face
At some slight wind -- best chance of all!
Be your heart henceforth its dwelling-place
You trembled to forestall!

44.

Worth how well, those dark gray eyes,
That hair so dark and dear, how worth
That a man should strive and agonize,
And taste a veriest hell on earth
For the hope of such a prize!

45.

You might have turned and tried a man,
Set him a space to weary and wear,
And prove which suited more your plan,
His best of hope or his worst despair,
Yet end as he began.

46.

But you spared me this, like the heart you are,
And filled my empty heart at a word.
If two lives join, there is oft a scar,
They are one and one, with a shadowy third;
One near one is too far.

47.

A moment after, and hands unseen
Were hanging the night around us fast;
But we knew that a bar was broken between
Life and life: we were mixed at last
In spite of the mortal screen.

48.

The forests had done it; there they stood;
We caught for a moment the powers at play:
They had mingled us so, for once and good,
Their work was done -- we might go or stay,
They relapsed to their ancient mood.

49.

How the world is made for each of us!
How all we perceive and know in it
Tends to some moment's product thus,
When a soul declares itself -- to wit,
By its fruit, the thing it does!

--
St. 49. "Those periods of life which appear most full of moral purpose
to Mr. Tennyson, are periods of protracted self-control,
and those moments stand eminent in life in which the spirit
has struggled victoriously in the cause of conscience against
impulse and desire. With Mr. Browning the moments are most glorious
in which the obscure tendency of many years has been revealed by
the lightning of sudden passion, or in which a resolution that changes
the current of life has been taken in reliance upon that insight
which vivid emotion bestows; and those periods of our history
are charged most fully with moral purpose, which take their direction
from moments such as these. . . . In such a moment the somewhat dull
youth of `The Inn Album' rises into the justiciary of the Highest;
in such a moment Polyxena with her right woman's-manliness,
discovers to Charles his regal duty, and infuses into her weaker husband,
her own courage of heart [`King Victor and King Charles']; and rejoicing in
the remembrance of a moment of high devotion which determined
the issues of a life, the speaker of `By the Fireside' exclaims, --
`How the world is made for each of us!'" etc. -- Edward Dowden.

50.

Be hate that fruit, or love that fruit,
It forwards the general deed of man,
And each of the Many helps to recruit
The life of the race by a general plan;
Each living his own, to boot.

51.

I am named and known by that moment's feat;
There took my station and degree;
So grew my own small life complete,
As nature obtained her best of me --
One born to love you, sweet!

52.

And to watch you sink by the fireside now
Back again, as you mutely sit
Musing by fire-light, that great brow
And the spirit-small hand propping it,
Yonder, my heart knows how!

53.

So, earth has gained by one man the more,
And the gain of earth must be heaven's gain too;
And the whole is well worth thinking o'er
When autumn comes: which I mean to do
One day, as I said before.

Prospice.

--
* `Prospice' (look forward) is a challenge to spiritual conflict,
exultant with the certainty of victory, glowing with the prospective joy
of reunion with one whom death has sent before. -- Mrs. Orr.
--

Fear death? -- to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall, [10]
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so -- one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness, and cold. [20]
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

--
25. first a peace out of pain: original reading, "first a peace,
then a joy".

Amphibian.

1.

The fancy I had to-day,
Fancy which turned a fear!
I swam far out in the bay,
Since waves laughed warm and clear.

2.

I lay and looked at the sun,
The noon-sun looked at me:
Between us two, no one
Live creature, that I could see.

3.

Yes! There came floating by
Me, who lay floating too,
Such a strange butterfly!
Creature as dear as new:

4.

Because the membraned wings
So wonderful, so wide,
So sun-suffused, were things
Like soul and naught beside.

5.

A handbreadth over head!
All of the sea my own,
It owned the sky instead;
Both of us were alone.

6.

I never shall join its flight,
For naught buoys flesh in air.
If it touch the sea -- goodnight!
Death sure and swift waits there.

7.

Can the insect feel the better
For watching the uncouth play
Of limbs that slip the fetter,
Pretend as they were not clay?

8.

Undoubtedly I rejoice
That the air comports so well
With a creature which had the choice
Of the land once. Who can tell?

9.

What if a certain soul
Which early slipped its sheath,
And has for its home the whole
Of heaven, thus look beneath,

10.

Thus watch one who, in the world,
Both lives and likes life's way,
Nor wishes the wings unfurled
That sleep in the worm, they say?

11.

But sometimes when the weather
Is blue, and warm waves tempt
To free one's self of tether,
And try a life exempt

12.

From worldly noise and dust,
In the sphere which overbrims
With passion and thought, -- why, just
Unable to fly, one swims!

13.

By passion and thought upborne,
One smiles to one's self -- "They fare
Scarce better, they need not scorn
Our sea, who live in the air!"

14.

Emancipate through passion
And thought, with sea for sky,
We substitute, in a fashion,
For heaven -- poetry:

--
St. 14. for: instead of.

15.

Which sea, to all intent,
Gives flesh such noon-disport
As a finer element
Affords the spirit-sort.

16.

Whatever they are, we seem:
Imagine the thing they know;
All deeds they do, we dream;
Can heaven be else but so?

17.

And meantime, yonder streak
Meets the horizon's verge;
That is the land, to seek
If we tire or dread the surge:

--
St. 17. We can return from the sea of passion and thought,
that is, poetry, or a deep spiritual state, to the solid land again,
of material fact.

18.

Land the solid and safe --
To welcome again (confess!)
When, high and dry, we chafe
The body, and don the dress.

--
St. 18. Man, in his earth life, cannot always be "high contemplative",
and indulge in "brave translunary things"; he must welcome again,
it must be confessed, "land the solid and safe". "Other heights
in other lives, God willing" (`One Word More').

19.

Does she look, pity, wonder
At one who mimics flight,
Swims -- heaven above, sea under,
Yet always earth in sight?

--
St. 19. does she: the "certain soul" in 9th St., "which early
slipped its sheath".

James Lee's Wife.

I. James Lee's Wife speaks at the Window.

--
* In the original ed., 1864, the heading to this section
was `At the Window'; changed in ed. of 1868.
--

1.

Ah, Love, but a day,
And the world has changed!
The sun's away,
And the bird estranged;
The wind has dropped,
And the sky's deranged:
Summer has stopped.

--
St. 1. Ah, Love, but a day: Rev. H. J. Bulkeley, in his paper on
`James Lee's Wife' (`Browning Soc. Papers', iv., p. 457), explains,
"One day's absence from him has caused the world to change."
It's better to understand that something has occurred
to cause the world to change in a single day; that James Lee has made
some new revelation of himself, which causes the wife's heart
to have misgivings, and with these misgivings comes the eager desire
expressed in St. 3, to show her love, when he returns,
more strongly than ever.

2.

Look in my eyes!
Wilt thou change too?
Should I fear surprise?
Shall I find aught new
In the old and dear,
In the good and true,
With the changing year?

3.

Thou art a man,
But I am thy love.
For the lake, its swan;
For the dell, its dove;
And for thee -- (oh, haste!)
Me, to bend above,
Me, to hold embraced.

II. By the Fireside.

1.

Is all our fire of shipwreck wood,
Oak and pine?
Oh, for the ills half-understood,
The dim dead woe
Long ago
Befallen this bitter coast of France!
Well, poor sailors took their chance;
I take mine.

2.

A ruddy shaft our fire must shoot
O'er the sea;
Do sailors eye the casement -- mute
Drenched and stark,
From their bark --
And envy, gnash their teeth for hate
O' the warm safe house and happy freight
-- Thee and me?

3.

God help you, sailors, at your need!
Spare the curse!
For some ships, safe in port indeed,
Rot and rust,
Run to dust,
All through worms i' the wood, which crept,
Gnawed our hearts out while we slept:
That is worse.

4.

Who lived here before us two?
Old-world pairs.
Did a woman ever -- would I knew! --
Watch the man
With whom began
Love's voyage full-sail, -- (now, gnash your teeth!)
When planks start, open hell beneath
Unawares?

III. In the Doorway.

1.

The swallow has set her six young on the rail,
And looks seaward:
The water's in stripes like a snake, olive-pale
To the leeward, --
On the weather-side, black, spotted white with the wind.
"Good fortune departs, and disaster's behind", --
Hark, the wind with its wants and its infinite wail!

--
St. 1. Note the truth of color in vv. 3-5.

2.

Our fig-tree, that leaned for the saltness, has furled
Her five fingers,
Each leaf like a hand opened wide to the world
Where there lingers
No glint of the gold, Summer sent for her sake:
How the vines writhe in rows, each impaled on its stake!
My heart shrivels up and my spirit shrinks curled.

--
St. 2. her five fingers: referring to the shape of the fig-leaf.

3.

Yet here are we two; we have love, house enough,
With the field there,
This house of four rooms, that field red and rough,
Though it yield there,
For the rabbit that robs, scarce a blade or a bent;
If a magpie alight now, it seems an event;
And they both will be gone at November's rebuff.

--
St. 3. a bent: a bit of coarse grass; A.-S. `beonet', an adduced form;
Ger. `binse'.

4.

But why must cold spread? but wherefore bring change
To the spirit,
God meant should mate his with an infinite range,
And inherit
His power to put life in the darkness and cold?
Oh, live and love worthily, bear and be bold!
Whom Summer made friends of, let Winter estrange!

--
St. 4. Whom Summer made friends of, etc.: i.e., let Winter (Adversity)
estrange those whom Summer (Prosperity) made friends of,
but let it not estrange us.

IV. Along the Beach.

1.

I will be quiet and talk with you,
And reason why you are wrong.
You wanted my love -- is that much true?
And so I did love, so I do:
What has come of it all along?

2.

I took you -- how could I otherwise?
For a world to me, and more;
For all, love greatens and glorifies
Till God's a-glow, to the loving eyes,
In what was mere earth before.

--
St. 2. love greatens and glorifies: see the poem,
"Wanting is -- what?"

3.

Yes, earth -- yes, mere ignoble earth!
Now do I misstate, mistake?
Do I wrong your weakness and call it worth?
Expect all harvest, dread no dearth,
Seal my sense up for your sake?

4.

Oh Love, Love, no, Love! not so, indeed
You were just weak earth, I knew:
With much in you waste, with many a weed,
And plenty of passions run to seed,
But a little good grain too.

5.

And such as you were, I took you for mine:
Did not you find me yours,
To watch the olive and wait the vine,
And wonder when rivers of oil and wine
Would flow, as the Book assures?

--
St. 5. yours, to watch the olive and wait the vine: "olive" and "vine"
are used metaphorically for the capabilities of her husband's nature.

6.

Well, and if none of these good things came,
What did the failure prove?
The man was my whole world, all the same,
With his flowers to praise or his weeds to blame,
And, either or both, to love.

--
St. 6. The failure of fruit in her husband proved the absoluteness
of her love, proved that he was her all, notwithstanding.

7.

Yet this turns now to a fault -- there! there!
That I do love, watch too long,
And wait too well, and weary and wear;
And 'tis all an old story, and my despair
Fit subject for some new song:

--
St. 7. Yet this turns now to a fault: i.e., her watching the olive
and waiting the vine of his nature.
there! there!: I've come out plainly with the fact.

8.

"How the light, light love, he has wings to fly
At suspicion of a bond:
My wisdom has bidden your pleasure good-bye,
Which will turn up next in a laughing eye,
And why should you look beyond?"

--
St. 8. bond: refers to what is said in St. 7;
why should you look beyond?: i.e., beyond a laughing eye,
which does not "watch" and "wait", and thus "weary" and "wear".

V. On the Cliff.

1.

I leaned on the turf,
I looked at a rock
Left dry by the surf;
For the turf, to call it grass were to mock:
Dead to the roots, so deep was done
The work of the summer sun.

2.

And the rock lay flat
As an anvil's face:
No iron like that!
Baked dry; of a weed, of a shell, no trace:
Sunshine outside, but ice at the core,
Death's altar by the lone shore.

3.

On the turf, sprang gay
With his films of blue,
No cricket, I'll say,
But a warhorse, barded and chanfroned too,
The gift of a quixote-mage to his knight,
Real fairy, with wings all right.

--
St. 3. No cricket, I'll say: but to my lively admiration,
a warhorse, barded and chanfroned too: see Webster's Dict.,
s.v. "chamfrain". {also chamfron: armor for a horse's head}.

4.

On the rock, they scorch
Like a drop of fire
From a brandished torch,
Fall two red fans of a butterfly:
No turf, no rock, -- in their ugly stead,
See, wonderful blue and red!

--
St. 4. they: i.e., the `two red fans'.
no turf, no rock: i.e., the eye is taken up entirely with cricket
and butterfly; blue and red refer respectively to cricket and butterfly.

5.

Is it not so
With the minds of men?
The level and low,
The burnt and bare, in themselves; but then
With such a blue and red grace, not theirs,
Love settling unawares!

St. 5. Love: settling on the minds of men, the level and low,
the burnt and bare, is compared to the cricket and the butterfly
settling on the turf and the rock.

VI. Reading a Book under the Cliff.

--
* In the original ed., 1864, the heading to this section
was `Under the Cliff'; changed in ed. of 1868.
--

1.

"Still ailing, Wind? Wilt be appeased or no?
Which needs the other's office, thou or I?
Dost want to be disburthened of a woe,
And can, in truth, my voice untie
Its links, and let it go?

2.

"Art thou a dumb, wronged thing that would be righted,
Entrusting thus thy cause to me? Forbear!
No tongue can mend such pleadings; faith, requited
With falsehood, -- love, at last aware
Of scorn, -- hopes, early blighted, --

3.

"We have them; but I know not any tone
So fit as thine to falter forth a sorrow:
Dost think men would go mad without a moan,
If they knew any way to borrow
A pathos like thy own?

4.

"Which sigh wouldst mock, of all the sighs? The one
So long escaping from lips starved and blue,
That lasts while on her pallet-bed the nun
Stretches her length; her foot comes through
The straw she shivers on;

5.

"You had not thought she was so tall: and spent,
Her shrunk lids open, her lean fingers shut
Close, close, their sharp and livid nails indent
The clammy palm; then all is mute:
That way, the spirit went.

6.

"Or wouldst thou rather that I understand
Thy will to help me? -- like the dog I found
Once, pacing sad this solitary strand,
Who would not take my food, poor hound,
But whined, and licked my hand."

--
St. 1-6. See foot-note to the Argument of this section.

7.

All this, and more, comes from some young man's pride
Of power to see, -- in failure and mistake,
Relinquishment, disgrace, on every side, --
Merely examples for his sake,
Helps to his path untried:

8.

Instances he must -- simply recognize?
Oh, more than so! -- must, with a learner's zeal,
Make doubly prominent, twice emphasize,
By added touches that reveal
The god in babe's disguise.

9.

Oh, he knows what defeat means, and the rest!
Himself the undefeated that shall be:
Failure, disgrace, he flings them you to test, --
His triumph, in eternity
Too plainly manifest!

--
St. 7-9. She reflects, ironically and sarcastically,
upon the confidence of the young poet, resulting from his immaturity,
in his future triumph over all obstacles. Inexperienced as he is,
he feels himself the god in babe's disguise, etc. He will learn
after a while what the wind means in its moaning. The train of thought
in St. 11-16 is presented in the Argument.

10.

Whence, judge if he learn forthwith what the wind
Means in its moaning -- by the happy prompt
Instinctive way of youth, I mean; for kind
Calm years, exacting their accompt
Of pain, mature the mind:

11.

And some midsummer morning, at the lull
Just about daybreak, as he looks across
A sparkling foreign country, wonderful
To the sea's edge for gloom and gloss,
Next minute must annul, --

12.

Then, when the wind begins among the vines,
So low, so low, what shall it say but this?
"Here is the change beginning, here the lines
Circumscribe beauty, set to bliss
The limit time assigns."

13.

Nothing can be as it has been before;
Better, so call it, only not the same.
To draw one beauty into our hearts' core,
And keep it changeless! such our claim;
So answered, -- Never more!

14.

Simple? Why this is the old woe o' the world;
Tune, to whose rise and fall we live and die.
Rise with it, then! Rejoice that man is hurled
From change to change unceasingly,
His soul's wings never furled!

15.

That's a new question; still replies the fact,
Nothing endures: the wind moans, saying so;
We moan in acquiescence: there's life's pact,
Perhaps probation -- do I know?
God does: endure his act!

16.

Only, for man, how bitter not to grave
On his soul's hands' palms one fair good wise thing
Just as he grasped it! For himself, death's wave;
While time first washes -- ah, the sting! --
O'er all he'd sink to save.

VII. Among the Rocks.

1.

Oh, good gigantic smile o' the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i' the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

2.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life's trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

VIII. Beside the Drawing-Board.

1.

"As like as a Hand to another Hand!"
Whoever said that foolish thing,
Could not have studied to understand
The counsels of God in fashioning,
Out of the infinite love of his heart,
This Hand, whose beauty I praise, apart
From the world of wonder left to praise,
If I tried to learn the other ways
Of love, in its skill, or love, in its power.
"As like as a Hand to another Hand": [10]
Who said that, never took his stand,
Found and followed, like me, an hour,
The beauty in this, -- how free, how fine
To fear, almost, -- of the limit-line!
As I looked at this, and learned and drew,
Drew and learned, and looked again,
While fast the happy minutes flew,
Its beauty mounted into my brain,
And a fancy seized me; I was fain
To efface my work, begin anew, [20]
Kiss what before I only drew;
Ay, laying the red chalk 'twixt my lips,
With soul to help if the mere lips failed,
I kissed all right where the drawing ailed,
Kissed fast the grace that somehow slips
Still from one's soulless finger-tips.

--
* Lines 27-87 {below -- the rest of this section except the last two lines}
were added in the edition of 1868; they clear up the obscurity
of this section of the poem, as it stood in the original edition of 1864.
--

2.

'Tis a clay cast, the perfect thing,
From Hand live once, dead long ago:
Princess-like it wears the ring
To fancy's eye, by which we know [30]
That here at length a master found
His match, a proud lone soul its mate,
As soaring genius sank to ground
And pencil could not emulate
The beauty in this, -- how free, how fine
To fear almost! -- of the limit-line.
Long ago the god, like me
The worm, learned, each in our degree:
Looked and loved, learned and drew,
Drew and learned and loved again, [40]
While fast the happy minutes flew,
Till beauty mounted into his brain
And on the finger which outvied
His art he placed the ring that's there,
Still by fancy's eye descried,
In token of a marriage rare:
For him on earth, his art's despair,
For him in heaven, his soul's fit bride.

3.

Little girl with the poor coarse hand
I turned from to a cold clay cast -- [50]
I have my lesson, understand
The worth of flesh and blood at last!
Nothing but beauty in a Hand?
Because he could not change the hue,
Mend the lines and make them true
To this which met his soul's demand, --
Would Da Vinci turn from you?
I hear him laugh my woes to scorn --
"The fool forsooth is all forlorn
Because the beauty, she thinks best, [60]
Lived long ago or was never born, --
Because no beauty bears the test
In this rough peasant Hand! Confessed
`Art is null and study void!'
So sayest thou? So said not I,
Who threw the faulty pencil by,
And years instead of hours employed,
Learning the veritable use
Of flesh and bone and nerve beneath
Lines and hue of the outer sheath, [70]
If haply I might reproduce
One motive of the mechanism,
Flesh and bone and nerve that make
The poorest coarsest human hand
An object worthy to be scanned
A whole life long for their sole sake.
Shall earth and the cramped moment-space
Yield the heavenly crowning grace?
Now the parts and then the whole!
Who art thou, with stinted soul [80]
And stunted body, thus to cry
`I love, -- shall that be life's strait dole?
I must live beloved or die!'
This peasant hand that spins the wool
And bakes the bread, why lives it on,
Poor and coarse with beauty gone, --
What use survives the beauty? Fool!"

Go, little girl with the poor coarse hand!
I have my lesson, shall understand.

IX. On Deck.

1.

There is nothing to remember in me,
Nothing I ever said with a grace,
Nothing I did that you care to see,
Nothing I was that deserves a place
In your mind, now I leave you, set you free.

--
St. 1. Nothing I did that you care to see: refers to her art-work.

2.

Conceded! In turn, concede to me,
Such things have been as a mutual flame.
Your soul's locked fast; but, love for a key,
You might let it loose, till I grew the same
In your eyes, as in mine you stand: strange plea!

3.

For then, then, what would it matter to me
That I was the harsh, ill-favored one?
We both should be like as pea and pea;
It was ever so since the world begun:
So, let me proceed with my reverie.

--
St. 3. Here it is indicated that she had not the personal charms
which were needed to maintain her husband's interest.
A pretty face was more to him than a deep loving soul.

4.

How strange it were if you had all me,
As I have all you in my heart and brain,
You, whose least word brought gloom or glee,
Who never lifted the hand in vain
Will hold mine yet, from over the sea!

5.

Strange, if a face, when you thought of me,
Rose like your own face present now,
With eyes as dear in their due degree,
Much such a mouth, and as bright a brow,
Till you saw yourself, while you cried "'Tis She!"

6.

Well, you may, you must, set down to me
Love that was life, life that was love;
A tenure of breath at your lips' decree,
A passion to stand as your thoughts approve,
A rapture to fall where your foot might be.

--
St. 6. vv. 3-5 express the entire devotion and submissiveness
of her love.

7.

But did one touch of such love for me
Come in a word or a look of yours,
Whose words and looks will, circling, flee
Round me and round while life endures, --
Could I fancy "As I feel, thus feels He";

8.

Why, fade you might to a thing like me,
And your hair grow these coarse hanks of hair,
Your skin, this bark of a gnarled tree, --
You might turn myself! -- should I know or care,
When I should be dead of joy, James Lee?

A Tale.

Epilogue to `The Two Poets of Croisic'.

1.

What a pretty tale you told me
Once upon a time
-- Said you found it somewhere (scold me!)
Was it prose or was it rhyme,
Greek or Latin? Greek, you said,
While your shoulder propped my head.

2.

Anyhow there's no forgetting
This much if no more,
That a poet (pray, no petting!)
Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore,
Went where suchlike used to go,
Singing for a prize, you know.

3.

Well, he had to sing, nor merely
Sing but play the lyre;
Playing was important clearly
Quite as singing: I desire,
Sir, you keep the fact in mind
For a purpose that's behind.

4.

There stood he, while deep attention
Held the judges round,
-- Judges able, I should mention,
To detect the slightest sound
Sung or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!

5.

None the less he sang out boldly,
Played in time and tune,
Till the judges, weighing coldly
Each note's worth, seemed, late or soon,
Sure to smile "In vain one tries
Picking faults out: take the prize!"

6.

When, a mischief! Were they seven
Strings the lyre possessed?
Oh, and afterwards eleven,
Thank you! Well, sir, -- who had guessed
Such ill luck in store? -- it happed
One of those same seven strings snapped.

7.

All was lost, then! No! a cricket
(What "cicada"? Pooh!)
-- Some mad thing that left its thicket
For mere love of music -- flew
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre.

--
St. 7. "Cicada": do you say?
Pooh!: that's bringing the mysterious little thing down to
the plane of entomology.

8.

So that when (Ah joy!) our singer
For his truant string
Feels with disconcerted finger,
What does cricket else but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?

9.

Ay and, ever to the ending,
Cricket chirps at need,
Executes the hand's intending,
Promptly, perfectly, -- indeed
Saves the singer from defeat
With her chirrup low and sweet.

10.

Till, at ending, all the judges
Cry with one assent
"Take the prize -- a prize who grudges
Such a voice and instrument?
Why, we took your lyre for harp,
So it shrilled us forth F sharp!"

11.

Did the conqueror spurn the creature,
Once its service done?
That's no such uncommon feature
In the case when Music's son
Finds his Lotte's power too spent
For aiding soul-development.

--
St. 11. when Music's son, etc.: a fling at Goethe.

12.

No! This other, on returning
Homeward, prize in hand,
Satisfied his bosom's yearning:
(Sir, I hope you understand!)
-- Said "Some record there must be
Of this cricket's help to me!"

13.

So, he made himself a statue:
Marble stood, life-size;
On the lyre, he pointed at you,
Perched his partner in the prize;
Never more apart you found
Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.

14.

That's the tale: its application?
Somebody I know
Hopes one day for reputation
Through his poetry that's -- Oh,
All so learned and so wise
And deserving of a prize!

15.

If he gains one, will some ticket,
When his statue's built,
Tell the gazer "'Twas a cricket
Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness' place i' the scale, she chirped?

16.

"For as victory was nighest,
While I sang and played, --
With my lyre at lowest, highest,
Right alike, -- one string that made
`Love' sound soft was snapt in twain,
Never to be heard again, --

17.

"Had not a kind cricket fluttered,
Perched upon the place
Vacant left, and duly uttered
`Love, Love, Love', whene'er the bass
Asked the treble to atone
For its somewhat sombre drone."

18.

But you don't know music! Wherefore
Keep on casting pearls
To a -- poet? All I care for
Is -- to tell him that a girl's
"Love" comes aptly in when gruff
Grows his singing. (There, enough!)

Confessions.

1.

What is he buzzing in my ears?
"Now that I come to die,
Do I view the world as a vale of tears?"
Ah, reverend sir, not I!

2.

What I viewed there once, what I view again
Where the physic bottles stand
On the table's edge, -- is a suburb lane,
With a wall to my bedside hand.

3.

That lane sloped, much as the bottles do,
From a house you could descry
O'er the garden-wall: is the curtain blue
Or green to a healthy eye?

4.

To mine, it serves for the old June weather
Blue above lane and wall;
And that farthest bottle labelled "Ether"
Is the house o'er-topping all.

5.

At a terrace, somewhat near the stopper,
There watched for me, one June,
A girl: I know, sir, it's improper,
My poor mind's out of tune.

6.

Only, there was a way. . .you crept
Close by the side, to dodge
Eyes in the house, two eyes except:
They styled their house "The Lodge".

7.

What right had a lounger up their lane?
But, by creeping very close,
With the good wall's help, -- their eyes might strain
And stretch themselves to Oes,

8.

Yet never catch her and me together,
As she left the attic, there,
By the rim of the bottle labelled "Ether",
And stole from stair to stair,

9.

And stood by the rose-wreathed gate. Alas,
We loved, sir -- used to meet:
How sad and bad and mad it was --
But then, how it was sweet!

Respectability.

1.

Dear, had the world in its caprice
Deigned to proclaim "I know you both,
Have recognized your plighted troth,
Am sponsor for you: live in peace!" --
How many precious months and years
Of youth had passed, that speed so fast,
Before we found it out at last,
The world, and what it fears?

2.

How much of priceless life were spent
With men that every virtue decks,
And women models of their sex,
Society's true ornament, --
Ere we dared wander, nights like this,
Through wind and rain, and watch the Seine,
And feel the Boulevart break again
To warmth and light and bliss?

3.

I know! the world proscribes not love;
Allows my finger to caress
Your lips' contour and downiness,
Provided it supply a glove.
The world's good word! -- the Institute!
Guizot receives Montalembert!
Eh? Down the court three lampions flare:
Put forward your best foot!

--
St. 3. Guizot: Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot,
French statesman and historian, b. 1787, d. 1874.
Montalembert: Charles Forbes Rene, Comte de Montalembert,
French statesman, orator, and political writer, b. 1810, d. 1870.
Guizot receives Montalembert: i.e., on purely conventional grounds.

Home Thoughts, from Abroad.

1.

Oh, to be in England now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England -- now!
And after April, when May follows
And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover [10]
Blossoms and dewdrops -- at the bent spray's edge --
That's the wise thrush: he sings each song twice over
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
And will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
-- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

{despite this stanza being numbered 1, there is apparently no 2.}

Home Thoughts, from the Sea.

Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the north-west died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest north-east distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;
"Here and here did England help me, -- how can I help England?" -- say,
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray,
While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.

Old Pictures in Florence.

1.

The morn when first it thunders in March,
The eel in the pond gives a leap, they say.
As I leaned and looked over the aloed arch
Of the villa-gate this warm March day,
No flash snapped, no dumb thunder rolled
In the valley beneath where, white and wide
And washed by the morning water-gold,
Florence lay out on the mountain-side.

--
St. 1. washed by the morning water-gold: the water of the Arno,
gilded by the morning sun;

"I can but muse in hope, upon this shore
Of golden Arno, as it shoots away
Through Florence' heart beneath her bridges four."
-- Casa Guidi Windows.

2.

River and bridge and street and square
Lay mine, as much at my beck and call,
Through the live translucent bath of air,
As the sights in a magic crystal-ball.
And of all I saw and of all I praised,
The most to praise and the best to see
Was the startling bell-tower Giotto raised:
But why did it more than startle me?

--
St. 2. the startling bell-tower Giotto raised: the Campanile
of the Cathedral, or Duomo, of Florence (La Cattedrale
di S. Maria del Fiore), begun in 1334.

"The characteristics of Power and Beauty occur more of less
in different buildings, some in one and some in another.
But all together, and all in their highest possible relative degrees,
they exist, as far as I know, only in one building of the world,
the Campanile of Giotto." -- Ruskin.
But why did it more than startle me?: There's a rumor "that a certain
precious little tablet which Buonarotti eyed like a lover" has been
discovered by somebody. If this rumor is true, the speaker feels
that Giotto, whom he has so loved, has played him false,
in not favoring him with the precious find. See St. 30.
"The opinion which his contemporaries entertained of Giotto,
as the greatest genius in the arts which Italy in that age possessed,
has been perpetuated by Dante in the lines in which the illuminator,
Oderigi, says: --

"`In painting Cimabue fain had thought
To lord the field; now Giotto has the cry,
So that the other's fame in shade is brought'
(Dante, `Purg.' xi. 93).

"Giotto di Bondone was born at Del Colle, a village in the commune
of Vespignano near Florence, according to Vasari, A.D. 1276,
but more probably A.D. 1266. He went through his apprenticeship
under Cimabue, and practised as a painter and architect
not only in Florence, but in various parts of Italy, in free cities
as well as in the courts of princes. . . . On April 12, 1334,
Giotto was appointed by the civic authorities of Florence,
chief master of the Cathedral works, the city fortifications,
and all public architectural undertakings, in an instrument of which
the wording constitutes the most affectionate homage to
the `great and dear master'. Giotto died January 8, 1337."
-- Woltmann and Woermann's History of Painting.

For a good account of the Campanile, see Susan and Joanna Horner's
`Walks in Florence', v. I, pp. 62-66; Art. in `Macmillan's Mag.',
April, 1877, by Sidney Colvin, -- `Giotto's Gospel of Labor'.

3.

Giotto, how, with that soul of yours,
Could you play me false who loved you so?
Some slights if a certain heart endures
Yet it feels, I would have your fellows know!
I' faith, I perceive not why I should care
To break a silence that suits them best,
But the thing grows somewhat hard to bear
When I find a Giotto join the rest.

4.

On the arch where olives overhead
Print the blue sky with twig and leaf
(That sharp-curled leaf which they never shed),
'Twixt the aloes, I used to learn in chief,
And mark through the winter afternoons,
By a gift God grants me now and then,
In the mild decline of those suns like moons,
Who walked in Florence, besides her men.

--
St. 4. By a gift God grants me now and then: the gift of
spiritual vision.

5.

They might chirp and chaffer, come and go
For pleasure or profit, her men alive --
My business was hardly with them, I trow,
But with empty cells of the human hive;
-- With the chapter-room, the cloister-porch,
The church's apsis, aisle or nave,
Its crypt, one fingers along with a torch,
Its face set full for the sun to shave.

6.

Wherever a fresco peels and drops,
Wherever an outline weakens and wanes
Till the latest life in the painting stops,
Stands One whom each fainter pulse-tick pains:
One, wishful each scrap should clutch the brick,
Each tinge not wholly escape the plaster,
-- A lion who dies of an ass's kick,
The wronged great soul of an ancient Master.

--
St. 6. "He sees the ghosts of the early Christian masters,
whose work has never been duly appreciated, standing sadly by
each mouldering Italian Fresco." -- Dowden.

7.

For oh, this world and the wrong it does!
They are safe in heaven with their backs to it,
The Michaels and Rafaels, you hum and buzz
Round the works of, you of the little wit!
Do their eyes contract to the earth's old scope,
Now that they see God face to face,
And have all attained to be poets, I hope?
'Tis their holiday now, in any case.

8.

Much they reck of your praise and you!
But the wronged great souls -- can they be quit
Of a world where their work is all to do,
Where you style them, you of the little wit,
Old Master This and Early the Other,
Not dreaming that Old and New are fellows:
A younger succeeds to an elder brother,
Da Vincis derive in good time from Dellos.

--
St. 8. Much they reck of your praise and you!: the Michaels
and Rafaels. Leonardo da Vinci (b. at Vinci, in the Val d'Arno,
below Florence, 1452); "in him the two lines of artistic descent,
tracing from classic Rome and Christian Byzantium, meet." -- Heaton's
`History of Painting'. Dello di Niccolo Delli, painter and sculptor,
fl. first half 15th cent.

9.

And here where your praise might yield returns,
And a handsome word or two give help,
Here, after your kind, the mastiff girns,
And the puppy pack of poodles yelp.
What, not a word for Stefano there,
Of brow once prominent and starry,
Called Nature's Ape and the world's despair
For his peerless painting? (see Vasari.)

--
St. 9. "Stefano is extolled by Vasari as having left Giotto himself
far behind, but it is very difficult to ascertain what were really
his works." -- Heaton. "Stefano appears from Landinio's
Commentary on Dante to have been called `scimia della natura',
the ape of nature, which seems to refer to the strong realistic tendencies
common to the school." -- Woltmann and Woermann's History of Painting.
Giorgio Vasari, an Italian painter of Arezzo, b. 1512, d. 1574;
author of `Vite de' piu excellenti pittori scultori ed architettori'.
Florence, 1550.

10.

There stands the Master. Study, my friends,
What a man's work comes to! So he plans it,
Performs it, perfects it, makes amends
For the toiling and moiling, and then, `sic transit'!
Happier the thrifty blind-folk labor,
With upturned eye while the hand is busy,
Not sidling a glance at the coin of their neighbor!
'Tis looking downward makes one dizzy.

11.

"If you knew their work you would deal your dole."
May I take upon me to instruct you?
When Greek Art ran and reached the goal,
Thus much had the world to boast `in fructu' --
The Truth of Man, as by God first spoken,
Which the actual generations garble,
Was re-uttered, and Soul (which Limbs betoken)
And Limbs (Soul informs) made new in marble.

--
St. 11. "If you knew their work", etc.: The speaker imputes
this remark to some one; the meaning is, if you really knew
these old Christian painters, you would deal them your mite of praise,
damn them, perhaps, with faint praise, and no more. The poet
then proceeds to instruct this person.

12.

So, you saw yourself as you wished you were,
As you might have been, as you cannot be;
Earth here, rebuked by Olympus there:
And grew content in your poor degree
With your little power, by those statues' godhead,
And your little scope, by their eyes' full sway,
And your little grace, by their grace embodied,
And your little date, by their forms that stay.

13.

You would fain be kinglier, say, than I am?
Even so, you will not sit like Theseus.
You would prove a model? The Son of Priam
Has yet the advantage in arms' and knees' use.
You're wroth -- can you slay your snake like Apollo?
You're grieved -- still Niobe's the grander!
You live -- there's the Racers' frieze to follow:
You die -- there's the dying Alexander.

--
St. 13. Theseus: a reclining statue from the eastern pediment
of the Parthenon, now in the British Museum.
The Son of Priam: probably the Paris of the Aeginetan Sculptures
(now in the Glyptothek at Munich), which is kneeling and drawing
the bow.

Apollo: "A word on the line about Apollo the snake-slayer,
which my friend Professor Colvin condemns, believing that the God
of the Belvedere grasps no bow, but the Aegis, as described in
the 15th Iliad. Surely the text represents that portentous object
(qou^rin, deinh/n, a'mfida/seian, a'riprepe/' -- marmare/hn)
as `shaken violently' or `held immovably' by both hands,
not a single one, and that the left hand: --

a'lla\ su/ g' e'n xei/ressi la/b' ai'gi/da qusano/essan
th\n ma/l' e'pi/ssei/wn fobe/ein h`/rwas 'Axaiou/s.

and so on, th\n a'/r' o`/ g' e'n xei/ressin e'/xwn --
xersi\n e'/x' a'tre/ma, k.t.l. Moreover, while he shook it
he `shouted enormously', sei^s', e'pi\ d' au'to\s au'/se ma/la me/ga,
which the statue does not. Presently when Teukros, on the other side,
plies the bow, it is to/j`on e'/xwn e'n xeiri\ pali/ntonon. Besides,
by the act of discharging an arrow, the right arm and hand
are thrown back as we see, -- a quite gratuitous and theatrical display
in the case supposed. The conjecture of Flaxman that the statue
was suggested by the bronze Apollo Alexikakos of Kalamis,
mentioned by Pausanias, remains probable; though the `hardness'
which Cicero considers to distinguish the artist's workmanship
from that of Muron is not by any means apparent in our marble copy,
if it be one. -- Feb. 16, 1880." -- The Poet's Note.

Niobe: group of ancient sculpture, in the gallery of the Uffizi Palace,
in Florence, representing Niobe mourning the death of her children.
the Racers' frieze: the frieze of the Parthenon is perhaps meant,
the reference being to the FULNESS OF LIFE exhibited by
the men and horses.
the dying Alexander: "`The Dying Alexander', at Florence.
This well-known, beautiful, and deeply affecting head,
which bears a strong resemblance to the Alexander Helios of the Capitol
-- especially in the treatment of the hair -- has been called
by Ottfried Mueller a riddle of archaeology. It is no doubt
a Greek original, and one of the most interesting remains
of ancient art, but we cannot take it for granted that it is intended
for Alexander, and still less that it is the work of Lysippus.
It is difficult to imagine that the favored and devoted artist
of the mighty conqueror would choose to portray his great master
in a painful and impotent struggle with disease and death.
This consideration makes it extremely improbable that it was executed
during the lifetime of Alexander, and the whole character of the work,
in which free pathos is the prevailing element, and its close
resemblance in style to the heads on coins of the period
of the Diadochi, point to a later age than that of Lysippus."
-- `Greek and Roman Sculpture' by Walter Copland Perry. London, 1882.
p. 484.

14.

So, testing your weakness by their strength,
Your meagre charms by their rounded beauty,
Measured by Art in your breadth and length,
You learned -- to submit is a mortal's duty.
-- When I say "you", 'tis the common soul,
The collective, I mean: the race of Man
That receives life in parts to live in a whole,
And grow here according to God's clear plan.

--
St. 14. common: general.

15.

Growth came when, looking your last on them all,
You turned your eyes inwardly one fine day
And cried with a start -- What if we so small
Be greater and grander the while than they?
Are they perfect of lineament, perfect of stature?
In both, of such lower types are we
Precisely because of our wider nature;
For time, theirs -- ours, for eternity.

16.

To-day's brief passion limits their range;
It seethes with the morrow for us and more.
They are perfect -- how else? they shall never change:
We are faulty -- why not? we have time in store.
The Artificer's hand is not arrested
With us; we are rough-hewn, nowise polished.
They stand for our copy, and, once invested
With all they can teach, we shall see them abolished.

17.

'Tis a life-long toil till our lump be leaven --
The better! What's come to perfection perishes.
Things learned on earth, we shall practise in heaven:
Works done least rapidly, Art most cherishes.
Thyself shalt afford the example, Giotto!
Thy one work, not to decrease or diminish,
Done at a stroke, was just (was it not?) "O!"
Thy great Campanile is still to finish.

--
St. 15-17. "Greek art had ITS lesson to teach, and it taught it.
It reasserted the dignity of the human form. It re-stated THE TRUTH
of the soul which informs the body, and the body which expresses it.
Men saw in its creations their own qualities carried to perfection,
and were content to know that such perfection was possible
and to renounce the hope of attaining it. In this experience
the first stage was progress, the second was stagnation.
Progress began again when men looked on these images of themselves
and said: `we are not inferior to these. We are greater than they.
For what has come to perfection perishes, and we are imperfect because
eternity is before us; because we were made to GROW.'" -- Mrs. Orr's
Handbook to the Works of R. B.

St. 17. "O!": Boniface VIII. (not Benedict IX., as Vasari has it),
wishing to employ Giotto, sent a courtier to obtain some proof
of his skill. The latter requesting a drawing to send to his Holiness,
Giotto took a sheet of paper and a pencil dipped in red color;
then resting his elbow on his side, to form a compass,
with one turn of his hand he drew a circle so perfect and exact,
that it was a marvel to behold. This done, he turned to the courtier,
saying, "Here is your drawing." The courtier seems to have thought
that Giotto was fooling him; but the pope was easily convinced,
by the roundness of the O, of the greatness of Giotto's skill.
This incident gave rise to the proverb, "Tu sei piu tondo che l' O
di Giotto", the point of which lies in the word `tondo',
signifying slowness of intellect, as well as a circle.
-- Adapted from Vasari and Heaton.

18.

Is it true that we are now, and shall be hereafter,
But what and where depend on life's minute?
Hails heavenly cheer or infernal laughter
Our first step out of the gulf or in it?
Shall Man, such step within his endeavor,
Man's face, have no more play and action
Than joy which is crystallized forever,
Or grief, an eternal petrifaction?

--
St. 18. life's minute: life's short span.

19.

On which I conclude, that the early painters,
To cries of "Greek Art and what more wish you?" --
Replied, "To become now self-acquainters,
And paint man, man, whatever the issue!
Make new hopes shine through the flesh they fray,
New fears aggrandize the rags and tatters:
To bring the invisible full into play,
Let the visible go to the dogs -- what matters?"

20.

Give these, I exhort you, their guerdon and glory
For daring so much, before they well did it.
The first of the new, in our race's story,
Beats the last of the old; 'tis no idle quiddit.
The worthies began a revolution,
Which if on earth you intend to acknowledge,
Why, honor them now! (ends my allocution)
Nor confer your degree when the folks leave college.

21.

There's a fancy some lean to and others hate --
That, when this life is ended, begins
New work for the soul in another state,
Where it strives and gets weary, loses and wins:
Where the strong and the weak, this world's congeries,
Repeat in large what they practised in small,
Through life after life in unlimited series;
Only the scale's to be changed, that's all.

22.

Yet I hardly know. When a soul has seen
By the means of Evil that Good is best,
And, through earth and its noise, what is heaven's serene, --
When our faith in the same has stood the test, --
Why, the child grown man, you burn the rod,
The uses of labor are surely done;
There remaineth a rest for the people of God:
And I have had troubles enough, for one.

23.

But at any rate I have loved the season
Of Art's spring-birth so dim and dewy;
My sculptor is Nicolo the Pisan,
My painter -- who but Cimabue?
Nor even was man of them all indeed,
From these to Ghiberti and Ghirlandajo,
Could say that he missed my critic-meed.
So, now to my special grievance -- heigh-ho!

--
St. 23. Nicolo the Pisan: Nicolo Pisano, architect and sculptor,
b. ab. 1207, d. 1278; the church and monastery of the Holy Trinity,
at Florence, and the church of San Antonio, at Padua,
are esteemed his best architectural works, and his bas-reliefs
in the Cathedral of Sienna, his best sculptural.
Cimabue: Giovanni Cimabue, 1240-1302, "ends the long Byzantine succession
in Italy. . . . In him `the spirit of the years to come'
is decidedly manifest; but he never entirely succeeded in casting off
the hereditary Byzantine asceticism." -- Heaton. Giotto was his pupil.
Ghiberti: Lorenzo Ghiberti, the great Florentine sculptor, 1381-1455;
his famous masterpiece, the eastern doors of the Florentine Baptistery,
of San Giovanni, of which Michael Angelo said that they were worthy
to be the gates of Paradise.
Ghirlandajo: Domenico Bigordi, called Ghirlandajo,
or the garland-maker, celebrated painter, b. in Florence, 1449, d. 1494;
"in treatment, drawing, and modelling, G. excels any fresco-painter

Book of the day: