Dramatic Romances by Robert Browning

Scanned and edited by Richard Adicks FROM THE POETIC WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING DRAMATIC ROMANCES 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.” indicates u-grave,
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Scanned and edited by Richard Adicks



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.”

indicates u-grave, a-grave, and a-circumflex.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Just as perhaps he mused, “My plans
That soar, to earth may fall, 10 Let once my army-leader Lannes
Waver at yonder wall.”
0ut ‘twixt the battery-smokes there flew A rider, bound on bound
Full-galloping; nor bridle drew
Until he reached the mound.


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


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


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

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

I. Ratisbon: (German Regensburg), an ancient city of Bavaria on the right bank of the Danube, has endured seventeen sieges since the tenth century, the last one being that of Napoleon, 18O9.

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




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


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


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


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


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


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

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


That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said “Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I) 10 And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not Her husband’s presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat”; such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough 20 For calling up that spot of joy. She had A heart–how shall I say–too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace–all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 30 Or blush, at least. She thanked men–good! but thanked Somehow–I know not how–as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech (which I have not) to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark”–and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set 40 Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, E’en that would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretence 50 Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

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

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




Christ God who savest man, save most
Of men Count Gismond who saved me! Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
Chose time and place and company To suit it; when he struck at length
My honour, ’twas with all his strength.


And doubtlessly ere he could draw
All points to one, he must have schemed! That miserable morning saw
Few half so happy as I seemed, 10 While being dressed in queen’s array
To give our tourney prize away.


I thought they loved me, did me grace To please themselves; ’twas all their deed; God makes, or fair or foul, our face;
If showing mine so caused to bleed My cousins’ hearts, they should have dropped A word, and straight the play had stopped.


They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen By virtue of her brow and breast; 20 Not needing to be crowned, I mean,
As I do. E’en when I was dressed, Had either of them spoke, instead
Of glancing sideways with still head!


But no: they let me laugh, and sing
My birthday song quite through, adjust The last rose in my garland, fling
A last look on the mirror, trust My arms to each an arm of theirs,
And so descend the castle-stairs– 30


And come out on the morning-troop
Of merry friends who kissed my cheek, And called me queen, and made me stoop
Under the canopy–a streak
That pierced it, of the outside sun, Powdered with gold its gloom’s soft dun–


And they could let me take my state
And foolish throne amid applause Of all come there to celebrate
My queen’s-day–Oh I think the cause 40 Of much was, they forgot no crowd
Makes up for parents in their shroud!


However that be, all eyes were bent
Upon me, when my cousins cast
Theirs down; ’twas time I should present The victor’s crown, but . . . there, ’twill last No long time . . . the old mist again
Blinds me as then it did. How vain!


See! Gismond’s at the gate, in talk
With his two boys: I can proceed. 50 Well, at that moment, who should stalk
Forth boldly–to my face, indeed– But Gauthier, and he thundered “Stay!”
And all stayed. “Bring no crowns, I say!”


“Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet About her! Let her shun the chaste,
Or lay herself before their feet!
Shall she whose body I embraced A night long, queen it in the day?
For honour’s sake no crowns, I say!” 60


I? What I answered? As I live,
I never fancied such a thing
As answer possible to give.
What says the body when they spring Some monstrous torture-engine’s whole
Strength on it? No more says the soul.


Till out strode Gismond; then I knew
That I was saved. I never met
His face before, but, at first view, I felt quite sure that God had set 70 Himself to Satan; who would spend
A minute’s mistrust on the end?


He strode to Gauthier, in his throat
Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth With one back-handed blow that wrote
In blood men’s verdict there. North, South, East, West, I looked. The lie was dead,
And damned, and truth stood up instead.


This glads me most, that I enjoyed
The heart of the joy, with my content 80 In watching Gismond unalloyed
By any doubt of the event:
God took that on him–I was bid
Watch Gismond for my part: I did.


Did I not watch him while he let
His armourer just brace his greaves, Rivet his hauberk, on the fret
The while! His foot. . . my memory leaves No least stamp out, nor how anon
He pulled his ringing gauntlets on. 90


And e’en before the trumpet’s sound
Was finished, prone lay the false knight, Prone as his lie, upon the ground:
Gismond flew at him, used no sleight O’ the sword, but open-breasted drove,
Cleaving till out the truth he clove.


Which done, he dragged him to my feet And said “Here die, but end thy breath In full confession, lest thou fleet
From my first, to God’s second death! 100 Say, hast thou lied?” And, “I have lied
To God and her,” he said, and died.


Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked
What safe my heart holds, though no word Could I repeat now, if I tasked
My powers for ever, to a third
Dear even as you are. Pass the rest Until I sank upon his breast.


Over my head his arm he flung
Against the world; and scarce I felt 110 His sword (that dripped by me and swung) A little shifted in its belt:
For he began to say the while
How South our home lay many a mile.


So ‘mid the shouting multitude
We two walked forth to never more Return. My cousins have pursued
Their life, untroubled as before I vexed them. Gauthier’s dwelling-place
God lighten! May his soul find grace! 120


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

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

124. Tercel: a male falcon.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome
Praises God from Peter’s dome.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all his past career
Came back upon him clear,

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thy voice’s praise seemed weak; it dropped– Creation’s chorus stopped!

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

“With that weak voice of our disdain, Take up creation’s pausing strain.

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

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

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

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



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


I struck him, he grovelled of course– For, what was his force?
I pinned him to earth with my weight And persistence of hate:
And he lay, would not moan, would not curse, As his lot might be worse. 10


“Were the object less mean, would he stand At the swing of my hand!
For obscurity helps him and blots
The hole where he squats.”
So, I set my five wits on the stretch To inveigle the wretch.
All in vain! Gold and jewels I threw, Still he couched there perdue;
I tempted his blood and his flesh,
Hid in roses my mesh, 20 Choicest cates and the flagon’s best spilth: Still he kept to his filth.


Had he kith now or kin, were access
To his heart, did I press:
Just a son or a mother to seize!
No such booty as these.
Were it simply a friend to pursue
‘Mid my million or two,
Who could pay me in person or pelf
What he owes me himself! 30 No: I could not but smile through my chafe: For the fellow lay safe
As his mates do, the midge and the nit, –Through minuteness, to wit.


Then a humour more great took its place At the thought of his face,
The droop, the low cares of the mouth, The trouble uncouth
‘Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain To put out of its pain. 40 And, “no!” I admonished myself,
“Is one mocked by an elf,
Is one baffled by toad or by rat?
The gravamen’s in that!
How the lion, who crouches to suit
His back to my foot,
Would admire that I stand in debate! But the small turns the great
If it vexes you, that is the thing! Toad or rat vex the king? 50 Though I waste half my realm to unearth
Toad or rat, ’tis well worth!”


So, I soberly laid my last plan
To extinguish the man.
Round his creep-hole, with never a break Ran my fires for his sake;
Over-head, did my thunder combine
With my underground mine:
Till I looked from my labour content To enjoy the event. 60


When sudden . . . how think ye, the end? Did I say “without friend”?
Say rather, from marge to blue marge The whole sky grew his targe
With the sun’s self for visible boss, While an Arm ran across
Which the earth heaved beneath like a breast Where the wretch was safe prest!
Do you see? Just my vengeance complete, The man sprang to his feet, 70 Stood erect, caught at God’s skirts, and prayed! –So, _I_ was afraid!

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

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

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


(Peter Ronsard, loquitur)

“Heigho!” yawned one day King Francis, “Distance all value enhances.
When a man’s busy, why, leisure
Strikes him as wonderful pleasure:
Faith, and at leisure once is he?
Straightway he wants to be busy.
Here we’ve got peace; and aghast I’m Caught thinking war the true pastime.
Is there a reason in metre?
Give us your speech, master Peter!” 10 I who, if mortal dare say so,
Ne’er am at loss with my Naso
“Sire,” I replied, “joys prove cloudlets: “Men are the merest Ixions”–
Here the King whistled aloud, “Let’s –Heigho–go look at our lions.”
Such are the sorrowful chances
If you talk fine to King Francis.

And so, to the courtyard proceeding,
Our company, Francis was leading, 20 Increased by new followers tenfold
Before he arrived at the penfold;
Lords, ladies, like clouds which bedizen At sunset the western horizon.
And Sir De Lorge pressed ‘mid the foremost With the dame he professed to adore most. Oh, what a face! One by fits eyed
Her, and the horrible pitside;
For the penfold surrounded a hollow Which led where the eye scarce dared follow 30 And shelved to the chamber secluded
Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.

The King hailed his keeper, an Arab
As glossy and black as a scarab,
And bade him make sport and at once stir Up and out of his den the old monster.
They opened a hole in the wire-work Across it, and dropped there a firework, And fled: one’s heart’s beating redoubled; A pause, while the pit’s mouth was troubled, 40 The blackness and silence so utter,
By the firework’s slow sparkling and sputter; Then earth in a sudden contortion
Gave out to our gaze her abortion.
Such a brute! Were I friend Clement Marot (Whose experience of nature’s but narrow And whose faculties move in no small mist When he versifies David the Psalmist)
I should study that brute to describe you Illum Juda Leonem de Tribu. 50 One’s whole blood grew curdling and creepy To see the black mane, vast and heapy,
The tail in the air stiff and straining The wide eyes, nor waxing nor waning,
As over the barrier which bounded
His platform, and us who surrounded The barrier, they reached and they rested On space that might stand him in best stead: For who knew, he thought, what the amazement, The eruption of clatter and blaze meant, 60 And if, in this minute of wonder,
No outlet, ‘mid lightning and thunder, Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered, The lion at last was delivered?
Ay, that was the open sky o’erhead! And you saw by the flash on his forehead, By the hope in those eyes wide and steady, He was leagues in the desert already
Driving the flocks up the mountain
Or catlike couched hard by the fountain 70 To waylay the date-gathering negress:
So guarded he entrance or egress.
“How he stands!” quoth the King: “we may well swear, (No novice, we’ve won our spurs elsewhere And so can afford the confession)
We exercise wholesome discretion
In keeping aloof from his threshold; Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold, Their first would too pleasantly purloin The visitor’s brisket or surloin: 80 But who’s he would prove so fool-hardy?
Not the best man of Marignan, pardie!”

The sentence no sooner was uttered,
Than over the rails a glove fluttered, Fell close to the lion, and rested:
The dame ’twas, who flung it and jested With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months past; he sat there pursuing His suit, weighing out with nonchalance
Fine speeches like gold from a balance. 90

Sound the trumpet, no true knight’s a tarrier! De Lorge made one leap at the barrier,
Walked straight to the glove–while the lion Ne’er moved, kept his far-reaching eye on The palm-tree-edged desert-spring’s sapphire, And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir– Picked it up, and as calmly retreated,
Leaped back where the lady was seated, And full in the face of its owner
Flung the glove.

“Your heart’s queen, you dethrone her? 100 So should I!”–cried the King–“’twas mere vanity Not love set that task to humanity!”
Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing >From such a proved wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Not so, I; for I caught an expression In her brow’s undisturbed self-possession Amid the Court’s scoffing and merriment, As if from no pleasing experiment
She rose, yet of pain not much heedful So long as the process was needful,– 110 As if she had tried in a crucible,
To what “speeches like gold” were reducible, And, finding the finest prove copper,
Felt the smoke in her face was but proper; To know what she had not to trust to,
Was worth all the ashes and dust too. She went out ‘mid hooting and laughter;
Clement Marot stayed; I followed after, And asked, as a grace, what it all meant? If she wished not the rash deed’s recalment? 120 For I”–so I spoke–“am a poet:
Human nature,–behoves that I know it!”

She told me, “Too long had I heard
Of the deed proved alone by the word: For my love–what De Lorge would not dare! With my scorn–what De Lorge could compare! And the endless descriptions of death
He would brave when my lip formed a breath, I must reckon as braved, or, of course,
Doubt his word–and moreover, perforce, 130 For such gifts as no lady could spurn,
Must offer my love in return.
When I looked on your lion, it brought All the dangers at once to my thought,
Encountered by all sorts of men,
Before he was lodged in his den–
>From the poor slave whose club or bare hands Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands, With no King and no Court to applaud,
By no shame, should he shrink, overawed, 140 Yet to capture the creature made shift,
That his rude boys might laugh at the gift –To the page who last leaped o’er the fence Of the pit, on no greater pretence
Than to get back the bonnet he dropped, Lest his pay for a week should be stopped. So, wiser I judged it to make
One trial what ‘death for my sake’
Really meant, while the power was yet mine,

Than to wait until time should define 150 Such a phrase not so simply as I,
Who took it to mean just ‘to die.’
The blow a glove gives is but weak: Does the mark yet discolour my cheek?
But when the heart suffers a blow,
Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?”

I looked, as away she was sweeping.
And saw a youth eagerly keeping
As close as he dared to the doorway. No doubt that a noble should more weigh 160 His life than befits a plebeian;
And yet, had our brute been Nemean– (I judge by a certain calm fervour
The youth stepped with, forward to serve her) –He’d have scarce thought you did him the worst turn If you whispered “Friend, what you’d get, first earn!” And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married, To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The voice of the Court, I dared augur. 170

For De Lorge, he made women with men vie, Those in wonder and praise, these in envy; And in short stood so plain a head taller. That he wooed and won . . . how do you call her? The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King’s love, who loved her a week well. And ’twas noticed he never would honour
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her) With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching 180 His wife, from her chamber, those straying Sad gloves she was always mislaying,
While the King took the closet to chat in,– But of course this adventure came pat in. And never the King told the story,
How bringing a glove brought such glory, But the wife smiled–“His nerves are grown firmer: Mine he brings now and utters no murmur.”

Venienti occurrite morbo!
With which moral I drop my theorbo. 190

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


That second time they hunted me
>From hill to plain, from shore to sea, And Austria, hounding far and wide
Her blood-hounds thro’ the country-side, Breathed hot and instant on my trace,–
I made six days a hiding-place
Of that dry green old aqueduct
Where I and Charles, when boys, have plucked The fire-flies from the roof above,
Bright creeping thro’ the moss they love: 10 –How long it seems since Charles was lost! Six days the soldiers crossed and crossed The country in my very sight;
And when that peril ceased at night, The sky broke out in red dismay
With signal fires; well, there I lay Close covered o’er in my recess,
Up to the neck in ferns and cress,
Thinking on Metternich our friend,
And Charles’s miserable end, 20 And much beside, two days; the third,
Hunger overcame me when I heard
The peasants from the village go
To work among the maize; you know,
With us in Lombardy, they bring
Provisions packed on mules, a string With little bells that cheer their task, And casks, and boughs on every cask
To keep the sun’s heat from the wine; These I let pass in jingling line, 30 And, close on them, dear noisy crew,
The peasants from the village, too; For at the very rear would troop
Their wives and sisters in a group
To help, I knew. When these had passed, I threw my glove to strike the last,
Taking the chance: she did not start, Much less cry out, but stooped apart,
One instant rapidly glanced round,
And saw me beckon from the ground. 40 A wild bush grows and hides my crypt;
She picked my glove up while she stripped A branch off, then rejoined the rest
With that; my glove lay in her breast. Then I drew breath; they disappeared:
It was for Italy I feared.

An hour, and she returned alone
Exactly where my glove was thrown.
Meanwhile came many thoughts: on me Rested the hopes of Italy. 50 I had devised a certain tale
Which, when ’twas told her, could not fail Persuade a peasant of its truth;
I meant to call a freak of youth
This hiding, and give hopes of pay, And no temptation to betray.
But when I saw that woman’s face,
Its calm simplicity of grace,
Our Italy’s own attitude
In which she walked thus far, and stood, 60 Planting each naked foot so firm,
To crush the snake and spare the worm– At first sight of her eyes, I said,
“I am that man upon whose head
They fix the price, because I hate
The Austrians over us: the State
Will give you gold–oh, gold so much! If you betray me to their clutch,
And be your death, for aught I know, If once they find you saved their foe. 70 Now, you must bring me food and drink,
And also paper, pen and ink,
And carry safe what I shall write
To Padua, which you’ll reach at night Before the duomo shuts; go in,
And wait till Tenebrae begin;
Walk to the third confessional,
Between the pillar and the wall,
And kneeling whisper, Whence comes peace? Say it a second time, then cease; 80 And if the voice inside returns,
>From Christ and Freedom; what concerns The cause of Peace?–for answer, slip
My letter where you placed your lip; Then come back happy we have done
Our mother service–I, the son,
As you the daughter of our land!”

Three mornings more, she took her stand In the same place, with the same eyes:
I was no surer of sun-rise 90 Than of her coming. We conferred
Of her own prospects, and I heard
She had a lover–stout and tall,
She said–then let her eyelids fall, “He could do much”–as if some doubt
Entered her heart,–then, passing out

“She could not speak for others, who
Had other thoughts; herself she knew,” And so she brought me drink and food.
After four days, the scouts pursued 100 Another path; at last arrived
The help my Paduan friends contrived To furnish me: she brought the news.
For the first time I could not choose But kiss her hand, and lay my own
Upon her head–“This faith was shown To Italy, our mother; she
Uses my hand and blesses thee.”
She followed down to the sea-shore; I left and never saw her more. 110

How very long since I have thought
Concerning–much less wished for–aught Beside the good of Italy,
For which I live and mean to die!
I never was in love; and since
Charles proved false, what shall now convince My inmost heart I have a friend?
However, if I pleased to spend
Real wishes on myself–say, three– I know at least what one should be. 120 I would grasp Metternich until
I felt his red wet throat distil
In blood thro’ these two hands. And next, –Nor much for that am I perplexed–
Charles, perjured traitor, for his part, Should die slow of a broken heart
Under his new employers. Last
–Ah, there, what should I wish? For fast Do I grow old and out of strength.
If I resolved to seek at length 130 My father’s house again, how scared
They all would look, and unprepared! My brothers live in Austria’s pay
–Disowned me long ago, men say;
And all my early mates who used
To praise me so-perhaps induced
More than one early step of mine–
Are turning wise: while some opine
“Freedom grows license,” some suspect “Haste breeds delay,” and recollect 140 They always said, such premature
Beginnings never could endure!
So, with a sullen “All’s for best,” The land seems settling to its rest.
I think then, I should wish to stand This evening in that dear, lost land,
Over the sea the thousand miles,
And know if yet that woman smiles
With the calm smile; some little farm She lives in there, no doubt: what harm 150 If I sat on the door-side bench,
And, while her spindle made a trench Fantastically in the dust,
Inquired of all her fortunes–just
Her children’s ages and their names, And what may be the husband’s aims
For each of them. I’d talk this out, And sit there, for an hour about,
Then kiss her hand once more, and lay Mine on her head, and go my way. 160

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

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

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

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

Piano di Sorrento

Fort, Fort, my beloved one,
Sit here by my side,
On my knees put up both little feet! I was sure, if I tried,
I could make you laugh spite of Scirocco. Now, open your eyes,
Let me keep you amused till he vanish In black from the skies,
With telling my memories over
As you tell your beads; 10 All the Plain saw me gather, I garland
–The flowers or the weeds.

Time for rain! for your long hot dry Autumn Had net-worked with brown
The white skin of each grape on the bunches, Marked like a quail’s crown,
Those creatures you make such account of, Whose heads–speckled whlte
Over brown like a great spider’s back, As I told you last night– 20 Your mother bites off for her supper.
Red-ripe as could be,
Pomegranates were chapping and splitting In halves on the tree:
And betwixt the loose walls of great flintstone, Or in the thick dust
On the path, or straight out of the rockside, Wherever could thrust
Some burnt sprig of bold hardy rock-flower Its yellow face up, 30 For the prize were great butterflies fighting, Some five for one cup.
So, I guessed, ere I got up this morning, What change was in store,
By the quick rustle-down of the quail-nets Which woke me before
I could open my shutter, made fast
With a bough and a stone,
And look thro’ the twisted dead vine-twigs, Sole lattice that’s known. 40 Quick and sharp rang the rings down the net-poles, While, busy beneath,
Your priest and his brother tugged at them, The rain in their teeth.
And out upon all the flat house-roofs Where split figs lay drying,
The girls took the frails under cover: Nor use seemed in trying
To get out the boats and go fishing, For, under the cliff, 50 Fierce the black water frothed o’er the blind-rock. No seeing our skiff
Arrive about noon from Amalfi,
–Our fisher arrive,
And pitch down his basket before us, All trembling alive
With pink and grey jellies, your sea-fruit; You touch the strange lumps,
And mouths gape there, eyes open, all manner Of horns and of humps, 60 Which only the fisher looks grave at,
While round him like imps
Cling screaming the children as naked And brown as his shrimps;
Himself too as bare to the middle
–You see round his neck
The string and its brass coin suspended, That saves him from wreck.
But to-day not a boat reached Salerno, So back, to a man, 70 Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards Grape-harvest began.
In the vat, halfway up in our houseside, Like blood the juice spins,
While your brother all bare-legged is dancing Till breathless he grins
Dead-beaten in effort on effort
To keep the grapes under,
Since still when he seems all but master, In pours the fresh plunder 80 >From girls who keep coming and going
With basket on shoulder,
And eyes shut against the rain’s driving; Your girls that are older,–
For under the hedges of aloe,
And where, on its bed
Of the orchard’s black mould, the love-apple Lies pulpy and red,
All the young ones are kneeling and filling Their laps with the snails 90 Tempted out by this first rainy weather,– Your best of regales,
As to-night will be proved to my sorrow, When, supping in state,
We shall feast our grape-gleaners (two dozen, Three over one plate)
With lasagne so tempting to swallow, In slippery ropes,
And gourds fried in great purple slices, That colour of popes. 100 Meantime, see the grape bunch they’ve brought you: The rain-water slips
O’er the heavy blue bloom on each globe Which the wasp to your lips
Still follows with fretful persistence: Nay, taste, while awake,
This half of a curd-white smooth cheese-ball That peels, flake by flake,
Like an onion, each smoother and whiter; Next, sip this weak wine 110 >From the thin green glass flask, with its stopper, A leaf of the vine;
And end with the prickly-pear’s red flesh That leaves thro’ its juice
The stony black seeds on your pearl-teeth. Scirocco is loose!
Hark, the quick, whistling pelt of the olives Which, thick in one’s track,
Tempt the stranger to pick up and bite them, Tho’ not yet half black! 120 How the old twisted olive trunks shudder, The medlars let fall
Their hard fruit, and the brittle great fig-trees Snap off, figs and all,
For here comes the whole of the tempest! No refuge, but creep
Back again to my side and my shoulder, And listen or sleep.
O how will your country show next week, When all the vine-boughs 130 Have been stripped of their foliage to pasture The mules and the cows?
Last eve, I rode over the mountains, Your brother, my guide,
Soon left me, to feast on the myrtles That offered, each side,
Their fruit-balls, black, glossy and luscious,– Or strip from the sorbs
A treasure, or, rosy and wondrous,
Those hairy gold orbs! 140 But my mule picked his sure sober path out, Just stopping to neigh
When he recognized down in the valley His mates on their way
With the faggots and barrels of water; And soon we emerged
>From the plain, where the woods could scarce follow; And still as we urged
Our way, the woods wondered, and left us, As up still we trudged 150 Though the wild path grew wilder each instant, And place was e’en grudged
‘Mid the rock-chasms and piles of loose stones Like the loose broken teeth
Of some monster which climbed there to die From the ocean beneath–
Place was grudged to the silver-grey fume-weed That clung to the path,
And dark rosemary ever a-dying
That, ‘spite the wind’s wrath, 160 So loves the salt rock’s face to seaward, And lentisks as staunch
To the stone where they root and bear berries, And . . . what shows a branch
Coral-coloured, transparent, with circlets Of pale seagreen leaves;
Over all trod my mule with the caution Of gleaners o’er sheaves,
Still, foot after foot like a lad
Till, round after round, 170 He climbed to the top of Calvano,
And God’s own profound
Was above me, and round me the mountains, And under, the sea,
And within me my heart to bear witness What was and shall be.

Oh, heaven and the terrible crystal!
No rampart excludes
Your eye from the life to be lived
In the blue solitudes. 180 Oh, those mountains, their infinite movement! Still moving with you;
For, ever some new head and breast of them Thrusts into view
To observe the intruder; you see it If quickly you turn
And, before they escape you surprise them. They grudge you should learn
How the soft plains they look on, lean over And love (they pretend) 190 –Cower beneath them, the flat sea-pine crouches, The wild fruit-trees bend,
E’en the myrtle-leaves curl, shrink and shut: All is silent and grave:
‘Tis a sensual and timorous beauty, How fair! but a slave.
So, I turned to the sea; and there slumbered As greenly as ever
Those isles of the siren, your Galli; No ages can sever 200 The Three, nor enable their sister
To join them,–halfway
On the voyage, she looked at Ulysses– No farther to-day,
Tho’ the small one, just launched in the wave, Watches breast-high and steady
>From under the rock, her bold sister Swum halfway already.
Fort, shall we sail there together
And see from the sides 210 Quite new rocks show their faces, new haunts Where the siren abides?
Shall we sail round and round them, close over The rocks, tho’ unseen,
That ruffle the grey glassy water
To glorious green?
Then scramble from splinter to splinter, Reach land and explore,
On the largest, the strange square black turret With never a door, 220 Just a loop to admit the quick lizards;
Then, stand there and hear
The birds’ quiet singing, that tells us What life is, so clear?
–The secret they sang to Ulysses
When, ages ago,
He heard and he knew this life’s secret I hear and I know.

Ah, see! The sun breaks o’er Calvano; He strikes the great gloom 230 And flutters it o’er the mount’s summit
In airy gold fume.
All is over. Look out, see the gipsy, Our tinker and smith,
Has arrived, set up bellows and forge, And down-squatted forthwith
To his hammering, under the wall there; One eye keeps aloof
The urchins that itch to be putting His jews’-harps to proof, 240 While the other, thro’ locks of curled wire, Is watching how sleek
Shines the hog, come to share in the windfall –Chew, abbot’s own cheek!
All is over. Wake up and come out now, And down let us go,
And see the fine things got in order At church for the show
Of the Sacrament, set forth this evening. To-morrow’s the Feast 250 Of the Rosary’s Virgin, by no means
Of Virgins the least,
As you’ll hear in the off-hand discourse Which (all nature, no art)
The Dominican brother, these three weeks, Was getting by heart.
Not a pillar nor post but is dizened With red and blue papers;
All the roof waves with ribbons, each altar A-blaze with long tapers; 260 But the great masterpiece is the scaffold Rigged glorious to hold
All the fiddlers and fifers and drummers And trumpeters bold,
Not afraid of Bellini nor Auber,
Who, when the priest’s hoarse,
Will strike us up something that’s brisk For the feast’s second course.
And then will the flaxen-wigged Image Be carried in pomp 270 Thro’ the plain, while in gallant procession The priests mean to stomp.
All round the glad church lie old bottles With gunpowder stopped,
Which will be, when the Image re-enters, Religiously popped;
And at night from the crest of Calvano Great bonfires will hang,
On the plain will the trumpets join chorus, And more poppers bang. 280 At all events, come-to the garden
As far as the wall;
See me tap with a hoe on the plaster Till out there shall fall
A scorpion with wide angry nippers!

–“Such trifles!” you say?
Fort, in my England at home,
Men meet gravely to-day
And debate, if abolishing Corn-laws Be righteous and wise 290 –If ’twere proper, Scirocco should vanish In black from the skies!

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

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

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


He sings.

I send my heart up to thee, all my heart In this my singing.
For the stars help me, and the sea bears part;