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   Chapter 17 No.17

Selections from the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning By Robert Browning Characters: 3059

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


"Yea, my King,"

I began-"thou dost well in rejecting mere comforts that spring

From the mere mortal life held in common by man and by brute:150

In our flesh grows the branch of this life, in our soul it bears fruit.

Thou hast marked the slow rise of the tree-how its stem trembled first

Till it passed the kid's lip, the stag's antler; then safely outburst

The fan-branches all round; and thou mindest when these too, in turn

Broke a-bloom and the palm-tree seemed perfect; yet more was to learn,155

E'en the good that comes in with the palm-fruit. Our dates shall we slight,

When their juice brings a cure for all sorrow? or care for the plight

Of the palm's self whose slow growth produced them? Not so! stem and branch

Shall decay, nor be known in their place, while the palm-wine shall stanch

Every wound of man's spirit in winter. I pour thee such wine.160

Leave the flesh to the fate it was fit for! the spirit be thine!

By the spirit, when age shall o'ercome thee, thou still shalt enjoy

More indeed, than at first when inconscious, the life of a boy.

Crush that life, and behold its wine running! Each deed thou hast done

Dies, revives, goes to work in the world; until e'en as the sun165

Looking down on the earth, though clouds spoil him, though tempests efface,

Can find nothing his own deed produced not, must everywhere trace

The results of his past summer-prime-so, each ray of thy will,

Every flash of thy passion and prowess, long over, shall thrill

Thy whole people, the countless, with ardor, till they too give forth170

A like cheer to their sons, who in turn, fill the South and the North

With the radiance thy deed was the germ of. Carouse in the past!

But the license of age has its limit; thou diest at last;

As the lion when age dims his eyeball, the rose at her height,

So with man-so his power and his beauty forever take flight.175

No! Again a long draft of my soul-wine! Look forth o'er the years!

Thou hast done now with eyes for the actual; begin with the seer's!

Is Saul dead? In the depth of the vale make his tomb-bid arise

A gray mountain of marble heaped four-square, till, built to the skies,

Let it mark where the great First King slumbers; whose fame would ye know?180

Up above see the rock's naked face, where the record shall go

In great characters cut by the scribe-Such was Saul, so he did;

With the sages directing the work, by the populace chid-

For not half, they'll affirm, is comprised there! Which fault to amend,

In the grove with his kind grows the cedar, whereon they shall spend185

(See, in tablets 'tis level before them) their praise, and record

With the gold of the graver, Saul's story-the statesman's great word

Side by side with the poet's sweet comment. The river's a-wave

With smooth paper-reeds grazing each other when prophet-winds rave:

So the pen gives unborn generations their due and their part190

In thy being! Then, first of the mighty, thank God that thou art!"

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