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Selections from the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning By Robert Browning Characters: 1106

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Wherefore? Heaven's gift takes earth's abatement!

He who smites the rock and spreads the water,

Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath him,75

Even he, the minute makes immortal,

Proves, perchance, but mortal in the minute,

Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing.

While he smites, how can he but remember,

So he smote before, in such a peril,80

When they stood and mocked-"Shall smiting help us?"

When they drank and sneered-"A stroke is easy!"

When they wiped their mouths and went their journey,

Throwing him for thanks-

"But drought was pleasant."

Thus old memories mar the actual triumph;85

Thus the doing savors of disrelish;

Thus achievement lacks a gracious somewhat;

O'er-importuned brows becloud the mandate,

Carelessness or consciousness-the gesture.

For he bears an ancient wrong about him,90

Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces,

Hears, yet one time more, the 'customed prelude-

"How shouldst thou, of all men, smite, and save us?"

Guesses what is like to prove the sequel-

"Egypt's flesh-pots-nay, the drought was better."95

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