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   Chapter 87 Morning

Selections from the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning By Robert Browning Characters: 205083

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Scene.-Up the Hillside, inside the Shrub-house. Luca's wife, Ottima, and her paramour, the German Sebald.

Sebald [sings].

Let the watching lids wink!

Day's ablaze with eyes, think!

Deep into the night, drink!

Ottima. Night? Such may be your Rhineland nights, perhaps;

But this blood-red beam through the shutter's chink5

-We call such light the morning: let us see!

Mind how you grope your way, though! How these tall

Naked geraniums straggle! Push the lattice

Behind that frame!-Nay, do I bid you?-Sebald,

It shakes the dust down on me! Why, of course10

The slide-bolt catches. Well, are you content,

Or must I find you something else to spoil?

Kiss and be friends, my Sebald! Is 't full morning?

Oh, don't speak then!

Sebald.Aye, thus it used to be.

Ever your house was, I remember, shut15

Till midday; I observed that, as I strolled

On mornings through the vale here; country girls

Were noisy, washing garments in the brook,

Hinds drove the slow white oxen up the hills;

But no, your house was mute, would ope no eye.20

And wisely; you were plotting one thing there,

Nature, another outside. I looked up-

Rough white wood shutters, rusty iron bars,

Silent as death, blind in a flood of light,

Oh, I remember!-and the peasants laughed25

And said, "The old man sleeps with the young wife."

This house was his, this chair, this window-his!

Ottima. Ah, the clear morning! I can see St. Mark's;

That black streak is the belfry. Stop: Vicenza

Should lie-there's Padua, plain enough, that blue!30

Look o'er my shoulder, follow my finger!


It seems to me a night with a sun added.

Where's dew, where's freshness? That bruised plant, I bruised

In getting through the lattice yestereve,

Droops as it did. See, here's my elbow's mark35

I' the dust o' the sill.

Ottima.Oh, shut the lattice, pray!

Sebald. Let me lean out. I cannot scent blood here,

Foul as the morn may be.

There, shut the world out!

How do you feel now, Ottima? There, curse

The world and all outside! Let us throw off40

This mask: how do you bear yourself? Let's out

With all of it.

Ottima.Best never speak of it.

Sebald. Best speak again and yet again of it.

Till words cease to be more than words. "His blood,"

For instance-let those two words mean "His blood"45

And nothing more. Notice, I'll say them now,

"His blood."

Ottima.Assuredly if I repented

The deed-

Sebald. Repent? Who should repent, or why?

What puts that in your head? Did I once say

That I repented?

Ottima.No; I said the deed-50

Sebald. "The deed" and "the event"-just now it was

"Our passion's fruit"-the devil take such cant!

Say, once and always, Luca was a wittol,

I am his cutthroat, you are-

Ottima.Here's the wine;

I brought it when we left the house above,55

And glasses too-wine of both sorts. Black? White then?

Sebald. But am not I his cutthroat? What are you?

Ottima. There trudges on his business from the Duomo

Benet the Capuchin, with his brown hood

And bare feet; always in one place at church,60

Close under the stone wall by the south entry.

I used to take him for a brown cold piece

Of the wall's self, as out of it he rose

To let me pass-at first, I say, I used-

Now, so has that dumb figure fastened on me,65

I rather should account the plastered wall

A piece of him, so chilly does it strike.

This, Sebald?

Sebald.No, the white wine-the white wine!

Well, Ottima, I promised no new year

Should rise on us the ancient shameful way;70

Nor does it rise. Pour on! To your black eyes!

Do you remember last damned New Year's day?

Ottima. You brought those foreign prints. We looked at them

Over the wine and fruit. I had to scheme

To get him from the fire. Nothing but saying75

His own set wants the proof-mark, roused him up

To hunt them out.

Sebald.'Faith, he is not alive

To fondle you before my face.

Ottima.Do you

Fondle me then! Who means to take your life

For that, my Sebald?80

Sebald.Hark you, Ottima!

One thing to guard against. We'll not make much

One of the other-that is, not make more

Parade of warmth, childish officious coil,

Than yesterday-as if, sweet, I supposed

Proof upon proof were needed now, now first,85

To show I love you-yes, still love you-love you

In spite of Luca and what's come to him-

Sure sign we had him ever in our thoughts,

White sneering old reproachful face and all!

We'll even quarrel, love, at times, as if90

We still could lose each other, were not tied

By this-conceive you?


Sebald.Not tied so sure!

Because though I was wrought upon, have struck

His insolence back into him-am I

So surely yours?-therefore forever yours?95

Ottima. Love, to be wise (one counsel pays another),

Should we have-months ago, when first we loved,

For instance that May morning we two stole

Under the green ascent of sycamores-If

we had come upon a thing like that100


Sebald. "A thing"-there again-"a thing!"

Ottima. Then, Venus' body, had we come upon

My husband Luca Gaddi's murdered corpse

Within there, at his couch-foot, covered close-

Would you have pored upon it? Why persist105

In poring now upon it? For 'tis here

As much as there in the deserted house;

You cannot rid your eyes of it. For me,

Now he is dead I hate him worse; I hate-

Dare you stay here? I would go back and hold110

His two dead hands, and say, "I hate you worse,

Luca, than"-

Sebald.Off, off-take your hands off mine,

'Tis the hot evening-off! oh, morning, is it?

Ottima. There's one thing must be done-you know what thing.

Come in and help to carry. We may sleep115

Anywhere in the whole wide house tonight.

Sebald. What would come, think you, if we let him lie

Just as he is? Let him lie there until

The angels take him! He is turned by this

Off from his face beside, as you will see.120

Ottima. This dusty pane might serve for looking-glass.

Three, four-four gray hairs! Is it so you said

A plait of hair should wave across my neck?

No-this way.

Sebald.Ottima, I would give your neck,

Each splendid shoulder, both those breasts of yours,125

That this were undone! Killing! Kill the world,

So Luca lives again!-aye, lives to sputter

His fulsome dotage on you-yes, and feign

Surprise that I return at eve to sup,

When all the morning I was loitering here-130

Bid me dispatch my business and begone.

I would-


Sebald.No, I'll finish. Do you think

I fear to speak the bare truth once for all?

All we have talked of, is at bottom, fine

To suffer; there's a recompense in guilt;135

One must be venturous and fortunate-

What is one young for, else? In age we'll sigh

O'er the wild, reckless, wicked days flown over;

Still, we have lived; the vice was in its place.

But to have eaten Luca's bread, have worn140

His clothes, have felt his money swell my purse-

Do lovers in romances sin that way?

Why, I was starving when I used to call

And teach you music, starving while you plucked me

These flowers to smell!145

Ottima.My poor lost friend!

Sebald.He gave me

Life, nothing else; what if he did reproach

My perfidy, and threaten, and do more-

Had he no right? What was to wonder at?

He sat by us at table quietly-

Why must you lean across till our cheeks touched?150

Could he do less than make pretense to strike?

'Tis not the crime's sake-I'd commit ten crimes

Greater, to have this crime wiped out, undone!

And you-oh, how feel you? Feel you for me?

Ottima. Well then, I love you better now than ever,155

And best (look at me while I speak to you)-

Best for the crime; nor do I grieve, in truth,

This mask, this simulated ignorance,

This affectation of simplicity,

Falls off our crime; this naked crime of ours160

May not now be looked over-look it down!

Great? Let it be great; but the joys it brought,

Pay they or no its price? Come: they or it

Speak not! The past, would you give up the past

Such as it is, pleasure and crime together?165

Give up that noon I owned my love for you?

The garden's silence! even the single bee

Persisting in his toil, suddenly stopped,

And where he hid you only could surmise

By some campanula chalice set a-swing.170

Who stammered-"Yes, I love you?"

Sebald.And I drew

Back; put far back your face with both my hands

Lest you should grow too full of me-your face

So seemed athirst for my whole soul and body!

Ottima. And when I ventured to receive you here,175

Made you steal hither in the mornings-


I used to look up 'neath the shrub-house here,

Till the red fire on its glazed windows spread

To a yellow haze?

Ottima.Ah-my sign was, the sun

Inflamed the sear side of yon chestnut-tree180

Nipped by the first frost.

Sebald.You would always laugh

At my wet boots: I had to stride through grass

Over my ankles.

Ottima.Then our crowning night!

Sebald. The July night?

Ottima.The day of it too, Sebald!

When heaven's pillars seemed o'erbowed with heat,185

Its black-blue canopy suffered descend

Close on us both, to weigh down each to each,

And smother up all life except our life.

So lay we till the storm came.

Sebald.How it came!

Ottima. Buried in woods we lay, you recollect;190

Swift ran the searching tempest overhead;

And ever and anon some bright white shaft

Burned through the pine-tree roof, here burned and there,

As if God's messenger through the close wood screen

Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture,195

Feeling for guilty thee and me; then broke

The thunder like a whole sea overhead-

* * *

Sebald.Slower, Ottima!

Do not lean on me!

Ottima.Sebald, as we lay,

Who said, "Let death come now! 'Tis right to die!

Right to be punished! Naught completes such bliss200

But woe!" Who said that?

Sebald.How did we ever rise?

Was't that we slept? Why did it end?

Ottima.I felt you

Taper into a point the ruffled ends

Of my loose locks 'twixt both your humid lips.

My hair is fallen now: knot it again!205

Sebald. I kiss you now, dear Ottima, now and now!

This way? Will you forgive me-be once more

My great queen?

Ottima.Bind it thrice about my brow;

Crown me your queen, your spirit's arbitress,

Magnificent in sin. Say that!

Sebald.I crown you210

My great white queen, my spirit's arbitress,


[From without is heard the voice of Pippa singing-

The year's at the spring

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;215

The hillside's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn:

God's in his heaven-

All's right with the world!220

[Pippa passes.

Sebald. God's in his heaven! Do you hear that?

Who spoke?

You, you spoke!

Ottima.Oh-that little ragged girl!

She must have rested on the step: we give them

But this one holiday the whole year round.

Did you ever see our silk-mills-their inside?225

There are ten silk-mills now belong to you.

She stoops to pick my double heartsease-Sh!

She does not hear: call you out louder!

Sebald.Leave me!

Go, get your clothes on-dress, those shoulders!


Sebald. Wipe off that paint! I hate you.230


Sebald. My God, and she is emptied of it now!

Outright now!-how miraculously gone

All of the grace-had she not strange grace once?

Why, the blank cheek hangs listless as it likes,

No purpose holds the features up together,235

Only the cloven brow and puckered chin

Stay in their places; and the very hair,

That seemed to have a sort of life in it,

Drops, a dead web!

Ottima.Speak to me-not of me.

Sebald. That round great full-orbed face, where not an angle240

Broke the delicious indolence-all broken!

Ottima. To me-not of me! Ungrateful, perjured cheat!

A coward, too: but ingrate's worse than all!

Beggar-my slave-a fawning, cringing lie!

Leave me! Betray me! I can see your drift!245

A lie that walks and eats and drinks!

Sebald.My God!

Those morbid, olive, faultless shoulder-blades-

I should have known there was no blood beneath!

Ottima. You hate me then? You hate me then?

Sebald.To think

She would succeed in her absurd attempt,250

And fascinate by sinning, show herself

Superior-guilt from its excess superior

To innocence! That little peasant's voice

Has righted all again. Though I be lost,

I know which is the better, never fear,255

Of vice or virtue, purity or lust,

Nature or trick! I see what I have done,

Entirely now! Oh, I am proud to feel

Such torments-let the world take credit thence-

I, having done my deed, pay too its price!260

I hate, hate-curse you! God's in his heaven!


Me! no, no, Sebald, not yourself-kill me!

Mine is the whole crime. Do but kill me-then

Yourself-then-presently-first hear me speak

I always meant to kill myself-wait, you!265

Lean on my breast-not as a breast; don't love me

The more because you lean on me, my own

Heart's Sebald! There, there, both deaths presently!

Sebald. My brain is drowned now-quite drowned: all I feel

Is ... is, at swift-recurring intervals,270

A hurry-down within me, as of waters

Loosened to smother up some ghastly pit:

There they go-whirls from a black, fiery sea!

Ottima. Not me-to him, O God, be merciful!

Talk by the way, while Pippa is passing from the hillside to Orcana. Foreign Students of painting and sculpture, from Venice, assembled opposite the house of Jules, a young French statuary, at Possagno.

1st Student. Attention! My own post is beneath this

window, but the pomegranate clump yonder will hide three

or four of you with a little squeezing, and Schramm and

his pipe must lie flat in the balcony. Four, five-who's a

defaulter? We want everybody, for Jules must not be5

suffered to hurt his bride when the jest's found out.

2nd Student. All here! Only our poet's away-never

having much meant to be present, moonstrike him! The

airs of that fellow, that Giovacchino! He was in violent

love with himself, and had a fair prospect of thriving in10

his suit, so unmolested was it-when suddenly a woman

falls in love with him, too; and out of pure jealousy he

takes himself off to Trieste, immortal poem and all-whereto

is this prophetical epitaph appended already, as

Bluphocks assures me-"Here a mammoth-poem lies,15

Fouled to death by butterflies." His own fault, the

simpleton! Instead of cramp couplets, each like a knife

in your entrails, he should write, says Bluphocks, both

classically and intelligibly.-?sculapius, an Epic. Catalogue

of the drugs: Hebe's plaister-One strip Cools20

your lip. Ph?bus's emulsion-One bottle Clears your

throttle. Mercury's bolus-One box Cures-

3rd Student. Subside, my fine fellow! If the marriage

was over by ten o'clock, Jules will certainly be here

in a minute with his bride.25

2nd Student. Good!-Only, so should the poet's muse

have been universally acceptable, says Bluphocks, et

canibus nostris-and Delia not better known to our

literary dogs than the boy Giovacchino!

1st Student. To the point now. Where's Gottlieb,30

the new-comer? Oh-listen, Gottlieb, to what has called

down this piece of friendly vengeance on Jules, of which

we now assemble to witness the winding-up. We are all

agreed, all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out

on us in a fury by and by: I am spokesman-the verses35

that are to undeceive Jules bear my name of Lutwyche-but

each professes himself alike insulted by this strutting

stone-squarer, who came alone from Paris to Munich,

and thence with a crowd of us to Venice and Possagno

here, but proceeds in a day or two alone again-oh, alone40

indubitably!-to Rome and Florence. He, forsooth, take

up his portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heartless

bunglers!-so he was heard to call us all: now, is Schramm

brutalized, I should like to know? Am I heartless?

Gottlieb. Why, somewhat heartless; for, suppose Jules45

a coxcomb as much as you choose, still, for this mere

coxcombry, you will have brushed off-what do folks

style it?-the bloom of his life.

Is it too late to alter? These love-letters now, you

call his-I can't laugh at them.50

4th Student. Because you never read the sham letters

of our inditing which drew forth these.

Gottlieb. His discovery of the truth will be frightful.

4th Student. That's the joke. But you should have

joined us at the beginning; there's no doubt he loves the55

girl-loves a model he might hire by the hour!

Gottlieb. See here! "He has been accustomed," he

writes, "to have Canova's women about him, in stone,

and the world's women beside him, in flesh; these being

as much below, as those above, his soul's aspiration;60

but now he is to have the reality." There you laugh

again! I say, you wipe off the very dew of his youth.

1st Student. Schramm! (Take the pipe out of his

mouth, somebody!) Will Jules lose the bloom of his youth?65

Schramm. Nothing worth keeping is ever lost in this

world: look at a blossom-it drops presently, having done

its service and lasted its time; but fruits succeed, and

where would be the blossom's place could it continue?

As well affirm that your eye is no longer in your body,70

because its earliest favorite, whatever it may have first

loved to look on, is dead and done with-as that any affection

is lost to the soul when its first object, whatever

happened first to satisfy it, is superseded in due course.

Keep but ever looking, whether with the body's eye or the75

mind's, and you will soon find something to look on! Has

a man done wondering at women?-there follow men,

dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering at

men?-there's God to wonder at; and the faculty of wonder

may be, at the same time, old and tired enough with80

respect to its first object, and yet young and fresh sufficiently,

so far as concerns its novel one. Thus-

1st Student. Put Schramm's pipe into his mouth again!

There you see! Well, this Jules-a wretched fribble

-oh, I watched his disportings at Possagno, the other85

day! Canova's gallery-you know: there he marches first

resolvedly past great works by the dozen without vouchsafing

an eye; all at once he stops full at the Psiche-fanciulla-cannot

pass that old acquaintance without a

nod of encouragement-"In your new place, beauty?90

Then behave yourself as well here as at Munich-I see

you!" Next he posts himself deliberately before the unfinished

Pietà for half an hour without moving, till up he

starts of a sudden, and thrusts his very nose into-I say,

into-the group; by which gesture you are informed that95

precisely the sole point he had not fully mastered in

Canova's practice was a certain method of using the drill

in the articulation of the knee-joint-and that, likewise,

has he mastered at length! Good-by, therefore, to poor

Canova-whose gallery no longer needs detain his successor100

Jules, the predestinated novel thinker in marble!

5th Student. Tell him about the women; go on to the


1st Student. Why, on that matter he could never be

supercilious enough. How should we be other (he said)105

than the poor devils you see, with those debasing habits we

cherish? He was not to wallow in that mire, at least;

he would wait, and love only at the proper time, and

meanwhile put up with the Psiche-fanciulla. Now, I

happened to hear of a young Greek-real Greek girl at110

Malamocco; a true Islander, do you see, with Alciphron's

"hair like sea-moss"-Schramm knows!-white and quiet

as an apparition, and fourteen years old at farthest-a

daughter of Natalia, so she swears-that hag Natalia, who

helps us to models at three lire an hour. We selected115

this girl for the heroine of our jest. So first, Jules received

a scented letter-somebody had seen his Tydeus at the

Academy, and my picture was nothing to it: a profound

admirer bade him persevere-would make herself known to him

ere long. (Paolina, my little friend of the Fenice,120

transcribes divinely.) And in due time, the mysterious

correspondent gave certain hints of her peculiar charms-the

pale cheeks, the black hair-whatever, in short, had

struck us in our Malamocco model: we retained her name,

too-Phene, which is, by interpretation, sea-eagle. Now,125

think of Jules finding himself distinguished from the

herd of us by such a creature! In his very first answer

he proposed marrying his monitress: and fancy us over

these letters, two, three times a day, to receive and

dispatch! I concocted the main of it: relations were in130

the way-secrecy must be observed-in fine, would he

wed her on trust, and only speak to her when they were

indissolubly united? St-st-Here they come!

6th Student. Both of them! Heaven's love, speak

softly, speak within yourselves!135

5th Student. Look at the bridegroom! Half his hair

in storm and half in calm-patted down over the left

temple-like a frothy cup one blows on to cool it! and

the same old blouse that he murders the marble in!

2nd Student. Not a rich vest like yours, Hannibal140

Scratchy!-rich, that your face may the better set it off.

6th Student. And the bride! Yes, sure enough, our

Phene! Should you have known her in her clothes?

How magnificently pale!

Gottlieb. She does not also take it for earnest, I145


1st Student. Oh, Natalia's concern, that is! We settle

with Natalia.

6th Student. She does not speak-has evidently let

out no word. The only thing is, will she equally remember150

the rest of her lesson, and repeat correctly all those

verses which are to break the secret to Jules?

Gottlieb. How he gazes on her! Pity-pity!

1st Student. They go in; now, silence! You three-not

nearer the window, mind, than that pomegranate-just155

where the little girl, who a few minutes ago passed

us singing, is seated!


Scene-Over Orcana. The house of Jules, who crosses its threshold with Phene: she is silent, on which Jules begins-

Do not die, Phene! I am yours now, you

Are mine now; let fate reach me how she likes,

If you'll not die: so, never die! Sit here-

My workroom's single seat. I over-lean

This length of hair and lustrous front; they turn5

Like an entire flower upward: eyes, lips, last

Your chin-no, last your throat turns: 'tis their scent

Pulls down my face upon you. Nay, look ever

This one way till I change, grow you-I could

Change into you, beloved!

You by me,10

And I by you; this is your hand in mine,

And side by side we sit: all's true. Thank God!

I have spoken: speak you!

O my life to come!

My Tydeus must be carved that's there in clay;

Yet how be carved, with you about the room?15

Where must I place you? When I think that once

This roomfull of rough block-work seemed my heaven

Without you! Shall I ever work again,

Get fairly into my old ways again,

Bid each conception stand while, trait by trait,20

My hand transfers its lineaments to stone?

Will my mere fancies live near you, their truth-

The live truth, passing and repassing me,

Sitting beside me?

Now speak!

Only first,

See, all your letters! Was't not well contrived?25

Their hiding-place is Psyche's robe; she keeps

Your letters next her skin: which drops out foremost?

Ah-this that swam down like a first moonbeam

Into my world!

Again those eyes complete

Their melancholy survey, sweet and slow,30

Of beauty-to the human archetype.

On me, with pity, yet some wonder too:

As if God bade some spirit plague a world,

And this were the one moment of surprise

And sorrow while she took her station, pausing35

O'er what she sees, finds good, and must destroy!

What gaze you at? Those? Books, I told you of;

Let your first word to me rejoice them, too:

This minion, a Coluthus, writ in red

Bister and azure by Bessarion's scribe-40

Read this line-no, shame-Homer's be the Greek

First breathed me from the lips of my Greek girl!

This Odyssey in coarse black vivid type

With faded yellow blossoms 'twixt page and page,

To mark great places with due gratitude;45

"He said, and on Antinous directed

A bitter shaft"-a flower blots out the rest!

Again upon your search? My statues, then!

-Ah, do not mind that-better that will look

When cast in bronze-an Almaign Kaiser, that,50

Swart-green and gold, with truncheon based on hip.

This, rather, turn to! What, unrecognized?

I thought you would have seen that here you sit

As I imagined you-Hippolyta,

Naked upon her bright Numidian horse.55

Recall you this, then? "Carve in bold relief"-

So you commanded-"carve, against I come,

A Greek, in Athens, as our fashion was,

Feasting, bay-filleted and thunder-free,

Who rises 'neath the lifted myrtle-branch.60

'Praise Those who slew Hipparchus!' cry the guests,

'While o'er thy head the singer's myrtle waves

As erst above our champion: stand up all!'"

See, I have labored to express your thought.

Quite round, a cluster of mere hands and arms,65

(Thrust in all senses, all ways, from all sides,

Only consenting at the branch's end

They strain toward) serves for frame to a sole face,

The Praiser's, in the center: who with eyes

Sightless, so bend they back to light inside70

His brain where visionary forms throng up,

Sings, minding not that palpitating arch

Of hands and arms, nor the quick drip of wine

From the drenched leaves o'erhead, nor crowns cast off,

Violet and parsley crowns to trample on-75

Sings, pausing as the patron-ghosts approve,

Devoutly their unconquerable hymn.

But you must say a "well" to that-say "well!"

Because you gaze-am I fantastic, sweet?

Gaze like my very life's-stuff, marble-marbly80

Even to the silence! Why, before I found

The real flesh Phene, I inured myself

To see, throughout all nature, varied stuff

For better nature's birth by means of art:

With me, each substance tended to one form85

Of beauty-to the human archetype.

On every side occurred suggestive germs

Of that-the tree, the flower-or take the fruit-

Some rosy shape, continuing the peach,

Curved beewise o'er its bough; as rosy limbs,90

Depending, nestled in the leaves; and just

From a cleft rose-peach the whole Dryad sprang.

But of the stuffs one can be master of,

How I divined their capabilities!

From the soft-rinded smoothening facile chalk95

That yields your outline to the air's embrace,

Half-softened by a halo's pearly gloom;

Down to the crisp imperious steel, so sure

To cut its one confided thought clean out

Of all the world. But marble!-'neath my tools100

More pliable than jelly-as it were

Some clear primordial creature dug from depths

In the earth's heart, where itself breeds itself,

And whence all baser substance may be worked;

Refine it off to air, you may-condense it105

Down to the diamond-is not metal there,

When o'er the sudden speck my chisel trips?

-Not flesh, as flake off flake I scale, approach,

Lay bare those bluish veins of blood asleep?

Lurks flame in no strange windings where, surprised110

By the swift implement sent home at once,

Flushes and glowings radiate and hover

About its track?

Phene? what-why is this?

That whitening cheek, those still dilating eyes!

Ah, you will die-I knew that you would die!115

Phene begins, on his having long remained silent.

Now the end's coming; to be sure, it must

Have ended sometime! Tush, why need I speak

Their foolish speech? I cannot bring to mind

One half of it, beside; and do not care

For old Natalia now, nor any of them.120

Oh, you-what are you?-if I do not try

To say the words Natalia made me learn;

To please your friends-it is to keep myself

Where your voice lifted me, by letting that

Proceed; but can it? Even you, perhaps,125

Cannot take up, now you have once let fall,

The music's life, and me along with that-

No, or you would! We'll stay, then, as we are-

Above the world.

You creature with the eyes!

If I could look forever up to them,130

As now you let me-I believe all sin,

All memory of wrong done, suffering borne,

Would drop down, low and lower, to the earth

Whence all that's low comes, and there touch and stay

-Never to overtake the rest of me,135

All that, unspotted, reaches up to you,

Drawn by those eyes! What rises is myself,

Not me the shame and suffering; but they sink,

Are left, I rise above them. Keep me so,

Above the world!140

But you sink, for your eyes

Are altering-altered! Stay-"I love you, love"-

I could prevent it if I understood:

More of your words to me; was 't in the tone

Or the words, your power?

Or stay-I will repeat

Their speech, if that contents you! Only change145

No more, and I shall find it presently

Far back here, in the brain yourself filled up.

Natalia threatened me that harm should follow

Unless I spoke their lesson to the end,

But harm to me, I thought she meant, not you.150

Your friends-Natalia said they were your friends

And meant you well-because, I doubted it,

Observing (what was very strange to see)

On every face, so different in all else,

The same smile girls like me are used to bear,155

But never men, men cannot stoop so low;

Yet your friends, speaking of you, used that smile,

That hateful smirk of boundless self-conceit

Which seems to take possession of the world

And make of God a tame confederate,160

Purveyor to their appetites-you know!

But still Natalia said they were your friends,

And they assented though they smiled the more,

And all came round me-that thin Englishman

With light lank hair seemed leader of the rest;165

He held a paper-"What we want," said he,

Ending some explanation to his friends,

"Is something slow, involved, and mystical,

To hold Jules long in doubt, yet take his taste

And lure him on until, at innermost170

Where he seeks sweetness' soul, he may find-this!

-As in the apple's core, the noisome fly;

For insects on the rind are seen at once,

And brushed aside as soon, but this is found

Only when on the lips or loathing tongue."175

And so he read what I have got by heart:

I'll speak it-"Do not die, love! I am yours"-

No-is not that, or like that, part of words

Yourself began by speaking? Strange to lose

What cost such pains to learn! Is this more right?180

I am a painter who cannot paint;

In my life, a devil rather than saint;

In my brain, as poor a creature too:

No end to all I cannot do!

Yet do one thing at least I can-185

Love a man or hate a man

Supremely: thus my lore began.

Through the Valley of Love I went,

In the lovingest spot to abide,

And just on the verge where I pitched my tent,190

I found Hate dwelling beside.

(Let the Bridegroom ask what the painter meant,

Of his Bride, of the peerless Bride!)

And further, I traversed Hate's grove,

In the hatefullest nook to dwell;195

But lo, where I flung myself prone, couched Love

Where the shadow threefold fell.

(The meaning-those black bride's-eyes above,

Not a painter's lip should tell!)

"And here," said he, "Jules probably will ask,200

'You have black eyes, Love-you are, sure enough,

My peerless bride-then do you tell indeed

What needs some explanation! What means this?'"

-And I am to go on, without a word-

So I grew wise in Love and Hate,205

From simple that I was of late.

Once when I loved, I would enlace

Breast, eyelids, hands, feet, form, and face

Of her I loved, in one embrace-

As if by mere love I could love immensely!210

Once, when I hated, I would plunge

My sword, and wipe with the first lunge

My foe's whole life out like a sponge-

As if by mere hate I could hate intensely!

But now I am wiser, know better the fashion215

How passion seeks aid from its opposite passion;

And if I see cause to love more, hate more

Than ever man loved, ever hated before-

And seek in the Valley of Love,

The nest, or the nook in Hate's Grove,220

Where my soul may surely reach

The essence, naught less, of each,

The Hate of all Hates, the Love

Of all Loves, in the Valley or Grove-

I find them the very warders225

Each of the other's borders.

When I love most, Love is disguised

In Hate; and when Hate is surprised

In Love, then I hate most: ask

How Love smiles through Hate's iron casque,230

Hate grins through Love's rose-braided mask-

And how, having hated thee,

I sought long and painfully

To reach thy heart, nor prick

The skin but pierce to the quick-235

Ask this, my Jules, and be answered straight

By thy bride-how the painter Lutwyche can hate!

Jules interposes

Lutwyche! Who else? But all of them, no doubt,

Hated me: they at Venice-presently

Their turn, however! You I shall not meet:240

If I dreamed, saying this would wake me.


What's here, the gold-we cannot meet again,

Consider! and the money was but meant

For two years' travel, which is over now,

All chance or hope or care or need of it.245

This-and what comes from selling these, my casts

And books and medals, except-let them go

Together, so the produce keeps you safe

Out of Natalia's clutches! If by chance

(For all's chance here) I should survive the gang250

At Venice, root out all fifteen of them,

We might meet somewhere, since the world is wide.

[From without is heard the voice of Pippa, singing-

Give her but a least excuse to love me!


How-can this arm establish her above me,255

If fortune fixed her as my lady there,

There already, to eternally reprove me?

("Hist!"-said Kate the Queen;

But "Oh!" cried the maiden, binding her tresses,

"'Tis only a page that carols unseen,260

Crumbling your hounds their messes!")

Is she wronged?-To the rescue of her honor,

My heart!

Is she poor?-What costs it to be styled a donor?

Merely an earth to cleave, a sea to part.265

But that fortune should have thrust all this upon her!

("Nay, list!"-bade Kate the Queen;

And still cried the maiden, binding her tresses,

"'Tis only a page that carols unseen

Fitting your hawks their jesses!")270

[Pippa passes.

Jules resumes

What name was that the little girl sang forth?

Kate? The Cornaro, doubtless, who renounced

The crown of Cyprus to be lady here

At Asolo, where still her memory stays,

And peasants sing how once a certain page275

Pined for the grace of her so far above

His power of doing good to, "Kate the Queen-

She never could be wronged, be poor," he sighed,

"Need him to help her!"

Yes, a bitter thing

To see our lady above all need of us;280

Yet so we look ere we will love; not I,

But the world looks so. If whoever loves

Must be, in some sort, god or worshiper,

The blessing or the blest-one, queen or page,

Why should we always choose the page's part?285

Here is a woman with utter need of me-

I find myself queen here, it seems!

How strange!

Look at the woman here with the new soul,

Like my own Psyche-fresh upon her lips

Alit the visionary butterfly,290

Waiting my word to enter and make bright,

Or flutter off and leave all blank as first.

This body had no soul before, but slept

Or stirred, was beauteous or ungainly, free

From taint or foul with stain, as outward things295

Fastened their image on its passiveness;

Now, it will wake, feel, live-or die again!

Shall to produce form out of unshaped stuff

Be Art-and further, to evoke a soul

From form be nothing? This new soul is mine!300

Now, to kill Lutwyche, what would that do?-save

A wretched dauber, men will hoot to death

Without me, from their hooting. Oh, to hear

God's voice plain as I heard it first, before

They broke in with their laughter! I heard them305

Henceforth, not God.

To Ancona-Greece-some isle!

I wanted silence only; there is clay

Everywhere. One may do whate'er one likes

In Art; the only thing is, to make sure

That one does like it-which takes pains to know.310

Scatter all this, my Phene-this mad dream!

Who, what is Lutwyche, what Natalia's friends,

What the whole world except our love-my own,

Own Phene? But I told you, did I not,

Ere night we travel for your land-some isle315

With the sea's silence on it? Stand aside-

I do but break these paltry models up

To begin Art afresh. Meet Lutwyche, I-

And save him from my statue meeting him?

Some unsuspected isle in the far seas!320

Like a god going through his world, there stands

One mountain for a moment in the dusk,

Whole brotherhoods of cedars on its brow;

And you are ever by me while I gaze

-Are in my arms as now-as now-as now!325

Some unsuspected isle in the far seas!

Some unsuspected isle in far-off seas!

Talk by the way, while Pippa is passing from Orcana to the Turret. Two or three of the Austrian Police loitering with Bluphocks, an English vagabond, just in view of the Turret.

Bluphocks. So, that is your Pippa, the little girl who

passed us singing? Well, your Bishop's Intendant's

money shall be honestly earned:-now, don't make me

that sour face because I bring the Bishop's name into the

business; we know he can have nothing to do with such5

horrors; we know that he is a saint and all that a bishop

should be, who is a great man beside. Oh, were but every

worm a maggot, Every fly a grig, Every bough a Christmas

faggot, Every tune a jig! In fact, I have abjured all religions;

but the last I inclined to was the Armenian: for10

I have traveled, do you see, and at Koenigsberg, Prussia

Improper (so styled because there's a sort of bleak hungry

sun there), you might remark over a venerable house-porch

a certain Chaldee inscription; and brief as it is, a

mere glance at it used absolutely to change the mood of15

every bearded passenger. In they turned, one and all; the

young and lightsome, with no irreverent pause, the aged

and decrepit, with a sensible alacrity: 'twas the Grand

Rabbi's abode, in short. Struck with curiosity, I lost no

time in learning Syriac-(these are vowels, you dogs-follow20

my stick's end in the mud-Celarent, Darii, Ferio!)

and one morning presented myself, spelling-book in hand,

a, b, c-I picked it out letter by letter, and what was the

purport of this miraculous posy? Some cherished legend

of the past, you'll say-"How Moses hocus-pocussed25

Egypt's land with fly and locust"-or, "How to Jonah

sounded harshish, Get thee up and go to Tarshish"-or,

"How the angel meeting Balaam, Straight his ass returned

a salaam." In no wise! "Shackabrack-Boach-somebody

or other-Isaach, Re-cei-ver, Pur-cha-ser, and30

Ex-chan-ger of-Stolen Goods!" So, talk to me of the

religion of a bishop! I have renounced all bishops save

Bishop Beveridge-mean to live so-and die-As some

Greek dog-sage, dead and merry, Hellward bound in

Charon's wherry with food for both worlds, under and35

upper, Lupine-seed and Hecate's supper, and never an

obolus. (Though thanks to you, or this Intendant through

you, or this Bishop through his Intendant-I possess a

burning pocketful of zwanzigers) To pay Stygian Ferry!

1st Policeman. There is the girl, then; go and deserve40

them the moment you have pointed out to us Signor

Luigi and his mother. [To the rest.] I have been

noticing a house yonder, this long while-not a shutter

unclosed since morning!

2nd Policeman. Old Luca Gaddi's, that owns the silk-mills45

here: he dozes by the hour, wakes up, sighs deeply,

says he should like to be Prince Metternich, and then

dozes again, after having bidden young Sebald, the

foreigner, set his wife to playing draughts. Never

molest such a household; they mean well.50

Bluphocks. Only, cannot you tell me something of

this little Pippa I must have to do with? One could

make something of that name. Pippa-that is, short for

Felippa-rhyming to Panurge consults Hertrippa-Believest

thou, King Agrippa? Something might be done55

with that name.

2nd Policeman. Put into rhyme that your head and a

ripe muskmelon would not be dear at half a zwanziger!

Leave this fooling, and look out; the afternoon 's over

or nearly so.60

3rd Policeman. Where in this passport of Signor

Luigi does our Principal instruct you to watch him so

narrowly? There? What's there beside a simple signature?

(That English fool's busy watching.)

2nd Policeman. Flourish all round-"Put all possible65

obstacles in his way"; oblong dot at the end-"Detain

him till further advices reach you"; scratch at bottom-"Send

him back on pretense of some informality in the

above"; ink-spirt on right-hand side (which is the case

here)-"Arrest him at once." Why and wherefore, I70

don't concern myself, but my instructions amount to

this: if Signor Luigi leaves home tonight for Vienna-well

and good, the passport deposed with us for our

visa is really for his own use, they have misinformed the

Office, and he means well; but let him stay over tonight-there75

has been the pretense we suspect, the accounts of

his corresponding and holding intelligence with the Carbonari

are correct, we arrest him at once, tomorrow

comes Venice, and presently Spielberg. Bluphocks

makes the signal, sure enough! That is he, entering the80

turret with his mother, no doubt.


Scene.-Inside the Turret on the Hill above Asolo. Luigi and his Mother entering.

Mother. If there blew wind, you'd hear a long sigh, easing

The utmost heaviness of music's heart.

Luigi.Here in the archway?

Mother.Oh, no, no-in farther,

Where the echo is made, on the ridge.

Luigi.Here surely, then.

How plain the tap of my heel as I leaped up!5

Hark-"Lucius Junius!" The very ghost of a voice

Whose body is caught and kept by-what are those?

Mere withered wall flowers, waving overhead?

They seem an elvish group with thin bleached hair

That lean out of their topmost fortress-look10

And listen, mountain men, to what we say,

Hand under chin of each grave earthy face.

Up and show faces all of you!-"All of you!"

That's the king dwarf with the scarlet comb; old Franz,

Come down and meet your fate? Hark-"Meet your fate!"15

Mother. Let him not meet it, my Luigi-do not

Go to his City! Putting crime aside,

Half of these ills of Italy are feigned:

Your Pellicos and writers for effect,

Write for effect.20

Luigi.Hush! Say A writes, and B.

Mother. These A's and B's write for effect, I say.

Then, evil is in its nature loud, while good

Is silent; you hear each petty injury,

None of his virtues; he is old beside,

Quiet and kind, and densely stupid. Why25

Do A and B not kill him themselves?

Luigi.They teach

Others to kill him-me-and, if I fail,

Others to succeed; now, if A tried and failed,

I could not teach that: mine's the lesser task.

Mother, they visit night by night-

Mother.-You, Luigi?30

Ah, will you let me tell you what you are?

Luigi. Why not? Oh, the one thing you fear to hint,

You may assure yourself I say and say

Ever to myself! At times-nay, even as now

We sit-I think my mind is touched, suspect35

All is not sound; but is not knowing that

What constitutes one sane or otherwise?

I know I am thus-so, all is right again.

I laugh at myself as through the town I walk,

And see men merry as if no Italy40

Were suffering; then I ponder-"I am rich,

Young, healthy; why should this fact trouble me,

More than it troubles these?" But it does trouble.

No, trouble's a bad word; for as I walk

There's springing and melody and giddiness,45

And old quaint turns and passages of my youth,

Dreams long forgotten, little in themselves,

Return to me-whatever may amuse me,

And earth seems in a truce with me, and heaven

Accords with me, all things suspend their strife,50

The very cicala laughs, "There goes he, and there!

Feast him, the time is short; he is on his way

For the world's sake: feast him this once, our friend!"

And in return for all this, I can trip

Cheerfully up the scaffold-steps. I go55

This evening, mother!

Mother.But mistrust yourself-

Mistrust the judgment you pronounce on him!

Luigi. Oh, there I feel-am sure that I am right!

Mother. Mistrust your judgment, then, of the mere means

To this wild enterprise. Say you are right-60

How should one in your state e'er bring to pass

What would require a cool head, a cold heart,

And a calm hand? You never will escape.

Luigi. Escape? To even wish that would spoil all.

The dying is best part of it. Too much65

Have I enjoyed these fifteen years of mine,

To leave myself excuse for longer life:

Was not life pressed down, running o'er with joy,

That I might finish with it ere my fellows

Who, sparelier feasted, make a longer stay?70

I was put at the board-head, helped to all

At first; I rise up happy and content.

God must be glad one loves his world so much.

I can give news of earth to all the dead

Who ask me:-last year's sunsets, and great stars75

Which had a right to come first and see ebb

The crimson wave that drifts the sun away-

Those crescent moons with notched and burning rims

That strengthened into sharp fire, and there stood,

Impatient of the azure-and that day80

In March, a double rainbow stopped the storm-

May's warm, slow, yellow moonlit summer nights-

Gone are they, but I have them in my soul!

Mother. (He will not go!)

Luigi.You smile at me? 'Tis true-

Voluptuousness, grotesqueness, ghastliness,85

Environ my devotedness as quaintly

As round about some antique altar wreathe

The rose festoons, goats' horns, and oxen's skulls.

Mother. See now: you reach the city, you must cross

His threshold-how?

Luigi.Oh, that's if we conspired!90

Then would come pains in plenty, as you guess-

But guess not how the qualities most fit

For such an office, qualities I have,

Would little stead me, otherwise employed,

Yet prove of rarest merit only here.95

Everyone knows for what his excellence

Will serve, but no one ever will consider

For what his worst defect might serve; and yet

Have you not seen me range our coppice yonder

In search of a distorted ash?-I find100

The wry spoilt branch a natural perfect bow.

Fancy the thrice-sage, thrice-precautioned man

Arriving at the palace on my errand!

No, no! I have a handsome dress packed up-

White satin here, to set off my black hair;105

In I shall march-for you may watch your life out

Behind thick walls, make friends there to betray you;

More than one man spoils everything. March straight-

Only, no clumsy knife to fumble for.

Take the great gate, and walk (not saunter) on110

Through guards and guards-I have rehearsed it all

Inside the turret here a hundred times

Don't ask the way of whom you meet, observe!

But where they cluster thickliest is the door

Of doors; they'll let you pass-they'll never blab115

Each to the other, he knows not the favorite,

Whence he is bound and what's his business now.

Walk in-straight up to him; you have no knife:

Be prompt, how should he scream? Then, out with you!

Italy, Italy, my Italy!120

You're free, you're free! Oh, mother, I could dream

They got about me-Andrea from his exile,

Pier from his dungeon, Gualtier from his grave!

Mother. Well, you shall go. Yet seems this patriotism

The easiest virtue for a selfish man125

To acquire: he loves himself-and next, the world-

If he must love beyond-but naught between:

As a short-sighted man sees naught midway

His body and the sun above. But you

Are my adored Luigi, ever obedient130

To my least wish, and running o'er with love;

I could not call you cruel or unkind.

Once more, your ground for killing him!-then go!

Luigi. Now do you try me, or make sport of me?

How first the Austrians got these provinces-135

(If that is all, I'll satisfy you soon)

-Never by conquest but by cunning, for

That treaty whereby-


Luigi.(Sure, he's arrived,

The telltale cuckoo; spring's his confidant,

And he lets out her April purposes!)140

Or-better go at once to modern time,

He has-they have-in fact, I understand

But can't restate the matter; that's my boast:

Others could reason it out to you, and prove

Things they have made me feel.

Mother.Why go tonight?145

Morn's for adventure. Jupiter is now

A morning-star. I cannot hear you, Luigi!

Luigi. "I am the bright and morning-star," saith God-

And, "to such an one I give the morning-star."

The gift of the morning-star! Have I God's gift150

Of the morning-star?

Mother.Chiara will love to see

That Jupiter an evening-star next June.

Luigi. True, mother. Well for those who live through June!

Great noontides, thunder-storms, all glaring pomps

That triumph at the heels of June the god155

Leading his revel through our leafy world.

Yes, Chiara will be here.

Mother.In June: remember,

Yourself appointed that month for her coming.

Luigi. Was that low noise the echo?

Mother.The night-wind.

She must be grown-with her blue eyes upturned160

As if life were one long and sweet surprise:

In June she comes.

Luigi.We were to see together

The Titian at Treviso. There, again!

[From without is heard the voice of Pippa, singing-

A king lived long ago,

In the morning of the world,165

When earth was nigher heaven than now.

And the king's locks curled,

Disparting o'er a forehead full

As the milk-white space 'twixt horn and horn

Of some sacrificial bull-170

Only calm as a babe new-born:

For he was got to a sleepy mood,

So safe from all decrepitude,

Age with its bane, so sure gone by,

(The gods so loved him while he dreamed)175

That, having lived thus long, there seemed

No need the king should ever die.

Luigi. No need that sort of king should ever die!

Among the rocks his city was:

Before his palace, in the sun,180

He sat to see his people pass,

And judge them every one

From its threshold of smooth stone.

They haled him many a valley-thief

Caught in the sheep-pens, robber-chief185

Swarthy and shameless, beggar-cheat,

Spy-prowler, or rough pirate found

On the sea-sand left aground;

And sometimes clung about his feet,

With bleeding lid and burning cheek,190

A woman, bitterest wrong to speak

Of one with sullen thickset brows:

And sometimes from the prison-house

The angry priests a pale wretch brought,

Who through some chink had pushed and pressed195

On knees and elbows, belly and breast,

Worm-like into the temple-caught

He was by the very god,

Whoever in the darkness strode

Backward and forward, keeping watch200

O'er his brazen bowls, such rogues to catch!

These, all and everyone,

The king judged, sitting in the sun.

Luigi. That king should still judge sitting in the sun!

His councilors, on left and right,205

Looked anxious up-but no surprise

Disturbed the king's old smiling eyes,

Where the very blue had turned to white.

'Tis said, a Python scared one day

The breathless city, till he came,210

With forky tongue and eyes on flame,

Where the old king sat to judge alway;

But when he saw the sweepy hair

Girt with a crown of berries rare

Which the god will hardly give to wear215

To the maiden who singeth, dancing bare

In the altar-smoke by the pine-torch lights,

At his wondrous forest rites-

Seeing this, he did not dare

Approach that threshold in the sun,220

Assault the old king smiling there.

Such grace had kings when the world begun!

[Pippa passes.

Luigi. And such grace have they, now that the world ends!

The Python at the city, on the throne,

And brave men, God would crown for slaying him,225

Lurk in by-corners lest they fall his prey.

Are crowns yet to be won in this late time,

Which weakness makes me hesitate to reach?

Tis God's voice calls; how could I stay? Farewell!

Talk by the way, while Pippa is passing from the Turret to the Bishop's Brother's House, close to the Duomo S. Maria. Poor Girls sitting on the steps.

1st Girl. There goes a swallow to Venice-the stout seafarer!

Seeing those birds fly makes one wish for wings.

Let us all wish; you wish first!

2nd Girl.I? This sunset

To finish.

3rd Girl. That old-somebody I know,

Grayer and older than my grandfather,5

To give me the same treat he gave last week-

Feeding me on his knee with fig-peckers,

Lampreys and red Breganze-wine, and mumbling

The while some folly about how well I fare,

Let sit and eat my supper quietly:10

Since had he not himself been late this morning,

Detained at-never mind where-had he not-

"Eh, baggage, had I not!"-

2nd Girl.How she can lie!

3rd Girl. Look there-by the nails!

2nd Girl.What makes your fingers red?

3rd Girl. Dipping them into wine to write bad words with15

On the bright table: how he laughed!

1st Girl.My turn.

Spring's come and summer's coming. I would wear

A long loose gown, down to the feet and hands,

With plaits here, close about the throat, all day;

And all night lie, the cool long nights, in bed;20

And have new milk to drink, apples to eat,

Deuzans and junetings, leather-coats-ah, I should say,

This is away in the fields-miles!

3rd Girl.Say at once

You'd be at home-she'd always be at home!

Now comes the story of the farm among25

The cherry orchards, and how April snowed

White blossoms on her as she ran. Why, fool,

They've rubbed the chalk-mark out, how tall you were,

Twisted your starling's neck, broken his cage,

Made a dunghill of your garden!

1st Girl.They destroy30

My garden since I left them? Well-perhaps

I would have done so-so I hope they have!

A fig-tree curled out of our cottage wall;

They called it mine, I have forgotten why,

It must have been there long ere I was born:35

Cric-cric-I think I hear the wasps o'erhead

Pricking the papers strung to flutter there

And keep off birds in fruit-time-coarse long papers,

And the wasps eat them, prick them through and through.

3rd Girl. How her mouth twitches! Where was I?-before40

She broke in with her wishes and long gowns

And wasps-would I be such a fool!-Oh, here!

This is my way: I answer everyone

Who asks me why I make so much of him-

(If you say, "you love him"-straight "he'll not be gulled!")45

"He that seduced me when I was a girl

Thus high-had eyes like yours, or hair like yours,

Brown, red, white"-as the case may be; that pleases!

See how that beetle burnishes in the path!

There sparkles he along the dust; and, there-50

Your journey to that maize-tuft spoiled at least!

1st Girl. When I was young, they said if you killed one

Of those sunshiny beetles, that his friend

Up there would shine no more that day nor next.

2nd Girl. When you were young? Nor are you young, that's true.55

How your plump arms, that were, have dropped away!

Why, I can span them. Cecco beats you still?

No matter, so you keep your curious hair.

I wish they'd find a way to dye our hair

Your color-any lighter tint, indeed,60

Than black-the men say they are sick of black,

Black eyes, black hair!

4th Girl.Sick of yours, like enough.

Do you pretend you ever tasted lampreys

And ortolans? Giovita, of the palace,

Engaged (but there 's no trusting him) to slice me65

Polenta with a knife that had cut up

An ortolan.

2nd Girl. Why, there! Is not that Pippa

We are to talk to, under the window-quick!-

Where the lights are?

1st Girl.That she? No, or she would sing,

For the Intendant said-

3rd Girl.Oh, you sing first!70

Then, if she listens and comes close-I'll tell you-

Sing that song the young English noble made,

Who took you for the purest of the pure,

And meant to leave the world for you-what fun!

2nd Girl [sings].

You'll love me yet!-and I can tarry75

Your love's protracted growing:

June reared that bunch of flowers you carry,

From seeds of April's sowing.

I plant a heartful now: some seed

At least is sure to strike80

And yield-what you'll not pluck indeed,

Not love, but, may be, like.

You'll look at least on love's remains,

A grave's one violet:

Your look?-that pays a thousand pains.85

What's death? You'll love me yet!

3rd Girl [to Pippa, who approaches.] Oh, you may

come closer-we shall not eat you! Why, you seem the

very person that the great rich handsome Englishman has

fallen so violently in love with. I'll tell you all about it.90


Scene.-Inside the Palace by the Duomo. Monsignor, dismissing his Attendants.

Monsignor. Thanks, friends, many thanks! I chiefly

desire life now, that I may recompense every one of you.

Most I know something of already. What, a repast prepared?

Benedicto benedicatur-ugh, ugh! Where was

I? Oh, as you were remarking, Ugo, the weather is5

mild, very unlike winter weather; but I am a Sicilian, you

know, and shiver in your Julys here. To be sure, when

'twas full summer at Messina, as we priests used to cross

in procession the great square on Assumption Day, you

might see our thickest yellow tapers twist suddenly in10

two, each like a falling star, or sink down on themselves

in a gore of wax. But go, my friends, but go! [To the

Intendant.] Not you, Ugo! [The others leave the apartment.]

I have long wanted to converse with you, Ugo.

Intendant. Uguccio-15

Monsignor. ... 'guccio Stefani, man! of Ascoli,

Fermo and Fossombruno-what I do need instructing

about are these accounts of your administration of my

poor brother's affairs. Ugh! I shall never get through a

third part of your accounts; take some of these dainties20

before we attempt it, however. Are you bashful to that

degree? For me, a crust and water suffice.

Intendant. Do you choose this especial night to question


Monsignor. This night, Ugo. You have managed my25

late brother's affairs since the death of our elder brother

-fourteen years and a month, all but three days. On

the Third of December, I find him-

Intendant. If you have so intimate an acquaintance

with your brother's affairs, you will be tender of turning30

so far back: they will hardly bear looking into, so far back.

Monsignor. Aye, aye, ugh, ugh-nothing but disappointments

here below! I remark a considerable payment

made to yourself on this Third of December. Talk

of disappointments! There was a young fellow here,35

Jules, a foreign sculptor I did my utmost to advance, that

the Church might be a gainer by us both; he was going

on hopefully enough, and of a sudden he notifies to me

some marvelous change that has happened in his notions

of Art. Here's his letter: "He never had a clearly conceived40

Ideal within his brain till today. Yet since his hand

could manage a chisel, he has practiced expressing other

men's Ideals; and, in the very perfection he has attained

to, he foresees an ultimate failure: his unconscious hand

will pursue its prescribed course of old years, and will reproduce45

with a fatal expertness the ancient types, let the

novel one appear never so palpably to his spirit. There

is but one method of escape: confiding the virgin type to

as chaste a hand, he will turn painter instead of sculptor,

and paint, not carve, its characteristics"-strike out, I50

dare say, a school like Correggio: how think you, Ugo?

Intendant. Is Correggio a painter?

Monsignor. Foolish Jules! and yet, after all, why

foolish? He may-probably will-fail egregiously; but

if there should arise a new painter, will it not be in some55

such way, by a poet now, or a musician (spirits who have

conceived and perfected an Ideal through some other

channel), transferring it to this, and escaping our conventional

roads by pure ignorance of them; eh, Ugo? If

you have no appetite, talk at least, Ugo!60

Intendant. Sir, I can submit no longer to this course

of yours. First, you select the group of which I formed

one-next you thin it gradually-always retaining me

with your smile-and so do you proceed till you have

fairly got me alone with you between four stone walls.65

And now then? Let this farce, this chatter, end now;

what is it you want with me?

Monsignor. Ugo!

Intendant. From the instant you arrived, I felt your

smile on me as you questioned me about this and the70

other article in those papers-why your brother should

have given me this villa, that podere-and your nod at

the end meant-what?

Monsignor. Possibly that I wished for no loud talk

here. If once you set me coughing, Ugo!-75

Intendant. I have your brother's hand and seal to all I

possess: now ask me what for! what service I did him-ask me!

Monsignor. I would better not: I should rip up old

disgraces, let out my poor brother's weaknesses. By the80

way, Maffeo of Forli (which, I forgot to observe, is

your true name), was the interdict ever taken off you,

for robbing that church at Cesena?

Intendant. No, nor needs be; for when I murdered

your brother's friend, Pasquale, for him-85

Monsignor. Ah, he employed you in that business,

did he? Well, I must let you keep, as you say, this villa

and that podere, for fear the world should find out my

relations were of so indifferent a stamp? Maffeo, my family

is the oldest in Messina, and century after century90

have my progenitors gone on polluting themselves with

every wickedness under heaven: my own father-rest his

soul!-I have, I know, a chapel to support that it may

rest; my dear two dead brothers were-what you know

tolerably well; I, the youngest, might have rivaled them95

in vice, if not in wealth: but from my boyhood I came

out from among them, and so am not partaker of their

plagues. My glory springs from another source; or if

from this, by contrast only-for I, the bishop, am the

brother of your employers, Ugo. I hope to repair some100

of their wrong, however; so far as my brother's ill-gotten

treasure reverts to me, I can stop the consequences

of his crime-and not one soldo shall escape me. Maffeo,

the sword we quiet men spurn away, you shrewd knaves

pick up and commit murders with; what opportunities105

the virtuous forego, the villainous seize. Because, to

pleasure myself, apart from other considerations, my

food would be millet-cake, my dress sackcloth, and my

couch straw-am I therefore to let you, the offscouring

of the earth, seduce the poor and ignorant by appropriating110

a pomp these will be sure to think lessens the abominations

so unaccountably and exclusively associated with

it? Must I let villas and poderi go to you, a murderer

and thief, that you may beget by means of them other

murderers and thieves? No-if my cough would but115

allow me to speak!

Intendant. What am I to expect? You are going to punish me?

Monsignor. Must punish you, Maffeo. I cannot

afford to cast away a chance. I have whole centuries of

sin to redeem, and only a month or two of life to do it in.120

How should I dare to say-

Intendant. "Forgive us our trespasses"?

Monsignor. My friend, it is because I avow myself a

very worm, sinful beyond measure, that I reject a line of

conduct you would applaud perhaps. Shall I proceed,125

as it were, a-pardoning?-I?-who have no symptom

of reason to assume that aught less than my strenuousest

efforts will keep myself out of mortal sin, much less

keep others out. No: I do trespass, but will not double

that by allowing you to trespass.130

Intendant. And suppose the villas are not your

brother's to give, nor yours to take? Oh, you are hasty

enough just now!

Monsignor. 1, 2-No. 3!-aye, can you read the substance

of a letter, No. 3, I have received from Rome? It135

is precisely on the ground there mentioned, of the suspicion

I have that a certain child of my late elder brother, who

would have succeeded to his estates, was murdered in

infancy by you, Maffeo, at the instigation of my late

younger brother-that the Pontiff enjoins on me not140

merely the bringing that Maffeo to condign punishment,

but the taking all pains, as guardian of the infant's heritage

for the Church, to recover it parcel by parcel, howsoever,

whensoever, and wheresoever. While you are now

gnawing those fingers, the police are engaged in sealing145

up your papers, Maffeo, and the mere raising my voice

brings my people from the next room to dispose of yourself.

But I want you to confess quietly, and save me raising

my voice. Why, man, do I not know the old story?

The heir between the succeeding heir, and this heir's150

ruffianly instrument, and their complot's effect, and the

life of fear and bribes and ominous smiling silence? Did

you throttle or stab my brother's infant? Come now!

Intendant. So old a story, and tell it no better?

When did such an instrument ever produce such an155

effect? Either the child smiles in his face, or, most likely,

he is not fool enough to put himself in the employer's

power so thoroughly; the child is always ready to produce-as

you say-howsoever, wheresoever, and whensoever.

Monsignor. Liar!160

Intendant. Strike me? Ah, so might a father chastise!

I shall sleep soundly tonight at least, though the gallows

await me tomorrow; for what a life did I lead! Carlo of

Cesena reminds me of his connivance, every time I pay

his annuity; which happens commonly thrice a year. If I165

remonstrate, he will confess all to the good bishop-you!

Monsignor. I see through the trick, caitiff! I would

you spoke truth for once. All shall be sifted, however-seven

times sifted.

Intendant. And how my absurd riches encumbered170

me! I dared not lay claim to above half my possessions.

Let me but once unbosom myself, glorify Heaven, and die!

Sir, you are no brutal, dastardly idiot like your brother

I frightened to death: let us understand one another. Sir,

I will make away with her for you-the girl-here close175

at hand; not the stupid obvious kind of killing; do not

speak-know nothing of her nor of me! I see her every

day-saw her this morning. Of course there is to be no

killing; but at Rome the courtesans perish off every three

years, and I can entice her thither-have indeed begun180

operations already. There's a certain lusty, blue-eyed,

florid-complexioned English knave I and the Police employ

occasionally. You assent, I perceive-no, that's not

it-assent I do not say-but you will let me convert my

present havings and holdings into cash, and give me time185

to cross the Alps? Tis but a little black-eyed, pretty

singing Felippa, gay, silk-winding girl. I have kept her

out of harm's way up to this present; for I always intended

to make your life a plague to you with her. 'Tis

as well settled once and forever. Some women I have190

procured will pass Bluphocks, my handsome scoundrel,

off for somebody; and once Pippa entangled!-you

conceive? Through her singing? Is it a bargain?

[From without is heard the voice of Pippa, singing.

Overhead the tree-tops meet,

Flowers and grass spring 'neath one's feet;195

There was naught above me, naught below,

My childhood had not learned to know:

For, what are the voices of birds

-Aye, and of beasts-but words, our words,

Only so much more sweet?200

The knowledge of that with my life begun.

But I had so near made out the sun,

And counted your stars, the seven and one;

Like the fingers of my hand:

Nay, I could all but understand205

Wherefore through heaven the white moon ranges;

And just when out of her soft fifty changes

No unfamiliar face might overlook me-

Suddenly God took me.

[Pippa passes.

Monsignor [springing up]. My people-one and all-all-within210

there! Gag this villain-tie him hand and

foot! He dares-I know not half he dares-but

remove him-quick! Miserere mei, Domine! Quick, I say!

Scene.-Pippa's chamber again. She enters it.

The bee with his comb,

The mouse at her dray,

The grub in his tomb,

While winter away;

But the firefly and hedge-shrew and lobworm, I pray,5

How fare they?

Ha, ha, thanks for your counsel, my Zanze!

"Feast upon lampreys, quaff Breganze"-

The summer of life so easy to spend,

And care for tomorrow so soon put away!10

But winter hastens at summer's end,

And firefly, hedge-shrew, lobworm, pray,

How fare they?

No bidding me then to-what did Zanze say?

"Pare your nails pearlwise, get your small feet shoes15

More like"-what said she?-"and less like canoes!"

How pert that girl was!-would I be those pert,

Impudent, staring women! It had done me,

However, surely no such mighty hurt

To learn his name who passed that jest upon me:20

No foreigner, that I can recollect,

Came, as she says, a month since, to inspect

Our silk-mills-none with blue eyes and thick rings

Of raw-silk-colored hair, at all events.

Well, if old Luca keep his good intents,25

We shall do better, see what next year brings!

I may buy shoes, my Zanze, not appear

More destitute than you perhaps next year!

Bluph-something! I had caught the uncouth name

But for Monsignor's people's sudden clatter30

Above us-bound to spoil such idle chatter

As ours; it were indeed a serious matter

If silly talk like ours should put to shame

The pious man, the man devoid of blame,

The-ah, but-ah, but, all the same,35

No mere mortal has a right

To carry that exalted air;

Best people are not angels quite:

While-not the worst of people's doings scare

The devil; so there's that proud look to spare!40

Which is mere counsel to myself, mind! for

I have just been the holy Monsignor:

And I was you too, Luigi's gentle mother,

And you too, Luigi!-how that Luigi started

Out of the turret-doubtlessly departed45

On some good errand or another,

For he passed just now in a traveler's trim,

And the sullen company that prowled

About his path, I noticed, scowled

As if they had lost a prey in him.50

And I was Jules the sculptor's bride,

And I was Ottima beside,

And now what am I?-tired of fooling.

Day for folly, night for schooling!

New Year's day is over and spent,55

Ill or well, I must be content.

Even my lily's asleep, I vow:

Wake up-here's a friend I've plucked you!

Call this flower a heart's-ease now!

Something rare, let me instruct you,60

Is this, with petals triply swollen,

Three times spotted, thrice the pollen;

While the leaves and parts that witness

Old proportions and their fitness,

Here remain unchanged, unmoved now;65

Call this pampered thing improved now!

Suppose there's a king of the flowers

And a girl-show held in his bowers-

"Look ye, buds, this growth of ours,"

Says he, "Zanze from the Brenta,70

I have made her gorge polenta

Till both cheeks are near as bouncing

As her-name there's no pronouncing!

See this heightened color too,

For she swilled Breganze wine75

Till her nose turned deep carmine;

'Twas but white when wild she grew.

And only by this Zanze's eyes

Of which we could not change the size,

The magnitude of all achieved80

Otherwise, may be perceived."

Oh, what a drear, dark close to my poor day!

How could that red sun drop in that black cloud?

Ah, Pippa, morning's rule is moved away,

Dispensed with, never more to be allowed!85

Day's turn is over, now arrives the night's.

O lark, be day's apostle

To mavis, merle, and throstle,

Bid them their betters jostle

From day and its delights!90

But at night, brother owlet; over the woods,

Toll the world to thy chantry;

Sing to the bats' sleek sisterhoods

Full complines with gallantry:

Then, owls and bats,95

Cowls and twats,

Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods,

Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

[After she has began to undress herself.

Now, one thing I should like to really know:

How near I ever might approach all these100

I only fancied being, this long day-

Approach, I mean, so as to touch them, so

As to-in some way ... move them-if you please,

Do good or evil to them some slight way.

For instance, if I wind105

Silk tomorrow, my silk may bind

[Sitting on the bedside.

And border Ottima's cloak's hem.

Ah me, and my important part with them,

This morning's hymn half promised when I rose!

True in some sense or other, I suppose.110

[As she lies down.

God bless me! I can pray no more tonight.

No doubt, some way or other, hymns say right.

All service ranks the same with God-

With God, whose puppets, best and worst,

Are we; there is no last nor first.115

[She sleeps.

* * *



The poem Paracelsus is divided into five parts, each of which describes an important period in the experience of Paracelsus, the celebrated German-Swiss physician, alchemist, and philosopher of the sixteenth century. Book I tells of the eagerness and pride with which he set out in his youth to compass all knowledge; he believed himself commissioned of God to learn Truth and to give it to mankind. Books II and III show him followed and idolized by multitudes to whom he imparts the fragments of knowledge he has gained. But though these fragments seem to his disciples the sum and substance of wisdom, his own mind is preoccupied with a desolating certainty that he has hardly touched on the outer confines of truth. In Book IV, after experiencing the ingratitude of his fickle adherents, he is represented as abjuring the dreams of his youth. At this point comes the first of the three songs given in the text. He builds an imaginary altar on which he offers up the aspirations, the hopes, the plans, with which he had begun his career.

Song I

1-3. Cassia is an unidentified fragrant plant; the wood of the sandal tree is also fragrant; labdanum or ladanum, is a resinous gum of dark color and pungent odor, exuding from various species of the cistus, a plant found around the Mediterranean; aloe-balls are made from a bitter resinous juice extracted from the leaves of aloe-plants; nard is an ointment made from an aromatic plant and used in the East Indies. These substances have long been traditionally associated in literature. In Psalms xlv, 8 we read: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." Milton in Paradise Lost, v, 293, speaks of "flowering odors, cassia, nard, and balms."

4. Such balsam. The meaning of II. 4-8 is obscure. "Sea-side mountain pedestals" are presumably cliffs. In the tops of the trees on these cliffs the wind, weary of its rough work on the ocean, has gently dropped the fragrant things it has swept up from the island.

9-16. In this stanza the faint sweetness from the spices used in embalming, and the perfume still clinging to the tapestry in an ancient royal room carry suggestions of vanished power and beauty that add an appropriate pathos to the richly piled altar on which Paracelsus is to offer up the "lovely fancies" of his youth. "Shredded" is a transferred epithet, referring really to "arras," but transferred to the perfume of the arras.

Song II. (Book IV)

When Paracelsus confesses the failure of his pursuit of absolute knowledge, his friend Festus urges him to redeem the past by making new use of what he has gained; but Paracelsus has no courage to attempt a reorganization of his life in accordance with a new ideal. His answer to Festus is the second of the three songs. He afterwards calls it,

"The sad rhyme of the men who proudly clung

To their first fault and withered in their pride."

The song is a beautiful and clear allegory, vivid in its pictures, rapid and musical.

Song III. (Book V)

In Book V Paracelsus is described as lying ill in the Hospital of St. Sebastian. Festus is endeavoring to divert the current of his dying friend's fierce, delirious thoughts into a gentler channel. He brings up one picture after another of the early happy life of Paracelsus, and dwells on the grandeur of his mind and achievements, and on the fame that shall be his. But the desired peace comes only when Festus sings the song of the river Mayne beside which their youth had been spent. At the end of the song Paracelsus exclaims,

"My heart! they loose my heart, those simple words;

Its darkness passes which naught else could touch."

The Mayne, or Main, is the most important of the right-hand tributaries of the Rhine. Wurzburg, where Festus and Paracelsus had been as students, is on its banks. Its University was especially noted for its medical department. Mr. Stopford Brooke (The Poetry of Robert Browning, p. 99) says of this lovely lyric: "I have driven through that gracious country of low hill and dale and wide water-meadows, where under flowered banks only a foot high the slow river winds in gentleness; and this poem is steeped in the sentiment of the scenery. But, as before, Browning quickly slides away from the beauty of inanimate nature into a record of the animals that haunt the streams. He could not get on long with mountains and rivers alone. He must people them with breathing, feeling things; anything for life!"


These three, stirring songs represent the gay, reckless loyalty of the Cavaliers to the cause of King Charles I and their contempt for his Puritan opposers. The Puritans wore closely cropped hair; hence the Parliament which came together in 1640 and was controlled by the opponents of the King, is dubbed "crop-headed." John Pym and John Hampden were leaders in the struggle against the tyranny of the King. Hazelrig, Fiennes, and young Sir Henry Vane were also adherents of Oliver Cromwell. Rupert, Prince of the Palatinate, was a nephew of Charles I and was a noted cavalry leader on the royal side during the Civil War. The followers of the King unfurled the royal standard at Nottingham in August, 1642; Kentish Sir Byng raised a troop and hurried on to join the main royal army. In September occurred the battle of Edgehill. The "Noll" (l. 16 of "Give a Rouse") is Oliver Cromwell. The third song was entitled originally "My Wife Gertrude." It was she who held the castle of Brancepeth against the Roundheads.


This poem indignantly records a poet's defection from the cause of progress and liberty. Who this poet might be was for some time a matter of conjecture. Wordsworth, Southey, and Charles Kingsley, all of whom had gone from radicalism in their youth to conservatism in their old age, were severally proposed as the original of Browning's portrait. The poem was published in 1845, two years after Wordsworth was made poet laureate. Early in 1845 Wordsworth was presented at court, a proceeding which aroused comment-sometimes amused, sometimes indignant-from those who recalled the poet's early scorn of rank and titles. Browning and Miss Barrett exchanged several gay letters on this subject in May, 1845. In commenting on a letter from Miss Martineau describing Wordsworth in his home in 1846, Browning wrote, "Did not Shelley say long ago, 'He had no more imagination than a pint-pot'-though in those days he used to walk about France and Flanders like a man. Now, he is 'most comfortable in his worldly affairs' and just this comes of it! He lives the best twenty years of his life after the way of his own heart-and when one presses in to see the result of his rare experiment-what the one alchemist whom fortune has allowed to get all his coveted materials and set to work at last with fire and melting pot-what he produces after all the talk of him and the like of him; why, you get pulvis et cinis-a man at the mercy of the tongs and shovel." In later life, however, Browning spoke of Wordsworth in a different tone. In a letter to Mr. Grosart, written Feb. 24, 1875, he said, "I have been asked the question you now address me with, and as duly answered, I can't remember how many times. There is no sort of objection to one more assurance, or rather confession, on my part, that I did in my hasty youth presume to use the great and venerated personality of Wordsworth as a sort of painter's model; one from which this or the other particular feature may be selected and turned to account. Had I intended more-above all such a boldness as portraying the entire man-I should not have talked about 'handfuls of silver and bits of ribbon.' These never influenced the change of politics in the great poet-whose defection, nevertheless, accompanied as it was by a regular face-about of his special party, was, to my private apprehension, and even mature consideration, an event to deplore. But, just as in the tapestry on my wall I can recognize figures which have struck out a fancy, on occasion, that though truly enough thus derived, yet would be preposterous as a copy; so, though I dare not deny the original of my little poem, I altogether refuse to have it considered as the 'very effigies' of such a moral and intellectual superiority." For an interesting parallelism in theme, see Whittier's "Ichabod."

20. Whom. The reference is to the lower classes, whom the Liberals were endeavoring to rouse to aspiration and action. The Conservatives opposed such beginnings of independence.

29. Best fight on well. It is the deserting leader who is exhorted to fight well. Though it is pain to have him desert their party, they have gloried in his power and it would be an even greater pain to see him weak. They wish him to fight well even though their cause is thereby menaced.


This poem was written during Mr. Browning's first journey to Italy, in 1838. He sailed from London in a merchant vessel bound for Trieste, on which he found himself the only passenger. The weather was stormy and for the first fortnight Browning was extremely ill. As they passed through the straights of Gibraltar the captain supported him upon deck that he might not lose the sight. Of the Composition of the poem he says, "I wrote it under the bulwark of a vessel off the African coast, after I had been at sea long enough to appreciate even the fancy of a gallop on the back of a certain good horse 'York' there in my stable at home." The poem was written in pencil on the flyleaf of Bartoli's Simboli, a favorite book of his. Browning says that there was no sort of historical foundation for the story, but the Pacification of Ghent in 1576 has been suggested as an appropriate background. The incident narrated could naturally belong to the efforts of the united cities of Holland, Zealand, and the Southern Netherlands to combat the tyranny of Philip II.

6. Of this line Miss Barrett wrote: "It drew us out into the night as witnesses."

13. 'Twas moonset. The distance from Ghent to Aix is something over a hundred miles. The first horse gave out at Hasselt, about eighty miles from Ghent; the second horse failed at Dalhem in sight of Aix. Roland made the whole distance between midnight of one day and sunset of the next. The minute notes of time are for dramatic and picturesque effect rather than as exact indications of progress. Even the towns are not used with the exactness of a guide-book, for Looz and Tongres are off the direct route.

17. Mecheln. Flemish for Mechlin. The chimes they heard were probably from the cathedral tower.

41. Dome-spire. Over the polygonal monument founded by Charlemagne in Aix-la-Chapelle is a dome 104 feet high and 48 feet in diameter. The reference is probably to this dome.


This poem and "Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis," a companion poem, appeared in Hood's Magazine, July, 1844, under the title of "Garden Fancies." "The Flower's Name" is a description of a garden by a lover whose conception of its beauty is heightened and made vital by the memories it enshrines. Of this poem Miss Barrett wrote to Browning, "Then the 'Garden Fancies'-some of the stanzas about the name of the flower, with such exquisite music in them, and grace of every kind-and with that beautiful and musical use of the word 'meandering,' which I never remember having seen used in relation to sound before. It does to mate with your 'simmering quiet' in Sordello, which brings the summer air into the room as sure as you read it." (Letters of R. B. and E. B. B., I, 134.)

10. Box. An evergreen shrub, dwarf varieties of which are used for low hedges or the borders of flower-beds.


These poems were published originally simply as "Night" and "Morning." The second of these love lyrics is somewhat difficult to interpret. If the man is speaking, the "him" in l. 3 must refer to the sun. In any case, after the isolation with the woman he loved as described in the first poem, there comes with the morning a sense of the world of action to which the man must return. The two poems are fully discussed in Poet-Lore, Volume VII, April, May, June-July. The poems are noteworthy for the fusion of human emotion and natural scenery and for the startlingly specific phrasing of the first quatrain.


In this lyric are embodied Browning's faith in personal immortality, his belief in the permanence of true love and in the value of love though unrequited in this world.

34. What meant. From this point on through line 52 the lover repeats what he shall say to Evelyn Hope when in the life to come he claims her.


A man is on his way across the fields to a turret where he is to meet the girl he loves. As he walks through the solitary pastures he mentally recreates the powerful life and varied interests of the city which, tradition has it, once occupied this site, and he seems to be absorbed in a melancholy recognition of the evanescence of human glory. The girl is not mentioned till stanza 5. Does the emphasis on the scenery and its historic associations unduly minimize the love element of the poem? Or is the whole picture of vanished joy and woe, pride and defeat, but a background against which stands out more clearly the rapture of the meeting in the ruined turret?

80. Earth's returns. This phrase refers to the ruins which are all that now remains of the centuries of folly, noise, and sin. "Them" in l. 81 refers apparently to the "fighters" and the others of the first part of the stanza.


"It is an admirable piece of work crowded with keen descriptions of Nature in the Casentino, and of life in the streets of Florence. And every piece of description is so filled with the character of the 'Italian person of quality' who describes them-a petulant, humorous, easily angered, happy, observant, ignorant, poor gentleman-that Browning entirely disappears. The poem retains for us in its verse, and indeed in its light rhythm, the childlikeness, the na?veté, the simple pleasures, the ignorance and the honest boredom with the solitudes of Nature-of a whole class of Italians, not only of the time when it was written, but of the present day. It is a delightful, inventive piece of gay and pictorial humor." (Stopford Brooke, The Poetry of Browning, p. 322.)

33. Corn. In Great Britain the word is generally applied to wheat, rye, oats, and barley, not to maize as in America.

34. Stinking hemp. In Chapter I of James Lane Allen's The Reign of Law is the following passage on the odor of the hemp-field: "And now borne far through the steaming air floats an odor, balsamic, startling: the odor of those plumes and stalks and blossoms from which is exuding freely the narcotic resin of the great nettle." When the long swaths of cut hemp lies across the field, the smell is represented as strongest, "impregnating the clothing of the men, spreading far throughout the air." To many this odor is essentially unpleasant.

42. Pulcinello-trumpet. Pulcinello was originally the clown in the Neapolitan comedy. Later he became the Punch in Punch and Judy shows. The trumpet announces that one of these puppet plays is to be given in the public square.

43. Scene-picture. A picture advertising the new play.

44. Liberal thieves. Members of the liberal party, the party striving for Italian independence. The Person of Quality is, of course, of the aristocratic party.

47. A sonnet. Laudatory poetical tributes with ornamental borders were posted in public places as a method of doing homage. In this case the unknown "Reverend Don So-and-so" is ranked by his admirer with Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, the greatest Italian poets; with St. Jerome, one of the most celebrated Fathers of the Latin Church; with Cicero, one of the greatest of Roman orators; and with St. Paul, the greatest of Christian preachers.

51. Our Lady. The seven swords represent symbolically the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary, but this Person of Quality regards the gilt swords and the smart pink gowns merely as gay decorations. Religious processions of the sort described here and in lines 60-64 are frequent in European countries.

55. It's dear. According to the system of taxation in Italy, town dues must be paid on all provisions brought into the city.

60. Yellow candles. Used at funerals and in penitential processions in the Roman Church.


Mrs. Ireland says of this poem: "The Toccata as a form of composition is not the measured, deliberate working-out of some central musical theme as is the Sonata or sound-piece. The Toccata, in its early and pure form, possessed no decided subject, made such by repetition, but bore rather the form of a capricious Improvisation, or 'Impromptu.'" ("A Toccata of Galuppi's" by Mrs. Alexander Ireland, published in London Browning Society Papers.)

1. Galuppi. Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1784) was an Italian composer born near Venice. He spent many years in England and Russia. In 1768 he became organist at St. Mark's, Venice.

4. Your old music. At the sound of the music Browning imaginatively re-creates the Venetian social life of the eighteenth century.

6. St. Mark's. The great cathedral. The Doge of Venice used to throw a ring into the sea from the ship Bucentaur to "denote that the Adriatic was subject to the republic of Venice as a wife is subject to her husband."

8. Shylock's bridge. The Rialto, a bridge over the Grand Canal. It has two rows of shops under arcades.

18. Clavichord. An instrument with keys and strings, something like a piano.

19-30. The musical terms in these lines show Browning's knowledge of the technicalities of the art. To one without such expert knowledge the exact musical connotation is doubtless obscure. But the epithets and phrases are in themselves sufficient to suggest the varying moods of the Venetian merrymakers. The plaintiveness, the sighs, the sense of death, the trembling hope that life may last, the renewed love-making, the new round of futile pleasures or evil deeds, the end of it all in the grave, are clearly brought forth. An elaborate explanation of the musical terms is given in the notes to the Camberwell edition of Browning's poems.

31. But when I sit down to reason. The first thirty lines of the poem have recorded the effect of the music in re-creating in the poet's imagination the gay, careless life of eighteenth century Venice, and its close in death. Now when the poet endeavors to turn from that picture of death lurking under smiles, he finds that the cold music has filled his mind with an inescapable sense of the futility of life, and even his own chosen mental activities seem to him, along with the rest, hardly more than dust and ashes. Ambition and enthusiasm fade before the spell of the music.


3. Aloed arch. The genus aloe includes trees, shrubs, and herbs. The American variety is the century-plant. Browning's hill-side villa evidently had aloes trained to grow in an arch.

15. The startling bell-tower Giotto raised. Giotto began the Campanile in 1334, and after his death in 1337 the work was continued by Andrea Pisano. Its striking beauty impresses the poet as he looks out over the city. But it does more than that, for it rouses in him reflections on the progress and meaning of art.

17-24. The address to Giotto, thrown in here as it is with conversational freedom, is partially explained in lines 184-248. See note on l. 236.

30. By a gift God grants me. The power to re-create vividly and minutely the past. The artists of bygone centuries are called back by his imagination to their old haunts in Florence.

44. Stands One. The "one" (l. 44), "a lion" (l. 47), "the wronged great soul" (l. 48), and "the wronged great souls" (l. 58), all refer to the unappreciated early artists.

50. They. That is, the famous great artists such as Michael Angelo and Raphael. Critics "hum and buzz" around them with praise to which they are indifferent.

59. Where their work is all to do. Their place in the development of art is not yet understood. It must be made clear, Browning thinks, that painters like Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) come in natural succession from earlier obscure artists like Dello, that art is a real and continuous record of the human mind and heart.

67. The mastiff girns. When some influential critic snarls, all the imitative inferior critics take the same tone. Cf. Shelley's "Adonais," stanzas 28, 37, 38.

69. Stefano. A pupil of Giotto and called "Nature's ape" because his accurate representations of the human body.

72. Vasari. Author of Lives of the Most Eminent Painters and Sculptors. (Published 1550. Translated by Mrs. Foster in Bohn's Library.) In his studies of art Browning made constant use of this book.

76. Sic transit. Sic transit gloria mundi. "So passes away the glory of the world."

84. In fructu. "As fruit." The fruit of Greek art at its best was that it presented in marble ideally perfect human bodies.

98. Theseus. The kingly statue of the reclining Theseus in the frieze of the Parthenon.

99. Son of Priam. In the sculptures of ?sina, Paris, the son of Priam, kneeling and drawing his bow, has a grace beyond that of any man who might think to pose as a model.

101. Apollo. At Delphi Apollo slew an enormous python.

102. Niobe. Through the vengeance of Apollo and Diana, Niobe's seven sons and seven daughters were all slain. In the Imperial Gallery of Florence there is a statue of Niobe clasping her last child.

103. The Racer's frieze. In the Parthenon.

104. The dying Alexander. A piece of ancient Greek sculpture at Florence.

108. To submit is a mortal's duty. The supreme beauty of the statues led men to content themselves with admiration and imitation.

113. Growth came. New life came to art when men ceased to rest in the perfect achievement of the past, and found a new realm opened up to them in representing the subtler activities of the soul. Lines 145-152 state the ideals that actuated the new art. The reference is to the religious art of the Italian Renaissance.

115-144. These lines sum up the reasons for the importance of the art that strives "to bring the invisible full into play" (l. 150). It may be rough-hewn and faulty; but it is greater and grander than Greek art because of its greater range, variety, and complexity, and because it reaches beyond any possible present perfection into eternity.

134. Thy one work ... done at a stroke. Giotto when asked for a proof of his skill to send to the Pope, drew with one stroke of his brush a perfect circle, whence the proverb, "Rounder than the O of Giotto."

156. Quiddit. Quibble. The humorous rhyme "did it-quiddit" is but one of the many whimsical rhyming effects in the poem. The use of a light, semi-jocose form to give the greater emphasis to serious subject-matter is characteristic of Browning. Lowell in "A Fable for Critics" employs the same device.

161-176. Not Browning's usual attitude. Even this poem is a deification of progress through effort, not through repose.

178. Art's spring-birth. Nicolo the Pisan and Cimabue lived in the second half of the thirteenth century. From them to Ghiberti (1381-1455), who made the famous bronze doors of the Baptistry at Florence, and Ghirlandajo (1449-1494), a Florentine fresco painter, was a period in which Browning was especially interested. Mrs. Orr says that he owned pictures by all the artists mentioned here.

192. Italian quicklime. Many of the fine old Italian fresco paintings have been whitewashed over.

198. Dree. The pictures "endure" the doom of captivity. But they might be ferreted out if the ghosts of the old painters would only indicate where the lost works are.

201-224. He does not hope to get pictures of the famous Florentine painters, Bigordi (probably another name for Ghirlandajo), Sandro, Botticelli, Lippino (son of Fra Lippo Lippi), or Fra Angelico. But he might hope for better success in finding pieces by the obscure painters mentioned in lines 205-224. These painters are so described that we know concerning each one, some characteristic quality or work.

206. Intonaco. The plaster that forms the ground for fresco work.

214. Tempera. A pigment mixed with some vehicle soluble in water instead of with oil as in oil paintings.

218. Barret. A kind of cap.

230. Zeno. The founder of the sect of Stoics, and hence supposedly not stirred by "naked High Art."

232. Some clay-cold vile Carlino. Commercial dealers in art are unmoved by true beauty, but they go into ecstasies over uninspired work like that of Carlino. (Carlo Dólci, 1616-1686.)

236. A certain precious little tablet. Mr. Browning wrote to Professor Corson that this was a lost "Last Supper" praised by Vasari. The stanza in which this line occurs explains ll. 17-24.

237. Buonarroti. Michael Angelo.

241. San Spirito, etc. "Holy Spirit" and "All Saints," old churches in Florence.

244. Detur amanti. "Let it be given to the one who loves it."

245. Koh-i-noor. A famous Indian diamond presented to Queen Victoria in 1850.

246. Jewel of Giamschid. The splendid fabulous ruby of Sultan Giamschid, sometimes called "The Cup of the Sun" and "The Torch of Night." Byron ("The Giaour") says that the dark eyes of Leila were "bright as the jewel of Giamschid." The carbuncle of Giamschid is one of the treasures sought by the Caliph in Beckford's Caliph Vathek.

246. The Persian Sofi. The Sufi or Sofi is a title or surname of the Shah of Persia.

249. A certain dotard, etc. Radetsky (1766-1858) was in 1849-1857 governor of the Austrian possessions in Upper Italy. "The worse side of the Mont St. Gothard" is the Swiss side. "Morello" is a mountain near Florence. There had been frequent insurrections against Austria, but they had been fruitless. Browning prophesies the time when there shall be a great national council (a Witanagemot) by which, when Freedom has been restored to Florence, a new and vigorous Art shall be brought in. It will then be perceived that a monarchy nourishes the false and monstrous in art, and that "Pure Art" must come from the people.

258. The stone of Dante. The stone where Dante used to draw his chair out to sit. For this and other references in stanza XXXIV see Mrs. Browning's "Casa Guidi Windows," Part I. In this poem she suggests "a parliament of the lovers of Italy."

260. Quod videas ante-"Which you may have seen before."

263. Hated house. The poet hates the rule of the House of Lorraine, and prefers the days of the painter Orgagna, in the fourteenth century, when Italy was free.

273. Tuscan. The literary language of Italy and not given to superlatives such as are indicated by "issimo."

275. Cambuscan: a reference to "The Squire's Tale," left unfinished by Chaucer.

276. Alt to altissimo. "High to highest."

277. Beccaccia. A woodcock.

281. Shall I be alive. According to Giotto's plan the tower was to have had a spire fifty braccia or cubits (about 95 feet) high. This spire has never been built.


The whole phrase is De gustibus non disputandum-"there is no disputing about tastes." Browning is writing to a friend who prefers an English landscape while the poet himself declares in favor of Italy.

2. If our loves remain. If we have a life after death.

4. A cornfield. The picture is a field of wheat with red poppies scattered through the wheat.

23. Cypress. It is interesting to note how many of the trees, shrubs, flowers, and fruits in Browning's poems are those of southern Europe. His poetry of nature is almost as distinctively Italian as Tennyson's is English. "The Englishman in Italy" is especially rich in vivid, picturesque details of southern scenes.

36. Liver-wing. The right wing. The shot hit the king in the right arm.

37. Bourbon. Mr. and Mrs. Browning we

re rejoicing at any indications that the people of Italy were awake to revolt against the Bourbons. See Mrs. Browning's "Casa Guidi Windows" and "First News from Villa Franca" and Mr. Browning's "The Italian in England."

40. Queen Mary's saying. For two hundred years Calais had been one of England's most important possessions. It was taken by the French in 1588, the last year of the reign of Queen Mary. What Queen Mary said of Calais, Browning says of Italy.


Compare the sentiment of this poem with that of "De Gustibus-" written ten years later. In "Home Thoughts from Abroad" we have one of Browning's rare uses of the scenery of his own country.

14. That's the wise thrush. The power of these lines in presenting both the musical and the emotional quality of the bird's song is rivaled only by Wilson Flagg's "The Bobolink" (quoted in John Burroughs's Birds and Poets) and Wordsworth's "To the Cuckoo."


This poem and the preceding one express two phases of the poet's love of country; his affection for the physical beauty of England, and his pride in her political freedom. In the first poem, he turns, in thought, from the glowing color of Italy, to the more delicate loveliness of England in April; in the second poem, he longs to repay the service his country has rendered him in defeating foreign foes.

"Home-Thoughts from the Sea" was written at the same time and under the same circumstances as "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." The poet, aboard a vessel coasting along the shore of Africa, could see to the northwest the Portuguese Cape Vincent, near which, in 1797, England won a naval victory over Spain; southeast of Cape Vincent, on the Spanish coast, Cadiz Bay, where, in 1796, England defeated the second Spanish Armada; and southeast of Cadiz Bay, Cape Trafalgar, where, in 1805, Nelson won a famous victory over the allied fleets of France and Spain. To the northeast, the poet could see Gibraltar, the great fortress which England acquired from Spain by the Peace of Utrecht, 1713.


1. Abner. The cousin of Saul and the commander of his army. I Samuel xiv, 50.

9. Saul and the Spirit. For the conflict between Saul and the evil spirit, and the refreshment that came to him when David played, see I Samuel xvi, 14-23.

12. Gracious gold hair. For the personal appearance of David, see I Samuel xvi, 12, 18; xvii, 42.

12. Those lilies ... blue. Mrs. Coleridge wrote to Mr. Kenyon to know whether Mr. Browning had any authority for "blue lilies." Mr. Browning answered, "Lilies are of all colors in Palestine-one sort is particularized as white with a dark blue spot and streak-the water lily, lotus, which I think I meant, is blue altogether." (Letters of R. B. and E. B. B., i, 523, 556.)

31. The king-serpent. Probably the boa-constrictor. In poetry the characteristic most often attributed to a snake is malignancy. But in this picture of the serpent lying dormant and waiting for the sloughing of its old skin in the springtime, when it will come forth with new beauty and power, the idea presented is that of tremendous force temporarily in abeyance.

42. Then the tune. The boy, alone in the field, tries all sorts of experiments in musical attraction on the animals about him. Professor Albert S. Cook suggests that Browning is here indebted to the Greek pastoral romance of Daphnis and Chloe. See Smith's translation in the Bohn edition. The passages read in part as follows: "He ran through all variations of pastoral melody; he played the tune which the oxen obey, and which attracts the goats-that in which the sheep delight.

"He took his pipe from his scrip, and breathed into it very gently. The goats stood still, merely lifting up their heads. Next he played the pasture tune, upon which they all put down their heads and began to graze. Now he produced some notes soft and sweet in tone; at once his herd lay down. After this he piped in a sharp key, and they ran off to the woods as if a wolf were in sight." These quotations serve at least to show how old is the fancy that animals are affected by music.

60. The service enjoined on the men of the House of Levi is described in I Chronicles xxiii, 24-32.

65. Male-sapphires. The male sapphire exhibits, through some peculiarity of crystalline structure, a star of bright rays. It is also known as "the star sapphire" and "the asteriated sapphire." The ruby shows a clear red light at the center.

76. Locust-flesh. In Leviticus, Chapter xi, are given the laws concerning "what beasts may and what may not be eaten." See verse 22 for the rule about locusts. Cf. Matthew iii, 4 for the food of John the Baptist.

102. The cherubim chariot. The first chapter of Ezekiel seems to be the source of this picture.

105. Have ye seen, etc. The simile in lines 104-115 could have been written only by one familiar with mountain regions. Browning knew the Alps and Apennines. Did David at any time live in a mountainous country?

124. Slow pallid sunsets. Note the character of the similitudes so far used in describing Saul. In his agony he is like the king-serpent. His rage is like the earthquake that may tear open the rock but at the same time sets the gold free. His final release from the evil spirit is described by the sudden fall of the avalanche from the mountain summit. The look in his eyes as he comes back to life, yet seeing nothing in life to desire, is compared to pale autumn sunsets seen over the ocean, or to slow sunsets seen over a desolate hill country. All the figures contribute to our impression of Saul's power and majesty.

141. Since my days, etc. Compare this passage with Pippa Passes, Prologue, 104-113.

172. Carouse in the past. This line marks a change in the direction of David's thought. Up to stanza X it was the glorious past that he had been urging upon Saul's attention. But now he realizes that true inspiration comes not so much from a re-living of one's achievements, as from the thought of the permanence of one's fame and one's deeds.

192. And behold while I sang. At this point David is overcome by the memory of the sudden spiritual illumination that came to him in his interview with Saul. He had reached the summit of his endeavor (l. 191) and yet knew himself powerless to give the King new life. Then there flashed upon him the truth expressed in stanzas XVII-XIX. He breaks off in lines 192-205, going, in his strong feeling, ahead of his story and commenting on what is described in stanza XIX. In stanza XV he resumes his narrative.

204. Hebron. David watches the slow coming of the dawn over the hill on which is situated the town of Hebron.

205. Kidron. A brook near Jerusalem. It is fed by springs, and the amount of water in it is sensibly decreased by the extreme heat of the day.

214. Ere error had bent. In I Samuel, Chapter xv, is an account of Saul's disobedience and punishment. The choosing of Saul to be king is described in I Samuel, Chapters ix and x.

292. Sabaoth. The word means "hosts" and is ordinarily used in the phrase "The Lord of hosts." It represents the omnipotence of God.

303. Nor leave up nor down, etc. At the end of stanza xv, the thought that had come to David was that God had proved supreme in all the ways in which a human being could test knowledge and power, but that in the one way of love the creature might surpass the Creator. At line 302 he has come to believe in the infinitude of God's love as well as in the infinitude of His power. It is interesting to note that George Eliot in Silas Marner gives to ignorant Dolly Winthrop an experience and a philosophy of life almost identical with those of Browning's David.

307-312. A prophecy of the revelation of the divine in the human, the coming of God in the person of Christ. It is the human in the divine that men seek and love. In the Old Testament days such an idea, though foretold and longed for, could be but vaguely conceived except in moments of especial insight in the minds of poet-prophets like David. Mr. Herford (Robert Browning, p. 120) says of this passage:

"David is occupied with no speculative question, but with the practical problem of saving a ruined soul; and neither logical ingenuity nor divine suggestion, but the inherent spiritual significance of the situation, urges his thought along the lonely path of prophecy. The love for the old King, which prompted him to try all the hidden paths of his soul in quest of healing, becomes a lighted torch by which he tracks out the meaning of the world and the still unrevealed purposes of God; until the energy of thought culminates in vision and the Christ stands full before his eyes."

313-335. In this stanza David represents all existences, good and evil spirits, all animals, all forms of nature, as stirred by the great news of the future manifestation of the love of God as shown in Christ.


A love lyric generally supposed to refer to Mrs. Browning.

4. The angled spar. A prism. In looking at a prism the colors one sees are determined by the point of view. The idea of the poem is amplified in "One Word More," stanzas xvi-xviii.


The Campagna, a plain around the city of Rome, was in ancient times the seat of many cities; it is now dotted with ruins. "There is a solemnity and beauty about the Campagna entirely its own. To the reflective mind, this ghost of old Rome is full of suggestion; its vast, almost limitless extent as it seems to the traveler; its abundant herbage and floral wealth in early spring; its desolation, its crumbling monuments, and its evidences of a vanished civilization, fill the mind with a sweet sadness, which readily awakens the longing for the infinite spoken of in the poem." (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 553.)

6. I touched a thought. The elusive thought which he fancifully pursues from point to point in the surrounding landscape finds statement in lines 34-60. Of these lines Sharp (Life of Browning, p. 159) says, "There is a gulf which not the profoundest search can fathom, which not the strongest-winged love can overreach: the gulf of individuality. It is those who have loved most deeply who recognize most acutely this always pathetic and often terrifying isolation of the soul. None save the weak can believe in the absolute union of two spirits ... No man, no poet assuredly, could love as Browning loved, and fail to be aware, often with vague anger and bitterness, no doubt, of this insuperable isolation even when spirit seemed to leap to spirit, in the touch of a kiss, in the evanishing sigh of some one or other exquisite moment."


"Another poem of waiting love is 'In Three Days.' And this has the spirit of a true love lyric in it. It reads like a personal thing; it breathes exaltation; it is quick, hurried, and thrilled. The delicate fears of chance and changes in the three days, or in the years to come, belong of right and nature to the waiting, and are subtly varied and condensed. It is, however, the thoughtful love of a man who can be metaphysical in love." (Stopford Brooke, The Poetry of Robert Browning, p. 253.)


Fano. This poem was written in the summer of 1848 after a visit of three days at Fano. It is addressed to Alfred Domett, one of Browning's warm friends, who was at that time in New Zealand on the Wairoa River. For a vivid description of him see Browning's "Waring." The picture at Fano, the details of which are fully brought out in the poem, has been reproduced in Illustrations to Browning's Poems, Part I, published by the Browning Society. Mrs. Browning (Letters i, 380) speaks of it as "a divine picture of Guercino's worth going all that way to see."

6. Another child for tending. With a longing for guidance and protection Browning imagines himself as a child under the guardianship of the angel.

16. Like that child. The child in the picture looks into the heavens. Browning would look only at the gracious face of the angel.

46. My angel. Cf. "My love," l. 54. Both refer to Mrs. Browning.


Pauline (1832) has many references to Shelley; note especially lines 151-229; 1020-1031. Browning's "Essay on Shelley" appeared in 1852. "Memorabilia" was composed in 1853-4.

18-28. That later in life Browning "came to think unfavorably of Shelley as a man and to esteem him less highly as a poet" is shown by a letter written to Dr. Furnivall: "For myself I painfully contrast my notions of Shelley the man and Shelley, well, even the poet, with what they were sixty years ago." (Quoted by Mr. Dowden: Robert Browning, p. 10.) Mr. Browning declined an invitation to be president of the Shelley Society. For a discussion of Shelley's influence on Browning see Poet-Lore, Volume VII, January, 1895.


Ratisbon, a city of Bavaria, was stormed by Napoleon in 1809. The story told in the poem is a true one, but its hero was a man, not a boy.


The original title in Dramatic Lyrics, 1842, was "Italy." It is a poem of the Italian Renaissance. Frà Pandolf and Claus of Innsbruck are, however, imaginary artists.


There is no known original for the story of Theocrite, but it is in accord with the Roman Catholic belief that angels watch over human beings and are interested in their affairs. In the last line is the fundamental lesson of the poem. Compare the thought of Pippa in the song "All service ranks the same with God." See Leigh Hunt's "King Robert of Sicily" (in A Jar of Honey, ch. vi.) and Longfellow's "King Robert of Sicily" (in Tales of a Wayside Inn) for an analogous legend.


This poem was written to amuse little Willie Macready who was ill and wished a poem for which he could make illustrations. There are many legends that deal with the refusal of a reward promised to a magician for some stipulated service. Mr. Berdoe (Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 339) says that the story given here is based on an account by Verstegan in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (1634). Verstegan gives "Bunting" as the name of the piper; the town, as Hamelin in Brunswick on the Weser; and the mountain into which the children were led as the K?ppenberg.


When Mr. Browning was little more than a child he heard a woman one Guy Fawkes's Day sing, in the street a strange song whose burden was "Following the Queen of the Gypsies, O!" The singular refrain haunted his memory for many years, and out of it was ultimately born this poem.

6-31. The Duke's medieval castle was apparently in Northern Germany, near the sea.

78. Rough-foot merlin. A species of hawk formerly trained to pursue other birds and game. A "falcon-lanner" is a long-tailed hawk. The word, when used in falconry, is restricted to the female hawk, which is larger than the male.

101. Struck at himself. Amazed at his own importance.

130. Urochs. The aurochs, the European bison, a species nearly extinct but preserved in the forests of Lithuania and the Caucasus. The "buffle" is the buffalo.

135-153. Compare this lady with the one in "My Last Duchess."

216. Well, early in autumn. In writing "The Flight of the Duchess" Browning was interrupted by a friend on some important business which temporarily drove the story out of the poet's mind. Some months after the publication of the first part in Hood's Magazine, April, 1845, he was staying at Bettisfield Park in Shropshire when someone in commenting on the early approach of winter said that already the deer had to break the ice in the pond. This chance phrase roused the poet's fancy, and when he returned home he completed his poem.

238. St. Hubert. Before his conversion St. Hubert had been passionately fond of hunting; hence he became the patron saint of hunters.

240-247. "The jerkin" or short coat; the "trunk-hose," or full breeches extending from the waist to the middle of the thigh; the big rimless hats with broad projections back and front and highly ornamented, were medieval articles of attire revived by the Duke for his "Middle Age" hunting party.

249. Venerers, Prickers, and Verderers are ancient names for huntsmen, horsemen, and preservers of venison.

263. Horns wind a mort. Horns announce the death of the stag; "at siege" probably means "brought to the appointed station." Possibly it means "at bay," in which case "wind a mort" must mean "announce that the death of the stag is imminent."

264. Prick forth. Spur her horse forth. She was to ride a jennet, a small Spanish horse known in the Middle Ages.

315. Quince-tinct. Tincture of quince was used as a cosmetic.

322. Fifty-part canon. "Mr. Browning explained that a 'canon, in music, is a piece wherein the subject is repeated in various keys, and being strictly obeyed in the repetition, becomes the canon, the imperative law to what follows.' Fifty of such parts would be indeed a notable peal; to manage three is enough of an achievement for a good musician." Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia: page 180.

480. The band-roll. Her head was ornamented with a band on which were strung Persian coins.

533. Gor-crow's flappers. Wings of carrion crow.

581. Like the spots. Effects of phosphorescence.

845. I have seen my little lady. It is not clear where or when he saw her. Possibly he refers only to his revived memory of her.

852. And ... floats me. This construction is what is known as the "ethical dative." The old servant merely says in jocose fashion that telling his story has made his blood course more rapidly and freely.


The Revival of Learning. The Revival of Learning, or the Renaissance, began as early as the tenth century. Its period of most rapid progress was from the twelfth century to the fifteenth. One phase of the interest in the revival of learning was the effort to restore Latin to its ancient purity. The word "grammarian" was more widely inclusive than now, meaning one who devoted himself to general learning. Of this poem Dr. Burton in "Renaissance Pictures in Browning" (Poet-Lore, Vol. x, pp. 60-76, No. 1, 1898) says: "I know of no lyric of the poet's more representative of his peculiar and virile strength than this, in that it makes vibrant and thoroughly emotional an apparently unemotional theme. In relation to the Renaissance, the revival of learning, the moral is the higher inspiration derived from the new wine of the classics, so that what in later times has cooled down too often to a dry-as-dust study of the husks of knowledge is shown to be, at the start, a veritable reveling in the delights of the fruit."

Mr. Stopford Brooke in The Poetry of Browning, p. 155, says, "This is the artist at work, and I doubt whether all the laborious prose written, in history and criticism, on the revival of learning, will ever express better than this short poem the inexhaustible thirst of the Renaissance in its pursuit of knowledge, or the enthusiasm of the pupils of a New Scholar for his desperate strife to know in a short life the very center of the universe."

3. Leave we the common crofts. As the procession starts up the hill they leave behind them the small farms and little villages of the plain.

8. Rock-row. Day is just breaking over the rocky summits of the mountains.

9. There, man's thought. The smoking crater of a volcano, described as a censer from which rise the fumes of incense, portends an outbreak of subterranean fire. The speaker fancifully considers this an appropriate spot in which to bury the scholar whose passionate eagerness of thought chafed continually against the bounds of custom and ignorance and human weakness.

14. Sepulture. Pronounced here, sepúlture. A burial place or tomb.

25. Step to a tune. Here and in various other places, as lines 41, 73, 76, etc., are directions to the pallbearers.

34. Lyric Apollo. The god Apollo was the ideal of manly beauty. The Grammarian was, it seems, endowed with rare charm of face and form.

35. Long he lived nameless. Youth had passed before the Grammarian really entered upon his quest for knowledge. But he did not despair. His vanishing of youth was but a signal to "leave play for work."

45. Grappled with the world. The world of knowledge, especially ancient learning, which was recovered slowly and with difficulty.

49. Theirs. He wishes to study the "shaping" or writings of poets and sages.

50. Gowned. Put on the scholastic gown.

64. Queasy. Sick at the stomach. He could not get knowledge enough to make him feel a distaste for it.

65-68. "It" in l. 66 refers to l. 67. The "it" in l. 68 refers to "such a life," l. 65.

70. Fancy the fabric. Under the figure of making a complete plan before beginning to build a house, he describes the Grammarian's purpose to know the whole scheme of life before he lived out any part of it.

86. Calculus and tussis (l. 88) are diseases, the stone and bronchitis, that attacked him.

95. Soul-hydroptic. "Hydroptic" is a rare word for "thirsty."

103. God's task, etc. He neglected the body, magnified the mind, and believed that the full realization of his aspirations would come in "the heavenly period."

113. That low man. This comparison between the "low man" and the "high man" could be effectively illustrated from "Andrea del Sarto." Andrea is the "low man" who with his skillful hand "goes on adding one to one" till he attains his "hundred," or excellence of technique. But the other painters, the ones with the "truer light of God" in them, reach the heaven above and take their place there although what they see transcends the power of their art to tell. They miss the "unit" of an adequate technique, but they gain the "million" of spiritual insight.

129. Hoti ... Oun ... De. Points in Greek grammar concerning which there was much learned discussion.


Mrs. Orr (Handbook of Browning's Works, p. 274) says of this poem: "We can connect no idea of definite pursuit or attainment with a series of facts so dream-like and so disjointed: still less extract from it a definite moral; and we are reduced to taking the poem as a simple work of fancy, built up of picturesque impressions which have, separately or collectively, produced themselves in the author's mind." And she adds in a note: "I may venture to state that these picturesque materials included a tower which Mr. Browning once saw in the Carrara Mountains, a painting which caught his eye years later in Paris; and the figure of a horse in the tapestry in his own drawing-room-welded together in the remembrance of the line from 'King Lear,' which forms the heading of the poem." The possible allegorical signification of the poem has been the subject of much, and often of singularly futile discussion. Dr. Furnivall said he had asked Browning if it was an allegory, and in answer had on three separate occasions received an emphatic statement that it was simply a dramatic creation called forth by a line of Shakspere's. (Porter-Clarke, Study Programmes, p. 406.) Yet allegorical interpretations continue to be made. According to one line of interpretation the pilgrim is a "truth-seeker, misdirected by the lying spirit" (the hoary cripple), and when he blows the slug-horn it is as a warning to others that he has failed in his quest, and that the way to the dark tower is the way of destruction and death. (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 105) According to other readings of the tale the blast which the pilgrim blows at the end of his quest is one of "spiritual victory and incitement to others." When the Rev. John S. Chadwick visited the poet and asked him if constancy to an ideal-"He that endureth to the end shall be saved"-was not a sufficient understanding of the central purpose of the poem, Browning said: "Yes, just about that." With constancy to an ideal as the central purpose, the details of this poem, without being minutely interpreted, may yet serve as a representation of the depression, the hopelessness, the dullness and deadness of soul, the doubt and terror even of the man who travels the last stages of a difficult journey to a long-sought but unknown goal. His victory consists in the unfaltering persistence of his search. The "squat tower," when he reaches it, is prosaic and ugly, but finding it is after all not the essential point. The essential element of his success is that, encircled by the last temptations to despair, he holds heart and brain steady, and carries out his quest to its last detail. (See an article in The Critic, May 3, 1886, by Mr. Arlo Bates, in opposition to any definite allegory. Mr. Nettleship in Robert Browning [p. 89] devotes a chapter to a paraphrase and an allegorical explanation.)

Mr. Herford (Life of Browning, p. 94) calls the poem "a great romantic legend" and emphasizes its intensity and boldness of invention. He compares its "horror-world" with that of Coleridge in "The Ancient Mariner." "What 'The Ancient Mariner' is in the poetry of the mysterious terrors and splendors of the sea, that 'Childe Roland' is in the poetry of bodeful horror, of haunted desolation, of waste and plague, ragged distortion, and rotting ugliness in landscape. The Childe, like the Mariner, advances through an atmosphere and scenery of steadily gathering menace."

Mr. Chesterton says of the scenery: "It is ... the poetry of the shabby and hungry aspect of the earth itself. Daring poets who wished to escape from the conventional gardens and orchards had long been in the habit of celebrating the poetry of rugged and gloomy landscapes, but Browning is not content with this. He insists on celebrating the poetry of mean landscapes. That sense of scrubbiness in nature, as of a man unshaved, had never been conveyed with this enthusiasm and primeval gusto before." (Robert Browning, p. 159.)


This poem is the story of an obscure poet in the Spanish city of Valladolid. It brings out his actual life and the townfolk's misinterpretations of it. Reports multiply upon themselves and take new meanings till the harmless poet is generally accounted the King's spy and the real agent of all royal edicts, the town's master, in fact. The interest which, as a poet, he takes in all manifestations of life is popularly supposed to be the alertness of a secret agent of the government. The reams of poetry he writes are transformed into letters of information to the King. Rumor translates the poet's perfectly decent, regular, meager life into secret sybaritic extravagances.

7. Though none did. His suit had once been fashionable, but, though still serviceable, was of a sort no longer worn by his fellow townsmen.

25. The coffee-roaster's brazier. The coffee is roasted in a dish that is made to revolve over the coals in an open pan or basin.

74. Beyond the Jewry. Beyond the Jew's quarter, a squalid portion of the city.

90. The Corregidor. The Spanish title for a magistrate.

104. Here had been. The poet, misconceived by his generation, poor, and lonely, has yet a great spiritual personality. Men see the old coat. God, the King for whom he works, sees his real nature; hence heavenly guards attend when this man comes to die.

115. The Prado. The chief fashionable promenade of Madrid.


Fra Lippo Lippi was born in Florence in 1406. See Vasari's Lives of the Painters for the account of his life on which Browning based his poem. (Vasari's account is quoted in Cooke's Browning Guide Book.)

2. You need not clap your torches. Throughout this lively dramatic monologue it is important to mark every indication of the words or gestures of the auditors; for instance, in lines 13, 18, 26, etc.

7. The Carmine. Fra Lippo Lippi's entrance into the monastery of the friars del Carmine and his education there are described later in the poem. He lived there till he was twenty-six. He had no vocation for the life of a monk and wished to devote himself to painting. He apparently left the monastery on good terms with the friars.

17. Master-a Cosimo of the Medici. Cosimo de Medici (1389-1464) was a rich Florentine banker and statesman. He was a magnificent patron of art and literature. The old Medici palace (l. 17), now known as Palazzo Riccardi, is on the corner of the Via Cavour and the Via Gori. The church of San Lorenzo (the "Saint Laurence" of l. 67) is a short distance farther west on the Via Gori.

22. Pick up a manner. The painter protests against the rough usage to which he has been subjected.

23. Zooks. An interjection formerly written "gadzooks." Pilchards are a common cheap fish of the Mediterranean and are taken in seines.

28. Quarter-florin. The florin was a gold coin of Florence. It was first struck off in the twelfth century and was called a florin because it had a flower stamped on one side.

31. I'd like his face. The painter cannot look upon the crowd of men about him without seeing faces he would like to draw. One man would do as a model for Judas. Another would do well in a picture Fra Lippo's imagination quickly conjures up of a slave holding the head of John the Baptist by the hair. In Fra Lippo's real picture of the beheading of John the Baptist the head is brought in by Salome, the daughter of Herodias, on a great platter.

46. Carnival. The days preceding Lent. A period marked by much gaiety, street revelry, masking, etc.

53. Flower o' the broom. These flower songs, called stornelli, are improvised by the peasants at their work. "The stornelli consists of three lines. The first line usually contains the name of a flower which sets the rhyme and is five syllables long. Then the love theme is told in two lines of eleven syllables each, agreeing by rhyme, assonance, or repetition with the first." (Porter and Clarke note in Camberwell Edition.) Browning does not follow the model strictly.

73. Jerome. St. Jerome was one of the Fathers of the Christian Church. During a part of his early life he was given up to worldly pleasures, and for this he did penance by living for a number of years in a cave in a desert region. The penitent St. Jerome was a popular devotional subject in early Christian art. "The scene is generally a wild rocky solitude; St. Jerome, half-naked, emaciated, with matted hair and beard, is seen on his knees before a crucifix, beating his breast with a stone." (Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, i, 308.)

80. What am I a beast for? If you had happened, says Fra Lippo, to catch Cosimo in a frolic like this, of course you would have said nothing; but you think a monk is a beast if he indulges in these nocturnal pleasures. Yet why should the fact that I break monastic rules make you consider me a beast? Just let me tell you how I happened to become a monk.

83. I starved there. Note the vivid picture of the life of a street gamin here and in lines 112-126.

88. Aunt Lapaccia. Vasari says, "The child was for some time under the care of a certain Mona Lapaccia, his aunt, who brought him up with very great difficulty till he had attained his eighth year, when, being no longer able to support the burden of his maintenance, she placed him in the above-named convent of the Carmelites." "Trussed," means "firmly seized."

117. Which gentlemen, etc. Gentlemen clad in fine ecclesiastical robes walk in the religious procession and carry tall wax candles or torches; the drippings from these candles the street-urchin wishes to catch in order to sell them again, but it is against the law, and the fine gentlemen if not kindly disposed may call in the magistrates ("The Eight") and have the boy whipped.

130. The antiphonary's marge. He scrawled his sketches on the margins of the book used by the choir, and he made faces out of the notes, which were then square with long stems.

139. We Carmelites. The three orders of monks, the Carmelites, the Camaldolese, and the Dominicans (called "Preaching Brothers" by Pope Innocent III) owned various monasteries and churches, and were each ambitious to possess the greatest sacred paintings.

145-163. These lines describe the different figures painted on the wall by Fra Lippo when the prior bade him "daub away." The monks dressed in black or white according to the garb of their orders; the old women waiting to confess small thefts; the row of admiring little children gazing at a bearded fellow, a murderer who, still breathing hard with the run that has brought him in safety to the altar steps, defies the "white anger" of his victim's son, who has followed him into the church; the girl who loves the brute of a murderer, and brings him flowers, food, and her earrings to aid him when he shall escape-all these are painted on the wall. Then the young artist took down the ladder by means of which he had reached the bit of cloister-wall where he had been recording his observations of life, and called the monks to see.

156. Whose sad face. The purpose of Christ's suffering ("passion") on the cross was to bring love into the world, but after a thousand years of his teaching his image looks down upon theft, anger, murder.

172. My triumph's straw-fire. Lippo's triumph was as short-lived as a fire of straw. The monks were delighted with the realism of the painting, but when the Prior and the critics came they declared that such "homage to the perishable clay" was a mere "devil's game." The business of the painter, they said, was to ignore the body and paint the soul.

184. Man's soul. Note the difficulty the Prior experiences when he tries to describe the "soul" he wishes the artist to paint. Lines 185-186 represent an old superstition.

189-198. In contrast to the homely realism of Fra Lippo's picture of ordinary people are the idealism, the religious symbolism, of the pictures of Giotto, a painter a century and a half earlier than Fra Lippo, and the greatest master of the early school of Italian art.

198-214. An exposition of Fra Lippo's idea of painting. He says that it is nonsense to ignore the body in order to make the soul pre?minent, that the painter should go a "double step" and paint both body and soul. He may make the face of a girl as lovely and life-like as possible, and at the same time show her soul in her face.

215-220. A defense of the value of beauty for its own sake. Cf. Keats, "Ode to a Grecian Urn," and the beginning of his "Endymion." Fra Lippo Lippi has been long out of convent limitations, but he cannot forget how certain the monks were that he had chosen the wrong path, and that he could never equal the great painter, Fra Angelico (1389-1455), who, kneeling in adoration, painted lovely saints and angels, nor even Lorenzo Monaca, a Florentine painter with the same tendencies as Angelico.

257. Out at grass. Grass in this passage stands for enjoyment of life as opposed to asceticism.

276. Guidi. Tommaso Guidi, ordinarily known as Masaccio, or Tomassacio, Slovenly or Hulking Tom. Browning followed good authority in making Masaccio a pupil of Fra Lippo Lippi, but in point of fact he was probably the master whose works Fra Lippo studied. Lübke (History of Art ii, 207) says of Guidi: "In his exceedingly short life he rapidly traversed the various stages of development of earlier art, and pressed on with a bold confidence to a greatness and power of vision which have rendered his works the characteristic ones of an epoch, and his example a decisive influence in all the art of the fifteenth century.... Almost every master in the fifteenth century ... studied these great works and learned from them. One of the first of these masters was Fra Lippo Lippi." The important point is that Fra Lippo and Masaccio were both pioneers in the new art which took infinite pains in the representation of the body. Masaccio is said to have been the first Italian artist to paint a nude figure.

323. A Saint Laurence ... at Prato. Prato a town near Florence, attracted many artists in the fifteenth century, so that one finds there many specimens of Early Renaissance painting. Some of the most important of Fra Lippo Lippi's large works are in the Cathedral at Prato.

326-334. The people have been so enraged at the slaves who are pictured as assisting in the martyrdom of St. Laurence that the faces of these slaves have been scratched from the wall. The monks think the picture a huge success because it has thus roused religious zeal.

339. Chianti wine. A famous wine named from Chianti, a mountain group near Siena, Italy.

346. Sant Ambrogio's. The picture described here is the "Coronation of the Virgin" now in the Accademia delle Belle Arti of Florence. Sant' Ambrogio is a Florentine church named after St. Ambrose, a Bishop of Milan.

354. St. John. The Baptist. Note the reference to camel's hair raiment in l. 375. The Battistero, the original cathedral of Florence, was dedicated to John the Baptist. Some say the reliefs on one of its famous bronze doors represent scenes from his life. To this church all children born in Florence are brought to be baptized.

357. Job. See Job i, 1.

360. Up shall come. Artists not infrequently painted their own portraits in their pictures. In the "Coronation of the Virgin" Fra Lippo's round tonsured head is seen in the lower right hand corner.

377. Iste perfecit opus. "This one did the work."

381. Hot cockles. An old English game in which a blind-folded player tries to guess the names of those who touch or strike him.


Andrea del Sarto's father was a tailor (Sarto) and so the son was nicknamed "The Tailor's Andrew." He was born in 1486. His first paintings were seven frescoes in the Church of the Annunziata in Florence. They were "marvelous productions for a youth who was little over twenty, and remain Andrea's most charming and attractive works." (Julia Cartwright, The Painters of Florence.) Algernon Charles Swinburne in Essays and Studies ("Notes and Designs on the Old Masters at Florence") says of Andrea's early paintings in comparison with his later work: "These are the first fruits of his flowering manhood, when the bright and buoyant genius in him had free play and large delight in its handiwork; when the fresh interest of invention was still his, and the dramatic sense, the pleasure in the play of life, the power of motion and variety; before the old strength of sight and of flight had passed from weary wing and clouding eye, the old pride and energy of enjoyment had gone out of hand and heart.

"How the change fell upon him, and how it wrought, anyone may see who compares his later with his earlier work.... The time came when another than Salome [referring to Andrea del Sarto's picture of Salome dancing before Herod] was to dance before the eyes of the painter; and she required of him the head of no man, but his own soul; and he paid the forfeit into her hands.... In Mr. Browning's noblest poem-his noblest, it seems to me-the whole tragedy is distilled into the right words, the whole man raised up and reclothed with flesh. One point only is but lightly touched upon-missed it could not be by an eye so sharp and skillful-the effect upon his art of the poisonous solvent of love. How his life was corroded by it, and his soul burnt into dead ashes we are shown in full, but we are not shown in full what as a painter he was before, what as a painter he might have been without it."

The bare facts of this poem are taken from Vasari's Lives of the Painters. Vasari, once a pupil of Andrea del Sarto, hated Lucrezia and in his account spared no details of her evil influence. Later chronicles give a somewhat more favorable view of her, but the main facts of the story remain undisputed. Of the origin of the poem, Mrs. Andrew Crosse (see "John Kenyon and His Friends" in Temple Bar Magazine, April, 1900) writes; "When the Brownings were living in Florence, Kenyon had begged them to procure him a copy of the portrait in the Pitti of Andrea del Sarto and his wife. Mr. Browning was unable to get the copy made with any promise of satisfaction, and so wrote the exquisite poem of Andrea del Sarto-and sent it to Kenyon!" For another literary presentation of Andrea del Sarto see Andre del Sarto, a play by Alfred de Musset.

15. Fiesole. A town on a hill above the Arno about three miles northwest of Florence. See Pippa Passes.

40. We are in God's hand. Andrea's fatalistic view of life aids him in escaping the poignancy of remorse.

65. The Legate's talk. The representative of the Pope praised Andrea's work. For the high esteem accorded Andrea when he was in Paris at the court of Francis I, see lines 149-161.

82. This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand. Eugene Muntz (quoted in Masters of Art series, in the number entitled "Andrea del Sarto") says of Andrea's skill: "No painter has excelled him in the rendering of flesh.... No painter, moreover, has surpassed him in his grasp of the infinite resources of the palette. All the secrets of richness, softness, and morbidenza, all the mysteries of pastoso and sfumato were his. It is not then as a technician that we must deny Andrea del Sarto the right to rank with the very greatest. It is as an artist (using the word in its highest sense) that he falls below them, for he was lacking in the loftier qualities of imagination, sentiment, and, worst of all, conviction." Histoire de l'Art pendent la Renaissance.

93. Morello. A mountain of the Apennines and visible from Florence.

98. Or what's a heaven for. According to Browning's theory, perfection gained and rested in means stagnation. Aspiration toward the unattainable is the condition of growth. The artist who can satisfy himself with such themes as can be completely expressed by his art, is on a low level of experience and attainment.

105. The Urbinate. Raphael Sanzio of Urbino, one of the greatest of Italian painters. He died in 1520; hence the date of this poem is supposed to be 1525.

136. Agnolo. Michael Agnolo (less correctly, Angelo), 1475-1566, great both as sculptor and painter.

149. Francis. Francis I of France was a patron of the arts. When Andrea was thirty-two and had been married five years, King Francis sent for him to come to Fontainebleau, the most sumptuous of the French royal palaces. Andrea greatly enjoyed the splendor and hospitality of the French court, and he was happy in his successful work, when Lucrezia called him home. He obtained a vacation of two months and took with him money with which to make purchases for the French king. This money he used to buy a house for Lucrezia.

241. Scudi. Italian coins worth about ninety-six cents each.

261. Four great walls. Revelation, xxi, 15-17.

263. Leonardo. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), one of the greatest of Italian painters.


There is an old church in Rome named in honor of St. Praxed or Praxedes. The Bishop's Tomb, however, "is entirely fictitious, although something which is made to stand for it is now shown to credulous sightseers." (Mrs. Orr, Handbook to Robert Browning's Works, p. 247.)

Ruskin says of this poem: "Robert Browning is unerring in every sentence he writes of the Middle Ages-always vital, right, and profound, so that in the matter of art, with which we are specially concerned, there is hardly a principle connected with the medieval temper that he has not struck upon in these seemingly careless and too rugged lines of his.... I know no other piece of modern English prose or poetry in which there is so much told, as in these lines, of the Renaissance spirit-its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art, of luxury, and of good Latin. It is nearly all that I have said of the central Renaissance, in thirty pages of 'The Stones of Venice,' put into as many lines, Browning's also being the antecedent work." (Modern Painters, Vol. iv, pp. 337-9.) "It was inevitable that the great period of the Renaissance should produce men of the type of the Bishop of St. Praxed; it would be grossly unfair to set him down as the type of the churchmen of his time." Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 81.

1. Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity. Cf. ll. 8-9, 51-52, as illustrative of the religious professionalism of the Bishop's talk. He drops into the ecclesiastical conception of life and death, and into the phraseology of his order.

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

29. Peach-blossom marble. This rosy marble delights the Bishop as much as the pale cheap onion-stone offends him. The lapis-lazuli, a rich blue stone (l. 42), the antique-black (Nero-antico), a rare black marble (l. 34), the beautiful green jasper (l. 68), the elaborate carving planned for the bronze frieze (l. 56-62, 106-111), show not only that the Bishop covets what is costly, but that his highly cultivated taste knows real beauty.

34. That conflagration. The eagerness of the Bishop for the lump of the lapis-lazuli has made him steal even from his own church.

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

57. Those Pans and Nymphs. The underlying paganism of the Bishop produces a strangely incongruous mixture on his tomb-the Savior, St. Praxed, Moses, Pan, and the Nymphs.

58. Thyrsus. The ivy-coiled staff or spear stuck in a pine-cone, symbol of the Bacchic orgy.

68. Travertine. A white limestone, the name being a corruption of Tiburninus, from Tibur, now Tivoli, near Rome, whence this stone comes.

77. Choice Latin. The Bishop's scholarship was as good as his taste in marbles. The Elucescebat ("he was illustrious") of l. 99 Browning called "dog-latin" and he called "Ulpian, the golden jurist, a copper latinist." (See letter to D. G. Rossetti. Quoted by A. J. George, Select Poems of Browning, p. 366.) Tully's Latin was Cicero's (Marcus Tullius Cicero), the purest classic style. The Grammarian in "The Grammarian's Funeral" was equally intense on a point of elegance or correctness in the ancient languages.

80-84. The Bishop rejoices in all that has to do with the forms and ceremonies of the church. Note in ll. 119-121 his insistence on form and order.

91. Strange thoughts. From this point on the Bishop's mind seems to wander.

108. A visor and a Term. The visor is a mask. A term is any bust or half-statue not placed upon but incorporated with, and as it were immediately springing out of, the square pillar which serves as its pedestal.


The quotation preceding this poem is from Acts xvii, 28, and is, in full, "As certain also of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'" The poet thus referred to by Paul was Aratus, a Greek poet from Tarsus, Paul's own city. The Cleon and Protus of Browning's poem are not historical characters, but they are representative of the tone of thought and inquiry on the part of the Greek philosophers at the time of Paul. Lines 1-158 give an account of the achievements of Cleon, a man who has attained eminence in the various realms of poetry, philosophy, painting, and sculpture. He is not in any one accomplishment equal to the great poets, musicians, or artists of the past, and yet he represents progress because he is able to enter into sympathy with the great achievements in all these realms.

1. Sprinkled isles. Presumably the Sporades, the "scattered isles."

4. Profits in his Tyranny. Free government [in Greece] having superseded the old hereditary sovereignties, all who obtained absolute power in a state were called tyrants, or rather despots; for the term indicates the irregular way in which the power was given rather than the way in which it was exercised. Tyrants might be mild in exercise of authority, and, like Protus, liberal in their patronage of the arts.

8. Gift after gift. Protus, a patron of the arts, shows his appreciation of the work of Cleon by many royal gifts. Chief among the slaves, black and white, sent by Protus, is one white woman in a bright yellow wool robe, who is especially commissioned to present a beautiful cup. Lines 136-8 are also descriptive of this girl.

41. Zeus. The chief of the Grecian gods.

47. That epos. An epic poem by Cleon engraved on golden plates.

51. The image of the sun-god on the phare. Cleon has made a statue of Apollo for a lighthouse. Phare is from the island of Pharos where there was a famous lighthouse.

53. The P?cile. The Portico of Athens painted with battle pictures by Polygnotus.

69. For music. "In Greek music the scales were called moods or modes and were subject to great variation in the arrangement of tones and semitones." (Porter-Clarke, note in Camberwell edition.)

82. The checkered pavement. This pavement of black and white marble in an elaborate pattern of various sorts of four-sided figures was a gift to Cleon from his own nation.

100-112. The similitude is involved but fairly clear. The water that touches the sphere here and there, one point at a time, as the sphere is revolved, represents the power of great geniuses who, each at one point, have reached great heights. The air that fills the sphere represents the composite modern mind that synthesizes the parts into a great whole.

132. Drupe. Any stone-fruit. The contrast is between the wild plum and the cultivated plum.

139. Homer. The poet to whom very ancient tradition assigns the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Terpander, the father of Greek music, flourished about 700-650 B.C. Phidias, a famous Athenian sculptor, lived 500-432 B.C. His friend was Pericles, the ruler of Athens.

304. Sappho. A Greek poetess. She wrote about 600 B.C.

305. ?schylus, a Greek tragic poet, 525-456 B.C.

340. Paulus. Paul died about 64 A.D. The date of this poem is therefore about the last quarter of the first century A.D. Cleon had heard so vaguely about the Christian religion that he did not know the difference between Christ and Paul. The "doctrine" spoken of in the last line was the Christian teaching concerning immortality. The Greek, Cleon, had felt a longing to believe in another existence in which man would have unlimited capability for joy, but Zeus had revealed no such doctrine, and the cultivated Greek was not ready to receive it at the hands of a man like Paul.


A poem directly addressed to Mrs. Browning. It was originally appended to the collection of Poems called Men and Women. For other tributes by great poets to their wives see Wordsworth's "She was a phantom of delight," and "O dearer far than life and light are dear;" and Tennyson's "Dear, near and true." Mrs. Browning's love for her husband had found passionate expression in Sonnets from the Portuguese.

2. Naming me. Giving a name to the volume for me.

5-31. Raphael's "lady of the sonnets" was Margharita (La Fornarina), the baker's daughter, whose likeness appears in several of his most celebrated pictures. The Madonnas enumerated in ll. 22-25 are the Sistine Madonna, now in the Dresden Gallery; the Madonna di Foligno, so called because it had been painted as a votive offering for Sigismund Corti of Foligno; the Madonna del Granduca (Petti Palace, Florence) in which the Madonna is represented as appearing to a votary in a vision; and probably the Madonna called La Belle Jardiniere in the Louvre. There is no evidence that Raphael wrote more than one sonnet, or three at most. The "century of sonnets" attributed to him by Browning "is probably an example of poetical license." The volume Guido Reni treasured and left to his heir was a volume with a hundred designs by Raphael. (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 297)

32-57. Dante's chief work was his great poem, the Inferno, in which were caustic sketches of evil men of various sorts. The sketch in the lines 35-41 is made up from two descriptions (Inferno, Cantos 32, 33) of traitors, the one to his country, the other to a familiar friend. The second of these was still alive when Dante wrote (W. M. Rossetti, Academy, Jan. 10, 1891). Beatrice, or Bice, was the woman Dante loved. It was on the first anniversary of her death that he began to draw the angel. Dante tells of this in the Vita Nuovo, xxxv, and there describes the interruption of the "people of importance."

63-4. To Raphael painting is an art that has become his nature; to Dante, poetry is an art that has become his nature. But this one time, for the woman of his love, each chooses the art in which he may have some natural skill but for which he has had no technical training.

73-108. The "artist's sorrow" as contrasted with the "man's joy" is illustrated from the experiences of Moses in conducting the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus xvii). His achievement savors of disrelish because of the grumbling unbelief of the people, and because of the ungracious irritation into which he has been betrayed even when taxing his God-given power to the utmost in their behalf. He must hold steadily to his majesty as a prophet or he cannot control and so serve the crowd, but he covets the man's joy of doing supreme service to the woman whom he loves.

97. Sinai-forehead's cloven brilliance. Exodus xix, 9, 16; xxxiv, 30.

101. Jethro's daughter. Zipporah, the wife of Moses. Exodus ii, 16, 21.

121. He who works in fresco. The fresco painter uses large free strokes of the brush. But in order to give something distinctive to the lady of his love he will try painting tiny illuminations on the margins of her missal.

143. Be how I speak. That is, he usually writes dramatically, giving the experience and uttering the words of the characters he has created, such as the Arab physician, Karshish; the Greek Cleon; Norbert, the man whom the Queen loved in "In a Balcony"; the painter, Fra Lippo Lippi; the heroic pilgrim, Childe Roland; the painter, Andrea del Sarto. But now, for once, he speaks in his own person, directly to the woman he loves.

144-156. In Florence they had seen the new moon, a mere crescent over the hill Fiesole, and had watched its growth till it hung, round and full, over the church of San Miniato. Now, in London, the moon is in its last quarter.

163. Zoroaster. Founder of the Irano-Persian religion, the chief god of which, Varuna, was the god of light and of the illuminated night-heaven.

164. Galileo. A celebrated Italian astronomer (1564-1642).

165. Dumb to Homer. Homer celebrated the moon in the "Hymn to Diana." Keats wrote much about the moon and the hero of his poem "Endymion" was represented as in love with the moon.

172-179. See Exodus xxiv.


Abbé (or Abt) Vogler (1749-1814) was a Catholic priest well known a century ago as an organist and a composer. He founded three schools of music, one at Mannheim, one at Stockholm, and one at Darmstadt. He was especially noted for his organ recitals, as many as 7000 tickets having been sold for a single recital in Amsterdam. In 1798 it was said that he had then given over a thousand organ concerts. His knowledge of acoustics and his consequent skill in combining the stops enabled him to bring much power and variety from organs with fewer pipes than were generally considered necessary. The remodeling and simplification of organs was one of his most eagerly pursued activities. He not only rearranged the pipes, but he introduced free reeds. Through some skillful Swedish organ-builders he was at last enabled to have an organ small enough to be portable and constructed according to his ideas. This he called an "orchestrion." Of Vogler's power as an organist Rinck says, "His organ playing was grand, effective in the utmost degree." It was, however, when he was improvising that his power was most astonishing. Once at a musical soirée Vogler and Beethoven extemporized alternately, each giving the other a theme, and Gansbacher records the pitch of enthusiasm to which he was roused by Vogler's masterly playing. Three of Voglers most famous pupils at Darmstadt were Meyerbeer, Gansbacher, and Carl Maria von Weber. The last of these gives an attractive picture of the musician extemporizing in the old church at Darmstadt. "Never," says Weber, "did Vogler in his extemporization drink more deeply at the source of all beauty, than when before his three dear boys, as he liked to call us, he drew from the organ angelic voices and word of thunder." Browning's poem records the experiences of the musician in one of these moods of rapturous creation.

The argument of the poem is thus given by Mr. Stopford Brooke in The Poetry of Robert Browning, page 149:

"When Solomon pronounced the Name of God, all the spirits, good and bad, assembled to do His will and build His palace. And when I, Abt Vogler, touched the keys, I called the Spirits of Sound to me, and they have built my palace of music; and to inhabit it all the Great Dead came back till in the vision I made a perfect music. Nay, for a moment, I touched in it the infinite perfection; but now it is gone; I cannot bring it back. Had I painted it, had I written it, I might have explained it. But in music out of the sounds something emerges which is above the sounds, and that ineffable thing I touched and lost. I took the well-known sounds of earth, and out of them came a fourth sound, nay not a sound-but a star. This was a flash of God's will which opened the Eternal to me for a moment; and I shall find it again in the eternal life. Therefore, from the achievement of earth and the failure of it, I turn to God, and in Him I see that every image, thought, impulse, and dream of knowledge or beauty-which, coming whence we know not, flit before us in human life, breathe for a moment, and then depart; which, like my music, build a sudden palace in imagination; which abide for an instant and dissolve, but which memory and hope retain as a ground of aspiration-are not lost to us though they seem to die in their immediate passage. Their music has its home in the Will of God and we shall find them completed there."

3. Solomon. In Jewish legend it is said that Solomon had power over angels and demons through a seal on which "the most great name of God was engraved."

13. And one would bury his brow. This description of the foundations of the palace is not unlike Milton's account of the work of the fallen angels in building the palace in hell. (Paradise Lost, I, 170.) That "fabric huge" was as magical in its construction as the palace of Abt Vogler, for, though it was not built by music, it

"Rose like an exhalation with the sound

Of Dulcet Symphonies and voices sweet."

16. Nether Springs. Remotest origins.

23. Rome's dome. The illumination of St. Peter's was formerly one of the customary spectacles on the evening of Easter Sunday. "At Ave-Maria we drove to Piazza of St. Peter's. The lighting of the lanternoni, or large paper lanterns, each of which looks like a globe of ethereal fire, had been going on for an hour, and by the time we arrived there was nearly completed.... The whole of this immense church-its columns, capitals, cornices, and pediments-the beautiful swell of the lofty dome ... all were designed in lines of fire, and the vast sweep of the circling colonnades ... was resplendent with the same beautiful light." (C. A. Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, II, 208.)

23. Space to spire. From the wide opening between the colonnades to the cross on the top of the lantern surmounting the dome.

34. Protoplast. Used apparently for protoplasm, a substance constituting the physical basis of life in all plants and animals.

39. Into his musical palace came the wonderful Dead in a glorified form, and also Presences fresh from the Protoplast, while, for the moment, he himself in the ardor of musical creation felt himself raised to the level of these exalted ones.

53. Consider it well. On the mystery of musical creation and on its permanence see Cardinal Newman's sermon on "The Theory of Development in Christian Doctrine." (Quoted in part, in Berdoe's Browning Cyclop?dia.)

57. Palace of music. Cf. the description of the glowing banquet-room in Keats's "Lamia":

"A haunting music, sole perhaps and lone

Supportress of the faery-roof, made moan

Throughout, as fearful the whole charm might perish."

The damsel with the dulcimer in Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" sings of Mount Abora, and the poet says:

"Could I revive within me

Her sympathy and song

To such a deep delight 'twould win me

That with music loud and long

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome, those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there."

In Tennyson's "Gareth and Lynette" (l. 270), Merlin says to Gareth in describing Camelot,

"For and ye heard a music, like enow

They are building still, seeing the city is built

To music, therefore never built at all,

And therefore built forever."

There are also more ancient accounts of this union of music and architecture. Amphion, King of Thebes, played on his lyre till the stones moved of their own accord into the wall he was building. When King Laomedan built the walls of Troy, Apollo's lyre did similar service to that of Amphion in Thebes. For an interesting account of "Voice Figures" see The Century Magazine, May 1891.

64. What was, shall be. For this faith in the actual permanence of what seemed so evanescent, compare Adelaide Procter's "Lost Chord."

69. There shall never be one lost good. Whatever of good has existed must always exist. Evil, being self-destructive, finally "is null, is naught." This is the Hegelian doctrine. Walt Whitman said on reading Hegel, "Roaming in thought over the Universe I saw the little that is Good steadily hastening towards immortality. And the vast all that is called Evil I saw hastening to merge itself and become lost and dead." (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, page 40.)

81. A triumph's evidence. Failure in high heroic attempts seems to point forward to some more favorable future where noble effort is crowned with due success. Cf. "Cleon," lines 186-7:

"Imperfection means perfection hid,

Reserved in part to grace the after time."

96. The C Major of this life. The musical terms in this passage are fully explained by Mrs. Turnbull and Miss Omerod in Browning Society Papers. Symbolically this line describes the musician as he comes back to everyday life, proud because of the vision that has been granted him, but with a consciousness that experiences so exalted are not for "human nature's daily food," and that their true function is to send one back to ordinary pains and pleasures with a new acquiescence.

(In The Browning Society Papers are Mrs. Turnbull's "Abt Vogler," and three papers by Miss Helen Omerod: (1) "Abt Vogler the Man." (2) "Some Notes on Browning's Poems relating to Music." (3) "Andrea del Sarto and Abt Vogler.")


Ben Ezra was an eminent Jewish Rabbi of the Middle Ages. His Commentaries on the books of the Old Testament are of great value. Mr. A. J. Campbell, who has studied Browning's poem in connection with the writings of the real Rabbi Ben Ezra, thinks that the distinctive features of the Rabbi of the poem, and the philosophy ascribed to him, were drawn from the works of the historical Rabbi, the keynote of whose teaching was that the essential life of man is the life of the soul, and that age is more important than youth. (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia. Cf. also Berdoe, Browning's Message to His Times, pp. 157-172.)

1. Grow old along with me. Cf. Saul, lines 161-162. See Matthew Arnold's "'Tis time to grow old" for a beautiful statement of the pessimistic attitude toward old age.

7-15. It would be folly, says the Rabbi, to object to the unreasoning ambitions, the fluctuations of desire, the hopes and fears of youth. In fact (ll. 16-30), he counts these very aspirations toward the impossible, this very state of mental and spiritual unrest and doubt, a proof of the spark of divinity which separates men from beasts and allies them to God. It is a characteristic Browning doctrine that conflict, struggle, the pangs and throes of learning, are the stimuli through which character develops.

40-42. Cf. Saul, l. 295.

49-72. In lines 43-48 the Rabbi had urged the subservience of the body to the soul, but in these lines he shows that the life of the flesh is not to be underestimated, that ideal progress comes from a just alliance Of the soul and the body. See Tennyson's "St. Simeon Stylites" for an account of the ascetic ideal in its lowest form.

81. Adventure brave and new. In "Prospice" death is reckoned an adversary to be courageously met and overcome. Here the Rabbi is represented as fearless and unperplexed as he contemplates the new life he will lead after death. In both poems we find unquestioning belief in an active and progressive and happy life after death.

85. Youth ended, I shall try, etc. Compare Tennyson's "By an Evolutionist."

87. Leave the fire ashes. In this figure the "fire" stands for the conflicts of life, the "gold" for whatever has proved of permanent worth, and the "ashes" for whatever has failed to stand the test of time and experience.

92. A certain moment. The moment between the fading of the sunset glory and the shutting down of evening darkness is here selected as the moment in which to appraise the work of the day. In the application of the simile to the life of man (lines 97-102) the "moment" apparently refers to old age when man has leisure and wisdom to appraise the Past.

102. The Future. The life of his "adventure brave and new" after death.

109-111. In "Old Pictures in Florence" Browning applies this idea to the development of art. As soon as men were content to repose in the perfection of Greek art (the thing "found made") stagnation ensued; the new life of art came when men strove for something new and original, even though their first attempts were crude ("acts uncouth").

120. Nor let thee feel alone. The solitude of age gives a chance for unhampered thought.

133-150. One of the things he has learned is that any judgment to be fair must take into account instincts, efforts, desires, as well as accomplishment.

151-186. This metaphor of the wheel is found in Isaiah lxiv, 8; Jeremiah xviii, 2-6; Romans ix, 21. Throughout this metaphor as Browning uses it, man seems to be "passive clay" in the hands of the potter, and under the power of the "machinery" the potter uses to give the soul its bent. The tone of the whole poem is, however, one of strenuous endeavor. Ardor, effort, progress, are the keynotes of life from youth to age. But life is finally counted a divine training for the service of God, and in this training the pious Rabbi sees joined the will of man and the care and guidance of God.

157. All that is, etc. Cf. "Abt Vogler," ll. 69-80.


The idea of this poem was evolved from Shakspere's Caliban, a strange, misshapen, fish-like being, one of the servants of Prospero in The Tempest. He was the son of a foul witch who had potent ministers and could control moon and tides, but could not undo her own hateful sorceries, and who worshiped a god called Setebos. Morally, Shakspere's Caliban was insensible to kindness, had bestial passions, was cowardly, vengeful, superstitious. He had keen animal instincts and knew the island well. He understood Prospero in some measure; learned to talk, to know the stars, to compose poetry, and took pleasure in music.

Thou thoughtest, etc. A quotation from Psalms 1, 21. This sentence is the keynote of Caliban's theological speculations.

1. Will. For "he will" instead of "I will." Through most of the poem Caliban speaks of himself in the third person as a child does. But note lines 68-97, where Caliban rises to unusual mental heights under the stimulus of the gourd-fruit-mash and uses the first person. How is it in ll. 100-108, 135-136, 160?

1-23. This portion of Caliban's soliloquy and the portion in lines 284-295 give the setting for his speculations. The hot, still summer day creates a mood in which Caliban's ideas flow out easily into speech. The thunderstorm at the end abruptly calls him back from his speculations to his normal state of subservience and superstitious fear.

24. Setebos. The god of the Patagonians. When the natives were taken prisoners by Magellan, they "cryed upon their devil Setebos to help them." Eden, History of Travaile.

25. He. The pronoun of the third person when referring to Setebos is capitalized.

31. It came of being ill at ease. Each step in Caliban's reasoning proceeds from some personal experience or observation. In this case he reasons from the fish to Setebos. Caliban attributes to Setebos unlimited power to create and control in whatever is comparatively near at hand and changeable. But Caliban had been affected by the mystery of the starry heavens. The remoteness and fixedness of the stars had suggested a quiet, unalterable, passionless force beyond Setebos, who must, therefore, have limitations. He did not make the stars (l. 27), he cannot create a mate like himself (ll. 57-8), he cannot change his nature so as to be like the Quiet above him (ll. 144-5). Hence, like the fish, Setebos had a dissatisfied consciousness of a bliss he was not born for. Discontent with himself, spite, envy, restlessness, love of power as a means of distraction, are the motives that, according to Caliban's reasoning, actuated Setebos in his creation of the world.

45. The fowls here, beast and creeping thing. Browning's remarkably minute and accurate knowledge of small animals is well illustrated by this poem. For further illustration see Saul, the last soliloquy in Pippa Passes, and the lyric "Thus the Mayne glideth."

75. Put case, etc. In determining the natural attitude of Setebos toward his creations, the formula Caliban uses is, Caliban plus power equals Setebos. The illustration from the bird (ll. 75-97) shows cruelty, and unreasoning, capricious exercise of power. The caprice of Setebos is further emphasized in ll. 100-108.

117. Hath cut a pipe. In his attitude toward his creatures Setebos is envious of all human worth or happiness if it is for a moment unconscious of absolute dependence on him.

150. Himself peeped late, etc. As Caliban gets some poor solace out of imitating Prospero, so one reason for Setebos's creation of the world was a half-scornful attempt to delude himself into apparent content. His imitations, his "make believes," are the unwilling homage his weakness pays to the power of the Quiet.

170-184. The weaknesses of all living beings were special devices whereby Setebos could, through need and fear, torture and rule.

185-199. Setebos worked also out of pure ennui. He liked the exercise of power, he liked to use his "wit," and he needed distraction.

200-210. Setebos hates and favors human beings without discoverable reason.

211-285. It is impossible to discover a way to please Setebos. His favor goes by caprice as does Caliban's with the daring squirrel and the terrified urchin, who please one day, and, doing the same things the next, would bring down vengeance. The only philosophy at which Caliban can arrive is that it is best not to be too happy. Simulated misery is more likely to escape than any show of happiness.


In memory of Browning's cousin, James Silverthorne, the "Charles" of the poem. The "one plant" of the last two stanzas is supposed to be the Spotted Persicaria, "a common weed with purple stains upon its rather large leaves." According to popular tradition this plant grew beneath the Cross, and the stains were made by drops of blood from the Savior's wounds. (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, page 268, quoting from Rev. H. Friend, Flowers and Flower Lore.)


"Prospice" ("Look forward") was written in the autumn following Mrs. Browning's death. "It ends with the expression of his triumphant certainty of meeting her, and breaks forth at last into so great a cry of pure passion that ear and heart alike rejoice. Browning at his best, Browning in the central fire of his character, is in it." (Brooke, The Poetry of Browning, page 251.)


"No poem in the volume of Dramatis Person? is connected with pictorial art, unless it be the few lines entitled 'A Face,' lines of which Emily Patmore, the poet's wife, was the subject, and written, as Browning seldom wrote, for the mere record of beauty. That 'little head of hers' is transferred to Browning's panel in the manner of an early Tuscan piece of ideal loveliness." (Dowden, Life of Browning.)

14. Correggio. A famous Italian painter of the Lombard school. These lines well describe his style.


These are the closing lines of the first book of The Ring and the Book. The passage is generally and probably rightly interpreted as an invocation to the spirit of his wife.


This poem was written and printed as the Prologue to Pacchiarotto and How he Worked in Distemper, published in 1876. It was, however, given the title "A Wall" when published in 1880 in Selections from Robert Browning's Poems, Second Series. The last two stanzas express one of the fundamental ideas of Browning's poetry. Under the figure of the wall with its pulsating robe of vines and the eagerness of the lover to penetrate to the life within the house, he sets forth his thought of the barrier between himself and a longed-for future life in heaven. The "forth to thee" is to be interpreted as referring to his wife.


Three of Browning's poems, "At the Mermaid," "House," and "Shop," refer with more or less explicitness to Shakspere. The last stanza in "House" contains a quotation from Wordsworth's "Scorn not the Sonnet" to the effect that in his sonnets Shakspere revealed the most intimate facts of his life. "At the Mermaid" and "House" both combat this idea. In "At the Mermaid" Browning in the person of Shakspere says:

"Which of you did I enable

Once to slip within my breast,

There to catalogue and label

What I like least, what love best,

Hope and fear, believe and doubt of,

Seek and shun, respect-deride?

Who has right to make a rout of

Rarities he found inside?"

As applied to Browning the poems represent the indignation with which he regarded such personal revelations, such utterance of sighs and groans, as characterized Byron (the "Last King" of "At the Mermaid"); but they overstate the impersonal nature of Browning's own work which is frequently a very direct statement of his own emotions and views, while even from his dramatic work it is not difficult to find his "hopes and fears, beliefs and doubts." In stanzas 10-12 of "At the Mermaid," for example, just after he has protested against "leaving bosom's gate ajar," he fully sets forth the joy, the optimism, of his own outlook on life. "Shop" is an indirect protest against the assumption that Shakspere wrote mainly for money, caring merely for the material success of his work. (See Poet-Lore, Vol. III, pp. 216-221, April, 1889, for Browning's tribute to Shakspere.) More directly the poem represents the starved life of the man whom "shop," the business necessary to earn a living, occupies "each day and all day long" with no spirit-life behind.


This poem was written during Browning's second visit to Le Croisic in Brittany, in September, 1867. It was published in The Cornhill Magazine, March, 1871, the proceeds of one hundred guineas being sent by Browning to the Paris Relief Fund, to provide food for the people after the siege of Paris. The story is historic. Mrs. Lemoyne, in 1884, read "Hervé Riel" to Browning and he then told her that it was his custom to learn all about the heroes and legends of any town that he stopped in and that he had thus, in going over the records of the town of St. Malo, come upon the story of Hervé Riel, which he narrated just as it happened in 1692, except that in reality the hero had a life holiday. "The facts of the story had been forgotten, and were denied at St. Malo; but the reports of the French Admiralty were looked up, and the facts established." (Dr. Furnivall quoted in Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia.)


This little poem was written and printed as the Prologue to La Saisiaz in 1878, but in the Selections it appeared as No. 3 of "Pisgah-Sights."


Prefatory stanzas to The Two Poets of Croisic.


This fate of the musician and the cricket has the same fundamental idea as the prefatory stanzas, the power of love to soften what is gruff and brighten what is somber in life.

64. Music's son. Goethe. The "Lotte" of the next line, the heroine of Goethe's Sorrows of Werther, was modeled in part on Charlotte Buff, with whom Goethe was at one time in love.


Χαιρετε, νικωμεν. Rejoice we conquer!

2. D?mons. In Greek mythology a superior order of beings between men and the gods.

4. Her of the ?gis and spear. Athena, whose ?gis was a scaly cloak or mantle bordered with serpents and bearing Medusa's head.

5. Ye of the bow and the buskin. Artemis or Diana, the huntress. Ancient statues represent her as wearing shoes laced to the ankle.

8. Pan. The god of nature, half goat and half man. To him was ascribed the power of causing sudden fright by his voice and appearance. He came suddenly into the midst of the Persians on the field of Marathon-so the legend runs-and threw them into such a "panic" that, for this reason, they lost the battle.

9. Archons of Athens, topped by the tettix. Archon. One of the nine rulers of Athens. Tettix. A grasshopper. "The Athenians sometimes wore golden grasshoppers in their hair as badges of honor, because these insects are supposed to spring from the ground, and thus they showed they were sprung from the original inhabitants of the country." (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 336.)

12. Reach Sparta for aid. The distance between Athens and Sparta is about 135 miles.

18. Persia bids Athens proffer slaves'-tribute, water and earth. The Persians sent to those states which they wished to subject, messengers who were to ask earth and water as symbols of submission.

19. Eretria. An important city on the island of Eub?a.

20. Hellas. Greece.

38. The moon, half-orbed. Spartan troops finally came to Athens after the full moon.

47. Filleted victim. A victim whose head was decked with ribbons.

52. Parnes. Herodotus refers in this connection to the Parthenian mountain.

62. Erebos. Hades, the abode of shades or departed spirits.

83. Fennel. The Greek word Marathon means fennel.

89. Miltiades. One of the ten Athenian generals.

105. Unforeseeing one. The poet finishes the story, which he has hitherto allowed Pheidippides to tell for himself.

105. Marathon day. In the month of September, B. C. 490.

106. Akropolis. The stronghold of Athens.


The love of the Arab for his horse is traditional. "The story is a common one and seems adapted from a Bedouin's anecdote told in Rollo Springfield's The Horse and His Rider." (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia, p. 280.)


This poem is in the nature of a prelude to the group of poems published under the title Jocoseria, 1883. Each poem in this volume shows the lack of some element that would have brought the human action or experience to perfection.

8. Comer. The invocation probably refers to the spirit of love with its inspiring, transforming power.


This poem was published in Jocoseria in 1883. It is doubtless to be grouped with the poems that refer directly to Mrs. Browning.


Browning says that this poem has no direct historical reference. He calls it "An Old Story," because in all ages men have experienced this unjust reversal of public approval. The poem is merely an imaginative, dramatic representation of the fickleness of popular favor.


The title of this poem means "Threatening Tyrant." It comes from Horace's "Ode on the Just Man," in Odes, III, 3, i. The just man is not frightened by the frown of the threatening tyrant-non vullus instantis tyranni. Archdeacon Farrar refers the incidents to persecution of the early Christians. The poem certainly deals with some period when the ruler of a great realm had unlimited power to follow out his most insignificant animosities, and when just men and just causes had no human recourse.

The general idea of the poem is clear and forcible, but there are many minor difficulties of interpretation.

6. What was his force? An ironic question. The man groveled because he was powerless to resist, and (line 10) because resistance might bring even worse punishment.

11. Were the object, etc. If the man could be made rich, if his life could be crowded with pleasures, if there could be found relatives or friends whom he loved, then there would be obvious ways of hurting him, he would stand forth in sufficient importance to make the swing of the tyrant's hand effective. But as it is, the man's poverty and friendlessness and meagerness of life render it difficult to find out vulnerable points of attack. He remains hidden (perdue) and, like the midge of the egg of an insect (nit), is safe through his very insignificance.

21. spilth. That which is poured out profusely. The flagon is a vessel with one handle and a long narrow neck or spout.

35. Then a humor, etc. The tyrant goes through various changes of mood in his attitude toward his enemy. In lines 35-43 he feels a moment of contemptuous compunction at the man's suffering, and recognizes the absurdity of a contest between a great king and a person as insignificant as a tricksy elf, a toad, or a rat. But in line 44 his mood turns. He perceives that the burden (gravamen) of the whole matter lies in the incredibly petty nature of this unconquerable, baffling opposition to his will. He sees how the situation would awaken the wonder of the great lords who abjectly obey his lightest word, but he concludes that, after all, the small becomes great if it vexes you.

53. I soberly, etc. Even the tyrant sees a kind of grotesque humor as he narrates first the elaborate plans to entrap and crush so seemingly powerless a foe, and then the striking reversal of position when the man proves to have God on his side, and the tyrant becomes the one to cower in fear.


At the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, Lombardy and Venetia were assigned to Austria. Most of the inhabitants submitted to the foreign rule, but there were always small bands of patriots who stirred up revolutions against Austria. The chief revolution was that led by Mazzini in 1848, and when he was in exile he read this poem with much appreciation. In Pippa Passes (1840), in the story of Luigi and the Austrian police, Browning had already given a picture based on Italy's struggle for freedom. In 1844 he visited Italy and then wrote "The Italian in England," which appeared in 1845. This poem does not represent a definite historic incident, but such a one as might have occurred in the life of some Italian patriot. For a similar feeling towards Italian independence see Mrs. Browning's Casa Guidi Windows (written 1848-1851). For earlier poems see Byron's "Ode" beginning "O Venice, Venice, when thy marble walls," Shelley's "Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills," and the following sonnet by Wordsworth:

"Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee;

And was the safeguard of the west: the worth

Of Venice did not fall below her birth,

Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.

She was a maiden City, bright and free;

No guile seduced, no force could violate;

And, when she took unto herself a Mate,

She must espouse the everlasting Sea.

And what if she had seen those glories fade,

Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;

Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid

When her long life hath reached its final day:

Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade

Of that which once was great, is passed away."

8. Charles. Carlo Alberto, King of Sardinia. He had used severe measures against "Young Italy," the party founded by Mazzini.

19. Metternich. A noted Austrian diplomat and one of the most powerful enemies of Italian freedom.

75. Duomo. The most famous church in Padua.

78. Tenebr?. Darkness. A religious service commemorative of the crucifixion. Fifteen lighted candles are put out one at a time, symbolizing the growing darkness of the world up to the time of the crucifixion.


The first interlude in Ferishtah's Fancies. These interludes are love lyrics which follow the separate Fables and Fancies of the Persian Dervish Ferishtah, and state in terms of the affections the truth embodied in didactic or philosophical fashion in the fables. In the first fable, "The Eagle," the Dervish observes an eagle feeding some deserted ravens. His first inference is that men will be cared for as the ravens, without effort of their own; later he sees that men should be as eagles and provide for the weak. The Dervish at once seeks the largest sphere of human usefulness with the words

"And since men congregate

In towns, not woods-to Ispahan forthwith!"

The lyric protests against the temptation to self-centered seclusion on the part of those who are entirely satisfied in each other's love.


The volume of poems entitled Asolando was, by a strange chance, published on the day of Browning's death. Most of these poems were written in 1888-1889. The book was dedicated to Mrs. Arthur Bronson. The "Prologue" should be compared with Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality."

13. Chrysopras. The ruby and the emerald of this passage stand for rich red and green. The chrysopras is also green (an apple green variety of Chalcedony), but the first part of the word is from the Greek χρνσο?, "gold," and that may be the color intended here.


The title means, The Chief Good. The poem came out in Asolando in 1889.


In the Pall Mall Gazette, Feb. 1, 1890 the following incident is given concerning the third stanza of this poem:

"One evening just before his death illness, the poet was reading this from a proof to his daughter-in-law and sister. He said: 'It almost looks like bragging to say this, and as if I ought to cancel it; but it's the simple truth; and as it's true, it shall stand.'"

Compare this poem and Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."


Mrs. Sutherland Orr writes that while Browning was one day strolling through Dulwich Wood "the image flashed upon him of someone walking ... alone through life; one apparently too obscure to leave a trace of his or her passage, yet exercising a lasting though unconscious influence at every step of it; and the image shaped itself into the little silk-winder of Asolo, Felippa, or Pippa."


Asolo in the Trevisan. Asolo, a fortified medieval town at the foot of a hill surmounted by the ruins of a castle, and situated in the center of the silk-growing and silk-spinning industries, is in the province of Treviso about thirty-three miles northwest of Venice.

62. Monsignor. A title conferred upon prelates in the Roman Catholic church. This Monsignor is the chief personage in Part III, or Night.

88. Martagon. A kind of lily with light purplish flowers. The common name is Turk's Cap. Perhaps that suggested to Browning his comparison to the round bunch of flesh on the head of a Turk bird, or turkey.

131. Possagno church. Designed by Canova, who was born at Possagno, an obscure village near Asolo.

181. The Dome. The Duomo, or Cathedral, in the center of the town. The palace of the Bishop's brother is close by.


28. St. Mark's. There is an extensive view from Asolo. Venice, with its cupolas and steeples, is seen to the east. Ottima detects the belfry of the Church of St. Mark. The towns of Vicenza and Padua are also discernible.

59. The Capuchin. A branch of the Franciscan order of monks. Their habit is brown.

170. Campanula chalice. The flower of any one of a large genus of flowers with bell-shaped corollas.

Interlude I

27. El canibus nostris. Virgil, Eclogues iii, 67. "Notior ut jam sit canibus non Delia nostris"-"So that now not Delia's self is more familiar to our dogs." The boy Giovacchino of whose poetry they are making fun evidently had ideals not in harmony with the ways of these Venetian art students. These "dissolute, brutalized, heartless bunglers," as Jules calls them, attack with quick, clever, merciless tongues whatever savors of idealism, aspiration, purity. Their revenge for the scornful superiority manifested towards them by Jules is to secure, by a well-managed trick, a marriage between him and a paid model.

86. Canova's gallery. Possagno was the birthplace of the sculptor Canova, and the circular church there was designed by him. In the gallery at Possagno is his Psyche (Psiche-fanciulla, or Psyche the young girl); his Pietà (the mother with the dead Christ in her arms) is in the church.

111. Malamocco. A little town on an island near Venice.

111. Alciphron. A Greek writer (about 200 A. D.) of fictitious letters famous for the purity of their style and for the knowledge they give of Greek social customs.

115. Lire. Plural of lira, an Italian coin equal to 18.6 cents in our money.

117. A scented letter. Forged letters have represented this fourteen year old, ignorant model as delicate, shy, reserved, intellectually alert, with lofty poetic and artistic ideals.

117. Tydeus. One of the Seven Allies in the enterprise against Thebes. Jules is supposed to have modeled a statue of him for the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts. From Scene II, 14, we see that it is still in clay.

120. Paolina. Some actress at the Phenix, the leading theater of Venice.

140. Hannibal Scratchy. In jest they burlesque the name of Annibale Caracci, a famous Italian artist, and apply it to one of their number.


39. This minion. This favorite. Bessarion (1395-1472), a learned Greek cardinal, discovered a poem, "The Rape of Helen," written by a Greek epic poet, Coluthus, in the sixth century, and Bessarion's scribe copied it out on parchment with blue, red, and dark-brown lettering.

43. Odyssey. Homer's account of the adventures of Ulysses. The quoted passage is in the Odyssey, Bk. XXII, 10. When Ulysses reached home he wreaked vengeance on the suitors of his wife. Antinous was the first to fall. The story of the "bitter shaft" blotted out by a flower is symbolic of the story of the hatred of Lutwyche, which was robbed of its bitterness by Phene's love.

50. Almaign Kaiser. The German Emperor. Swart-green is really "black-green"; here it means the "dark-green" of bronze. The Emperor's truncheon is a short staff, the emblem of his office.

54. Hippolyta. The Queen of the Amazons on a fine horse from Numidia.

59. Bay-filleted. The bay or laurel with which victors were crowned was supposed to be an antidote against thunder because it was the tree of Apollo. Pliny says that Tiberius and some other Roman emperors wore a wreath of bay leaves as an amulet, especially in thunder-storms. (See Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable; also Byron, Childe Harold, IV, 41.)

61. Hipparchus. In B. C. 514 Harmodius and Aristogeiton conspired against the tyrants Hippias and Hipparchus, and carrying swords hid in myrtle, they slew Hipparchus. Cf. Byron, Childe Harold, III, 20.

"All that most endears

Glory, is when the myrtle wreathes a sword

Such as Harmodius drew on Athens' tyrant lord."

75. Parsley. An aromatic herb used in ancient time in crowns worn at feasts.

86. Archetype. The original pattern or model. Beautiful colors and shapes in flowers, in flames, trees, and fruit suggested to the poet the beauty of perfect human forms. The rosy bloom of the peach bending close over the bough and nestled among the leaves is sufficient to suggest rosy limbs, and from that suggestion comes the whole imaginative picture of the dryad, the nymph of the woods.

95. Facile chalk. Jules exults in the facility with which the artist, in any realm of art, manipulates his implements and his materials. His especial enthusiasm is for marble, which he has come to regard as an original, primitive substance, containing in itself all other substances. It may be made to seem as light and clear as air, as brilliant as diamonds. Sometimes as his chisel strikes, it seems to be metal. Again it seems to be actual flesh and blood. At moments when the sculptor works with swift intensity it seems to flush and glow like flame.

181. I am a painter, etc. The poem by Lutwyche is professedly "slow, involved, and mystical." But Jules gradually perceives the purport of the words. Lutwyche's hate is to have its most hideous possible aspect because it is to appear suddenly through Love's rose-braided mask.

272. The Cornaro. Catharine Cornaro was the wife of James, King of Cyprus. After his death she was induced to abdicate in favor of the Republic of Venice, which took possession of Cyprus in 1487. She was assigned a palace and court at Asolo. She was generous, kind, just, and deeply beloved. Her life seemed to hold all possible external conditions of happiness. The song is further explained in lines 275-279.

306. Ancona. A lovely city in eastern Italy.

Interlude II

1. Bluphocks. Browning's note on this character reads, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew v, 45.)

2. Your Bishop's Intendant. The Bishop's Superintendent (whose real name is Maffeo) has charge of the estate the Bishop has just inherited from his brother. The money Bluphocks has is the bribe given him by Maffeo to destroy Pippa, who is really the heir to the estate. Maffeo expects the Bishop to reward him well for this service.

11. Prussia Improper. "The arm of land bounded on the north by the Baltic and on the south by Poland was long called 'Prussia Proper' to distinguish it from the other provinces of the kingdom. K?nigsberg is just over the boundary of Brandenberg." (Rolfe, Select Poems of Browning.)

14. Chaldee. A Semitic dialect.

21. Celarent, Darii, Ferio. Coined words used in logic to designate certain valid forms of syllogism.

24. Posy. A brief inscription or motto originally in verse, and suitable for a ring or some trinket.

25. How Moses, etc. For the story of Moses and the plagues of Egypt see Exodus viii and x. For the story of Jonah (who was commanded, however, not to go to Tarshish) see Jonah i. For Balaam and his ass see Numbers xxii, 22.

33. Bishop Beveridge. There was a Bishop of that name, but of course Bluphocks is making a pun.

35. Charon's wherry. Charon was a god of hell. It was his business to carry the dead across the river Styx. People thus carried over the Stygian ferry paid Charon by a small coin put between their lips.

36. Lupine-seed. "In plant-lore 'lupine' means wolfish, and is suggestive of the Evil One." (Berdoe, Browning Cyclop?dia.)

36. Hecate's supper. Hecate was a goddess of hell to whom offerings of food were made. An obolus is a silver coin worth about fifteen cents.

39. Zwanziger. A twenty-kreuzer piece of money.

47. Prince Metternich. A celebrated Austrian statesman. (1773-1859.)

54. Panurge. A prominent character in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais. Hertrippa is a magician who gives Panurge advice on the subject of marriage. Bluphocks is simply racking his brain for words to rhyme with "Pippa," so that he may write doggerel poetry to or about her. For "King Agrippa" see Acts xxvi, 27.

77. Carbonari. All persons leaving a city had to have a passport officially signed giving the destination and the date of departure. Luigi had obtained such a passport for Vienna for that night. It was, however, suspected that this was a mere trick to give a wrong notion of his whereabouts. If the passport should prove to be a pretense, other suspicions against Luigi would be confirmed; it would be taken for granted that he belonged to the Carbonari, a secret society of Italian patriots; he would be arrested and sent to the prison at Spielberg. But if he should go to Vienna he is to be let alone. The officers are, of course, on the wrong track. If Luigi goes to Vienna it is to carry out his purpose of killing the tyrant. If he stays in Asolo it means that he has abandoned that purpose.


6. Lucius Junius. This name comes easily to Luigi's lips because Lucius Junius Brutus inspired the Romans against Tarquin.

14. Old Franz. The Austrian Emperor, Francis, I. Luigi's fancy is caught by the echoes and the flowers, but they play into his dominant idea of the freedom of Italy.

19. Pellicos. Silvio Pellico was an Italian patriot who had suffered a long imprisonment in Spielberg Castle.

122. Andrea, etc. Three former Italian patriots who had conspired against Austria.

135-143. Note in these lines how little Luigi really understands of the point at issue. His emotional temperament has been stirred to the point of desperate action, but the "ground for killing the King" he hardly knows.

152. Jupiter. The largest of the planets. When a planet rises after midnight it becomes a morning star.

163. Titian at Treviso. Treviso is seventeen miles from Venice. Its cathedral contains a fine Annunciation by Titian which Luigi and his betrothed Chiara had planned to see together.

164. A king lived long ago. This song was published in 1835 and later adapted for this poem. The song has a great effect on Luigi because beside his mental picture of the hated Austrian ruler he now places his old folk-king who judged his people wisely, whose dignity and grace awed even a python, and whom the gods loved. The possibility of having good kings stirs his waning determination to rid the earth of evil ones.

Interlude III

6. The same treat. The feast of the girl is made up of fig-peckers (birds that feed on figs), lampreys (eel-like fish esteemed a delicacy), and red wine from Breganze, a town noted for its wines.

17. Spring's come, etc. These girls are well differentiated. The "first girl" is set apart from the others by her superior refinement, by her longing for her country home, and by her unhappiness with Cecco. The "third girl" seems to be the leader in the plan against Pippa.

22. Deuzans, etc. Varieties of apples.

64. Ortolans. Birds about the size of larks, and an expensive delicacy.

66. Polenta. A coarse corn-meal pudding.

89. Great rich handsome Englishman. Bluphocks, who has been hired by the Intendant to lure Pippa into evil courses.


1. Monsignor. The Bishop has come from Messina in Sicily to take possession of his dead brother's estate. The "Ugo" to whom he speaks is the Intendant mentioned at the beginning of Interlude II.

4. Benedicto benedicatur. A form of blessing for the repast. "Let it be consecrated with a good saying."

9. Assumption Day. The festival of the Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven comes August 25.

36. Jules. This is the Jules of Noon. His history is thus carried on beyond the point where we left him at the close of his interview with Phene.

51. Correggio. An Italian artist (1494-1534).

72. Podere. (Plural, poderi.) A small farm or manor.

83. Cesena. An Episcopal city about twelve miles from Forli.

108. Millet-cake. A cake made of an Italian grain and eaten only by the poorest classes.

135. Letter No. 3. The information from Rome is based on a wrong assumption. The elder brother had an infant heir whom the second brother endeavored to put out of the way in order that he might himself inherit the estate. He hired Maffeo to destroy the child, and, according to the information from Rome, Maffeo did so. On this assumption Maffeo is to be arrested and the money and land given him by the second brother to keep the deed a secret are now to revert to the church.

154. So old a story. In reality Maffeo has been more astute than they thought. He did not kill the child but kept it ready to produce as the heir to the estates if the second brother at any time proved delinquent in the required payments.

174. Let us understand one another. He believes that when the Bishop sees himself about to lose the estate, he too will show himself ready for a bargain. The Bishop is simply to keep still and Maffeo will see that the heir-who is Pippa-shall be finally brought to shame and death. The Bishop is to have the estates, and Maffeo is to keep his ill-gotten gains and be given a chance to escape. The Bishop is apparently listening to the tempter when he hears Pippa's song. Its fresh lilting sweetness, and especially, perhaps, the wording of the last line, touch his heart and his conscience, and he suddenly orders Maffeo's arrest, at the same time uttering the prayer, "Have mercy upon me, O God."


7. My Zanze. Zanze was evidently the "third girl" who took Pippa in charge at the end of Interlude III.

30. Monsignor's people. Zanze was apparently talking to Pippa under the Monsignor's window. Pippa broke off the unwelcome talk by her song, and Zanze had hardly time to begin again when there came the noise of the arrest of Maffeo.

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Transcriber's note

The following changes have been made to the text:

Page 44: "Rabbi Ben Erza" changed to "Rabbi Ben Ezra".

Page 89: Numbered line 25.

Page 199: Numbered line 90.

Page 323: Numbered line 5.

Page 392: "opposed such beginings" changed to "opposed such beginnings".

Page 395: "Baldasarre Galuppi" changed to "Baldassare Galuppi".

Page 417: "name to to the volume" changed to "name to the volume".

Page 419: "Voglers masterly playing" changed to "Vogler's masterly playing".

Page 423: "deveolpment of art" changed to "development of art".

Page 425: "Pacchiarotte" changed to "Pacchiarotto".

Page 436: "Chiari" changed to "Chiara".

Page 436: "Breganza" changed to "Breganze".

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