Introduction to Robert Browning
Hiram Corson

Part 7 out of 8

Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you,
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!


But you were living before that,
And also you are living after;
And the memory I started at --
My starting moves your laughter!


I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world, no doubt,
Yet a hand's-breadth of it shines alone
'Mid the blank miles round about:


For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather!
Well, I forget the rest.

How it strikes a Contemporary.

I only knew one poet in my life:
And this, or something like it, was his way.

You saw go up and down Valladolid,
A man of mark, to know next time you saw.
His very serviceable suit of black
Was courtly once and conscientious still,
And many might have worn it, though none did:
The cloak, that somewhat shone and showed the threads,
Had purpose, and the ruff, significance.
He walked, and tapped the pavement with his cane, [10]
Scenting the world, looking it full in face:
An old dog, bald and blindish, at his heels.
They turned up, now, the alley by the church,
That leads no whither; now, they breathed themselves
On the main promenade just at the wrong time.
You'd come upon his scrutinizing hat,
Making a peaked shade blacker than itself
Against the single window spared some house
Intact yet with its mouldered Moorish work, --
Or else surprise the ferrel of his stick [20]
Trying the mortar's temper 'tween the chinks
Of some new shop a-building, French and fine.
He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade,
The man who slices lemons into drink,
The coffee-roaster's brazier, and the boys
That volunteer to help him turn its winch.
He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye,
And fly-leaf ballads on the vendor's string,
And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall.
He took such cognizance of men and things, [30]
If any beat a horse, you felt he saw;
If any cursed a woman, he took note;
Yet stared at nobody, -- you stared at him,
And found, less to your pleasure than surprise,
He seemed to know you and expect as much.
So, next time that a neighbor's tongue was loosed,
It marked the shameful and notorious fact,
We had among us, not so much a spy,
As a recording chief-inquisitor,
The town's true master if the town but knew! [40]
We merely kept a governor for form,
While this man walked about and took account
Of all thought, said and acted, then went home,
And wrote it fully to our Lord the King
Who has an itch to know things, he knows why,
And reads them in his bedroom of a night.
Oh, you might smile! there wanted not a touch,
A tang of. . .well, it was not wholly ease,
As back into your mind the man's look came.
Stricken in years a little, such a brow [50]
His eyes had to live under! -- clear as flint
On either side o' the formidable nose
Curved, cut and colored like an eagle's claw.
Had he to do with A.'s surprising fate?
When altogether old B. disappeared,
And young C. got his mistress, -- was't our friend,
His letter to the King, that did it all?
What paid the bloodless man for so much pains?
Our Lord the King has favorites manifold,
And shifts his ministry some once a month; [60]
Our city gets new governors at whiles, --
But never word or sign, that I could hear,
Notified, to this man about the streets,
The King's approval of those letters conned
The last thing duly at the dead of night.
Did the man love his office? Frowned our Lord,
Exhorting when none heard -- "Beseech me not!
Too far above my people, -- beneath me!
I set the watch, -- how should the people know?
Forget them, keep me all the more in mind!" [70]
Was some such understanding 'twixt the two?

I found no truth in one report at least --
That if you tracked him to his home, down lanes
Beyond the Jewry, and as clean to pace,
You found he ate his supper in a room
Blazing with lights, four Titians on the wall,
And twenty naked girls to change his plate!
Poor man, he lived another kind of life
In that new stuccoed third house by the bridge,
Fresh-painted, rather smart than otherwise! [80]
The whole street might o'erlook him as he sat,
Leg crossing leg, one foot on the dog's back,
Playing a decent cribbage with his maid
(Jacynth, you're sure her name was) o'er the cheese
And fruit, three red halves of starved winter-pears,
Or treat of radishes in April. Nine,
Ten, struck the church clock, straight to bed went he.

My father, like the man of sense he was,
Would point him out to me a dozen times;
"St -- St," he'd whisper, "the Corregidor!" [90]
I had been used to think that personage
Was one with lacquered breeches, lustrous belt,
And feathers like a forest in his hat,
Who blew a trumpet and proclaimed the news,
Announced the bull-fights, gave each church its turn,
And memorized the miracle in vogue!
He had a great observance from us boys;
We were in error; that was not the man.

I'd like now, yet had haply been afraid,
To have just looked, when this man came to die, [100]
And seen who lined the clean gay garret sides,
And stood about the neat low truckle-bed,
With the heavenly manner of relieving guard.
Here had been, mark, the general-in-chief,
Thro' a whole campaign of the world's life and death,
Doing the King's work all the dim day long,
In his old coat and up to knees in mud,
Smoked like a herring, dining on a crust, --
And, now the day was won, relieved at once!
No further show or need of that old coat, [110]
You are sure, for one thing! Bless us, all the while
How sprucely we are dressed out, you and I!
A second, and the angels alter that.
Well, I could never write a verse, -- could you?
Let's to the Prado and make the most of time.


A Poem in Twelve Books.

* Transcendentalism: a poem in twelve books. It must be understood
that the poet addressed has written a long poem under this title,
and a brother-poet, while admitting that it contains "true thoughts,
good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up", raises the objection
that they are naked, instead of being draped, as they should be,
in sights and sounds.

Stop playing, poet! May a brother speak?
'Tis you speak, that's your error. Song's our art:
Whereas you please to speak these naked thoughts
Instead of draping them in sights and sounds.
-- True thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up!
But why such long prolusion and display,
Such turning and adjustment of the harp,
And taking it upon your breast, at length,
Only to speak dry words across its strings?
Stark-naked thought is in request enough: [10]
Speak prose and hollo it till Europe hears!
The six-foot Swiss tube, braced about with bark,
Which helps the hunter's voice from Alp to Alp --
Exchange our harp for that, -- who hinders you?
But here's your fault; grown men want thought, you think;
Thought's what they mean by verse, and seek in verse;
Boys seek for images and melody,
Men must have reason -- so, you aim at men.
Quite otherwise! Objects throng our youth, 'tis true;
We see and hear and do not wonder much: [20]
If you could tell us what they mean, indeed!
As German Boehme never cared for plants
Until it happed, a-walking in the fields,
He noticed all at once that plants could speak,
Nay, turned with loosened tongue to talk with him.
That day the daisy had an eye indeed --
Colloquized with the cowslip on such themes!
We find them extant yet in Jacob's prose.
But by the time youth slips a stage or two
While reading prose in that tough book he wrote, [30]
(Collating and emendating the same
And settling on the sense most to our mind)
We shut the clasps and find life's summer past.
Then, who helps more, pray, to repair our loss --
Another Boehme with a tougher book
And subtler meanings of what roses say, --
Or some stout Mage like him of Halberstadt,
John, who made things Boehme wrote thoughts about?
He with a "look you!" vents a brace of rhymes,
And in there breaks the sudden rose herself, [40]
Over us, under, round us every side,
Nay, in and out the tables and the chairs
And musty volumes, Boehme's book and all, --
Buries us with a glory, young once more,
Pouring heaven into this shut house of life.
So come, the harp back to your heart again!
You are a poem, though your poem's naught.
The best of all you showed before, believe,
Was your own boy-face o'er the finer chords
Bent, following the cherub at the top [50]
That points to God with his paired half-moon wings.

22. German Boehme: Jacob Boehme (or Behmen), a shoemaker
and a famous theosophist, b. 1575, at Old Seidenberg,
a village near Goerlitz; d. 1624. The 24th verse of the poem,
"He noticed all at once that plants could speak", may refer to
a remarkable experience of Boehme, related in Dr. Hans Lassen Martensen's
`Jacob Boehme: his life and teaching, or studies in theosophy:
translated from the Danish by T. Rhys Evans', London, 1885:
"Sitting one day in his room, his eye fell upon a burnished pewter dish,
which reflected the sunshine with such marvellous splendor
that he fell into an inward ecstasy, and it seemed to him as if
he could now look into the principles and deepest foundations of things.
He believed that it was only a fancy, and in order to banish it
from his mind he went out upon the green. But here he remarked
that he gazed into the very heart of things, the very herbs and grass,
and that actual nature harmonized with what he had inwardly seen."
Martensen, in his biography, follows that by Frankenberg,
in which the experience may be given more in detail.

37-40. him of Halberstadt, John: "It is not a thinker like Boehme,
who will compensate us for the lost summer of our life; but a magician
like John of Halberstadt, who can, at any moment, conjure roses up."

"The `magic' symbolized, is that of genuine poetry; but the magician,
or `Mage', is an historical person; and the special feat imputed to him
was recorded of other magicians in the Middle Ages, if not of himself.
`Johannes Teutonicus, a canon of Halberstadht in Germany,
after he had performed a number of prestigious feats almost incredible,
was transported by the Devil in the likeness of a black horse,
and was both seen and heard upon one and the same Christmas day,
to say mass in Halberstadht, in Mayntz, and in Cologne'
(`Heywood's Hierarchy', Bk. IV., p. 253). The `prestigious feat'
of causing flowers to appear in winter, was a common one."
-- Mrs. Sutherland Orr's `Handbook to the works of Robert Browning',
p. 209.

It may be said that the advice given in this poem, Browning has not
sufficiently followed in his own poetry. On this point, a writer in
the `British Quarterly Review' (Vol. 23, p. 162) justly remarks:
"Browning's thought is always that of a poet. Subtle, nimble,
and powerful as is the intellect, and various as is the learning,
all is manifested through the imagination, and comes forth
shaped and tinted by it. Thus, even in the foregoing passages
[cited from `Transcendentalism' and `Bishop Blougram's Apology'],
where the matter is almost as purely as it can be the produce of
the mere understanding, it is still evident that the method of
the thought is poetic. The notions take the form of images.
For example, the poet means to say that Prose is a good
and mighty vehicle in its way, but that it is not Poetry;
and how does the conception shape itself in his mind? Why,
in an image. All at once it is not Prose that is thought about,
but a huge six-foot speaking-trumpet braced round with bark,
through which the Swiss hunters help their voices from Alp to Alp --
Poetry, on the other hand, being no such big and blaring instrument,
but a harp taken to the breast of youth and swept by ecstatic fingers.
And so with the images of Boehme and his book, and John of Halberstadt
with his magic rose -- still a concrete body to enshrine
an abstract meaning."

Apparent Failure.

"We shall soon lose a celebrated building." -- Paris Newspaper.


No, for I'll save it! Seven years since,
I passed through Paris, stopped a day
To see the baptism of your Prince;
Saw, made my bow, and went my way:
Walking the heat and headache off,
I took the Seine-side, you surmise,
Thought of the Congress, Gortschakoff,
Cavour's appeal and Buol's replies,
So sauntered till -- what met my eyes?

St. 1. To see the baptism of your Prince: the Prince Imperial,
son of Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie,
born March 16, 1856.
the Congress: the Congress of Paris.

Gortschakoff: Prince Alexander Michaelowitsch Gortschakoff;
while representing Russia at the Court of Vienna, he kept Austria
neutral during the Crimean War.

Cavour: Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, Italian statesman, b. 1810;
at the Congress of Paris, brought forward the question of
the political consolidation of Italy, which led to the invasion of Italy
by the Austrians, who were defeated; d. 6th June, 1861.

Buol: Karl Ferdinand von Buol-Schauenstein, Austrian diplomatist,
and minister of foreign affairs from 1852 to 1859.


Only the Doric little Morgue!
The dead-house where you show your drowned:
Petrarch's Vaucluse makes proud the Sorgue,
Your Morgue has made the Seine renowned.
One pays one's debt in such a case;
I plucked up heart and entered, -- stalked,
Keeping a tolerable face
Compared with some whose cheeks were chalked:
Let them! No Briton's to be balked!

St. 2. Petrarch's Vaucluse makes proud the Sorgue:
Fontaine de Vaucluse, a celebrated fountain, in the department
of Vaucluse, in Southern France, the source of the Sorgues.
The village named after it was for some time the residence of Petrarch.


First came the silent gazers; next,
A screen of glass, we're thankful for;
Last, the sight's self, the sermon's text,
The three men who did most abhor
Their life in Paris yesterday,
So killed themselves: and now, enthroned
Each on his copper couch, they lay
Fronting me, waiting to be owned.
I thought, and think, their sin's atoned.


Poor men, God made, and all for that!
The reverence struck me; o'er each head
Religiously was hung its hat,
Each coat dripped by the owner's bed,
Sacred from touch: each had his berth,
His bounds, his proper place of rest,
Who last night tenanted on earth
Some arch, where twelve such slept abreast, --
Unless the plain asphalte seemed best.


How did it happen, my poor boy?
You wanted to be Buonaparte
And have the Tuileries for toy,
And could not, so it broke your heart?
You, old one by his side, I judge,
Were, red as blood, a socialist,
A leveller! Does the Empire grudge
You've gained what no Republic missed?
Be quiet, and unclinch your fist!


And this -- why, he was red in vain,
Or black, -- poor fellow that is blue!
What fancy was it, turned your brain?
Oh, women were the prize for you!
Money gets women, cards and dice
Get money, and ill-luck gets just
The copper couch and one clear nice
Cool squirt of water o'er your bust,
The right thing to extinguish lust!


It's wiser being good than bad;
It's safer being meek than fierce:
It's fitter being sane than mad.
My own hope is, a sun will pierce
The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
That, after Last, returns the First,
Though a wide compass round be fetched;
That what began best, can't end worst,
Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst.

Rabbi Ben Ezra.


Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

St. 1. Grow old along with me!: I understand that the aged Rabbi
is addressing some young friend.
The best is yet to be, the last of life:

"By the spirit, when age shall o'ercome thee, thou still shalt enjoy
More indeed, than at first when, unconscious, the life of a boy."
-- `Saul', 162, 163.


Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sighed, "Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall?"
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearned, "Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"


Not for such hopes and fears
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

St. 2, 3. The construction is, I do not remonstrate that youth,
amassing flowers, sighed, Which rose make ours, which lily leave, etc.,
nor that, admiring stars, it (youth) yearned, etc.


Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast;
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?

St. 4. Irks care: does care irk. . .does doubt fret. . .


Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.

St. 5. Nearer we hold of God: have title to a nearer relationship.
See Webster, s.v. Hold, v.i. def. 3. {No edition is given.}


Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!


For thence, -- a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks, --
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.

St. 7. What I aspired to be: "'tis not what man Does which exalts him,
but what man Would do." -- `Saul', v. 296.


What is he but a brute
Whose flesh hath soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test --
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?

St. 8. Thy body at its best, How far, etc.: "In our flesh grows
the branch of this life, in our soul it bears fruit." -- `Saul', v. 151.


Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once "How good to live and learn"?

St. 9. the Past: he means the past of his own life.


Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw Power, see now Love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete, -- I trust what Thou shalt do!"

St. 10. The original reading of the 3d verse was, "I, who saw Power,
SHALL see Love perfect too." The change has cleared up a difficulty.
The All-Great is now to me, in my age, the All-Loving too.
Maker, remake, complete: there seems to be an anticipation here
of the metaphor of the Potter's wheel, in stanzas 25-32, and see Jer. 18:4.


For pleasant is this flesh;
Our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest:
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold
Possessions of the brute, -- gain most, as we did best!


Let us not always say
"Spite of this flesh to-day
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!"
As the bird wings and sings,
Let us cry "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"


Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a God though in the germ.

St. 13. Thence shall I pass, etc.: It will be observed that
here and in some of the following stanzas, the Rabbi speaks
in the person of youth; so youth should say to itself.


And I shall thereupon
Take rest, ere I be gone
Once more on my adventure brave and new:
Fearless and unperplexed,
When I wage battle next,
What weapons to select, what armor to indue.


Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;
Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same,
Give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.


For, note when evening shuts,
A certain moment cuts
The deed off, calls the glory from the gray:
A whisper from the west
Shoots -- "Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another day."


So, still within this life,
Though lifted o'er its strife,
Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,
"This rage was right i' the main,
That acquiescence vain:
The Future I may face now I have proved the Past."


For more is not reserved
To man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day:
Here, work enough to watch
The Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.


As it was better, youth
Should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made:
So, better, age, exempt
From strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedst age: wait death, nor be afraid!


Enough now, if the Right
And Good and Infinite
Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own,
With knowledge absolute,
Subject to no dispute
From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.

St. 20. knowledge absolute: soul knowledge, which is reached through
direct assimilation by the soul of the hidden principles of things,
as distinguished from intellectual knowledge, which is based on
the phenominal, and must be more or less subject to dispute.


Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!

St. 21, vv. 4, 5. The relatives are suppressed; -- Was I whom
the world arraigned, or were they whom my soul disdained, right?


Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They, this thing, and I, that: whom shall my soul believe?


Not on the vulgar mass
Called "work", must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:


But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account:
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:


Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped:
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.


Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay, --
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"

St. 26. Potter's wheel: "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father:
we are the clay, and thou our Potter; and we are all the work
of thy hand." -- Is. 64:8; and see Jer. 18:2-6.


Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
THAT was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.


He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee, and turn thee forth sufficiently impressed.


What though the earlier grooves
Which ran the laughing loves
Around thy base, no longer pause and press?
What though, about thy rim,
Skull-things in order grim
Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?


Look not thou down but up!
To uses of a cup,
The festal board, lamp's flash, and trumpet's peal,
The new wine's foaming flow,
The Master's lips aglow!
Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what needst thou with earth's wheel?


But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men!
And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
Did I, -- to the wheel of life
With shapes and colors rife,
Bound dizzily, -- mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:


So, take and use Thy work,
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

A Grammarian's Funeral.

Shortly after the Revival of Learning in Europe.

Let us begin and carry up this corpse,
Singing together.
Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes,
Each in its tether
Sleeping safe in the bosom of the plain,
Cared-for till cock-crow:
Look out if yonder be not day again
Rimming the rock-row!
That's the appropriate country; there, man's thought,
Rarer, intenser, [10]
Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought,
Chafes in the censer.
Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop;
Seek we sepulture
On a tall mountain, citied to the top,
Crowded with culture!
All the peaks soar, but one the rest excels;
Clouds overcome it;
No, yonder sparkle is the citadel's
Circling its summit. [20]
Thither our path lies; wind we up the heights!
Wait ye the warning?
Our low life was the level's and the night's:
He's for the morning.
Step to a tune, square chests, erect each head,
'Ware the beholders!
This is our master, famous, calm, and dead,
Borne on our shoulders.

Sleep, crop and herd! sleep, darkling thorpe and croft
Safe from the weather! [30]
He, whom we convoy to his grave aloft,
Singing together,
He was a man born with thy face and throat,
Lyric Apollo!
Long he lived nameless: how should spring take note
Winter would follow?
Till lo, the little touch, and youth was gone!
Cramped and diminished,
Moaned he, "New measures, other feet anon!
"My dance is finished?" [40]
No, that's the world's way; (keep the mountain-side,
Make for the city!)
He knew the signal, and stepped on with pride
Over men's pity;
Left play for work, and grappled with the world
Bent on escaping:
"What's in the scroll," quoth he, "thou keepest furled?
Show me their shaping,
Theirs who most studied man, the bard and sage, --
Give!" -- So, he gowned him, [50]
Straight got by heart that book to its last page:
Learned, we found him.
Yea, but we found him bald too, eyes like lead,
Accents uncertain:
"Time to taste life," another would have said,
"Up with the curtain!"
This man said rather, "Actual life comes next?
Patience a moment!
Grant I have mastered learning's crabbed text,
Still there's the comment. [60]
Let me know all! Prate not of most or least,
Painful or easy!
Even to the crumbs I'd fain eat up the feast,
Ay, nor feel queasy."
Oh, such a life as he resolved to live,
When he had learned it,
When he had gathered all books had to give!
Sooner, he spurned it.
Image the whole, then execute the parts --
Fancy the fabric [70]
Quite, ere you build, ere steel strike fire from quartz,
Ere mortar dab brick!

(Here's the town-gate reached; there's the market-place
Gaping before us.)
Yea, this in him was the peculiar grace
(Hearten our chorus!)
That before living he'd learn how to live --
No end to learning:
Earn the means first -- God surely will contrive
Use for our earning. [80]
Others mistrust and say, "But time escapes!
Live now or never!"
He said, "What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes!
Man has Forever."
Back to his book then: deeper drooped his head:
CALCULUS racked him:
Leaden before, his eyes grew dross of lead:
TUSSIS attacked him.
"Now, master, take a little rest!" -- not he!
(Caution redoubled! [90]
Step two abreast, the way winds narrowly!)
Not a whit troubled,
Back to his studies, fresher than at first,
Fierce as a dragon
He (soul-hydroptic with a sacred thirst)
Sucked at the flagon.
Oh, if we draw a circle premature,
Heedless of far gain,
Greedy for quick returns of profit, sure
Bad is our bargain! [100]
Was it not great? did not he throw on God
(He loves the burthen) --
God's task to make the heavenly period
Perfect the earthen?
Did not he magnify the mind, show clear
Just what it all meant?
He would not discount life, as fools do here,
Paid by instalment.
He ventured neck or nothing -- heaven's success
Found, or earth's failure: [110]
"Wilt thou trust death or not?" He answered, "Yes!
Hence with life's pale lure!"
That low man seeks a little thing to do.
Sees it and does it:
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one,
His hundred's soon hit:
This high man, aiming at a million,
Misses an unit. [120]
That, has the world here -- should he need the next,
Let the world mind him!
This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed
Seeking shall find him.
So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,
Ground he at grammar;
Still, through the rattle, parts of speech were rife:
While he could stammer
He settled HOTI's business -- let it be! --
Properly based OUN -- [130]
Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic `De',
Dead from the waist down.
Well, here's the platform, here's the proper place:
Hail to your purlieus,
All ye highfliers of the feathered race,
Swallows and curlews!
Here's the top-peak; the multitude below
Live, for they can, there:
This man decided not to Live but Know --
Bury this man there? [140]
Here -- here's his place, where meteors shoot, clouds form,
Lightnings are loosened,
Stars come and go! Let joy break with the storm,
Peace let the dew send!
Lofty designs must close in like effects:
Loftily lying,
Leave him -- still loftier than the world suspects,
Living and dying.

18. overcome: pass over, overhang, overshadow; used as in Macbeth
III. IV. 3, "overcome us like a summer's cloud".

39, 40. New measures, . . .finished?: do you say? not at all.

42. All in parentheses, throughout the poem, is addressed
by the speaker directly to his companions.

57. Actual life comes next: do you say? No. I have more to do first.

86. Calculus: the stone.

88. Tussis: a cough.

95. hydroptic: hydropic, dropsical.

129. Hoti: the Greek particle `/Oti, conj. that, etc.

130. Oun: Greek particle Ou^'n, then, now then, etc.

131. the enclitic De: Greek De {Delta epsilon}; in regard to this,
the following letter by Browning appeared in the London `Daily News'
of Nov. 21, 1874: "To the Editor of `The Daily News'. Sir, --
In a clever article this morning you speak of `the doctrine of
the enclitic De' -- `which, with all deference to Mr. Browning,
in point of fact does not exist.' No, not to Mr. Browning:
but pray defer to Herr Buttmann, whose fifth list of `enclitics'
ends `with the inseparable De' -- or to Curtius,
whose fifth list ends also with `De (meaning `towards'
and as a demonstrative appendage)'. That this is not to be confounded
with the accentuated `De, meaning BUT', was the `doctrine'
which the Grammarian bequeathed to those capable of receiving it. --
I am, sir, yours obediently, R. B." -- `Browning Soc. Papers',
Part I., p. 56.

An Epistle containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish,
the Arab Physician.

Karshish, the picker-up of learning's crumbs,
The not-incurious in God's handiwork
(This man's-flesh he hath admirably made,
Blown like a bubble, kneaded like a paste,
To coop up and keep down on earth a space
That puff of vapor from his mouth, man's soul)
-- To Abib, all-sagacious in our art,
Breeder in me of what poor skill I boast,
Like me inquisitive how pricks and cracks
Befall the flesh through too much stress and strain, [10]
Whereby the wily vapor fain would slip
Back and rejoin its source before the term, --
And aptest in contrivance (under God)
To baffle it by deftly stopping such: --
The vagrant Scholar to his Sage at home
Sends greeting (health and knowledge, fame with peace)
Three samples of true snake-stone -- rarer still,
One of the other sort, the melon-shaped
(But fitter, pounded fine, for charms than drugs),
And writeth now the twenty-second time. [20]

My journeyings were brought to Jericho:
Thus I resume. Who, studious in our art,
Shall count a little labor unrepaid?
I have shed sweat enough, left flesh and bone
On many a flinty furlong of this land.
Also, the country-side is all on fire
With rumors of a marching hitherward:
Some say Vespasian cometh, some, his son.
A black lynx snarled and pricked a tufted ear;
Lust of my blood inflamed his yellow balls: [30]
I cried and threw my staff, and he was gone.
Twice have the robbers stripped and beaten me,
And once a town declared me for a spy;
But at the end, I reach Jerusalem,
Since this poor covert where I pass the night,
This Bethany, lies scarce the distance thence
A man with plague-sores at the third degree
Runs till he drops down dead. Thou laughest here!
'Sooth, it elates me, thus reposed and safe,
To void the stuffing of my travel-scrip, [40]
And share with thee whatever Jewry yields.
A viscid choler is observable
In tertians, I was nearly bold to say;
And falling-sickness hath a happier cure
Than our school wots of: there's a spider here
Weaves no web, watches on the ledge of tombs,
Sprinkled with mottles on an ash-gray back;
Take five and drop them. . .but who knows his mind,
The Syrian runagate I trust this to?
His service payeth me a sublimate [50]
Blown up his nose to help the ailing eye.
Best wait: I reach Jerusalem at morn,
There set in order my experiences,
Gather what most deserves, and give thee all --
Or I might add, Judaea's gum-tragacanth
Scales off in purer flakes, shines clearer-grained,
Cracks 'twixt the pestle and the porphyry,
In fine exceeds our produce. Scalp-disease
Confounds me, crossing so with leprosy:
Thou hadst admired one sort I gained at Zoar -- [60]
But zeal outruns discretion. Here I end.

Yet stay! my Syrian blinketh gratefully,
Protesteth his devotion is my price --
Suppose I write what harms not, though he steal?
I half resolve to tell thee, yet I blush,
What set me off a-writing first of all.
An itch I had, a sting to write, a tang!
For, be it this town's barrenness, -- or else
The Man had something in the look of him, --
His case has struck me far more than 'tis worth. [70]
So, pardon if -- (lest presently I lose,
In the great press of novelty at hand,
The care and pains this somehow stole from me)
I bid thee take the thing while fresh in mind,
Almost in sight -- for, wilt thou have the truth?
The very man is gone from me but now,
Whose ailment is the subject of discourse.
Thus then, and let thy better wit help all!

'Tis but a case of mania: subinduced
By epilepsy, at the turning-point [80]
Of trance prolonged unduly some three days;
When, by the exhibition of some drug
Or spell, exorcization, stroke of art
Unknown to me and which 'twere well to know,
The evil thing, out-breaking, all at once,
Left the man whole and sound of body indeed, --
But, flinging (so to speak) life's gates too wide,
Making a clear house of it too suddenly,
The first conceit that entered might inscribe
Whatever it was minded on the wall [90]
So plainly at that vantage, as it were
(First come, first served), that nothing subsequent
Attaineth to erase those fancy-scrawls
The just-returned and new-established soul
Hath gotten now so thoroughly by heart
That henceforth she will read or these or none.
And first -- the man's own firm conviction rests
That he was dead (in fact they buried him)
-- That he was dead and then restored to life
By a Nazarene physician of his tribe: [100]
-- 'Sayeth, the same bade "Rise", and he did rise.
"Such cases are diurnal", thou wilt cry.
Not so this figment! -- not, that such a fume,
Instead of giving way to time and health,
Should eat itself into the life of life,
As saffron tingeth flesh, blood, bones, and all!
For see, how he takes up the after-life.
The man -- it is one Lazarus a Jew,
Sanguine, proportioned, fifty years of age,
The body's habit wholly laudable, [110]
As much, indeed, beyond the common health
As he were made and put aside to show.
Think, could we penetrate by any drug
And bathe the wearied soul and worried flesh,
And bring it clear and fair, by three days' sleep!
Whence has the man the balm that brightens all?
This grown man eyes the world now like a child.
Some elders of his tribe, I should premise,
Led in their friend, obedient as a sheep,
To bear my inquisition. While they spoke, [120]
Now sharply, now with sorrow, -- told the case, --
He listened not except I spoke to him,
But folded his two hands and let them talk,
Watching the flies that buzzed: and yet no fool.
And that's a sample how his years must go.
Look if a beggar, in fixed middle-life,
Should find a treasure, -- can he use the same
With straitened habits and with tastes starved small,
And take at once to his impoverished brain
The sudden element that changes things, [130]
That sets the undreamed-of rapture at his hand,
And puts the cheap old joy in the scorned dust?
Is he not such an one as moves to mirth --
Warily parsimonious, when no need,
Wasteful as drunkenness at undue times?
All prudent counsel as to what befits
The golden mean, is lost on such an one:
The man's fantastic will is the man's law.
So here -- we call the treasure knowledge, say,
Increased beyond the fleshly faculty -- [140]
Heaven opened to a soul while yet on earth,
Earth forced on a soul's use while seeing heaven:
The man is witless of the size, the sum,
The value in proportion of all things,
Or whether it be little or be much.
Discourse to him of prodigious armaments
Assembled to besiege his city now,
And of the passing of a mule with gourds --
'Tis one! Then take it on the other side,
Speak of some trifling fact, -- he will gaze rapt [150]
With stupor at its very littleness
(Far as I see), as if in that indeed
He caught prodigious import, whole results;
And so will turn to us the by-standers
In ever the same stupor (note this point),
That we, too, see not with his opened eyes.
Wonder and doubt come wrongly into play,
Preposterously, at cross purposes.
Should his child sicken unto death, -- why, look
For scarce abatement of his cheerfulness, [160]
Or pretermission of the daily craft!
While a word, gesture, glance from that same child
At play or in the school or laid asleep,
Will startle him to an agony of fear,
Exasperation, just as like. Demand
The reason why -- "'tis but a word," object --
"A gesture" -- he regards thee as our lord
Who lived there in the pyramid alone,
Looked at us (does thou mind?) when, being young,
We both would unadvisedly recite [170]
Some charm's beginning, from that book of his,
Able to bid the sun throb wide and burst
All into stars, as suns grown old are wont.
Thou and the child have each a veil alike
Thrown o'er your heads, from under which ye both
Stretch your blind hands and trifle with a match
Over a mine of Greek fire, did ye know!
He holds on firmly to some thread of life --
(It is the life to lead perforcedly)
Which runs across some vast, distracting orb [180]
Of glory on either side that meagre thread,
Which, conscious of, he must not enter yet --
The spiritual life around the earthly life:
The law of that is known to him as this,
His heart and brain move there, his feet stay here.
So is the man perplext with impulses
Sudden to start off crosswise, not straight on,
Proclaiming what is right and wrong across,
And not along, this black thread through the blaze --
"It should be" balked by "here it cannot be". [190]
And oft the man's soul springs into his face
As if he saw again and heard again
His sage that bade him "Rise", and he did rise.
Something, a word, a tick o' the blood within
Admonishes: then back he sinks at once
To ashes, who was very fire before,
In sedulous recurrence to his trade
Whereby he earneth him the daily bread;
And studiously the humbler for that pride,
Professedly the faultier that he knows [200]
God's secret, while he holds the thread of life.
Indeed the especial marking of the man
Is prone submission to the heavenly will --
Seeing it, what it is, and why it is.
'Sayeth, he will wait patient to the last
For that same death which must restore his being
To equilibrium, body loosening soul
Divorced even now by premature full growth:
He will live, nay, it pleaseth him to live
So long as God please, and just how God please. [210]
He even seeketh not to please God more
(Which meaneth, otherwise) than as God please.
Hence, I perceive not he affects to preach
The doctrine of his sect whate'er it be,
Make proselytes as madmen thirst to do:
How can he give his neighbor the real ground,
His own conviction? Ardent as he is --
Call his great truth a lie, why, still the old
"Be it as God please" re-assureth him.
I probed the sore as thy disciple should: [220]
"How, beast," said I, "this stolid carelessness
Sufficeth thee, when Rome is on her march
To stamp out like a little spark thy town,
Thy tribe, thy crazy tale and thee at once?"
He merely looked with his large eyes on me.
The man is apathetic, you deduce?
Contrariwise, he loves both old and young,
Able and weak, affects the very brutes
And birds -- how say I? flowers of the field --
As a wise workman recognizes tools [230]
In a master's workshop, loving what they make.
Thus is the man as harmless as a lamb:
Only impatient, let him do his best,
At ignorance and carelessness and sin --
An indignation which is promptly curbed:
As when in certain travel I have feigned
To be an ignoramus in our art
According to some preconceived design,
And happed to hear the land's practitioners
Steeped in conceit sublimed by ignorance, [240]
Prattle fantastically on disease,
Its cause and cure -- and I must hold my peace!

Thou wilt object -- Why have I not ere this
Sought out the sage himself, the Nazarene
Who wrought this cure, inquiring at the source,
Conferring with the frankness that befits?
Alas! it grieveth me, the learned leech
Perished in a tumult many years ago,
Accused, -- our learning's fate, -- of wizardry,
Rebellion, to the setting up a rule [250]
And creed prodigious as described to me.
His death, which happened when the earthquake fell
(Prefiguring, as soon appeared, the loss
To occult learning in our lord the sage
Who lived there in the pyramid alone),
Was wrought by the mad people -- that's their wont!
On vain recourse, as I conjecture it,
To his tried virtue, for miraculous help --
How could he stop the earthquake? That's their way!
The other imputations must be lies: [260]
But take one, though I loath to give it thee,
In mere respect for any good man's fame.
(And after all, our patient Lazarus
Is stark mad; should we count on what he says?
Perhaps not: though in writing to a leech
'Tis well to keep back nothing of a case.)
This man so cured regards the curer, then,
As -- God forgive me! who but God himself,
Creator and sustainer of the world,
That came and dwelt in flesh on it a while! [270]
-- 'Sayeth that such an one was born and lived,
Taught, healed the sick, broke bread at his own house,
Then died, with Lazarus by, for aught I know,
And yet was. . .what I said nor choose repeat,
And must have so avouched himself, in fact,
In hearing of this very Lazarus
Who saith -- but why all this of what he saith?
Why write of trivial matters, things of price
Calling at every moment for remark?
I noticed on the margin of a pool [280]
Blue-flowering borage, the Aleppo sort,
Aboundeth, very nitrous. It is strange!

Thy pardon for this long and tedious case,
Which, now that I review it, needs must seem
Unduly dwelt on, prolixly set forth!
Nor I myself discern in what is writ
Good cause for the peculiar interest
And awe indeed this man has touched me with.
Perhaps the journey's end, the weariness
Had wrought upon me first. I met him thus: [290]
I crossed a ridge of short sharp broken hills
Like an old lion's cheek teeth. Out there came
A moon made like a face with certain spots
Multiform, manifold, and menacing:
Then a wind rose behind me. So we met
In this old sleepy town at unaware,
The man and I. I send thee what is writ.
Regard it as a chance, a matter risked
To this ambiguous Syrian: he may lose,
Or steal, or give it thee with equal good. [300]
Jerusalem's repose shall make amends
For time this letter wastes, thy time and mine;
Till when, once more thy pardon and farewell!

The very God! think, Abib; dost thou think?
So, the All-Great, were the All-Loving too --
So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, "O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself!
Thou hast no power nor may'st conceive of mine:
But love I gave thee, with myself to love, [310]
And thou must love me who have died for thee!"
The madman saith He said so: it is strange.

1. Karshish. . .To Abib. {that is, phrase finishes on line 7.}

17. snake-stone: a certain kind of stone supposed to be efficacious
when placed upon the bite of a snake, in absorbing or charming away
the poison.

21. My journeyings were brought to Jericho: i.e., in his last letter.

28. Vespasian: T. Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus, Roman emperor,
A.D. 70-79; sent by Nero in 66 to conduct the war against the Jews;
when proclaimed emperor, left his son Titus to continue the war.

24-33. his ardent scientific interest has caused him
to brave all dangers.

49. The Syrian runagate: perhaps I'm writing for nothing
in trusting my letter to him.

60. Thou hadst: wouldst have.
Zoar: one of the "cities of the plain", S. E. of the Dead Sea
(Gen. 19:22).

65-78. Though he's deeply impressed with the subject, he approaches it
with extreme diffidence, writing to the "all-sagacious" Abib.

82. exhibition: used in its medical sense of administering a remedy.

103. fume: vaporish fancy.

106. As saffron tingeth: Chaucer uses "saffron" metaphorically
as a verb: --

"And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
To saffron with my predicacioun,
And for to stire men to devocioun." -- `The Pardoner's Prologue'.

113. Think, could WE penetrate by any drug.

141, 142. "Browning has drawn the portraiture of one to whom
the eternal is sensibly present, whose spirit has gained prematurely
absolute predominance: . . .and the result is. . .a being
`Professedly the faultier that he knows God's secret,
while he holds the thread of life' (vv. 200, 201). Lazarus therefore,
while he moves in the world, has lost all sense of proportion
in things about him, all measure of and faculty of dealing with that
which sways his fellows. He has no power or will to win them
to his faith, but he simply stands among men as a patient witness
of the overwhelming reality of the divine: a witness whose authority
is confessed, even against his inclination, by the student of nature,
who turns again and again to the phenomenon which he affects
to disparage.

"In this crucial example Browning shows how the exclusive dominance
of the spirit destroys the fulness of human life, its uses and powers,
while it leaves a passive life, crowned with an unearthly beauty.
On the other hand, he shows in his study of Cleon that
the richest results of earth in art and speculation,
and pleasure and power, are unable to remove from life the desolation
of final gloom. . . . The contrast is of the deepest significance.
The Jewish peasant endures earth, being in possession of heaven:
the Greek poet, in possession of earth, feels that heaven,
some future state,

`Unlimited in capability
For joy, as this is in desire for joy',

is a necessity for man; but no,

`Zeus has not yet revealed it; and alas,
He must have done so, were it possible!'

But we must not pause to follow out the contrast into details.
It is enough to see broadly that flesh and spirit each claim recognition
in connection with their proper spheres, in order that the present life
may bear its true result." -- Rev. Prof. Westcott on
`Browning's View of Life' (`B. Soc. Papers', IV., pp. 401, 402).

166. object: offer in opposition; see v. 243.

167. our lord: some sage under whom they had learned; see v. 254.

174. Thou and the child have: i.e., for him, Lazarus.

177. Greek fire: see Gibbon, chap. 52. {a flammable liquid,
kept so secret that its exact constitution is still unknown.}

281. Aleppo: a city of Syria; the blue-flowering borage was supposed
to possess valuable medicinal virtues and exhilarating qualities.

301. Jerusalem's repose shall make amends: he will avail himself of it
to write a better letter than this one.

A Martyr's Epitaph.

(From `Easter Day'.)

I was born sickly, poor, and mean,
A slave: no misery could screen
The holders of the pearl of price
From Caesar's envy; therefore twice
I fought with beasts, and three times saw
My children suffer by his law;
At last my own release was earned:
I was some time in being burned,
But at the close a Hand came through
The fire above my head, and drew [10]
My soul to Christ, whom now I see.
Sergius, a brother, writes for me
This testimony on the wall --
For me, I have forgot it all.

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.


Gr-r-r -- there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims --
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!


At the meal we sit together:
`Salve tibi!' I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
`Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:
What's the Latin name for "parsley"?'
What's the Greek name for Swine's Snout?


Whew! We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps --
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)


SAINT, forsooth! While brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horse-hairs,
-- Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)


When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu's praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp --
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp.

St. 5. the Arian: a follower of Arius (died 336 A.D.), who denied
that the Son was co-essential and co-eternal with the Father.


Oh, those melons? If he's able
We're to have a feast! so nice!
One goes to the Abbot's table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange! -- And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!


There's a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

St. 7. text in Galatians: chap. 5, vv. 19-21, where are enumerated
"the works of the flesh". There are seventeen named;
he uses twenty-nine indefinitely; it's common in French
to use trente-six (36) for any pretty big number.
If I trip him: What if I; and so in next stanza.
a Manichee: a follower of Mani, who aimed to unite Parseeism,
or Parsism, with Christianity.


Or, my scrofulous French novel
On gray paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's gripe:
If I double down its pages
At the woful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?


Or, there's Satan! -- one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine. . .
'St, there's Vespers! Plena gratia
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r -- you swine!

St. 9. Hy, Zy, Hine: represent the sound of the vesper bell.

Holy-Cross Day.

On which the Jews were forced to attend an Annual Christian Sermon in Rome.

* "By a bull of Gregory XIII. in the year 1584, all Jews above the age
of twelve years were compelled to listen every week to a sermon
from a Christian priest; usually an exposition of some passages
of the Old Testament, and especially those relating to the Messiah,
from the Christian point of view. This burden is not yet wholly removed
from them; and to this day, several times in the course of a year,
a Jewish congregation is gathered together in the church of S. Angelo
in Pescheria, and constrained to listen to a homily from a Dominican friar,
to whom, unless his zeal have eaten up his good feelings
and his good taste, the ceremony must be as painful as to his hearers.
In the same spirit of vulgar persecution, there is upon the gable
of a church, opposite one of the gates of the Ghetto, a fresco painting
of the Crucifixion, and, underneath, an inscription in Hebrew and Latin,
from the 2d and 3d verses of the 65th chapter of Isaiah --
`I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people,
which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
a people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face.'"
-- George S. Hillard's Six Months in Italy. (1853.)

["Now was come about Holy-Cross Day, and now must my lord preach
his first sermon to the Jews: as it was of old cared for
in the merciful bowels of the Church, that, so to speak, a crumb,
at least, from her conspicuous table here in Rome, should be,
though but once yearly, cast to the famishing dogs,
under-trampled and bespitten-upon beneath the feet of the guests.
And a moving sight in truth, this, of so many of the besotted
blind restif and ready-to-perish Hebrews! now maternally brought
-- nay (for He saith, `Compel them to come in'), haled, as it were,
by the head and hair, and against their obstinate hearts,
to partake of the heavenly grace. What awakening, what striving
with tears, what working of a yeasty conscience! Nor was my lord
wanting to himself on so apt an occasion; witness the abundance
of conversions which did incontinently reward him: though not to my lord
be altogether the glory." -- Diary by the Bishop's Secretary, 1600.]

What the Jews really said, on thus being driven to church,
was rather to this effect: --


Fee, faw, fum! bubble and squeak!
Blessedest Thursday's the fat of the week.
Rumble and tumble, sleek and rough,
Stinking and savory, smug and gruff,
Take the church-road, for the bell's due chime
Gives us the summons -- 'tis sermon-time!


Boh, here's Barnabas! Job, that's you?
Up stumps Solomon -- bustling too?
Shame, man! greedy beyond your years
To handsel the bishop's shaving-shears?
Fair play's a jewel! Leave friends in the lurch?
Stand on a line ere you start for the church!


Higgledy piggledy, packed we lie,
Rats in a hamper, swine in a sty,
Wasps in a bottle, frogs in a sieve,
Worms in a carcass, fleas in a sleeve.
Hist! square shoulders, settle your thumbs
And buzz for the bishop -- here he comes.


Bow, wow, wow -- a bone for the dog!
I liken his Grace to an acorned hog.
What, a boy at his side, with the bloom of a lass,
To help and handle my lord's hour-glass!
Didst ever behold so lithe a chine?
His cheek hath laps like a fresh-singed swine.


Aaron's asleep -- shove hip to haunch,
Or somebody deal him a dig in the paunch!
Look at the purse with the tassel and knob,
And the gown with the angel and thingumbob!
What's he at, quotha? reading his text!
Now you've his curtsey -- and what comes next?


See to our converts -- you doomed black dozen --
No stealing away -- nor cog nor cozen!
You five, that were thieves, deserve it fairly;
You seven, that were beggars, will live less sparely;
You took your turn and dipped in the hat,
Got fortune -- and fortune gets you; mind that!


Give your first groan -- compunction's at work;
And soft! from a Jew you mount to a Turk.
Lo, Micah, -- the selfsame beard on chin
He was four times already converted in!
Here's a knife, clip quick -- it's a sign of grace --
Or he ruins us all with his hanging-face.


Whom now is the bishop a-leering at?
I know a point where his text falls pat.
I'll tell him to-morrow, a word just now
Went to my heart and made me vow
To meddle no more with the worst of trades:
Let somebody else play his serenades!


Groan all together now, whee -- hee -- hee!
It's a-work, it's a-work, ah, woe is me!
It began, when a herd of us, picked and placed,
Were spurred through the Corso, stripped to the waist;
Jew brutes, with sweat and blood well spent
To usher in worthily Christian Lent.


It grew, when the hangman entered our bounds,
Yelled, pricked us out to his church like hounds:
It got to a pitch, when the hand indeed
Which gutted my purse, would throttle my creed:
And it overflows, when, to even the odd,
Men I helped to their sins, help me to their God.


But now, while the scapegoats leave our flock,
And the rest sit silent and count the clock,
Since forced to muse the appointed time
On these precious facts and truths sublime, --
Let us fitly employ it, under our breath,
In saying Ben Ezra's Song of Death.


For Rabbi Ben Ezra, the night he died,
Called sons and sons' sons to his side,
And spoke, "This world has been harsh and strange;
Something is wrong: there needeth a change.
But what, or where? at the last or first?
In one point only we sinned, at worst.

St. 12. Rabbi Ben Ezra: see biographical sketch subjoined to
the Argument of the Monologue entitled `Rabbi Ben Ezra'.


"The Lord will have mercy on Jacob yet,
And again in his border see Israel set.
When Judah beholds Jerusalem,
The stranger-seed shall be joined to them:
To Jacob's house shall the Gentiles cleave,
So the Prophet saith and his sons believe.


"Ay, the children of the chosen race
Shall carry and bring them to their place:
In the land of the Lord shall lead the same,
Bondsmen and handmaids. Who shall blame,
When the slaves enslave, the oppressed ones o'er
The oppressor triumph for evermore!


"God spoke, and gave us the word to keep:
Bade never fold the hands nor sleep
'Mid a faithless world, -- at watch and ward,
Till Christ at the end relieve our guard.
By his servant Moses the watch was set:
Though near upon cock-crow, we keep it yet.


"Thou! if thou wast he, who at mid-watch came,
By the starlight, naming a dubious name!
And if, too heavy with sleep -- too rash
With fear -- O thou, if that martyr-gash
Fell on thee coming to take thine own,
And we gave the Cross, when we owed the Throne --


"Thou art the Judge. We are bruised thus.
But, the Judgment over, join sides with us!
Thine too is the cause! and not more thine
Than ours, is the work of these dogs and swine,
Whose life laughs through and spits at their creed,
Who maintain thee in word, and defy thee in deed!


"We withstood Christ then? Be mindful how
At least we withstand Barabbas now!
Was our outrage sore? But the worst we spared,
To have called these -- Christians, had we dared!
Let defiance to them pay mistrust of thee,
And Rome make amends for Calvary!


"By the torture, prolonged from age to age,
By the infamy, Israel's heritage,
By the Ghetto's plague, by the garb's disgrace,
By the badge of shame, by the felon's place,
By the branding-tool, the bloody whip,
And the summons to Christian fellowship, --

St. 19. Ghetto: the Jews' quarter in Rome, Venice, and other cities.
The name is supposed to be derived from the Hebrew `ghet',
meaning division, separation, divorce.


"We boast our proof that at least the Jew
Would wrest Christ's name from the Devil's crew.
Thy face took never so deep a shade
But we fought them in it, God our aid!
A trophy to bear, as we march, thy band
South, East, and on to the Pleasant Land!"

[The late Pope abolished this bad business of the sermon. -- R. B.]

The late Pope: Gregory XVI.



Said Abner, "At last thou art come! Ere I tell, ere thou speak,
Kiss my cheek, wish me well!" Then I wished it, and did kiss his cheek.
And he, "Since the King, O my friend, for thy countenance sent,
Neither drunken nor eaten have we; nor until from his tent
Thou return with the joyful assurance the King liveth yet,
Shall our lip with the honey be bright, with the water be wet.
For out of the black mid-tent's silence, a space of three days,
Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants, of prayer nor of praise,
To betoken that Saul and the spirit have ended their strife,
And that, faint in his triumph, the monarch sinks back upon life. [10]


"Yet now my heart leaps, O beloved! God's child with his dew
On thy gracious gold hair, and those lilies still living and blue
Just broken to twine round thy harp-strings, as if no wild heat
Were now raging to torture the desert!"


Then I, as was meet,
Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose on my feet,
And ran o'er the sand burnt to powder. The tent was unlooped;
I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and under I stooped;
Hands and knees on the slippery grass-patch, all withered and gone,
That extends to the second enclosure, I groped my way on [20]
Till I felt where the foldskirts fly open. Then once more I prayed,
And opened the foldskirts and entered, and was not afraid
But spoke, "Here is David, thy servant!" And no voice replied.
At the first I saw naught but the blackness; but soon I descried
A something more black than the blackness -- the vast, the upright
Main prop which sustains the pavilion: and slow into sight
Grew a figure against it, gigantic and blackest of all.
Then a sunbeam, that burst through the tent-roof, showed Saul.


He stood as erect as that tent-prop, both arms stretched out wide
On the great cross-support in the centre, that goes to each side; [30]
He relaxed not a muscle, but hung there as, caught in his pangs
And waiting his change, the king serpent all heavily hangs,
Far away from his kind, in the pine, till deliverance come
With the spring-time, -- so agonized Saul, drear and stark, blind and dumb.


Then I tuned my harp, -- took off the lilies we twine round its chords
Lest they snap 'neath the stress of the noontide -- those sunbeams
like swords!
And I first played the tune all our sheep know, as, one after one,
So docile they come to the pen-door till folding be done.
They are white, and untorn by the bushes, for lo, they have fed
Where the long grasses stifle the water within the stream's bed; [40]
And now one after one seeks its lodging, as star follows star
Into eve and the blue far above us, -- so blue and so far!


-- Then the tune, for which quails on the cornland will each leave his mate
To fly after the player; then, what makes the crickets elate
Till for boldness they fight one another: and then, what has weight
To set the quick jerboa a-musing outside his sand house --
There are none such as he for a wonder, half bird and half mouse!
God made all the creatures and gave them our love and our fear,
To give sign, we and they are his children, one family here.


Then I played the help-tune of our reapers, their wine-song, when hand [50]
Grasps at hand, eye lights eye in good friendship, and great hearts expand
And grow one in the sense of this world's life. -- And then, the last song
When the dead man is praised on his journey -- "Bear, bear him along
With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets! Are balm seeds not here
To console us? The land has none left such as he on the bier.
Oh, would we might keep thee, my brother!" -- And then, the glad chant
Of the marriage, -- first go the young maidens, next, she whom we vaunt
As the beauty, the pride of our dwelling. -- And then, the great march
Wherein man runs to man to assist him and buttress an arch
Naught can break; who shall harm them, our friends? -- Then,
the chorus intoned [60]
As the Levites go up to the altar in glory enthroned.
But I stopped here: for here in the darkness Saul groaned.


And I paused, held my breath in such silence, and listened apart;
And the tent shook, for mighty Saul shuddered: and sparkles 'gan dart
From the jewels that woke in his turban at once with a start
All its lordly male-sapphires, and rubies courageous at heart.
So the head: but the body still moved not, still hung there erect.
And I bent once again to my playing, pursued it unchecked,
As I sang, --


"Oh, our manhood's prime vigor! No spirit feels waste,
Not a muscle is stopped in its playing nor sinew unbraced. [70]
Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock,
The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver shock
Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt of the bear,
And the sultriness showing the lion is couched in his lair.
And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with gold dust divine,
And the locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, the full draught of wine,
And the sleep in the dried river-channel where bulrushes tell
That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well.
How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy! [80]
Hast thou loved the white locks of thy father, whose sword thou didst guard
When he trusted thee forth with the armies, for glorious reward?
Didst thou see the thin hands of thy mother, held up as men sung
The low song of the nearly departed, and hear her faint tongue
Joining in while it could to the witness, `Let one more attest,
I have lived, seen God's hand through a lifetime, and all was for best!'
Then they sung through their tears in strong triumph, not much,
but the rest.
And thy brothers, the help and the contest, the working whence grew
Such result as, from seething grape-bundles, the spirit strained true:
And the friends of thy boyhood -- that boyhood of wonder and hope, [90]
Present promise and wealth of the future beyond the eye's scope, --
Till lo, thou art grown to a monarch; a people is thine;
And all gifts, which the world offers singly, on one head combine!
On one head, all the beauty and strength, love and rage (like the throe
That, a-work in the rock, helps its labor and lets the gold go)
High ambition and deeds which surpass it, fame crowning them, -- all
Brought to blaze on the head of one creature -- King Saul!"


And lo, with that leap of my spirit, -- heart, hand, harp, and voice,
Each lifting Saul's name out of sorrow, each bidding rejoice
Saul's fame in the light it was made for -- as when, dare I say, [100]
The Lord's army, in rapture of service, strains through its array,
And upsoareth the cherubim-chariot -- "Saul!" cried I, and stopped,
And waited the thing that should follow. Then Saul, who hung propped
By the tent's cross-support in the centre, was struck by his name.
Have ye seen when Spring's arrowy summons goes right to the aim,
And some mountain, the last to withstand her, that held (he alone,
While the vale laughed in freedom and flowers) on a broad bust of stone
A year's snow bound about for a breastplate, -- leaves grasp of the sheet?
Fold on fold all at once it crowds thunderously down to his feet,
And there fronts you, stark, black, but alive yet, your mountain of old, [110]
With his rents, the successive bequeathings of ages untold --
Yea, each harm got in fighting your battles, each furrow and scar
Of his head thrust 'twixt you and the tempest -- all hail, there they are!
-- Now again to be softened with verdure, again hold the nest
Of the dove, tempt the goat and its young to the green on his crest
For their food in the ardors of summer. One long shudder thrilled
All the tent till the very air tingled, then sank and was stilled
At the King's self left standing before me, released and aware.
What was gone, what remained? All to traverse 'twixt hope and despair.
Death was past, life not come: so he waited. Awhile his right hand [120]
Held the brow, helped the eyes, left too vacant, forthwith to remand
To their place what new objects should enter: 'twas Saul as before.
I looked up and dared gaze at those eyes, nor was hurt any more
Than by slow pallid sunsets in autumn, ye watch from the shore,
At their sad level gaze o'er the ocean -- a sun's slow decline


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