browning

Overhead The Treetops Meet

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Overhead the tree-tops meet,
Flowers and grass spring ‘neath one’s feet;
There was nought above me, and nought below,
My childhood had not learned to know:
For what are the voices of birds
—Ay, and of beasts,—but words—our words,
Only so much more sweet?
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 understand
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!

 

– Robert Browning

http://www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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In A Gondola

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He sings_.

I send my heart up to thee, all my heart
In this my singing.
For the stars help me, and the sea bears part;
The very night is clinging
Closer to Venice’ streets to leave one space
Above me, whence thy face
May light my joyous heart to thee its dwelling-place.

_She speaks_.

Say after me, and try to say
My very words, as if each word
Came from you of your own accord,
In your own voice, in your own way:
“This woman’s heart and soul and brain
“Are mine as much as this gold chain
“She bids me wear; which” (say again)
“I choose to make by cherishing
“A precious thing, or choose to fling
“Over the boat-side, ring by ring.”
And yet once more say … no word more!
Since words are only words. Give o’er!

Unless you call me, all the same,
Familiarly by my pet name,
Which if the Three should hear you call,
And me reply to, would proclaim
At once our secret to them all.
Ask of me, too, command me, blame—
Do, break down the partition-wall
‘Twixt us, the daylight world beholds
Curtained in dusk and splendid folds!
What’s left but—all of me to take?
I am the Three’s: prevent them, slake
Your thirst! ‘Tis said, the Arab sage,
In practising with gems, can loose
Their subtle spirit in his cruce
And leave but ashes: so, sweet mage,
Leave them my ashes when thy use
Sucks out my soul, thy heritage!

_He sings_.

I.

Past we glide, and past, and past!
What’s that poor Agnese doing
Where they make the shutters fast?
Grey Zanobi’s just a-wooing
To his couch the purchased bride:
Past we glide!

II.

Past we glide, and past, and past!
Why’s the Pucci Palace flaring
Like a beacon to the blast?
Guests by hundreds, not one caring
If the dear host’s neck were wried:
Past we glide!

_She sings_.

I.

The moth’s kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst.

II.

The bee’s kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is rendered up,
And passively its shattered cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.

_He sings_.

I.

What are we two?
I am a Jew,
And carry thee, farther than friends can pursue,
To a feast of our tribe;
Where they need thee to bribe
The devil that blasts them unless he imbibe
Thy … Scatter the vision for ever! And now,
As of old, I am I, thou art thou!

II.

Say again, what we are?
The sprite of a star,
I lure thee above where the destinies bar
My plumes their full play
Till a ruddier ray
Than my pale one announce there is withering away
Some … Scatter the vision for ever! And now,
As of old, I am I, thou art thou!

_He muses_.

Oh, which were best, to roam or rest?
The land’s lap or the water’s breast?
To sleep on yellow millet-sheaves,
Or swim in lucid shallows just
Eluding water-lily leaves,
An inch from Death’s black fingers, thrust
To lock you, whom release he must;
Which life were best on Summer eves?

_He speaks, musing_.

Lie back; could thought of mine improve you?
From this shoulder let there spring
A wing; from this, another wing;
Wings, not legs and feet, shall move you!
Snow-white must they spring, to blend
With your flesh, but I intend
They shall deepen to the end,
Broader, into burning gold,
Till both wings crescent-wise enfold
Your perfect self, from ‘neath your feet
To o’er your head, where, lo, they meet
As if a million sword-blades hurled
Defiance from you to the world!

Rescue me thou, the only real!
And scare away this mad ideal
That came, nor motions to depart!
Thanks! Now, stay ever as thou art!

_Still he muses_.

I.

What if the Three should catch at last
Thy serenader? While there’s cast
Paul’s cloak about my head, and fast
Gian pinions me, himself has past
His stylet thro’ my back; I reel;
And … is it thou I feel?

II.

They trail me, these three godless knaves,
Past every church that saints and saves,
Nor stop till, where the cold sea raves
By Lido’s wet accursed graves,
They scoop mine, roll me to its brink,
And … on thy breast I sink

_She replies, musing_.

Dip your arm o’er the boat-side, elbow-deep,
As I do: thus: were death so unlike sleep,
Caught this way? Death’s to fear from flame or steel,
Or poison doubtless; but from water—feel!

Go find the bottom! Would you stay me? There!
Now pluck a great blade of that ribbon-grass
To plait in where the foolish jewel was,
I flung away: since you have praised my hair,
‘Tis proper to be choice in what I wear.

_He speaks_.

Row home? must we row home? Too surely
Know I where its front’s demurely
Over the Giudecca piled;
Window just with window mating,
Door on door exactly waiting,
All’s the set face of a child:
But behind it, where’s a trace
Of the staidness and reserve,
And formal lines without a curve,
In the same child’s playing-face?
No two windows look one way
O’er the small sea-water thread
Below them. Ah, the autumn day
I, passing, saw you overhead!
First, out a cloud of curtain blew,
Then a sweet cry, and last came you—
To catch your lory that must needs
Escape just then, of all times then,
To peck a tall plant’s fleecy seeds,
And make me happiest of men.
I scarce could breathe to see you reach
So far back o’er the balcony
To catch him ere he climbed too high
Above you in the Smyrna peach
That quick the round smooth cord of gold,
This coiled hair on your head, unrolled,
Fell down you like a gorgeous snake
The Roman girls were wont, of old,
When Rome there was, for coolness’ sake
To let lie curling o’er their bosoms.
Dear lory,*1 may his beak retain
Ever its delicate rose stain
As if the wounded lotus-blossoms
Had marked their thief to know again!

Stay longer yet, for others’ sake
Than mine! What should your chamber do?
—With all its rarities that ache
In silence while day lasts, but wake
At night-time and their life renew,
Suspended just to pleasure you
Who brought against their will together
These objects, and, while day lasts, weave
Around them such a magic tether
That dumb they look: your harp, believe,
With all the sensitive tight strings
Which dare not speak, now to itself
Breathes slumberously, as if some elf
Went in and out the chords, his wings
Make murmur wheresoe’er they graze,
As an angel may, between the maze
Of midnight palace-pillars, on
And on, to sow God’s plagues, have gone
Through guilty glorious Babylon.
And while such murmurs flow, the nymph
Bends o’er the harp-top from her shell
As the dry limpet for the lymph
Come with a tune be knows so well.
And how your statues’ hearts must swell!
And how your pictures must descend
To see each other, friend with friend!
Oh, could you take them by surprise,
You’d find Schidone’s eager Duke
Doing the quaintest courtesies
To that prim saint by Haste-thee-Luke!
And, deeper into her rock den,
Bold Castelfranco’s Magdalen
You’d find retreated from the ken
Of that robed counsel-keeping Ser—
As if the Tizian thinks of her,
And is not, rather, gravely bent
On seeing for himself what toys
Are these, his progeny invent,
What litter now the board employs
Whereon he signed a document
That got him murdered! Each enjoys
Its night so well, you cannot break
The sport up, so, indeed must make
More stay with me, for others’ sake.

_She speaks_.

I.

To-morrow, if a harp-string, say,
Is used to tie the jasmine back
That overfloods my room with sweets,
Contrive your Zorzi somehow meets
My Zanze! If the ribbon’s black,
The Three are watching: keep away!

II.

Your gondola—let Zorzi wreathe
A mesh of water-weeds about
its prow, as if he unaware
Had struck some quay or bridge-foot stair!
That I may throw a paper out
As you and he go underneath.

There’s Zanze’s vigilant taper; safe are we.
Only one minute more to-night with me?
Resume your past self of a month ago!
Be you the bashful gallant, I will be
The lady with the colder breast than snow.
Now bow you, as becomes, nor touch my hand
More than I touch yours when I step to land,
And say, “All thanks, Siora!”—
Heart to heart
And lips to lips! Yet once more, ere we part,
Clasp me and make me thine, as mine thou art!
[_He is surprised, and stabbed_.
It was ordained to be so, sweet!—and best
Comes now, beneath thine eyes, upon thy breast.
Still kiss me! Care not for the cowards! Care
Only to put aside thy beauteous hair
My blood will hurt! The Three, I do not scorn
To death, because they never lived: but I
Have lived indeed, and so—(yet one more kiss)—can die!

 

– Robert Browning

http://www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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Natural Magic

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All I can say is–I saw it!
The room was as bare as your hand.
I locked in the swarth little lady,–I swear,
From the head to the foot of her–well, quite as bare!
‘No Nautch shall cheat me,’ said I, ‘taking my stand
At this bolt which I draw!’ And this bolt–I withdraw it,
And there laughs the lady, not bare, but embowered
With–who knows what verdure, o’erfruited, o’erflowered?
Impossible! Only–I saw it!

All I can sing is–I feel it!
This life was as blank as that room;
I let you pass in here. Precaution, indeed?
Walls, ceiling, and floor,–not a chance for a weed!
Wide opens the entrance: where’s cold, now, where’s gloom?
No May to sow seed here, no June to reveal it,
Behold you enshrined in these blooms of your bringing,
These fruits of your bearing–nay, birds of your winging!
A fairy-tale! Only–I feel it!

 

– Robert Browning

http://www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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Over The Seas Our Galleys Went

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Over the sea our galleys went,
With cleaving prows in order brave,
To a speeding wind and a bounding wave,

A gallant armament:
Each bark built out of a forest-tree,

Left leafy and rough as first it grew,
And nailed all over the gaping sides,
Within and without, with black bull-hides,
Seethed in fat and suppled in flame,
To bear the playful billows’ game:
So, each good ship was rude to see,
Rude and bare to the outward view,

But each upbore a stately tent
Where cedar-pales in scented row
Kept out the flakes of the dancing brine,
And an awning drooped the mast below,
In fold on fold of the purple fine,
That neither noontide nor star-shine
Nor moonlight cold which maketh mad,

Might pierce the regal tenement.
When the sun dawned, oh, gay and glad
We set the sail and plied the oar;
But when the night-wind blew like breath,
For joy of one day’s voyage more,
We sang together on the wide sea,
Like men at peace on a peaceful shore;
Each sail was loosed to the wind so free,
Each helm made sure by the twilight star,
And in a sleep as calm as death,
We, the voyagers from afar,

Lay stretched along, each weary crew
In a circle round its wondrous tent
Whence gleamed soft light and curled rich scent,

And with light and perfume, music too:
So the stars wheeled round, and the darkness past,
And at morn we started beside the mast,
And still each ship was sailing fast!

Now, one morn, land appeared! – a speck
Dim trembling betwixt sea and sky:
‘Avoid it,’ cried our pilot, ‘check

The shout, restrain the eager eye! ‘
But the heaving sea was black behind
For many a night and many a day,
And land, though but a rock, drew nigh;
So, we broke the cedar pales away,
Let the purple awning flap in the wind,

And a statue bright was on every deck!
We shouted, every man of us,
And steered right into the harbour thus,
With pomp and paean glorious.
A hundred shapes of lucid stone!

All day we built its shrine for each,
A shrine of rock for every one,
Nor paused we till in the westering sun

We sat together on the beach
To sing because our task was done.
When lo! what shouts and merry songs!
What laughter all the distance stirs!
A loaded raft with happy throngs
Of gentle islanders!
‘Our isles are just at hand,’ they cried,

‘Like cloudlets faint in even sleeping;
Our temple-gates are opened wide,

Our olive-groves thick shade are keeping
For these majestic forms’- they cried.
Oh, then we awoke with sudden start
From our deep dream, and knew, too late,
How bare the rock, how desolate,
Which had received our precious freight:

Yet we called out- ‘Depart!
Our gifts, once given, must here abide.

Our work is done; we have no heart
To mar our work,’- we cried.

 

– Robert Browning

http://www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

CUBA
Sunset in Havana.