browning

The Boy And The Angel

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Morning, evening, noon and night,
“Praise God!; sang Theocrite.

Then to his poor trade he turned,
Whereby the daily meal was earned.

Hard he laboured, long and well;
O’er his work the boy’s curls fell.

But ever, at each period,
He stopped and sang, “Praise God!”

Then back again his curls he threw,
And cheerful turned to work anew.

Said Blaise, the listening monk, “Well done;
“I doubt not thou art heard, my son:

“As well as if thy voice to-day
“Were praising God, the Pope’s great way.

“This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome
“Praises God from Peter’s dome.”

Said Theocrite, “Would God that I
“Might praise him, that great way, and die!”

Night passed, day shone,
And Theocrite was gone.

With God a day endures alway,
A thousand years are but a day.

God said in heaven, “Nor day nor night
“Now brings the voice of my delight.”

Then Gabriel, like a rainbow’s birth,
Spread his wings and sank to earth;

Entered, in flesh, the empty cell,
Lived there, and played the craftsman well;

And morning, evening, noon and night,
Praised God in place of Theocrite.

And from a boy, to youth he grew:
The man put off the stripling’s hue:

The man matured and fell away
Into the season of decay:

And ever o’er the trade he bent,
And ever lived on earth content.

(He did God’s will; to him, all one
If on the earth or in the sun.)

God said, “A praise is in mine ear;
“There is no doubt in it, no fear:

“So sing old worlds, and so
“New worlds that from my footstool go.

“Clearer loves sound other ways:
“I miss my little human praise.”

Then forth sprang Gabriel’s wings, off fell
The flesh disguise, remained the cell.

‘Twas Easter Day: he flew to Rome,
And paused above Saint Peter’s dome.

In the tiring-room close by
The great outer gallery,

With his holy vestments dight,
Stood the new Pope, Theocrite:

And all his past career
Came back upon him clear,

Since when, a boy, he plied his trade,
Till on his life the sickness weighed;

And in his cell, when death drew near,
An angel in a dream brought cheer:

And rising from the sickness drear
He grew a priest, and now stood here.

To the East with praise he turned,
And on his sight the angel burned.

“I bore thee from thy craftsman’s cell
“And set thee here; I did not well.

“Vainly I left my angel-sphere,
“Vain was thy dream of many a year.

“Thy voice’s praise seemed weak; it dropped—
“Creation’s chorus stopped!

“Go back and praise again
“The early way, while I remain.

“With that weak voice of our disdain,
“Take up creation’s pausing strain.

“Back to the cell and poor employ:
“Resume the craftsman and the boy!”

Theocrite grew old at home;
A new Pope dwelt in Peter’s dome.

One vanished as the other died:
They sought God side by side.

 

– Robert Browning

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My Star

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All, that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.

 

– Robert Browning

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The Patriot

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AN OLD STORY.

I.

It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.

II.

The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels—
But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”

III.

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.

IV.

There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.

V.

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.

VI.

Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
“Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
“Me?”—God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.

 

– Robert Browning

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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The Pied Piper Of Hamlin

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I.

Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

II.

Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women’s chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

III.

At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
“’Tis clear,” cried they, “our Mayor’s a noddy;
“And as for our Corporation—shocking.
“To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
“For dolts that can’t or won’t determine
“What’s best to rid us of our vermin!
“You hope, because you’re old and obese,
“To find in the furry civic robe ease?
“Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
“To find the remedy we’re lacking,
“Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

IV.

An hour they sat in council,
At length the Mayor broke silence:
“For a guilder I’d my ermine gown sell,
“I wish I were a mile hence!
“It’s easy to bid one rack one’s brain—
“I’m sure my poor head aches again,
“I’ve scratched it so, and all in vain.
“Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!”
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
“Bless us,” cried the Mayor, “what’s that?”
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous)
“Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
“Anything like the sound of a rat
“Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

V.

“Come in!”—the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red,
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin:
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: “It’s as my great-grandsire,
“Starting up at the Trump of Doom’s tone,
“Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!”

VI.

He advanced to the council-table
And, “Please your honours,” said he, “I’m able,
“By means of a secret charm, to draw
“All creatures living beneath the sun,
“That creep or swim or fly or run,
“After me so as you never saw!
“And I chiefly use my charm
“On creatures that do people harm,
“The mole and toad and newt and viper;
“And people call me the Pied Piper.”
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same cheque;
And at the scarf’s end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
“Yet,” said he, “poor piper as I am,
“In Tartary I freed the Cham,
“Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats;
“I eased in Asia the Nizam
“Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats:
“And as for what your brain bewilders,
“If I can rid your town of rats
“Will you give me a thousand guilders?”
“One? fifty thousand!”—was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

VII.

Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished!
—Save one who, stout as Julius Csar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, “At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
“I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
“And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
“Into a cider-press’s gripe:
“And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
“And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
“And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
“And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:
“And it seemed as if a voice
“(Sweeter far than b harp or b psaltery
“Is breathed) called out, `Oh rats, rejoice!
“ `The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
“ `So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
“ `Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!’
“And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
“All ready staved, like a great sun shone
“Glorious scarce an inch before me,
“Just as methought it said, `Come, bore me!’
“—I found the Weser rolling o’er me.”

VIII.

You should have heard the Hamelin people
ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
“Go,” cried the Mayor, “and get long poles,
“Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
“Consult with carpenters and builders,
“And leave in our town not even a trace
“Of the rats!”—when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, “First, if you please, my thousand guilders!”

IX.

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar’s biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gipsy coat of red and yellow!
“Beside,” quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
“Our business was done at the river’s brink;
“We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
“And what’s dead can’t come to life, I think.
“So, friend, we’re not the folks to shrink
“From the duty of giving you something for drink,
“And a matter of money to put in your poke;
“But as for the guilders, what we spoke
“Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
“Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
“A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!”

X.

The Piper’s face fell, and he cried
“No trifling! I can’t wait, beside!
“I’ve promised to visit by dinnertime
“Bagdat, and accept the prime
“Of the Head-Cook’s pottage, all he’s rich in,
“For having left, in the Caliph’s kitchen,
“Of a nest of scorpions no survivor:
“With him I proved no bargain-driver,
“With you, don’t think I’ll bate a stiver!
“And folks who put me in a passion
“May find me pipe after another fashion.”

XI.

“How?” cried the Mayor, “d’ye think I brook
“Being worse treated than a Cook?
“Insulted by a lazy ribald
“With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
“You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
“Blow your pipe there till you burst!”

XII.

Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician’s cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

XIII.

The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,
—Could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper’s back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council’s bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However be turned from South to West,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
“He never can cross that mighty top!
“He’s forced to let the piping drop,
“And we shall see our children stop!”
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say, all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
“It’s dull in our town since my playmates left!
“I can’t forget that I’m bereft
“Of all the pleasant sights they see,
“Which the Piper also promised me.
“For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
“Joining the town and just at hand,
“Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew
“And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
“And everything was strange and new;
“The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
“And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
“And honey-bees had lost their stings,
“And horses were born with eagles’ wings:
“And just as I became assured
“My lame foot would be speedily cured,
“The music stopped and I stood still,
“And found myself outside the hill,
“Left alone against my will,
“To go now limping as before,
“And never hear of that country more!”

XIV.

Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher’s pate
A text which says that heaven’s gate
Opes to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle’s eye takes a camel in!
The mayor sent East, West, North and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth,
Wherever it was men’s lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart’s content,
If he’d only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw ’twas a lost endeavour,
And Piper and dancers were gone for ever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
“And so long after what happened here
“On the Twenty-second of July,
“Thirteen hundred and seventy-six:”
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children’s last retreat,
They called it, the Pied Piper’s Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there’s a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbours lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why, they don’t understand.

XV.

So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men—especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free frm rats or frm mice,
If we’ve promised them aught, let us keep our promise!

 

– Robert Browning

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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The Year’s At The Spring

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The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’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!

 

– Robert Browning

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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Parting At Morning

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Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

 

– Robert Browning

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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Love Among The Ruins

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Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Half-asleep
Tinkle homeward thro’ the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop—
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
(So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
Peace or war.

II.

Now,—the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed,
Twelve abreast.

III.

And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o’erspreads
And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
Stock or stone—
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
Bought and sold.

IV.

Now,—the single little turret that remains
On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
Overscored,
While the patching houseleek’s head of blossom winks
Through the chinks—
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
Viewed the games.

V.

And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
Melt away—
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
Till I come.

VI.

But he looked upon the city, every side,
Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades’
Colonnades,
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,—and then,
All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
Each on each.

VII.

In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force—
Gold, of course.
Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best.

 

– Robert Browning

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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