Ian Jack and Robert Inglesfield (eds), The Poetical Works of Robert Browning, Vol. 5: Men and Women
pg 319Critical ApparatusIN A BALCONY.1853.
Constance and Norbert.Critical Apparatus1
Constance. Not now!
Norbert. Give me them again, those hands:
Editor’s Note2Put them upon my forehead, how it throbs!
Critical Apparatus3Press them before my eyes, the fire comes through!
4You cruellest, you dearest in the world,
Critical Apparatus5Let me! The Queen must grant whate'er I ask—
6How can I gain you and not ask the Queen?
Critical Apparatus7There she stays waiting for me, here stand you;
Critical Apparatus8Some time or other this was to be asked;
9Now is the one time—what I ask, I gain:
Critical Apparatus10Let me ask now, Love!
Constance. Do, and ruin us.11
Norbert. Let it be now, Love! All my soul breaks forth.
13A man can have but one life and one death,
14One heaven, one hell. Let me fulfil my fate—
Critical Apparatus15Grant me my heaven now! Let me know you mine,
pg 32016Prove you mine, write my name upon your brow,
Editor’s Note17Hold you and have you, and then die away,
Critical Apparatus18If God please, with completion in my soul!Critical Apparatus19
Constance. I am not yours then? How content this man!
20I am not his—who change into himself,
21Have passed into his heart and beat its beats,
22Who give my hands to him, my eyes, my hair,
23Give all that was of me away to him—
24So well, that now, my spirit turned his own,
25Takes part with him against the woman here,
26Bids him not stumble at so mere a straw
27As caring that the world be cognizant
28How he loves her and how she worships him.
29You have this woman, not as yet that world.
30Go on, I bid, nor stop to care for me
31By saving what I cease to care about,
Editor’s Note32The courtly name and pride of circumstance—
33The name you'll pick up and be cumbered with
35Just that the world may slip from under you—
36Just that the world may cry "So much for him—
Critical Apparatus37"The man predestined to the heap of crowns:
Critical Apparatus38"There goes his chance of winning one, at least!"Critical Apparatus39
Norbert. The world!
Constance. You love it. Love me quite as well,
40And see if I shall pray for this in vain!
41Why must you ponder what it knows or thinks?Editor’s Note42
Norbert. You pray for—what, in vain?
Constance. Oh my heart's heart,
pg 321Critical Apparatus43How I do love you, Norbert! That is right:
Critical Apparatus44But listen, or I take my hands away!
45You say, "let it be now": you would go now
46And tell the Queen, perhaps six steps from us,
47You love me—so you do, thank God!48
Norbert. Thank God!
Constance. Yes, Norbert,—but you fain would tell your love,
Editor’s Note49And, what succeeds the telling, ask of her
50My hand. Now take this rose and look at it,
51Listening to me. You are the minister,
52The Queen's first favourite, nor without a cause.
53To-night completes your wonderful year's-work
54(This palace-feast is held to celebrate)
55Made memorable by her life's success,
Critical Apparatus56The junction of two crowns, on her sole head,
Critical Apparatus57Her house had only dreamed of anciently:
58That this mere dream is grown a stable truth,
59To-night's feast makes authentic. Whose the praise?
60Whose genius, patience, energy, achieved
61What turned the many heads and broke the hearts?
Editor’s Note62You are the fate, your minute's in the heaven.
Critical Apparatus63Next comes the Queen's turn. "Name your own reward!"
Editor’s Note64With leave to clench the past, chain the to-come,
65Put out an arm and touch and take the sun
66And fix it ever full-faced on your earth,
67Possess yourself supremely of her life,—
68You choose the single thing she will not grant;
Critical Apparatus69Nay, very declaration of which choice
pg 322Critical Apparatus70Will turn the scale and neutralize your work:
71At best she will forgive you, if she can.
72You think I'll let you choose—her cousin's hand?73
Norbert. Wait. First, do you retain your old belief
74The Queen is generous,—nay, is just?
Constance. There, there!
75So men make women love them, while they know
76No more of women's hearts than . . . look you here,
77You that are just and generous beside,
Critical Apparatus78Make it your own case! For example now,
Critical Apparatus79I'll say—I let you kiss me, hold my hands—
80Why? do you know why? I'll instruct you, then—
Critical Apparatus81The kiss, because you have a name at court;
82This hand and this, that you may shut in each
83A jewel, if you please to pick up such.
Critical Apparatus84That's horrible? Apply it to the Queen—
Critical Apparatus85Suppose I am the Queen to whom you speak:
86"I was a nameless man; you needed me:
Critical Apparatus87"Why did I proffer you my aid? there stood
88"A certain pretty cousin at your side.
89"Why did I make such common cause with you?
90"Access to her had not been easy else.
Critical Apparatus91"You give my labour here abundant praise?
Critical Apparatus92" 'Faith, labour, which she overlooked, grew play.
93"How shall your gratitude discharge itself?
94"Give me her hand!"
Norbert. And still I urge the same.
95Is the Queen just? just—generous or no!96
Constance. Yes, just. You love a rose; no harm in that:
97But was it for the rose's sake or mine
98You put it in your bosom? mine, you said—
99Then, mine you still must say or else be false.
pg 323100You told the Queen you served her for herself;
101If so, to serve her was to serve yourself,
102She thinks, for all your unbelieving face!
103I know her. In the hall, six steps from us,
104One sees the twenty pictures; there's a life
Editor’s Note106Conceive her born in such a magic dome,
107Pictures all round her! why, she sees the world,
108Can recognize its given things and facts,
Editor’s Note109The fight of giants or the feast of gods,
110Sages in senate, beauties at the bath,
111Chases and battles, the whole earth's display,
112Landscape and sea-piece, down to flowers and fruit—
113And who shall question that she knows them all,
114In better semblance than the things outside?
Critical Apparatus115Yet bring into the silent gallery
Editor’s Note116Some live thing to contrast in breath and blood,
117Some lion, with the painted lion there—
118You think she'll understand composedly?
119—Say, "that's his fellow in the hunting-piece
120"Yonder, I've turned to praise a hundred times?"
121Not so. Her knowledge of our actual earth,
122Its hopes and fears, concerns and sympathies,
Editor’s Note123Must be too far, too mediate, too unreal.
124The real exists for us outside, not her:
Critical Apparatus125How should it, with that life in these four walls—
pg 324126That father and that mother, first to last
127No father and no mother—friends, a heap,
128Lovers, no lack—a husband in due time,
129And every one of them alike a lie!
Editor’s Note130Things painted by a Rubens out of nought
131Into what kindness, friendship, love should be;
Critical Apparatus132All better, all more grandiose than the life,
133Only no life; mere cloth and surface-paint,
134You feel, while you admire. How should she feel?
Critical Apparatus135Yet now that she has stood thus fifty years
136The sole spectator in that gallery,
137You think to bring this warm real struggling love
138In to her of a sudden, and suppose
Editor’s Note139She'll keep her state untroubled? Here's the truth—
Critical Apparatus140She'll apprehend truth's value at a glance,
Critical Apparatus141Prefer it to the pictured loyalty?
Critical Apparatus142You only have to say, "so men are made,
Critical Apparatus143"For this they act; the thing has many names,
144"But this the right one: and now, Queen, be just!"
Critical Apparatus145Your life slips back; you lose her at the word:
146You do not even for amends gain me.
Critical Apparatus147He will not understand; oh, Norbert, Norbert,
Critical Apparatus148Do you not understand?
Norbert. The Queen's the Queen:
149I am myself—no picture, but alive
150In every nerve and every muscle, here
Critical Apparatus151At the palace-window o'er the people's street,
Critical Apparatus152As she in the gallery where the pictures glow:
153The good of life is precious to us both.
154She cannot love; what do I want with rule?
pg 325155When first I saw your face a year ago
156I knew my life's good, my soul heard one voice—
157"The woman yonder, there's no use of life
158"But just to obtain her! heap earth's woes in one
159"And bear them—make a pile of all earth's joys
Critical Apparatus160"And spurn them, as they help or help not this;
Critical Apparatus161"Only, obtain her!" How was it to be?
Critical Apparatus162I found you were the cousin of the Queen;
Critical Apparatus163I must then serve the Queen to get to you.
164No other way. Suppose there had been one,
Editor’s Note165And I, by saying prayers to some white star
166With promise of my body and my soul,
167Might gain you,—should I pray the star or no?
168Instead, there was the Queen to serve! I served,
Critical Apparatus169Helped, did what other servants failed to do.
170Neither she sought nor I declared my end.
171Her good is hers, my recompense be mine,—
Critical Apparatus172I therefore name you as that recompense.
173She dreamed that such a thing could never be?
Critical Apparatus174Let her wake now. She thinks there was more cause
Critical Apparatus175In love of power, high fame, pure loyalty?
176Perhaps she fancies men wear out their lives
Critical Apparatus177Chasing such shades. Then, I've a fancy too;
178I worked because I want you with my soul:
Critical Apparatus179I therefore ask your hand. Let it be now!180
Constance. Had I not loved you from the very first,
181Were I not yours, could we not steal out thus
182So wickedly, so wildly, and so well,
Critical Apparatus183You might become impatient. What's conceived
Critical Apparatus184Of us without here, by the folk within?
pg 326185Where are you now? immersed in cares of state—
186Where am I now? intent on festal robes—
187We two, embracing under death's spread hand!
Critical Apparatus188What was this thought for, what that scruple of yours
Critical Apparatus189Which broke the council up?—to bring about
Critical Apparatus190One minute's meeting in the corridor!
Critical Apparatus191And then the sudden sleights, strange secrecies,
Editor’s Note193Long-planned chance-meetings, hazards of a look,
194"Does she know? does she not know? saved or lost?"
Editor’s Note195A year of this compression's ecstasy
Critical Apparatus196All goes for nothing! you would give this up
197For the old way, the open way, the world's,
Critical Apparatus198His way who beats, and his who sells his wife!
199What tempts you?—their notorious happiness
Critical Apparatus200Makes you ashamed of ours? The best you'll gain
201Will be—the Queen grants all that you require,
Critical Apparatus203And me at once, and gives us ample leave
Critical Apparatus204To live like our five hundred happy friends.
205The world will show us with officious hand
206Our chamber-entry, and stand sentinel
Critical Apparatus207Where we so oft have stolen across its traps!
pg 327Critical Apparatus209And make it duty to be bold and swift,
Critical Apparatus210Which long ago was nature. Have it so!
Critical Apparatus211We never hawked by rights till flung from fist?
Critical Apparatus212Oh, the man's thought! no woman's such a fool.213
Norbert. Yes, the man's thought and my thought, which is more—
Critical Apparatus214One made to love you, let the world take note!
215Have I done worthy work? be love's the praise,
216Though hampered by restrictions, barred against
Critical Apparatus217By set forms, blinded by forced secrecies!
Critical Apparatus218Set free my love, and see what love can do
219Shown in my life—what work will spring from that!
220The world is used to have its business done
221On other grounds, find great effects produced
Critical Apparatus222For power's sake, fame's sake, motives in men's mouth.
Critical Apparatus223So, good: but let my low ground shame their high!
224Truth is the strong thing. Let man's life be true!
225And love's the truth of mine. Time prove the rest!
Critical Apparatus226I choose to wear you stamped all over me,
227Your name upon my forehead and my breast,
228You, from the sword's blade to the ribbon's edge,
229That men may see, all over, you in me—
230That pale loves may die out of their pretence
232Permit this, Constance! Love has been so long
Editor’s Note233Subdued in me, eating me through and through,
Critical Apparatus234That now 't is all of me and must have way.
235Think of my work, that chaos of intrigues,
pg 328236Those hopes and fears, surprises and delays,
237That long endeavour, earnest, patient, slow,
238Trembling at last to its assured result:
Critical Apparatus239Then think of this revulsion! I resume
240Life after death, (it is no less than life,
241After such long unlovely labouring days)
242And liberate to beauty life's great need
Critical Apparatus243O' the beautiful, which, while it prompted work,
244Suppressed itself erewhile. This eve's the time,
Editor’s Note245This eve intense with yon first trembling star
246We seem to pant and reach; scarce aught between
247The earth that rises and the heaven that bends;
249Flung as it will, pursuing its own thoughts
Critical Apparatus250And fixed so, every flower and every weed,
251No pride, no shame, no victory, no defeat;
Critical Apparatus252All under God, each measured by itself.
Critical Apparatus253These statues round us stand abrupt, distinct,
254The strong in strength, the weak in weakness fixed,
255The Muse for ever wedded to her lyre,
Critical Apparatus257See God's approval on his universe!
258Let us do so—aspire to live as these
Critical Apparatus259In harmony with truth, ourselves being true!
Critical Apparatus260Take the first way, and let the second come!
261My first is to possess myself of you;
Editor’s Note262The music sets the march-step—forward, then!
263And there's the Queen, I go to claim you of,
pg 329264The world to witness, wonder and applaud.
Editor’s Note265Our flower of life breaks open. No delay!266
Constance. And so shall we be ruined, both of us.
268You do not know her, were not born to it,
269To feel what she can see or cannot see.
Critical Apparatus270Love, she is generous,—ay, despite your smile,
Critical Apparatus271Generous as you are: for, in that thin frame
Editor’s Note272Pain-twisted, punctured through and through with cares,
Critical Apparatus273There lived a lavish soul until it starved,
275Pity that, stoop to that, ere you begin
276(The true man's-way) on justice and your rights,
278Begin so—see what justice she will deal!
280Suppose her some poor keeper of a school
281Whose business is to sit thro' summer months
Critical Apparatus282And dole out children leave to go and play,
283Herself superior to such lightness—she
284In the arm-chair's state and pædagogic pomp—
285To the life, the laughter, sun and youth outside:
Critical Apparatus286We wonder such a face looks black on us?
287I do not bid you wake her tenderness,
Critical Apparatus288(That were vain truly—none is left to wake)
pg 330Critical Apparatus289But let her think her justice is engaged
290To take the shape of tenderness, and mark
Critical Apparatus291If she'll not coldly pay its warmest debt!
Critical Apparatus292Does she love me, I ask you? not a whit:
293Yet, thinking that her justice was engaged
294To help a kinswoman, she took me up—
295Did more on that bare ground than other loves
Editor’s Note296Would do on greater argument. For me,
Critical Apparatus297I have no equivalent of such cold kind
Critical Apparatus298To pay her with, but love alone to give
Critical Apparatus299If I give anything. I give her love:
300I feel I ought to help her, and I will.
301So, for her sake, as yours, I tell you twice
302That women hate a debt as men a gift.
303If I were you, I could obtain this grace—
Critical Apparatus304Could lay the whole I did to love's account,
305Nor yet be very false as courtiers go—
Critical Apparatus306Declaring my success was recompense;
307It would be so, in fact: what were it else?
Critical Apparatus308And then, once loose her generosity,—
Critical Apparatus309Oh, how I see it!—then, were I but you,
310To turn it, let it seem to move itself,
Critical Apparatus311And make it offer what I really take,
Critical Apparatus312Accepting just, in the poor cousin's hand,
Critical Apparatus313Her value as the next thing to the Queen's—
Critical Apparatus314Since none love Queens directly, none dare that,
pg 331Critical Apparatus315And a things shadow or a name's mere echo
Critical Apparatus316Suffices those who miss the name and thing!
317You pick up just a ribbon she has worn,
318To keep in proof how near her breath you came.
319Say, I'm so near I seem a piece of her—
320Ask for me that way—(oh, you understand)
Critical Apparatus321You'd find the same gift yielded with a grace,
322Which, if you make the least show to extort . . .
323—You'll see! and when you have ruined both of us,
324Dissertate on the Queen's ingratitude!Critical Apparatus325
Norbert. Then, if I turn it that way, you consent?
Critical Apparatus326'T is not my way; I have more hope in truth:
327Still, if you won't have truth—why, this indeed,
Critical Apparatus328Were scarcely false, as I'd express the sense.
329Will you remain here?
Constance. O best heart of mine,
330How I have loved you! then, you take my way?
331Are mine as you have been her minister,
332Work out my thought, give it effect for me,
Editor’s Note333Paint plain my poor conceit and make it serve?
334I owe that withered woman everything—
335Life, fortune, you, remember! Take my part—
336Help me to pay her! Stand upon your rights?
337You, with my rose, my hands, my heart on you?
338Your rights are mine—you have no rights but mine.339
Norbert. Remain here. How you know me!
Constance. Ah, but still—[He breaks from her: she remains. Dance-music from within. pg 332Enter the Queen.Critical Apparatus340
Queen. Constance? She is here as he said. Speak quick!
341Is it so? Is it true or false? One word!Editor’s Note342
Queen. Mercifullest Mother, thanks to thee!Critical Apparatus343
Queen. I love you, Constance, from my soul.
344Now say once more, with any words you will,
345'T is true, all true, as true as that I speak.346
Constance. Why should you doubt it?
Queen. Ah, why doubt? why doubt?
Critical Apparatus347Dear, make me see it! Do you see it so?
348None see themselves; another sees them best.
349You say "why doubt it?"—you see him and me.
350It is because the Mother has such grace
351That if we had but faith—wherein we fail—
352Whate'er we yearn for would be granted us;
Critical Apparatus353Yet still we let our whims prescribe despair,
Critical Apparatus354Our fancies thwart and cramp our will and power,
355And while accepting life, abjure its use.
356Constance, I had abjured the hope of love
Critical Apparatus357And being loved, as truly as yon palm
Critical Apparatus358The hope of seeing Egypt from that plot.Critical Apparatus359
Queen. But it was so, Constance, it was so!
360Men say—or do men say it? fancies say—
361"Stop here, your life is set, you are grown old.
362"Too late—no love for you, too late for love—
pg 333Critical Apparatus363"Leave love to girls. Be queen: let Constance love."
364One takes the hint—half meets it like a child,
365Ashamed at any feelings that oppose.
Critical Apparatus366"Oh love, true, never think of love again!
Critical Apparatus367"I am a queen: I rule, not love forsooth."
368So it goes on; so a face grows like this,
369Hair like this hair, poor arms as lean as these,
370Till,—nay, it does not end so, I thank God!371
Constance. I cannot understand—
Queen. The happier you!
Critical Apparatus372Constance, I know not how it is with men:
373For women (I am a woman now like you)
374There is no good of life but love—but love!
375What else looks good, is some shade flung from love;
376Love gilds it, gives it worth. Be warned by me,
Critical Apparatus377Never you cheat yourself one instant! Love,
378Give love, ask only love, and leave the rest!
379O Constance, how I love you!
Constance. I love you.380
Queen. I do believe that all is come through you.
381I took you to my heart to keep it warm
382When the last chance of love seemed dead in me;
383I thought your fresh youth warmed my withered heart.
384Oh, I am very old now, am I not?
385Not so! it is true and it shall be true!Critical Apparatus386
Constance. Tell it me: let me judge if true or false.Critical Apparatus387
Queen. Ah, but I fear you! you will look at me
388And say, "she's old, she's grown unlovely quite
Critical Apparatus390Well, so I feared—the curse! so I felt sure!391
Constance. Be calm. And now you feel not sure, you say?392
Queen. pg 334Constance, he came,—the coming was not strange—
Editor’s Note393Do not I stand and see men come and go?
394I turned a half-look from my pedestal
395Where I grow marble—"one young man the more!
Critical Apparatus396"He will love some one; that is nought to me:
397"What would he with my marble stateliness?"
398Yet this seemed somewhat worse than heretofore;
399The man more gracious, youthful, like a god,
400And I still older, with less flesh to change—
Editor’s Note401We two those dear extremes that long to touch.
402It seemed still harder when he first began
Critical Apparatus403To labour at those state-affairs, absorbed
404The old way for the old end—interest.
405Oh, to live with a thousand beating hearts
406Around you, swift eyes, serviceable hands,
407Professing they've no care but for your cause,
408Thought but to help you, love but for yourself,—
409And you the marble statue all the time
Editor’s Note410They praise and point at as preferred to life,
Editor’s Note412First dancer's, gipsy's or street baladine's!
413Why, how I have ground my teeth to hear men's speech
414Stifled for fear it should alarm my ear,
415Their gait subdued lest step should startle me,
Editor’s Note416Their eyes declined, such queendom to respect,
417Their hands alert, such treasure to preserve,
Critical Apparatus420Or caught my hand and pressed it like a hand!
421There have been moments, if the sentinel
Editor’s Note422Lowering his halbert to salute the queen,
423Had flung it brutally and clasped my knees,
424I would have stooped and kissed him with my soul.Critical Apparatus425
Constance. Who could have comprehended?
Queen. Ay, who—who?
426Why, no one, Constance, but this one who did.
427Not they, not you, not I. Even now perhaps
428It comes too late—would you but tell the truth.429
Constance. I wait to tell it.
Queen. Well, you see, he came,
430Outfaced the others, did a work this year
431Exceeds in value all was ever done,
432You know—it is not I who say it—all
433Say it. And so (a second pang and worse)
434I grew aware not only of what he did,
435But why so wondrously. Oh, never work
436Like his was done for work's ignoble sake—
Critical Apparatus437Souls need a finer aim to light and lure!
438I felt, I saw, he loved—loved somebody.
439And Constance, my dear Constance, do you know,
440I did believe this while 't was you he loved.441
Constance. Me, madam?
Queen. It did seem to me, your face
442Met him where'er he looked: and whom but you
Critical Apparatus443Was such a man to love? It seemed to me,
Critical Apparatus444You saw he loved you, and approved his love,
Critical Apparatus446You could not loiter in that garden, step
447Into this balcony, but I straight was stung
448And forced to understand. It seemed so true,
449So right, so beautiful, so like you both,
450That all this work should have been done by him
451Not for the vulgar hope of recompense,
452But that at last—suppose, some night like this—
453Borne on to claim his due reward of me,
454He might say "Give her hand and pay me so."
Critical Apparatus455And I (O Constance, you shall love me now!)
456I thought, surmounting all the bitterness,
457—"And he shall have it. I will make her blest,
458"My flower of youth, my woman's self that was,
459"My happiest woman's self that might have been!
460"These two shall have their joy and leave me here."
Queen. And the word was on my lips
462When he burst in upon me. I looked to hear
Critical Apparatus463A mere calm statement of his just desire
Critical Apparatus464For payment of his labour. When—O heaven,
Critical Apparatus465How can I tell you? lightning on my eyes
Critical Apparatus466And thunder in my ears proved that first word
467Which told 't was love of me, of me, did all—
468He loved me—from the first step to the last,
Critical Apparatus469Loved me!
Constance. You hardly saw, scarce heard him speak
Critical Apparatus470Of love: what if you should mistake?
Queen. No, no—
pg 337471No mistake! Ha, there shall be no mistake!
472He had not dared to hint the love he felt—
Critical Apparatus474He said you were the ribbon I had worn,
475He kissed my hand, he looked into my eyes,
Critical Apparatus476And love, love came at end of every phrase.
Critical Apparatus477Love is begun; this much is come to pass:
Critical Apparatus478The rest is easy. Constance, I am yours!
479I will learn, I will place my life on you,
Critical Apparatus480Teach me but how to keep what I have won!
Critical Apparatus481Am I so old? This hair was early grey;
482But joy ere now has brought hair brown again,
483And joy will bring the cheek's red back, I feel.
484I could sing once too; that was in my youth.
485Still, when men paint me, they declare me . . . yes,
486Beautiful—for the last French painter did!
487I know they flatter somewhat; you are frank—
488I trust you. How I loved you from the first!
489Some queens would hardly seek a cousin out
490And set her by their side to take the eye:
491I must have felt that good would come from you.
492I am not generous—like him—like you!
493But he is not your lover after all:
494It was not you he looked at. Saw you him?
495You have not been mistaking words or looks?
Critical Apparatus496He said you were the reflex of myself.
497And yet he is not such a paragon
498To you, to younger women who may choose
499Among a thousand Norberts. Speak the truth!
500You know you never named his name to me:
501You know, I cannot give him up—ah God,
502Not up now, even to you!pg 338 Critical Apparatus503
Constance. Then calm yourself.
Queen. See, I am old—look here, you happy girl!
Critical Apparatus504I will not play the fool, deceive—ah, whom?
505'T is all gone: put your cheek beside my cheek
Critical Apparatus506And what a contrast does the moon behold!
Editor’s Note507But then I set my life upon one chance,
Editor’s Note508The last chance and the best—am I not left,
509My soul, myself? All women love great men
510If young or old; it is in all the tales:
511Young beauties love old poets who can love—
Editor’s Note512Why should not he, the poems in my soul,
Critical Apparatus513The passionate faith, the pride of sacrifice,
Editor’s Note514Life-long, death-long? I throw them at his feet.
515Who cares to see the fountain's very shape,
Editor’s Note517That pours the foam, makes rainbows all around?
518You could not praise indeed the empty conch;
Editor’s Note519But I'll pour floods of love and hide myself.
Editor’s Note521Who was a queen and loved a poet once
522Humpbacked, a dwarf? ah, women can do that!
Critical Apparatus523Well, but men too; at least, they tell you so.
524They love so many women in their youth,
525And even in age they all love whom they please;
526And yet the best of them confide to friends
527That 't is not beauty makes the lasting love—
528They spend a day with such and tire the next:
Editor’s Note529They like soul,—well then, they like phantasy,
530Novelty even. Let us confess the truth,
531Horrible though it be, that prejudice,
Critical Apparatus532Prescription . . . curses! they will love a queen.
Critical Apparatus533They will, they do: and will not, does not—he?Editor’s Note534
Constance. How can he? You are wedded: 't is a name
535We know, but still a bond. Your rank remains,
536His rank remains. How can he, nobly souled
537As you believe and I incline to think,
538Aspire to be your favourite, shame and all?Critical Apparatus539
Queen. Hear her! There, there now—could she love
540What did I say of smooth-cheeked youth and grace?
541See all it does or could do! so youth loves!
542Oh, tell him, Constance, you could never do
543What I will—you, it was not born in! I
544Will drive these difficulties far and fast
Editor’s Note545As yonder mists curdling before the moon.
546I'll use my light too, gloriously retrieve
547My youth from its enforced calamity,
pg 340548Dissolve that hateful marriage, and be his,
549His own in the eyes alike of God and man.Critical Apparatus550
Constance. You will do—dare do . . . pause on what
Queen. Hear her! I thank you, sweet, for that surprise.
552You have the fair face: for the soul, see mine!
553I have the strong soul: let me teach you, here.
554I think I have borne enough and long enough,
555And patiently enough, the world remarks,
556To have my own way now, unblamed by all.
Critical Apparatus557It does so happen (I rejoice for it)
558This most unhoped-for issue cuts the knot.
559There's not a better way of settling claims
Editor’s Note560Than this; God sends the accident express:
561And were it for my subjects' good, no more,
562'T were best thus ordered. I am thankful now,
563Mute, passive, acquiescent. I receive,
564And bless God simply, or should almost fear
565To walk so smoothly to my ends at last.
566Why, how I baffle obstacles, spurn fate!
Critical Apparatus567How strong I am! Could Norbert: see me now!Critical Apparatus568
Constance. Let me consider. It is all too strange.Critical Apparatus569
Queen. You, Constance, learn of me; do you, like me!
570You are young, beautiful: my own, best girl,
571You will have many lovers, and love one—
Critical Apparatus572Light hair, not hair like Norbert's, to suit yours:
Critical Apparatus573Taller than he is, since yourself are tall.
Critical Apparatus574Love him, like me! Give all away to him;
575Think never of yourself; throw by your pride,
576Hope, fear,—your own good as you saw it once,
577And love him simply for his very self.
Editor’s Note578Remember, I (and what am I to you?)
pg 341Critical Apparatus579Would give up all for one, leave throne, lose life,
Critical Apparatus580Do all but just unlove him! He loves me.Critical Apparatus581
Constance. He shall.
Queen. You, step inside my inmost heart!
Critical Apparatus582Give me your own heart: let us have one heart!
Critical Apparatus583I'll come to you for counsel; "this he says,
Critical Apparatus584"This he does; what should this amount to, pray?
Critical Apparatus585"Beseech you, change it into current coin!
Critical Apparatus586"Is that worth kisses? Shall I please him there?"
587And then we'll speak in turn of you—what else?
Critical Apparatus588Your love, according to your beauty's worth,
589For you shall have some noble love, all gold:
590Whom choose you? we will get him at your choice.
591—Constance, I leave you. Just a minute since,
592I felt as I must die or be alone
Critical Apparatus593Breathing my soul into an ear like yours:
594Now, I would face the world with my new life,
Critical Apparatus595Wear my new crown. I'll walk around the rooms,
596And then come back and tell you how it feels.
597How soon a smile of God can change the world!
Critical Apparatus598How we are made for happiness—how work
599Grows play, adversity a winning fight!
Critical Apparatus600True, I have lost so many years: what then?
601Many remain: God has been very good.
Critical Apparatus602You, stay here! 'T is as different from dreams,
603From the mind's cold calm estimate of bliss,
Critical Apparatus604As these stone statues from the flesh and blood.[She goes out, leaving Constance. Dance-music from within. Norbert enters.pg 342 Critical Apparatus606
Norbert. Well? we have but one minute and one word!607
Constance. I am yours, Norbert!
Norbert. Yes, mine.
Constance. Not till now!
608You were mine. Now I give myself to you.Critical Apparatus609
Constance. Your own! I know the thriftier way
610Of giving—haply, 't is the wiser way.
611Meaning to give a treasure, I might dole
612Coin after coin out (each, as that were all,
Editor’s Note613With a new largess still at each despair)
Critical Apparatus614And force you keep in sight the deed, preserve
Critical Apparatus616My giving and your taking; both our joys
617Dying together. Is it the wiser way?
618I choose the simpler; I give all at once.
Critical Apparatus619Know what you have to trust to, trade upon!
Critical Apparatus620Use it, abuse it,—anything but think
621Hereafter, "Had I known she loved me so,
622"And what my means, I might have thriven with it."
623This is your means. I give you all myself.624
Norbert. I take you and thank God.
Constance. Look on through years!
Critical Apparatus625We cannot kiss, a second day like this;
626Else were this earth no earth.
Norbert. With this day's heat
Critical Apparatus627We shall go on through years of cold.
Constance. So, best!
628—I try to see those years—I think I see.
pg 343629You walk quick and new warmth comes; you look back
630And lay all to the first glow—not sit down
631For ever brooding on a day like this
Critical Apparatus632While seeing embers whiten and love die.
633Yes, love lives best in its effect; and mine,
634Full in its own life, yearns to live in yours.635
Norbert. Just so. I take and know you all at once.
636Your soul is disengaged so easily,
637Your face is there, I know you; give me time,
Editor’s Note638Let me be proud and think you shall know me.
639My soul is slower: in a life I roll
Critical Apparatus640The minute out whereto you condense yours—
641The whole slow circle round you I must move,
642To be just you. I look to a long life
Editor’s Note643To decompose this minute, prove its worth.
644'T is the sparks' long succession one by one
Editor’s Note645Shall show you, in the end, what fire was crammed
Critical Apparatus646In that mere stone you struck: how could you know,
647If it lay ever unproved in your sight,
Critical Apparatus648As now my heart lies? your own warmth would hide
649Its coldness, were it cold.
Constance. But how prove, how?650
Norbert. Prove in my life, you ask?
Constance. Quick, Norbert—how?Editor’s Note651
Norbert. That's easy told. I count life just a stuff
Editor’s Note652To try the soul's strength on, educe the man.
653Who keeps one end in view makes all things serve.
654As with the body—he who hurls a lance
pg 344Critical Apparatus655Or heaps up stone on stone, shows strength alike:
Critical Apparatus656So must I seize and task all means to prove
Editor’s Note657And show this soul of mine, you crown as yours,
658And justify us both.
Constance. Could you write books,
Critical Apparatus659Paint pictures! One sits down in poverty
660And writes or paints, with pity for the rich.Critical Apparatus661
Norbert. And loves one's painting and one's writing, then,
662And not one's mistress! All is best, believe,
663And we best as no other than we are.
664We live, and they experiment on life—
665Those poets, painters, all who stand aloof
Editor’s Note666To overlook the farther. Let us be
Critical Apparatus667The thing they look at! I might take your face
668And write of it and paint it—to what end?
669For whom? what pale dictatress in the air
670Feeds, smiling sadly, her fine ghost-like form
671With earth's real blood and breath, the beauteous life
672She makes despised for ever? You are mine,
673Made for me, not for others in the world,
674Nor yet for that which I should call my art,
Critical Apparatus675The cold calm power to see how fair you look.
676I come to you; I leave you not, to write
Critical Apparatus678Paint us!
Constance. So, best!
Norbert. I understand your soul.
679You live, and rightly sympathize with life,
Critical Apparatus680With action, power, success. This way is straight;
Critical Apparatus681And time were short beside, to let me change
pg 345682The craft my childhood learnt: my craft shall serve.
683Men set me here to subjugate, enclose,
Critical Apparatus684Manure their barren lives, and force thence fruit
685First for themselves, and afterward for me
Critical Apparatus687Through ways of work appointed by the world.
689Transfiguring my brow to warrant that—
Critical Apparatus690But find and bind and bring to bear their wills.
691So I began: to-night sees how I end.
693Amid the warmth, surprise and sympathy,
Critical Apparatus694And instincts of the heart that teach the head?
Critical Apparatus695What if the people have discerned at length
Critical Apparatus696The dawn of the next nature, novel brain
697Whose will they venture in the place of theirs,
Critical Apparatus698Whose work, they trust, shall find them as novel ways
Critical Apparatus699To untried heights which yet he only sees?
700I felt it when you kissed me. See this Queen,
Editor’s Note701This people—in our phrase, this mass of men—
702See how the mass lies passive to my hand
704To make the muscles iron! Oh, an end
Critical Apparatus705Shall crown this issue as this crowns the first!
Editor’s Note706My will be on this people! then, the strain,
Editor’s Note707The grappling of the potter with his clay,
708The long uncertain struggle,—the success
Critical Apparatus710Some vase shaped to the curl of the god's lip,
Critical Apparatus711While rounded fair for human sense to see
713With turbulent applause and laughs of heart!
714So triumph ever shall renew itself;
Critical Apparatus715Ever shall end in efforts higher yet,
Critical Apparatus716Ever begin . . .
Constance. I ever helping?
Norbert. Thus![As he embraces her, the Queen enters.Critical Apparatus717
Constance. Hist, madam! So have I performed my part.
Editor’s Note718You see your gratitude's true decency,
Critical Apparatus719Norbert? A little slow in seeing it!
Critical Apparatus720Begin, to end the sooner! What's a kiss?Critical Apparatus721
Constance. Why, must I teach it you again?
pg 347722You want a witness to your dulness, sir?
Critical Apparatus723What was I saying these ten minutes long?
724Then I repeat—when some young handsome man
725Like you has acted out a part like yours,
726Is pleased to fall in love with one beyond,
727So very far beyond him, as he says—
728So hopelessly in love that but to speak
729Would prove him mad,—he thinks judiciously,
730And makes some insignificant good soul,
731Like me, his friend, adviser, confidant,
Editor’s Note732And very stalking-horse to cover him
Critical Apparatus733In following after what he dares not face.
734When his end's gained—(sir, do you understand?)
735When she, he dares not face, has loved him first,
Editor’s Note736—May I not say so, madam?—tops his hope,
Critical Apparatus737And overpasses so his wildest dream,
738With glad consent of all, and most of her
739The confidant who brought the same about—
740Why, in the moment when such joy explodes,
Critical Apparatus741I do hold that the merest gentleman
742Will not start rudely from the stalking-horse,
743Dismiss it with a "There, enough of you!"
744Forget it, show his back unmannerly:
745But like a liberal heart will rather turn
746And say, "A tingling time of hope was ours;
747"Betwixt the fears and falterings, we two lived
Critical Apparatus748"A chanceful time in waiting for the prize:
Critical Apparatus749"The confidant, the Constance, served not ill.
750"And though I shall forget her in due time,
751"Her use being answered now, as reason bids,
Editor’s Note752"Nay as herself bids from her heart of hearts,—
pg 348753"Still, she has rights, the first thanks go to her,
754"The first good praise goes to the prosperous tool,
Critical Apparatus755"And the first—which is the last—rewarding kiss."Critical Apparatus756
Norbert. Constance, it is a dream—ah, see, you smile!757
Constance. So, now his part being properly performed,
758Madam, I turn to you and finish mine
759As duly; I do justice in my turn.
760Yes, madam, he has loved you—long and well;
761He could not hope to tell you so—'t was I
Critical Apparatus762Who served to prove your soul accessible,
763I led his thoughts on, drew them to their place
Critical Apparatus764When they had wandered else into despair,
Critical Apparatus765And kept love constant toward its natural aim.
766Enough, my part is played; you stoop half-way
767And meet us royally and spare our fears:
Critical Apparatus768'T is like yourself. He thanks you, so do I.
769Take him—with my full heart! my work is praised
770By what comes of it. Be you happy, both!
771Yourself—the only one on earth who can—
772Do all for him, much more than a mere heart
773Which though warm is not useful in its warmth
774As the silk vesture of a queen! fold that
775Around him gently, tenderly. For him—
Critical Apparatus776For him,—he knows his own part!
Norbert Have you done?
777I take the jest at last. Should I speak now?
778Was yours the wager, Constance, foolish child,
779Or did you but accept it? Well—at least
Critical Apparatus780You lose by it.
Constance. Nay, madam, 't is your turn!
781Restrain him still from speech a little more,
Critical Apparatus782And make him happier as more confident!
pg 349Critical Apparatus783Pity him, madam, he is timid yet!
Critical Apparatus784Mark, Norbert! Do not shrink now! Here I yield
785My whole right in you to the Queen, observe!
786With her go put in practice the great schemes
787You teem with, follow the career else closed—
788Be all you cannot be except by her!
Critical Apparatus789Behold her!—Madam, say for pity's sake
Critical Apparatus790Anything—frankly say you love him! Else
791He'll not believe it: there's more earnest in
Critical Apparatus792His fear than you conceive: I know the man!793
Norbert. I know the woman somewhat, and confess
794I thought she had jested better: she begins
795To overcharge her part. I gravely wait
796Your pleasure, madam: where is my reward?797
Queen. Norbert, this wild girl (whom I recognize
Editor’s Note798Scarce more than you do, in her fancy-fit,
Editor’s Note799Eccentric speech and variable mirth,
800Not very wise perhaps and somewhat bold,
801Yet suitable, the whole night's work being strange)
Critical Apparatus802—May still be right: I may do well to speak
803And make authentic what appears a dream
Critical Apparatus804To even myself. For, what she says, is true:
Critical Apparatus805Yes, Norbert—what you spoke just now of love,
806Devotion, stirred no novel sense in me,
807But justified a warmth felt long before.
Critical Apparatus808Yes, from the first—I loved you, I shall say:
Critical Apparatus809Strange! but I do grow stronger, now 't is said.
810Your courage helps mine: you did well to speak
811To-night, the night that crowns your twelvemonths' toil:
812But still I had not waited to discern
Critical Apparatus813Your heart so long, believe me! From the first
pg 350814The source of so much zeal was almost plain,
815In absence even of your own words just now
817But takes a happy ending—in your love
Critical Apparatus818Which mine meets: be it so! as you chose me,
Critical Apparatus819So I choose you.
Norbert. And worthily you choose.
820I will not be unworthy your esteem,
Critical Apparatus821No, madam. I do love you; I will meet
Critical Apparatus822Your nature, now I know it. This was well.
823I see,—you dare and you are justified:
824But none had ventured such experiment,
825Less versed than you in nobleness of heart,
Critical Apparatus826Less confident of finding such in me.
Critical Apparatus827I joy that thus you test me ere you grant
828The dearest richest beauteousest and best
Critical Apparatus829Of women to my arms: 't is like yourself
830So—back again into my part's set words—
831Devotion to the uttermost is yours,
832But no, you cannot, madam, even you,
833Create in me the love our Constance does.
834Or—something truer to the tragic phrase—
835Not yon magnolia-bell superb with scent
836Invites a certain insect—that's myself—
Critical Apparatus838I take this lady.
Constance. Stay—not hers, the trap—
Critical Apparatus839Stay, Norbert—that mistake were worst of all!
pg 351Critical Apparatus840He is too cunning, madam! It was I,
841I, Norbert, who . . .
Norbert. You, was it, Constance? Then,
842But for the grace of this divinest hour
Critical Apparatus843Which gives me you, I might not pardon here!
844I am the Queen's; she only knows my brain:
Critical Apparatus845She may experiment upon my heart
Critical Apparatus846And I instruct her too by the result.
847But you, sweet, you who know me, who so long
Editor’s Note848Have told my heart-beats over, held my life
849In those white hands of yours,—it is not well!850
Constance. Tush! I have said it, did I not say it all?
851The life, for her—the heart-beats, for her sake!Critical Apparatus852
Norbert. Enough! my cheek grows red, I think. Your test?
853There's not the meanest woman in the world,
854Not she I least could love in all the world,
Critical Apparatus855Whom, did she love me, had love proved itself,
Critical Apparatus856I dare insult as you insult me now.
857Constance, I could say, if it must be said,
859But—"Take the soul still quivering on your hand,
860"The soul so offered, which I cannot use,
Critical Apparatus861"And, please you, give it to some playful friend,
862"For—what's the trifle he requites me with?"
863I, tempt a woman, to amuse a man,
864That two may mock her heart if it succumb?
866I would not dare insult a woman so,
867Were she the meanest woman in the world,
pg 352868And he, I cared to please, ten emperors!869
Norbert. I love once as I live but once.
870What case is this to think or talk about?
871I love you. Would it mend the case at all
Critical Apparatus872If such a step as this killed love in me?
Critical Apparatus873Your part were done: account to God for it!
874But mine—could murdered love get up again,
Critical Apparatus875And kneel to whom you please to designate,
Editor’s Note876And make you mirth? It is too horrible.
877You did not know this, Constance? now you know
878That body and soul have each one life, but one:
879And here's my love, here, living, at your feet.880
Constance. See the Queen! Norbert—this one more last word—
881If thus you have taken jest for earnest—thus
882Loved me in earnest . . .
Norbert. Ah, no jest holds here!
Critical Apparatus883Where is the laughter in which jests break up,
884And what this horror that grows palpable?
Editor’s Note885Madam—why grasp you thus the balcony?
Critical Apparatus886Have I done ill? Have I not spoken truth?
887How could I other? Was it not your test,
Critical Apparatus888To try me, what my love for Constance meant?
889Madam, your royal soul itself approves,
890The first, that I should choose thus! so one takes
Critical Apparatus891A beggar,—asks him, what would buy his child?
892And then approves the expected laugh of scorn
893Returned as something noble from the rags.
894Speak, Constance, I'm the beggar! Ha, what's this?
895You two glare each at each like panthers now.
pg 353896Constance, the world fades; only you stand there!
897You did not, in to-night's wild whirl of things,
898Sell me—your soul of souls, for any price?
Critical Apparatus899No—no—'t is easy to believe in you!
900Was it your love's mad trial to o'ertop
901Mine by this vain self-sacrifice? well, still—
Critical Apparatus902Though I might curse, I love you. I am love
Critical Apparatus903And cannot change: love's self is at your feet![The Queen goes out.Critical Apparatus904
Constance. Feel my heart; let it die against your own!Critical Apparatus905
Norbert. Against my own. Explain not; let this be!
Critical Apparatus906This is life's height.
Constance. Yours, yours, yours!
Norbert. You and I—
Editor’s Note907Why care by what meanders we are here
Critical Apparatus908I' the centre of the labyrinth? Men have died
Critical Apparatus909Trying to find this place, which we have found.Critical Apparatus910
Constance. Found, found!
Norbert. Sweet, never fear what she can do!
911We are past harm now.
Constance. On the breast of God.
912I thought of men—as if you were a man.
913Tempting him with a crown!
Norbert. This must end here:
Critical Apparatus914It is too perfect.
Constance. There's the music stopped.
Critical Apparatus915What measured heavy tread? It is one blaze
916About me and within me.
Norbert. Oh, some death
917Will run its sudden finger round this spark
pg 354Critical Apparatus918And sever us from the rest!
Norbert. 'T is the guard comes.
'Now, I don't quite think that', answered Browning, as if he were following out the play as a spectator. 'The queen had a large and passionate temperament, which had only once been touched and brought into intense life. She would have died, as by a knife in her heart. The guard would have come to carry away her dead body.'
'But I imagine that most people interpret it as I do', was the reply.
'Then', said Browning, with quick interest, 'don't you think it would be as well to put it in the stage directions, and have it seen that they were carrying her across the back of the stage?'
Whether this was ever done I do not know; but it was wonderful to me, as showing the personal interest he took in his own creations.