Ian Jack and Robert Inglesfield (eds), The Poetical Works of Robert Browning, Vol. 5: Men and Women
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus1Stand still, true poet that you are!
- 2 I know you; let me try and draw you.
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3Some night you'll fail us: when afar
- Editor’s Note4 You rise, remember one man saw you,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus5Knew you, and named a star!
- Editor’s Note6My star, God's glow-worm! Why extend
- 7 That loving hand of his which leads you,
- pg 436Editor’s Note8Yet locks you safe from end to end
- 9 Of this dark world, unless he needs you,
- 10Just saves your light to spend?
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus11His clenched hand shall unclose at last,
- Critical Apparatus12 I know, and let out all the beauty:
- Editor’s Note13My poet holds the future fast,
- 14 Accepts the coming ages' duty,
- Critical Apparatus15Their present for this past.
- Editor’s Note16That day, the earth's feast-master's brow
- Editor’s Note17 Shall clear, to God the chalice raising;
- Editor’s Note18"Others give best at first, but thou
- 19 "Forever set'st our table praising,
- Critical Apparatus20"Keep'st the good wine till now!"
- pg 437v.
- Editor’s Note21Meantime, I'll draw you as you stand,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus22 With few or none to watch and wonder:
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus23I'll say—a fisher, on the sand
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus24 By Tyre the old, with ocean-plunder,
- Editor’s Note25A netful, brought to land.
- Editor’s Note26Who has not heard how Tyrian shells
- 27 Enclosed the blue, that dye of dyes
- 28Whereof one drop worked miracles,
- Editor’s Note29 And coloured like Astarte's eyes
- 30Raw silk the merchant sells?
- pg 438vii.
- Editor’s Note31And each bystander of them all
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus32 Could criticize, and quote tradition
- Editor’s Note33How depths of blue sublimed some pall
- 34 —To get which, pricked a king's ambition;
- Editor’s Note35Worth sceptre, crown and ball.
- Editor’s Note36Yet there's the dye, in that rough mesh,
- Editor’s Note37 The sea has only just o'erwhispered!
- Critical Apparatus38Live whelks, each lip's beard dripping fresh,
- 39 As if they still the water's lisp heard
- 40Through foam the rock-weeds thresh.
- Editor’s Note41Enough to furnish Solomon
- Editor’s Note42 Such hangings for his cedar-house,
- 43That, when gold-robed he took the throne
- pg 439Editor’s Note44 In that abyss of blue, the Spouse
- 45Might swear his presence shone
- 46Most like the centre-spike of gold
- 47 Which burns deep in the blue-bell's womb,
- Editor’s Note48What time, with ardours manifold,
- 49 The bee goes singing to her groom,
- Editor’s Note50Drunken and overbold.
- Editor’s Note51Mere conchs! not fit for warp or woof!
- Critical Apparatus52 Till cunning come to pound and squeeze
- 53And clarify,—refine to proof
- 54 The liquor filtered by degrees,
- 55While the world stands aloof.
- Editor’s Note56And there's the extract, flasked and fine,
- 57 And priced and saleable at last!
- 58And Hobbs, Nobbs, Stokes and Nokes combine
- Editor’s Note59 To paint the future from the past,
- Editor’s Note60Put blue into their line.
1 1855P–56 are,
1 Stand still: 'Does this mean: literally—stand still? or where was the poet figuratively going—and why couldn't he be drawn as he went?' Ruskin. Browning replied: 'For the reason indicated in the verse, to be sure,—to let me draw him—& because he is at: present going his way & fancying nobody notices him,—& moreover, "going on" (as we say) against the injustice of that,—& lastly, in as much as one night he'll fail us, as a star is apt to drop out of heaven, in authentic astronomic records, & I want to make the most of my time. So much may be in "stand still" and how much more was (for instance) in that "stay!" of Samuel's (i. xv. 16)'. The Samuel passage begins: 'Stay, and I will tell thee'.
3 1855P–56 us.When
3 Some night you'll fail us: 'Why some night?—rather than some day?—"Fail us." Now? Die?': Ruskin.
3–4 when afar / You Rise: 'Where?—Now?': Ruskin. Cf. 'Waring', 259–60: 'Oh, never star / Was lost here but it rose afar!'
4 remember: 'very good—I understand.': Ruskin.
5 1855P–56 star.
5 named a star!: acclaimed him as a great poet. Cf. Adonais, 494–5: 'The soul of Adonais, like a star, / Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are'.
6 My star, God's glow-worm!: so much more important to me than to God. 'Very fine. I understand and like that': Ruskin, who continues: 'Why ‸ "extend that loving hand." Grammatically, this applies to the Poet. the ellipsis of "Should He" at ‸ throws one quite out—like a step in a floor which one doesn't expect.'
8 Yet locks you safe: 'How does God's hand lock him; do you mean—keeps him from being seen?—and how does it make him safe [?]Why is a poet safer or more locked up than anybody else? I go on—in hope': Ruskin. Line 10 explains.
11 1855P That clenched
11 His clenched hand . . . and let out all the beauty : 'very good.—but I don't understand why the hand should have held close so long—which is just the point I wanted to be explained. Why the poet had to be locked up': Ruskin. God will need the poet in the future, unappreciated as he is in the present.
12 1855P–56 beauty.
13 My poet holds the future fast: 'How? Do you mean he anticipates it in his mind—trusts in it—I don't know if you mean that, because I don't know if poets do that. If you mean that—I wish you had said so plainly': Ruskin. The meaning is that when God opens his hand the poet's light will shine forth, and accept the praises of future men.
15 1855P That present
16 the earth's feast-master's brow: 'Who is the earths F.? An Angel? a [sic] Everybody?': Ruskin. The word 'feast-maisters' occurs in J[ohn] H[ealey]'s translation of St Augustine's De Civitate Dei (1610), 521. The Gk. original,' , occurs in John 2: 9.
17 the chalice raising: 'This, grammatically, agrees with "brow", and makes me uncomfortable': Ruskin.
18 Others give best at first: a reference to Christ's turning the water into wine: John 2, particularly 9–10. Ruskin comments: 'very pretty I like that'.
20 1855P–56 now."
21 Meantime, I'll draw you: 'Do you mean—his Cork?—we have not had anything about painting for ever so long—very well. Do draw him then: I should like to have him drawn very much': Ruskin.
22 1855P–56 wonder.
22 With few or none: cf. Wordsworth, 'Song' ('She dwelt among th'untrodden ways'), 3–4: 'A Maid whom there were none to praise / And very few to love'.
23 1855P–56 (on
23 I'll say: 'Now, where are you going to—this is, I believe pure malice against me, for having said that painters should always grind their own colours': Ruskin. 'I'll say' means 'I'll put it like this'.
24 1855P–56 Old) his ocean-plunder,
24 Tyre: in ancient times, the most famous city of Phoenicia, celebrated for its production of purple from certain shellfish.
25 netful: the first occurrence of the word in OED2.
26 Who has not heard: on this stanza Ruskin asks, 'Do you mean—the silk that the merchant sells Raw—or what do you want with the merchant at all[?]'
Tyrian shells: certain gastropod molluscs secrete a liquid from which costly purple or crimson dyes were made, above all at Tyre. In Æneid, iv. 262–3 we hear how a cloak hung from the shoulders of Æneas 'ablaze with Tyrian purple—a gift which wealthy Dido had wrought, interweaving the web with thread of gold'. Turner suggests that Browning has 'blue' instead of 'purple' for reasons of rhythm, or 'because of Keats's sonnet to blue eyes, beginning 'Blue! 'Tis the life of heaven': neither hypothesis seems convincing.
29 Astarte's eyes: Astarte was 'a powerful divinity of Syria, the same as the Venus of the Greeks': Lemprière.
31 And each bystander: 'Who are these bystanders—I didn't hear of any before—Are they people who have gone to see the fishing?': Ruskin.
32 1856 tradition;
32 Could criticize, and quote tradition: 'Criticise what? the fishing?—and why should they—what was wrong in it?—Quote tradition. Do you mean about purple? But if they made purple at the time, it wasn't tradition merely—but experience.—You might as well tell me you heard the colourmen in Long-Acre, quote tradition touching their next cargo of Indigo, or cochineal': Ruskin.
33 sublimed: 'I don't know what you mean by "sublimed". Made sublime?—if so—it is not English. To sublime means to evaporate dryly, I believe and has participle "Sublimated" ': Ruskin. Johnson gives 'To exalt; to heighten; to improve' as one meaning of the verb.
35 Worth sceptre, crown and ball: 'Indeed. Was there ever such a fool of a King?—You ought to have put a note saying who': Ruskin.
36 Yet there's: 'Well. I understand that, & it's very pretty': Ruskin.
37 only just: only now.
o'erwhisper'd: no doubt Browning's coinage, for the rhyme.
38 1855P–56 whelks, the lip's-beard
41 Enough to furnish Solomon: 'I don't think Solomons spouse swore.—at least not about blue-bells. I understand this bit, but fear most people won't. How many have noticed a blue-bells stamen?': Ruskin.
42 his cedar-house: 1 Kgs. 5: 5–6; 7: 2–3.
48 What time: while.
50 The bee: 'I don't understand. I thought there was only one Queen-bee and she never was out o'nights—nor came home drunk or disorderly. Besides if she does, unless you had told me what o'clock in the morning she comes home at, the simile is of no use to me': Ruskin.
51 Mere conchs: 'Well,' Ruskin asks, 'but what has this to do with the Poet. Who 'Pounds" him?—I don't understand. World stand[s] aloof—yes—from the purple manufactory, but from Pounding of Poets?—does it?—and if so—who distils—or fines, & bottles them.' The mere shells have to be pounded and treated further before the valuable purple extract is produced.
52 1855P–56 Till art comes,— comes to 1863 cunning comes to
56 flasked and fine: 'Now is that what you call painting a poet. Under the whole & sole image of a bottle of Blue, with a bladder over the cork? The Arabian fisherman with his genie was nothing to this': Ruskin.
59 To paint the future: 'Why the future. Do you mean in the future': Ruskin.
60 Put blue into their line: 'I don't understand;—do you mean Quote the Poet, or write articles upon him—or in his style? And if so—was this what God kept him safe for? to feed Nobbs with Turtle. Is this what you call Accepting the future ages duty.—I don't understand'. The meaning is that these poetasters enrich their verse with valuable new colours or qualities discovered by the 'true poet'. Hobbs and Nobbs are fictitious names, like Stokes and Nokes, which occur in models of legal documents. The latter pair occur in Browning's letter to Domett denying that he is 'difficult on System': Correspondence, iv. 261.
61 he turtle eats: i.e. he is successful, in the worldly sense.
65 What porridge: 'Porridge is a Scotch dish, I believe; typical of bad fare. Do you mean that Keats had bad fare? But if he had—how was he kept safe to the worlds end? I don't understand at all!!!!!!!': Ruskin. The meaning is that whereas the derivative poetasters lived well, the genius had poor fare.