Dramatic Romances, by Robert Browning

Mesmerism

I

All I believed is true!

I am able yet

All I want, to get

By a method as strange as new:

Dare I trust the same to you?

II

If at night, when doors are shut,

And the wood-worm picks,

And the death-watch ticks,

And the bar has a flag of smut,

10

And a cat’s in the water-butt —

III

And the socket floats and flares,

And the house-beams groan,

And a foot unknown

Is surmised on the garret-stairs,

And the locks slip unawares —

IV

And the spider, to serve his ends,

By a sudden thread,

Arms and legs outspread,

On the table’s midst descends,

20

Comes to find, God knows what friends! —

V

If since eve drew in, I say,

I have sat and brought

(So to speak) my thought

To bear on the woman away,

Till I felt my hair turn grey —

VI

Till I seemed to have and hold,

In the vacancy

‘Twixt the wall and me,

From the hair-plait’s chestnut gold

30

To the foot in its muslin fold —

VII

Have and hold, then and there,

Her, from head to foot

Breathing and mute,

Passive and yet aware,

In the grasp of my steady stare —

VIII

Hold and have, there and then,

All her body and soul

That completes my whole,

All that women add to men,

40

In the clutch of my steady ken —

IX

Having and holding, till

I imprint her fast

On the void at last

As the sun does whom he will

By the calotypist’s skill —

X

Then — if my heart’s strength serve,

And through all and each

Of the veils I reach

To her soul and never swerve,

50

Knitting an iron nerve —

XI

Command her soul to advance

And inform the shape

Which has made escape

And before my countenance

Answers me glance for glance —

XII

I, still with a gesture fit

Of my hands that best

Do my soul’s behest,

Pointing the power from it,

60

While myself do steadfast sit —

XIII

Steadfast and still the same

On my object bent,

While the hands give vent

To my ardour and my aim

And break into very flame —

XIV

Then I reach, I must believe,

Not her soul in vain,

For to me again

It reaches, and past retrieve

70

Is wound in the toils I weave;

XV

And must follow as I require,

As befits a thrall,

Bringing flesh and all,

Essence and earth-attire

To the source of the tractile fire:

XVI

Till the house called hers, not mine,

With a growing weight

Seems to suffocate

If she break not its leaden line

80

And escape from its close confine.

XVII

Out of doors into the night!

On to the maze

Of the wild wood-ways,

Not turning to left nor right

From the pathway, blind with sight —

XVIII

Making thro’ rain and wind

O’er the broken shrubs,

‘Twixt the stems and stubs,

With a still, composed, strong mind,

90

Nor a care for the world behind —

XIX

Swifter and still more swift,

As the crowding peace

Doth to joy increase

In the wide blind eyes uplift

Thro’ the darkness and the drift!

XX

While I— to the shape, I too

Feel my soul dilate

Nor a whit abate,

And relax not a gesture due,

100

As I see my belief come true.

XXI

For, there! have I drawn or no

Life to that lip?

Do my fingers dip

In a flame which again they throw

On the cheek that breaks a-glow?

XXII

Ha! was the hair so first?

What, unfilleted,

Made alive, and spread

Through the void with a rich outburst,

110

Chestnut gold-interspersed?

XXIII

Like the doors of a casket-shrine,

See, on either side,

Her two arms divide

Till the heart betwixt makes sign,

Take me, for I am thine!

XXIV

“Now — now”— the door is heard!

Hark, the stairs! and near —

Nearer — and here —

“Now!” and at call the third

120

She enters without a word.

XXV

On doth she march and on

To the fancied shape;

It is, past escape,

Herself, now: the dream is done

And the shadow and she are one.

XXVI

First I will pray. Do Thou

That ownest the soul,

Yet wilt grant control

To another, nor disallow

130

For a time, restrain me now!

XXVII

I admonish me while I may,

Not to squander guilt,

Since require Thou wilt

At my hand its price one day!

What the price is, who can say?

“Mesmerism.” With a continuous tension of will, whose unbroken concentration impregnates the very structure of the poem, a mesmerist describes the processes of the act by which he summons shape and soul of the woman he desires; and then reverent perception of the sacredness of the soul awes him from trespassing upon another’s individuality.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/browning/robert/dramatic/poem7.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32