Dramatic Lyrics, by Robert Browning

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.


Gr-r-r — there go, my heart’s abhorrence!

Water your damned flower-pots, do!

If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,

God’s blood, would not mine kill you!

What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?

Oh, that rose has prior claims —

Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?

Hell dry you up with its flames!


At the meal we sit together:

Salve tibi! I must hear

Wise talk of the kind of weather,

Sort of season, time of year:

Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely

Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:

What’s the Latin name for “parsley”?

What’s the Greek name for Swine’s Snout?


Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished,

Laid with care on our own shelf!

With a fire-new spoon we’re furnished,

And a goblet for ourself,

Rinsed like something sacrificial

Ere ’tis fit to touch our chaps —

Marked with L. for our initial!

(He-he! There his lily snaps!)


Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores

Squats outside the Convent bank

With Sanchicha, telling stories,

Steeping tresses in the tank,

Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,

— Can’t I see his dead eye glow,

Bright as ’twere a Barbary corsair’s?

(That is, if he’d let it show!)


When he finishes refection,

Knife and fork he never lays

Cross-wise, to my recollection,

As do I, in Jesu’s praise.

I the Trinity illustrate,

Drinking watered orange-pulp —

In three sips the Arian frustrate;

While he drains his at one gulp.


Oh, those melons? If he’s able

We’re to have a feast! so nice!

One goes to the Abbot’s table,

All of us get each a slice.

How go on your flowers? None double

Not one fruit-sort can you spy?

Strange! — And I, too, at such trouble,

Keep them close-nipped on the sly!


There’s a great text in Galatians,

Once you trip on it, entails

Twenty-nine distinct damnations,

One sure, if another fails:

If I trip him just a-dying,

Sure of heaven as sure can be,

Spin him round and send him flying

Off to hell, a Manichee?


Or, my scrofulous French novel

On grey paper with blunt type!

Simply glance at it, you grovel

Hand and foot in Belial’s gripe:

If I double down its pages

At the woeful sixteenth print,

When he gathers his greengages,

Ope a sieve and slip it in’t?


Or, there’s Satan! — one might venture

Pledge one’s soul to him, yet leave

Such a flaw in the indenture

As he’d miss till, past retrieve,

Blasted lay that rose-acacia

We’re so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine . . .

‘St, there’s Vespers! Plena gratiâ

Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r — you swine!


Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05