Love among the Ruins

by Robert Browning

 

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
          Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
          Half-asleep
Tinkle homeward through 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.
 
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 life fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
          Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed,
          Twelve abreast.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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 | Classic Poems
 
A Toccata of Galuppi's ] Epilogue to Asolando ] Confessions ] Home Thoughts from Abroad ] [ Love among the Ruins ] Two in the Campagna ] Meeting at Night ] Love in a Life ] Home Thoughts from the Sea ] The Lost Leader ] My Last Duchess ]
 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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