Robert Browning

I KNOW there shall dawn a day
    —Is it here on homely earth?
Is it yonder, worlds away,
    Where the strange and new have birth,
That Power comes full in play?

Is it here, with grass about,
    Under befriending trees,
When shy buds venture out,
    And the air by mild degrees
Puts winter’s death past doubt?

Is it up amid whirl and roar
    Of the elemental flame
Which star-flecks heaven’s dark floor,
    That, new yet still the same,
Full in play comes Power once more?

Somewhere, below, above,
    Shall a day dawn—this I know—
When Power, which vainly strove
    My weakness to o’erthrow,
Shall triumph. I breathe, I move,

I truly am, at last!
    For a veil is rent between
Me and the truth which passed
    Fitful, half-guessed, half-seen,
Grasped at—not gained, held fast.

I for my race and me
    Shall apprehend life’s law:
In the legend of man shall see
    Writ large what small I saw
In my life’s; tale both agree.

As the record from youth to age
    Of my own, the single soul—
So the world’s wide book: one page
    Deciphered explains the whole
Of our common heritage.

How but from near to far
    Should knowledge proceed, increase?
Try the clod ere test the star!
    Bring our inside strife to peace
Ere we wage, on the outside, war!

So, my annals thus begin:
    With body, to life awoke
Soul, the immortal twin
    Of body which bore soul’s yoke
Since mortal and not akin.

By means of the flesh, grown fit.
    Mind, in surview of things,
Now soared, anon alit
    To treasure its gatherings
From the ranged expanse—to wit,

Nature,—earth’s, heaven’s wide show
    Which taught all hope, all fear:
Acquainted with joy and woe,
    I could say, “Thus much is clear,
Doubt annulled thus much: I know.

“All is effect of cause:
    As it would, has willed and done
Power: and my mind’s applause
    Goes, passing laws each one,
To Omnipotence, lord of laws.”

Head praises, but heart refrains
    From loving’s acknowledgment.
Whole losses outweigh half-gains:
    Earth’s good is with evil blent:
Good struggles but evil reigns.

Yet since Earth’s good proved good—
Worth loving—I understood
    How evil—did mind descry
Power’s object to end pursued—

Were haply as cloud across
    Good’s orb, no orb itself:
Mere mind—were it found at loss
    Did it play the tricksy elf
And from life’s gold purge the dross?

Power is known infinite:
    Good struggles to be—at best
Seems—scanned by the human sight,
    Tried by the senses’ test—
Good palpably: but with right

Therefore to mind’s award
    Of loving, as power claims praise?
Power—which finds naught too hard,
    Fulfilling itself all ways
Unchecked, unchanged: while barred,

Baffled, what good began
    Ends evil on every side.
To Power submissive man
    Breathes, “E’en as Thou art, abide!”
While to good “Late-found, long-sought,

“Would Power to a plenitude
    But liberate, but enlarge
Good’s strait confine,—renewed
    Were ever the heart’s discharge
Of loving!” Else doubts intrude.

For you dominate, stars all!
    For a sense informs you—brute,
Bird, worm, fly, great and small,
    Each with your attribute
Or low or majestical!

Thou earth that embosomest
    Offspring of land and sea—
How thy hills first sank to rest,
    How thy vales bred herb and tree
Which dizen thy mother-breast—

Do I ask? “Be ignorant
    Ever!” the answer clangs:
Whereas if I plead world’s want,
    Soul’s sorrows and body’s pangs,
Play the human applicant,—

Is a remedy far to seek?
    I question and find response:
I—all men, strong or weak,
    Conceive and declare at once
For each want its cure. “Power, speak!

“Stop change, avert decay
    Fix life fast, banish death
Eclipse from the star bid stay,
    Abridge of no moment’s breath
One creature! Hence, Night, hail Day!”

What need to confess again
    No problem this to solve
By impotence? Power, once plain
    Proved Power—let on Power devolve
Good’s right to co-equal reign!

Past mind’s conception Power!
    Do I seek how star, earth, beast,
Bird, worm, fly, gain their dower
    For life’s use, most and least?
Back from the search I cower.

Do I seek what heals all harm,
    Nay, hinders the harm at first,
Saves earth? Speak, Power, the charm!
    Keep the life there unamerced
By chance, change, death’s alarm!

As promptly as mind conceives,
    Let Power in its turn declare
Some law which wrong retrieves,
    Abolishes everywhere
What thwarts, what irks, what grieves!

Never to be! and yet
    How easy it seems—to sense
Like man’s—if somehow met
    Power with its match—immense
Love, limitless, unbeset

By hindrance on every side!
    Conjectured, nowise known,
Such may be: could man confide
    Such would match—were Love but shows
Stript of the veils that hide—

Power’s self now manifest!
    So reads my record: thine,
O world, how runs it? Guessed
    Were the purport of that prime line,
Prophetic of all the rest!

“In a beginning God
    Made heaven and earth.” Forth flashed
Knowledge: from star to clod
    Man knew things: doubt abashed
Closed its long period.

Knowledge obtained Power praise.
    Had Good been manifest,
Broke out in cloudless blaze,
    Unchequered as unrepressed,
In all things Good at best—

Then praise—all praise, no blame—
    Had hailed the perfection. No!
As Power’s display, the same
    Be Good’s—praise forth shall flow
Unisonous in acclaim!

Even as the world its life,
    So have I lived my own—
Power seen with Love at strife,
    That sure, this dimly shown,
—Good rare and evil rife.

Whereof the effect be—faith
    That, some far day, were found
Ripeness in things now rathe,
    Wrong righted, each chain unbound,
Renewal born out of scathe.

Why faith—but to lift the load,
    To leaven the lump, where lies
Mind prostrate through knowledge owed
    To the loveless Power it tries
To withstand, how vain! In flowed

Ever resistless fact:
    No more than the passive clay
Disputes the potter’s act,
    Could the whelmed mind disobey
Knowledge the cataract.

But, perfect in every part,
    Has the potter’s moulded shape,
Leap of man’s quickened heart,
    Throe of his thought’s escape,
Stings of his soul which dart

Through the barrier of flesh, till keen
    She climbs from the calm and clear,
Through turbidity all between,
    From the known to the unknown here,
Heaven’s “Shall be,” from Earth’s “Has been”?

Then life is—to wake not sleep,
    Rise and not rest, but press
From earth’s level where blindly creep
    Things perfected, more or less,
To the heaven’s height, far and steep,

Where, amid what strifes and storms
    May wait the adventurous quest,
Power is Love—transports, transforms
    Who aspired from worst to best,
Sought the soul’s world, spurned the worms’.

I have faith such end shall be:
    From the first, Power was—I knew.
Life has made clear to me
    That, strive but for closer view,
Love were as plain to see.

When see? When there dawns a day,
    If not on the homely earth,
Then yonder, worlds away,
    Where the strange and new have birth,
And Power comes full in play.

Back    |    Words Home    |    Robert Browning Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback