Dramatic Romances and Lyrics

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Robert Browning

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;
    fWhile 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!

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