Robert Browning

WE WERE two lovers; let me lie by her,
My tomb beside her tomb. On hers inscribe—
“I loved him; but my reason bade prefer
Duty to love, reject the tempter’s bribe
Of rose and lily when each path diverged,
And either I must pace to life’s far end
As love should lead me, or, as duty urged,
Plod the worn causeway arm-in-arm with friend.
So, truth turned falsehood: ‘How I loathe a flower,
How prize the pavement!’ still caressed his ear—
The deafish friend’s—through life’s day, hour by hour,
As he laughed (coughing). ‘Ay, it would appear!
But deep within my heart of hearts there hid
Ever the confidence, amends for all,
That heaven repairs what wrong earth’s journey did,
When love from life-long exile comes at call.
Duty and love, one broad way, were the best—
Who doubts? But one or other was to choose,
I chose the darkling half, and wait the rest
In that new world where light and darkness fuse.”

Inscribe on mine—“I loved her: love’s track lay
O’er sand and pebble, as all travellers know.
Duty led through a smiling country, gay
With greensward where the rose and lily blow.
Our roads are diverse: farewell, love!’ said she:
’Tis duty I abide by: homely sward
And not the rock-rough picturesque for me!
Above, where both roads join, I wait reward.
Be you as constant to the path whereon
I leave you planted!
’ But man needs must move,
Keep moving—whither, when the star is gone
Whereby he steps secure nor strays from love?
No stone but I was tripped by, stumbling-block
But brought me to confusion. Where I fell,
There I lay flat, if moss disguised the rock,
Thence, if flint pierced, I rose and cried ‘All’s well!
Duty be mine to tread in that high sphere
Where love from duty ne’er disparts, I trust,
And two halves make that whole, whereof—since here
One must sufice a man—why, this one must!

Inscribe each tomb thus: then, some sage acquaint
The simple—which holds sinner, which holds saint!

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