Act V

Robert Browning



Lur. I thought to do this, not to talk this: well!
Such were my projects for the City’s good,
To save her from attack or by defence.
Time, here as elsewhere, soon or late may take
Our foresight by surprise with chance and change;
But not a little we provide against
—If you see clear on every point.

Puc.                                        Most clear.

Lur. Then all is said—not much, if you count words,
Yet for an understanding ear enough,
And all that my brief stay permits, beside.
Nor must you blame me, as I sought to teach
My elder in command, or threw a doubt
Upon the very skill, it comforts me
To know I leave,—your steady soldiership
That never failed me: yet, because it seemed
A stranger’s eye might haply note defect,
Which skill, thro’ use and custom, overlooks,
I have gone into the old cares once more,
As if I had to come and save again
Florence—that May—that morning! ’Tis night now—
Well—I broke off with?. . .

Puc.                                        Of the past campaign
You spoke—of measures to be kept in mind
For future use.

Lur.                True, so. . . . but, time—no time!
As well end here: remember this, and me!
Farewell now!

Puc.                    Dare I speak?

Lur.                                    —The south o’ the river—
How is the second stream called. . . . no,—the third?

Puc.    Pesa.

Lur.                And a stone’s cast from the fordingplace,
To the East,—the little mount’s name?

Puc.                                                Lupo.

Lur.                                                            Ay
Ay—there the tower, and all that side is safe!
With San Romano, west of Evola,
San Miniato, Scala, Empoli,
Five towers in all,—forget not!

Puc.                                            Fear not me!

Lur.     —Nor to memorialize the Council now,
I’ the easy hour, on those battalions’ claim
On the other side, by Staggia on the hills,
That kept the Siennese at check!

Puc.                                        One word—
Sir, I must speak! That you submit yourself
To Florence’ bidding, howsoe’er it prove,
And give up the command to me—is much,
Too much, perhaps: but what you tell me now,
Even will affect the other course you choose—
Poor as it may be, peril even that!
Refuge you seek at Pisa—yet these plans
All militate for Florence, all conclude
Your formidable work to make her queen
Of the country,—which her rivals rose against
When you began it,—which to interrupt,
Pisa would buy you off at any price!
You cannot mean to sue for Pisa’s help,
With this made perfect and on record?

Lur.                                                    I—
At Pisa, and for refuge, do you say?

Puc. Where are you going, then? You must decide
On leaving us, a silent fugitive,
Alone, at night—you, stealing thro’ our lines,
Who were this morning’s Luria,—you escape
To painfully begin the world once more,
With such a Past, as it had never been!
Where are you going?

Lur.                            Not so far, my Puccio,
But that I hope to hear, and know, and praise
(If you mind praise from your old captain yet)
Each happy blow you strike for Florence!

Puc.                                                        —Ay.
But ere you gain your shelter, what may come?
For see—tho’ nothing’s surely known as yet,
Still. . . . truth must out. . . . I apprehend the worst.
If mere suspicion stood for certainty
Before, there’s nothing can arrest the steps
Of Florence toward your ruin, once on foot.
Forgive her fifty times, it matters not!
And having disbelieved your innocence,
How can she trust your magnanimity?
You may do harm to her—why then, you will!
And Florence is sagacious in pursuit.
Have you a friend to count on?

Lur.                                        One sure friend.

Puc.    Potent?

Lur.                All potent.

Puc.                                And he is apprised?

Lur.    He waits me.

Puc.                        So!—Then I, put in your place,
Making my profit of all done by you,
Calling your labours mine, reaping their fruit,
To these, the State’s gift, now add this of yours—
That I may take to my peculiar store
All your instructions to do Florence good;
And if, by putting some few happily
In practice, I should both advantage her
And draw down honour on myself,—what then?

Lur. Do it, my Puccio! I shall know and praise!

Puc. Though, so, men say, “mark what we gain by change
“—A Puccio for a Luria!”

Lur.                            Even so!

Puc. Then, not for fifty hundred Florences,
Would I accept one office save my own,
Fill any other than my rightful post
Here at your feet, my Captain and my Lord!
That such a cloud should break, such trouble be,
Ere a man settle soul and body down
Into his true place and take rest for ever!
Here were my wise eyes fixed on your right hand,
And so the bad thoughts came and the worse words.
And all went wrong and painfully enough,—
No wonder,—till, the right spot stumbled on,
All the jar stops, and there is peace at once!
I am yours now,—a tool your right hand wields!
God’s love, that I should live, the man I am,
On orders, warrants, patents and the like,
As if there were no glowing eye i’ the world,
To glance straight inspiration to my brain,
No glorious heart to give mine twice the beats!
For, see—my doubt, where is it?—Fear? ’tis flown!
And Florence and her anger are a tale
To scare a child! Why, half a dozen words
Will tell her, spoken as I now can speak,
Her error, my past folly—and all’s right,
And you are Luria, our great chief again!
Or at the worst—which worst were best of all—
To exile or to death I follow you!

Lur. Thanks, Puccio! Let me use the privilege
You grant me: if I still command you,—stay!
Remain here—my vicegerent, it shall be,
And not successor: let me, as of old,
Still serve the State, my spirit prompting yours;
Still triumph, one for both—There! Leave me now!
You cannot disobey my first command?
Remember what I spoke of Jacopo,
And what you promised to observe with him!
Send him to speak with me—nay, no farewell—
You shall be by me when the sentence comes.
                                                        [PUCCIO goes.
So, there’s one Florentine returns again!
Out of the genial morning company,
One face is left to take into the night.


Jac. I wait for your commands, Sir.

Lur.                                                What, so soon?
I thank your ready presence and fair word.
I used to notice you in early days
As of the other species, so to speak,
Those watchers of the lives of us who act—
That weigh our motives, scrutinize our thoughts;
So, I propound this to your faculty
As you would tell me, were a town to take
. . . That is, of old. I am departing hence
Under these imputations: that is nought—
I leave no friend on whom they may rebound,
Hardly a name behind me in the land,
Being a stranger; all the more behoves
That I regard how altered were the case
With natives of the country, Florentines,
On whom the like mischance should fall; the roots
O’ the tree survive the ruin of the trunk—
No root of mine will throb—you understand.
But I had predecessors, Florentines,
Accused as I am now, and punished so—
The Traversari—you know more than I
How stigmatized they are, and lost in shame.
Now, Puccio, who succeeds me in command,
Both served them and succeeded, in due time;
He knows the way, holds proper documents,
And has the power to lay the simple truth
Before an active spirit, as I know yours:
And also there’s Tiburzio, my new friend,
Will, at a word, confirm such evidence,
He being the chivalric soul we know.
I put it to your instinct—were’t not well,
—A grace, though but for contrast’s sake, no more,—
If you who witness, and have borne a share
Involuntarily, in my mischance,
Should, of your proper motion, set your skill
To indicate. . . . that is, investigate
The reason or the wrong of what befel
Those famous citizens, your countrymen?
Nay—you shall promise nothing—but reflect,
And if your sense of justice prompt you—good!

Jac. And if, the trial past, their fame stand clear
To all men’s eyes, as yours, my lord, to mine—
Their ghosts may sleep in quiet satisfied!
For me, a straw thrown up into the air,
My testimony goes for a straw’s worth.
I used to hold by the instructed brain,
And move with Braccio as the master-wind;
The heart leads surelier: I must move with you—
As greatest now, who ever were the best.
So, let the last and humblest of your servants
Accept your charge, as Braccio’s heretofore,
And offer homage, by obeying you!            [JACOPO goes.

Lur. Another!—Luria goes not poorly forth!
If we could wait! The only fault’s with Time:
All men become good creatures—but so slow!


Lur.—Ah, you once more?

Dom.                                Domizia, that you knew,
Performed her task, and died with it—’Tis I!
Another woman, you have never known.
Let the Past sleep now.

Lur.                                I have done with it.

Dom. How inexhaustibly the spirit grows!
One object, she seemed erewhile born to reach
With her whole energies and die content,
So like a wall at the world’s end it stood,
With nought beyond to live for,—is it reached.
Already are new undreamed energies
Outgrowing under, and extending further
To a new object;—there’s another world!
See! I have told the purpose of my life,—
’Tis gained—you are decided, well or ill—
You march on Florence, or submit to her—
My work is done with you, your brow declares:
But—leave you? More of you seems yet to reach!
I stay for what I just begin to see.

Lur. So that you turn not to the Past!

Dom.                                                    You trace
Nothing but ill in it—my selfish impulse,
Which sought its ends and disregarded yours?

Lur. Speak not against your nature: best, each keep
His own—you, yours—most, now, when I keep mine,
—At least, fall by it, having too weakly stood.
God’s finger marks distinctions, all so fine,
We would confound—the Lesser has its use,
Which, when it apes the Greater, is foregone.
I, born a Moor, lived half a Florentine;
But, punished properly, can die a Moor.
Beside, there is what makes me understand
Your nature. . . . I have seen it—

Dom.                                    One like mine?

Lur. In my own East. . . . if you would stoop and help
My barbarous illustration. . . . it sounds ill—
Yet there’s no wrong at bottom—rather, praise—

Dom.    Well?

Lur.        We have creatures there, which if you saw
The first time, you would doubtless marvel at,
For their surpassing beauty, craft and strength.
And tho’ it were a lively moment’s shock
Wherein you found the purpose of those tongues
That seemed innocuous in their lambent play,
Yet, once made know such grace required such guard,
Your reason soon would acquiesce, I think,
In the Wisdom which made all things for the best;
So take them, good with ill, contentedly—
The prominent beauty with the secret sting.
I am glad to have seen you wondrous Florentines,
Yet. . . . 

Dom.    I am here to listen.

Lur.                                        My own East!
How nearer God we were! He glows above
With scarce an intervention, presses close
And palpitatingly, His soul o’er ours!
We feel Him, nor by painful reason know!
The everlasting minute of creation
Is felt there; Now it is, as it was Then;
All changes at His instantaneous will,
Not by the operation of a law
Whose maker is elsewhere at other work!
His soul is still engaged upon his world—
Man’s praise can forward it, Man’s prayer suspend,
For is not God all-mighty?—To recast
The world, erase old things and make them new,
What costs it Him? So, man breathes nobly there!
And inasmuch as Feeling, the East’s gift,
Is quick and transient—comes, and lo, is gone—
While Northern Thought is slow and durable,
Oh, what a mission was reserved for me,
Who, born with a perception of the power
And use of the North’s thought for us of the East,
Should have stayed there and turned it to account,
Giving Thought’s character and permanence
To the too-transitory Feelings there—
Writing God’s messages in mortal words!
Instead of which, I leave my fated field
For this where such a task is needed least,
Where all are born consummate in the art
I just perceive a chance of making mine,—
And then, deserting thus my early post,
I wonder that the men I come among
Mistake me! There, how all had understood,
Still brought fresh stuff for me to stamp and keep,
Fresh instinct to translate them into law!
Me, who. . . . 

Dom.                Who here the greater task achieve,
More needful even: who have brought fresh stuff
For us to mould, interpret and prove right,—
New feelings fresh from God, which, could we know
O’ the instant, where had been our need of them?
—Whose life re-teaches us what life should be,
What faith is, loyalty and simpleness,
All, their revealment taught us so long since
That, having mere tradition of the fact,
Truth copied falteringly from copies faint,
The early traits all dropped away,—we said
On sight of faith of yours, “so looks not faith
“We understand, described and taught before.”
But still, the truth was shown; and tho’ at first
It suffer from our haste, yet trace by trace
Old memories reappear, the likeness grows,
Our slow Thought does its work, and all’s re-known.
Oh, noble Luria! what you have decreed
I see not, but no animal revenge,
No brute-like punishment of bad by worse—
It cannot be, the gross and vulgar way
Traced for me by convention and mistake,
Has gained that calm approving eye and brow!
Spare Florence after all! Let Luria trust
To his own soul, and I will trust to him!

Lur.    In time!

Dom.              How, Luria?

Lur.                                        It is midnight now—
And they arrive from Florence with my fate.

Dom. I hear no step. . . . 

Lur.                                    I feel it, as you say!


Hus. The man returned from Florence!

Lur.                                                    As I knew.

Hus. He seeks thee.

Lur.                        And I only wait for him.
Aught else?

Hue.            A movement of the Lucchese troops

Lur. . . . Toward Florence? Have out instantly. . . . 
Ah, old use clings! Puccio must care henceforth!
In—quick—’tis nearly midnight! Bid him come!


Lur. Tiburzio?—not at Pisa?

Tib.                                        I return
From Florence: I serve Pisa, and must think
By such procedure I have served her best.
A people is but the attempt of many
To rise to the completer life of one—
And those who live as models for the mass
Are singly of more value than they all.
Such man are you, and such a time is this
That your sole fate concerns a nation more
Than its apparent welfare; and to prove
Your rectitude, and duly crown the same,
Imports it far beyond the day’s event,
Its battle’s loss or gain—the mass remains,
Keep but the model safe, new men will rise
To study it, and other days to prove
How great a good was Luria’s having lived.
I might go try my fortune as you bade,
And joining Lucca, helped by your disgrace,
Repair our harm—so were to-day’s work done;
But where were Luria for our sons to see?
No, I look farther. I have testified
(Declaring my submission to your arms)
Your full success to Florence, making clear
Your probity, as none else could: I spoke—
And it shone clearly!

Lur.                        Ah—till Braccio spoke!

Brac. Till Braccio told in just a word the whole—
His old great error, and return to knowledge—
Which told. . . . Nay, Luria, I should droop the head,
I, whom shame rests with, yet I dare look up,
Sure of your pardon now I sue for it,
Knowing you wholly—so let midnight end!
Sunrise will come next! Still you answer not?
The shadow of the night is past away
Our circling faces here ’mid which it rose
Are all that felt it,—they close round you now
To witness its completest vanishing.
Speak, Luria! Here begins your true career—
Look up to it!—All now is possible—
The glory and the grandeur of each dream—
And every prophecy shall be fulfilled
Save one. . . . (nay, now your word must come at last)
—That you would punish Florence

Hus. (pointing to Luria’s dead body.) That is done!—

Luria - Contents

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