Dramatic Romances and Lyrics

I.—Madhouse Cell

Johannes Agricola in Meditation.

Robert Browning

THERE’S Heaven above, and night by night,
    I look right through its gorgeous roof
No sun and moons though e’er so bright
    Avail to stop me; splendour-proof
I keep the broods of stars aloof:
For I intend to get to God,
    For ’tis to God I speed so fast,
For in God’s breast, my own abode,
    Those shoals of dazzling glory past,
I lay my spirit down at last.
I lie where I have always lain,
    God smiles as he has always smiled;
Ere suns and moons could wax and wane,
    Ere stars were thundergirt, or piled
The Heavens, God thought on me his child;
Ordained a life for me, arrayed
    Its circumstances, every one
To the minutest; ay, God said
    This head this hand should rest upon
Thus, ere he fashioned star or sun.
And having thus created me,
    Thus rooted me, he bade me grow,
Guiltless for ever, like a tree
    That buds and blooms, nor seeks to know
    The law by which it prospers so:
But sure that thought and word and deed
    All go to swell his love for me,
Me, made because that love had need
    Of something irrevocably
Pledged solely its content to be.
Yes, yes, a tree which must ascend,—
    No poison-gourd foredoomed to stoop!
I have God’s warrant, could I blend
    All hideous sins, as in a cup,
To drink the mingled venoms up,
Secure my nature will convert
    The draught to blossoming gladness fast,
While sweet dews turn to the gourd’s hurt,
    And bloat, and while they bloat it, blast,
As from the first its lot was cast.
For as I lie, smiled on, full fed
    By unexhausted power to bless,
I gaze below on Hell’s fierce bed,
    And those its waves of flame oppress,
Swarming in ghastly wretchedness;
Whose life on earth aspired to be
    One altar-smoke, so pure!—to win
If not love like God’s love to me,
    At least to keep his anger in,
And all their striving turned to sin!
    Priest, doctor, hermit, monk grown white
With prayer, the broken-hearted nun,
    The martyr, the wan acolyte,
The incense-swinging child,—undone
Before God fashioned star or sun!
God, whom I praise; how could I praise,
    If such as I might understand,
Make out, and reckon on, his ways,
    And bargain for his love, and, stand,
Paying a price, at his right hand?

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