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The air broke into a mist with bells.

The obi walls rocked with the crowd and cries.

Had I said, '' Good folk, mere noise repels—

But give me your sun from yonder skies!'' They had answered, '' And afterward, what else!" 10

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!

Naught man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap

This very day, now a year is run.

There's nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the windows »"t;

For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles' Gate—or, better yet,

By the very scaffold's foot, I trow. no

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;

And 1 think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a iniud,

Stones at me for my year's misdeeds.

Thus I entered, and thus I go!

In triumphs, people have dropped down dead. '' Paid by the world, what dost thou owe

Met"—God might question; now instead,
'T is God shall repay: 1 am safer so. 3d


My first thought was, he lied in every word.
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.

What else should he be set- for, with his staff!
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted

And ask the roadf 1 guessed what skull-like laugh 10

Would break, what crutch 'gin writ* my epitaph

For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare.

• The title Is n line of Edgar's song. Kinq Lrnr, III, Iv, 1ST. "Chllde" Is an old title for a | youth of noble birth. There has been much I discussion over the question whether the knight's pilgrimage, which Is here so vividly i and yet so mystically portrayed, is allegorical: or not. Doubtless there Is no elaborate allegory In it. though there may well he a moral —something: like constancy to an Ideal, Itrownlnc admitted.

If at his counsel 1 should turn aside

Into that ominous tract which, all agree, Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly 1 did turn as he pointed: neither pride Nor hope rekindling at the end descried, So much as gladness that some end might be.

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering. What with my search drawn out through years, my hope 20 Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope With that obstreperous joy success would bring,—

I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring

.My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

As when a sick man very near to death

Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end

The tears, and takes the farewell of each friend.

And hears one bid the other go, draw breath

1'reelier outside, ("since all is o'er," he saith. "And the blow fallen no grieving ean amend;") 30

While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away.

With care about the banners, scarves and staves:

And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, T had so long suffered in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among '1 The Band''—to wit
The knights who to the Dark Tower's search
addressed 40
Their steps—that just to fail as they, seemed

And all the doubt was now—should I be fit f

So, quiet as despair, I turned from him, That hateful cripple, out of his highway Into the path he pointed. All the day Had been a dreary one at best, and dim Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

For mark! no sooner was I fairly found Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two, 5ft Than, pausing to throw backward a last view

O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; gray plain all round:

Xothing but plain to the horizon's bound.
I might go on; naught else remained to do.

So, on I went. T think I never saw

Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve: For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!

But cockle, spurge, according to their law Might propagate their kind, with none to awe, You 'd think: a burr had been a treasure trove. 60

Xo! penury, inertness and grimace,

In some strange sort, were the land's portion. "See

Or shut your eyes," said Xature peevishly, "It nothing skills:1 I cannot help my case: 'T is the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place,

Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free."

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk Above its mates, the head was chopped; the

bentsWere jealous else. What made those holes

and rents

In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to balk 70 All hope of greenness! 'tis a brute must walk Fashing their life out, with a brute :s intents.

As for the grass, it gTew as scant as hair

In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the inud Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.

One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare, Stood stupefied, however he came there:

Thrust out past service from the devil 'a stud!

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know, With that red gaunt and colloped* neck a-strain, 80 And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;

Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;

I never saw a brute I hated so;

He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights,
I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights.

Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.

Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier's art:
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face 91
Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!
Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.

Giles then, the soul of honour—there lie stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.

l avails nothing 2 gross stalks

3 ridged I

What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.

Good—but the seeue shifts—faugh! what hangman hands loo Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands Bead it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!

Better this present than a past like that;

Back therefore to my darkening path agaiu!

No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain. Will the night send a howlet or a bat? I asked: when something on the dismal flat

Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

A sudden little river crossed my path
As unexpected as n serpent comes. HO
Xo sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath
For the fiend's glowing hoof—to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate* with flakes and

So petty, yet so spiteful! All along,

Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it; Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit Of mute despair, a suicidal throng: The river which had done them all the wrong, Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit. 120

Which, while I forded,—good saints, how I feared

To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek, Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek

For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!

—It may have been a water-rat I speared, But, ugh, it sounded like a baby's shriek.

Glad was I when I reached the other bank. Now for a better country. Vain presage! Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage,

Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank, 131 Or wild-cats in a red-hot iron cage—

The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.

What penned them there, with all the plain to choose?

Xo footprint leading to that horrid mews, Xone out of it. Mad brewage set to work Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk

• That is. bespit, bespattered: from the archaic

betpett. The rnthpr unusual diction employed throughout tlie pneni Uclps to heighten Its grotesque character.

Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

And more than that—a furlong on—why, there!

What bad use was that engine for, that wheel, 140

Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel Men's bodies out like silkf with all the air Of Tophet 'si tool, on earth left unaware.

Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,

Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth

Desperate and done with: (so a fool finds mirth,

Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes!) within a rood— Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth. 150

Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim, Now patches where some leanness of the soil's

Broke into moss or substances like boils; Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim

Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as far as ever from the end!

Naught in the distance but the evening, naught

To point my footstep further 1 At the thought,

A great black bird, Apollyon's2 bosom-friend, Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragonpenned8 1*1 That brushed my cap—perchance the guide 1 sought.

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,

'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place All round to mountains—with such name to grace

Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view. How thus they had surprised me,—solve it, you!

How to get from them was no clearer case.

Vet half T seemed to recognize some trick
Of mischief happened to me, God knows
when— 170
In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
As when a trap shuts—you're inside the den!

i hell's a Satan's

3 with pinluus like a drugon's

Burningly it came on me all at once,

This was the place! those two hills on the right,

Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight;

While to the left, a tall scalped mountain . . .

Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,4
After a life spent training for the sight! 180

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself! The round squat turret, blind as the fool *s heart,

Built of brown stone, without a counterpart In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf

He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see! because of night perhaps!—why, day
Came back again for that! before it left
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay, 130
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
"Now stab and end the creature—to the

Not hear! when noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears,
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of

There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met

To view the last of nic. a living frame 200 For one more picture! in a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all. And yet Dauntless the slug-horn5 to my lips I set, And blew: "Childe Koland to the Dark Tower came."


Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in his hand

* critical moment

s Not properly the name of a horn, If the word is a corruption of "slogan." It was thus misused by Chatterton frequently, and Browning may have obtained It from that source.

* There was a certain Rabbi, Ben Ezra (or Aben

ezra, or Ibn Kxra), who was a great scholar and theologian of the twelfth century. lie was born at Toledo and traveled widely, dwelling at Rome, London, Palestine, and elsewhere. Browning here mnkes him the mouthpiece of a nobk philosophy.

Who saith, '1A whole I planned, Youth shows but half: trust God: sec all, nor be afraid!''

Not that, amassing flowers, Youth sighed, "Which rose make ours, Which lily leave and then as best recall V Not that, admiring stars, 10 it yearned, '' Nor Jove, nor Mars; Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"

Not for such hopes and fearst

Annulling youth's brief years,

Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!

Rather I prize the doubt}

Low kinds exist without,

Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
Poor vaunt of life indeed,

Were man but formed to feed 20
On .joy. to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men:

Irks care1 the crop-full birdf Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast I

Rejoice we are allied

To that which doth provide

And not partake, effect and not receive!

A spark disturbs our clod;

Nearer we hold of God

Who gives, than of his tribes that take, I must believe. 30

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never
grudge the throe!

For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be, 40
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink
i' the scale.

What is he but a brute
Whose flesh has soul to suit,

i Subject of "irks."

11, e., such as those Just mentioned, which seem

to make youth Ineffectual. t Supply "that." This is exactly the thought

which Tennyson had already expressed In In

Memorttim, XXVII.

Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play!

I To man, propose this test—
Thy body at its best,
I How far can that project thy soul on its lone

Yet gifts should prove their use:
1 own the Past profuse 50
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once '' How good to
live and learn "1

Not once beat "Praise be thine!
I see the whole design,

I, who saw power, see now Love perfect too;
Perfect I call thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!

Maker, remake, complete,—I trust what thou shalt do!" 60

For pleasant is this flesh;
Our soul, in its rose-mesh

Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest:
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold

Possessions of the brute,—gain most, as we did best!

Let us not always say,
"Spite of this flesh to-day
T strove, made head, gained ground upon the
whole 1"

As the bird wings and sings, TO
Let us cry, "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than
flesh helps soul I"

Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,

Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed

From the developed brute; a God though in the germ.

And I shall thereupon

Take rest, ere I be gone 80

Once more on my adventure brave and new:

Fearless and unperplcxed,

When I wage battle next,

What weapons to select, what armour to indue.1

Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;

i put on

Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same,
Give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being
old. »0

For note, when evening shuts,
A certain moment cuts

The deed off, calls the glory from the gray:
A whisper from the west
Shoots—"Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another

So, still within this life,

Though lifted o'er its strife.

Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,

"This rage was right i' the main, 100

That acquiescence vain:

The Future I may face now 1 have proved the

For more is not reserved
To man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day:
Here, work enough to watch
The Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's
true play.

As it was better, youth

Should strive, through acts uncouth, 110 TowaTd making, than repose on aught found

made: So, better, age, exempt From strife, should know, than tempt Further. Thou waitedst age: wait death nor

be afraid!

Enough now, if the Bight
And Good and Infinite

Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own,

With knowledge absolute,
Subject to no dispute

From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone. 120

Be there, for once and all.
Severed great minds from small.
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I,2 the world arraigned,
Were they,2 my soul disdained,
Bight? Let age speak the truth and give us
peace at lastl

> Supply "whom."

Now, who shall arbitrate!
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what 1 follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes 130
Match me; we all surmise,
They this thing, and 1 that: whom shall my
soul believe!

Not on the vulgar mass
Called "work" must sentence pass.-
Things done, that took the eye and had the

O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand.
Found straightway to its mind, could value in
a trice:

But all, the world's coarse thumb

And finger failed to plumb, HO

So passed in makiug up the maiu account;

All instincts immature,

All purposes unsure,

That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,

Fancies that broke through language and

escaped; All 1 could never be, All, men ignored in me,

This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped. 150

Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
Tlnit metaphor! and feel

Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay —

Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round.
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone,
seize to-day!'

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;

Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:

What entered into thee, 1*0
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and
clay endure.

He fixed thee 'mid this dance
Of plastic3 circumstance,

s shaping

• Both the figure and the philosophy here obviously suggest Omsr Khayyam, though l>otb are very much older.

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