Robert Browning

Here you will find the Long Poem Bishop Blougram's Apology of poet Robert Browning

Bishop Blougram's Apology

NO more wine? then we'll push back chairs and talk. 
A final glass for me, though: cool, i' faith! 
We ought to have our Abbey back, you see. 
It's different, preaching in basilicas, 
And doing duty in some masterpiece 
Like this of brother Pugin's, bless his heart! 
I doubt if they're half baked, those chalk rosettes, 
Ciphers and stucco-twiddlings everywhere; 
It's just like breathing in a lime-kiln: eh? 
These hot long ceremonies of our church 
Cost us a little--oh, they pay the price, 
You take me--amply pay it! Now, we'll talk. 

So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs. 
No deprecation,--nay, I beg you, sir! 
Beside 't is our engagement: don't you know, 
I promised, if you'd watch a dinner out, 
We'd see truth dawn together?--truth that peeps 
Over the glasses' edge when dinner's done, 

And body gets its sop and holds its noise 
And leaves soul free a little. Now's the time: 
'T is break of day! You do despise me then. 
And if I say, "despise me,"--never fear! 
I know you do not in a certain sense-- 
Not in my arm-chair, for example: here, 
I well imagine you respect my place 
( Status, entourage , worldly circumstance) 
Quite to its value--very much indeed: 
--Are up to the protesting eyes of you 
In pride at being seated here for once-- 
You'll turn it to such capital account! 
When somebody, through years and years to come, 
Hints of the bishop,--names me--that's enough: 
"Blougram? I knew him"--(into it you slide) 
"Dined with him once, a Corpus Christi Day, 
"All alone, we two; he's a clever man: 
"And after dinner,--why, the wine you know,-- 
"Oh, there was wine, and good!--what with the wine . . 
"'Faith, we began upon all sorts of talk! 
"He's no bad fellow, Blougram; he had seen 
"Something of mine he relished, some review: 
"He's quite above their humbug in his heart, 
"Half-said as much, indeed--the thing's his trade. 
"I warrant, Blougram's sceptical at times: 
"How otherwise? I liked him, I confess!" 

Che che , my dear sir, as we say at Rome, 
Don't you protest now! It's fair give and take; 
You have had your turn and spoken your home-truths: 
The hand's mine now, and here you follow suit. 

Thus much conceded, still the first fact stays-- 
You do despise me; your ideal of life 
Is not the bishop's: you would not be I. 
You would like better to be Goethe, now, 
Or Buonaparte, or, bless me, lower still, 
Count D'Orsay,--so you did what you preferred, 
Spoke as you thought, and, as you cannot help, 
Believed or disbelieved, no matter what, 
So long as on that point, whate'er it was, 
You loosed your mind, were whole and sole yourself. 
--That, my ideal never can include, 
Upon that element of truth and worth 
Never be based! for say they make me Pope-- 
(They can't--suppose it for our argument!) 
Why, there I'm at my tether's end, I've reached 
My height, and not a height which pleases you: 
An unbelieving Pope won't do, you say. 
It's like those eerie stories nurses tell, 
Of how some actor on a stage played Death, 
With pasteboard crown, sham orb and tinselled dart, 
And called himself the monarch of the world; 


Then, going in the tire-room afterward, 
Because the play was done, to shift himself, 
Got touched upon the sleeve familiarly, 
The moment he had shut the closet door, 
By Death himself. Thus God might touch a Pope 
At unawares, ask what his baubles mean, 
And whose part he presumed to play just now? 
Best be yourself, imperial, plain and true! 

So, drawing comfortable breath again, 
You weigh and find, whatever more or less 
I boast of my ideal realized, 
Is nothing in the balance when opposed 
To your ideal, your grand simple life, 
Of which you will not realize one jot. 
I am much, you are nothing; you would be all, 
I would be merely much: you beat me there. 

No, friend, you do not beat me: hearken why! 
The common problem, yours, mine, every one's, 
Is--not to fancy what were fair in life 
Provided it could be,--but, finding first 
What may be, then find how to make it fair 
Up to our means: a very different thing! 
No abstract intellectual plan of life 
Quite irrespective of life's plainest laws, 

But one, a man, who is man and nothing more, 
May lead within a world which (by your leave) 
Is Rome or London, not Fool's-paradise. 
Embellish Rome, idealize away, 
Make paradise of London if you can, 
You're welcome, nay, you're wise. 

A simile! 
We mortals cross the ocean of this world 
Each in his average cabin of a life; 
The best's not big, the worst yields elbow-room. 
Now for our six months' voyage--how prepare? 
You come on shipboard with a landsman's list 
Of things he calls convenient: so they are! 
An India