Robert Browning

Here you will find the Long Poem By The Fire-Side of poet Robert Browning

By The Fire-Side


How well I know what I mean to do
 When the long dark autumn-evenings come:
And where, my soul, is thy pleasant hue?
 With the music of all thy voices, dumb
In life's November too!


I shall be found by the fire, suppose,
 O'er a great wise book as beseemeth age,
While the shutters flap as the cross-wind blows
 And I turn the page, and I turn the page,
Not verse now, only prose!


Till the young ones whisper, finger on lip,
 ``There he is at it, deep in Greek:
``Now then, or never, out we slip
 ``To cut from the hazels by the creek
``A mainmast for our ship!''


I shall be at it indeed, my friends:
 Greek puts already on either side
Such a branch-work forth as soon extends
 To a vista opening far and wide,
And I pass out where it ends.


The outside-frame, like your hazel-trees:
 But the inside-archway widens fast,
And a rarer sort succeeds to these,
 And we slope to Italy at last
And youth, by green degrees.


I follow wherever I am led,
 Knowing so well the leader's hand:
Oh woman-country, wooed not wed,
 Loved all the more by earth's male-lands,
Laid to their hearts instead!


Look at the ruined chapel again
 Half-way up in the Alpine gorge!
Is that a tower, I point you plain,
 Or is it a mill, or an iron-forge
Breaks solitude in vain?


A turn, and we stand in the heart of things:
 The woods are round us, heaped and dim;
From slab to slab how it slips and springs,
 The thread of water single and slim,
Through the ravage some torrent brings!


Does it feed the little lake below?
 That speck of white just on its marge
Is Pella; see, in the evening-glow,
 How sharp the silver spear-heads charge
When Alp meets heaven in snow!


On our other side is the straight-up rock;
 And a path is kept 'twixt the gorge and it
By boulder-stones where lichens mock
 The marks on a moth, and small ferns fit
Their teeth to the polished block.


Oh the sense of the yellow mountain-flowers,
 And thorny balls, each three in one,
The chestnuts throw on our path in showers!
 For the drop of the woodland fruit's begun,
These early November hours,


That crimson the creeper's leaf across
 Like a splash of blood, intense, abrupt,
O'er a shield else gold from rim to boss,
 And lay it for show on the fairy-cupped
Elf-needled mat of moss,


By the rose-flesh mushrooms, undivulged
 Last evening---nay, in to-day's first dew
Yon sudden coral nipple bulged,
 Where a freaked fawn-coloured flaky crew
Of toadstools peep indulged.


And yonder, at foot of the fronting ridge
 That takes the turn to a range beyond,
Is the chapel reached by the one-arched bridge
 Where the water is stopped in a stagnant pond
Danced over by the midge.


The chapel and bridge are of stone alike,
 Blackish-grey and mostly wet;
Cut hemp-stalks steep in the narrow dyke.
 See here again, how the lichens fret
And the roots of the ivy strike!


Poor little place, where its one priest comes
 On a festa-day, if he comes at all,
To the dozen folk from their scattered homes,
 Gathered within that precinct small
By the dozen ways one roams---


To drop from the charcoal-burners' huts,
 Or climb from the hemp-dressers' low shed,
Leave the grange where the woodman stores his nuts,
 Or the wattled cote where the fowlers spread
Their gear on the rock's bare juts.


It has some pretension too, this front,
 With its bit of fresco half-moon-wise
Set over the porch, Art's early wont:
 'Tis John in the Desert, I surmise,
But has borne the weather's brunt---


Not from the fault of the builder, though,
 For a pent-house properly projects
Where three carved beams make a certain show,
 Dating---good thought of our architect's---
'Five, six, nine, he lets you know.


And all day long a bird sings there,
 And a stray sheep drinks at the pond at times;
The place is silent and aware;
 It has had its scenes, its joys and crimes,
But that is its own affair.


My perfect wife, my Leonor,
 Oh heart, my own, oh eyes, mine too,
Whom else could I dare look backward for,
 With whom beside should I dare pursue
The path grey heads abhor?


For it leads to a crag's sheer edge with them;
 Youth, flowery all the way, there stops---
Not they; age threatens and they contemn,
 Till they reach the gulf wherein youth drops,
One inch from life's safe hem!


With me, youth led ... I will speak now,
 No longer watch you as you sit
Reading by fire-ligh