Robert Browning: Poems

Instans Tyrannus

Of the million or two, more or less,

I rule and possess,

One man, for some cause undefined,

Was least to my mind.

I struck him, he grovelled of course--

For, what was his force?

I pinned him to earth with my weight

And persistence of hate;

And he lay, would not moan, would not curse,

As his lot might be worse. 10

"Were the object less mean? would he stand

At the swing of my hand!

For obscurity helps him, and blots

The hole where he squats."

So, I set my five wits on the stretch.

To inveigle the wretch.

All in vain! Gold and jewels I threw,

Still he couched there perdue;

I tempted his blood and his flesh,

Hid in roses my mesh, 20

Choicest cates and the flagon's best spilth:

Still he kept to his filth.

Had he kith now or kin, were access

To his heart, did I press:

Just a son or a mother to seize!

No such booty as these.

Were it simply a friend to pursue

'Mid my million or two,

Who could pay me, in person or pelf,

What he owes me himself! 30

No: I could not but smile thro' my chafe:

For the fellow lay safe

As his mates do, the midge and the nit,

--Thro' minuteness, to wit.

Then a humour more great took its place

At the thought of his face:

The droop, the low cares of the mouth,

The trouble uncouth

'Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain

To put out of its pain, 40

And, "no!" I admonished myself,

"Is one mocked by an elf.

Is one baffled by toad or by rat?

The gravamen's deg. in that! deg.44

How the lion, who crouches to suit

His back to my foot,

Would admire that I stand in debate!

But the small turns the great

If it vexes you,--that is the thing!

Toad or rat vex the king? 50

Tho' I waste half my realm to unearth

Toad or rat, 'tis well worth!"

So, I soberly laid my last plan

To extinguish the man.

Round his creep-hole, with never a break

Ran my fires for his sake;

Overhead, did my thunder combine

With my under-ground mine:

Till I looked from my labour content

To enjoy the event. 60

When sudden ... how think ye, the end?

Did I say "without friend?"

Say rather, from marge to blue marge

The whole sky grew his targe

With the sun's self for visible boss,

While an Arm ran across

Which the earth heaved beneath like a breast!

Where the wretch was safe prest!

Do you see! Just my vengeance complete, deg.69

The man sprang to his feet, 70

Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed!

--So, _I_ was afraid!