Robert Browning: Poems


Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst

Of soul, ye bards!

Quoth Bard the first:

"Sir Olaf, deg. the good knight, did don deg.3

His helm, and eke his habergeon ..."

Sir Olaf and his bard----!

"That sin-scathed brow" deg. (quoth Bard the second), deg.6

"That eye wide ope as tho' Fate beckoned

My hero to some steep, beneath

Which precipice smiled tempting Death ..."

You too without your host have reckoned! 10

"A beggar-child" (let's hear this third!)

"Sat on a quay's edge: like a bird

Sang to herself at careless play,

And fell into the stream. 'Dismay!

Help, you the standers-by!' None stirred.

"Bystanders reason, think of wives

And children ere they risk their lives.

Over the balustrade has bounced

A mere instinctive dog, and pounced

Plumb on the prize. 'How well he dives! 20

"'Up he comes with the child, see, tight

In mouth, alive too, clutched from quite

A depth of ten feet--twelve, I bet!

Good dog! What, off again? There's yet

Another child to save? All right!

"'How strange we saw no other fall!

It's instinct in the animal.

Good dog! But he's a long while under:

If he got drowned I should not wonder--

Strong current, that against the wall! 30

"'Here he comes, holds in mouth this time

--What may the thing be? Well, that's prime!

Now, did you ever? Reason reigns

In man alone, since all Tray's pains

Have fished--the child's doll from the slime!'

"And so, amid the laughter gay,

Trotted my hero off,--old Tray,--

Till somebody, prerogatived

With reason, reasoned: 'Why he dived,

His brain would show us, I should say. 40

"'John, go and catch--or, if needs be,

Purchase that animal for me!

By vivisection, at expense

Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence,

How brain secretes dog's soul, we'll see!'"