Robert Browning: Poems

Fears And Scruples

Here's my case. Of old I used to love him.

This same unseen friend, before I knew:

Dream there was none like him, none above him,--

Wake to hope and trust my dream was true.

Loved I not his letters deg. full of beauty? deg.5

Not his actions famous far and wide?

Absent, he would know I vowed him duty,

Present, he would find me at his side.

Pleasant fancy! for I had but letters,

Only knew of actions by hearsay: 10

He himself was busied with my betters;

What of that? My turn must come some day.

"Some day" proving--no day! Here's the puzzle.

Passed and passed my turn is. Why complain?

He's so busied! If I could but muzzle

People's foolish mouths that give me pain!

"Letters?" (hear them!) "You a judge of writing?

Ask the experts!--How they shake the head

O'er these characters, your friend's inditing--

Call them forgery from A to Z deg.! deg.20

"Actions? Where's your certain proof" (they bother)

"He, of all you find so great and good,

He, he only, claims this, that, the other

Action--claimed by men, a multitude?"

I can simply wish I might refute you,

Wish my friend would,--by a word, a wink,--

Bid me stop that foolish mouth,--you brute you!

He keeps absent,--why, I cannot think.

Never mind! Tho' foolishness may flout me.

One thing's sure enough; 'tis neither frost, 30

No, nor fire, shall freeze or burn from out me

Thanks for truth--tho' falsehood, gained--tho' lost.

All my days, I'll go the softlier, sadlier,

For that dream's sake! How forget the thrill

Thro' and thro' me as I thought, "The gladlier

Lives my friend because I love him still!"

Ah, but there's a menace some one utters!

"What and if your friend at home play tricks?

Peep at hide-and-seek behind the shutters?

Mean your eyes should pierce thro' solid bricks? 40

'What and if he, frowning, wake you, dreamy?

Lay on you the blame that bricks--conceal?

Say '_At least I saw who did not see me,

Does see now, and presently shall feel_'?"

"Why, that makes your friend a monster!" say you;

"Had his house no window? At first nod,

Would you not have hailed him?" Hush, I pray you!

What if this friend happen to be--God?