LOVE AMONG THE RUINS


Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
   Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
   Half-asleep
Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop
   As they crop ---
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
   (So they say)
Of our country's very capital, its prince
   Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
   Peace or war.

Now, --- the country does not even boast a tree,
   As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
   From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
   Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
   Up like fires
O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
   Bounding all
Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed,
   Twelve abreast.

And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
   Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'er-spreads
   And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
   Stock or stone ---
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
   Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
   Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
   Bought and sold.

Now, --- the single little turret that remains
   On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
   Overscored,
While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks
   Through the chinks ---
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
   Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
   As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
   Viewed the games.

And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
   Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
   In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
   Melt away ---
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
   Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
   For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
   Till I come.

But he looked upon the city, every side,
   Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades'
   Colonnades,
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts, --- and then
   All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
   Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
   Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
   Each on each.

In one year they sent a million fighters forth
   South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
   As the sky
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force ---
   Gold, of course.
O heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
   Earth's returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
   Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
    Love is best.


--- Robert Browning

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