Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
My Last Duchess
Robert Browning (1812–89)
THAT ’S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Work’d busily a day, and there she stands.
Will ’t please you sit and look at her? I said        5
“Frà Pandolf” by design: for never read
Strangers like you that pictur’d countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turn’d (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)        10
And seem’d as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’t was not
Her husband’s presence only, call’d that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps        15
Frà Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough        20
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impress’d; she lik’d whate’er
She look’d on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’t was all one! My favor at her breast,        25
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,        30
Or blush, at least. She thank’d men,—good! but thank’d
Somehow—I know not how—as if she rank’d
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who ’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill        35
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lesson’d so, nor plainly set        40
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smil’d, no doubt,
Whene’er I pass’d her; but who pass’d without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;        45
Then all smiles stopp’d together. There she stands
As if alive. Will ’t please you rise? We ’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence        50
Of mine for dowry will be disallow’d;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avow’d
At starting, is my object. Nay, we ’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,        55
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me?

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