Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Love Among the Ruins
By Robert Browning (1812–1889)
WHERE the quiet-colored end of evening smiles,
            Miles and miles,
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
            Half asleep
Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray or stop        5
            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,        10
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        15
            From the hills
Intersect and give a name to (else they run
            Into one).
Where the domed and daring palace shot in spires
            Up like fires        20
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        25
            Never was!
Such a carpet as this summer-time o’erspreads
            And imbeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
            Stock or stone—        30
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        35
            Bought and sold.
Now,—the single little turret that remains
            On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
            Overscored,        40
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        45
            As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
            Viewed the games.
And I know—while thus the quiet-colored eve
            Smiles to leave        50
To their folding all our many-tinkling fleece
            In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished gray
            Melt away—
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair        55
            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.        60
But he looked upon the city every side,
            Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,—and then,        65
            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,        70
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        75
            As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force—
            Gold, of course.
O heart! O blood that freezes, blood that burns!
            Earth’s returns        80
For whole centuries of folly, noise, and sin!
            Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
            Love is best.

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