Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Love among the Ruins
By Robert Browning (1812–1889)
 
WHERE the quiet-colour’d end of evening smiles
    Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
    Half-asleep
Tinkle homeward thro’ 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 its 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 prest,
    Twelve abreast.
 
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass        25
    Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o’erspreads
    And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guess’d alone,
    Stock or stone—        30
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
    Long ago;
Lust of glory prick’d 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
    View’d the games.
 
And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
    Smiles to leave        50
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        55
    Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
    For the goal,
When the king look’d, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
    Till I come.        60
 
But he looked upon the city, every side,
    Far and wide,
All the mountains topp’d with temples, all the glades’
    Colonnades,
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.
Oh, heart! oh, 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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