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Love Among The Ruins by Robert Browning



Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles
     Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
****** homeward thro’ the twilight, stray or stop
     As they crop—
Was the site once of a city great and ***,
     (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 prest,
     Twelve abreast.


And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
     Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o’erspreads
     And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
     Stock or stone—
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
     Long ago;
**** 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
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’
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.
Oh, 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!