Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

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A Pretty Woman


I.

That fawn-skin-dappled hair of hers,
And the blue eye
Dear and dewy,
And that infantine fresh air of hers!

II.

To think men cannot take you, Sweet,
And enfold you,
Ay, and hold you,
And so keep you what they make you, Sweet!

III

You like us for a glance, you know- -
For a word's sake
Or a sword's sake,
All's the same, whate'er the chance, you know.

IV.

And in turn we make you ours, we say- -
You and youth too,
Eyes and mouth too,
All the face composed of flowers, we say.

V.

All's our own, to make the most of, Sweet- -
Sing and say for,
Watch and pray for,
Keep a secret or go boast of, Sweet!

VI.

But for loving, why, you would not, Sweet,
Though we prayed you,
Paid you, brayed you
in a mortar- -for you could not, Sweet!

VII.

So, we leave the sweet face fondly there:
Be its beauty
Its sole duty!
Let all hope of grace beyond, lie there!

VIII.

And while the face lies quiet there,
Who shall wonder
That I ponder
A conclusion? I will try it there.

IX.

As,- -why must one, for the love foregone,
Scout mere liking?
Thunder-striking
Earth,- -the heaven, we looked above for, gone!

X.

Why, with beauty, needs there money be,
Love with liking?
Crush the fly-king
In his gauze, because no honey-bee?

XI.

May not liking be so simple-sweet,
If love grew there
'Twould undo there
All that breaks the cheek to dimples sweet?

XII.

Is the creature too imperfect,
Would you mend it
And so end it?
Since not all addition perfects aye!

XIII.

Or is it of its kind, perhaps,
Just perfection- -
Whence, rejection
Of a grace not to its mind, perhaps?

XIV.

Shall we burn up, tread that face at once
Into tinder,
And so hinder
Sparks from kindling all the place at once?

XV.

Or else kiss away one's soul on her?
Your love-fancies!
- -A sick man sees
Truer, when his hot eyes roll on her!

XVI.

Thus the craftsman thinks to grace the rose,- -
Plucks a mould-flower
For his gold flower,
Uses fine things that efface the rose:

XVII.

Rosy rubies make its cup more rose,
Precious metals
Ape the petals,- -
Last, some old king locks it up, morose!

XVIII.

Then how grace a rose? I know a way!
Leave it, rather.
Must you gather?
Smell, kiss, wear it- -at last, throw away!

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001
Edited: Monday, April 22, 2013

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Read poems about / on: rose, flower, kiss, beauty, money, sick, woman, hair, heaven, hope, love, women

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Comments about this poem (A Pretty Woman by Robert Browning )

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  • Is It Poetry (4/22/2013 11:11:00 AM)

    To hear an echo
    from the past - forever blasts.
    When cherry blosoms,
    never picked.
    Forever seem to last.....iip (Report) Reply

  • Juan Olivarez (4/22/2011 8:24:00 AM)

    I've always had some contempt for this work it seems so beneath the great works of Browning, so average if you will. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (4/22/2010 1:58:00 AM)

    After the romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and John Keats, the poet remains fresh in mind is Robert Browning only! This poem is just one piece to say his name but other poems of his are better than this! It is just like 'heard melodies are sweet but unheard melodies are sweeter! ' (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (4/22/2009 6:43:00 AM)

    Browning's prosodic affectations have always annoyed me. He makes it difficult to read his work. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (4/22/2009 1:14:00 AM)

    Browning, along with Tennyson and Matthew Arnold, is considered one of the great Victorian-era poets of the English language. I took a class on this subject, and though I did not read all of his dramatic monologues (or other works) , I have a hunch this particular piece would not have been selected to be studied. I couldn't finish it either. Where's My Last Duchess? (Report) Reply

  • Joseph Poewhit (4/22/2009 12:17:00 AM)

    Speaks well of an earlier era of time. Where a woman was praised and placed on a pedestal. Not as today, a cheap object for a fast fling. It is more respect for a woman. Though the same inner lusts existed, they had a dog leash attached to them. How moral decay, has come upon people today, for a few gold coins. Church was the center of life, not the BIG MOM TV. (Report) Reply

  • Emily Gnitt (4/22/2008 10:53:00 PM)

    it is a good detailed poem but i lost interest in it because it was too long and well i would give this a 7.5/10 (Report) Reply

  • Mark Nwagwu (4/22/2008 12:26:00 PM)

    a prettywoman - elicited all sorts of thoughts in me, some of which I could not hold on to. Al last managed to hang on to the beginning and the end and a few in-betweens -
    infantine fresh air of hers
    men can only keep what they make you (for which you are not responsible)
    all the face composed of flowers
    so we leave the swee face fondly there
    just perfection, whence rejection
    precious meatls ape petals

    Tells me I'm mere metal aping her petal
    she is truly comething else - prety woman
    must you gather -no, no, not this pretty woman; gave this 7 (Report) Reply

Read all 14 comments »

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