Robert Browning (1812-1889 / London / England)
Fears And Scruples
Here's my case. Of old I used to love him.
This same unseen friend, before I knew:
Dream there was none like him, none above him,--
Wake to hope and trust my dream was true.
Loved I not his letters full of beauty?
Not his actions famous far and wide?
Absent, he would know I vowed him duty,
Present, he would find me at his side.
Pleasant fancy! for I had but letters,
Only knew of actions by hearsay:
He himself was busied with my betters;
What of that? My turn must come some day.
'Some day' proving--no day! Here's the puzzle.
Passed and passed my turn is. Why complain?
He's so busied! If I could but muzzle
People's foolish mouths that give me pain!
'Letters?' (hear them!) 'You a judge of writing?
Ask the experts!--How they shake the head
O'er these characters, your friend's inditing--
Call them forgery from A to Z !
'Actions? Where's your certain proof' (they bother)
'He, of all you find so great and good,
He, he only, claims this, that, the other
Action--claimed by men, a multitude?'
I can simply wish I might refute you,
Wish my friend would,--by a word, a wink,--
Bid me stop that foolish mouth,--you brute you!
He keeps absent,--why, I cannot think.
Never mind! Tho' foolishness may flout me.
One thing's sure enough; 'tis neither frost,
No, nor fire, shall freeze or burn from out me
Thanks for truth--tho' falsehood, gained--tho' lost.
All my days, I'll go the softlier, sadlier,
For that dream's sake! How forget the thrill
Thro' and thro' me as I thought, 'The gladlier
Lives my friend because I love him still!'
Ah, but there's a menace some one utters!
'What and if your friend at home play tricks?
Peep at hide-and-seek behind the shutters?
Mean your eyes should pierce thro' solid bricks?
'What and if he, frowning, wake you, dreamy?
Lay on you the blame that bricks--conceal?
Say '_At least I saw who did not see me,
Does see now, and presently shall feel_'?'
'Why, that makes your friend a monster!' say you;
'Had his house no window? At first nod,
Would you not have hailed him?' Hush, I pray you!
What if this friend happen to be--God?
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