Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

From 'Pauline'


O God, where does this tend—these struggling aims?
What would I have? What is this ‘sleep’, which seems
To bound all? can there be a ‘waking’ point
Of crowning life? The soul would never rule—
It would be first in all things—it would have
Its utmost pleasure filled,—but that complete
Commanding for commanding sickens it.
The last point I can trace is, rest beneath
Some better essence than itself—in weakness;
This is ‘myself’—not what I think should be
And what is that I hunger for but God?
My God, my God! let me for once look on thee
As tho’ nought else existed: we alone.
And as creation crumbles, my soul’s spark
Expands till I can say, ‘Even from myself
I need thee, and I feel thee, and I love thee;
I do not plead my rapture in thy works
For love of thee—or that I feel as one
Who cannot die—but there is that in me
Which turns to thee, which loves, or which should love.’

Why have I girt myself with this hell-dress?
Why have I laboured to put out my life?
Is it not in my nature to adore,
And e’en for all my reason do I not
Feel him, and thank him, and pray to him—now?
Can I forgo the trust that he loves me?
Do I not feel a love which only ONE…
O thou pale form, so dimly seen, deep-eyed,
I have denied thee calmly—do I not
Pant when I read of thy consummate deeds,
And burn to see thy calm pure truths out-flash
The brightest gleams of earth’s philosophy?
Do I not shake to hear aught question thee?
If I am erring save me, madden me,
Take from me powers and pleasures—let me die.
Ages, so I see thee: I am knit round
As with a charm, by sin and lust and pride,
Yet tho’ my wandering dreams have seen all shapes
Of strange delight, oft have I stood by thee—
Have I been keeping lonely watch with thee
In the damp night by weeping Olivet,
Or leaning on thy bosom, proudly less—
Or dying with thee on the lonely cross—
Or witnessing thy bursting from the tomb!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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