Treasure Island

Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

Soliloquy Of The Spanish Cloister


I.

Gr-r-r---there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims---
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

II.

At the meal we sit together:
_Salve tibi!_ I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
_Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:
What's the Latin name for ``parsley''?_
What's the Greek name for Swine's Snout?

III.

Whew! We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps---
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

IV.

_Saint_, forsooth! While brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
---Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)

V.

When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu's praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp---
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp.

VI.

Oh, those melons? If he's able
We're to have a feast! so nice!
One goes to the Abbot's table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!---And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

VII.

There's a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

VIII.

Or, my scrofulous French novel
On grey paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's gripe:
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?

IX.

Or, there's Satan!---one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of! _Hy, Zy, Hine ..._
'St, there's Vespers! _Plena grati
Ave, Virgo!_ Gr-r-r---you swine!

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001
Edited: Sunday, May 13, 2001

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  • Raj Nandy (9/4/2008 9:04:00 AM)

    I still recall how Prof Dasgupta had explained this poem to us in our English Literature class at the Presidency College, Calcutta! He had made this poem alive before our eyes! This poem once again illustrates that the opinion we have/
    express about others, merely reflect our own thoughts & prejudices - majority of the time! Rating of this poem should be nothing less than 20/10!
    -Raj Nandy (Report) Reply

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