Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A COURT LADY, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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A COURT LADY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Her hair was tawny with gold, her eyes with purple were dark
Last Line: "of the king."
Subject(s): Freedom; Liberty


HER hair was tawny with gold, her eyes with pur-
ple were dark,
Her cheeks' pale opal burnt with a red and rest-
less spark.

Never was lady of Milan nobler in name and in
race;
Never was lady of Italy fairer to see in the face.

Never was lady on earth more true as woman and
wife,
Larger in judgment and instinct, prouder in man-
ners and life.

She stood in the early morning, and said to her
maidens, "Bring
That silken robe made ready to wear at the court
of the king.

"Bring me the clasps of diamonds, lucid, clear
of the mote,
Clasp me the large at the waist, and clasp me
the small at the throat.

"Diamonds to fasten the hair, and diamonds to
fasten the sleeves,
Laces to drop from their rays, like a powder of
snow from the eaves."

Gorgeous she entered the sunlight which gathered
her up in a flame,
While straight, in her open carriage, she to the
hospital came.

In she went at the door, and gazing, from end to
end,
"Many and low are the pallets, but each is the
place of a friend."

Up she passed through the wards, and stood at a
young man's bed:
Bloody the band on his brow, and livid the droop
of his head.

"Art thou a Lombard, my brother? Happy art
thou!" she cried,
And smiled like Italy on him: he dreamed in her
face and died.

Pale with his passing soul, she went on still to a
second:
He was a grave, hard man, whose years by dun-
geons were reckoned.

Wounds in his body were sore, wounds in his life
were sorer.
"Art thou a Romagnole?" Her eyes drove light-
nings before her.

"Austrian and priest had joined to double and
tighten the cord
Able to bind thee, o strong one, -- free by the
stroke of a sword.

"Now be grave for the rest of us, using the life
overcast
To ripen our wine of the present (too new) in
glooms of the past."

Down she stepped to a pallet where lay a face
like a girl's,
Young, pathetic with dying, -- a deep black hole in
the curls.

"Art thou from Tuscany, brother? and seest thou,
dreaming in pain,
Thy mother stand in the piazza, searching the list
of the slain?"

Kind as a mother herself, she touched his cheeks
with her hands:
"Blessed is she who has borne thee, although she
should weep as she stands."

On she passed to a Frenchman, his arm carried
off by a ball:
Kneeling, . . "O more than my brother! how
shall I thank thee for all?

"Each of the heroes round us has fought for his
land and line,
But thou hast fought for a stranger, in hate of a
wrong not thine.

"Happy are all free peoples, too strong to be dis-
possessed;
But blessed are those among nations who dare to
be strong for the rest!"

Ever she passed on her way, and came to a couch
where pined
One with a face from Venetia, white with a hope
out of mind.

Long she stood and gazed, and twice she tried at
the name,
But two great crystal tears were all that faltered
and came.

Only a tear for Venice? -- she turned as in passion
and loss,
And stooped to his forehead and kissed it, as if she
were kissing the cross.

Faint with that strain of heart, she moved on then
to another,
Stern and strong in his death. "And dost thou
suffer, my brother?"

Holding his hands in hers: -- "Out of the Pied-
mont lion
Cometh the sweetness of freedom! sweetest to live
or to die on."

Holding his cold rough hands, -- "Well, O, well
have ye done
In noble, noble Piedmont, who would not be noble
alone."

Back he fell while she spoke. She rose to her
feet with a spring, --
"That was a Piedmontese! and this is the Court
of the King."




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