Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GARIBALDI, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

GARIBALDI, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He bent his head upon his breast
Last Line: Palermo's taken, we believe.
Subject(s): Garibaldi, Giuseppe (1807-1882)


HE bent his head upon his breast
Wherein his lion-heart lay sick: --
'Perhaps we are not ill-repaid;
Perhaps this is not a true test;
Perhaps this was not a foul trick;
Perhaps none wronged, and none betrayed.


'Perhaps the people's vote which here
United, there may disunite,
And both be lawful as they think;
Perhaps a patriot statesman, dear
For chartering nations, can with right
Disfranchise those who hold the ink.


'Perhaps men's wisdom is not craft;
Men's greatness, not a selfish greed;
Men's justice, not the safer side;
Perhaps even women, when they laughed,
Wept, thanked us that the land was freed,
Not wholly (though they kissed us) lied.


'Perhaps no more than this we meant,
When up at Austria's guns we flew,
And quenched them with a cry apiece,
Italia! -- Yet a dream was sent ...
The little house my father knew,
The olives and the palms of Nice.'


He paused, and drew his sword out slow,
Then pored upon the blade intent,
As if to read some written thing;
While many murmured, -- 'He will go
In that despairing sentiment
And break his sword before the King.'


He poring still upon the blade,
His large lid quivered, something fell.
'Perhaps,' he said, 'I was not born
With such fine brains to treat and trade, --
And if a woman knew it well,
Her falsehood only meant her scorn.


'Yet through Varese's cannon-smoke
My eye saw clear: men feared this man
At Como, where this sword could seal
Death's protocol with every stroke:
And now ... the drop there scarcely can
Impair the keenness of the steel.


'So man and sword may have their use;
And if the soil beneath my foot
In valor's act is forfeited,
I'll strike the harder, take my dues
Out nobler, and all loss confute
From ampler heavens above my head.


'My King, King Victor, I am thine!
So much Nice-dust as what I am
(To make our Italy) must cleave.
Forgive that.' Forward with a sign
He went.
You've seen the telegram?
Palermo's taken, we believe.

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