Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ITALY AND THE WORLD, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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ITALY AND THE WORLD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Florence, bologna, parma, modena
Last Line: And to love best shall still be, to reign unsurpassed.
Subject(s): Italy; Italians


I

FLORENCE, Bologna, Parma, Modena:
When you named them a year ago,
So many graves reserved by God, in a
Day of Judgment, you seemed to know,
To open and let out the resurrection.

II

And meantime (you made your reflection
If you were English), was nought to be done
But sorting sables, in predilection
For all those martyrs dead and gone,
Till the new earth and heaven made ready.

III

And if your politics were not heady,
Violent, ... 'Good,' you added, 'good
In all things! Mourn on sure and steady.
Churchyard thistles are wholesome food
For our European wandering asses.

IV

'The date of the resurrection passes
Human foreknowledge: men unborn
Will gain by it (even in the lower classes),
But none of these. It is not the morn
Because the cock of France is crowing.

V

'Cocks crow at midnight, seldom knowing
Starlight from dawn-light! 't is a mad
Poor creature.' Here you paused, and growing
Scornful, -- suddenly, let us add,
The trumpet sounded, the graves were open.

VI

Life and life and life! agrope in
The dusk of death, warm hands, stretched out
For swords, proved more life still to hope in,
Beyond and behind. Arise with a shout,
Nation of Italy, slain and buried!

VII

Hill to hill and turret to turret
Flashing the tricolor, -- newly created
Beautiful Italy, calm, unhurried,
Rise heroic and renovated,
Rise to the final restitution.

VIII

Rise; prefigure the grand solution
Of earth's municipal, insular schisms, --
Statesmen draping self-love's conclusion
In cheap vernacular patriotisms,
Unable to give up Judaea for Jesus.

IX

Bring us the higher example; release us
Into the larger coming time:
And into Christ's broad garment piece us
Rags of virtue as poor as crime,
National selfishness, civic vaunting.

X

No more Jew nor Greek then, -- taunting
Nor taunted; -- no more England nor France!
But one confederate brotherhood planting
One flag only, to mark the advance,
Onward and upward, of all humanity.

XI

For civilization perfected
Is fully developed Christianity.
'Measure the frontier,' shall it be said,
'Count the ships,' in national vanity?
-- Count the nation's heart-beats sooner.

XII

For, though behind by a cannon or schooner,
That nation still is predominant
Whose pulse beats quickest in zeal to oppugn or
Succor another, in wrong or want,
Passing the frontier in love and abhorrence.

XIII

Modena, Parma, Bologna, Florence,
Open us out the wider way!
Dwarf in that chapel of old Saint Lawrence
Your Michel Angelo's giant Day,
With the grandeur of this Day breaking o'er us!

XIV

Ye who, restrained as an ancient chorus,
Mute while the coryphaens spake,
Hush your separate voices before us,
Sink your separate lives for the sake
Of one sole Italy's living for ever!

XV

Givers of coat and cloak too, -- never
Grudging that purple of yours at the best, --
By your heroic will and endeavor
Each sublimely dispossessed,
That all may inherit what each surrenders!

XVI

Earth shall bless you, O noble emenders
On egotist nations! Ye shall lead
The plough of the world, and sow new splendors
Into the furrow of things for seed, --
Ever the richer for what ye have given.

XVII

Lead us and teach us, till earth and heaven
Grow larger around us and higher above.
Our sacrament-bread has a bitter leaven;
We bait our traps with the name of love,
Till hate itself has a kinder meaning.

XVIII

Oh, this world: this cheating and screening
Of cheats! this conscience for candlewicks,
Not beacon-fires! this overweening
Of underhand diplomatical tricks,
Dared for the country while scorned for the counter!

XIX

Oh, this envy of those who mount here,
And oh, this malice to make them trip!
Rather quenching the fire there, drying the fount here,
To frozen body and thirsty lip,
Than leave to a neighbor their ministration.

XX

I cry aloud in my poet-passion,
Viewing my England o'er Alp and sea.
I loved her more in her ancient fashion:
She carries her rifles too thick for me
Who spares them so in the cause of a brother.

XXI

Suspicion, panic? end this pother.
The sword, kept sheathless at peacetime, rusts.
None fears for himself while he feels for another:
The brave man either fights or trusts,
And wears no mail in his private chamber.

XXII

Beautiful Italy! golden amber
Warm with the kisses of lover and traitor!
Thou who hast drawn us on to remember,
Draw us to hope now: let us be greater
By this new future than that old story.

XXIII

Till truer glory replaces all glory,
As the torch grows blind at the dawn of day;
And the nations, rising up, their sorry
And foolish sins shall put away,
As children their toys when the teacher enters.

XXIV

Till Love's one centre devour these centres
Of many self-loves; and the patriot's trick
To better his land by egotist ventures,
Defamed from a virtue, shall make men sick,
As the scalp at the belt of some red hero.

XXV

For certain virtues have dropped to zero,
Left by the sun on the mountain's dewy side;
Churchman's charities, tender as Nero,
Indian suttee, heathen suicide,
Service to rights divine, proved hollow:

XXVI

And Heptarchy patriotisms must follow. --
National voices, distinct yet dependent,
Ensphering each other, as swallow does swallow,
With circles still widening and ever ascendant,
In multiform life to united progression, --

XXVII

These shall remain. And when, in the session
Of nations, the separate language it heard,
Each shall aspire, in sublime indiscretion,
To help with a thought or exalt with word
Less her own than her rival's honor.

XXVIII

Each Christian nation shall take upon her
The law of the Christian man in vast:
The crown of the getter shall fall to the donor,
And last shall be first while first shall be last,
And to love best shall still be, to reign unsurpassed.





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