Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SUMMING UP ITALY; INSCRIBED TO INTELLIGENT PUBLICS OUT OF IT, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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SUMMING UP ITALY; INSCRIBED TO INTELLIGENT PUBLICS OUT OF IT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Observe how well it will be at last
Last Line: The virtue of slandering the doers.
Subject(s): Italy; Italians


I

OBSERVE how it will be at last,
When our Italy stands at full stature,
A year ago tied down so fast
That the cord cut the quick of her nature!
You'll honor the deed and its scope,
Then, in logical sequence upon it,
Will use up the remnants of rope
By hanging the men who have done it.

II

The speech in the Commons, which hits you
A sketch off, how dungeons must feel, --
The official despatch, which commits you
From stamping out groans with your heel, --
Suggestions in journal or book for
Good efforts, -- are praised as is meet:
But what in this world can men look for,
Who only achieve and complete?

III

True, you've praise for the fireman who sets his
Brave face to the axe of the flame,
Disappears in the smoke, and then fetches
A babe down, or idiot that's lame, --
For the boor even, who rescues through pity
A sheep from the brute who would kick it:
But saviours of nations! -- 't is pretty,
And doubtful: they may be so wicked:

IV

Azeglio, Farini, Mamiani,
Ricasoli, -- doubt by the dozen! -- here's
Pepoli too, and Cipriani,
Imperial cousins and cozeners --
Arese, Laiatico, -- courtly
Of manners, if stringent of mouth:
Garibaldi! we'll come to him shortly
(As soon as he ends in the South).

V

Napoleon -- as strong as ten armies,
Corrupt as seven devils -- a fact
You accede to, then seek where the harm is
Drained off from the man to his act,
And find -- a free nation! Suppose
Some hell-brood in Eden's sweet greenery,
Convoked for creating -- a rose!
Would it suit the infernal machinery?

VI

Cavour, -- to the despot's desire,
Who his own thought so craftily marries --
What is he but just a thin wire
For conducting the lightning from Paris?
Yes, write down the two as compeers,
Confessing (you would not permit a lie)
He bore up his Piedmont ten years
Till she suddenly smiled and was Italy.

VII

And the King, with that 'stain on his scutcheon,'
Savoy -- as the calumny runs;
(If it be not his blood, -- with his clutch on
The sword, and his face to the guns.)
O first, where the battle-storm gathers,
O loyal of heart on the throne,
Let those keep the 'graves of their fathers'
Who quail, in a nerve, from their own!

VIII

For thee -- through the dim Hades-portal
The dream of a voice -- 'Blessed thou
Who hast made all thy race twice immortal!
No need of the sepulchres now!
-- Left to Bourbons and Hapsburgs, who fester
Above-ground with worm-eaten souls,
While the ghost of some pale feudal jester
Before them strews treaties in holes.'

IX

But hush! -- am I dreaming a poem
Of Hades, Heaven, Justice? Not I;
I began too far off, in my proem,
With what men believe and deny:
And on earth, whatsoever the need is
(To sum up as thoughtful reviewers),
The moral of every great deed is --
The virtue of slandering the doers.





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