Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A SOUL'S TRAGEDY; A DRAMA, by ROBERT BROWNING

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A SOUL'S TRAGEDY; A DRAMA, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: What is it keeps luitolfo? Night's fast falling
Last Line: Four-and-twenty leaders of revolts.


LUITOLFO and EULALIA, betrothed lovers.
CHIAPPINO, their friend.
OGNIBEN, the Pope's Legate.
Citizens of Faenza.

TIME, 15--. Place, FAENZA.


Eulalia. What is it keeps Luitolfo? Night's fast
And 't was scarce sunset ... had the ave-bell
Sounded before he sought the Provost's house?
I think not: all he had to say would take
Few minutes, such a very few, to say!
How do you think, Chiappino? If our lord
The Provost were less friendly to your friend
Than everybody here professes him,
I should begin to tremble -- should not you?
Why are you silent when so many times
I turn and speak to you?
Chiappino. That's good!
Eu. You laugh!
Ch. Yes. I had fancied nothing that bears price
In the whole world was left to call my own;
And, maybe, felt a little pride thereat.
Up to a single man's or woman's love,
Down to the right in my own flesh and blood,
There's nothing mine, I fancied, -- till you spoke:
-- Counting, you see, as "nothing" the permission
To study this peculiar lot of mine
In silence: well, go silence with the rest
Of the world's good! What can I say, shall serve?
Eu. This, -- lest you, even more than needs,
Our parting: say your wrongs have cast, for once,
A cloud across your spirit!
Ch. How a cloud?
Eu. No man nor woman loves you, did you say?
Ch. My God, were 't not for thee!
Eu. Ay, God remains,
Even did men forsake you.
Ch. Oh, not so!
Were 't not for God, I mean, what hope of truth --
Speaking truth, hearing truth, would stay with man?
I, now -- the homeless friendless penniless
Proscribed and exiled wretch who speak to you, --
Ought to speak truth, yet could not, for my death,
(The thing that tempts me most) help speaking lies
About your friendship and Luitolfo's courage
And all our townsfolk's equanimity --
Through sheer incompetence to rid myself
Of the old miserable lying trick
Caught from the liars I have lived with, -- God
Did I not turn to thee! It is thy prompting
I dare to be ashamed of, and thy counsel
Would die along my coward lip, I know.
But I do turn to thee. This craven tongue,
These features which refuse the soul its way,
Reclaim thou! Give me truth -- truth, power to speak
-- And after be sole present to approve
The spoken truth! Or, stay, that spoken truth,
Who knows but you, too, may approve?
Eu. Ah, well --
Keep silence then, Chiappino!
Ch. You would hear, --
You shall now, -- why the thing we please to style
My gratitude to you and all your friends
For service done me, is just gratitude
So much as yours was service: no whit more.
I was born here, so was Luitolfo; both
At one time, much with the same circumstance
Of rank and wealth; and both, up to this night
Of parting company, have side by side
Still fared, he in the sunshine -- I, the shadow.
"Why?" asks the world. "Because," replies the world
To its complacent self, "these playfellows,
Who took at church the holy-water drop
Each from the other's finger, and so forth, --
Were of two moods: Luitolfo was the proper
Friend-making, everywhere friend-finding soul,
Fit for the sunshine, so, it followed him.
A happy-tempered bringer of the best
Out of the worst; who bears with what's past cure,
And puts so good a face on 't -- wisely passive
Where action's fruitless, while he remedies
In silence what the foolish rail against;
A man to smooth such natures as parade
Of opposition must exasperate;
No general gauntlet-gatherer for the weak
Against the strong, yet over-scrupulous
At lucky junctures; one who won't forego
The after-battle work of binding wounds,
Because, forsooth he'd have to bring himself
To side with wound-inflictors for their leave!"
-- Why do you gaze, nor help me to repeat
What comes so glibly from the common mouth,
About Luitolfo and his so-styled friend?
Eu. Because, that friend's sense is obscured ...
Ch. I thought
You would be readier with the other half
Of the world's story, my half! Yet, 't is true.
For all the world does say it. Say your worst!
True, I thank God, I ever said "you sin,"
When a man did sin: if I could not say it,
I glared it at him; if I could not glare it,
I prayed against him; then my part seemed over.
God's may begin yet: so it will, I trust.
Eu. If the world outraged you, did we?
Ch. What's "me"
That you use well or ill? It's man, in me,
All your successes are an outrage to,
You all, whom sunshine follows, as you say!
Here's our Faenza birthplace; they send here
A provost from Ravenna: how he rules,
You can at times be eloquent about.
"Then, end his rule!" -- "Ah yes, one stroke does
But patience under wrong works slow and sure.
Must violence still bring peace forth? He, beside,
Returns so blandly one's obeisance! ah --
Some latent virtue may be lingering yet,
Some human sympathy which, once excite,
And all the lump were leavened quietly:
So, no more talk of striking, for this time!"
But I, as one of those he rules, won't bear
These pretty takings-up and layings-down
Our cause, just as you think occasion suits.
Enough of earnest, is there? You'll play, will you?
Diversify your tactics, give submission,
Obsequiousness and flattery a turn,
While we die in our misery patient deaths?
We all are outraged then, and I the first:
I, for mankind, resent each shrug and smirk,
Each beck and bend, each ... all you do and are,
I hate!
Eu. We share a common censure, then.
'T is well you have not poor Luitolfo's part
Nor mine to point out in the wide offence.
Ch. Oh, shall I let you so escape me, lady?
Come, on your own ground, lady, -- from yourself,
(Leaving the people's wrong, which most is mine)
What have I got to be so grateful for?
These three last fines, no doubt, one on the other
Paid by Luitolfo?
Eu. Shame, Chiappino!
Ch. Shame
Fall presently on who deserves it most!
-- Which is to see. He paid my fines -- my friend,
Your prosperous smooth lover presently,
Then, scarce your wooer, -- soon, your husband: well-
I loved you.
Eu. Hold!
Ch. You knew it, years ago.
When my voice faltered and my eye grew dim
Because you gave me your silk mask to hold --
My voice that greatens when there's need to curse
The people's Provost to their heart's content.
-- My eye, the Provost, who bears all men's eyes,
Banishes now because he cannot bear, --
You knew ... but you do your parts -- my part, I:
So be it! You flourish, I decay: all's well.
Eu. I hear this for the first time.
Ch. The fault's there?
Then my days spoke not, and my nights of fire
Were voiceless? Then the very heart may burst.
Yet all prove naught, because no mincing speech
Tells leisurely that thus it is and thus?
Eulalia, truce with toying for this once!
A banished fool, who troubles you to-night
For the last time -- why, what's to fear from me?
You knew I loved you!
Eu. Not so, on my faith!
You were my now-affianced lover's friend --
Came in, went out with him, could speak as he.
All praise your ready parts and pregnant wit;
See how your words come from you in a crowd
Luitolfo's first to place you o'er himself
In all that challenges respect and love:
Yet you were silent then, who blame me now.
I say all this by fascination, sure:
I, all but wed to one I love, yet listen!
It must be, you are wronged, and that the wrongs
Luitolfo pities ...
Ch. -- You too pity? Do!
But hear first what my wrongs are; so began
This talk and so shall end this talk. I say,
Was 't not enough that I must strive (I saw)
To grow so far familiar with your charms
As next contrive some way to win them -- which
To do, an age seemed far too brief -- for, see!
We all aspire to heaven; and there lies heaven
Above us: go there! Dare we go? no, surely!
How dare we go without a reverent pause,
A growing less unfit for heaven? Just so,
I dared not speak: the greater fool, it seems!
Was't not enough to struggle with such folly,
But I must have, beside, the very man
Whose slight free loose and incapacious soul
Gave his tongue scope to say whate'er he would
-- Must have him load me with his benefits
-- For fortune's fiercest stroke?
Eu. Justice to him
That's now entreating, at his risk perhaps,
Justice for you! Did he once call those acts
Of simple friendship -- bounties, benefits?
Ch. No: the straight course had been to call them
Then, I had flung them back, and kept myself
Unhampered, free as he to win the prize
We both sought. But "the gold was dross," he said:
"He loved me, and I loved him not: why spurn
A trifle out of superfluity?
He had forgotten he had done as much."
So had not I! Henceforth, try as I could
To take him at his word, there stood by you
My benefactor; who might speak and laugh
And urge his nothings, even banter me
Before you -- but my tongue was tied. A dream!
Let's wake: your husband ... how you shake at that!
Good -- my revenge!
Eu. Why should I shake? What forced
Or forces me to be Luitolfo's bride?
Ch. There's my revenge, that nothing forces you.
No gratitude, no liking of the eye
Nor longing of the heart, but the poor bond
Of habit -- here so many times he came,
So much he spoke, -- all these compose the tie
That pulls you from me. Well, he paid my fines,
Nor missed a cloak from wardrobe, dish from table;
He spoke a good word to the Provost here,
Held me up when my fortunes fell away,
-- It had not looked so well to let me drop, --
Men take pains to preserve a tree-stump, even,
Whose boughs they played beneath -- much more a
But one grows tired of seeing, after the first,
Pains spent upon impracticable stuff
Like me. I could not change: you know the rest:
I've spoke my mind too fully out, by chance,
This morning to our Provost; so, ere night
I leave the city on pain of death. And now
On my account there's gallant intercession
Goes forward -- that's so graceful! -- and anon
He'll noisily come back: "the intercession
Was made and fails: all's over for us both;
'T is vain contending; I would better go."
And I do go -- and straight to you he turns
Light of a load; and ease of that permits
His visage to repair the natural bland
OEconomy, sore broken late to suit
My discontent. Thus, all are pleased -- you with him,
He with himself, and all of you with me
-- "Who," say the citizens, "had done far better
In letting people sleep upon their woes,
If not possessed with talent to relieve them
When once awake; -- but then I had," they'll say,
"Doubtless some unknown compensating pride
In what I did; and as I seem content
With ruining myself, why, so should they be."
And so they are, and so be with his prize
The devil, when he gets them speedily!
Why does not your Luitolfo come? I long
To don this cloak and take the Lugo path.
It seems you never loved me, then?
Eu. Chiappino!
Ch. Never?
Eu. Never.
Ch. That's sad. Say what I might,
There was no help from being sure this while
You loved me. Love like mine must have return,
I thought: no river starts but to some sea.
And had you loved me, I could soon devise
Some specious reason why you stifled love,
Some fancied self-denial on your part,
Which made you choose Luitolfo; so, excepting
From the wide condemnation of all here,
One woman. Well, the other dream may break!
If I knew any heart, as mine loved you,
Loved me, though in the vilest breast 't were lodged,
I should, I think, be forced to love again:
Else there's no right nor reason in the world.
Eu. "If you knew," say you, -- but I did not know.
That's where you're blind, Chiappino! -- a disease
Which if I may remove, I'll not repent
The listening to. You cannot, will not, see
How, place you but in every circumstance
Of us, you are just now indignant at,
You'd be as we.
Ch. I should be? ... that; again!
I, to my friend, my country and my love,
Be as Luitolfo and these Faentines?
Eu. As we.
Ch. Now, I'll say something to remember
I trust in nature for the stable laws
Of beauty and utility. -- Spring shall plant,
And Autumn garner to the end of time:
I trust in God -- the right shall be the right
And other than the wrong, while he endures:
I trust in my own soul, that can perceive
The outward and the inward, nature's good
And God's: so, seeing these men and myself,
Having a right to speak, thus do I speak.
I'll not curse -- God bears with them, well may I --
But I -- protest against their claiming me.
I simply say, if that's allowable,
I would not (broadly) do as they have done.
-- God curse this townful of born slaves, bred slaves,
Branded into the blood and bone, slaves! Curse
Whoever loves, above his liberty,
House, land or life! and ...
[A knocking without.
-- bless my hero-friend,
Eu. How he knocks!
Ch. The peril, lady!
"Chiappino, I have run a risk -- a risk!
For when I prayed the Provost (he's my friend)
To grant you a week's respite of the sentence
That confiscates your goods, exiles yourself,
He shrugged his shoulder -- I say, shrugged it!
And fright of that drove all else from my head.
Here's a good purse of scudi: off with you,
Lest of that shrug come what God only knows!
The scudi -- friend, they're trash -- no thanks, I beg!
Take the north gate, -- for San Vitale's suburb,
Whose double taxes you appealed against,
In discomposure at your ill-success
Is apt to stone you: there, there -- only go!
Beside, Eulalia here looks sleepily.
Shake ... oh, you hurt me, so you squeeze my wrist!"
-- Is it not thus you'll speak, adventurous friend?
[As he opens the door, LUITOLFO rushes in, his
garments disordered.
Eu. Luitolfo! Blood?
Luitolfo. There's more -- and more of it!
Eulalia -- take the garment! No -- you, friend!
You take it and the blood from me -- you dare!
Eu. Oh, who has hurt you? where's the wound?
Ch. "Who," say you?
The man with many a touch of virtue yet!
The Provost's friend has proved too frank of speech,
And this comes of it. Miserable hound!
This comes of temporizing, as I said!
Here's fruit of your smooth speeches and soft looks!
Now see my way! As God lives, I go straight
To the palace and do justice, once for all!
Luit. What says he?
Ch. I'll do justice on him.
Luit. Him?
Ch. The Provost.
Luit. I've just killed him.
Eu. Oh, my God!
Luit. My friend, they're on my trace; they'll have
me -- now!
They're round him, busy with him: soon they'll find
He's past their help, and then they'll be on me!
Chiappino, save Eulalia! I forget ...
Were you not bound for ...
Ch. Lugo?
Luit. Ah -- yes -- yes!
That was the point I prayed of him to change,
Well, go -- be happy! Is Eulalia safe?
They're on me!
Ch. 'T is through me they reach you, then!
Friend, seem the man you are! Lock arms -- that's
Now tell me what you've done; explain how you,
That still professed forbearance, still preached peace,
Could bring yourself ...
Luit. What was peace for, Chiappino?
I tried peace: did that promise, when peace failed,
Strife should not follow? All my peaceful days
Were just the prelude to a day like this.
I cried "You call me 'friend': save my true friend!
Save him, or lose me!"
Ch. But you never said
You meant to tell the Provost thus and thus.
Luit. Why should I say it? What else did I mean?
Ch. Well? He persisted?
Luit. -- "Would so order it
You should not trouble him too soon again."
I saw a meaning in his eye and lip;
I poured my heart's store of indignant words
Out on him: then -- I know not! He retorted,
And I ... some staff lay there to hand -- I think
He bade his servants thrust me out -- I struck ...
Ah, they come! Fly you, save yourselves, you two!
The dead back-weight of the beheading axe!
The glowing trip-hook, thumbscrews and the gadge!
Eu. They do come! Torches in the Place!
Chiappino! You can work no good to us --
Much to yourself; believe not, all the world
Must needs be cursed henceforth!
Ch. And you?
Eu. I stay.
Ch. Ha, ha! Now, listen! I am master here!
This was my coarse disguise; this paper shows
My path of flight and place of refuge -- see --
Lugo, Argenta, past San Nicolo,
Ferrara, then to Venice and all's safe!
Put on the cloak! His people have to fetch
A compass round about. There's time enough
Ere they can reach us, so you straightway make
For Lugo ... nay, he hears not! On with it --
The cloak, Luitolfo, do you hear me? See --
He obeys he knows not how. Then, if I must --
Answer me! Do you know the Lugo gate?
Eu. The northwest gate, over the bridge?
Luit. I know.
Ch. Well, there -- you are not frightened? all my
Is traced in that: at Venice you escape
Their power. Eulalia, I am master here!
[Shouts from without. He pushes out LUITOLFO,
who complies mechanically.
In time! Nay, help me with him -- so! He's gone.
Eu. What have you done? On you, perchance, all
The Provost's hater, will men's vengeance fall
As our accomplice.
Ch. Mere accomplice? See!
[Putting on LUITOLFO's vest.
Now, lady, am I true to my profession,
Or one of these?
Eu. You take Luitolfo's place?
Ch. Die for him.
Eu. Well done!
[Shouts increase.
Ch. How the people tarry!
I can't be silent; I must speak: or sing --
How natural to sing now!
Eu. Hush and pray!
We are to die; but even I perceive
'T is not a very hard thing so to die.
My cousin of the pale-blue tearful eyes,
Poor Cesca, suffers more from one day's life
With the stern husband; Tisbe's heart goes forth
Each evening after that wild son of hers,
To track his thoughtless footstep through the streets:
How easy for them both to die like this!
I am not sure that I could live as they.
Ch. Here they come, crowds! they pass the gate?
Yes! -- No! --
One torch is in the courtyard. Here flock all.
Eu. At least Luitolfo has escaped. What cries!
Ch. If they would drag one to the market-place,
One might speak there!
Eu. List, list!
Ch. They mount the steps.
(Enter the Populace.)
Ch. I killed the Provost!
The Populace. [Speaking together.] 'T was
Chiappino, friends!
Our savior! The best man at last as first!
He who first made us feel what chains we wore,
He also strikes the blow that shatters them,
He at last saves us -- our best citizen!
-- Oh, have you only courage to speak now?
My eldest son was christened a year since
"Cino" to keep Chiappino's name in mind --
Cino, for shortness merely, you observe!
The city's in our hands. The guards are fled.
Do you, the cause of all, come down -- come up --
Come out to counsel us, our chief, our king,
Whate'er rewards you! Choose your own reward!
The peril over, its reward begins!
Come and harangue us in the market-place!
Eu. Chiappino?
Ch. Yes -- I understand your eyes!
You think I should have promptlier disowned
This deed with its strange unforeseen success,
In favor of Luitolfo. But the peril,
So far from ended, hardly seems begun.
To-morrow, rather, when a calm succeeds,
We easily shall make him full amends:
And meantime -- if we save them as they pray.
And justify the deed by its effects?
Eu. You would, for worlds, you had denied at once.
Ch. I know my own intention, be assured!
All's well. Precede us, fellow-citizens!


The Market-place. LUITOLFO in disguise mingling
with the Populace assembled opposite the Provost's

1st Bystander. [To LUIT.] You, a friend of
Luitolfo's? Then, your friend is vanished, -- in all
probability killed on the night that his patron the
tyrannical Provost was loyally suppressed here, exactly
a month ago, by our illustrious fellow-citizen, thrice-
noble savior, and new Provost that is like to be, this
very morning, -- Chiappino!

Luit. He the new Provost?

2d By. Up those steps will he go, and beneath
yonder pillar stand, while Ogniben, the Pope's Legate
from Ravenna, reads the new dignitary's title to the
people, according to established custom: for which
reason, there is the assemblage you inquire about.

Luit. Chiappino -- the late Provost's successor?
Impossible! But tell me of that presently. What I
would know first of all is, wherefore Luitolfo must so
necessarily have been killed on that memorable night?

3d By. You were luitolfo's friend? So was I. Never,
if you will credit me, did there exist so poor-spirited a
milk-sop. He, with all the opportunities in the world,
furnished by daily converse with our oppressor, would
not stir a finger to help us: and, when Chiappino rose
in solitary majesty and ... how does one go on saying?
... dealt the godlike blow, -- this Luitolfo, not
unreasonably fearing the indignation of an aroused
and liberated people, fled precipitately. He may have
got trodden to death in the press at the southeast gate,
when the Provost's guards fled through it to Ravenna,
with their wounded master, -- if he did not rather
hang himself under some hedge.

Luit. Or why not simply have lain perdue in some
quiet corner, -- such as San Cassiano, where his estate
was, -- receiving daily intelligence from some sure
friend, meanwhile, as to the turn matters were taking
here -- how, for instance, the Provost was not dead,
after all, only wounded -- or, as to-day's news would
seem to prove, how Chiappino was not Brutus the
Elder, after all, only the new Provost -- and thus
Luitolfo be enabled to watch a favorable opportunity
for returning? Might it not have been so?

3d By. Why, he may have taken that care of
himself, certainly, for he came of a cautious stock. I'll
tell you how his uncle, just such another gingerly
treader on tiptoes with finger on lip, -- how he met
his death in the great plague-year: dico vobis!
Hearing that the seventeenth house in a certain street
was infected, he calculates to pass it in safety by
taking plentiful breath, say, when he shall arrive at the
eleventh house: then scouring by, holding that breath,
till he be got so far on the other side as number
twenty-three, and thus elude the danger. -- And so
did he begin; but, as he arrived at thirteen, we will
say, -- thinking to improve on his precaution by
putting up a little prayer to Saint Nepomucene of
Prague, this exhausted so much of his lungs' reserve,
that at sixteen it was clean spent, -- consequently at
the fatal seventeen he inhaled with a vigor and
persistence enough to suck you any latent venom out
of the heart of a stone -- Ha, ha!

Luit. [Aside.] (if I had not lent that man the money
he wanted last spring, I should fear this bitterness was
attributable to me.) Luitolfo is dead then, one may

3d By. Why, he had a house here, and a woman to
whom he was affianced; and as they both pass
naturally to the new Provost, his friend and heir ...

Luit. Ah, I suspected you of imposing on me with
your pleasantry! I know Chiappino better.

1st By. (Our friend has the bile! After all, I do not
dislike finding somebody vary a little this general gape
of admiration at Chiappino's glorious qualities.)
Pray, how much may you know of what has taken
place in Faenza since that memorable night?

Luit. It is most to the purpose, that I know
chiappino to have been by profession a hater of that
very office of Provost, you now charge him with
proposing to accept.

1st By. Sir, I'll tell you. That night was indeed
memorable. Up we rose, a mass of us, men, women,
children; out fled the guards with the body of the
tyrant; we were to defy the world: but, next gray
morning, "What will Rome say?" began everybody.
You know we are governed by Ravenna, which is
governed by Rome. And quietly into the town, by
the Ravenna road, comes on muleback a portly
personage, Ogniben by name, with the quality of
Pontifical Legate; trots briskly through the streets
humming a "Cur fremuere gentes," and makes
directly for the Provost's Palace -- there it faces you.
"One Messer Chiappino is your leader? I have
known three-and-twenty leaders of revolts!" (laughing
gently to himself) -- "Give me the help of your arm
from my mule to yonder steps under the pillar -- So!
And now, my revolters and good friends, what do you
want? The guards burst into Ravenna last night
bearing your wounded Provost; and, having had a
little talk with him, I take on myself to come and try
appease the disorderliness, before Rome, hearing of it,
resort to another method: 't is I come, and not
another, from a certain love I confess to, of
composing differences. So, do you understand, you
are about to experience this unheard-of tyranny from
me, that there shall be no heading nor hanging, nor
confiscation nor exile: I insist on your simply
pleasing yourselves. And now, pray, what does please
you? To live without any government at all? Or
having decided for one, to see its minister murdered
by the first of your body that chooses to find himself
wronged, or disposed for reverting to first principles
and a justice anterior to all institutions, -- and so will
you carry matters, that the rest of the world must at
length unite and put down such a den of wild beasts?
As for vengeance on what has just taken place, -- once
for all, the wounded man assures me he cannot
conjecture who struck him; and this so earnestly, that
one may be sure he knows perfectly well what
intimate acquaintance could find admission to speak
with him late last evening. I come not for vengeance
therefore, but from pure curiosity to hear what you
will do next." And thus he ran on, on, easily and
volubly, till he seemed to arrive quite naturally at the
praise of law, order, and paternal government by
somebody from rather a distance. All our citizens
were in the snare, and about to be friends with so
congenial an adviser; but that Chiappino suddenly
stood forth, spoke out in dignantly, and set things
right again.

Luit. Do you see? I recognize him there!

3d By. Ay, but, mark you, at the end of
Chiappino's longest period in praise of a pure
republic, -- "And by whom do I desire such a
government should be administered, perhaps, but by
one like yourself?" returns the Legate: thereupon
speaking for a quarter of an hour together, on the
natural and only legitimate government by the best
and wisest. And it should seem there was soon
discovered to be no such vast discrepancy at bottom
between this and Chiappino's theory, place but each
in its proper light. "Oh, are you there?" quoth
Chiappino: "Ay, in that, I agree," returns
Chiappino" and so on.

Luit. But did Chiappino cede at once to this?

1st By. Why, not altogether at once. For instance,
he said that the difference between him and all his
fellows was, that they seemed all wishing to be kings
in one or another way, -- "whereas what right," asked
he, "has any man to wish to be superior to another?"
-- whereat, "Ah, sir," answers the Legate, "this is the
death of me, so often as I expect something is really
going to be revealed to us by you clearer - seers,
deeper - thinkers -- this -- that your right-hand (to
speak by a figure) should be found taking up the
weapon it displayed so ostentatiously, not to destroy
any dragon in our path, as was prophesied, but simply
to cut off its own fellow left-hand: yourself set about
attacking yourself. For see now! Here are you who, I
make sure, glory exceedingly in knowing the noble
nature of the soul, its divine impulses, and so forth;
and with such a knowledge you stand, as it were,
armed to encounter the natural doubts and fears as to
that same inherent nobility, which are apt to waylay
us, the weaker ones, in the road of life. And when we
look eagerly to see them fall before you, lo, round you
wheel, only the left-hand gets the blow; one proof of
the soul's nobility destroys simply another proof,
quite as good, of the same, for you are found
delivering an opinion like this! Why, what is this
perpetual yearning to exceed, to subdue, to be better
than, and a king over, one's fellows, -- all that you so
disclaim, -- but the very tendency yourself are most
proud of, and under another form, would oppose to
it, -- only in a lower stage of manifestation? You
don't want to be vulgarly superior to your fellows
after their poor fashion -- to have me hold solemnly
up your gown's tail, or hand you an express of the last
importance from the Pope, with all these bystanders
noticing how unconcerned you look the while: but
neither does our gaping friend, the burgess yonder,
want the other kind of kingship, that consists in
understanding better than his fellows this and similar
points of human nature, nor to roll under his tongue
this sweeter morsel still, -- the feeling that, through
immense philosophy, he does not feel, he rather
thinks, above you and me!" And so chatting, they
glided off arm-in-arm.

Luit. And the result is ...

1st By. Why that, a month having gone by, the
indomitable Chiappino, marrying as he will Luitolfo's
love -- at all events succeeding to Luitolfo's wealth --
becomes the first inhabitant of Faenza, and a proper
aspirant to the Provostship; which we assemble here
to see conferred on him this morning. The Legate's
Guard to clear the way! He will follow presently.

Luit. [Withdrawing a little.] I understand the drift
of Eulalia's communications less than ever. Yet she
surely said, in so many words, that Chiappino was in
urgent danger: wherefore, disregarding her injunction
to continue in my retreat and await the result of --
what she called, some experiment yet in process -- I
hastened here without her leave or knowledge: how
could I else? But if this they say be true -- if it were
for such a purpose, she and Chiappino kept me away
... Oh, no, no! I must confront him and her before I
believe this of them. And at the word, see!


Eu. We part here, then? The change in your
principles would seem to be complete.

Ch. Now, why refuse to see that in my present
course I change no principles, only re-adapt them and
more adroitly? I had despaired of what you may call
the material instrumentality of life; of ever being able
to rightly operate on mankind through such a
deranged machinery as the existing modes of
government: but now, if I suddenly discover how to
inform these perverted institutions with fresh
purpose, bring the functionary limbs once more into
immediate communication with, and subjection to,
the soul I am about to bestow on them -- do you see?
Why should one desire to invent, as long as it remains
possible to renew and transform? When all further
hope of the old organization shall be extinct, then, I
grant you, it may be time to try and create another.

Eu. And there being discoverable some hope yet in
the hitherto much-abused old system of absolute
government by a Provost here, you mean to take your
time about endeavoring to realize those visions of a
perfect State we once heard of?

Ch. Say, I would fain realize my conception of a
palace, for instance, and that there is, abstractedly,
but a single way of erecting one perfectly. Here, in
the market-place is my allotted building-ground; here
I stand without a stone to lay, or a laborer to help me,
-- stand, too, during a short day of life, close on
which the night comes. On the other hand,
circumstances suddenly offer me (turn and see it!) the
old Provost's house to experiment upon -- ruinous, if
you please, wrongly constructed at the beginning, and
ready to tumble now. But materials abound, a crowd
of workmen offer their services; here exists yet a Hall
of Audience of originally noble proportions, there a
Guestchamber of symmetrical design enough: and I
may restore, enlarge, abolish or unite these to heart's
content. Ought I not make the best of such an
opportunity, rather than continue to gaze
disconsolately with folded arms on the flat pavement
here, while the sun goes slowly down, never to rise
again? Since you cannot understand this nor me, it is
better we should part as you desire.

Eu. So, the love breaks away too!

Ch. No, rather my soul's capacity for love widens --
needs more than one object to content it, -- and,
being better instructed, will not persist in seeing all
the component parts of love in what is only a single
part, -- nor in finding that so many and so various
loves are all united in the love of a woman, --
manifold uses in one instrument, as the savage has his
sword, staff, sceptre and idol, all in one club-stick.
Love is a very compound thing. The intellectual part
of my love I shall give to men, the mighty dead or the
illustrious living; and determine to call a mere sensual
instinct by as few fine names as possible. What do I

Eu. Nay, I only think, what do I lose? and, one
more word -- which shall complete my instruction --
does friendship go too? What of Luitolfo, the author
of your present prosperity?

Ch. How the author?

Eu. That blow now called yours ...

Ch. Struck without principle or purpose, as by a
blind natural operation: yet to which all my thought
and life directly and advisedly tended. I would have
struck it, and could not: he would have done his
utmost to avoid striking it, yet did so. I dispute his
right to that deed of mine -- a final action with him,
from the first effect of which he fled away, -- a mere
first step with me, on which I base a whole mighty
superstructure of good to follow. Could he get good
from it?

Eu. So we profess, so we perform!

(Enter OGNIBEN. EULALIA stands apart.)

Ogniben. I have seen three-and-twenty leaders of
revolts. By your leave, sir! Perform? What does the
lady say of performing?

Ch. Only the trite saying, that we must not trust
profession, only performance.

Ogni. She'll not say that, sir, when she knows you
longer; you'll instruct her better. Ever judge of men
by their professions! For though the bright moment
of promising is but a moment and cannot be
prolonged, yet, if sincere in its moment's extravagant
goodness, why, trust it and know the man by it, I say
-- not by his performance; which is half the world's
work, interfere as the world needs must, with its
accidents and circumstances: the profession was
purely the man's own. I judge people by what they
might be, -- not are, nor will be.

Ch. But have there not been found, too,
performing natures, not merely promising?

Ogni. Plenty. Little Bindo of our town, for
instance, promised his friend, great ugly Masaccio,
once, "I will repay you!" -- for a favor done him. So,
when his father came to die, and Bindo succeeded to
the inheritance, he sends straightway for Masaccio
and shares all with him -- gives him half the land, half
the money, half the kegs of wine in the cellar.
"Good," say you: and it is good. But had little Bindo
found himself possessor of all this wealth some five
years before -- on the happy night when Masaccio
procured him that interview in the garden with his
pretty cousin Lisa -- instead of being the beggar he
then was, -- I am bound to believe that in the warm
moment of promise he would have given away all the
wine-kegs and all the money and all the land, and
only reserved to himself some hut on a hilltop hard
by, whence he might spend his life in looking and
seeing his friend enjoy himself: he meant fully that
much, but the world interfered. -- To our business!
Did I understand you just now within-doors? You
are not going to marry your old friend's love, after all?

Ch. I must have a woman that can sympathize with,
and appreciate me, I told you.

Ogni. Oh, I remember! You, the greater nature,
needs must have a lesser one (-- avowedly lesser --
contest with you on that score would never do) --
such a nature must comprehend you, as the phrase is,
accompany and testify of your greatness from point to
point onward. Why, that were being not merely as
great as yourself, but greater considerably! Meantime,
might not the more bounded nature as reasonably
count on your appreciation of it, rather? -- on your
keeping close by it, so far as you both go together,
and then going on by yourself as far as you please?
Thus God serves us.

Ch. And yet a woman that could understand the
whole of me, to whom I could reveal alike the
strength and the weakness --

Ogni. Ah, my friend, wish for nothing so foolish!
Worship your love, give her the best of you to see; be
to her like the western lands (they bring us such
strange news of) to the Spanish Court; send her only
your lumps of gold, fans of feathers, your spirit-like
birds, and fruits and gems! So shall you, what is
unseen of you, be supposed altogether a paradise by
her, -- as these western lands by Spain: though I
warrant there is filth, red baboons, ugly reptiles and
squalor enough, which they bring Spain as few
samples of as possible. Do you want your mistress to
respect your body generally? Offer her your mouth to
kiss: don't strip off your boot and put your foot to her
lips! You understand my humor by this time? I help
men to carry out their own principles: if they please
to say two and two make five, I assent, so they will
but go on and say, four and four make ten.

Ch. But these are my private affairs; what I desire
you to occupy yourself about, is my public
appearance presently: for when the people hear that I
am appointed Provost, though you and I may
thoroughly discern -- and easily, too -- the right
principle at bottom of such a movement, and how my
republicanism remains thoroughly unaltered, only
takes a form of expression hitherto commonly judged
(and heretofore by myself) incompatible with its
existence, -- when thus I reconcile myself to an old
form of government instead of proposing a new one --

Ogni. Why, you must deal with people broadly.
Begin at a distance from this matter and say, -- New
truths, old truths! sirs, there is nothing new possible
to be revealed to us in the moral world; we know all
we shall ever know: and it is for simply reminding us,
by their various respective expedients, how we do
know this and the other matter, that men get called
prophets, poets and the like. A philosopher's life is
spent in discovering that, of the half-dozen truths he
knew when a child, such an one is a lie, as the world
states it in set terms; and then, after a weary lapse of
years, and plenty of hard thinking, it becomes a truth
again after all, as he happens to newly consider it and
view it in a different relation with the others: and so
he re-states it, to the confusion of somebody else in
good time. As for adding to the original stock of
truths, -- impossible! Thus, you see the expression of
them is the grand business: -- you have got a truth in
your head about the right way of governing people,
and you took a mode of expressing it which now you
confess to be imperfect. But what then? There is
truth in falsehood, falsehood in truth. No man ever
told one great truth, that I know, without the help of
a good dozen of lies at least, generally unconscious
ones. And as when a child comes in breathlessly and
relates a strange story, you try to conjecture from the
very falsities in it what the reality was, -- do not
conclude that he saw nothing in the sky, because he
assuredly did not see a flying horse there as he says, --
so, through the contradictory expression, do you see,
men should look painfully for, and trust to arrive
eventually at, what you call the true principle at
bottom. Ah, what an answer is there! to what will it
not prove applicable? --"Contraditions? Of course
there were," say you!

Ch. Still, the world at large may call it
inconsistency, and what shall I urge in reply?

Ogni. Why, look you, when they tax you with
tergiversation or duplicity, you may answer -- you
begin to perceive that, when all's done and said, both
great parties in the State, the advocators of change in
the present system of things, and the opponents of it,
patriot and anti-patriot, are found working together
for the common good; and that in the midst of their
efforts for and against its progress, the world
somehow or other still advances: to which result they
contribute in equal proportions, those who spend
their life in pushing it onward, as those who give
theirs to the business of pulling it back. Now, if you
found the world stand still between the opposite
forces, and were glad, I should conceive you: but it
steadily advances, you rejoice to see! By the side of
such a rejoicer, the man who only winks as he keeps
cunning and quiet, and says, "Let yonder hot-headed
fellow fight out my battle! I, for one, shall win in the
end by the blows he gives, and which I ought to be
giving," -- even he seems graceful in his avowal, when
one considers that he might say, "I shall win quite as
much by the blows our antagonist gives him, blows
from which he saves me -- I thank the antagonist
equally!" Moreover, you may enlarge on the loss of
the edge of party-animosity with age and experience

Ch. And naturally time must wear off such
asperities: the bitterest adversaries get to discover
certain points of similarity between each other,
common sympathies -- do they not?

Ogni. Ay, had the young David but sat first to dine
on his cheeses with the Philistine, he had soon
discovered an abundance of such common
sympathies. He of Gath, it is recorded, was born of a
father and mother, had brothers and sisters like
another man, -- they, no more than the sons of Jesse,
were used to eat each other. But, for the sake of one
broad antipathy that had existed from the beginning,
David slung the stone, cut off the giant's head, made
a spoil of it, and after ate his cheeses alone, with the
better appetite, for all I can learn. My friend, as you,
with a quickened eyesight, go on discovering much
good on the worse side, remember that the same
process should proportionably magnify and
demonstrate to you the much more good on the
better side! And when I profess no sympathy for the
Goliaths of our time, and you object that a large
nature should sympathize with every form of
intelligence, and see the good in it, however limited, -
- I answer, "So I do; but preserve the proportions of
my sympathy, however finelier or widelier I may
extend its action." I desire to be able, with a
quickened eyesight, to descry beauty in corruption
where others see foulness only; but I hope I shall also
continue to see a redoubled beauty in the higher
forms of matter, where already everybody sees no
foulness at all. I must retain, too, my old power of
selection, and choice of appropriation, to apply to
such new gifts; else they only dazzle instead of
enlightening me. God has his archangels and consorts
with them: though he made too, and intimately sees
what is good in, the worm. Observe, I speak only as
you profess to think and so ought to speak: I do
justice to your own principles, that is all.

Ch. But you very well know that the two parties do,
on occasion, assume each other's characteristics.
What more disgusting, for instance, than to see how
promptly the newly emancipated slave will adopt, in
his own favor, the very measures of precaution, which
pressed soreliest on himself as institutions of the
tyranny he has just escaped from? Do the classes,
hitherto without opinion, get leave to express it? there
follows a confederacy immediately, from which --
exercise your individual right and dissent, and woe be
to you!

Ogni. And a journey over the sea to you! That is
the generous way. Cry -- "Emancipated slaves, the
first excess, and off I go!" The first time a poor devil,
who has been bastinadoed steadily his whole life long,
finds himself let alone and able to legislate, so, begins
pettishly, while he rubs his soles, "Woe be to whoever
brings anything in the shape of a stick this way!" --
you, rather than give up the very innocent pleasure of
carrying one to switch flies with, -- you go away, to
everybody's sorrow. Yet you were quite reconciled to
staying at home while the governors used to pass,
every now and then, some such edict as, "Let no man
indulge in owning a stick which is not thick enough
to chastise our slaves, if need require!" Well, there are
pre-ordained hierarchies among us, and a profane
vulgar subjected to a different law altogether; yet I am
rather sorry you should see it so clearly: for, do you
know what is to -- all but save you at the Day of
Judgment, all you men of genius? It is this: that,
while you generally began by pulling down God, and
went on to the end of your life in one effort at setting
up your own genius in his place, -- still, the last,
bitterest concession wrung with the utmost
unwillingness from the experience of the very loftiest
of you, was invariably -- would one think it? -- that
the rest of mankind, down to the lowest of the mass,
stood not, nor ever could stand, just on a level and
equality with yourselves. That will be a point in the
favor of all such, I hope and believe.

Ch. Why, men of genius are usually charged, I
think, with doing just the reverse; and at once
acknowledging the natural inequality of mankind, by
themselves participating in the universal craving after,
and deference to, the civil distinctions which
represent it. You wonder they pay such undue
respect to titles and badges of superior rank.

Ogni. Not I (always on your own ground and
showing, be it noted!) Who doubts that, with a
weapon to brandish, a man is the more formidable?
Titles and badges are exercised as such a weapon, to
which you and I look up wistfully. We could pin
lions with it moreover, while in its present owner's
hands it hardly prods rats. Nay, better than a mere
weapon of easy mastery and obvious use, it is a
mysterious divining-rod that may serve us in
undreamed-of ways. Beauty, strength, intellect --
men often have none of these, and yet conceive pretty
accurately what kind of advantages they would bestow
on the possessor. We know at least what it is we
make up our mind to forego, and so can apply the
fittest substitute in our power. Wanting beauty, we
cultivate good-humor; missing wit, we get riches: but
the mystic unimaginable operation of that gold collar
and string of Latin names which suddenly turned
poor stupid little peevish Cecco of our town into
natural lord of the best of us -- a Duke, he is now --
there indeed is a virtue to be reverenced!

Ch. Ay, by the vulgar: not by Messere Stiatta the
poet, who pays more assiduous court to him than

Ogni. What else should Stiatta pay court to? He
has talent, not honor and riches: men naturally covet
what they have not.

Ch. No; or Cecco would covet talent, which he has
not, whereas he covets more riches, of which he has
plenty, already.

Ogni. Because a purse added to a purse makes the
holder twice as rich: but just such another talent as
Stiatta's, added to what he now possesses, what would
that profit him? Give the talent a purse indeed, to do
something with! But lo, how we keep the good
people waiting! I only desired to do justice to the
noble sentiments which animate you, and which you
are too modest to duly enforce. Come, to our main
business: shall we ascend the steps? I am going to
propose you for Provost to the people; they know
your antecedents, and will accept you with a joyful
unanimity: whereon I confirm their choice. Rouse
up! Are you nerving yourself to an effort? Beware
the disaster of Messere Stiatta we were talking of!
who, determining to keep an equal mind and constant
face on whatever might be the fortune of his last new
poem with our townsmen, heard too plainly "hiss,
hiss, hiss," increase every moment. Till at last the
man fell senseless: not perceiving that the portentous
sounds had all the while been issuing from between
his own nobly clenched teeth, and nostrils narrowed
by resolve.

Ch. Do you begin to throw off the mask? -- to jest
with me, having got me effectually into your trap?

Ogni. Where is the trap, my friend? You hear what
I engage to do, for my part: you, for yours, have only
to fulfil your promise made just now within doors, of
professing unlimited obedience to Rome's authority
in my person. And I shall authorize no more than the
simple re-establishment of the Provostship and the
conferment of its privileges upon yourself: the only
novel stipulation being a birth of the peculiar
circumstances of the time.

Ch. And that stipulation?

Ogni. Just the obvious one -- that in the event of
the discovery of the actual assailant of the late Provost

Ch. Ha!

Ogni. Why, he shall suffer the proper penalty, of
course; what did you expect?

Ch. Who heard of this?

Ogni. Rather, who needed to hear of this?

Ch. Can it be, the popular rumor never reached
you ...

Ogni. Many more such rumors reach me, friend,
than I choose to receive: those which wait longest
have best chance. Has the present one sufficiently
waited? Now is its time for entry with effect. See the
good people crowding about yonder palace-steps --
which we may not have to ascend, after all! My good
friends! (nay, two or three of you will answer every
purpose) -- who was it fell upon and proved nearly
the death of your late Provost? His successor desires
to hear, that his day of inauguration may be graced by
the act of prompt, bare justice we all anticipate. Who
dealt the blow that night, does anybody know?

Luit. [Coming forward]. I!

All. Luitolfo!

Luit. I avow the deed, justify and approve it, and
stand forth now, to relieve my friend of an unearned
responsibility. Having taken thought, I am grown
stronger: I shall shrink from nothing that awaits me.
Nay, Chiappino -- we are friends still: I dare say
there is some proof of your superior nature in this
starting aside, strange as it seemed at first. So, they
tell me, my horse is of the right stock, because a
shadow in the path frightens him into a frenzy, makes
him dash my brains out. I understand only the dull
mule's way of standing stockishly, plodding soberly,
suffering on occasion a blow or two with due

Eu. I was determined to justify my choice,
Chiappino; to let Luitolfo's nature vindicate itself.
Henceforth we are undivided, whatever be our

Ogni. Now, in these last ten minutes of silence,
what have I been doing, deem you? Putting the
finishing stroke to a homily of mine, I have long
taken thought to perfect, on the text, "Let whoso
thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." To your
house, Luitolfo! Still silent, my patriotic friend?
Well, that is a good sign however. And you will go
aside for a time? That is better still. I understand: it
would be easy for you to die of remorse here on the
spot and shock us all, but you mean to live and grow
worthy of coming back to us one day. There, I will
tell everybody; and you only do right to believe you
must get better as you get older. All men do so: they
are worst in childhood, improve in manhood, and get
ready in old age for another world. Youth, with its
beauty and grace, would seem bestowed on us for
some such reason as to make us partly endurable till
we have time for really becoming so of ourselves,
without their aid; when they leave us. The sweetest
child we all smile on for his pleasant want of the
whole world to break up, or suck in his mouth, seeing
no other good in it -- would be rudely handled by
that world's inhabitants, if he retained those angelic
infantine desires when he had grown six feet high,
black and bearded. But, little by little, he sees fit to
forego claim after claim on the world, puts up with a
less and less share of its good as his proper portion;
and when the octogenarian asks barely a sup of gruel
and a fire of dry sticks, and thanks you as for his full
allowance and right in the common good of life, --
hoping nobody may murder him, -- he who began by
asking and expecting the whole of us to bow down in
worship to him, -- why, I say he is advanced, far
onward, very far, nearly out of sight like our friend
Chiappino yonder. And now -- (ay, good-by to you!
He turns round the northwest gate: going to Lugo
again? Good-by!) -- And now give thanks to God,
the keys of the Provost's palace to me, and yourselves
to profitable meditation at home! I have known
Four-and-twenty leaders of revolts.

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