Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ASOLANDO: THE BEAN-FEAST, by ROBERT BROWNING



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ASOLANDO: THE BEAN-FEAST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He was the man - pope sixtus, that fifth, that swineherd's son
Last Line: "that I have appetite, digest, and thrive -- that boon's for me."
Subject(s): Beans


HE was the man -- Pope Sixtus, that Fifth, that swineherd's son:
He knew the right thing, did it, and thanked God when 't was done:
But of all he had to thank for, my fancy somehow leans
To thinking, what most moved him was a certain meal on beans.

For one day, as his wont was, in just enough disguise
As he went exploring wickedness, -- to see with his own eyes
If law had due observance in the city's entrail dark
As well as where, i' the open, crime stood an obvious mark, --

He chanced, in a blind alley, on a tumble-down once house
Now hovel, vilest structure in Rome the ruinous:
And, as his tact impelled him, Sixtus adventured bold,
To learn how lowliest subjects bore hunger, toil, and cold.

There sat they at high-supper -- man and wife, lad and lass,
Poor as you please, but cleanly all and carefree: pain that was
-- Forgotten, pain as sure to be let bide aloof its time, --
Mightily munched the brave ones -- what mattered gloom or grime?

Said Sixtus, "Feast, my children! who works hard needs eat well.
I'm just a supervisor, would hear what you can tell.
Do any wrongs want righting? The Father tries his best,
But, since he's only mortal, sends such as I to test
The truth of all that's told him -- how folk like you may fare:
Come! -- only don't stop eating -- when mouth has words to spare --

"You" -- smiled he -- "play the spokesman, bell-wether of the flock!
Are times good, masters gentle? Your grievances unlock!
How of your work and wages? -- pleasures, if such may be --
Pains, as such are for certain." Thus smiling questioned he.

But somehow, spite of smiling, awe stole upon the group --
An inexpressible surmise: why should a priest thus stoop --
Pry into what concerned folk? Each visage fell. Aware,
Cries Sixtus interposing: "Nay, children, have no care!

"Fear nothing! Who employs me requires the plain truth. Pelf
Beguiles who should inform me: so, I inform myself.
See!" And he drew his hood back, let the close vesture ope,
Showed face, and where on tippet the cross lay: 't was the Pope.

Imagine the joyful wonder! "How shall the like of us --
Poor souls -- requite such blessing of our rude bean-feast?" "Thus --
Thus amply!" laughed Pope Sixtus. "I early rise, sleep late:
Who works may eat: they tempt me, your beans there: spare a plate!"

Down sat he on the door-step: 't was they this time said grace:
He ate up the last mouthful, wiped lips, and then, with face
Turned heavenward, broke forth thankful:
"Not now, that earth obeys
Thy word in mine, that through me the peoples know Thy ways --

"But that Thy care extendeth to Nature's homely wants,
And, while man's mind is strengthened, Thy goodness nowise scants
Man's body of its comfort, -- that I whom kings and queens
Crouch to, pick crumbs from off my table, relish beans!
The thunders I but seem to launch, there plain Thy hand all see:
That I have appetite, digest, and thrive -- that boon's for me."





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