Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PARLEYINGS WITH CERTAIN PEOPLE OF IMPORTANCE: GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON, by ROBERT BROWNING



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PARLEYINGS WITH CERTAIN PEOPLE OF IMPORTANCE: GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ah, george bubb dodington lord melcombe, - no
Last Line: Fool more, as well as knave, in dodington.
Subject(s): Bubb Dodington, George. Baron Melcombe


AH, George Bubb Dodington Lord Melcombe, -- no,
Yours was the wrong way! -- always understand,
Supposing that permissibly you planned
How statesmanship -- your trade -- in outward show
Might figure as inspired by simple zeal
For serving country, king and commonweal,
(Though service tire to death the body, tease
The soul from out an o'ertasked patriot-drudge)
And yet should prove zeal's outward show agrees
In all respects -- right reason being judge --
With inward care that, while the statesman spends
Body and soul thus freely for the sake
Of public good, his private welfare take
No harm by such devotedness. Intends
Scripture aught else -- let captious folk inquire --
Which teaches "Laborers deserve their hire,
And who neglects his household bears the bell
Away of sinning from an infidel"?
Wiselier would fools that carp bestow a thought
How birds build nests; at outside, roughly wrought,
Twig knots with twig, loam plasters up each chink,
Leaving the inmate rudely lodged -- you think?
Peep but inside! That specious rude-and-rough
Covers a domicile where downy fluff
Embeds the ease-deserving architect,
Who toiled and moiled not merely to effect
'Twixt sprig and spray a stop-gap in the teeth
Of wind and weather, guard what swung beneath
From upset only, but contrived himself
A snug interior, warm and soft and sleek.
Of what material? Oh, for that, you seek
How nature prompts each volatile! Thus -- pelf
Smoothens the human mudlark's lodging, power
Demands some hardier wrappage to embrace
Robuster heart-beats: rock, not tree nor tower,
Contents the building eagle: rook shoves close
To brother rook on branch, while crow morose
Apart keeps balance perched on topmost bought
No sort of bird but suits his taste somehow:
Nay, Darwin tells of such as love the bower --
His bower-birds opportunely yield us yet
The lacking instance when at loss to get
A feathered parallel to what we find
The secret motor of some mighty mind
That worked such wonders -- all for vanity!
Worked them to haply figure in the eye
Of intimates as first of -- doers' kind?
Actors', that work in earnest sportively,
Paid by a sourish smile. How says the Sage?
Birds born to strut prepare a platform-stage
With sparkling stones and speckled shells, all sorts
Of slimy rubbish, odds and ends and orts,
Whereon to pose and posture and engage
The priceless female simper.

II

I have gone
Thus into detail, George Bubb Dodington,
Lest, when I take you presently to task
For the wrong way of working, you should ask
"What fool conjectures that profession means
Performance? that who goes behind the scenes
Finds, -- acting over, -- still the soot-stuff screens
Othello's visage, still the self-same cloak's
Bugle-bright-blackness half reveals half chokes
Hamlet's emotion, as ten minutes since?"
No, each resumes his garb, stands -- Moor or prince --
Decently draped: just so with statesmanship!
All outside show, in short, is sham -- why wince?
Concede me -- while our parley lasts! You trip
Afterwards -- lay but this to heart! (there lurks
Somewhere in all of us a lump which irks
Somewhat the spriteliest-scheming brain that's bent
On brave adventure, would but heart consent!)
-- Here trip you, that -- your aim allowed as right --
Your means thereto were wrong. Come, we, this night,
Profess one purpose, hold one principle,
Are at odds only as to -- not the will
But way of winning solace for ourselves
-- No matter if the ore for which zeal delves
Be gold or coprolite, while zeal's pretence
Is -- we do good to men at -- whose expense
But ours? who tire the body, tease the soul,
Simply that, running, we may reach fame's goal
And wreathe at last our brows with bay -- the State's
Disinterested slaves, nay -- please the Fates --
Saviors and nothing less: such lot has been!
Statesmanship triumphs pedestalled, serene, --
O happy consummation! -- brought about
By managing with skill the rabble-rout
For which we labor (never mind the name --
People or populace, for praise or blame)
Making them understand -- their heaven, their hell,
Their every hope and fear is ours as well.
Man's cause -- what other can we have at heart?
Whence follows that the necessary part
High o'er Man's head we play, -- and freelier breathe
Just that the multitude which gasps beneath
May reach the level where unstifled stand
Ourselves at vantage to put forth a hand,
Assist the prostrate public. 'T is by right
Merely of such pretence, we reach the height
Where storms abound, to brave -- nay, court their stress,
Though all too well aware -- of pomp the less,
Of peace the more! But who are we, to spurn
For peace' sake, duty's pointing? Up, then -- earn
Albeit no prize we may but martyrdom!
Now, such fit height to launch salvation from,
How get and gain? Since help must needs be craved
By would-be saviours of the else-unsaved,
How coax them to co-operate, lend a lift,
Kneel down and let us mount?

III

You say, "Make shift
By sham -- the harsh word: preach and teach, persuade
Somehow the Public -- not despising aid
Of salutary artifice -- we seek
Solely their good: our strength would raise the weak,
Our cultivated knowledge supplement
Their rudeness, rawness: why to us were lent
Ability except to come in use?
Who loves his kind must by all means induce
That kind to let his love play freely, press
In Man's behalf to full performance!"

IV

Yes --
Yes, George, we know! -- whereat they hear, believe,
And bend the knee, and on the neck receive
Who fawned and cringed to purpose? Not so, George!
Try simple falsehood on shrewd folk who forge
Lies of superior fashion day by day
And hour by hour? With craftsmen versed as they
What chance of competition when the tools
Only a novice wields? Are knaves such fools?
Disinterested patriots, spare your tongue
The tones thrice-silvery, cheek save smiles it flung
Pearl-like profuse to swine -- a herd, whereof
No unit needs be taught, his neighbor's trough
Scarce holds for who but grunts and whines the husks
Due to a wrinkled snout that shows sharp tusks.
No animal -- much less our lordly Man --
Obeys its like: with strength all rule began,
The stoutest awes the pasture. Soon succeeds
Discrimination, -- nicer power Man needs
To rule him than is bred of bone and thew:
Intelligence must move strength's self. This too
Lasts but its time: the multitude at length
Looks inside for intelligence and strength
And finds them here and there to pick and choose:
"All at your service, mine, see!" Ay, but who's
My George, at this late day, to make his boast
"In strength, intelligence, I rule the roast,
Beat, all and some, the ungraced who crowd your ranks?"
"Oh, but I love, would lead you, gain your thanks
By unexampled yearning for Man's sake --
Passion that solely waits your help to take
Effect in action!" George, which one of us
But holds with his own heart communion thus:
"I am, if not of men the first and best,
Still -- to receive enjoyment -- properest:
Which since by force I cannot, nor by wit
Most likely -- craft must serve in place of it.
Flatter, cajole! If so I bring within
My net the gains which wit and force should win,
What hinders?" 'T is a trick we know of old:
Try, George, some other of tricks manifold!
The multitude means mass and mixture -- right!
Are mixtures simple, pray, or composite?
Dive into Man, your medley: see the waste!
Sloth-stifled genius, energy disgraced
By ignorance, high aims with sorry skill,
Will without means and means in want of will
-- Sure we might fish, from out the mothers'sons
That welter thus, a dozen Dodingtons!
Why call up Dodington, and none beside,
To take his seat upon our backs and ride
As statesman conquering and to conquer? Well,
The last expedient, which must needs excel
Those old ones -- this it is, -- at any rate
To-day's conception thus I formulate:
As simple force has been replaced, just so
Must simple wit be: men have got to know
Such wit as what you boast is nowise held
The wonder once it was, but, paralleled
Too plentifully, counts not, -- puts to shame
Modest possessors like yourself who claim,
By virtue of it merely, power and place
-- Which means the sweets of office. Since our race
Teems with the like of you, some special gift,
Your very own, must coax our hands to lift,
And backs to bear you: is it just and right
To privilege your nature?

V

"State things quite
Other than so" -- make answer! "I pretend
No such community with men. Perpend
My key to domination! Who would use
Man for his pleasure needs must introduce
The element that awes Man. Once for all,
His nature owns a Supernatural
In fact as well as phrase -- which found must be
-- Where, in this doubting age? Old mystery
Has served its turn -- seen through and sent adrift
To nothingness: new wizard-craft makes shift
Nowadays shorn of help by robe and book, --
Otherwise, elsewhere, for success must look
Than chalked-ring, incantation-gibberish.
Somebody comes to conjure: that's he? Pish!
He's like the roomful of rapt gazers, -- there's
No sort of difference in the garb he wears
From ordinary dressing, -- gesture, speech,
Deportment, just like those of all and each
That eye their master of the minute. Stay!
What of the something -- call it how you may --
Uncanny in the -- quack? That's easy said!
Notice how the Professor turns no head
And yet takes cognizance of who accepts,
Denies, is puzzled as to the adept's
Supremacy, yields up or lies in wait
To trap the trickster! Doubtless, out of date
Are dealings with the devil: yet, the stir
Of mouth, its smile half smug half sinister,
Mock-modest boldness masked in diffidence, --
What if the man have -- who knows how or whence? --
Confederate potency unguessed by us --
Prove no such cheat as he pretends?"

VI

Ay, thus
Had but my George played statesmanship's new card
That carries all! "Since we" -- avers the Bard --
"All of us have one human heart" -- as good
As say -- by all of us is understood
Right and wrong, true and false -- in rough, at least,
We own a common conscience. God, man, beast --
How should we qualify the statesman-shape
I fancy standing with our world agape?
Disguise, flee, fight against with tooth and nail
The outrageous designation! "Quack" men quail
Before? You see, a little year ago
They heard him thunder at the thing which, lo,
To-day he vaunts for unscathed, while what erst
Heaven-high he lauded, lies hell-low, accursed!
And yet where's change? Who, awe-struck, cares to point
Critical finger at a dubious joint
In armor, true oes triplex, breast and back
Binding about, defiant of attack,
An imperturbability that's -- well,
Or innocence or impudence -- how tell
One from the other? Could ourselves broach lies,
Yet brave mankind with those unaltered eyes,
Those lips that keep the quietude of truth?
Dare we attempt the like? What quick uncouth
Disturbance of thy smug economy,
O coward visage! Straight would all descry
Back on the man's brow the boy's blush once more!
No: he goes deeper -- could our sense explore --
Finds conscience beneath conscience such as ours.
Genius is not so rare, -- prodigious powers --
Well, others boast such, -- but a power like this
Mendacious intrepidity -- quid vis?
Besides, imposture plays another game,
Admits of no diversion from its aim
Of captivating hearts, sets zeal aflare
In every shape at every turn, -- nowhere
Allows subsidence into ash. By stress
Of what does guile succeed but earnestness,
Earnest word, look and gesture? Touched with aught
But earnestness, the levity were fraught
With ruin to guile's film - work. Grave is guile;
Here no act wants its qualifying smile,
Its covert pleasantry to neutralize
The outward ardor. Can our chief despise
Even while most he seems to adulate?
As who should say "What though it be my fate
To deal with fools? Among the crowd must lurk
Some few with faculty to judge my work
Spite of its way which suits, they understand,
The crass majority: -- the Sacred Band,
No duping them forsooth!" So tells a touch
Of subintelligential nod and wink --
Turning foes friends. Coarse flattery moves the gorge:
Mine were the mode to awe the many, George!
They guess you half despise them while most bent
On demonstrating that your sole intent
Strives for their service. Sneer at them?
Yourself
'T is you disparage, -- tricksy as an elf,
Scorning what most you strain to bring to pass,
Laughingly careless, -- triply cased in brass, --
While pushing strenuous to the end in view.
What follows? Why, you formulate within
The vulgar headpiece this conception: "Win
A master-mind to serve us needs we must,
One who, from motives we but take on trust,
Acts strangelier -- haply wiselier than we know
Stronglier, for certain. Did he say 'I throw
Aside my good for yours, in all I do
Care nothing for myself and all for you' --
We should both understand and disbelieve:
Said he, 'Your good I laugh at in my sleeve,
My own it is I solely labor at,
Pretending yours the while' -- that, even that,
We, understanding well, give credence to,
And so will none of it. But here 't is through
Our recognition of his service, wage
Well earned by work, he mounts to such a stage
Above competitors as all save Bubb
Would agonize to keep. Yet -- here's the rub --
So slightly does he hold by our esteem
Which solely fixed him fast there, that we seem
Mocked every minute to our face, by gibe
And jest -- scorn insuppressive: what ascribe
The rashness to? Our pay and praise to boot --
Do these avail him to tread under foot
Something inside us all and each, that stands
Somehow instead of somewhat which commands
'Lie not'? Folk fear to jeopardize their soul,
Stumble at times, walk straight upon the whole, --
That's nature's simple instinct: what may be
The portent here, the influence such as we
Are strangers to?" --

VII

Exact the thing I call
Man's despot, just the Supernatural
Which, George, was wholly out of -- far beyond
Your theory and practice. You had conned
But to reject the precept "To succeed
In gratifying selfishness and greed,
Asseverate such qualities exist
Nowise within yourself! then make acquist
By all means, with no sort of fear!" Alack,
That well-worn lie is obsolete! Fall back
On still a working pretext -- "Hearth and Home,
The Altar, love of England, hate of Rome" --
That's serviceable lying -- that perchance
Had screened you decently: but 'ware advance
By one step more in perspicacity
Of these our dupes! At length they get to see
As through the earlier, this the latter plea --
And find the greed and selfishness at source!
Ventum est ad triarios: last resource
Should be to what but -- exquisite disguise
Disguise-abjuring, truth that looks like lies,
Frankness so sure to meet with unbelief?
Say -- you hold in contempt -- not them in chief --
But first and foremost your own self! No use
In men but to make sport for you, induce
The puppets now to dance, now stand stock-still,
Now knock their heads together, at your will
For will's sake only -- while each plays his part
Submissive: why? through terror at the heart:
"Can it be -- this bold man, whose hand we saw
Openly pull the wires, obeys some law
Quite above Man's -- nay, God's?" On face fall they.
This was the secret missed, again I say,
Out of your power to grasp conception of,
Much less employ to purpose. Hence the scoff
That greets your very name: folk see but one
Fool more, as well as knave, in Dodington.





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