Robert Browning.


Gone from us !  that strong singer of late days1
Sweet singer should be strong—who, tarrying here,2
Chose still rough music for his themes austere,3
Hard-headed, aye but tender-hearted lays,4
Carefully careless, garden half, half maze.5
His thoughts he sang, deep thoughts to thinkers dear,6
Now flashing under gleam of smile or tear,7
Now veiled in language like a breezy haze8
Chance-pierced by sunbeams from the lake it covers.9
He sang man’s ways—not heights of sage or saint,10
Not highways broad, not haunts endeared to lovers ;11
He sang life’s byways, sang its angles quaint,12
Its Runic lore inscribed on stave or stone ;13
Song’s short-hand strain,—its key oft his alone.14


Shakespeare’s old oak “ gnarled and unwedgeable15
Yields not so sweet a wood to harp or lyre16
As tree of smoother grain ; and chorded shell17
Is spanned by strings tenderer than iron wire.18
What then ?  Stern tasks iron and oak require !19
Iron deep-mined, hard oak from stormy fell :20
Steel-armed the black ship breasts the ocean’s swell,21
Oak-ribbed laughs back the raging tempest’s ire.22
Old friend, thy song I deem a ship whose hold23
Is stored with mental spoils of ampler price24
Than Spain’s huge galleons in her age of gold,25
Or Indian carracks from the isles of spice.26
Brave Argosy ! cleave long the waves as now ;27
And all the sea-gods sing around thy prow !28