Any Wife To Any Husband

Robert Browning 1812 (Camberwell) – 1889 (Venice)

My love, this is the bitterest, that thou---
Who art all truth, and who dost love me now
  As thine eyes say, as thy voice breaks to say---
Shouldst love so truly, and couldst love me still
A whole long life through, had but love its will,
  Would death that leads me from thee brook delay.


I have but to be by thee, and thy hand
Will never let mine go, nor heart withstand
  The beating of my heart to reach its place.
When shall I look for thee and feel thee gone?
When cry for the old comfort and find none?
  Never, I know! Thy soul is in thy face.


Oh, I should fade---'tis willed so! Might I save,
Gladly I would, whatever beauty gave
  Joy to thy sense, for that was precious too.
It is not to be granted. But the soul
Whence the love comes, all ravage leaves that whole;
  Vainly the flesh fades; soul makes all things new.


It would not be because my eye grew dim
Thou couldst not find the love there, thanks to Him
  Who never is dishonoured in the spark
He gave us from his fire of fires, and bade
Remember whence it sprang, nor be afraid
  While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark.


So, how thou wouldst be perfect, white and clean
Outside as inside, soul and soul's demesne
  Alike, this body given to show it by!
Oh, three-parts through the worst of life's abyss,
What plaudits from the next world after this,
  Couldst thou repeat a stroke and gain the sky!


And is it not the bitterer to think
That, disengage our hands and thou wilt sink
  Although thy love was love in very deed?
I know that nature! Pass a festive day,
Thou dost not throw its relic-flower away
  Nor bid its music's loitering echo speed.


Thou let'st the stranger's glove lie where it fell;
If old things remain old things all is well,
  For thou art grateful as becomes man best
And hadst thou only heard me play one tune,
Or viewed me from a window, not so soon
  With thee would such things fade as with the rest.


I seem to see! We meet and part; 'tis brief;
The book I opened keeps a folded leaf,
  The very chair I sat on, breaks the rank
That is a portrait of me on the wall---
Three lines, my face comes at so slight a call:
  And for all this, one little hour to thank!


But now, because the hour through years was fixed,
Because our inmost beings met and mixed,
  Because thou once hast loved me---wilt thou dare
Say to thy soul and Who may list beside,
``Therefore she is immortally my bride;
  ``Chance cannot change my love, nor time impair.


``So, what if in the dusk of life that's left,
``I, a tired traveller of my sun bereft,
  Look from my path when, mimicking  the same,
``The fire-fly glimpses past me, come and gone?
``---Where was it till the sunset? where anon
  ``It will be at the sunrise! What's to blame?''


Is it so helpful to thee? Canst thou take
The mimic up, nor, for the true thing's sake,
  Put gently by such efforts at a beam?
Is the remainder of the way so long,
Thou need'st the little solace, thou the strong
  Watch out thy watch, let weak ones doze and dream!


---Ah, but the fresher faces! ``Is it true,''
Thou'lt ask, ``some eyes are beautiful and new?
  ``Some hair,---how can one choose but grasp such wealth?
``And if a man would press his lips to lips
``Fresh as the wilding hedge-rose-cup there slips
  ``The dew-drop out of, must it be by stealth?


``It cannot change the love still kept for Her,
``More than if such a picture I prefer
  ``Passing a day with, to a room's bare side:
The painted form takes nothing she possessed,
Yet, while the Titian's Venus lies at rest,
  A man looks. Once more, what is there to chide?''


So must I see, from where I sit and watch,
My own self sell myself, my hand attach
  Its warrant to the very thefts from me---
Thy singleness of soul that made me proud,
Thy purity of heart I loved aloud,
  Thy man's-truth I was bold to bid God see!


Love so, then, if thou wilt! Give all thou canst
Away to the new faces---disentranced,
  (Say it and think it) obdurate no more:
Re-issue looks and words from the old mint,
Pass them afresh, no matter whose the print
  Image and superscription once they bore


Re-coin thyself and give it them to spend,---
It all comes to the same thing at the end,
  Since mine thou wast, mine art and mine sh
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 27, 2023

4:07 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,178
Words 813
Stanzas 16
Stanza Lengths 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 3

Robert Browning

Robert Browning was the father of poet Robert Browning. more…

All Robert Browning poems | Robert Browning Books

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