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Englishman In Italy, The

Robert Browning 1812 (Camberwell) – 1889 (Venice)


Fort, Fort, my beloved one,
  Sit here by my side,
On my knees put up both little feet!
  I was sure, if I tried,
I could make you laugh spite of Scirocco.
  Now, open your eyes,
Let me keep you amused till he vanish
  In black from the skies,
With telling my memories over
  As you tell your beads;
All the Plain saw me gather, I garland
  ---The flowers or the weeds.

Time for rain! for your long hot dry Autumn
  Had net-worked with brown
The white skin of each grape on the bunches,
  Marked like a quail's crown,
Those creatures you make such account of,
  Whose heads,---speckled white
Over brown like a great spider's back,
  As I told you last night,---
Your mother bites off for her supper.
  Red-ripe as could be,
Pomegranates were chapping and splitting
  In halves on the tree:
And betwixt the loose walls of great flint-stone,
  Or in the thick dust
On the path, or straight out of the rock-side,
  Wherever could thrust
Some burnt sprig of bold hardy rock-flower
  Its yellow face up,
For the prize were great butterflies fighting,
  Some five for one cup.
So, I guessed, ere I got up this morning,
  What change was in store,
By the quick rustle-down of the quail-nets
  Which woke me before
I could open my shutter, made fast
  With a bough and a stone,
And look thro' the twisted dead vine-twigs,
  Sole lattice that's known.
Quick and sharp rang the rings down the net-poles,
  While, busy beneath,
Your priest and his brother tugged at them,
  The rain in their teeth.
And out upon all the flat house-roofs
  Where split figs lay drying,
The girls took the frails under cover:
  Nor use seemed in trying
To get out the boats and go fishing,
  For, under the cliff,
Fierce the black water frothed o'er the blind-rock.
  No seeing our skiff
Arrive about noon from Amalfi,
  ---Our fisher arrive
And pitch down his basket before us,
  All trembling alive
With pink and grey jellies, your sea-fruit;
  You touch the strange lumps,
And mouths gape there, eyes open, all manner
  Of horns and of humps,
Which only the fisher looks grave at,
  While round him like imps
Cling screaming the children as naked
  And brown as his shrimps;
Himself too as bare to the middle
  ---You see round his neck
The string and its brass coin suspended,
  That saves him from wreck.
But to-day not a bout reached Salerno,
  So back, to a man,
Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards
  Grape-harvest began.
In the vat, halfway up in our house-side,
  Like blood the juice spins,
While your brother all bare-legged is dancing
  Till breathless he grins
Dead-beaten in effort on effort
  To keep the grapes under,
Since still when he seems all but master,
  In pours the fresh plunder
From girls who keep coming and going
  With basket on shoulder,
And eyes shut against the rain's driving;
  Your girls that are older,---
For under the hedges of aloe,
  And where, on its bed
Of the orchard's black mould, the love-apple
  Lies pulpy and red,
All the young ones are kneeling and filling
  Their laps with the snails
Tempted out by this first rainy weather,---
  Your best of regales,
As to-night will be proved to my sorrow,
  When, supping in state,
We shall feast our grape-gleaners (two dozen,
  Three over one plate)
With lasagne so tempting to swallow
  In slippery ropes,
And gourds fried in great purple slices,
  That colour of popes.
Meantime, see the grape bunch they've brought you:
  The rain-water slips
O'er the heavy blue bloom on each globe
  Which the wasp to your lips
Still follows with fretful persistence:
  Nay, taste, while awake,
This half of a curd-white smooth cheese-ball
  That peels, flake by flake,
Like an onion, each smoother and whiter;
  Next, sip this weak wine
From the thin green glass flask, with its stopper,
  A leaf of the vine;
And end with the prickly-pear's red flesh
  That leaves thro' its juice
The stony black seeds on your pearl-teeth.
  Scirocco is loose!
Hark, the quick, whistling pelt of the olives
  Which, thick in one's track,
Tempt the stranger to pick up and bite them,
  Tho' not yet half black!
How the old twisted olive trunks shudder,
  The medlars let fall
Their hard fruit, and the brittle great fig-trees
  Snap off, figs and all,
For here comes the whole of the tempest!
  No refuge, but creep
Back again to my side and my shoulder,
  And listen or sleep. Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:51 min read

Robert Browning

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

All Robert Browning poems | Robert Browning Books

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