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Robert Browning

[Written about 1839, published 1842 in Dramatic Lyrics. It is not believed to represent any particular time period.]

Notes added at right.

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Gr-r-r - there go, my heart's abhorrance!
Water your damned flowerpots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What?  Your myrtle bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims -
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

At the meal we sit together:
Salve tibi!  I must hear                            "Hail to thee;" along with other words 
Wise talk of the kind of weather,                    in italics in this stanza, a    
Sort of season, time of year:                        supposed quote from Brother Lawrence
Not a plentious cork crop:                          scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:                    Growths sometimes
What's the Latin name for 'parsley'?                found on oak trees: used in
What's the Greek name for Swine's Snout?             tanning

Whew!  We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrifical
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps -                    Jaws, mouth
Marked with L for our initial!
(He-he!  There his lily snaps!)

Saint, forsooth!  While brown Dolores
Suats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous,thick like horsehairs,
- Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's?                Barbary pirates had a
(That is, if he'd let it show!)                      reputation for lechery

When he finishes refection,                          Dinner
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As do I, in Jesu's praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange pulp -
In three sips the Arian frustrate:                   A heretical follower
While he drains his at one gulp.                     of Arius (256-336), who
                                                     denied the validity of
                                                     the Trinity
Oh, those melons?  If he's able,
We're to have a feast! so nice!
One goes to the Abbot's table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers?  None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange! - And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

There's a great text in Galatians,                   A notoriously difficult text to interpret 
Once you trip on it, entails                         in a completely orthodox way
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?                             A heretical follower
                                                     Mani, Persian prophet

Or, my scrofulous French novel                       Pornographic; the narrator plots to lure 
On gray paper with blunt type!                       Brother Lawrence into impure thoughts
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's gripe:                     Grip
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,                      Plums
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?

Or, there's Satan! - One might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of!  Hy, Zy, Zine...                 Unknown, possibly the beginnings of a curse
'St, there's Vespers!  Plenia gratia                on Brother Lawrence
Ave, Virgo!  Gr-r-r - you swine!                   "Full of grace, Hail, Virgin." The speaker 
                                                    is so agitated, he has reversed the phrases 
                                                    of the prayer to the Virgin Mary