But in neither is there any single passage of such incomparable quality as the thunderstorm in the first scene, a storm not to be matched in English poetry:—
in woods we lay, you recollect;
Swift ran the searching tempest overhead;
And ever and anon some bright white shaft
Burned through the pine-tree roof, here burned and there,
As if God’s messenger through the close wood screen
Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture,
Feeling for guilty thee and me: then broke
The thunder like a whole sea overhead.”
The vivid colloquial scenes in prose have much of that pungent semi-satirical humour of which Browning had shown the first glimpse in Sordello. Besides these, there is one intermediate scene in verse, the talk of the “poor girls” on the Duomo steps, which seems to me one of the most pathetic things ever written by the most pathetic of contemporary poets. It is this scene that contains the exquisite song, “You’ll love me yet.”
love me yet!—and I can tarry
Your love’s protracted growing:
June reared that bunch of flowers you carry,
From seeds of April’s sowing.
I plant a heartful
now: some seed
At least is sure to strike,
And yield—what you’ll not pluck indeed,
Not love, but, may be, like.
at least on love’s remains,
A grave’s one violet:
Your look?—that pays a thousand pains.
What’s death? You’ll love me yet!”
[Footnote 16: Handbook, p. 54.]
6. KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES: A Tragedy.
[Published in 1842 as No.
II. of Bells and Pomegranates,
although written some years earlier (Poetical Works, 1889,
Vol. III., pp. 81-165).]
King Victor and King Charles is an historical tragedy, dealing with the last episode in the career of Victor II., first King of Sardinia. Browning says in his preface:
“So far as I know, this tragedy is the first artistic consequence of what Voltaire termed ’a terrible event without consequences;’ and although it professes to be historical, I have taken more pains to arrive at the history than most readers would thank me for particularising: since acquainted, as I will hope them to be, with the chief circumstances of Victor’s remarkable European career—nor quite ignorant of the sad and surprising facts I am about to reproduce (a tolerable account of which is to be found, for instance, in Abbe Roman’s Recit, or even the fifth of Lord Orrery’s Letters from Italy)—I cannot expect them to be versed, nor desirous of becoming so, in all the details of the memoirs, correspondence, and relations of the time.... When I say, therefore,