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Short poem

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Count Gismond--Aix in Provence

              1Christ God who savest man, save most
              2    Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
              3Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
              4    Chose time and place and company
              5To suit it; when he struck at length
              6My honour, 't was with all his strength.

              7And doubtlessly, ere he could draw
              8    All points to one, he must have schemed!
              9That miserable morning saw
            10    Few half so happy as I seemed,
            11While being dressed in queen's array
            12To give our tourney prize away.

            13I thought they loved me, did me grace
            14    To please themselves; 't was all their deed;
            15God makes, or fair or foul, our face;
            16    If showing mine so caused to bleed
            17My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped
            18A word, and straight the play had stopped.

            19They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen
            20    By virtue of her brow and breast;
            21Not needing to be crowned, I mean,
            22    As I do. E'en when I was dressed,
            23Had either of them spoke, instead
            24Of glancing sideways with still head!

            25But no: they let me laugh, and sing
            26    My birthday song quite through, adjust
            27The last rose in my garland, fling
            28    A last look on the mirror, trust
            29My arms to each an arm of theirs,
            30And so descend the castle-stairs-

            31And come out on the morning troop
            32    Of merry friends who kissed my cheek,
            33And called me queen, and made me stoop
            34    Under the canopy-(a streak
            35That pierced it, of the outside sun,
            36Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)-

            37And they could let me take my state
            38    And foolish throne amid applause
            39Of all come there to celebrate
            40    My queen's-day-Oh I think the cause
            41Of much was, they forgot no crowd
            42Makes up for parents in their shroud!

            43However that be, all eyes were bent
            44    Upon me, when my cousins cast
            45Theirs down; 't was time I should present
            46    The victor's crown, but ... there, 't will last
            47No long time ... the old mist again
            48Blinds me as then it did. How vain!

            49See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk
            50    With his two boys: I can proceed.
            51Well, at that moment, who should stalk
            52    Forth boldly-to my face, indeed-
            53But Gauthier? and he thundered "Stay!"
            54And all stayed. "Bring no crowns, I say!

            55"Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet
            56    "About her! Let her shun the chaste,
            57"Or lay herself before their feet!
            58    "Shall she, whose body I embraced
            59"A night long, queen it in the day?
            60"For honour's sake no crowns, I say!"

            61I? What I answered? As I live,
            62    I never fancied such a thing
            63As answer possible to give.
            64    What says the body when they spring
            65Some monstrous torture-engine's whole
            66Strength on it? No more says the soul.

            67Till out strode Gismond; then I knew
            68    That I was saved. I never met
            69His face before, but, at first view,
            70    I felt quite sure that God had set
            71Himself to Satan; would who spend
            72A minute's mistrust on the end?

            73He strode to Gauthier, in his throat
            74    Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth
            75With one back-handed blow that wrote
            76    In blood men's verdict there. North, South,
            77East, West, I looked. The lie was dead,
            78And damned, and truth stood up instead.

            79This glads me most, that I enjoyed
            80    The heart o' the joy, with my content
            81In watching Gismond unalloyed
            82    By any doubt of the event:
            83God took that on him-I was bid
            84Watch Gismond for my part: I did.

            85Did I not watch him while he let
            86    His armourer just brace his greaves,
            87Rivet his hauberk, on the fret
            88    The while! His foot ... my memory leaves
            89No least stamp out nor how anon
            90He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.

            91And e'en before the trumpet's sound
            92    Was finished, prone lay the false knight,
            93Prone as his lie, upon the ground:
            94    Gismond flew at him, used no sleight
            95O' the sword, but open-breasted drove,
            96Cleaving till out the truth he clove.

            97Which done, he dragged him to my feet
            98    And said, "Here die, but end thy breath
            99"In full confession, lest thou fleet
          100    "From my first, to God's second death!
          101"Say, hast thou lied? "And, "I have lied
          102"To God and her,"he said, and died.

          103Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked
          104    -What safe my heart holds, though no word
          105Could I repeat now, if I tasked
          106    My powers for ever, to a third
          107Dear even as you are. Pass the rest
          108Until I sank upon his breast.

          109Over my head his arm he flung
          110    Against the world; and scarce I felt
          111His sword (that dripped by me and swung)
          112    A little shifted in its belt:
          113For he began to say the while
          114How South our home lay many a mile.

          115So, 'mid the shouting multitude
          116    We two walked forth to never more
          117Return. My cousins have pursued
          118    Their life, untroubled as before
          119I vexed them. Gauthier's dwelling-place
          120God lighten! May his soul find grace!

          121Our elder boy has got the clear
          122    Great brow, tho' when his brother's black
          123Full eye shows scorn, it ... Gismond here?
          124    And have you brought my tercel back?
          125I was just telling Adela
          126How many birds it struck since May.


1] Originally entitled "Italy."

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Robert Browning, Dramatic Lyrics (1842).
First publication date: 1842
RPO poem editor: W. J. Alexander, William Hall Clawson
RP edition: RP (1916), pp. 357-59; RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2001/12/17

Rhyme: ababcc

Other poems by Robert Browning