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Robert Browning (1812-1889)

The Lost Leader


              1Just for a handful of silver he left us,
              2    Just for a riband to stick in his coat--
              3Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
              4    Lost all the others she lets us devote;
              5They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
              6    So much was theirs who so little allowed:
              7How all our copper had gone for his service!
              8    Rags--were they purple, his heart had been proud!
              9We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
            10    Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
            11Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
            12    Made him our pattern to live and to die!
            13Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
            14    Burns, Shelley, were with us,--they watch from their graves!
            15He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
            16    --He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

            17We shall march prospering,--not thro' his presence;
            18    Songs may inspirit us,--not from his lyre;
            19Deeds will be done,--while he boasts his quiescence,
            20    Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
            21Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
            22    One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
            23One more devils'-triumph and sorrow for angels,
            24    One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
            25Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!
            26    There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
            27Forced praise on our part--the glimmer of twilight,
            28    Never glad confident morning again!
            29Best fight on well, for we taught him--strike gallantly,
            30    Menace our heart ere we master his own;
            31Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
            32    Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!


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 Romances and Lyrics (1845).
First publication date: 1845
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP 2.424.
Recent editing: 2:2001/12/17

Rhyme: ababcdcd ...


Other poems by Robert Browning