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Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Prospice


              1Fear death?--to feel the fog in my throat,
              2      The mist in my face,
              3When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
              4      I am nearing the place,
              5The power of the night, the press of the storm,
              6      The post of the foe;
              7Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
              8      Yet the strong man must go:
              9For the journey is done and the summit attained,
            10      And the barriers fall,
            11Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
            12      The reward of it all.
            13I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
            14      The best and the last!
            15I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore,
            16      And bade me creep past.
            17No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
            18      The heroes of old,
            19Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
            20      Of pain, darkness and cold.
            21For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
            22      The black minute's at end,
            23And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
            24      Shall dwindle, shall blend,
            25Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
            26      Then a light, then thy breast,
            27O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
            28      And with God be the rest!

Notes

1] Written in the autumn of 1861, a few months after Mrs. Browning's death. First published in the Atlantic Monthly of June 1864; also in Men and Women, 1864.
Prospice: the Latin imperative of prospicio -- look forward, look ahead.

7] The Arch Fear: Death.

15] bandaged: a reference to the practice of bandaging the eyes of those who are to be executed by shooting.

19] arrears: Browning implies that he has had less of "pain, darkness, and cold" than most people have.


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, Dramatis Personae (London: Chapman and Hall, 1864). PR 4209 A1 1864 ROBA.
First publication date: 1864
RPO poem editor: F. E. L. Priestley
RP edition: 3RP 3.192.
Recent editing: 2:2001/12/13

Rhyme: ababcdcd ...


Other poems by Robert Browning