Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Robert Browning 1812–89

A Face


IF one could have that little head of hers!

Painted upon a background of pale gold,

Such as the Tuscan’s early art prefers!

No shade encroaching on the matchless mould

Of those two lips, which should be opening soft

In the pure profile; not as when she laughs,

For that spoils all: but rather as if aloft

Yon hyacinth, she loves so, lean’d its staff’s

Burthen of honey-color’d buds to kiss

And capture ’twixt the lips apart for this.

Then her lithe neck, three fingers might surround,

How it should waver, on the pale gold ground,

Up to the fruit-shap’d, perfect chin it lifts!

I know, Correggio loves to mass, in rifts

Of heaven, his angel faces, orb on orb

Breaking its outline, burning shades absorb;

But these are only mass’d there, I should think,

Waiting to see some wonder momently

Grow out, stand full, fade slow against the sky

(That ’s the pale ground you ’d see this sweet face by),

All heaven, meanwhile, condens’d into one eye

Which fears to lose the wonder, should it wink.