Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  “De Gustibus—”

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

Robert Browning 1812–89

“De Gustibus—”


YOUR ghost will walk, you lover of trees,

(If our loves remain)

In an English lane,

By a cornfield-side a-flutter with poppies.

Hark, those two in the hazel coppice—

A boy and a girl, if the good fates please,

Making love, say,—

The happier they!

Draw yourself up from the light of the moon,

And let them pass, as they will too soon,

With the beanflower’s boon,

And the blackbird’s tune,

And May, and June!

What I love best in all the world

Is a castle, precipice-encurl’d,

In a gash of the wind-griev’d Apennine.

Or look for me, old fellow of mine,

(If I get my head from out the mouth

O’ the grave, and loose my spirit ’s bands,

And come again to the land of lands)—

In a sea-side house to the farther South,

Where the bak’d cicala dies of drouth,

And one sharp tree—’t is a cypress—stands,

By the many hundred years red-rusted,

Rough iron-spik’d, ripe fruit-o’ercrusted,

My sentinel to guard the sands

To the water’s edge. For, what expands

Before the house, but the great opaque

Blue breadth of sea without a break?

While, in the house, for ever crumbles

Some fragment of the frescoed walls,

From blisters where a scorpion sprawls.

A girl bare-footed brings, and tumbles

Down on the pavement, green-flesh melons,

And says there ’s news to-day—the king

Was shot at, touch’d in the liver-wing,

Goes with his Bourbon arm in a sling:

—She hopes they have not caught the felons.

Italy, my Italy!

Queen Mary’s saying serves for me—

(When fortune’s malice

Lost her Calais)

Open my heart and you will see

Grav’d inside of it, “Italy.”

Such lovers old are I and she:

So it always was, so shall ever be.