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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

Robert Browning 1812-1889 John Bartlett

              Any nose
May ravage with impunity a rose.
          Sordello. Book vi.
    That we devote ourselves to God, is seen
In living just as though no God there were.
          Paracelsus. Part i.
                Be sure that God
Ne’er dooms to waste the strength he deigns impart.
          Paracelsus. Part i.
    I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive,—what time, what circuit first,
I ask not; but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet or stifling snow,
In some time, his good time, I shall arrive:
He guides me and the bird. In his good time.
          Paracelsus. Part i.
    Truth is within ourselves.
          Paracelsus. Part i.
              Are there not, dear Michal,
Two points in the adventure of the diver,—
One, when a beggar he prepares to plunge;
One, when a prince he rises with his pearl?
Festus, I plunge.
          Paracelsus. Part i.
              God is the perfect poet,
Who in his person acts his own creations.
          Paracelsus. Part ii.
    Error has no end.
          Paracelsus. Part iii.
    The sad rhyme of the men who proudly clung
To their first fault, and withered in their pride.
          Paracelsus. Part iv.
              Every joy is gain
And gain is gain, however small.
          Paracelsus. Part iv.
              Jove strikes the Titans down
Not when they set about their mountain-piling
But when another rock would crown the work.
          Paracelsus. Part iv.
              The peerless cup afloat
Of the lake-lily is an urn some nymph
Swims bearing high above her head.
          Paracelsus. Part iv.
    I give the fight up: let there be an end,
A privacy, an obscure nook for me.
I want to be forgotten even by God.
          Paracelsus. Part v.
              Progress is
The law of life: man is not Man as yet.
          Paracelsus. Part v.
    Say not “a small event!” Why “small”?
Costs it more pain that this ye call
A “great event” should come to pass
From that? Untwine me from the mass
Of deeds which make up life, one deed
Power shall fall short in or exceed!
          Pippa Passes. Introduction.
    God’s in his heaven:
All’s right with the world. 1 
          Pippa Passes. Part i.
    Some unsuspected isle in the far seas,—
Some unsuspected isle in far-off seas.
          Pippa Passes. Part ii.
    In the morning of the world,
When earth was nigher heaven than now.
          Pippa Passes. Part iii.
    All service ranks the same with God,—
With God, whose puppets, best and worst,
Are we: there is no last nor first.
          Pippa Passes. Part iv.
    I trust in Nature for the stable laws
Of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant
And Autumn garner to the end of time.
I trust in God,—the right shall be the right
And other than the wrong, while he endures.
I trust in my own soul, that can perceive
The outward and the inward,—Nature’s good
And God’s.
          A Soul’s Tragedy. Act. i.
      I judge people by what they might be,—not are, nor will be.
          A Soul’s Tragedy. Act ii.
    There’s a woman like a dewdrop, she’s so purer than the purest.
          A Blot in the ’Scutcheon. Act i. Sc. iii.
    When is man strong until he feels alone? 2 
          Colombe’s Birthday. Act iii.
    When the fight begins within himself,
A man ’s worth something.
          Men and Women. Bishop Blougram’s Apology.
              The sprinkled isles,
Lily on lily, that o’erlace the sea.
    And I have written three books on the soul,
Proving absurd all written hitherto,
And putting us to ignorance again.
    Rafael made a century of sonnets.
          One Word more. ii.
    Other heights in other lives, God willing.
          One Word more. xii.
    God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides,—one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her!
          One Word more. xvii.
    Oh their Rafael of the dear Madonnas,
Oh their Dante of the dread Inferno,
Wrote one song—and in my brain I sing it;
Drew one angel—borne, see, on my bosom!
          One Word more. xix.
              The lie was dead
And damned, and truth stood up instead.
          Count Gismond. xiii.
    Over my head his arm he flung
Against the world.
          Count Gismond. xix.
    Just my vengeance complete,
  The man sprang to his feet,
Stood erect, caught at God’s skirts, and prayed!
So, I was afraid!
          Instans Tyrannus. vii.
              Oh never star
Was lost here but it rose afar.
          Waring. ii.
    Sing, riding’s a joy! For me I ride.
          The last Ride together. vii.
    When the liquor’s out, why clink the cannikin?
          The Flight of the Duchess. xvi.
    That low man seeks a little thing to do,
    Sees it and does it;
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
    Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one,—
    His hundred’s soon hit;
This high man, aiming at a million,
    Misses an unit.
That has the world here—should he need the next,
    Let the world mind him!
This throws himself on God, and unperplexed
    Seeking shall find him.
          A Grammarian’s Funeral.
    Lofty designs must close in like effects.
          A Grammarian’s Funeral.
    The sin I impute to each frustrute ghost
Is—the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin,
Though the end in sight was a vice, I say.
          The Statue and the Bust.
    Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
          Childe Roland to the dark Tower came. xxxiii.
    Just for a handful of silver he left us,
  Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
          The lost Leader. i.
    We shall march prospering,—not thro’ his presence;
  Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
  Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire.
          The lost Leader. ii.
    They are perfect; how else?—they shall never change:
  We are faulty; why not?—we have time in store.
          Old Pictures in Florence. xvi.
          What’s come to perfection perishes.
Things learned on earth we shall practise in heaven;
  Works done least rapidly Art most cherishes.
          Old Pictures in Florence. xvii.
    Italy, my Italy!
Queen Mary’s saying serves for me
  (When fortune’s malice
  Lost her Calais):
“Open my heart, and you will see
Graved inside of it ‘Italy.’”
          De Gustibus. ii.
    That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture.
          Home-Thoughts from Abroad. ii.
    God made all the creatures, and gave them our love and our fear,
To give sign we and they are his children, one family here.
          Saul. vi.
    How good is man’s life, the mere living! how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!
          Saul. ix.
    ’T is not what man does which exalts him, but what man would do.
          Saul. xviii.
    O woman-country! 3 wooed not wed,
Loved all the more by earth’s male-lands,
Laid to their hearts instead.
          By the Fireside. vi.
              That great brow
And the spirit-small hand propping it.
          By the Fireside. xxiii.
    If two lives join, there is oft a scar.
  They are one and one, with a shadowy third;
One near one is too far.
          By the Fireside. xlvi.
              Only I discern
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.
          Two in the Campagna. xii.
    Round and round, like a dance of snow
In a dazzling drift, as its guardians, go
Floating the women faded for ages,
Sculptured in stone on the poet’s pages.
          Women and Roses.
    How he lies in his rights of a man!
Death has done all death can.
And absorbed in the new life he leads,
He recks not, he heeds
Nor his wrong nor my vengeance; both strike
On his senses alike,
And are lost in the solemn and strange
Surprise of the change.
    Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
  And did he stop and speak to you,
And did you speak to him again?
  How strange it seems, and new!
          Memorabilia. i.
    He who did well in war just earns the right
To begin doing well in peace.
          Luria. Act ii.
    And inasmuch as feeling, the East’s gift,
Is quick and transient,—comes, and lo! is gone,
While Northern thought is slow and durable.
          Luria. Act v.
    A people is but the attempt of many
To rise to the completer life of one;
And those who live as models for the mass
Are singly of more value than they all.
          Luria. Act v.
            I count life just a stuff
To try the soul’s strength on.
          In a Balcony.
    Was there nought better than to enjoy?
  No feat which, done, would make time break,
  And let us pent-up creatures through
  Into eternity, our due?
No forcing earth teach heaven’s employ?
          Dis aliter visum; or, Le Byron de nos Jours.
    There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
  The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with for evil so much good more;
  On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.
          Abt Vogler. ix.
            Then welcome each rebuff
      That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
      Be our joys three-parts pain!
      Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!
          Rabbi Ben Ezra.
    What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me.
          Rabbi Ben Ezra.
    Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure.
          Rabbi Ben Ezra.
    For life, with all it yields of joy and woe,
And hope and fear (believe the aged friend),
Is just our chance o’ the prize of learning love,—
How love might be, hath been indeed, and is.
          A Death in the Desert.
              The body sprang
At once to the height, and stayed; but the soul,—no!
          A Death in the Desert.
    What? Was man made a wheel-work to wind up,
And be discharged, and straight wound up anew?
No! grown, his growth lasts; taught, he ne’er forgets:
May learn a thousand things, not twice the same.
          A Death in the Desert.
    For I say this is death and the sole death,—
When a man’s loss comes to him from his gain,
Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance,
And lack of love from love made manifest.
          A Death in the Desert.
    Progress, man’s distinctive mark alone,
Not God’s, and not the beasts’: God is, they are;
Man partly is, and wholly hopes to be.
          A Death in the Desert.
              The ultimate, angels’ law,
Indulging every instinct of the soul
There where law, life, joy, impulse are one thing!
          A Death in the Desert.
    How sad and bad and mad it was! 4 
But then, how it was sweet!
          Confessions. ix.
    So may a glory from defect arise.
          Deaf and Dumb.
    This could but have happened once,—
  And we missed it, lost it forever.
          Youth and Art. xvii.
    Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
        The mist in my face.
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
        The heroes of old;
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
        Of pain, darkness, and cold.
    It’s wiser being good than bad;
  It’s safer being meek than fierce;
It’s fitter being sane than mad.
  My own hope is, a sun will pierce
The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
  That after Last returns the First,
Though a wide compass round be fetched;
  That what began best can’t end worst,
  Nor what God blessed once prove accurst.
          Apparent Failure. vii.
    In the great right of an excessive wrong.
          The Ring and the Book. The other Half-Rome. Line 1055.
              Was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day.
          The Ring and the Book. Pompilia. Line 357.
            The curious crime, the fine
Felicity and flower of wickedness.
          The Ring and the Book. The Pope. Line 590.
            Of what I call God,
And fools call Nature.
          The Ring and the Book. The Pope. Line 1073.
    Why comes temptation, but for man to meet
And master and make crouch beneath his foot,
And so be pedestaled in triumph?
          The Ring and the Book. The Pope. Line 1185.
    White shall not neutralize the black, nor good
Compensate bad in man, absolve him so:
Life’s business being just the terrible choice.
          The Ring and the Book. The Pope. Line 1236.
            It is the glory and good of Art
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth,—to mouths like mine, at least.
          The Ring and the Book. The Book and the Ring. Line 842.
    Thy 5 rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised)
Linking our England to his Italy.
          The Ring and the Book. The Book and the Ring. Line 873.
    But how carve way i’ the life that lies before,
If bent on groaning ever for the past?
          Balaustion’s Adventure.
    Better have failed in the high aim, as I,
Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed,—
As, God be thanked! I do not.
          The Inn Album. iv.
    Have you found your life distasteful?
  My life did, and does, smack sweet.
Was your youth of pleasure wasteful?
  Mine I saved and hold complete.
Do your joys with age diminish?
  When mine fail me, I’ll complain.
Must in death your daylight finish?
  My sun sets to rise again.
          At the “Mermaid.” Stanza 10.
                “With this same key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart” 6 once more!
Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!
          House. x.
    God’s justice, tardy though it prove perchance,
Rests never on the track until it reach
Delinquency. 7 
    Good, to forgive;
  Best, to forget!
  Living, we fret;
Dying, we live.
          Dedication to La Saisiaz.
    Can we love but on condition that the thing we love must die?
          La Saisiaz.
    Sky—what a scowl of cloud
  Till, near and far,
Ray on ray split the shroud:
  Splendid, a star!
          The two Poets of Croisic.
            As if true pride
Were not also humble!
          In an Album.
    Wanting is—what?
  Summer redundant,
  Blueness abundant,
    Where is the blot?
          Wanting—is what?
    Never the time and the place
And the loved one all together!
          Never the Time and the Place.
    But little do or can the best of us:
  That little is achieved through Liberty.
          Why I am a Liberal.
    There is no truer truth obtainable 8 
By Man than comes of music.
          Charles Avison.
Note 1.
See Holmes, page 691. [back]
Note 2.
Ibsen: The Enemy of the People. The strongest man on earth is he who stands alone. [back]
Note 3.
Italy. [back]
Note 4.
A. C. Swinburne: A Ballad of François Villon;

  Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother’s name. [back]
Note 5.
Mrs. Browning. [back]
Note 6.
See Wordsworth, page 485. [back]
Note 7.
See Herbert, page 206. [back]
Note 8.
See Bailey, page 722: Music tells no truths. [back]