Category: Verse
Genres: Epic poem
Level 8.27 0:30 h
Asolando was the last collection of poems written and published by English poet Robert Browning. It was published on the day of his death in 18889. The title, Asolando, means "to amuse oneself at random" and is a fitting title for the five poems in this collection. The book ends with a final poem ironically titled Epilogue, which fits perfectly with the style Browning was renowned for.


Robert Browning




To whom but you, dear Friend, should I dedicate verses — some few written, all of them supervised, in the comfort of your presence, and with yet another experience of the gracious hospitality now bestowed on me since so many a year, — adding a charm even to my residences at Venice, and leaving me little regret for the surprise and delight at my visits to Asolo in bygone days?

I unite, you will see, the disconnected poems by a title-name popularly ascribed to the inventiveness of the ancient secretary of Queen Cornaro whose palace-tower still overlooks us: Asolare — “to disport in the open air, amuse one’s self at random.” The objection that such a word nowhere occurs in the works of the Cardinal is hardly important — Bembo was too thorough a purist to conserve in print a term which in talk he might possibly toy with: but the word is more likely derived from a Spanish source. I use it for love of the place, and in requital of your pleasant assurance that an early poem of mine first attracted you thither — where and elsewhere, at La Mura as Cà Alvisi, may all happiness attend you!

Gratefully and affectionately yours, R. B.

Asolo: October 15, 1889.

The greater part of Asolando was written in 1888–89, though in one instance at least an early poem was included in the collection. The title of the volume is explained in the dedication. The book, by a strange coincidence, was published on the day of Browning’s death.


“The Poet’s age is sad: for why?
In youth, the natural world could show
No common object but his eye
At once involved with alien glow —
His own soul’s iris-bow.

“And now a flower is just a flower:
Man, bird, beast are but beast, bird, man —
Simply themselves, uncinct by dower
Of dyes which, when life’s day began,
Round each in glory ran.”

Friend, did you need an optic glass,
Which were your choice? A lens to drape
In ruby, emerald, chrysopras,
Each object — or reveal its shape
Clear outlined, past escape,

The naked very thing? — so clear
That, when you had the chance to gaze,
You found its inmost self appear
Through outer seeming — truth ablaze,
Not falsehood’s fancy-haze?

How many a year, my Asolo,
Since — one step just from sea to land —
I found you, loved yet feared you so —
For natural objects seemed to stand
Palpably fire-clothed! No —

No mastery of mine o’er these!
Terror with beauty, like the Bush
Burning but unconsumed. Bend knees,
Drop eyes to earthward! Language? Tush!
Silence ‘tis awe decrees.

And now? The lambent flame is — where?
Lost from the naked world: earth, sky,
Hill, vale, tree, flower, — Italia’s rare
O’er-running beauty crowds the eye —
But flame? The Bush is bare.

Hill, vale, tree, flower — they stand distinct,
Nature to know and name. What then?
A Voice spoke thence which straight unlinked
Fancy from fact: see, all’s in ken:
Has once my eyelid winked?

No, for the purged ear apprehends
Earth’s import, not the eye late dazed.
The Voice said, “Call my works thy friends!
At Nature dost thou shrink amazed?
God is it who transcends.”

Asolo: September 6, 1889.


Woe, he went galloping into the war,
Clara, Clara!
Let us two dream: shall he ‘scape with a scar?
Scarcely disfigurement; rather a grace
Making for manhood which nowise we mar:
See, while I kiss it, the flush on his face —
Rosny, Rosny!

Light does he laugh: “With your love in my soul” —
(Clara, Clara!)
“How could I other than — sound, safe, and whole —
Cleave who opposed me asunder, yet stand
Scatheless beside you, as, touching love’s goal,
Who won the race kneels, craves reward at your hand —
Rosny, Rosny?”

Ay, but if certain who envied should see!
Clara, Clara,
Certain who simper: “The hero for me
Hardly of life were so chary as miss
Death — death and fame — that’s love’s guerdon when She
Boasts, proud bereaved one, her choice fell on this
Rosny, Rosny!”

So, — go on dreaming, — he lies mid a heap
(Clara, Clara,)
Of the slain by his hand: what is death but a sleep?
Dead, with my portrait displayed on his breast:
Love wrought his undoing: “No prudence could keep
The love-maddened wretch from his fate.” That is best,
Rosny, Rosny!


I will be happy if but for once:
Only help me, Autumn weather,
Me and my cares to screen, ensconce
In luxury’s sofa-lap of leather!

Sleep? Nay, comfort — with just a cloud
Suffusing day too clear and bright:
Eve’s essence, the single drop allowed
To sully, like milk, Noon’s water-white.

Let gauziness shade, not shroud — adjust,
Dim and not deaden, — somehow sheathe
Aught sharp in the rough world’s busy thrust,
If it reach me through dreaming’s vapor-wreath.

Be life so, all things ever the same!
For, what has disarmed the world? Outside,
Quiet and peace: inside, nor blame
Nor want, nor wish whate’er betide.

What is it like that has happened before?
A dream? No dream, more real by much.
A vision? But fanciful days of yore
Brought many: mere musing seems not such.

Perhaps but a memory, after all!
— Of what came once when a woman leant
To feel for my brow where her kiss might fall.
Truth ever, truth only the excellent!


Out of your whole life give but a moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it, — so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present, — condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense —
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me —
Me — sure that despite of time future, time past, —
This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet —
The moment eternal — just that and no more —
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!


What girl but, having gathered flowers,
Stript the beds and spoilt the bowers,
From the lapful light she carries
Drops a careless bud? — nor tarries
To regain the waif and stray:
“Store enough for home” — she’ll say.

So say I too: give your lover
Heaps of loving — under, over,
Whelm him — make the one the wealthy!
Am I all so poor who — stealthy
Work it was! — picked up what fell:
Not the worst bud — who can tell?


“So say the foolish!” Say the foolish so, Love?
“Flower she is, my rose” — or else, “My very swan is she” —
Or perhaps, “Yon maid-moon, blessing earth below, Love,
That art thou!” — to them, belike: no such vain words from me.

“Hush, rose, blush! no balm like breath,” I chide it:
“Bend thy neck its best, swan, — hers the whiter curve!”
Be the moon the moon: my Love I place beside it:
What is she? Her human self, — no lower word will serve.

Summum Bonum

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:
In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
Breath and bloom, shade and shine, — wonder, wealth, and — how far above them —
Truth, that’s brighter than gem,
Trust, that’s purer than pearl, —
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe — all were for me
In the kiss of one girl.

A Pearl, a Girl

A simple ring with a single stone,
To the vulgar eye no stone of price:
Whisper the right word, that alone —
Forth starts a sprite, like fire from ice,
And lo, you are lord (says an Eastern scroll)
Of heaven and earth, lord whole and sole
Through the power in a pearl.

A woman (‘tis I this time that say)
With little the world counts worthy praise;
Utter the true word — out and away
Escapes her soul: I am wrapt in blaze,
Creation’s lord, of heaven and earth
Lord whole and sole — by a minute’s birth —
Through the love in a girl!


Others may need new life in Heaven —
Man, Nature, Art — made new, assume!
Man with new mind old sense to leaven,
Nature, — new light to clear old gloom,
Art that breaks bounds, gets soaring-room.

I shall pray: “Fugitive as precious —
Minutes which passed, — return, remain!
Let earth’s old life once more enmesh us,
You with old pleasure, me — old pain,
So we but meet nor part again!”

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