Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper with other Poems, Robert Browning
Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper with other Poems
Robert Browning
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Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper is a short collection of English poems by Robert Browning, published in 1876. The collection marked Browning's first collection of short pieces for more than twelve years, and was well received. The title poem, which ostensibly discusses the life and works of 15th Century Italian painter Giacomo Pacchiarotti, is actually a thinly veiled attack on Browning's own critics, and many other pieces in the collection take the same tone.

Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper with Other Poems

by
Robert Browning


Prologue

Oh, the old wall here! How I could pass
Life in a long midsummer day,
My feet confined to a plot of grass,
My eyes from a wall not once away!

And lush and lithe do the creepers clothe
Yon wall I watch, with a wealth of green:
Its bald red bricks draped, nothing loth,
In lappets of tangle they laugh between.

Now, what is it makes pulsate the robe?
Why tremble the sprays? What life o’erbrims
The body, — the house, no eye can probe, —
Divined as, beneath a robe, the limbs?

And there again! But my heart may guess
Who tripped behind; and she sang perhaps:
So, the old wall throbbed, and its life’s excess
Died out and away in the leafy wraps!

Wall upon wall are between us: life
And song should away from heart to heart!
I — prison-bird, with a ruddy strife
At breast, and a lip whence storm-notes start —

Hold on, hope hard in the subtle thing
That’s spirit: though cloistered fast, soar free;
Account as wood, brick, stone, this ring
Of the rueful neighbors, and — forth to thee!


Of Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper

I

Query: was ever a quainter
Crotchet than this of the painter
Giacomo Pacchiarotto
Who took “Reform” for his motto?

II

He, pupil of old Fungaio,
Is always confounded (heigho!)
With Pacchia, contemporaneous
No question, but how extraneous
In the grace of soul, the power
Of hand, — undoubted dower
Of Pacchia who decked (as we know,
My Kirkup!) San Bernardino,
Turning the small dark Oratory
To Siena’s Art-laboratory,
As he made its straitness roomy
And glorified its gloomy,
With Bazzi and Beccafumi.
(Another heigho for Bazzi:
How people miscall him Razzi!)

III

This Painter was of opinion
Our earth should be his dominion
Whose Art could correct to pattern
What Nature had slurred — the slattern!
And since, beneath the heavens,
Things lay now at sixes and sevens,
Or, as he said, sopra-sotto
Thought the painter Pacchiarotto
Things wanted reforming, therefore.
“Wanted it” — ay, but wherefore?
When earth held one so ready
As he to step forth, stand steady
In the middle of God’s creation
And prove to demonstration
What the dark is, what the light is,
What the wrong is, what the right is,
What the ugly, what the beautiful,
What the restive, what the dutiful,
In Mankind profuse around him?
Man, devil as now he found him,
Would presently soar up angel
At the summons of such evangel,
And owe — what would Man not owe
To the painter Pacchiarotto?
Ay, look to thy laurels, Giotto!

IV

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