Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day, Robert Browning
Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day
Robert Browning
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Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day; Introduced by a Dialogue Between Apollo and the Fates; Concluded by Another Between John Fust and His Friends is an 1887 epic poem by Robert Browning.

Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day

Robert Browning

Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day


Absens Absentem Auditque Videtque.

Apollo and the Fates
A Prologue

(Hymn in Mercurium, v. 559. Eumenides, vv. 693–4, 697–8. Alcestis, vv. 12, 33.)

Apollo. (From above.) Flame at my footfall, Parnassus! Apollo,
Breaking ablaze on thy topmost peak,
Burns thence, down to the depths — dread hollow —
Haunt of the Dire Ones. Haste! They wreak
Wrath on Admetus whose respite I seek.

The Fates. (Below. Darkness.) Dragonwise couched in the womb of our Mother,
Coiled at thy nourishing heart’s core, Night!
Dominant Dreads, we, one by the other,
Deal to each mortal his dole of light
On earth — the upper, the glad, the bright.

Clotho. Even so: thus from my loaded spindle
Plucking a pinch of the fleece, lo, “Birth”
Brays from my bronze lip: life I kindle:
Look, ‘t is a man! go, measure on earth
The minute thy portion, whatever its worth!

Lachesis. Woe-purfled, weal-prankt, — if it speed, if it linger, —
Life’s substance and show are determined by me,
Who, meting out, mixing with sure thumb and finger,
Lead life the due length: is all smoothness and glee,
All tangle and grief? Take the lot, my decree!

Atropos. — Which I make an end of: the smooth as the tangled
My shears cut asunder: each snap shrieks “One more
Mortal makes sport for us Moirai who dangled
The puppet grotesquely till earth’s solid floor
Proved film he fell through, lost in Naught as before.”

Clo. I spin thee a thread. Live, Admetus! Produce him!

Lac. Go, — brave, wise, good, happy! Now chequer the thread!
He is slaved for, yet loved by a god. I unloose him
A goddess-sent plague. He has conquered, is wed,
Men crown him, he stands at the height, —

Atr. He is …

Apollo. (Entering: Light.) “Dead?”

Nay, swart spinsters! So I surprise you
Making and marring the fortunes of Man?
Huddling — no marvel, your enemy eyes you —
Head by head bat-like, blots under the ban
Of daylight earth’s blessing since time began!

The Fates. Back to thy blest earth, prying Apollo!
Shaft upon shaft transpierce with thy beams
Earth to the centre, — spare but this hollow
Hewn out of Night’s heart, where our mystery seems
Mewed from day’s malice: wake earth from her dreams!

Apol. Crones, ‘t is your dusk selves I startle from slumber:
Day’s god deposes you — queens Night-crowned!
— Plying your trade in a world ye encumber,
Fashioning Man’s web of life — spun, wound,
Left the length ye allot till a clip strews the ground!

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