Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Robert Browning  (1812 –  1889)

 

Gr-r-r–there go, my heart’s abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God’s blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims–
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

At the meal we sit together;
Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:
What’s the Latin name for “parsley”?
What’s the Greek name for “swine’s snout”?

Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we’re furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere ’tis fit to touch our chaps–
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

Saint, forsooth! While Brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
–Can’t I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as ’twere a Barbary corsair’s?
(That is, if he’d let it show!)

When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As I do, in Jesu’s praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp–
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp!

Oh, those melons! if he’s able
We’re to have a feast; so nice!
One goes to the Abbot’s table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange! And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

There’s a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails;
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

Or, my scrofulous French novel
On gray paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial’s gripe;
If I double down the pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in’t?

Or, there’s Satan! one might venture
Pledge one’s soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he’d miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We’re so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine . . . .
‘St, there’s Vespers! Plena gratia
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r – you swine!

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