A hypermedia edition of Robert Browning's
“A Toccata Of Galuppi's”
The text of the poem has been taken from the University of Toronto's
on-line Representative Poetry. Publication Date: 1855
Ed. (text): F. E. L. Priestley; (e-text): I. Lancashire. Rep.
In-text Notes are keyed to line numbers.
Original Text: Robert Browning, Men and Women,
2 vols. (1855.) Rev. 1863.
First Publication Date: 1855.
Representative Poetry On-line: Editor, I. Lancashire;
Publisher, Web Development Group, Inf. Tech. Services, Univ. of Toronto
Edition: 3RP 3.128. © F. E. L. Priestley
and I. Lancashire, Dept. of English (Univ. of Toronto), and Univ. of Toronto
1 Oh Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very
sad to find!
2 I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove
me deaf and blind;
3 But although I take your meaning, 'tis with
such a heavy mind!
4 Here you come with your old music, and here's
all the good it brings.
5 What, they lived once thus at Venice where
the merchants were the kings,
Saint Mark's is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?
7 Ay, because the sea's the street there; and 'tis
arched by . . . what you call
8 . . . Shylock's
houses on it, where they kept the carnival:
9 I was never out of England--it's as if I
saw it all.
10 Did young people take their pleasure when the sea was warm
11 Balls and masks begun at midnight, burning ever to mid-day,
12 When they made up fresh adventures for the morrow, do
13 Was a lady such a lady, cheeks so round and lips so red,--
14 On her neck the small face buoyant, like a bell-flower
on its bed,
15 O'er the breast's superb abundance where a man might
base his head?
16 Well, and it was graceful of them--they'd break talk off
17 --She, to bite her mask's black velvet--he, to finger
on his sword,
18 While you sat and played Toccatas, stately at the clavichord?
19 What? Those lesser thirds so plaintive,
sixths diminished, sigh on sigh,
20 Told them something? Those suspensions, those solutions--"Must
21 Those commiserating sevenths--"Life might last! we can
22 "Were you happy?" --"Yes."--"And are you still as happy?"--"Yes.
23 --"Then, more kisses!"--"Did I stop them, when
a million seemed so few?"
24 Hark, the dominant's persistence till
it must be answered to!
25 So, an octave struck the answer. Oh, they praised you, I
26 "Brave Galuppi! that was music! good alike at grave
27 "I can always leave off talking when I hear a master
28 Then they left you for their pleasure: till in due time,
one by one,
29 Some with lives that came to nothing, some with deeds
as well undone,
30 Death stepped tacitly and took them where they never
see the sun.
31 But when I sit down to reason, think to take my stand nor
32 While I triumph o'er a secret wrung from nature's close
33 In you come with your cold music till I creep thro'
34 Yes, you, like a ghostly cricket, creaking where a house
35 "Dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what
36 "The soul, doubtless, is immortal--where a soul can
37 "Yours for instance: you know physics, something of geology,
38 "Mathematics are your pastime; souls shall rise in their
39 "Butterflies may dread extinction,--you'll not die,
it cannot be!
40 "As for Venice and her people, merely born to bloom and
41 "Here on earth they bore their fruitage, mirth and folly
were the crop:
42 "What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had
43 "Dust and ashes!" So you creak it, and I want the heart
44 Dear dead women, with such hair, too--what's become
of all the gold
45 Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and
Credits and Copyright
Together with the editors, the Department of English (University of Toronto),
and the University of Toronto Press, the following individuals share copyright
for the work that went into this edition:
Screen Design (Electronic Edition):
Sian Meikle (University of Toronto Library)
Sharine Leung (Centre for Computing in the Humanities)
NOTES (Most from the Toronto edition; those added for the Browning
Multimedia Edition indicated by the student's name in bold).
First published in volume I of Men and Women, 1855, but almost certainly
written earlier (between 1847 and 1853). Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
was a famous Venetian composer, at one time organist at St. Mark's, now
best known for his light operas. A toccata is a composition for the keyboard
originally intended to exercise the touch, as its name suggests. It comes
to serve as an exhibition of the player's technical virtuosity.
In an annual ceremony on Ascension Day, the Doge (from dux) or chief
magistrate of Venice "wed" the city to the sea by dropping a ring into
the Adriatic, to symbolize the city's close union with the sea and power
over it. Venice was for long the greatest maritime power in Europe. The linked photo of the Palazzo Corner illustrates such an area
where the Doges might have "wed the sea with rings." (Note by Christopher
Shylock's bridge: the famous Rialto bridge over the Grand Canal, the speaker
as a modern Englishman "never out of England," naturally thinks of Venice
in terms of The Merchant of Venice.
lesser thirds, sixths diminished, sevenths, suspensions, solutions: the
chords Galuppi is using in the toccata.
The seventh chord on the dominant or fifth, one of the "suspensions," demands
the resolution of the "octave" or tonic chord.
- Photo source: Paoletti, John T., and Gary M. Radke. Art in Renaissance
Italy. NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1997. (Note by Christopher
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