From Pippa Passes
by Robert Browning
[Edited by David Whitworth and Glenn Everett. From the "Jules
and Phene" episode, we have reproduced the conversation among the name-dropping
students, and have provided links or illustrations to illuminate some of
Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from the hill-side to Orcana.
Foreign Students of painting and sculpture, from Venice, assembled opposite
the house of JULES, a young French statuary, at Possagno.
FIRST STUDENT: Attention! My own post is beneath this window, but
the pomegranate clump yonder will hide three or four of you with a little
squeezing, and Schramm and his pipe must lie flat in the balcony.
Four, five - who's a defaulter? We want everybody, for Jules must
not be suffered to hurt his bride when the jest's found out.
SECOND STUDENT: All here! Only our poet's away - never having much
meant to be present, moonstrike him! The airs of that fellow, that Giovacchino!
He was in violent love with himself, and had a fair prospect of thriving
in his suit, so unmolested was it, - when suddenly a woman falls in love
with him, too; and out of pure jealousy he takes himself off to Trieste,
immortal poem and all: whereto is this prophetical epitaph appended already,
as Bluphocks assures me, -'Here a mammoth-poem lies, Fouled to death by
butterflies.' His own fault, the simpleton! Instead of cramp couplets,
each like a knife in your entrails, he should write, says Bluphocks, both
classically and intelligibly. - Aesculapius, an Epic. Catalogue of the
drugs: Hebe's plaister
- One strip Cools your lip. Phoebus' emulsion - One bottle Clears
your throttle. Mercury's bolus - One box Cures ...
THIRD STUDENT: Subside, my fine fellow! If the marriage was over
by ten o'clock, Jules will certainly be here in a minute with his bride.
SECOND STUDENT: Good! - only, so should the poet's muse have been universally
acceptable, says Bluphocks, et canibus nostris ... and Delia not better
known to our literary dogs than the boy Giovacchino!
FIRST STUDENT: To the point, now. Where's Gottlieb, the new-comer?
Oh, - listen, Gottlieb, to what has called down this piece of friendly
vengeance on Jules, of which we now assemble to witness the winding-up.
We are all agreed, all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out on
us in a fury by and by: I am spokesman - the verses that are to undeceive
Jules bear my name of Lutwyche - but each professes himself alike insulted
by this strutting stone-squarer, who came alone from Paris to Munich, and
thence with a crowd of us to Venice and Possagno here, but proceeds in
a day or two alone again - oh, alone indubitably! - to Rome and Florence.
He, forsooth, take up his portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heartless
bunglers! - so he was heard to call us all: now, is Schramm brutalized,
I should like to know? Am I heartless?
GOTTLIEB: Why, somewhat heartless; for, suppose Jules a coxcomb as much
as you choose, still, for this mere coxcombry, you will have brushed off
- what do folks style it? - the bloom of his life. Is it too late
to alter? These love-letters now, you call his - I can't laugh at
FOURTH STUDENT: Because you never read the sham letters of our inditing
which drew forth these.
GOTTLIEB: His discovery of the truth will be frightful.
FOURTH STUDENT: That's the joke. But you should have joined us at the beginning:
there's no doubt he loves the girl - loves a model he might hire by the
GOTTLIEB: See here! 'He has been accustomed,' he writes, 'to have Canova's
women about him, in stone, and the world's women beside him, in flesh;
these being as much below, as those above, his soul's aspiration: but now
he is to have the reality.' There you laugh again! I say, you wipe
off the very dew of his youth.
FIRST STUDENT: Schramm! (Take the pipe out of his mouth, somebody!) Will
Jules lose the bloom of his youth?
SCHRAMM: Nothing worth keeping is ever lost in this world: look at a blossom
- it drops presently, having done its service and lasted its time; but
fruits succeed, and where would be the blossom's place could it continue?
As well affirm that your eye is no longer in your body, because its earliest
favourite, whatever it may have first loved to look on, is dead and done
with - as that any affection is lost to the soul when its first object,
whatever happened first to satisfy it, is superseded in due course. Keep
but ever looking, whether with the body's eye or the mind's, and you will
soon find something to look on! Has a man done wondering at women?
- there follow men, dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering
at men? - there's God to wonder at: and the faculty of wonder may be, at
the same time, old and tired enough with respect to its first object, and
yet young and fresh sufficiently, so far as concerns its novel one. Thus
FIRST STUDENT: Put
Schramm's pipe into his mouth again! There, you see! Well, this Jules
... a wretched fribble - oh, I watched his disportings at Possagno, the
other day! Canova's gallery - you know: there he marches first resolvedly
past great works by the dozen without vouchsafing an eye: all at once he
stops full at the
Psiche-fanciulla, - cannot pass
that old acquaintance without a nod of encouragement - 'In your new place,
beauty? Then behave yourself as well here as at Munich - I see you!'
Next he posts himself deliberately before the unfinished Pieta for half
an hour without moving, till up he starts of a sudden, and thrusts his
very nose into - I saw, into - the group; by which gesture you are informed
that precisely the sole point he had not fully mastered in Canova's practice
was a certain method of using the drill in the articulation of the knee
joint--and that, likewise, has he mastered at length! Good-bye, therefore,
to poor Canova - whose gallery no longer needs detain his successor Jules,
the predestinated novel thinker in marble!
FIFTH STUDENT: Tell him about the women: go on to the women!
FIRST STUDENT: Why, on that matter he could never be supercilious enough.
How should we be other (he said) than the poor devils you see, with those
debasing habits we cherish? He was not to wallow in that mire, at least:
he would wait, and love only at the proper time, and meanwhile put up with
the Psiche- fanciulla. Now, I happened to hear of a young Greek -
real Greek girl at Malamocco; a true Islander, do you see, with Alciphron's
'hair like sea-moss' - Schramm knows! - white and quiet as an apparition,
and fourteen years old at farthest, - a daughter of Natalia, so she swears
- that hag Natalia, who helps us to models at three lire an hour.
We selected this girl for the heroine of our jest. So first, Jules
received a scented letter - somebody had seen his Tydeus at the Academy,
and my picture was nothing to it: a profound admirer bade him persevere
- would make herself known to him ere long. (Paolina, my little friend
of the Fenice, transcribes divinely.) And in due time, the mysterious correspondent
gave certain hints of her peculiar charms - the pale cheeks, the black
hair - whatever, in short, had struck us in our Malamocco model: we retained
her name, too - Phene, which is, by interpretation, sea-eagle. Now,
think of Jules finding himself distinguished from the herd of us by such
a creature! In his very first answer he proposed marrying his monitress:
and fancy us over these letters, two, three times a day, to receive and
dispatch! I concocted the main of it: relations were in the way -
secrecy must be observed - in fine, would he wed her on trust, and only
speak to her when they were indissolubly united? St - St - Here they
SIXTH STUDENT: Both of them! Heaven's love, speak softly, speak within
FIFTH STUDENT: Look at the bridegroom! Half his hair in storm and
half in calm, - patted down over the left temple, - like a frothy cup one
blows on to cool it: and the same old blouse that he murders the marble
STUDENT: Not a rich vest like yours, Hannibal
Scratchy! - rich, that your face may the better set it off.
SIXTH STUDENT: And the bride! Yes, sure enough, our Phene!
Should you have known her in her clothes? How magnificently pale!
GOTTLIEB: She does not also take it for earnest, I hope ?
FIRST STUDENT: Oh, Natalia's concern, that is! We settle with Natalia.
SIXTH STUDENT: She does not speak - has evidently let out no word. The
only thing is, will she equally remember the rest of her lesson, and repeat
correctly all those verses which are to break the secret to Jules?
GOTTLIEB: How he gazes on her! Pity- pity!
FIRST STUDENT: They go in: now, silence! You three, - not nearer
the window, mind, than that pomegranate: just where the little girl, who
a few minutes ago passed us singing, is seated!
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