Browning, 'Love Among the Ruins', 1855
from Men and Women (1855), ed. Paul Turner (Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 5-8

          

          Love Among the Ruins

 

                              1.

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,

Miles and miles 


On the solitary pastures where our sheep 
      

Half-asleep 


Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop 
      

As they crop—

 

                              2.


Was the site once of a city great and gay,

(So they say) 


Of our country's very capital, its prince

Ages since 


Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far

Peace or war.

 

                               3.


 Now — the country does not even boast a tree,

As you see, 


To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills

From the hills 


Intersect and give a name to, (else they run 
  

Into one)

 

                                4.


 Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires

Up like fires 


O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall

Bounding all, 


Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest,   

Twelve abreast.

 

                                    5.

 And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass

       Never was! 

Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads 

      And embeds 


Every vestige of the city, guessed alone, 
      

     Stock or stone—

 

                                   6.


 Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe

Long ago ;

Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame

Struck them tame ;

And that glory and that shame alike, the gold

Bought and sold.

 

                                   7.


 Now, —the single little turret that remains

On the plains,

By the caper overrooted, by the gourd

Overscored,

While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks

Through the chinks—

 

                                     8.

 Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time   

Sprang sublime,

And a burning ring all round, the chariots traced

As they raced,

And the monarch and his minions and his dames

Viewed the games.

 

                                     9.

 And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve

Smiles to leave

To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece

In such peace,

And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey

Melt away—

 

                                    10.

 That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair

Waits me there

In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
      

For the goal,

When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb

Till I come.

 

                                     11.

 But he looked upon the city, every side,   

Far and wide,

All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades’ 
      

Colonnades,

All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts, – and then,

All the men!

 

                                     12.

 When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand, 
     

Either hand 


On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace

Of my face, 


Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech  

Each on each.

 

                                    13.

 In one year they sent a million fighters forth

South and north, 


And they built their gods a brazen pillar high

As the sky, 


Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force---

Gold, of course.

 

                                   14.

 Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns! 
      

Earth's returns 


For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!

Shut them in, 


With their triumphs and their glories and the rest.

Love is best!

 


Robert Browning (1812-1889)