A Serenade at the Villa

I
1That was I, you heard last night,
2     When there rose no moon at all,
3Nor, to pierce the strained and tight
4     Tent of heaven, a planet small:
5Life was dead and so was light.
II
6Not a twinkle from the fly,
8When the crickets stopped their cry,
9     When the owls forbore a term,
10You heard music; that was I.
III
11Earth turned in her sleep with pain,
12     Sultrily suspired for proof:
13In at heaven and out again,
14     Lightning! --- where it broke the roof,
15Bloodlike, some few drops of rain.
IV
16What they could my words expressed,
17     O my love, my all, my one!
18Singing helped the verses best,
19     And when singing's best was done,
20To my lute I left the rest.
V
21So wore night; the East was gray,
22     White the broad-faced hemlock-flowers:
23There would be another day;
24     Ere its first of heavy hours
25Found me, I had passed away.
VI
26What became of all the hopes,
27     Words and song and lute as well?
29     Feebly for the path where fell
30Light last on the evening slopes,
VII
31"One friend in that path shall be,
32     To secure my step from wrong;
33One to count night day for me,
34     Patient through the watches long,
35Serving most with none to see."
VIII
36Never say --- as something bodes ---
37     "So, the worst has yet a worse!
38When life halts 'neath double loads,
39     Better the taskmaster's curse
40Than such music on the roads!
IX
41"When no moon succeeds the sun,
42     Nor can pierce the midnight's tent
43Any star, the smallest one,
44     While some drops, where lightning rent,
45Show the final storm begun ---
X
46"When the fire-fly hides its spot,
47     When the garden-voices fail
48In the darkness thick and hot, ---
49     Shall another voice avail,
50That shape be where these are not?
XI
51"Has some plague a longer lease,
52     Proffering its help uncouth?
53Can't one even die in peace?
54     As one shuts one's eyes on youth,
55Is that face the last one sees?"
XII
56Oh how dark your villa was,
57     Windows fast and obdurate!
58How the garden grudged me grass
59     Where I stood --- the iron gate
60Ground its teeth to let me pass!

Notes

7] The fly and the worm presumably refer to fire-flies (see stanza X) and glow-worms: all light has been extinguished, including the faint light from these small creatures. Back to Line
28] The use of quotation marks in stanzas VI to XI has been altered: quotation marks at the beginnings of lines that continue the quotation have been removed, unless the line begins a new stanza. Back to Line
Original Text: 
Robert Browning, The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888), 6: 155-158.
Publication Start Year: 
1855
RPO poem Editors: 
Marc R. Plamondon
RPO Edition: 
2005
Rhyme: