Andrea del Sarto

Original Text: 
Robert Browning, Men and Women, 2 vols. (1855). Rev. 1863.
2No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once:
3Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
4You turn your face, but does it bring your heart?
5I'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear,
6Treat his own subject after his own way,
7Fix his own time, accept too his own price,
8And shut the money into this small hand
9When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly?
10Oh, I'll content him,--but to-morrow, Love!
11I often am much wearier than you think,
12This evening more than usual, and it seems
13As if--forgive now--should you let me sit
14Here by the window with your hand in mine
15And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole,
16Both of one mind, as married people use,
17Quietly, quietly the evening through,
18I might get up to-morrow to my work
19Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try.
20To-morrow, how you shall be glad for this!
21Your soft hand is a woman of itself,
22And mine the man's bared breast she curls inside.
23Don't count the time lost, neither; you must serve
24For each of the five pictures we require:
25It saves a model. So! keep looking so--
26My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds!
27--How could you ever prick those perfect ears,
28Even to put the pearl there! oh, so sweet--
29My face, my moon, my everybody's moon,
30Which everybody looks on and calls his,
31And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn,
32While she looks--no one's: very dear, no less.
33You smile? why, there's my picture ready made,
34There's what we painters call our harmony!
35A common greyness silvers everything,--
36All in a twilight, you and I alike
37--You, at the point of your first pride in me
38(That's gone you know),--but I, at every point;
39My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down
40To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole.
41There's the bell clinking from the chapel-top;
42That length of convent-wall across the way
43Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside;
44The last monk leaves the garden; days decrease,
45And autumn grows, autumn in everything.
46Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape
47As if I saw alike my work and self
48And all that I was born to be and do,
49A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God's hand.
50How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead;
51So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!
52I feel he laid the fetter: let it lie!
53This chamber for example--turn your head--
54All that's behind us! You don't understand
55Nor care to understand about my art,
56But you can hear at least when people speak:
58--It is the thing, Love! so such things should be--
59Behold Madonna!--I am bold to say.
60  I can do with my pencil what I know,
61What I see, what at bottom of my heart
62I wish for, if I ever wish so deep--
63Do easily, too--when I say, perfectly,
64I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge,
65Who listened to the Legate's talk last week,
66And just as much they used to say in France.
67At any rate 'tis easy, all of it!
68No sketches first, no studies, that's long past:
69I do what many dream of, all their lives,
70--Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
71And fail in doing. I could count twenty such
72On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
73Who strive--you don't know how the others strive
74To paint a little thing like that you smeared
75Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,--
76Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
77(I know his name, no matter)--so much less!
78Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
79There burns a truer light of God in them,
80In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
81Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
82This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
83Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
84Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me,
85Enter and take their place there sure enough,
86Though they come back and cannot tell the world.
87My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here.
88The sudden blood of these men! at a word--
89Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too.
90I, painting from myself and to myself,
91Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame
92Or their praise either. Somebody remarks
93Morello's outline there is wrongly traced,
94His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
95Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
96Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
97Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
98Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey,
99Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
100I know both what I want and what might gain,
101And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
102"Had I been two, another and myself,
103"Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt.
104Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth
106('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.)
107Well, I can fancy how he did it all,
108Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see,
109Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him,
110Above and through his art--for it gives way;
111That arm is wrongly put--and there again--
112A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines,
113Its body, so to speak: its soul is right,
114He means right--that, a child may understand.
115Still, what an arm! and I could alter it:
116But all the play, the insight and the stretch--
117(Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out?
118Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul,
119We might have risen to Rafael, I and you!
120Nay, Love, you did give all I asked, I think--
121More than I merit, yes, by many times.
122But had you--oh, with the same perfect brow,
123And perfect eyes, and more than perfect mouth,
124And the low voice my soul hears, as a bird
125The fowler's pipe, and follows to the snare --
126Had you, with these the same, but brought a mind!
127Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged
128"God and the glory! never care for gain.
129"The present by the future, what is that?
131"Rafael is waiting: up to God, all three!"
132I might have done it for you. So it seems:
133Perhaps not. All is as God over-rules.
134Beside, incentives come from the soul's self;
135The rest avail not. Why do I need you?
136What wife had Rafael, or has Agnolo?
137In this world, who can do a thing, will not;
138And who would do it, cannot, I perceive:
139Yet the will's somewhat--somewhat, too, the power--
140And thus we half-men struggle. At the end,
141God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.
142'Tis safer for me, if the award be strict,
143That I am something underrated here,
144Poor this long while, despised, to speak the truth.
145I dared not, do you know, leave home all day,
146For fear of chancing on the Paris lords.
147The best is when they pass and look aside;
148But they speak sometimes; I must bear it all.
149Well may they speak! That Francis, that first time,
150And that long festal year at Fontainebleau!
151I surely then could sometimes leave the ground,
152Put on the glory, Rafael's daily wear,
153In that humane great monarch's golden look,--
154One finger in his beard or twisted curl
155Over his mouth's good mark that made the smile,
156One arm about my shoulder, round my neck,
157The jingle of his gold chain in my ear,
158I painting proudly with his breath on me,
159All his court round him, seeing with his eyes,
160Such frank French eyes, and such a fire of souls
161Profuse, my hand kept plying by those hearts,--
162And, best of all, this, this, this face beyond,
163This in the background, waiting on my work,
164To crown the issue with a last reward!
165A good time, was it not, my kingly days?
166And had you not grown restless... but I know--
167'Tis done and past: 'twas right, my instinct said:
168Too live the life grew, golden and not grey,
169And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt
170Out of the grange whose four walls make his world.
171How could it end in any other way?
172You called me, and I came home to your heart.
173The triumph was--to reach and stay there; since
174I reached it ere the triumph, what is lost?
175Let my hands frame your face in your hair's gold,
176You beautiful Lucrezia that are mine!
177"Rafael did this, Andrea painted that;
178"The Roman's is the better when you pray,
179"But still the other's Virgin was his wife--"
180Men will excuse me. I am glad to judge
181Both pictures in your presence; clearer grows
182My better fortune, I resolve to think.
183For, do you know, Lucrezia, as God lives,
184Said one day Agnolo, his very self,
185To Rafael . . . I have known it all these years . . .
186(When the young man was flaming out his thoughts
187Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see,
188Too lifted up in heart because of it)
189"Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub
190"Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how,
191"Who, were he set to plan and execute
192"As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings,
193"Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!"
194To Rafael's!--And indeed the arm is wrong.
195I hardly dare . . . yet, only you to see,
196Give the chalk here--quick, thus, the line should go!
197Ay, but the soul! he's Rafael! rub it out!
198Still, all I care for, if he spoke the truth,
199(What he? why, who but Michel Agnolo?
200Do you forget already words like those?)
201If really there was such a chance, so lost,--
202Is, whether you're--not grateful--but more pleased.
203Well, let me think so. And you smile indeed!
204This hour has been an hour! Another smile?
205If you would sit thus by me every night
206I should work better, do you comprehend?
207I mean that I should earn more, give you more.
208See, it is settled dusk now; there's a star;
209Morello's gone, the watch-lights show the wall,
210The cue-owls speak the name we call them by.
211Come from the window, love,--come in, at last,
212Inside the melancholy little house
213We built to be so gay with. God is just.
214King Francis may forgive me: oft at nights
215When I look up from painting, eyes tired out,
216The walls become illumined, brick from brick
217Distinct, instead of mortar, fierce bright gold,
218That gold of his I did cement them with!
219Let us but love each other. Must you go?
220That Cousin here again? he waits outside?
221Must see you--you, and not with me? Those loans?
222More gaming debts to pay? you smiled for that?
223Well, let smiles buy me! have you more to spend?
224While hand and eye and something of a heart
225Are left me, work's my ware, and what's it worth?
226I'll pay my fancy. Only let me sit
227The grey remainder of the evening out,
228Idle, you call it, and muse perfectly
229How I could paint, were I but back in France,
230One picture, just one more--the Virgin's face,
231Not yours this time! I want you at my side
232To hear them--that is, Michel Agnolo--
233Judge all I do and tell you of its worth.
234Will you? To-morrow, satisfy your friend.
235I take the subjects for his corridor,
236Finish the portrait out of hand--there, there,
237And throw him in another thing or two
238If he demurs; the whole should prove enough
239To pay for this same Cousin's freak. Beside,
240What's better and what's all I care about,
241Get you the thirteen scudi for the ruff!
242Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he,
243The Cousin! what does he to please you more?
244I am grown peaceful as old age to-night.
245I regret little, I would change still less.
246Since there my past life lies, why alter it?
247The very wrong to Francis!--it is true
248I took his coin, was tempted and complied,
249And built this house and sinned, and all is said.
250My father and my mother died of want.
251Well, had I riches of my own? you see
252How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot.
253They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died:
254And I have laboured somewhat in my time
255And not been paid profusely. Some good son
256Paint my two hundred pictures--let him try!
257No doubt, there's something strikes a balance. Yes,
258You loved me quite enough. it seems to-night.
259This must suffice me here. What would one have?
260In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance--
261Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
262Meted on each side by the angel's reed,
264To cover--the three first without a wife,
265While I have mine! So--still they overcome
266Because there's still Lucrezia,--as I choose.
267Again the Cousin's whistle! Go, my Love.


1] First published in Men and Women, 1855. Again Browning draws upon Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Painters (published in 1550) for the details of Andrea's life. Andrea (1486-1531) was the son of a tailor in Florence; hence the name "del Sarto." From 1509-14, having served his apprenticeship and learned his craft, he was engaged to do a series of frescoes for the Church of the Annunciation in Florence, and then to do another series for the Church of the Recollets. It was these pauntings that secured his fame and earned him the title "Il Pittore senza Errori"--the faultless painter. During this period he married Lucrezia del Fede, a widow, who served as a model for a number of his pictures. In 1518, Andrea was invited by Francis I of France to come to the court at Fontainebleau. The next year Francis gave him money to be used in the purchase of pictures in Florence for the palace of Fontainebleau, and Andrea left France on this commission. According to Vasari, through Lucrecia's persuasion Andrea used the king's money to build himself a house in Florence, never daring to return to France, and in effect destroying "the eminence he had attained with so much labour." Much of Vasari's story has been doubted by modern scholars; nor are they inclined to share Vasari's (and Browning's) view of the limitations of Andrea's art. The accuracy of Browning's poem as biography or as art criticism is, however, of doubtful relevance to its success or to its meaning. Back to Line
57] Cartoon: a preliminary sketch on paper, usually in charcoal or crayon, working out the composition or detail for a painting. Back to Line
105] Urbinate: the painter Raphael (1483-1520) was born in Urbino, near Florence. Back to Line
130] Agnolo: Michaelangelo (1475-1564). Back to Line
263] Leonard: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
F. E. L. Priestley
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.140.