Count Gismond--Aix in Provence

Original Text: 
Robert Browning, Dramatic Lyrics (1842).
2    Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
3Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
4    Chose time and place and company
5To suit it; when he struck at length
6My honour, 't was with all his strength.
7And doubtlessly, ere he could draw
8    All points to one, he must have schemed!
9That miserable morning saw
10    Few half so happy as I seemed,
11While being dressed in queen's array
12To give our tourney prize away.
13I thought they loved me, did me grace
14    To please themselves; 't was all their deed;
15God makes, or fair or foul, our face;
16    If showing mine so caused to bleed
17My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped
18A word, and straight the play had stopped.
19They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen
20    By virtue of her brow and breast;
21Not needing to be crowned, I mean,
22    As I do. E'en when I was dressed,
23Had either of them spoke, instead
24Of glancing sideways with still head!
25But no: they let me laugh, and sing
26    My birthday song quite through, adjust
27The last rose in my garland, fling
28    A last look on the mirror, trust
29My arms to each an arm of theirs,
30And so descend the castle-stairs-
31And come out on the morning troop
32    Of merry friends who kissed my cheek,
33And called me queen, and made me stoop
34    Under the canopy-(a streak
35That pierced it, of the outside sun,
36Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)-
37And they could let me take my state
38    And foolish throne amid applause
39Of all come there to celebrate
40    My queen's-day-Oh I think the cause
41Of much was, they forgot no crowd
42Makes up for parents in their shroud!
43However that be, all eyes were bent
44    Upon me, when my cousins cast
45Theirs down; 't was time I should present
46    The victor's crown, but ... there, 't will last
47No long time ... the old mist again
48Blinds me as then it did. How vain!
49See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk
50    With his two boys: I can proceed.
51Well, at that moment, who should stalk
52    Forth boldly-to my face, indeed-
53But Gauthier? and he thundered "Stay!"
54And all stayed. "Bring no crowns, I say!
55"Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet
56    "About her! Let her shun the chaste,
57"Or lay herself before their feet!
58    "Shall she, whose body I embraced
59"A night long, queen it in the day?
60"For honour's sake no crowns, I say!"
61I? What I answered? As I live,
62    I never fancied such a thing
63As answer possible to give.
64    What says the body when they spring
65Some monstrous torture-engine's whole
66Strength on it? No more says the soul.
67Till out strode Gismond; then I knew
68    That I was saved. I never met
69His face before, but, at first view,
70    I felt quite sure that God had set
71Himself to Satan; would who spend
72A minute's mistrust on the end?
73He strode to Gauthier, in his throat
74    Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth
75With one back-handed blow that wrote
76    In blood men's verdict there. North, South,
77East, West, I looked. The lie was dead,
78And damned, and truth stood up instead.
79This glads me most, that I enjoyed
80    The heart o' the joy, with my content
81In watching Gismond unalloyed
82    By any doubt of the event:
83God took that on him-I was bid
84Watch Gismond for my part: I did.
85Did I not watch him while he let
86    His armourer just brace his greaves,
87Rivet his hauberk, on the fret
88    The while! His foot ... my memory leaves
89No least stamp out nor how anon
90He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.
91And e'en before the trumpet's sound
92    Was finished, prone lay the false knight,
93Prone as his lie, upon the ground:
94    Gismond flew at him, used no sleight
95O' the sword, but open-breasted drove,
96Cleaving till out the truth he clove.
97Which done, he dragged him to my feet
98    And said, "Here die, but end thy breath
99"In full confession, lest thou fleet
100    "From my first, to God's second death!
101"Say, hast thou lied? "And, "I have lied
102"To God and her,"he said, and died.
103Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked
104    -What safe my heart holds, though no word
105Could I repeat now, if I tasked
106    My powers for ever, to a third
107Dear even as you are. Pass the rest
108Until I sank upon his breast.
109Over my head his arm he flung
110    Against the world; and scarce I felt
111His sword (that dripped by me and swung)
112    A little shifted in its belt:
113For he began to say the while
114How South our home lay many a mile.
115So, 'mid the shouting multitude
116    We two walked forth to never more
117Return. My cousins have pursued
118    Their life, untroubled as before
119I vexed them. Gauthier's dwelling-place
120God lighten! May his soul find grace!
121Our elder boy has got the clear
122    Great brow, tho' when his brother's black
123Full eye shows scorn, it ... Gismond here?
124    And have you brought my tercel back?
125I was just telling Adela
126How many birds it struck since May.


1] Originally entitled "Italy." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1916), pp. 357-59; RPO 1997.