Two in the Campagna

Original Text: 
Robert Browning, Men and Women, vol. II (1855.) Rev. 1863.
2      As I have felt since, hand in hand,
3We sat down on the grass, to stray
4      In spirit better through the land,
5This morn of Rome and May?
6For me, I touched a thought, I know,
7      Has tantalized me many times,
8(Like turns of thread the spiders throw
9      Mocking across our path) for rhymes
10To catch at and let go.
11Help me to hold it! First it left
12      The yellowing fennel, run to seed
13There, branching from the brickwork's cleft,
14      Some old tomb's ruin: yonder weed
15Took up the floating weft,
16Where one small orange cup amassed
17      Five beetles,--blind and green they grope
18Among the honey-meal: and last,
19      Everywhere on the grassy slope
20I traced it. Hold it fast!
21The champaign with its endless fleece
22      Of feathery grasses everywhere!
23Silence and passion, joy and peace,
24      An everlasting wash of air--
25Rome's ghost since her decease.
26Such life here, through such lengths of hours,
27      Such miracles performed in play,
28Such primal naked forms of flowers,
29      Such letting nature have her way
30While heaven looks from its towers!
31How say you? Let us, O my dove,
32      Let us be unashamed of soul,
33As earth lies bare to heaven above!
34      How is it under our control
35To love or not to love?
36I would that you were all to me,
37      You that are just so much, no more.
38Nor yours nor mine, nor slave nor free!
39      Where does the fault lie? What the core
40O' the wound, since wound must be?
41I would I could adopt your will,
42      See with your eyes, and set my heart
43Beating by yours, and drink my fill
44      At your soul's springs,--your part my part
45In life, for good and ill.
46No. I yearn upward, touch you close,
47      Then stand away. I kiss your cheek,
48Catch your soul's warmth,--I pluck the rose
49      And love it more than tongue can speak--
50Then the good minute goes.
51Already how am I so far
52      Out of that minute? Must I go
53Still like the thistle-ball, no bar,
54      Onward, whenever light winds blow,
55Fixed by no friendly star?
56Just when I seemed about to learn!
57      Where is the thread now? Off again!
58The old trick! Only I discern--
59      Infinite passion, and the pain
60Of finite hearts that yearn.


1] The Campagna is the great open plain (the "champaign" of line 21) outside Rome. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
F. E. L. Priestley
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.126.