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My Last Duchess.


THAT'S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive; I call

That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)

And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frå Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
Over my Lady's wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat;" such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had

A heart.. how shall I say? . . too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace-all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,

Or blush, at least. She thanked men,-good; but thanked
Somehow. . I know not how . . as if she ranked
My gift of a nine hundred years old name

With anybody's gift.

This sort of trifling?

Who'd stoop to blame

Even had you skill

In speech-(which I have not)-—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark "—and if she let
Herself be lessoned, so, nor plainly set

Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
-E'en then would be some stooping, and I chuse
Never to stoop. Oh, Sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands

As if alive. Will't please you rise?

We'll meet

The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your Master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense

Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, Sir! Notice Neptune, tho',
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,

Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

Count Gismond.


CHRIST GOD, who savest men, save most
Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
Chose time and place and company
To suit it; when he struck at length
My honor 'twas with all his strength.

And doubtlessly ere he could draw

All points to one, he must have schemed! That miserable morning saw

Few half so happy as I seemed, While being dressed in Queen's array To give our Tourney prize away.

I thought they loved me, did me grace
To please themselves; 'twas all their deed:
God makes, or fair or foul, our face;
If showing mine so caused to bleed
My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped
A word, and straight the play had stopped.

They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen
By virtue of her brow and breast;
Not needing to be crowned, I mean,
As I do. E'en when I was dressed,
Had either of them spoke, instead
Of glancing sideways with still head!

But no: they let me laugh and sing

My birthday song quite through, adjust The last rose in my garland, fling

A last look on the mirror, trust My arms to each an arm of theirs, And so descend the castle-stairs

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And come out on the morning troop

Of merry friends who kissed my cheek, And called me Queen, and made me stoop Under the canopy-(a streak

That pierced it, of the outside sun,

Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)—

And they could let me take my state
And foolish throne amid applause
Of all come there to celebrate

My Queen's day-Oh, I think the cause
Of much was, they forgot no crowd
Makes up for parents in their shroud!

Howe'er that be, all eyes were bent

Upon me, when my cousins cast
Theirs down; 'twas time I should present

The victor's crown, but . . there, 'twill last

No long time . . . the old mist again
Blinds me as then it did. How vain!

See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk

With his two boys: I can proceed.
Well, at that moment, who should stalk
Forth boldly (to my face, indeed)
But Gauthier, and he thundered “Stay!”
And all stayed.

Bring torches!

"Bring no crowns, I say!"

Wind the penance-sheet

About her! Let her shun the chaste,

Or lay herself before their feet!

Shall she, whose body I embraced

A night long, queen it in the day?
For Honor's sake no crowns. I say!"

I? What I answered?

As I live

I never fancied such a thing

As answer possible to give.

What says the body when they spring

Some monstrous torture-engine's whole
Strength on it? No more says the soul.

Till out strode Gismond; then I knew
That I was saved. I never met

His face before, but, at first view,

I felt quite sure that God had set Himself to Satan; who would spend A minute's mistrust on the end?

He strode to Gauthier, in his throat

Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth With one back-handed blow that wrote

In blood men's verdict there. North, South, East, West, I looked. The lie was dead, And damned, and truth stood up instead.

This glads me most, that I enjoyed
The heart of the joy, with my content
In watching Gismond unalloyed
By any doubt of the event:

God took that on him-I was bid
Watch Gismond for my part: I did.

Did I not watch him while he let

His armorer just brace his greaves,

Rivet his hauberk, on the fret

The while! His foot. . my memory leaves

No least stamp out, nor how anon
He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.

And e'en before the trumpet's sound

Was finished, prone lay the false Knight, Prone as his lie upon the ground:

Gismond flew at him, used no sleight Of the sword, but open-breasted drove, Cleaving till out the truth he clove.

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