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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Rome, the Campagna

Two in the Campagna

By Robert Browning (1812–1889)

I WONDER do you feel to-day

As I have felt, since, hand in hand,

We sat down on the grass to stray

In spirit better through the land,

This morn of Rome and May?

For me, I touched a thought, I know,

Has tantalized me many times,

(Like turns of thread the spiders throw

Mocking across our path) for rhymes

To catch at and let go.

Help me to hold it: first it left

The yellowing fennel, run to seed

There, branching from the brickwork’s cleft,

Some old tomb’s ruin; yonder weed

Took up the floating weft,

Where one small orange cup amassed

Five beetles,—blind and green they grope

Among the honey-meal,—and last

Everywhere on the grassy slope

I traced it. Hold it fast!

The champaign with its endless fleece

Of feathery grasses everywhere!

Silence and passion, joy and peace,

An everlasting wash of air,—

Rome’s ghost since her decease.

Such life there, through such lengths of hours,

Such miracles performed in play,

Such primal naked forms of flowers,

Such letting Nature have her way

While Heaven looks from its towers.

How say you? Let us, O my dove,

Let us be unashamed of soul,

As earth lies bare to heaven above.

How is it under our control

To love or not to love?

I would that you were all to me,

You that are just so much, no more—

Nor yours nor mine,—nor slave nor free!

Where does the fault lie? what the core

Of the wound, since wound must be?

I would I could adopt your will,

See with your eyes, and set my heart

Beating by yours, and drink my fill

At your soul’s springs,—your part, my part

In life, for good and ill.

No. I yearn upward—touch you close,

Then stand away. I kiss your cheek,

Catch your soul’s warmth,—I pluck the rose

And love it more than tongue can speak—

Then the good minute goes.

Already how am I so far

Out of that minute? Must I go

Still like the thistle-ball, no bar,

Onward, whenever light winds blow,

Fixed by no friendly star?

Just when I seemed about to learn!

Where is the thread now? Off again!

The old trick! Only I discern—

Infinite passion and the pain

Of finite hearts that yearn.