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A poem by Robert Browning


Title:     House
Author: Robert Browning [More Titles by Browning]

Shall I sonnet-sing you about myself?
Do I live in a house you would like to see?
Is it scant of gear, has it store of pelf?
"Unlock my heart with a sonnet-key"?

Invite the world, as my betters have done?
"Take notice: this building remains on view,
Its suites of reception every one,
Its private apartment and bedroom too;

"For a ticket, apply to the Publisher."
No: thanking the public, I must decline.
A peep through my window, if folk prefer;
But, please you, no foot over threshold of mine!

I have mixed with a crowd and heard free talk
In a foreign land where an earthquake chanced
And a house stood gaping, naught to balk
Man's eye wherever he gazed or glanced.

The whole of the frontage shaven sheer,
The inside gaped; exposed to day,
Right and wrong and common and queer,
Bare, as the palm of your hand, it lay.

The owner? Oh, he had been crushed, no doubt!
"Odd tables and chairs for a man of wealth!
What a parcel of musty old books about!
He smoked--no wonder he lost his health!

"I doubt if he bathed before he dressed.
A brasier?--the pagan, he burned perfumes!
You see it is proved, what the neighbors guessed:
His wife and himself had separate rooms."

Friends, the goodman of the house at least
Kept house to himself till an earthquake came;
'Tis the fall of its frontage permits you feast
On the inside arrangement you praise or blame.

Outside should suffice for evidence;
And whoso desires to penetrate
Deeper, must dive by the spirit-sense--
No optics like yours, at any rate!

"Hoity-toity! A street to explore,
Your house the exception! '_With this same key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart_,' once more!"
Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!

[The end]
Robert Browning's poem: House