Monday, 19 July 2010


The myrtle bushes are in full flower now - beautiful flowers, with their grand ruff of anthers, gold against white. There are some fine specimens in the gardens of Kensington, and as I passed one this morning, the opening lines of Browning's The Patriot came into my head. Roses and myrtle - both sacred to Aphrodite - is the poet hinting here at the amatory rewards of being a public hero? Or was it just the music of the word 'myrtle' that attracted him? A fine poem anyway...


It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.


The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, ``Good folk, mere noise repels---
But give me your sun from yonder skies!''
They had answered, ``And afterward, what else?''


Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.


There's nobody on the house-tops now---
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles' Gate---or, better yet,
By the very scaffold's foot, I trow.


I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year's misdeeds.


Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
``Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
``Me?''---God might question; now instead,
'Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.

1 comment:

  1. lovely poem. I used to have a cute mongrel dog called Myrtle. Its a shame that, a la Gertrude, you can no longer really use it as a girl's name as I rather like it.