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The Confessional

Robert Browning

It is a lietheir priests, their pope,
Their saints, their all they fear or hope
Are lies; and liesthere! through my door
And ceiling, there! and walls and floor,
There, liesthey lie, shall still be hurled,
Till, spite of them, I reach the world.

You think priests just and holy men!
Before they put me in this den,
I was a human creature too,
With flesh and blood like one of you.
A girl that laughed in Beautys pride,
Like lilies in your world outside.

I had a lovershame avaunt!
This poor, wrenched body, grim and gaunt,
Was kissed all over till it burned,
By lips the truest, love eer turned
His hearts own tint: one night they kissed
My soul into a burning mist.

So, next day when the accustomed train
Of things grew round my sense again,
That is a sin, I saidand slow,
With downcast eyes, to church I go,
And passed to the confession chair,
And teil the old, mild father there.


Part Three: Atheist and Rationalist Poetry

But when I falter Beltrans name,
Ha? quoth the father; much I blame
The sin; yet wherefore idly grieve?
Despair not; strenuously retrieve!
Nay, I will turn this love of thine
To lawful lovealmost divine.

For he is young and led astray,
This Beltranand he schemes, men say,
To change the laws of Church and State;
So, thine shall be an angels fate,
Who, ere the thunder breaks, shall roll
Its cloud away and save his soul.

For when he lies upon thy breast,
Thou mayst demand, and be possessed
Of all his plans, and next day steal
To me, and all these plans reveal,
That I and every priest, to purge
His soul, may fast and use the scourge.

That fathers beard was long and white.
With love and truth his brow was bright;
I went back, all on fire with joy,
And that same evening bade the boy
Tell me, as lovers should, heart-free,
Something to prove his love to me.

He told me what he would not tell
For hope of heaven or fear of hell:
And I lay listening in such pride,
And, soon as he had left my side,
Tripped to the church by morning light,
To save his soul in his despite.

I told the father all his schemes,
Who were his comrades, what their dreams;
And now make haste, I said to pray
The one spot from his soul away.
To-night he comes, but not the same
Will look!At night he never came.
Browning: The Confessional 189

Nor next night; on the afternoon
I went forth with a strength new-born,
The church was empty; something drew
My steps into the street; I knew
It led me to the market place Where, bon highthe fathers face!

That horrible black scaffold drest The stapled block............. God sink the rest!
That head strapped back, that blinding vest,
Those knotted hands and naked breast Till near one busy hangman pressed Andon the neck those arms caressed

No part in aught they hope or fear!
No heaven with them, no heil;and here,

No earthnot so much space as pens
My body in their worst of dens But shall bear God and man my cry Lieslies, againand still, they lie!

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