A Pretty Woman

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A Pretty Woman  (1855) 
by Robert Browning

I

That fawn-skin-dappled hair of hers,
     And the blue eye
     Dear and dewy,
And that infantine fresh air of hers!

II

To think men cannot take you, Sweet,
     And enfold you,
     Ay, and hold you,
And so keep you what they make you, Sweet!

III

You like us for a glance, you know—
     For a word's sake
     Or a sword's sake,
All's the same, whate'er the chance, you know.

IV

And in turn we make you ours, we say—
     You and youth too,
     Eyes and mouth too,
All the face composed of flowers, we say.

V

All's our own, to make the most of, Sweet—
     Sing and say for,
     Watch and pray for,
Keep a secret or go boast of, Sweet!

VI

But for loving, why, you would not, Sweet,
     Though we prayed you,
     Paid you, brayed you
in a mortar—for you could not, Sweet!

VII

So, we leave the sweet face fondly there:
     Be its beauty
     Its sole duty!
Let all hope of grace beyond, lie there!

VIII

And while the face lies quiet there,
     Who shall wonder
     That I ponder
A conclusion? I will try it there.

IX

As,—why must one, for the love foregone,
     Scout mere liking?
     Thunder-striking
Earth,—the heaven, we looked above for, gone!

X

Why, with beauty, needs there money be,
     Love with liking?
     Crush the fly-king
In his gauze, because no honey-bee?

XI

May not liking be so simple-sweet,
     If love grew there
     'Twould undo there
All that breaks the cheek to dimples sweet?

XII

Is the creature too imperfect,
     Would you mend it
     And so end it?
Since not all addition perfects aye!

XIII

Or is it of its kind, perhaps,
     Just perfection—
     Whence, rejection
Of a grace not to its mind, perhaps?

XIV

Shall we burn up, tread that face at once
     Into tinder,
     And so hinder
Sparks from kindling all the place at once?

XV

Or else kiss away one's soul on her?
     Your love-fancies!
     —A sick man sees
Truer, when his hot eyes roll on her!

XVI

Thus the craftsman thinks to grace the rose,—
     Plucks a mould-flower
     For his gold flower,
Uses fine things that efface the rose:

XVII

Rosy rubies make its cup more rose,
     Precious metals
     Ape the petals,—
Last, some old king locks it up, morose!

XVIII

Then how grace a rose? I know a way!
     Leave it, rather.
     Must you gather?
Smell, kiss, wear it—at last, throw away!

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.