Andrea del Sarto

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Andrea del Sarto  (1855) 
by Robert Browning

ANDREA DEL SARTO (CALLED "THE FAULTLESS PAINTER") By Robert Browning Publication Date: 1855

The text of the poem has been taken from the University of Toronto's on-line Representative Poetry.

1   But do not let us quarrel any more, 
2   No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once: 
3   Sit down and all shall happen as you wish. 
4   You turn your face, but does it bring your heart? 
5   I'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear, 
6   Treat his own subject after his own way, 
7   Fix his own time, accept too his own price, 
8   And shut the money into this small hand 
9   When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly? 
10  Oh, I'll content him,--but to-morrow, Love! 
11  I often am much wearier than you think, 
12  This evening more than usual, and it seems 
13  As if--forgive now--should you let me sit 
14  Here by the window with your hand in mine 
15  And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole, 
16  Both of one mind, as married people use, 
17  Quietly, quietly the evening through, 
18  I might get up to-morrow to my work 
19  Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try. 
20  To-morrow, how you shall be glad for this! 
21  Your soft hand is a woman of itself, 
22  And mine the man's bared breast she curls inside. 
23  Don't count the time lost, neither; you must serve 
24  For each of the five pictures we require: 
25  It saves a model. So! keep looking so-- 
26  My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds! 
27  --How could you ever prick those perfect ears, 
28  Even to put the pearl there! oh, so sweet-- 
29  My face, my moon, my everybody's moon, 
30  Which everybody looks on and calls his, 
31  And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn, 
32  While she looks--no one's: very dear, no less. 
33  You smile? why, there's my picture ready made,  
34  There's what we painters call our harmony!  
35  A common greyness silvers everything,-- 
36  All in a twilight, you and I alike 
37  --You, at the point of your first pride in me 
38  (That's gone you know),--but I, at every point; 
39  My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down 
40  To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole. 
41  There's the bell clinking from the chapel-top; 
42  That length of convent-wall across the way 
43  Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside; 
44  The last monk leaves the garden; days decrease, 
45  And autumn grows, autumn in everything. 
46  Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape 
47  As if I saw alike my work and self 
48  And all that I was born to be and do, 
49  A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God's hand. 
50  How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead; 
51  So free we seem, so fettered fast we are! 
52  I feel he laid the fetter: let it lie! 
53  This chamber for example--turn your head-- 
54  All that's behind us! You don't understand 
55  Nor care to understand about my art, 
56  But you can hear at least when people speak: 
57  And that cartoon, the second from the door 
58  --It is the thing, Love! so such things should be-- 
59  Behold Madonna!--I am bold to say. 
60  I can do with my pencil what I know, 
61  What I see, what at bottom of my heart 
62  I wish for, if I ever wish so deep-- 
63  Do easily, too--when I say, perfectly, 
64  I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge, 
65  Who listened to the Legate's talk last week, 
66  And just as much they used to say in France. 
67  At any rate 'tis easy, all of it! 
68  No sketches first, no studies, that's long past: 
69  I do what many dream of, all their lives, 
70  --Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do, 
71  And fail in doing. I could count twenty such 
72  On twice your fingers, and not leave this town, 
73  Who strive--you don't know how the others strive 
74  To paint a little thing like that you smeared 
75  Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-- 
76  Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says, 
77  (I know his name, no matter)--so much less! 
78  Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged. 
79  There burns a truer light of God in them, 
80  In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain, 
81  Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt 
82  This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine. 
83  Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know, 
84  Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me, 
85  Enter and take their place there sure enough, 
86  Though they come back and cannot tell the world. 
87  My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here. 
88  The sudden blood of these men! at a word-- 
89  Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too. 
90  I, painting from myself and to myself, 
91  Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame 
92  Or their praise either. Somebody remarks 
93  Morello's outline there is wrongly traced, 
94  His hue mistaken; what of that? or else, 
95  Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that? 
96  Speak as they please, what does the mountain care? 
97  Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
98  Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey, 
99  Placid and perfect with my art: the worse! 
100 I know both what I want and what might gain, 
101 And yet how profitless to know, to sigh 
102 "Had I been two, another and myself, 
103 "Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt. 
104 Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth 
105 The Urbinate who died five years ago. 
106 ('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.) 
107 Well, I can fancy how he did it all, 
108 Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see, 
109 Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, 
110 Above and through his art--for it gives way; 
111 That arm is wrongly put--and there again--  
112 A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines,  
113 Its body, so to speak: its soul is right,  
114 He means right--that, a child may understand. 
115 Still, what an arm! and I could alter it: 
116 But all the play, the insight and the stretch-- 
117 (Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out? 
118 Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul, 
119 We might have risen to Rafael, I and you! 
120 Nay, Love, you did give all I asked, I think-- 
121 More than I merit, yes, by many times. 
122 But had you--oh, with the same perfect brow, 
123 And perfect eyes, and more than perfect mouth, 
124 And the low voice my soul hears, as a bird 
125 The fowler's pipe, and follows to the snare -- 
126 Had you, with these the same, but brought a mind! 
127 Some women do so. Had the mouth there urged 
128 "God and the glory! never care for gain. 
129 "The present by the future, what is that? 
130 "Live for fame, side by side with Agnolo! 
131 "Rafael is waiting: up to God, all three!" 
132 I might have done it for you. So it seems: 
133 Perhaps not. All is as God over-rules. 
134 Beside, incentives come from the soul's self; 
135 The rest avail not. Why do I need you? 
136 What wife had Rafael, or has Agnolo? 
137 In this world, who can do a thing, will not; 
138 And who would do it, cannot, I perceive: 
139 Yet the will's somewhat--somewhat, too, the power-- 
140 And thus we half-men struggle. At the end, 
141 God, I conclude, compensates, punishes. 
142 'Tis safer for me, if the award be strict, 
143 That I am something underrated here, 
144 Poor this long while, despised, to speak the truth. 
145 I dared not, do you know, leave home all day, 
146 For fear of chancing on the Paris lords. 
147 The best is when they pass and look aside; 
148 But they speak sometimes; I must bear it all. 
149 Well may they speak! That Francis, that first time, 
150 And that long festal year at Fontainebleau! 
151 I surely then could sometimes leave the ground, 
152 Put on the glory, Rafael's daily wear, 
153 In that humane great monarch's golden look,-- 
154 One finger in his beard or twisted curl 
155 Over his mouth's good mark that made the smile, 
156 One arm about my shoulder, round my neck, 
157 The jingle of his gold chain in my ear, 
158 I painting proudly with his breath on me, 
159 All his court round him, seeing with his eyes, 
160 Such frank French eyes, and such a fire of souls 
161 Profuse, my hand kept plying by those hearts,-- 
162 And, best of all, this, this, this face beyond, 
163 This in the background, waiting on my work, 
164 To crown the issue with a last reward!  
165 A good time, was it not, my kingly days? 
166 And had you not grown restless... but I know-- 
167 'Tis done and past: 'twas right, my instinct said: 
168 Too live the life grew, golden and not grey, 
169 And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt 
170 Out of the grange whose four walls make his world. 
171 How could it end in any other way? 
172 You called me, and I came home to your heart. 
173 The triumph was--to reach and stay there; since 
174 I reached it ere the triumph, what is lost? 
175 Let my hands frame your face in your hair's gold, 
176 You beautiful Lucrezia that are mine! 
177 "Rafael did this, Andrea painted that; 
178 "The Roman's is the better when you pray, 
179 "But still the other's Virgin was his wife--" 
180 Men will excuse me. I am glad to judge 
181 Both pictures in your presence; clearer grows 
182 My better fortune, I resolve to think. 
183 For, do you know, Lucrezia, as God lives, 
184 Said one day Agnolo, his very self, 
185 To Rafael . . . I have known it all these years . . . 
186 (When the young man was flaming out his thoughts 
187 Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see, 
188 Too lifted up in heart because of it) 
189 "Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub 
190 "Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how, 
191 "Who, were he set to plan and execute 
192 "As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings, 
193 "Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!" 
194 To Rafael's!--And indeed the arm is wrong.  
195 I hardly dare . . . yet, only you to see, 
196 Give the chalk here--quick, thus, the line should go! 
197 Ay, but the soul! he's Rafael! rub it out! 
198 Still, all I care for, if he spoke the truth, 
199 (What he? why, who but Michel Agnolo?  
200 Do you forget already words like those?) 
201 If really there was such a chance, so lost,-- 
202 Is, whether you're--not grateful--but more pleased. 
203 Well, let me think so. And you smile indeed! 
204 This hour has been an hour! Another smile? 
205 If you would sit thus by me every night 
206 I should work better, do you comprehend? 
207 I mean that I should earn more, give you more. 
208 See, it is settled dusk now; there's a star; 
209 Morello's gone, the watch-lights show the wall, 
210 The cue-owls speak the name we call them by. 
211 Come from the window, love,--come in, at last, 
212 Inside the melancholy little house 
213 We built to be so gay with. God is just. 
214 King Francis may forgive me: oft at nights 
215 When I look up from painting, eyes tired out,  
216 The walls become illumined, brick from brick  
217 Distinct, instead of mortar, fierce bright gold, 
218 That gold of his I did cement them with! 
219 Let us but love each other. Must you go? 
220 That Cousin here again? he waits outside? 
221 Must see you--you, and not with me? Those loans? 
222 More gaming debts to pay? you smiled for that? 
223 Well, let smiles buy me! have you more to spend? 
224 While hand and eye and something of a heart 
225 Are left me, work's my ware, and what's it worth? 
226 I'll pay my fancy. Only let me sit 
227 The grey remainder of the evening out, 
228 Idle, you call it, and muse perfectly 
229 How I could paint, were I but back in France, 
230 One picture, just one more--the Virgin's face,  
231 Not yours this time! I want you at my side 
232 To hear them--that is, Michel Agnolo-- 
233 Judge all I do and tell you of its worth. 
234 Will you? To-morrow, satisfy your friend. 
235 I take the subjects for his corridor, 
236 Finish the portrait out of hand--there, there, 
237 And throw him in another thing or two 
238 If he demurs; the whole should prove enough 
239 To pay for this same Cousin's freak. Beside, 
240 What's better and what's all I care about, 
241 Get you the thirteen scudi for the ruff! 
242 Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he, 
243 The Cousin! what does he to please you more? 

244 I am grown peaceful as old age to-night. 
245 I regret little, I would change still less. 
246 Since there my past life lies, why alter it? 
247 The very wrong to Francis!--it is true 
248 I took his coin, was tempted and complied, 
249 And built this house and sinned, and all is said. 
250 My father and my mother died of want. 
251 Well, had I riches of my own? you see 
252 How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot. 
253 They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died: 
254 And I have laboured somewhat in my time 
255 And not been paid profusely. Some good son 
256 Paint my two hundred pictures--let him try! 
257 No doubt, there's something strikes a balance. Yes, 
258 You loved me quite enough. it seems to-night. 
259 This must suffice me here. What would one have? 
260 In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance-- 
261 Four great walls in the New Jerusalem, 
262 Meted on each side by the angel's reed, 
263 For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo and me 
264 To cover--the three first without a wife, 
265 While I have mine! So--still they overcome 
266 Because there's still Lucrezia,--as I choose. 

267 Again the Cousin's whistle! Go, my Love.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.