Robert Browning, 1812-1883

Johannes Agricola in Meditation
by Robert Browning
from Dramatic Lyrics (1842)

There’s heaven above, and night by night 
     I look right through its gorgeous roof;
No suns and moons though e’er so bright 
     Avail to stop me; splendour-proof 
     I keep the broods of stars aloof:
For I intend to get to God, 
     For ’tis to God I speed so fast,
For in God’s breast, my own abode, 
     Those shoals of dazzling glory, passed, 
     I lay my spirit down at last.
I lie where I have always lain, 
     God smiles as he has always smiled;
Ere suns and moons could wax and wane, 
     Ere stars were thundergirt, or piled 
     The heavens, God thought on me his child;
Ordained a life for me, arrayed 
     Its circumstances every one
To the minutest; ay, God said 
     This head this had should rest upon 
     Thus, ere he fashioned star or sun.
And having thus created me, 
     Thus rooted me, he bade me grow,
Guiltless for ever, like a tree 
     That buds and blooms, nor seeks to know 
     The law by which it prospers so:
But sure that thought and word and deed 
     All go to swell his love for me,
Me, made because that love had need 
     Of something irreversibly 
     Pledged soley its content to be.
Yes, yes, a tree which much ascend, 
     No poison-gourd foredoomed to stoop!
I have God’s warrant, could I blend 
     All hideous sins, as in a cup, 
     To drink the mingled venoms up;
Secure my nature will convert 
     The draught to blossoming gladness fast:
While sweet dews turn to the gourd’s hurt, 
     And bloat, and while they bloat it, blast, 
     As from the first its lot was cast.
For as I lie, smiled on, full-fed 
     By unexhausted power to bless,
I gaze below on hell’s fierce bed, 
     And those its waves of flame oppress, 
     Swarming in ghastly wretchedness;
Whose life on earth aspired to be 
     One altar-smoke, so pure!–to win
If not love like God’s love for me, 
     At least to keep his anger in; 
     And all their striving turned to sin.
Priest, doctor, hermit, monk grown white 
     With prayer, the broken-hearted nun,
The martyr, the wan acolyte, 
     The incense-swinging child,–undone 
     Before God fashioned star or sun!
God, whom I praise; how could I praise, 
     If such as I might understand,
Make out and reckon on his ways, 
     And bargain for his love, and stand, 
     Paying a price at his right hand? 

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