by Robert Browning (1812 - 1889)

On the cliff
Language: English 
I leaned on the turf,
I looked at a rock
Left dry by the surf;
For the turf, to call it grass were to mock:
Dead to the roots, so deep was done
The work of the summer sun.

And the rock lay flat
As an anvil’s face:
No iron like that!
Baked dry; of a shell, of a weed no trace:
Sunshine outside, but ice at the core,
Death’s altar by the lone shore.

On the turf, sprang gay
With his films of blue,
No cricket, I’ll say,
But a warhorse, barded and chanfroned too,
The gift of a quixote-mage to his knight,
Real fairy, with wings all right.

On the rock, they scorch
Like a drop of fire
From a brandished torch,
Fall two red fans of a butterfly:
No turf, no rock: in their ugly stead,
See, wonderful blue and red!

Is it not so
With the minds of men?
The level and low,
The burnt and bare, in themselves; but then
With such a blue and red grace, not theirs,
Love settling unawares!

Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)


Researcher for this text: Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2020-06-03
Line count: 30
Word count: 177