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          Robert Browning (1812-1889)

              TWO IN THE CAMPAGNA


    I WONDER do you feel to-day
        As I have felt since, hand in hand,
    We sat down on the grass, to stray
        In spirit better through the land,
    This morn of Rome and May?


    For me, I touched a thought, I know,
        Has tantalized me many times,
    (Like turns of thread the spiders throw
        Mocking across our path) for rhymes
    To catch at and let go.


    Help me to hold it!  First it left
        The yellowing fennel, run to seed
    There, branching from the brickwork’s cleft,
        Some old tomb’s ruin: yonder weed
    Took up the floating weft,


    Where one small orange cup amassed
        Five beetles,—blind and green they grope
    Among the honey-meal: and last,
        Everywhere on the grassy slope
    I traced it.  Hold it fast!


    The champaign with its endless fleece
        Of feathery grasses everywhere!
    Silence and passion, joy and peace,
        An everlasting wash of air—
    Rome’s ghost since her decease.


    Such life here, through such lengths of hours,
        Such miracles performed in play,
    Such primal naked forms of flowers,
        Such letting nature have her way
    While heaven looks from its towers!


    How say you?  Let us, O my dove,
        Let us be unashamed of soul,
    As earth lies bare to heaven above!
        How is it under our control
    To love or not to love?


    I would that you were all to me,
        You that are just so much, no more.
    Nor yours nor mine, nor slave nor free!
        Where does the fault lie?  What the core
    O’ the wound, since wound must be?


    I would I could adopt your will,
        See with your eyes, and set my heart
    Beating by yours, and drink my fill
        At your soul’s springs,—your part my part
    In life, for good and ill.


    No.  I yearn upward, touch you close,
        Then stand away.  I kiss your cheek,
    Catch your soul’s warmth,—I pluck the rose
        And love it more than tongue can speak—
    Then the good minute goes.


    Already how am I so far
        Out of that minute?  Must I go
    Still like the thistle-ball, no bar,
        Onward, whenever light winds blow,
    Fixed by no friendly star?


    Just when I seemed about to learn!
        Where is the thread now?  Off again!
    The old trick!  Only I discern—
        Infinite passion, and the pain
    Of finite hearts that yearn.


The Campagna is the lowland plain that surrounds Rome. It contains both many ruins and pastures.

Two in the Campagna was first published in Men and Women in 1855. It can be found in:

  • Browning, Robert. Pippa Passes and Shorter Poems. Joseph E. Baker, ed. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1947.