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Full Online Book HomePlaysPippa Passes - Interlude 1
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Pippa Passes - Interlude 1 Post by :scorpion Category :Plays Author :Robert Browning Date :May 2012 Read :4048

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Pippa Passes - Interlude 1

INTERLUDE I

(Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from the hillside to Orcana. Foreign Students of painting and sculpture, from Venice, assembled opposite the house of JULES, a young French statuary, at Possagno.)

1st Student.
Attention! My own post is beneath this
window, but the pomegranate clump yonder will hide three
or four of you with a little squeezing, and Schramm and
his pipe must lie flat in the balcony. Four, five--who's a
defaulter? We want everybody, for Jules must not be 5
suffered to hurt his bride when the jest's found out.

2nd Student.
All here! Only our poet's away--never
having much meant to be present, moonstrike him! The
airs of that fellow, that Giovacchino! He was in violent
love with himself, and had a fair prospect of thriving in 10
his suit, so unmolested was it--when suddenly a woman
falls in love with him, too; and out of pure jealousy he
takes himself off to Trieste, immortal poem and all--whereto
is this prophetical epitaph appended already, as
Bluphocks assures me--"_Here a mammoth-poem lies, 15
Fouled to death by butterflies._" His own fault, the
simpleton! Instead of cramp couplets, each like a knife
in your entrails, he should write, says Bluphocks, both
classically and intelligibly.--_AEsculapius, an Epic. Catalogue
of the drugs: Hebe's plaister--One strip Cools 20
_your lip. Phoebus's emulsion--One bottle Clears your
throttle. Mercury's bolus--One box Cures--_

3rd Student.
Subside, my fine fellow! If the marriage
was over by ten o'clock, Jules will certainly be here
in a minute with his bride. 25

2nd Student.
Good!--Only, so should the poet's muse
have been universally acceptable, says Bluphocks, _et
canibus nostris_--and Delia not better known to our
literary dogs than the boy Giovacchino!

1st Student.
To the point now. Where's Gottlieb, 30
the new-comer? Oh--listen, Gottlieb, to what has called
down this piece of friendly vengeance on Jules, of which
we now assemble to witness the winding-up. We are all
agreed, all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out
on us in a fury by and by: I am spokesman--the verses 35
that are to undeceive Jules bear my name of Lutwyche--but
each professes himself alike insulted by this strutting
stone-squarer, who came alone from Paris to Munich,
and thence with a crowd of us to Venice and Possagno
here, but proceeds in a day or two alone again--oh, alone 40
indubitably!--to Rome and Florence. He, forsooth, take
up his portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heartless
bunglers!--so he was heard to call us all: now, is Schramm
brutalized, I should like to know? Am I heartless?

Gottlieb.
Why, somewhat heartless; for, suppose Jules 45
a coxcomb as much as you choose, still, for this mere
coxcombry, you will have brushed off--what do folks
style it?--the bloom of his life.

Is it too late to alter? These love-letters now, you
call his--I can't laugh at them. 50

4th Student.
Because you never read the sham letters
of our inditing which drew forth these.

Gottlieb.
His discovery of the truth will be frightful.

4th Student.
That's the joke. But you should have
joined us at the beginning; there's no doubt he loves the 55
girl--loves a model he might hire by the hour!

Gottlieb.
See here! "He has been accustomed," he
writes, "to have Canova's women about him, in stone,
and the world's women beside him, in flesh; these being
as much below, as those above, his soul's aspiration; 60
but now he is to have the reality." There you laugh
again! I say, you wipe off the very dew of his youth.

1st Student.
Schramm! (Take the pipe out of his
mouth, somebody!) Will Jules lose the bloom of his youth? 65

Schramm.
Nothing worth keeping is ever lost in this
world: look at a blossom--it drops presently, having done
its service and lasted its time; but fruits succeed, and
where would be the blossom's place could it continue?
As well affirm that your eye is no longer in your body, 70
because its earliest favorite, whatever it may have first
loved to look on, is dead and done with--as that any affection
is lost to the soul when its first object, whatever
happened first to satisfy it, is superseded in due course.
Keep but ever looking, whether with the body's eye or the 75
mind's, and you will soon find something to look on! Has
a man done wondering at women?--there follow men,
dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering at
men?--there's God to wonder at; and the faculty of wonder
may be, at the same time, old and tired enough with 80
respect to its first object, and yet young and fresh sufficiently,
so far as concerns its novel one. Thus--

1st Student.
Put Schramm's pipe into his mouth again!
There you see! Well, this Jules--a wretched fribble
--oh, I watched his disportings at Possagno, the other 85
day! Canova's gallery--you know: there he marches first
resolvedly past great works by the dozen without vouchsafing
an eye; all at once he stops full at the
_Psiche-fanciulla_--cannot
pass that old acquaintance without a
nod of encouragement--"In your new place, beauty? 90
Then behave yourself as well here as at Munich--I see
you!" Next he posts himself deliberately before the unfinished
_Pieta for half an hour without moving, till up he
starts of a sudden, and thrusts his very nose into--I say,
into--the group; by which gesture you are informed that 95
precisely the sole point he had not fully mastered in
Canova's practice was a certain method of using the drill
in the articulation of the knee-joint--and that, likewise,
has he mastered at length! Good-by, therefore, to poor
Canova--whose gallery no longer needs detain his successor 100
Jules, the predestinated novel thinker in marble!

5th Student.
Tell him about the women; go on to the women!

1st Student. Why, on that matter he could never be
supercilious enough. How should we be other (he said) 105
than the poor devils you see, with those debasing habits we
cherish? He was not to wallow in that mire, at least;
he would wait, and love only at the proper time, and
meanwhile put up with the _Psiche-fanciulla_. Now, I
happened to hear of a young Greek--real Greek girl at 110
Malamocco; a true Islander, do you see, with Alciphron's
"hair like sea-moss"--Schramm knows!--white and quiet
as an apparition, and fourteen years old at farthest--a
daughter of Natalia, so she swears--that hag Natalia, who
helps us to models at three _lire an hour. We selected 115
this girl for the heroine of our jest. So first, Jules received
a scented letter--somebody had seen his Tydeus at the
Academy, and my picture was nothing to it: a profound
admirer bade him persevere--would make herself known to him
ere long. (Paolina, my little friend of the _Fenice_, 120
transcribes divinely.) And in due time, the mysterious
correspondent gave certain hints of her peculiar charms--the
pale cheeks, the black hair--whatever, in short, had
struck us in our Malamocco model: we retained her name,
too--Phene, which is, by interpretation, sea-eagle. Now, 125
think of Jules finding himself distinguished from the
herd of us by such a creature! In his very first answer
he proposed marrying his monitress: and fancy us over
these letters, two, three times a day, to receive and
dispatch! I concocted the main of it: relations were in 130
the way--secrecy must be observed--in fine, would he
wed her on trust, and only speak to her when they were
indissolubly united? St--st--Here they come!

6th Student.
Both of them! Heaven's love, speak
softly, speak within yourselves! 135

5th Student.
Look at the bridegroom! Half his hair
in storm and half in calm--patted down over the left
temple--like a frothy cup one blows on to cool it! and
the same old blouse that he murders the marble in!

2nd Student.
Not a rich vest like yours, Hannibal 140
Scratchy!--rich, that your face may the better set it off.

6th Student. And the bride! Yes, sure enough, our
Phene! Should you have known her in her clothes?
How magnificently pale!

Gottlieb.
She does not also take it for earnest, I hope? 145

1st Student.
Oh, Natalia's concern, that is! We settle
with Natalia.

6th Student.
She does not speak--has evidently let
out no word. The only thing is, will she equally remember 150
the rest of her lesson, and repeat correctly all those
verses which are to break the secret to Jules?

Gottlieb.
How he gazes on her! Pity--pity!

1st Student.
They go in; now, silence! You three--not
nearer the window, mind, than that pomegranate--just 155
where the little girl, who a few minutes ago passed
us singing, is seated!

FOOTNOTES:
LINES:

27. _El canibus nostris. Virgil, _Eclogues iii, 67. "_Notior ut jam sit canibus non Delia nostris_"--"So that now not Delia's self is more familiar to our dogs." The boy Giovacchino of whose poetry they are making fun evidently had ideals not in harmony with the ways of these Venetian art students. These "dissolute, brutalized, heartless bunglers," as Jules calls them, attack with quick, clever, merciless tongues whatever savors of idealism, aspiration, purity. Their revenge for the scornful superiority manifested towards them by Jules is to secure, by a well-managed trick, a marriage between him and a paid model.

86. _Canova's gallery. Possagno was the birthplace of the sculptor Canova, and the circular church there was designed by him. In the gallery at Possagno is his Psyche (_Psiche-fanciulla_, or Psyche the young girl); his Pieta (the mother with the dead Christ in her arms) is in the church.

111. _Malamocco. A little town on an island near Venice.

111. _Alciphron. A Greek writer (about 200 A. D.) of fictitious letters famous for the purity of their style and for the knowledge they give of Greek social customs.

115. _Lire. Plural of lira, an Italian coin equal to 18.6 cents in our money.

117. _A scented letter. Forged letters have represented this fourteen year old, ignorant model as delicate, shy, reserved, intellectually alert, with lofty poetic and artistic ideals.

117. _Tydeus. One of the Seven Allies in the enterprise against Thebes. Jules is supposed to have modeled a statue of him for the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts. From Scene II, 14, we see that it is still in clay.

120. _Paolina. Some actress at the Phenix, the leading theater of Venice.

140. _Hannibal Scratchy. In jest they burlesque the name of Annibale Caracci, a famous Italian artist, and apply it to one of their number.

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