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Full Online Book HomePlaysPippa Passes - Interlude 2
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Pippa Passes - Interlude 2 Post by :scorpion Category :Plays Author :Robert Browning Date :May 2012 Read :3321

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Pippa Passes - Interlude 2

INTERLUDE II

(Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from Orcana to the Turret. Two or three of the Austrian Police loitering with BLUPHOCKS, an English vagabond, just in view of the Turret.)


Bluphocks.
So, that is your Pippa, the little girl who
passed us singing? Well, your Bishop's Intendant's
money shall be honestly earned:--now, don't make me
that sour face because I bring the Bishop's name into the
business; we know he can have nothing to do with such 5
horrors; we know that he is a saint and all that a bishop
should be, who is a great man beside. _Oh, were but every
worm a maggot, Every fly a grig, Every bough a Christmas
faggot, Every tune a jig! In fact, I have abjured all religions;
but the last I inclined to was the Armenian: for 10
I have traveled, do you see, and at Koenigsberg, Prussia
Improper (so styled because there's a sort of bleak hungry
sun there), you might remark over a venerable house-porch
a certain Chaldee inscription; and brief as it is, a
mere glance at it used absolutely to change the mood of 15
every bearded passenger. In they turned, one and all; the
young and lightsome, with no irreverent pause, the aged
and decrepit, with a sensible alacrity: 'twas the Grand
Rabbi's abode, in short. Struck with curiosity, I lost no
time in learning Syriac--(these are vowels, you dogs--follow 20
my stick's end in the mud--_Celarent, Darii, Ferio!_)
and one morning presented myself, spelling-book in hand,
a, b, c--I picked it out letter by letter, and what was the
purport of this miraculous posy? Some cherished legend
of the past, you'll say--"_How Moses hocus-pocussed 25
_Egypt's land with fly and locust_"--or, "_How to Jonah
sounded harshish, Get thee up and go to Tarshish_"--or,
"_How the angel meeting Balaam, Straight his ass returned
a salaam._" In no wise! "_Shackabrack--Boach--somebody
or other--Isaach, Re-cei-ver, Pur-cha-ser, and 30
_Ex-chan-ger of--Stolen Goods!_" So, talk to me of the
religion of a bishop! I have renounced all bishops save
Bishop Beveridge--mean to live so--and die--_As some
Greek dog-sage, dead and merry, Hellward bound in
Charon's wherry with food for both worlds, under and 35
_upper, Lupine-seed and Hecate's supper, and never an
obolus. (Though thanks to you, or this Intendant through
you, or this Bishop through his Intendant--I possess a
burning pocketful of _zwanzigers_) _To pay Stygian Ferry!_

1st Policeman.
There is the girl, then; go and deserve 40
them the moment you have pointed out to us Signor
Luigi and his mother. (_To the rest._) I have been
noticing a house yonder, this long while--not a shutter
unclosed since morning!

2nd Policeman.
Old Luca Gaddi's, that owns the silk-mills 45
here: he dozes by the hour, wakes up, sighs deeply,
says he should like to be Prince Metternich, and then
dozes again, after having bidden young Sebald, the
foreigner, set his wife to playing draughts. Never
molest such a household; they mean well. 50

Bluphocks.
Only, cannot you tell me something of
this little Pippa I must have to do with? One could
make something of that name. Pippa--that is, short for
Felippa--rhyming to _Panurge consults Hertrippa--Believest
thou, King Agrippa? Something might be done 55
with that name.

2nd Policeman.
Put into rhyme that your head and a
ripe muskmelon would not be dear at half a _zwanziger_!
Leave this fooling, and look out; the afternoon 's over
or nearly so. 60

3rd Policeman.
Where in this passport of Signor
Luigi does our Principal instruct you to watch him so
narrowly? There? What's there beside a simple signature?
(That English fool's busy watching.)

2nd Policeman.
Flourish all round--"Put all possible 65
obstacles in his way"; oblong dot at the end--"Detain
him till further advices reach you"; scratch at bottom--"Send
him back on pretense of some informality in the
above"; ink-spirt on right-hand side (which is the case
here)--"Arrest him at once." Why and wherefore, I 70
don't concern myself, but my instructions amount to
this: if Signor Luigi leaves home tonight for Vienna--well
and good, the passport deposed with us for our
visa is really for his own use, they have misinformed the
Office, and he means well; but let him stay over tonight--there
has been the pretense we suspect, the accounts of
his corresponding and holding intelligence with the Carbonari
are correct, we arrest him at once, tomorrow
comes Venice, and presently Spielberg. Bluphocks
makes the signal, sure enough! That is he, entering the 80
turret with his mother, no doubt.

FOOTNOTES:
LINES:

1. _Bluphocks. Browning's note on this character reads, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (_Matthew v, 45.)

2. _Your Bishop's Intendant. The Bishop's Superintendent (whose real name is Maffeo) has charge of the estate the Bishop has just inherited from his brother. The money Bluphocks has is the bribe given him by Maffeo to destroy Pippa, who is really the heir to the estate. Maffeo expects the Bishop to reward him well for this service.

11. _Prussia Improper. "The arm of land bounded on the north by the Baltic and on the south by Poland was long called 'Prussia Proper' to distinguish it from the other provinces of the kingdom. Koenigsberg is just over the boundary of Brandenberg." (Rolfe, _Select Poems of Browning_.)

14. _Chaldee. A Semitic dialect.

21. _Celarent_, _Darii_, _Ferio_. Coined words used in logic to designate certain valid forms of syllogism.

24. _Posy. A brief inscription or motto originally in verse, and suitable for a ring or some trinket.

25. _How Moses_, etc. For the story of Moses and the plagues of Egypt see _Exodus viii and x. For the story of Jonah (who was commanded, however, not to go to Tarshish) see _Jonah i. For Balaam and his ass see _Numbers xxii, 22.

33. _Bishop Beveridge. There was a Bishop of that name, but of course Bluphocks is making a pun.

35. _Charon's wherry. Charon was a god of hell. It was his business to carry the dead across the river Styx. People thus carried over the Stygian ferry paid Charon by a small coin put between their lips.

36. _Lupine-seed. "In plant-lore 'lupine' means wolfish, and is suggestive of the Evil One." (Berdoe, _Browning Cyclopaedia_.)

36. _Hecate's supper. Hecate was a goddess of hell to whom offerings of food were made. An _obolus is a silver coin worth about fifteen cents.

39. _Zwanziger. A twenty-kreuzer piece of money.

47. _Prince Metternich. A celebrated Austrian statesman. (1773-1859.)

54. _Panurge. A prominent character in _Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais. Hertrippa is a magician who gives Panurge advice on the subject of marriage. Bluphocks is simply racking his brain for words to rhyme with "Pippa," so that he may write doggerel poetry to or about her. For "King Agrippa" see _Acts xxvi, 27.

77. _Carbonari. All persons leaving a city had to have a passport officially signed giving the destination and the date of departure. Luigi had obtained such a passport for Vienna for that night. It was, however, suspected that this was a mere trick to give a wrong notion of his whereabouts. If the passport should prove to be a pretense, other suspicions against Luigi would be confirmed; it would be taken for granted that he belonged to the Carbonari, a secret society of Italian patriots; he would be arrested and sent to the prison at Spielberg. But if he should go to Vienna he is to be let alone. The officers are, of course, on the wrong track. If Luigi goes to Vienna it is to carry out his purpose of killing the tyrant. If he stays in Asolo it means that he has abandoned that purpose.

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