"My Last Duchess"

Robert Browning

 1   That's my Last Duchess painted on the wall,
 2    Looking as if she were alive. I call
 3    That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
 4    Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
 5    Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
 6    "Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
 7    Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
 8    The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
 9    But to myself they turned (since none puts by
10    The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
11    And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
12    How such a glance came there; so, not the first
13    Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
14    Her husband's presence only, called that spot
15    Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
16    Frà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
17    Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
18    Must never hope to reproduce the faint
19    Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
20    Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
21    For calling up that spot of joy. She had
22    A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
23    Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
24    She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
25    Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
26    The dropping of the daylight in the West,
27    The bough of cherries some officious fool
28    Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
29    She rode with round the terrace—all and each
30    Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
31    Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
32    Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
33    My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
34    With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
35    This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
36    In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
37    Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
38    Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
39    Or there exceed the mark"—and if she let
40    Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
41    Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
42    —E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
43    Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
44    Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
45    Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
46    Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
47    As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
48    The company below, then. I repeat,
49    The Count your master's known munificence
50    Is ample warrant that no just pretence
51    Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
52    Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
53    At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
54    Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
55    Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
56    Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!