by Robert Browning
Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst
Of soul, ye bards!
Quoth Bard the first:
"Sir Olaf, the good knight, did don
His helm, and eke his habergeon ..."
Sir Olaf and his bard----!
"That sin-scathed brow" (quoth Bard the second),
"That eye wide ope as tho' Fate beckoned
My hero to some steep, beneath
Which precipice smiled tempting Death ..."
You too without your host have reckoned!
"A beggar-child" (let's hear this third!)
"Sat on a quay's edge: like a bird
Sang to herself at careless play,
And fell into the stream. 'Dismay!
Help, you the standers-by!' None stirred.
"Bystanders reason, think of wives
And children ere they risk their lives.
Over the balustrade has bounced
A mere instinctive dog, and pounced
Plumb on the prize. 'How well he dives!
"'Up he comes with the child, see, tight
In mouth, alive too, clutched from quite
A depth of ten feet--twelve, I bet!
Good dog! What, off again? There's yet
Another child to save? All right!
"'How strange we saw no other fall!
It's instinct in the animal.
Good dog! But he's a long while under:
If he got drowned I should not wonder--
Strong current, that against the wall!
"'Here he comes, holds in mouth this time
--What may the thing be? Well, that's prime!
Now, did you ever? Reason reigns
In man alone, since all Tray's pains
Have fished--the child's doll from the slime!'
"And so, amid the laughter gay,
Trotted my hero off,--old Tray,--
Till somebody, prerogatived
With reason, reasoned: 'Why he dived,
His brain would show us, I should say.
"'John, go and catch--or, if needs be,
Purchase that animal for me!
By vivisection, at expense
Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence,
How brain secretes dog's soul, we'll see!'"
Last updated January 14, 2019