A TOCCATA OF GALUPPI’S by Robert Browning

A TOCCATA OF GALUPPI’S by Robert Browning

O Galuppi Baldassare this is very sad to find
I can hardly misconceive you it would prove me deaf and blind
But although I take your meaning ’tis with such a heavy mind

Here you come with your old music and here’s all the good it brings
What they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were the kings
Where Saint Mark’s is where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings

Aye because the sea’s the street there and ’tis arched by what you call
Shylock’s bridge with houses on it where they kept the carnival
I was never out of England it’s as if I saw it all

Did young people take their pleasure when the sea was warm in May
Balls and masks begun at midnight burning ever to mid-day,
When they made up fresh adventures for the morrow do you say

Was a lady such a lady cheeks so round and lips so red
On her neck the small face buoyant like a bell-flower on its bed
O’er the breast’s superb abundance where a man might base his head
Well and it was graceful of them they’d break talk off and afford
She to bite her mask’s black velvet he, to finger on his sword
While you sat and played Toccatas stately at the clavichord

What Those lesser thirds so plaintive sixths diminished sigh on sigh
Told them something Those suspensions those solutions Must we die
Those commiserating sevenths Life might last we can but try
Were you happy Yes And are you still as happy Yes And you
Then, more kisses “Did I stop them when a million seemed so few
Hark the dominant’s persistence till it must be answered to

So an octave struck the answer Oh they praised you I dare say
Brave Galuppi that was music good alike at grave and gay
I can always leave off talking when I hear a master play

Then they left you for their pleasure till in due time one by one,
Some with lives that came to nothing some with deeds as well undone
Death stepped tacitly and took them where they never see the sun

But when I sit down to reason think to take my stand nor swerve
While I triumph o’er a secret wrung from nature’s close reserve
In you come with your cold music till I creep through every nerve

Yes you like a ghostly cricket creaking where a house was burned
Dust and ashes dead and done with Venice spent what Venice earned
The soul doubtless is immortal where a soul can be discerned

Yours for instance you know physics something of geology
Mathematics are your pastime souls shall rise in their degree
Butterflies may dread extinction you’ll not die it cannot be

As for Venice and her people merely born to bloom and drop
Here on earth they bore their fruitage mirth and folly were the crop
What of soul was left I wonder when the kissing had to stop

Dust and ashes So you creak it and I want the heart to scold
Dear dead women with such hair too what’s become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms I feel chilly and grown old


Browning wrote this prior to 1855.
Browning is venerated for these dramatic monologues.
Browning recorded on a cylinder in 1889.
And yes punctuation is removed
For interaction’s sake.
And is it worth a mention that we share some DNA