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Poems by Robert Browning

TRAY

Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst
Of soul, ye bards!
Quoth Bard the first:
"Sir Olaf,° the good knight, did don °3
His helm, and eke his habergeon ..."
Sir Olaf and his bard----!

"That sin-scathed brow"° (quoth Bard the second), °6
"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! 10

"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! 20

"'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! 30

"'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. 40

"'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!'"