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Bishop Blougram’s Apology
by [?]


1855

 
No more wine? then we'll push back chairs and talk.
A final glass for me, though: cool, i' faith!
We ought to have our Abbey back, you see.
It's different, preaching in basilicas,
And doing duty in some masterpiece
Like this of brother Pugin's, bless his heart!
I doubt if they're half baked, those chalk rosettes,
Ciphers and stucco-twiddlings everywhere;
It's just like breathing in a lime-kiln: eh?
These hot long ceremonies of our church 10
Cost us a little--oh, they pay the price,
You take me--amply pay it! Now, we'll talk.

So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs.
No deprecation–nay, I beg you, sir!
Beside ‘t is our engagement: don’t you know,
I promised, if you’d watch a dinner out,
We’d see truth dawn together?–truth that peeps
Over the glasses’ edge when dinner’s done,
And body gets its sop and holds its noise
And leaves soul free a little. Now’s the time: 20
Truth’s break of day! You do despise me then.
And if I say, “despise me”–never fear!
1 know you do not in a certain sense–
Not in my arm-chair, for example: here,
I well imagine you respect my place
(

Status, entourage

, worldly circumstance)
Quite to its value–very much indeed:
–Are up to the protesting eyes of you
In pride at being seated here for once–
You’ll turn it to such capital account! 30
When somebody, through years and years to come,
Hints of the bishop–names me–that’s enough:
“Blougram? I knew him”–(into it you slide)
“Dined with him once, a Corpus Christi Day,
All alone, we two; he’s a clever man:
And after dinner–why, the wine you know–
Oh, there was wine, and good!–what with the wine . . .
‘Faith, we began upon all sorts of talk!
He’s no bad fellow, Blougram; he had seen
Something of mine he relished, some review: 40
He’s quite above their humbug in his heart,
Half-said as much, indeed–the thing’s his trade.
I warrant, Blougram ‘s sceptical at times:
How otherwise? I liked him, I confess!”

Che che

, my dear sir, as we say at Rome,
Don’t you protest now! It’s fair give and take;
You have had your turn and spoken your home-truths:
The hand’s mine now, and here you follow suit.

Thus much conceded, still the first fact stays–
You do despise me; your ideal of life 50
Is not the bishop’s: you would not be I.
You would like better to be Goethe, now,
Or Buonaparte, or, bless me, lower still,
Count D’Orsay–so you did what you preferred,
Spoke as you thought, and, as you cannot help,
Believed or disbelieved, no matter what,
So long as on that point, whate’er it was,
You loosed your mind, were whole and sole yourself.
–That, my ideal never can include,
Upon that element of truth and worth 60
Never be based! for say they make me Pope–
(They can’t–suppose it for our argument!)
Why, there I’m at my tether’s end, I’ve reached
My height, and not a height which pleases you:
An unbelieving Pope won’t do, you say.
It’s like those eerie stories nurses tell,
Of how some actor on a stage played Death,
With pasteboard crown, sham orb and tinselled dart,
And called himself the monarch of the world;
Then, going in the tire-room afterward, 70
Because the play was done, to shift himself,
Got touched upon the sleeve familiarly,
The moment he had shut the closet door,
By Death himself. Thus God might touch a Pope
At unawares, ask what his baubles mean,
And whose part he presumed to play just now.
Best be yourself, imperial, plain and true!