The Pope and the Net, by Robert Browning

The Pope and the Net

WHAT, he on whom our voices unanimously ran,
Made Pope at our last Conclave? Full low his life began:
His father earned the daily bread as just a fisherman.   So much the more his boy minds book, gives proof of mother-wit,
Becomes first Deacon, and then Priest, then Bishop: see him sit
No less than Cardinal ere long, while no one cries "Unfit!"   But someone smirks, some other smiles, jogs elbow and nods head:
Each winks at each: "I-faith, a rise! Saint Peter's net, instead
Of sword and keys, is come in vogue!" You think he blushes red?   Not he, of humble holy heart! "Unworthy me!" he sighs:
"From fisher's drudge to Church's prince--it is indeed a rise:
So, here's my way to keep the fact for ever in my eyes!"   And straightway in his palace-hall, where commonly is set
Some coat-of-arms, some portraiture ancestral, lo, we met
His mean estate's reminder in his fisher-father's net!   Which step conciliates all and some, stops cavil in a trice:
"The humble holy heart that holds of new-born pride no spice!
He's just the saint to choose for Pope!" Each adds "'T is my advice."   So, Pope he was: and when we flocked--its sacred slipper on--
To kiss his foot, we lifted eyes, alack the thing was gone--
That guarantee of lowlihead, --eclipsed that star which shone!   Each eyed his fellow, one and all kept silence. I cried "Pish!
I'll make me spokesman for the rest, express the common wish.
Why, Father, is the net removed?" "Son, it hath caught the fish." - Robert Browning

Robert Browning