"'Tis An Awkward Thing To Play With Souls"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "A Light Woman" is a monologue by a worldly yet essentially good-hearted man who briefly recounts a triangular story of love. Seeing his friend caught by the "hunting-noose" of a light woman and wishing to save him, the speaker chose to prove that the woman preferred an eagle like himself to a wren like his friend. The friend eyed him with hatred for having turned "his day to night." But now that she has been taken as easily as a pear from a tree, the speaker has no taste for her. She will soon hate him as his friend already does, and he finds himself no hero. As he breaks off his unfinished story he offers it to Browning with the invitation to see what he can do with it.

'Tis an awkward thing to play with souls,
And matter enough to save one's own:
Yet think of my friend, and the burning coals
He played with for bits of stone!
One likes to show the truth for the truth;
That the woman was light is very true:
But suppose she says,–Never mind that youth!
What wrong have I done to you?
Well, any how, here the story stays,
So far at least as I understand:
And, Robert Browning, you writer of plays,
Here's a subject made to your hand!