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Porphyria 's Lover Analysis

Author: Poetry of Robert Browning Type: Poetry Views: 1065

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The rain set early in to-night,

The sullen wind was soon awake,

It tore the elm-tops down for spite,

And did its worst to vex the lake:

I listened with heart fit to break.

When glided in Porphyria; straight

She shut the cold out and the storm,

And kneeled and made the cheerless grate

Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;

Which done, she rose, and from her form

Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,

And laid her soiled gloves by, untied

Her hat and let the damp hair fall,

And, last, she sat down by my side

And called me. When no voice replied,

She put my arm about her waist,

And made her smooth white shoulder bare,

And all her yellow hair displaced,

And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,

And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,

Murmuring how she loved me---she

Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour,

To set its struggling passion free

From pride, and vainer ties dissever,

And give herself to me for ever.

But passion sometimes would prevail,

Nor could to-night's gay feast restrain

A sudden thought of one so pale

For love of her, and all in vain:

So, she was come through wind and rain.

Be sure I looked up at her eyes

Happy and proud; at last I knew

Porphyria worshipped me; surprise

Made my heart swell, and still it grew

While I debated what to do.

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,

Perfectly pure and good: I found

A thing to do, and all her hair

In one long yellow string I wound

Three times her little throat around,

And strangled her. No pain felt she;

I am quite sure she felt no pain.

As a shut bud that holds a bee,

I warily oped her lids: again

Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.

And I untightened next the tress

About her neck; her cheek once more

Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:

I propped her head up as before,

Only, this time my shoulder bore

Her head, which droops upon it still:

The smiling rosy little head,

So glad it has its utmost will,

That all it scorned at once is fled,

And I, its love, am gained instead!

Porphyria's love: she guessed not how

Her darling one wish would be heard.

And thus we sit together now,

And all night long we have not stirred,

And yet God has not said a word!


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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\'Porphyria\'s Lover\' is a really good example of the dramatic monologue form, in which Browning adopts the voice of a speaker to demonstrate the disturbed human psyche.
Right from the start, Browning gives the reader clues that indicate the poem may have a forboding tone. Pathetic fallacy is employed, whereby the wind is \'sullen\' and \'vex[s] the lake\' with \'spite\'.
Sexuality is prominent within the poem as Porphria has her \'smooth white shoulder bare\', and the speaker seems almost fascinated with her \'yellow hair\'. In fact, her yellow hair is mentioned several times by the speaker, which not only prepares the reader for what is about to happen, but further demonstrates the speaker\'s obsession. The yellow hair Porphyria is \'displaced\' at this point ... also a clue of what is to come!!
If we see Porphria as a character which exibts overt sexuality, perhaps her murder should be understood in these terms too. As the speaker asserts \'In one long yellow string I wound/ Three times her little throat around/ And strangled her\', Porphyria is killed with her own hair, the thing that represents her sexuality. Perhaps this links to the title of the poem, as the speaker is defined by Porpyhria. Is he too defined by the need for her sexuality.
Despite this, the title neverthless indicates that the poem is about the speaker (i.e - the title is not merely \'Porphyria\'), so as readers we should see the poem as an exploration of the speaker\'s own mind. He is clearly disturbed, and this is evident at many points in the poem. When he realises that Porphria \'worshipped\' him, he is \'happy and proud\', yet it is exactly this happiness which leads him to strangle his lover. The very pragmatic statement \'while i debated what to do\', makes the murder of his lover seem almost normal.
The speaker assets that he has fufilled Porphyria\'s \'darling one wish\' in killing her, and this seems to be supported by the fact that Porphyria has a \'smiling little rosy head\' and \'laughing eyes\' once she is dead, perhaps implying she was complicit in her death. But, we should question the reliability of the speaker. He is clearly disturbed, is it not possible he is merely projecting his feelings of love upon Porphyria. Does she really love him at all? This ambiguity is evident in the text: the line \'Be sure i looked up at her eyes. Happy and Proud\' Who\'s eyes are happy and proud? The Speaker\'s or Porphyria\'s ? ?
The final line of the poem also presents a considerable amount of ambiguty: \'And yet God has not said a word!\' Perhaps we could read this as the speaker\'s dissapointment that God has not taken revenge for his actions, in this case is the poem about atheism? or perhaps the speaker is happy god has not taken revenge... did porpyria deserve what happened to her. Perhaps it is also work thinking about the fact that porphyria was the greek opponant to God... is this why he has not said anything?
hope this helps!!! :)

| Posted on 2011-05-15 | by a guest

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