Monday, July 02, 2007

Porphyria's Lover

Porphyria's Lover

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 listen'd with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneel'd 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 soil'd gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And call'd 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 look'd up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipp'd 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
Laugh'd the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untighten'd next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blush'd bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propp'd 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 scorn'd at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gain'd instead!
Porphyria's love: she guess'd not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirr'd,
And yet God has not said a word!

Robert Browning.

Update: The discussed link in the comments section can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Porphyria is killed by her lover who strangles her with a strand of her own long yellow hair. To justify the diabolical deed history bases the act upon the lover being a crazed madman or sexual deviant. Nothing could be further from the truth. That well-accepted consensus, asserted under the guise of dramatic monologue, is wrong and out of sorts with a common sense approach to interpreting the facts surrounding the death of Porphyria. The lover's killing of Porphyria was an act of euthanasia, plain and simple, a conclusion easily reasoned after taking the entirety of Porphyria's Lover into account as opposed to focusing upon a few selected passages. To read the full essay go to

Himself said...

Hello H, I'm pleased I finally got a reaction, it's a bit too middle of the night to discuss Porphyria, we'll talk later, but in the meantime have a go at another one of Mr Browning's.

The Laboratory

Himself said...

H. I finally got to the site, these few minutes past, again the hour is late for the working of these old grey cells. I shall in the morning when I am fresh and before I feed kitty (the blog)I shall have a good read of the links therein.

The poem was never presented to me as anything other than the "Perfect Moment" and for reasons romantic I have never looked upon it as anything other.

This is not to say I don't find Browning, if not barking mad, then at least somewhat strange.

Himself said...

I wouldn't have a problem with the way the writer parses and gives us his interpretation, not a problem at all at all.

An informative article, I was well aware of Porphyria as a disease but never in a lifetime would I have made the connection, I always thought the title a very odd coincidence, extremely odd.
Thanks for the links.