Porphyria's Love: Poem - Summary and Analysis

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Porphyria's Love

The rain set early in tonight,
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 endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight’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 worshiped 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!

The rain set early in tonight, 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.
Porphyria's Love


      A lover is sitting lonely in a room rains and winds rage outside. They suggest the tumult in the lover's heart. The lover is disconsolate because he is not sure of the love of his beloved. At this time, his beloved comes in the midst of rains and winds, makes the fire side blaze bright sits by the side of the lover and expresses her love to the lover. The lover knows that she loves him. She has got rid of her artificial pride and prudery and has made love supreme. He wants to make this supreme moment of the beloved eternal. So he winds her yellow hair round and round her throat and strangles her to death. He kills her so that she may not fall from grace. He risks damnation for his salvation. God has perhaps approved his action.


      Porphyria's Love by Robert Browning is depicting the smooth stream of ideal spiritual love as the eddies and currents of love. He probes into the complexities and subtleties of mind like a psychologist. Prophyria's Lover is a subtle study of abnormal psychology Two poems Johannes Agricola in Meditation' and 'Prophyria's Lover' published in 1836 are studies in abnormal behaviour. These two poems were bracketed under the heading Madhouse cells. It has been remarked that Browning got the idea while musing upon the nature of madness and mental condition of Christopher Smart, author of Song to David. But critics do not consider the lover in the poem to be insane, but only abnormal.

      Porphyria's Lover is not a dramatic monologue in the true sense. It can be called an inchoate dramatic monologue - because it does not possess the breadth and complexity of the poet's later monologues. There is no listener, and no interplay between the speaker and the listener which is an important feature of Browning's later monologues. The poem reads like a soliloquy rather than a monologue. The speaker speaks to himself Moreover, the poem does not have the favorite medium of speech-like blank verse. It uses fire-line stanza rhyming ababb.

      However, in its psychological subtlety, in its suggestion of background and in its depiction of character and situation, it represents the essential Browining and prefigures the later course of the poet's development. In the manner of a dramatic monologue, the poet selects a situation and depicts a character under the impact of that situation. The lover sits alone in the room and is in a sort of reverie: he listens to the storm and rain howling outside and is tortured by anxiety lest Porphyria for whom he is waiting does not come - "I listened with heart fit to break".

      Porphyria comes gently, shuts out the cold wind and makes the fireplace blaze she puts off her wet dothes, unties her hat and let the damp hair fall. She sits by the side of her lover, puts her arm around her waist, makes her smooth white shoulder bare and her golden hair spread over the shoulder on which lies the cheek of the lover. Porphyria's happy unsuspecting unaffected conduct contrasts with the passion that surges in the mind of the lover. She tells her frankly about her love. She is a married woman, her warm passion of love has made her wish to break the ties that bind her to her husband and surrender to her lover. She has overcome her pride of position end artificial ties of marriage and has made her love supreme. The lover is happy and proud in the conscious certainty of her love. His heart swells to the bursting point. This is the supreme moment for both, and the lover must do something to perpetuate this moment.

      Porphyria is now perfectly pure and good because she is free from all artificial considerations of pride and prejudice and love has become triumphant. He is playing with the overspread yellow hair of the beloved. He winds her long yellow hair three times round her throat and strangles her. The act is impulsive and involuntary. He describes with cool unconcern how he strangles his beloved in order to possess her forever. If he is mad, there is method in his madness. He does the act in order to perpetuate the supreme moment. The lady is in her most gracious self with love triumphant over other considerations. She may fall from grace. So he risks damnation for her salvation. Porphyria is sublimated by love she is fit for heaven. He opens her dead eyes to see them "laughing" as before. He imprints the burning kiss on her dead cheek and causes it to blush under his ardor. Then he supports her head on his shoulder and feels she has gained her cherished desire.

      All through the right they sit, both the dead and the living equally motionless. The lover thinks that he has got divine approval. The last line" - And yet God has not said a word" is mysterious. The murderer narrates the story of his crime in a very matter-of-fact manner there is no remorse, no depression. The lover is neither mad, nor has he done the crime in a momentary aberration his act may be impulsive, but he justifies the act by his later conduct. He has killed her, but he has preserved the moment of their ecstasy of fulfillment. He has not let the good minute pass. The quint-essential moment of life is preserved, and the lover stays with the dead beloved throughout the night.

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