Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

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 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!

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001

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  • Christopher Gould (7/8/2013 4:11:00 PM)

    The characters in Browning like the Duke of Ferrara or The Pied Piper or this one, the lover of Porphyria seem to perform acts of madness to solve some unbearable personal problem.Shakespeares characters like Hamle or Lear go mad and Othello has a fit in his distress.The resolution in Shakespeare of his tragic figures is in their death.But Browning does not permit his main characters death; you are left with this madness and moral chaos, (Report) Reply

  • Augusta Melbourne (9/19/2012 3:42:00 AM)

    I discovered Browning's well known for his dramatic monologues. I read it in class yesterday and because the way he describes the murder so explicitly was actually quite shocking. It was like the roles had flipped in some way. (Report) Reply

  • Baby Sweetgirl (3/2/2012 11:46:00 AM)

    we did this in class and i wrote a real long message about it but now its gone andcant b bovd 2 rite again (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (12/9/2009 1:05:00 AM)

    The clear-cut narrative line of this atmospheric poem is presented in rhymed couplets.The ‘sullen wind’ at the start ‘which tore the elm tops down for spite’ introduces an ominous note, foreshadowing what is to come.
    Porphyria glides in like a ghost or figment of the imagination, warming the cottage with her presence. What follows has an air of inevitability. She loves the speaker, and is accommodating to his wishes in the extreme, and he takes advantage of this.
    Love is too easy, and only way he thinks to keep her as his forever is to strangle her with her own hair, which he does as a painless alternative to love making, merely as ‘a thing to do.’ Porphyria’s lover is also her killer.
    This makes the deed even more terrifying than a murder in cold blood, and reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s saying that we always kill the thing we love.In his closing lines, Browning implies that God is indifferent, even to murder. (Report) Reply

  • Helen Gilshteyn (5/28/2007 12:26:00 AM)

    this author is palying with words and giving his poem a sense of love. in some extent it sounds that hero of this poem is psychologically distressed. he kills person who he loves and and then mirroring her behaviour towards him.
    this poem is full of enjambments and it has alternative rhyme. (Report) Reply

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