Porphyrias Lover

1269 WordsJan 15, 20136 Pages
Porphyria’s lover: Like ‘My Last Duchess’, this poem is an example of a dramatic monologue – a poem in which the impression the speaker unwittingly gives is rather different from the picture they intend to present. Initially, the poem appears to be built around a contrast between the storm outside and the cosy domestic scene within the cottage that Porphyria and her lover share. But there are unsettling notes from the very start –the storm is strangely personified in terms of sullenness, ‘spite’ and anger, and the speaker is for some reason so moved by it that his heart is ‘fit to break’ (5), while – on the other hand – when Porphyria arrives, he is entirely passive and all but emotionless. A psychological reading of the poem would…show more content…
Paradoxically, Porphyria is presented by the speaker as more alive than she ever was when living – a paradox which maintains our sense of his derangement. Where once she merely ‘murmur[ed]’ (21), now her blue eyes ‘laugh... without a stain’ (45);instead of the somewhat marmoreal ‘smooth white shoulder bare’ (17), we now have a cheek ‘blushed bright beneath [a] burning kiss’ (48); and in the space of nine lines the ‘shut bud’ (43) has developed into a ‘smiling rosy little head’ (52), as if Porphyria is a flower at last in bloom. It is at the end of line 51 that we get a second sudden revelation – the first being her death – that forces us to re-evaluate our picture of the lover: that she is propped up beside him as he speaks to us. If anything, this increases our horror, particularly as so important a piece of information has been so casually delayed by the speaker and for so long. A comparison with our earlier picture of the couple is interesting: once she brought him, entirely passive, to rest on her ‘smooth white shoulder bare’ (17) –frequently used by Victorians as a euphemism for the breasts, and clearly an erotic detail for him – before covering the submissive lover with her hair; now instead it is his shoulder that bears her head. There is a second, similar shift in power: once he was entirely silent; now his voice is the only one heard. But
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