Monday, March 31, 2008

Close Reading: "Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning

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.

These are the first five lines from Robert Browning's dramatic monologue "Porphyria's Lover." Browning's diction in describing the weather is an attempt to set a very dark tone from the very beginning of this poem. Browning calls the wind "sullen" and attributes its actions as the result of "spite." Giving these natural elements such human qualities is clearly a type of personification. The characteristics attributed to the weather are characteristics that mirror those of the speaker in the poem. He is sullen and he is spiteful. When the speaker describes the wind tearing down the elm trees, one can clearly see a connection between the action of the wind and the lover's own behavior in the rest of the poem towards Porphyria. Thus the terms in which the natural elements are being described really foreshadow the forthcoming events of the poem. Even still, it's almost if the speaker sees the destructive events that are occurring outside his window and knows that perhaps his actions will be just as destructive. Therefore as the speaker sees the actions of nature and anticipates his own actions, he can't help but react with a "heart fit to break."


STBrooks said...

I really like Browning's poems, my two favorites are "Porphyria's Lover" and "My last Duchess".
I really like the lines that were anaylized because they go along with the fact that the speaker in the poem has transfered his feelings of anger onto the weather. The wind is spiteful is a pathetic fallacy, that works well in the fury of the speaker.

Sara Bouchard said...

I agree with your interpretation and I think you bring up very key points to this passage(things I may have overlooked had I read the poem without your interpretation).

Kelly Flannery said...

I did a close reading on this poem too. I love the ending on this poem because it comes out of no where. I liked how you came out with different things than me that i never thought of.