A Love and Lover that Lasts- How Porphyria’s Lover Loved Her

Here is a piece of my writing that I am going to be featuring in my portfolio.

Enjoy!

    Love causes for people to do things that they would not ordinarily do. Love can make a fighter out of a lover but Robert Browning also shows that it can create a killer as well. The poem “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning sounds like the crazed events of a madman who murders his lover in a senseless act of violence. The poem exhibits the death of a young woman and the style in which the poem is written is supposed to show an everlasting love that cannot be contained by life or death and transcends all natural boundaries. The passion that is shown in the characters actions and the act of the killing shows the brief moment in time in which everything appears to be perfect and the desperate attempt of man to create a lasting moment that can be kept permanently with him. Browning is able to exhibit this through the actions performed by Porphyria and the narrator and the romantic language used throughout the text to describe the chemistry that occurs between the two characters.

    The poem opens when Porphyria opens the door to the narrator, who remains nameless, on a stormy night. The storm outside is violent with trees being torn down and “trying its best to vex the lake (line 4)”. The violence of the storm is foreshadowing of the events to come but it also shows the passion that could be causing different kind of storms within the two characters. The storm outside seems violent and also passionate, drawing the two closer together when Porphyria lets him in, shutting out the storm and seemingly bringing peace to him. The theme of the storm appears later in the poem as well when the narrator gazes at Porphyria and thinks “so, she was come through wind and rain (line 30)”. Porphyria appears to have been at the residence before or at the same time as the narrator since she enters in so quickly. She herself is the one to shut out the storm and to create the comfortable environment of a warm fire.

Inside the place in which the two rest together, Porphyria creates a fire without the help of the narrator (lines 7-11). Browning uses the symbolism of the fire itself translates over to the actions performed by Porphyria, in which she rests her hand on his leg and leans into him, inviting in passion and warmth. Browning uses the words “blaze” and “warmth”, both on line 9, to describe the fire starting and the environment that the two are in. It seems to be a clear invitation that she would like to make the narrator as comfortable as possible but there underlies the same passion shown with the fiery descriptions. When Porphyria has finished making the fire for them, she goes and sits next to the narrator. Browning shows clearly by this action that the two have likely sat in this way before since it would be forward of a woman in the Victorian age to make a bold move. To leave nothing left to the idea of why she would sit next to him, she also calls to him (line 15). Still, the narrator doesn’t show much emotion as Porphyria leans over him and pulls his waist closer to her (lines 15-18). He says that no voice replied in the same line, which prompts Porphyria to lean in closer to him and to pull him towards her, confirming that she wants to be as close as possible to him. Browning shows in these few lines that it appears to be almost like a game to the two and Porphyria is not afraid to make the first move it means that she will get to be with the narrator.

Once she is sufficiently close to the narrator, Porphyria then begins to murmur how she loves him and he thinks about her heart and how it must “set its struggling passion free/ from pride, and vainer ties dissever (lines 23-24)”. By thinking about her heart, he is thinking about her innermost feelings that she is keeping hidden. He feels as though at long last Porphyria is letting him know her true intentions and that she does love him. The idea could be that this is a last ditch effort to sway the narrator into showing emotion for her since he has remained stagnant and not reciprocating of her love since she has put herself beside him and pulled him towards her. The idea of vanity could be from her looks since she has long blonde hair (lines 38 and 39) but she is likely not a wealthy woman because of the way that she fixes the fire at the beginning of the poem. After the narrator hears this comes the thought, “And give herself to me forever (line 25)” in which the narrator believes that Porphyria wants to have a love with him that lasts for eternity. To come up with a thought that her confessing her feelings is an admission to love forever, he wants to keep the moment perfectly preserved. Browning does this by freezing time forever in a single moment that lives on past Porphyria- her last moment.

Browning uses the words “passion (lines 23 and 26)”, “prevail (line 26)”, and “love (lines 29, 55 and 56)” to describe the chemistry between the two. The passion appears in the storm, which Browning references when the narrator looks to Porphyria and says “she was come through wind and rain (line 30)” like the storm that is happening outside. The repetition of the word between just a few lines is a clear indicator that it can’t be overlooked as being anything else. The word “prevail” is shown by the characters unwillingness to leave her body once he has killed her and wants to stay with her. God himself does not appear to want to disturb the two sitting together (line 60). This also demonstrates that both God and the narrator understand what he has done and that the narrator doesn’t want to be without her, hoping to have their time together frozen forever. Their love can’t be contained throughout the poem and the word appears multiple times throughout to describe the feelings between the two. Love also appears the most throughout the poem, first appearing with “A sudden thought so pale/ for love of her (lines 28-29).” He admits to himself after Porphyria has confessed her love that he also loves her back. He says in line 55 that he has gained love and repeats in the next line that he received Porphyria’s love. The repetition seems to show that the narrator is still consumed with the thought of Porphyria’s love for him as he mulls it over in his mind.

    The narrator then thinks, “At last I knew/ Porphyria worshipped me (lines 32-33),” which gives him the status of a God. Just as Gods create, they also can kill and destroy. The narrator, after Porphyria confesses her love and worship of him, makes his “heart swell (line 32)”. He debates what to do, knowing that the moment is his. “Mine, mine (line 35)” he repeats to himself as he thinks the way to tell her best that he too loves her. Browning shows that the death was not something that was premeditated in any way. It looks more likely that the narrator was so overcome by the confession of her love that he was unsure of what to do but would like it to be something as dramatic as her asking him to come to a house in a storm so she could make a fire and confess her undying love. The way that Browning has the narrator describe her death is gruesome at first, saying that he strangled her outright with nothing left to the imagination (lines 38-40). The narrator thinks, “ Again/ Laughed the blue eyes without a stain (lines 44-45),” showing that she appeared to be happy, even in death. Warmth appears again in the moments after her death as Browning’s narrator goes on to describe the way that a blush spread across her cheek as the blood flow returned to her head (line 48)” after he kissed her cheek.  

    The narrator sits there after when he is done describing her body and the way that she still leans on him like she had moments before she had died. The two appear to sit the the entire night; “And all night long we had not stirred (line 59).” The narrator doesn’t appear to want to leave Porphyria or disturb the moment anymore by having any other interruptions made. He would rather sit in silence with her corpse than to have had Porphyria’s initial confession be tainted by anything else that could have come after. The narrator’s last thought that we know of is wondering how God has not come for him (line 60). Browning seems to imply that even God himself doesn’t want to take either one away and would rather have them remain together. He wouldn’t interfere with Porphyria’s death and leave the two to have their moment together, frozen forever in time as they sit all night long.

    Browning’s use of language both in describing the characters passion and chemistry creates a love that transcends all natural boundaries. The characters love and passion cannot be contained in life or death and God himself doesn’t dare interfere with the emotion that ties the two together. Due to the language used and the story provided within the poem, Browning creates a love story that allows for the narrator and the audience to see how love continues in the afterlife.

Works Cited

“Porphyria’s Lover.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar, vol. 28, Longman, 2010, pp. 1325–1326.

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