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Poetry Analysis of Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"The Cry of the Children"

"True," say the children, "it may happen That we die before our time.ittle Alice died last yearher gra!e is
shapeni"e a snowball, in the rime.#e loo"ed into the pit prepared to ta"e her$#as no room for any wor"
in the close clay%&rom the sleep wherein she lieth none will wa"e her,Crying '(et up, little Alice% it is
day.')f you listen by that gra!e, in sun and shower,#ith your ear down, little Alice ne!er cries*Could we
see her face, be sure we should not "now her,&or the smile has time for growing in her eyes$And merry go
her moments, lulled and stilled inThe shroud by the "ir"+chime.)t is good when it happens," say the
children,"That we die before our time."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem entitled "The Cry of the Children" was written at the time "when
go!ernment in!estigations had e,posed the e,ploitation of children employed in coal mines and factories."
-ince writers tend to write about things that they "now or firmly belie!e, it comes to no surprise that
Elizabeth would write about the "appalling use of child labor," especially at this crucial time in history
.//01+02 3orton Anthology of English iterature 4ol. 56. &or instance, in line 10 of the poem, Browning
writes, "'True,' say the children, "it may happen that we die before our time*" indicates that the children
"now that what is happening is wrong and will not only put them in danger, but cause their early death.
)t is sad to thin" that children would say this, sadder yet, to "now that they died as a result of child labor.
The children in the poem also go on to say, "ittle Alice died last year her gra!e is shapen li"e a snowball,
in the rime. #e loo"ed into the pit prepared to ta"e her$ was no room for any wor" in the close clay%" This
part of the stanza illustrates the "nowledge the children were e,posed to* after all, they witnessed other
children li"e themsel!es die before their eyes. The part that says, "7er gra!e is shapen li"e a snowball, in
the rime," illustrates that once the child passed away, the body lay where it fell and from time dust or
perhaps ashes from the coal created a gra!e by co!ering the child.
The children did not recei!e proper burials and once gone were forgotten. The children toiled away for
long periods of time and died from e,haustion, lac" of food, illness, breathing the fumes from the coal
mines or getting hurt at the factory. #ithout medical attention, the wea" faded from e,istence. 7ow could
parents and adults let children wor"8 E!en if times are tough, "ids deser!e to be "ids, they should ne!er
&ollowing this through, although the poem is morbid, it is describing the harsh reality of what actually
occurred. The poem does ha!e negati!e imagery* howe!er, it does ha!e positi!e images as well. &or
e,ample, "#ith your ear down, little Alice ne!er cries* could we see her face, be sure we should not "now
her, for the smile has time for growing in her eyes," clearly depicts that although this little girl named
Alice is dead, she is happier. -he is no longer suffering, she is not laboring away under harsh conditions*
this little girl, li"e so many before her are now free from the mistreatment that they endured.
This being so, the children are actually saying that is better to die than to withstand being o!erwor"ed.
This positi!e image ma"es the reader angry and sad at the same time, but "nowing that the children are at
a better place ma"es the poem e,tremely powerful. &or instance, "'and merry go her moments, lulled and
stilled in the shroud by the "ir"+chime. it is good when it happens,' say the children, That we die before
our time.'"
This image is significant, and although she is dead, she li!es on. "ulled and stilled in the shroud by the
"ir"+chime," this phrase gi!es the poem a dreamli"e 9uality and it gi!es the reader assurance that the
children are well. "-hroud" in the phrase can be depicted as the church or of (od that is co!ering the
children, protecting them in some way.
This is also important, since many of the children did not ha!e proper church burials and perhaps in a way
(od is saying that is o"ay. They will be sa!ed. #hen the children say, ")t is good when it happens That we
die before our time," it is their way of saying that they are o"ay with dying. They are not afraid because
anywhere is better than where they are, at that moment in time. :eath is a sanctuary for the children. They
can now be at peace. )n conclusion, Browning's poem "The Cry of the Children" greatly depicts the harsh
reality of child labor that occurred in the nineteenth century. At the time, this poem would ha!e been seen
as a warning telling the world that this is wrong and should be stopped.
The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson
An Immense Sea Monster's Death by Fire
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Tennyson uses myth, especially Pontoppidan's account of "the fabulous sea+monster", as inspiration to
create a mesmerizing poem on this creature of the depths.
The =ra"en is a mythical s9uid+li"e creature mentioned in sources as di!erse as Bishop PontoppidanGs
account in /0DD .which inspired Tennyson6 to The Pirates of the Caribbean in today's entertainment.
This poem, one of TennysonGs earlier ones, in!igorates the allure of the =ra"enGs myth, and e,hibits a
mastery in poetic craftsmanship.
Sense of Faraway
The sea and its depths hold a fascination to the imagination, and the poem draws on this from the
Below the thunders of the upper deep*
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea
The steady rhythms of the iambic pentameter in the first line is accentuated by the open !owels in words
such as HbelowI, HthundersI and HupperI reinforce the feeling of depth through their broad sounds.
More on this topic
Poetic #ea"nesses in oc"sley 7all
Brea", Brea", Brea" by Alfred ord Tennyson
Ambiguity in The ady of -halott
)n the second line, the caesura in the words Hfar, farI brea"s up the meter slightly to gi!e a more natural
!oice to the lines. The word repetition emphasizes the e,tent and depth of the sea which Tennyson is
e,plores* further than e!en the Hupper deepI* straight to the bottom of the abyss, which is poignant not as
an defined image, but as an idea of immeasurable and unfathomable depth.
The light imagery contributes to the other+worldly feeling in the deeps. The manner that Hfaintest sunlights
flee@About his shadowy sidesI Ju,tapose the immensity and shadow which the =ra"enGs bul" creates with
the minute sunbeams which dissipate in his presence. The wea", Hsic"ly lightI casts a strange and
fantastical aspect upon the =ra"en, which parado,ically re!eals yet hides Hmany a wondrous grot and
secret cellI, gi!ing a sense of mystery both to the surroundings and the =ra"en itself.
The Krakens Immensity
The immense =ra"en is represented by slumber and age, rather than mo!ement and !itality.
)mages of his size include his HKnnumberGd and enormous polypiI, and his HBattening upon huge
seawormsI, and again, the broad !owel sounds in these words reinforce the corpulent nature of the
=ra"en. Especially stri"ing is the H7uge sponges of millennial growth and heightI, the word HmillennialI
con!eying e,panse both in age as well as size simultaneously
Age is synonymous with the =ra"enGs slumber$ H7is ancient, dreamless, unin!aded sleep@The =ra"en
sleepethI. H-leepethI as a !erb is a better word choice than HsleepsI not only because it balances the
meter, but also in its word form which hear"ens to older English usage such as the Bible, further
con!eying a sense of the archaic. Although the =ra"en still feeds on worms, his HdreamlessI state of
stupor creates a certain tension, creating a sense of immense, yet unfulfilled might.
The Inevitable En
The =ra"enGs origins and its reasons for sleep are not elaborated* and the lac" of an Alpha or beginning,
enhances a sense of godli"e power within the creature. 7owe!er, TennysonGs =ra"en has an Fmega* it is
fated to death when end of the world occurs.
The Hlatter fireI and HangelsI are an allusion to the Biblical end of the world$
..And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the
sea..the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died.. Revelations !"#, $ing %ames &ersion 'ible
There is a sense of pity and loss, not only for the Hman and angelsI which will only see the =ra"en a
single time, but more so that the =ra"en, in its the sudden HroaringI fury, its only show of a realization of
its consciousness and sentience, as well as its strength, ends as 9uic"ly as it begins with its death on the
Christopher ;ic"s remar"ed that The $ra(en, similar to another early poem )ariana, was one which
HPonderLsM the possibility or impossibility of another chanceI. This is true not only in TennysonGs initial
attempt to remo!e the poem from was first published in /A1< and not restored till /A056, but also
in the =ra"enGs tragic death.
Tennyson's e,pression of death is also e,plored in other poetry, such as his longer and dar"er poem )aud.
Alfred *ord Tennyson! +elected Poems Edited by Christopher ;ic"s
The 'ible, =ing Names 4ersion
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Themes$ Motifs an Symbols
The Reconciliation of Religion and Science
Tennyson li!ed during a period of great scientific ad!ancement, and he used his poetry to wor" out the
conflict between religious faith and scientific disco!eries. 3otable scientific findings and theories of the
4ictorian period include stratigraphy, the geological study of roc" layers used to date the earth, in /A//*
the first sighting of an asteroid in /A</ and gala,ies in the /A2<s* and :arwinGs theory of e!olution and
natural selection in /ADB. )n the second half of the century, scientists, such as &OlPp -emmelweis, Noseph
ister, and ouis Pasteur, began the e,periments and wor" that would e!entually lead to germ theory and
our modern understanding of microorganisms and diseases. These disco!eries challenged traditional
religious understandings of nature and natural history.
&or most of his career, Tennyson was deeply interested in and troubled by these disco!eries. 7is poem
Hoc"sley 7allI ./A256 e,presses his ambi!alence about technology and scientific progress. There the
speaker feels tempted to abandon modern ci!ilization and return to a sa!age life in the Jungle. )n the end,
he chooses to li!e a ci!ilized, modern life and enthusiastically endorses technology. ,n )emoriam
connects the despair Tennyson felt o!er the loss of his friend Arthur 7allam and the despair he felt when
contemplating a godless world. )n the end, the poem affirms both religious faith and faith in human
progress. 3e!ertheless, Tennyson continued to struggle with the reconciliation of science and religion, as
illustrated by some of his later wor". &or e,ample, Hoc"sley 7all -i,ty Eears AfterI ./AAQ6 ta"es as its
protagonist the spea"er from the original Hoc"sley 7all,I but now he is an old man, who loo"s bac" on
his youthful optimism and faith in progress with scorn and s"epticism.
The Virtues of Perseverance and Optimism
After the death of his friend Arthur 7allam, Tennyson struggled through a period of deep despair, which
he e!entually o!ercame to begin writing again. :uring his time of mourning, Tennyson rarely wrote and,
for many years, battled alcoholism. >any of his poems are about the temptation to gi!e up and fall prey to
pessimism, but they also e,tol the !irtues of optimism and discuss the importance of struggling on with
life. The need to perse!ere and continue is the central theme of ,n )emoriam and HKlyssesI ./A116, both
written after 7allamGs death. Perhaps because of TennysonGs gloomy and tragic childhood, perse!erance
and optimism also appear in poetry written before 7allamGs death, such as HThe otos+EatersI ./A15,
/A256. Poems such as HThe ady of -halottI ./A15, /A256 and HThe Charge of the ight BrigadeI ./AD26
also !ary this theme$ both poems glorify characters who embrace their destinies in life, e!en though those
destinies end in tragic death. The ady of -halott lea!es her seclusion to meet the outer world, determined
to see" the lo!e that is missing in her life. The ca!alrymen in HThe Charge of the ight BrigadeI "eep
charging through the !alley toward the ;ussian cannons* they perse!ere e!en as they realize that they will
li"ely die.
The Glory of England
Tennyson used his poetry to e,press his lo!e for England. Although he e,pressed worry and concern about
the corruption that so dominated the nineteenth century, he also wrote many poems that glorify nineteenth+
century England. HThe Charge of the ight BrigadeI praises the fortitude and courage of English soldiers
during a battle of the Crimean #ar in which roughly 5<< men were "illed. As poet laureate, Tennyson was
re9uired to write poems for specific state occasions and to dedicate !erse to Rueen 4ictoria and her
husband, Prince Albert. 3e!ertheless, Tennyson praised England e!en when not specifically re9uired to do
so. )n the ,dylls of the $ing, Tennyson glorified England by encouraging a collecti!e English cultural
identity$ all of England could ta"e pride in Camelot, particularly the chi!alrous and capable "nights who
li!ed there. )ndeed, the modern conception of Camelot as the source of loyalty, chi!alry, and romance
comes, in part, from TennysonGs descriptions of it in the ,dylls of the $ing and HThe ady of -halott.I
Tragic Death
Early, tragic death and suicide appear throughout TennysonGs poetry. Perhaps the most significant e!ent of
his life was the untimely death of his best friend Arthur 7allam at age twenty+two, which prompted
Tennyson to write his greatest literary wor", ,n )emoriam. This long poem uses the so+called ,n
)emoriam stanza, or a %&atrain that uses iambic tetrameter and has an abba rhyme scheme. The formal
consistency e,presses TennysonGs grief and lin"s the disparate stanzas together into an elegiac whole. The
spea"er of HBrea", Brea", Brea"I ./A126 sees death e!en in sunsets, while the early H>arianaI ./A1<6
features a woman who longs for death after her lo!er abandons her. Each of that poemGs se!en stanzas
ends with the line H) would that ) were dead.I The lady in HThe ady of -halottI brings about her own
death by going out into an autumn storm dressed only in a thin white dress. -imilarly, the ca!alrymen in
HThe Charge of the ight BrigadeI ride to their deaths by charging headlong into the ;ussian cannons.
These poems lyrically mourn those who died tragically, often finding nobility in their characters or their
Scientific Language
Tennyson too" a great interest in the scientific disco!eries of the nineteenth century, and his poetry
manifests this interest in its reliance on scientific language. HThe =ra"enI ./A1<6, which describes an
ancient, slumbering sea beast, mentions a HcellI .A6 and HpolypiI .B6. -ection 5/ of ,n )emoriam alludes
to the /A2Q disco!ery of 3eptune. There, a tra!eler tells the spea"er not to grie!e for his friend. ;ather
than grie!e, the tra!eler says, the spea"er should reJoice in the mar!elous possibilities of science. -ection
/5<, in contrast, features the spea"er wondering what good science might do in a world full of religious
doubt and despair. Fther poems praise technological disco!eries and in!entions, including the steamships
and railways discussed in Hoc"sley 7all,I or mention specific plants and flowers, as does HThe otos+
EatersI ./A15, /A256. Ta"ing metaphors and poetic iction from science allowed Tennyson to connect to
his age and to modernize his sometimes anti9uarian language and archaic !erse forms.
The Ancient orld
i"e the romantic poets who preceded him, Tennyson found much inspiration in the ancient worlds of
(reece and ;ome. )n poems such as HThe otos+EatersI and HKlysses,I Tennyson retells the stories of
:ante and 7omer, which described the characters of Klysses, Telemachus, and Penelope and their
ad!entures in the ancient world. 7owe!er, Tennyson slightly alters these mythic stories, shifting the time
frame of some of the action and often adding more descripti!e ima"ery to the plot. &or instance,
HKlysses,I a dramatic monologue spo"en by 7omerGs hero, urges readers to carry on and perse!ere rather
than to gi!e up and retire. Elsewhere Tennyson channels the !oice of Tithonus, a legendary prince from
Troy, in the eponymous poem HTithonusI ./A11, /ADB6. 7e praises the ancient poet 4irgil in his oe HTo
4irgilI ./AA56, commenting on 4irgilGs choice of subJect matter and lauding his ability to chronicle human
history in meter. Tennyson mined the ancient world to find stories that would simultaneously enthrall and
inspire his readers.
!ing Arthur and "amelot
To Tennyson, =ing Arthur symbolizes the ideal man, and Arthurian England was England in its best and
purest form. -ome of TennysonGs earliest poems, such as HThe ady of -halott,I were set in =ing ArthurGs
time. )ndeed, Tennyson rhymes Camelot, the name of =ing ArthurGs estate, with +halott in eighteen of the
poemGs twenty stanzas, thereby emphasizing the importance of the mythical place. &urthermore, our
contemporary conception of Camelot as harmonious and magnificent comes from TennysonGs poem. ,dylls
of the $ing, about =ing ArthurGs rise and fall, was one of the maJor proJects of TennysonGs late career.
Rueen 4ictoria and Prince Albert en!isioned themsel!es as latter+day descendents of Arthur and the
=nights of the ;ound Table, and their praise helped popularize the long poem. But =ing Arthur also had a
more personal representation to Tennyson$ the mythic "ing represents a !ersion of his friend Arthur 7enry
7allam, whose death at twenty+two profoundly affected Tennyson. 7allamGs death destroyed his potential
and promise, which allowed Tennyson to idealize 7allam. This idealization allows Tennyson to imagine
what might ha!e been in the best possible light, much as he does when describing =ing Arthur and his
The #mprisoned oman
The imprisoned woman appears throughout TennysonGs wor". )n H>ariana,I a woman abandoned by her
lo!er li!es alone in her house in the middle of desolate country* her isolation imprisons her, as does the
way she waits for her lo!er to return. 7er waiting limits her ability and desire to do anything else. HThe
ady of -halottI is li"ewise about a woman imprisoned, this time in a tower. -hould she lea!e her prison,
a curse would fall upon her. Tennyson, li"e many other 4ictorian poets, used female characters to
symbolize the artistic and sensiti!e aspects of the human condition. )mprisoned women, such as these
Tennyson characters, act as symbols for the isolation e,perienced by the artist and other sensiti!e, deep+
feeling people. Although society might force creati!e, sensiti!e types to become outcasts, in TennysonGs
poems, the women themsel!es create their own isolation and imprisonment. These women seem unable or
unwilling to deal with the outside world.
The poem tells the story of a brigade consisting of Q<< soldiers who rode on horsebac" into the H!alley of
deathI for half a league .about one and a half miles6. They were obeying a command to charge the enemy
forces that had been seizing their guns.
3ot a single soldier was discouraged or distressed by the command to charge forward, e!en though all the
soldiers realized that their commander had made a terrible mista"e$ H-omeone had blundered.I The role of
the soldier is to obey and Hnot to ma"e reply...not to reason why,I so they followed orders and rode into
the H!alley of death.I
The Q<< soldiers were assaulted by the shots of shells of canons in front and on both sides of them. -till,
they rode courageously forward toward their own deaths$ H)nto the Jaws of :eath @ )nto the mouth of hell @
;ode the si, hundred.I
The soldiers struc" the enemy gunners with their unsheathed swords .Hsabres bareI6 and charged at the
enemy army while the rest of the world loo"ed on in wonder. They rode into the artillery smo"e and bro"e
through the enemy line, destroying their Cossac" and ;ussian opponents. Then they rode bac" from the
offensi!e, but they had lost many men so they were Hnot the si, hundredI any more.
Canons behind and on both sides of the soldiers now assaulted them with shots and shells. As the brigade
rode Hbac" from the mouth of hell,I soldiers and horses collapsed* few remained to ma"e the Journey
The world mar!elled at the courage of the soldiers* indeed, their glory is undying$ the poem states these
noble Q<< men remain worthy of honor and tribute today.
This poem is comprised of si, numbered stanzas !arying in length from si, to twel!e lines. Each line is in
dimeter, which means it has two stressed syllables* moreo!er, each stressed syllable is followed by two
unstressed syllables, ma"ing the rhythm dactylic. The use of HfallingI rhythm, in which the stress is on the
first beat of each metrical unit, and then Hfalls offI for the rest of the length of the meter, is appropriate in
a poem about the de!astating fall of the British brigade.
The rhyme scheme !aries with each stanza. Fften, Tennyson uses the same rhyme .and occasionally e!en
the same final word6 for se!eral consecuti!e lines$ H&lashed all their sabres bare @ &lashed as they turned
in air @ -abGring the gunners there.I The poem also ma"es use of anaphora, in which the same word is
repeated at the beginning of se!eral consecuti!e lines$ HCannon to right of them @ Cannon to left of them @
Cannon in front of them.I 7ere the method creates a sense of unrelenting assault* at each line our eyes
meet the word Hcannon,I Just as the soldiers meet their flying shells at each turn.
HThe Charge of the ight BrigadeI recalls a disastrous historical military engagement that too" place
during the initial phase of the Crimean #ar fought between Tur"ey and ;ussia ./AD2+DQ6. Knder the
command of ord ;aglan, British forces entered the war in -eptember /AD2 to pre!ent the ;ussians from
obtaining control of the important sea routes through the :ardanelles. &rom the beginning, the war was
plagued by a series of misunderstandings and tactical blunders, one of which ser!es as the subJect of this
poem$ on Fctober 5D, /AD2, as the ;ussians were seizing guns from British soldiers, ord ;aglan sent
desperate orders to his ight Ca!alry Brigade to fend off the ;ussians. &inally, one of his orders was acted
upon, and the brigade began chargingSbut in the wrong direction% F!er QD< men rushed forward, and
well o!er /<< died within the ne,t few minutes. As a result of the battle, Britain lost possession of the
maJority of its forward defenses and the only metaled road in the area.
)n the 5/st century, the British in!ol!ement in the Crimean #ar is dismissed as an instance of military
incompetence* we remember it only for the heroism displayed in it by &lorence 3ightingale, the famous
nurse. 7owe!er, for Tennyson and most of his contemporaries, the war seemed necessary and Just. 7e
wrote this poem as a celebration of the heroic soldiers in the ight Brigade who fell in ser!ice to their
commander and their cause. The poem glorifies war and courage, e!en in cases of complete inefficiency
and waste.
Knli"e the medie!al and mythical subJect of HThe ady of -halottI or the deeply personal grief of HTears,
)dle Tears,I this poem instead deals with an important political de!elopment in TennysonGs day. As such, it
is part of a se9uence of political and military poems that Tennyson wrote after he became Poet aureate of
England in /AD<, including HFde on the :eath of the :u"e of #ellingtonI ./AD56 and H;iflemen, &ormI
./ADB6. These poems reflect TennysonGs emerging national consciousness and his sense of compulsion to
e,press his political !iews.
This poem is effecti!e largely because of the way it con!eys the mo!ement and sound of the charge !ia a
strong, repetiti!e falling meter$ H7alf a league, half a league @ 7alf a league onward.I The plodding pace
of the repetitions seems to subsume all indi!idual impulsi!eness in ponderous collecti!e action. The poem
does not spea" of indi!idual troops but rather of Hthe si, hundredI and then Hall that was left of them.I
E!en ord ;aglan, who played such an important role in the battle, is only !aguely referred to in the line
Hsomeone had blundered.I )nterestingly, Tennyson omitted this critical and somewhat sub!ersi!e line in
the /ADD !ersion of this poem, but the writer Nohn ;us"in later con!inced him to restore it for the sa"e of
the poemGs artistry. Although it underwent se!eral re!isions following its initial publication in /AD2, the
poem as it stands today is a mo!ing tribute to courage and heroism in the face of de!astating defeat.
This poem is loosely based on historical e!ents in!ol!ing Alfonso, the :u"e of &errara, who li!ed in the
/Qth century. The :u"e is the spea"er of the poem, and tells us he is entertaining an emissary who has
come to negotiate the :u"eGs marriage .he has recently been widowed6 to the daughter of another
powerful family. As he shows the !isitor through his palace, he stops before a portrait of the late :uchess,
apparently a young and lo!ely girl. The :u"e begins reminiscing about the portrait sessions, then about
the :uchess herself. 7is musings gi!e way to a diatribe on her disgraceful beha!ior$ he claims she flirted
with e!eryone and did not appreciate his Hgift of a nine+hundred+years+ old name.I As his monologue
continues, the reader realizes with e!er+more chilling certainty that the :u"e in fact caused the :uchessGs
early demise$ when her beha!ior escalated, HLheM ga!e commands* @ Then all smiles stopped together.I
7a!ing made this disclosure, the :u"e returns to the business at hand$ arranging for another marriage,
with another young girl. As the :u"e and the emissary wal" lea!e the painting behind, the :u"e points out
other notable artwor"s in his collection.
H>y ast :uchessI comprises rhyming pentameter lines. The lines do not employ end+stops* rather, they
use en-ambmentSgthat is, sentences and other grammatical units do not necessarily conclude at the end of
lines. Conse9uently, the rhymes do not create a sense of closure when they come, but rather remain a
subtle dri!ing force behind the :u"eGs compulsi!e re!elations. The :u"e is 9uite a performer$ he mimics
othersG !oices, creates hypothetical situations, and uses the force of his personality to ma"e horrifying
information seem merely colorful. )ndeed, the poem pro!ides a classic e,ample of a dramatic monologue$
the spea"er is clearly distinct from the poet* an audience is suggested but ne!er appears in the poem* and
the re!elation of the :u"eGs character is the poemGs primary aim.
But Browning has more in mind than simply creating a colorful character and placing him in a pictures9ue
historical scene. ;ather, the specific historical setting of the poem harbors much significance$ the )talian
;enaissance held a particular fascination for Browning and his contemporaries, for it represented the
flowering of the aesthetic and the human alongside, or in some cases in the place of, the religious and the
moral. Thus the temporal setting allows Browning to again e,plore se,, !iolence, and aesthetics as all
entangled, complicating and confusing each other$ the lushness of the language belies the fact that the
:uchess was punished for her natural se,uality. The :u"eGs ra!ings suggest that most of the supposed
transgressions too" place only in his mind. i"e some of BrowningGs fellow 4ictorians, the :u"e sees sin
lur"ing in e!ery corner. The reason the spea"er here gi!es for "illing the :uchess ostensibly differs from
that gi!en by the spea"er of HPorphyriaGs o!erI for murder Porphyria* howe!er, both women are
ne!ertheless !ictims of a male desire to inscribe and fi, female se,uality. The desperate need to do this
mirrors the efforts of 4ictorian society to mold the beha!iorSgse,ual and otherwiseSgof indi!iduals. &or
people confronted with an increasingly comple, and anonymous modern world, this impulse comes
naturally$ to control would seem to be to conser!e and stabilize. The ;enaissance was a time when
morally dissolute men li"e the :u"e e,ercised absolute power, and as such it is a fascinating study for the
4ictorians$ wor"s li"e this imply that, surely, a time that produced magnificent art li"e the :uchessGs
portrait couldnGt ha!e been entirely e!il in its allocation of societal controlSge!en though it put men li"e
the :u"e in power.
A poem li"e H>y ast :uchessI calculatedly engages its readers on a psychological le!el. Because we
hear only the :u"eGs musings, we must piece the story together oursel!es. Browning forces his reader to
become in!ol!ed in the poem in order to understand it, and this adds to the fun of reading his wor". )t also
forces the reader to 9uestion his or her own response to the subJect portrayed and the method of its
portrayal. #e are forced to consider, #hich aspect of the poem dominates$ the horror of the :uchessGs
fate, or the beauty of the language and the powerful dramatic de!elopment8 Thus by posing this 9uestion
the poem firstly tests the 4ictorian readerGs response to the modern worldSgit as"s, 7as e!eryday life
made you numb yet8Sgand secondly as"s a 9uestion that must be as"ed of all artSgit 9ueries, :oes art
ha!e a moral component, or is it merely an aesthetic e,ercise8 )n these latter considerations Browning
prefigures writers li"e Charles Baudelaire and Fscar #ilde.
H&ra ippo ippi,I another of BrowningGs dramatic monologues, appeared in the /ADD collection )en and
.omen. &ra .Brother6 ippo ippi was an actual &lorentine mon" who li!ed in the fifteenth century. 7e
was a painter of some renown, and Browning most probably gained familiarity with his wor"s during the
time he spent in )taly. H&ra ippo ippiI introduces us to the mon" as he is being interrogated by some
>edici watchmen, who ha!e caught him out at night. Because ippoGs patron is Cosimo de >edici, he has
little to fear from the guards, but he has been out partying and is clearly in a mood to tal". 7e shares with
the men the hardships of monastic life$ he is forced to carry on his relationships with women in secret, and
his superiors are always defeating his good spirits. But ippoGs most important statements concern the
basis of art$ should art be realistic and true+to+life, or should it be idealistic and didactic8 -hould ippoGs
paintings of saints loo" li"e the PriorGs mistress and the men of the neighborhood, or should they e!o"e an
otherworldly surreality8 #hich "ind of art best ser!es religious purposes8 -hould art e!en ser!e religion
at all8 ippoGs rambling speech touches on all of these issues.
H&ra ippo ippiI ta"es the form of blan" !erseSunrhymed lines, most of which fall roughly into iambic
pentameter. As in much of his other poetry, Browning see"s to capture collo9uial speech, and in many
parts of the poem he succeeds admirably$ ippo includes outbursts, bits of songs, and other odds and ends
in his rant. )n his way Browning brilliantly captures the feel of a late+night, drun"en encounter.
The poem centers thematically around the discussion of art that ta"es place around line /A<. ippo has
painted a group of figures that are the spitting image of people in the community$ the PriorGs mistress,
neighborhood men, etc. E!eryone is amazed at his talent, and his great show of talent gains him his place
at the monastery. 7owe!er, his talent for depicting reality comes into conflict with the stated religious
goals of the Church. The Church leadership belie!es that their parishioners will be distracted by the sight
of people they "now within the painting$ as the Prior and his cohorts say, H TEour business is not to catch
men with show, @ #ith homage to the perishable clay...@ >a"e them forget thereGs such a thing as flesh. @
Eour business is to paint the souls of men.G I )n part the Church authoritiesG obJections stem not from any
real religious concern, but from a concern for their own reputation$ ippo has gotten a little too close to
the truth with his depictions of actual persons as historical figuresSthe PriorGs HnieceI .actually his
mistress6 has been portrayed as the seducti!e -alome. 7owe!er, the conflict between ippo and the
Church elders also cuts to the !ery heart of 9uestions about art$ is the primary purpose of ippoGs artSand
any artSto instruct, or to delight8 )f it is to instruct, is it better to gi!e men ordinary scenes to which they
can relate, or to offer them celestial !isions to which they can aspire8 )n his own art, Browning himself
doesnGt seem to pri!ilege either conclusion* his wor" demonstrates only a loose didacticism, and it relies
more on carefully chosen realistic e,amples rather than either concrete portraits or abstractions. Both &ra
ippoGs earthly tableau, and the PriorGs preferred fantasias of H T!apor done up li"e a new+born babeG I
miss the mar". ippo has no aspirations beyond simple mimesis, while the Prior has no respect for the
importance of the 9uotidian. Thus the debate is essentially empty, since it does not ta"e into account the
power of art to mo!e man in a way that is not intellectual but is rather aesthetic and emotional.
ippoGs statements about art are Joined by his complaints about the monastic lifestyle. ippo has not
adopted this lifestyle by choice* rather, his parentsG early death left him an orphan with no choice but to
Join the monastery. ippo is trapped between the ascetic ways of the monastery and the corrupt, fleshly
life of his patrons the >edicis. 3either pro!ides a wholly fulfilling e,istence. i"e the "ind of art he
espouses, the PriorGs lifestyle does not ta"e basic human needs into account. .)ndeed, as we "now, e!en
the Prior finds his own precepts impossible to follow.6 The anything+goes morality of the >edicis rings
e9ually hollow, as it in!ol!es only a series of meaningless, hedonistic re!els and shallow encounters. This
;enaissance debate echoes the schism in 4ictorian society, where moralists and libertines opposed each
other in fierce disagreement. Browning seems to assert that neither side holds the "ey to a good life. Eet he
concludes, as he does in other poems, that both positions, while flawed, can lead to high art$ art has no
absolute connection to morality.
A 'loser (ook at ''aliban )pon Setebos'
Robert BrowningGs famous dramatic monologue, Caliban Upon Setebos, seems, upon
frst glance, angry and irrationalSthe words of an abused sla!e who has "nown nothing but
harm. )ndeed, they are the words of an abused slave, and they are angry and full of
bitterness. But that is not where BrowningGs poem stops. Through the rough
language and brutal descriptions used by Caliban, Browning reveals his idea of
CalibanGs thought process, and his deep, inner beliefs. By showing us the abused slave,
Browning shows us CalibanGs !iew of his master, and his !iew of (od. Browning constructs his
poem to convey the point that CalibanGs whole belief in (od is based on his experience
in the world and can change as his experiences change. Caliban looks at the world
around him and draws his own conclusions of who and what od is.
Browning makes a strong point through his poem. !n his eyes, a person
cannot be expected to believe that od is good unless he had some experience of
good in his life, or saw goodness in the world around him. This belief was very
"ictorian# society in BrowningGs day belie!ed that (od was completely good and loving,
and was never $udgmental of our actions. This view, shaped by the upper classes,
was based on their experiences in life. By their theology how could anyone be
expected to know that od was good unless they saw goodness in their own life%
Through Caliban, Browning is saying that belief in od is based upon experience,
and therefore Caliban has a picture of od that he arrived at through his
experiences. &et Browning makes it clear that, should his experiences be di'erent,
Caliban is (uite capable of changing his conclusions. !n the same way he arrived
at his view of od, he is able to arrive at other conclusions.
CalibanGs mindset is illustrated vividly in the text. )is adamancy that od is
cruel and unfeeling is proven through his words and thoughts.
*Thinketh +e mae it$ with the sun to match,
But not the stars; the stars came otherwise;
Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that:
Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon,
And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same.

*Thinketh$ it came from bein" ill at ease:
He hated that he cannot change His cold,
Nor cure its ache. (lines 2!""#
)e believes that od created the earth out of spite, because he cannot
imagine, from his experience, that od would create the earth for any other
reason. !n the same way, he believes that od created men only to laugh at them
and harm them, or to put them to work.
$ould not % take clay, &inch my 'ali(an
A(le to )y*, -lines ../.0#
+here, and % will that he (egin to live,
,ly to yon rock!to&, ni& me o- the horns, -lines 01/02#
%n which .eat, i. his legs sna&&ed, (rittle clay,
And he lay stu&id!like, !!why, % should laugh;
And i. he, s&ying me, should .all to wee&,
Beseech me to (e good, re&air his wrong,
Bid his &oor leg smart less or grow again, !!
$ell, as the chance were, this might take or else
Not take my .ancy: % might hear his cry, -lines 03/41#
$ere this no &leasure, lying in the thyme,
/rinking the mash, with (rain (ecome alive,
0aking and marrying clay at will* 1o He. (lines 23!24#
The key words in this section are the last two* T-o 7eG. #ith those words,
Browning shows us not only what Caliban assumes od does, Browning makes us
understand that Caliban is speaking only from his own experience. Caliban is
telling the reader that this is what he has seen, and this is all he can imagine od
thinking and doing.
CalibanGs life, from the time he was born until we meet him in this poem, has
been one of hardship and labor. )e is deformed, slow+witted ,though not slow+
witted enough to be stupid-, and crude. )e has spent the last twelve years of his
life under the thumb of .rospero, who with /iranda taught Caliban to speak,
thereby teaching him of his deformities. !t is no secret in either The Tempest or
Caliban Upon Setebos that .rospero is no kind master. 0ince he arrived he has
used Caliban to do his labor, and has insulted him and belittled him. Caliban frst
knew he was inferior when .rospero taught him that he was. 1hat is more,
.rospero has not only used Caliban to do his work, but he has mocked him and
abused him physically by his magic. 2aturally, Caliban compares .rospero, the
only master he has ever known, with od. 0ince .rospero takes such pleasure in
hurting him, Browning asks us why Caliban should not assume that od is $ust the
!t is only a short step from this assumption, however, to the idea that, had
.rospero not been a hard master and abused Caliban, CalibanGs ideas of od would
be (uite di'erent. !f, instead of harming him by his magic, .rospero had helped
him, Caliban would have seen his master in a di'erent light. 1hen .rospero
taught him to speak, Caliban could have benefted greatly from the lessons.
.rospero could have taught him that he had potential to improve himself and
become a better person. !nstead, .rospero taught him that he was hopelessly
inferior and nothing better than a slave. .rospero taught him to fear, and thereby
obey him. )ad he taught him to love, and thereby obey him, CalibanGs e,periences
would re3ect onto his ideas of od.
*'onceiveth all thin"s will continue thus,
And we shall have to live in .ear o. Him
1o long as He lives, kee&s His strength: no change,
%. He have done His (est, make no new world
+o &lease Him more, so leave o- watching this, !!
%. He sur&rise not even the 5uiets sel.
1ome strange day, !!or, su&&ose, grow into it
As gru(s grow (utter)ies: else, here are we,
And there is He, and nowhere hel& at all. (lines 267!
Caliban might $ust as well be talking about .rospero, he e(uates the two so
closely. .rospero is all Caliban has ever known of od, and Browning makes it
completely natural for him to assume that they are similar. !n fact, it is not
CalibanGs own assumption that Prospero is his (od* .rospero taught him to think of him
and obey him as od. !t is because of this that we see CalibanGs thoughts so muddled
on the subJect of (od and .rospero. !ndeed, if the poem were instead called Caliban
Upon Prospero, and some language about creating the moon and earth ,which
even Caliban sees .rospero is not powerful enough to do- was taken out, it would
be completely valid. Caliban is enthralled to .rospero, and has been for many
years. .rospero is his od, and the only comparable thing he has to the od
above .rospero.
1hy .rospero has abused Caliban so is unknown. .erhaps he feels force is
the only way to maintain a slave, and fear will make him do his bidding. 4nalysts
have speculated on this (uestion for (uite some time, with no one conclusion.
0ome say that .rospero feels threatened by Caliban, and lashes out in his own
fear, believing that if Caliban fears him he wonGt rebel against his authority. -ome say
Prospero disli"es him simply because of his deformed and unlearned state. 5thers
insist that relations were friendly until Caliban wished to court ,or rape, depending
on your interpretation of the text- /iranda, and that was not something .rospero
would tolerate. 0till other critics say that .rospero was $ust in keeping with the
class+distinctions of the day, and it was perfectly acceptable to abuse slaves.
1hatever the case may be, there is no doubt that .rospero abused Caliban, and
his abuse led to much of CalibanGs ideas and "nowledge.
.rosperoGs abuse is clear through the lines of the poem, and the original te,t of The
Tempest. 1hile the reader does not know why he is abused, there is no doubt in
the readerGs mind that is abused.
%. He caught me here,
Oerhear this speech$ an aske *5hat ch&ckles at6
*5o&l$ to appease +im$ c&t a fin"er off,
Or o. my three kid yearlings (urn the (est,
Or let the toothsome a&&les rot on tree,
Or &ush my tame (east .or the orc to taste: (lines
Caliban has no trouble getting his fear and anger across to the reader. 6ear
and anger directed at od, but fear and anger that came originally from .rospero.
)e speculates on what od might do to him in the lines above# is that not exactly
what .rospero would do to him% )e cannot imagine od doing anything else than
what .rospero, his earthly master, would do.
7ven in the areas where .rospero seems to have helped Caliban, it is evident
to the reader that he had ulterior motives. .rospero taught Caliban to talkSit is
true. But e!en the way he taught him to tal" reflects what kind of master .rospero is. )e
taught Caliban to speak, but the words he taught him are brutal and crude.
Browning emphasi8es his inade(uate learning through the poem# Caliban Upon
Setebos is written in unrhymed pentameter lines. Throughout the poem there are
irregularities that add to the feeling of the illiteracy of the speaker, and his words
are earthy and rough. Caliban has no vocabulary for the fner things in lifeSall
Prospero has taught him is language for e!eryday chores and work. oing to another level,
.rospero has not only taught him only the words he wanted him to know, and no
others, but he has instilled in Caliban through his lessons what place in society he
has, and that he will never be anything better. Through his lessons of speech,
Caliban has been taught to fear .rospero and to accept his station in life for what
it is. !t is no wonder, therefore, that he is unable to imagine himself being treated
well by .rospero, and ultimately od.
CalibanGs ideas of od do not spring solely from .rospero, however. 1hile
.rospero is the large, menacing force in CalibanGs life, his !iew of (od is based on
what he sees on the island, too. Through his experiences with the animals and
their deaths and lives, he comes to the conclusion that od, or 0etebos, is cruel
and $ealous. 6or example,
%dly8 He doth His worst in this our li.e,
9iving :ust res&ite lest we die through &ain,
1aving last &ain .or the worst,7with which$ an en8
0eanwhile, the (est way to esca&e His ire
%s, not to seem too ha&&y. Sees$ himself$
;onder two )ies, with &ur&le <lms and &ink,
Bask on the &om&ion!(ell a(ove: kills (oth.
Sees two black painf&l beetles roll their ball
On head and tail as i. to save their lives:
0oves them the stick away they strive to clear. (lines
)e sees the death of animals and, in true "ictorian fashion, assumes that
because this is what he sees in life, od must be what he assumes him to be.
Because he sees pain and death, he assumes that either od is too weak to stop
the pain and death, or he is cruel and mocks humans and animals. Caliban
discards the frst idea because of his primary exampleSProspero. )n him he sees cruelty
and power, and it is there his idea of od becomes really set. CalibanGs e,periences of anger
and pain lead to his idea of od.
Caliban Upon Setebos was written at a time when "ictorians were struggling
greatly with Christianity and 9arwinism, and how they were to connect the two.
6or centuries the Christian faith was accepted as absolute fact, and most people
did not even think about the way the world worked, the way humans were made,
or the laws of physics and chemistry. By the time of Robert Browning, many
Christians had a vague view that od was complete love and kindness, and it was
through our experiences in life that humans saw his love for us and founded their
beliefs. Therefore, when 9arwinism appeared Christians didnGt "now what to thin". )f
(od was a (od of absolute love, how could he create vicious animals and parasites%
4nd on a deeper note, how could Christians explain the new fndings of science in
accordance with the Bible% These are all (uestions Caliban Upon Setebos
BrowningGs frst point is, of course, to defend the position that manGs idea of
od comes solely from his experience in life. )e has a very "ictorian approach in
this area# his theory seems to be that there is no way od can be any di'erent
than what our minds think of him. Caliban assumes that od is the way he
assumes od is because he cannot imagine od being anything but what his mind
can comprehend. This was the "ictorianGs maJor problem when E!olution made its
brea"through. The "ictorianGs (od was smallSpoc"et+sized. (od was lo!e, and (od was manifest
through daily experiences. od would never create anything that was cruel or
harmful or parasitic because that made the "ictorians feel uncomfortable, and
od would never do anything to make them uncomfortable. The "ictorians si8ed
od down until he was small enough for them, and when he was small, he was
$ust powerful enough to be good, but not powerful enough to have a plan of his
ownSone that the "ictorians could not understand through their own experiences.
Browning also acknowledged, through his poem, the fact that od was not
powerful enough to rule the :niverse. 7ven Caliban, who had a very minimal
education, decided that od was $ealous of the creatures he created and
therefore, in his spite, destroys them.
D&" &p a newt +e may have envie once
And turned to stone, shut u& inside a stone. (lines
Browning acknowledges the "ictorian idea of a small od, and re3ects this
view on Caliban. !f od is $ealous of one of his creatures, he must be $ust small
enough to feel threatened, and $ust big enough to be able to do something about
it. )ere we go back to the original, and main point of the poemSthat CalibanGs, and
the rest of 4ictorian societies, views are based on personal experiences. The idea that
od might have another reason to kill the newt does not present itself in CalibanGs
head# the thought was foreign to "ictorian society, who wanted od small enough
to handle.
Caliban Upon Setebos allows us a fascinating view into the "ictorian mindset,
and the struggles Christianity was going through. Because of the accepted idea
that od was a small od and a od that was easily understood, Christians had a
crisis when 9arwinism came along and they could not ft the new scientifc
discoveries into their idea of od. BrowningGs poem, and the emphasis it places
on personal experience and comparing od to man is typical of the era and
beliefs in the nineteenth century. Browning uses Caliban, and the entire poem, to
illustrate his view that belief in odGs e,istence comes from ones personal e,periences in life,
and in looking around at what the world says to you. CalibanGs negati!e view of od
has arisen from his cruel upbringing, but it is clear that if CalibanGs upbringing had
been different, he would ha!e had a sunnier outlook on life, and od. od has been
confned, in true "ictorian fashion, to our own experiences and ideas. &et how can
we pretend to know what od is like% 1hat the "ictorians e'ectually did, aware or
unaware, was start a movement to confne od to smaller and smaller boundaries
until there was no use for od at all, and man became the center of his own
universe, basing everything he knew upon his own experiences.
Ho&ing the while, since evils sometimes mend,
$arts ru( away and sores are cured with slime,
+hat some strange day, will either the 5uiet catch
And con=uer 1ete(os, or likelier He
/ecre&it may do>e, do>e, as good as die. (lines 242!2?"#
9'aliban )pon Setebos9
The poem begins with a section in brac"ets, in which Caliban, the creature from -ha"espeare's The
Tem/est, introduces himself. 7e crawls on his belly along the island on which he is trapped, tal"ing to
himself freely since his masters Proper .Prospero in -ha"espeare6 and >iranda are asleep. 7e heads for a
&rom here, he begins his main address, which is about -etebos, the being he considers his (od and
creator. &or Caliban, -etebos created the world from "being ill at ease," as an attempt to compensate for
his cold, miserable e,istence. Because -etebos could not ma"e himself a peer, a "second self@To be 7is
mate," he created a miserable island of lesser creatures that "7e admires and moc"s too."
Caliban, in imitation of what he belie!es -etebos to be, gourds a fruit "into mash," in effect acting as a
creator himself. 7e imagines if he could "ma"e a li!e bird out of clay," he might watch indifferently as
that bird "lay stupid+li"e," unable to fly. 7e is imagining himself showing the same indifference to the fate
and happiness of his potential creatures as he imagines -etebos shows to Caliban.
3ot only does he belie!e -etebos to rule without any moral sense, but he also belie!es -etebos is entirely
unpredictable, liable to cause pain for an offense that he had otherwise appro!ed of. Caliban does wonder
whether he simply might not understand the ways of -etebos, but also notes that -etebos too" pains not to
create any creatures who, e!en if they might be "worthier than 7imself" in some respects, would ha!e the
power to unseat -etebos from his godly place.
#hen Caliban considers why -etebos would be so unhappy to ha!e created an unhappy world, he
conJectures that perhaps -etebos is 7imself a subordinate to a power that 7e does not understand. Calling
this greater power "the 9uiet," Caliban describes it as one "that feels nor Joy nor grief,@-ince both deri!e
from wea"ness in some way." :ri!en by resentment o!er not ha!ing a connection to 7is own ma"er,
-etebos must ha!e angrily made the Earth "a bauble+world" where nothing ma"es sense.
Caliban ne,t thin"s on Prosper, his magician master on the island. 7e play+acts as Prosper, using other
animals to create his own hierarchy where he is the master o!er others. &rom this e,perience, Caliban
considers that perhaps -etebos created the world not from any strong emotion or feeling, but rather for the
sa"e of wor" itself, to "e,ercise much craft,@By no means for the lo!e of what is wor"ed." That the world
might one day fall down does not matter under this line of thought, since the wor" can simply be repeated.
7e returns to thoughts about -etebos's unpredictability, citing how "one hurricane will spoil si, months'
hope." #hat's more, Caliban cannot rationalize why he would be so hated while Prosper would be so
blessed by the deity. Caliban holds some hope that in the same way that -etebos might one day unseat "the
9uiet," so might the world get a chance to impro!e itself and becomes less built on random destruction and
The best way to "escape L-etebos'sM ire," Caliban belie!es, is to feign misery. 7e belie!es that showing
-etebos happiness is sure to bring pain down on oneself, and so it is Caliban only dances "on dar" nights,"
while he at other times wor"s to loo" miserable and angry. 7e will stay committed to this plan until
-etebos is either ta"en o!er by the 9uiet or dies on 7is own.
The final section is again brac"eted. As a storm begins, Caliban sees a ra!en flying o!erhead and fears that
the bird will report to -etebos the creature's musings. #orried he will be punished for re!ealing happiness
and e,pressing impertinence, he immediately resumes his guise of a miserable beast.
This dramatic monologue, published in /AQ2 in 0ramatis Personae, is arguably one of Browning's most
sophisticated. )ts fundamental 9uestions are theological, as it contemplates both the origins and moti!es of
di!ine power, and by e,tension what humans are capable of understanding about their world and the
forces that control it. The blan" !erse allows Caliban's rambling but obser!ant thoughts to create a
memorable !oice that blends misery and perception.
There are a few historical and literary influences that should first be considered. The most immediate is
-ha"espeare's The Tem/est. )n the play, the wizard Prospero is stranded on a wild, magical island with his
daughter >iranda and certain creatures he commands through his magic. Fne of these is Caliban, a
miserable humanoid whose arc in the play is to finally commit to see"ing grace in the end. Browning co+
opts this creature for this se!eral reasons, not least of all because he is defined by his misery. 7e !iews
himself as lesser .and obJecti!ely is a less sophisticated being than the humans6, and is unhappy to be
under Prospero's direct control. Ksing this creature as a !antage to e,plore our own relationship to a di!ine
power not only creates higher drama and sta"es, but also imbues all the considerations with a cynicism.
The immediate historical influence on the poem is the then+recent publication of :arwin's 1rigins of the
+/ecies. Browning was responding to se!eral naturalist theories that surfaced in the face of the scientific
realization that man might not a direct and di!ine creation. The first of these theories is that (od could be
understood by natural, empirical e!idence. The second is that (od must e,ist in the image of man if we
ha!e e!ol!ed from animals and hence are not directly in 7is image. There are two pieces of corroborating
e!idence that suggest Browning was e,ploring these ideas. Fne is the epigraph to the poem U "Thou
thoughtest that ) was altogether such a one as thyself" U ta"en from Psalm D< in the Bible, and spo"en by
(od to wic"ed sinners who thought the deity wic"ed li"e themsel!es. The second piece of e!idence is the
poem's subtitle$ "3atural Theology in the )sland." This would certainly ha!e resonated with scholars and
educated readers of the time as being rele!ant to the then+current theological debates following the
re!elations popularized by :arwin's study.
-o the 9uestions Browning as"s through this monologue are all centered in these contemplations, though it
should be noted that with his characteristic sophistication, Browning does not suitably answer any of these
9uestions with any certainty. The monologue has dialectical possibilities, and one should read it as a
consideration of !arious possibilities instead of a philosophical tract. That Caliban has a firm idea of
-etebos should not "eep us from doubting his beliefs, and in!estigating what has influenced him to
understand -etebos the way he has.
&irst should come an analysis of Caliban himself. Knli"e the creature in -ha"espeare's play, Browning's
Caliban has a remar"able degree of self+consciousness. Perhaps the most telling 9uality of his address is
his tendency to address himself in third person. )t's a childish construction for the creature to use, but it
also reflects his belief that -etebos will punish him for showing any happiness and Joy. 7e is intelligent
enough to realize that his true identity is di!orced from his beha!ior, and as such disassociates himself so
he can study himself obJecti!ely. )t's a &reudian construction, a superego Judging an ego. Fne other
element of Caliban is his delusional ability to Justify his own limitations. Those limitations are physical U
he's a humanoid creature U and circumstantial U he has to ser!e a cruel master, with his only release being
when Prospero is asleep. )n many ways, one can argue that Caliban feels compelled to create -etebos so as
to Justify his misery. )f -etebos is responsible for fashioning a terrible world, then it is Justifiable that
Caliban himself is miserable.
And indeed, the -etebos he imagines is a pathetic and miserable creature. i"e the 4ictorian naturalists,
Caliban does not piece together his sense of a god from an inner feeling, but instead from empirical
e!idence. 3otice the amount of this long poem de!oted to categorizing creatures, describing them in
grotes9ue and miserable terms. The repeated phrase "-o 7e" suggests a scientific construction, in which
Caliban paints his (od based on obser!ation rather than any a /riori considerations. Based on such a
miserable island, -etebos is imagined as a spiteful and resentful creature who creates not to punish others
or please himself, but rather to e,ercise his ambi!alence. 7e creates simply because it's something to do,
to distract 7imself from "the 9uiet," 7is own deity and one 7e cannot understand, all with little care for
the concerns of those 7e creates. There are no moral concerns in -etebos, e!en though Caliban imbues
-etebos with emotions. Because these creatures e,ist below -etebos, it is not in his perspecti!e to be
concerned with them.
Caliban's entire world!iew is based on hierarchy. As a creature under Prospero's control, it is li"ely
comforting to imagine that Prospero himself is controlled by -etebos, and further, that -etebos is
controlled by "the 9uiet." )t is only at this highest le!el that Caliban stops conJecturing, and proposes a
creature that "feels nor Joy nor grief," in effect ha!ing no emotions at all. &or a creature punished by the
world, it must be nice to thin" that the ultimate power does not e!en ha!e room for feelings, since that
suggests those feelings are ultimately irrele!ant. &urther, Caliban e,ercises his own power o!er smaller
creatures, both physically when he grinds the fruit down or pretends that the sna"e is >iranda, and
imaginati!ely when he thin"s about creating a bird from clay. The irony of Caliban's hierarchy of course is
that he creates his conceptions of those abo!e him using empirical e!idence, from below. That is, the
creatures with superior power are actually dependant on what is below them .or at least Caliban's
perception of those things below them6, which naturally limits them to Caliban's perceptions. )n other
words, Browning suggests through Caliban's empirical methods that no matter the imagination of he who
deri!es (od this way, (od will always be no bigger than what that person sees and does. A miserable
creature will create a miserable (od, and so by default a happy man will do the opposite.
F!erall, this poem is a study of a masterful interpreter, one who attempts to ma"e an order of his world.
7e studies beha!ior .including his own6 in order to create a system that can then dictate his beha!ior. )t is
telling that he ends the poem by again pretending to be miserable, but it is only perceptible to use .through
dramatic irony6 that these rules are of Caliban's own imagining. The !icious circle of an empirically+
created (od ultimately leads to man li!ing through a lac" of imagination, creating his own self+fulfilling
prophecy. That Browning disappro!es of or at least has pity for such a world!iew is apparent U but what
world!iew he deems superior, or e!en how he percei!es (od, is not clear. )nstead, what is admirable in the
poem is the 9uest of self+analysis and thought. )t's all we ha!e for a fact, and as always, that is enough for
Analysis: Dover Beach by Mahe! Arnold "#$%%&#$$$'
Posted on :ecember 5Q, 5<<D by Jez
The poem H:o!er BeachI written by >atthew Arnold is about a human misery.
3ature especially the sea is used in order to draw a comparison between the fights of nature and the
human misery.
The poem consists of four stanzas which ha!e a different amount of lines. The first stanza consists of /2
lines, the second of si,, the third of eight and the last line of nine lines. The rhyme scheme is !ery
irregular. &or e,ample, in the first eight lines of the poem it is abacdbdc.
The first stanza can be di!ided into two parts. )n the first part .line one to line si,6 the lyrical ) describes
the motions of the sea in a !ery positi!e way. The words Hto+nightI .l. /6, HmoonI .l.56 and Hnight+airI
.l.Q6 show that it is night. To create a !ery harmonious mood the poet utilizes adJecti!es such as HfairI,
Htran9uilI and HcalmI. >atthew Arnold uses an anaphora .H(leamsI and H(limmeringI l.2@D6, to
underline the harmonious atmosphere of the first si, lines. The word HonlyI in line se!en can be seen as a
caesura. After line se!en the harmonious mood of the first lines is changing into a sad mood. The word sea
is personified by the !erb HmeetsI in line se!en. The personification and the e,pression Hmoon+blanched
landI create a mystic atmosphere. #ith the words of sound HlistenI, HhearI and HroarI in line nine Arnold
wants to acti!ate the readerIs perception of senses to in!ol!e him in his poem. Also, he in!ol!es the
readership by using the imperati!es HcomeI and HlistenI. The !erbs HbeginI HceaseI and Hagain beginI
show that the pebblesI motions are a ne!er ending mo!ement. By using the words HsadnessI and
HtremulousI the pebblesI motions are illustrated in a woeful and threatening way.
The first stanza can be seen as a description of a present status, whereas the second stanza is a reference to
the past. )n the second stanza the poet uses H-ophoclesI, an ancient (ree" philosopher, to show that the
people for a long time thought about a comparison between sea and human misery. The !erb HhearI in line
/Q and in line 5< can be regarded as a connection to the words of acoustic perception in the first stanza.
The e,pression Hdistant northern seaI is another connecting element between the both stanzas. By
mentioning the countries England and &rance the first stanza is tal"ing about the northern sea. The main
topic of the first stanza is the motion of sea. The reader can only guess that it refers to human misery, but
the second stanza tal"s about to the human misery in line /A.
The third stanza abstracts the image of the sea and uses it as a metaphor .Hsea of faithI6 to show that
HonceI .l.556 humanity was more religious. The metaphor of Hbright girdle furledI emphasizes that faith
was inseparable to earth. The words HBut nowI in line 52 are a caesura. The first three lines of the stanza
create a feeling of hope, whereas the last lines sound sad and hopeless.
The word HonlyI show that the lyrical ) feels only the sadness of the world. To amplify the negati!e mood
of the last lines Arnold utilizes words such as HmelancholyI, HdrearI and Hna"edI.
The last stanza refers to the misery of humanity and can be seen as a conclusion of the preceding stanzas.
The lyrical ) compares the world to a Hland of dreamsI which is H!ariousI HbeautifulI and HnewI. This
means that the world and the people who li!e on it might be happy and li!e together in peace. To
underline the positi!e mood, the lyrical ) uses the word Hlo!eI at the beginning of the stanza. The !erb
HseemsI shows that it is only a dream or an illusion of the lyrical ) which can ne!er become reality.
ine 11 is a caesura, wherefrom the lyrical ) describes his real life. The enumeration in line 11 and 12
HInor lo!e, nor light, nor peaceI" shows the cruelness of the world. The plural form HusI and HweI
illustrates that not only the lyrical ) but also many other people feel the cruelness. The words HsweepI and
Hclash by nightI both together form an allusion to the preceding stanzas. The motions of the sea are used
to clarify the bad relations between other people.
The poem illustrates the contrast between hope and reality. There are many caesuras in the poem, which
definitely show the changing mood of the lyrical ). )t wishes a peaceful world, but it also "nows that it is
almost impossible.
>aybe >atthew Arnold refers to the industrial re!olution which was a big change of life for e!erybody.
>any people were !ery unhappy with their new life.
The sea is calm to+night. The tide is full, the moon lies fair Kpon the straits*Uon the &rench coast the light
(leams and is gone* the cliffs of England stand, (limmering and !ast, out in the tran9uil bay. Come to the
window, sweet is the night+air% Fnly, from the long line of spray #here the sea meets the moon+blanchGd
land, isten% you hear the grating roar Ff pebbles which the wa!es draw bac", and fling, At their return,
up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, #ith tremulous cadence slow, and bring The
eternal note of sadness in. -ophocles long ago 7eard it on the VAEWgean, and it brought )nto his mind the
turbid ebb and flow Ff human misery* we &ind also in the sound a thought, 7earing it by this distant
northern sea. The -ea of &aith #as once, too, at the full, and round earthGs shore ay li"e the folds of a
bright girdle furlGd. But now ) only hear )ts melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, ;etreating, to the breath
Ff the night+wind, down the !ast edges drear And na"ed shingles of the world. Ah, lo!e, let us be true To
one another% for the world, which seems To lie before us li"e a land of dreams, -o !arious, so beautiful, so
new, 7ath really neither Joy, nor lo!e, nor light, 3or certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain* And we are
here as on a dar"ling plain -wept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, #here ignorant armies clash
by night.
) honestly belie!e that Arnold is tal"ing about how the 9uestion of faith has left the world in dar"ness. )n
the beginning of the poem, he e,presses how calm a!erything seems, and itGs li"e any other night.
7owe!er, as the poem progresses, he mentions how -ophocles heard the sadness in the Aegean sea, Just as
he was hearing the sadness in his own sea. )n mentioning the -ea of &aith, he re!eals that while it loo"s
calm and normal on the surface, really, the sea is singing a song of sadness and despair. during this time,
people began 9uestioning religion and turning to :arwinism. Arnold is e,pressing how people used to not
thin" twice about what they belie!ed, but now the world was unsure. )n telling his lo!e to stay true to him,
he is hoping that at least one thing in the world will remain the same and true. To him, the world was left
in dar"ness by the threat against faith.
Mahe! Arnold(s Dover Beach: S)**ary + Analysis

This is a poem about a sea and a beach that is truly beautiful, but holds much deeper meaning than what
meets the eye. The poem is written in free !erse with no particular meter or rhyme
scheme, although some of the words do rhyme. Arnold is the spea"er spea"ing to someone he lo!es. As
the poem a progress, the reader sees why Arnold poses the 9uestion stated abo!e, and why life seems to be
the way it is. :uring the first part of the poem Arnold states, HThe -ea is calm tonightI and in line 0,
HFnly, from the long line of sprayI. )n this way, Arnold is setting the mood or scene so the reader can
understand the point he is trying to portray. )n lines /+Q he is tal"ing about a !ery peaceful night on the
e!er so calm sea, with the moonlight shining so intensely on the land. Then he states how the moonlight
Hgleams and is goneI because the Hcliffs of EnglandI are standing at their highest pea"s, which are
bloc"ing the light of the moon. 3e,t, the wa!es come roaring into the picture, as they Hdraw bac" and
fling the pebblesI onto the shore and bac" out to sea again. Arnold also mentions that the shore brings Hthe
eternal note of sadness inI, maybe representing the cycles of life and repetition. Arnold then starts
describing the history of -ophocleGs idea of the HAegeanGs turbid ebb and flowI.
The sea is starting to become rougher and all agitated. Also the mention of Hhuman miseryI implies that
life begins and ends, but it can still be full of happiness, and unfortunately, at the same time, sadness. HThe
-ea of &aith was once, too, at the full, and round earthGs shore.I The "ey word in that stanza is once,
because it implies that he .Arnold6 used to loo" at the sea in a different way than he does now. Throughout
the whole poem, Arnold uses a metaphor to describe his !iews and opinions. 3ow he only hears its
Hmelancholy, long, withdrawing roar.I )t seems as though Arnold is 9uestioning his own faith. The whole
poem is based on a metaphor U -ea to &aith. #hen the sea retreats, so does faith, and lea!es us with
nothing. )n the last nine lines, Arnold wants his lo!e and himself to be true to one another. The land, which
he thought was so beautiful and new, is actually nothing U Hneither Joy, nor lo!e, nor lightI. )n reality,
Arnold is e,pressing that nothing is certain, because where there is light there is dar" and where there is
happiness there is sadness. H#e are here though as on a dar"ling plain, swept with confused alarms of
struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash at nightI. Arnold uses much alliteration in the poem. &or
e,ample, in line 1/, HTo lie before us li"e a land of dreamsI, repeating the letter at the beginning of
three words. Also, in line 2, H(leams and is goneXI, repeating the letter (. The usage of assonance and
consonance is not widespread in H:o!er BeachI. )n line 1 U HXon the &rench coast the lightI U the
repetition of the letter T is shown, as an e,ample of consonance. Fther literary techni9ues, such as
onomatopoeia and hyperbole, are not used in the poem, besides the metaphor for H&aithI being the -ea.
The diction Arnold uses creates a sense of peacefulness and calmness. )t is fairly easily understood
!ocabulary, with the e,ception of a few words, such as cadence and dar"ling. &rom reading >atthew
ArnoldGs H:o!er BeachI, one realizes that there is no certainty in life. #hen e!erything is going perfectly,
something unfortunate may happen at any gi!en time, with no forewarning.
Analysis on ,Dover Beach(
Posted on >arch 5D, 5<//
E:plore how Matthew Arnol &ses lan"&a"e to "ive &s insi"hts into the life of moern man in
*Dover !each8
The life of modern man"ind is presented !ery negati!ely and ignorantly by >atthew Arnold in the poem
:o!er Beach by the fact that religious faith e!anesce with the )ndustrial ;e!olution. Arnold creates the
image of the dar" future for the people without unwa!ering faith or religion.
>odern men are bastardised with the thought that new the )ndustrial ;e!olution will gi!e them ad!antage
o!er nature. This thought of gaining superiority made humans arrogant by which this appearance is bro"en
by the reality of natureGs dominance. People also seem ignorant with the wishful thought. These pebbles
which Tthe wa!es draw bac", and flingG are completely powerless and are thrown around by the wa!es that
mo!e these HpebblesI at ease. Arnold uses pebbles as a metaphor for humans to show the inferiority in
comparison to nature. The ignorance of humans is emphasised by the historical allusion to Peloponnesian
#ar. )n the dar", soldiers could not differentiate between their own army and the opponents* and so they
"illed their own soldiers. This is used by the poet to show the stupidity of modern man throwing away the
religion which was e!erything to people before the )ndustrial ;e!olution* something to belie!e and rely on
when people prayed. 7owe!er, this old belief is thrown away and Arnold sees it as a !ery naY!e decision.
The )ndustrial ;e!olution ga!e the source of arrogance and confidence which too" place among the
#estern countries. This re!olution was re!olutionary itself* humans could mass produce, with impro!ed
9uality, and at ease. These machineries became the limbs of human society. #hat came with the industrial
re!olution was the idea of realism. People could nearly produce goods to near+original standards, all
than"s to impro!ed technologies and science, and hence began to doubt the e,istence of (od and
supernatural beings. ;ealism contrasts the theology which is all about belief without 9uestioning that (od
e,ists* and people belie!ed it before the times of the machineries. )t ga!e people hope and modesty under
the mighty e,istence of (od. 7owe!er both hope and modesty disappeared with the )ndustrial ;e!olution
which Arnold laments for. Bitterness is suggested when Arnold e,claims TAh, lo!eG to show that in this
changing world, one can only rely on the partner, and be trustful and true. -arcasm is used to describe the
modern world as a Tland of dreamsG as there is no more hope for the world, as there is no more faith.
As the poem proceeds, the transition of mood is noticeable as the grief of the loss of faith e,tends to a
sense of resignation towards the end and ha!ing a sarcastic, sour approach to the issue. The Ttremulous
cadence slowG helps to con!ey the gradual process of the wane of doctrine which adds to the idea that the
change of peopleGs li!es is almost unnoticeable. This gradual process hurts Arnold because people are
caught unaware of the changes ta"ing place and so do not thin" it is particularly wrong and sinful. Arnold
presents his sorrow with the historical allusion to -ophocles who, was a (ree" playwright, had heard the
sound of wa!es crashing as the Teternal note of sadnessG. The TsadnessG of the man"ind turning away from
religious beliefs is a parallel to the TmelancholyX withdrawing roarXretreatingG of the wa!es. Before the
de!elopment of science and technology, people had truly belie!ed in the religion and thought that they
were in total control of god. The metaphor T-ea of &aithG which presents the religious faith people ha!e,
used to be Tfull and round EarthGs shoreG but now is TretreatingX down the !ast edgesG which shows the
decreasing religious beliefs. Arnold points out that, without faith, humans are Tna"edG and ha!e no
protection and defence which reflects the !ulnerability of man and their li!es.
#ith carefully chosen words, Arnold presents the uncertainty of the future of humans. The new
industrialised world seems Hso !arious, so beautiful, so newI but it is again a mere appearance. The reality
is that this mechanic, stiff world will ha!e Hneither Joy, nor lo!e, nor lightI because this mechanics cannot
feel lo!e, hence no Joy, and no !ision as humans need lo!e and the warm characteristics of humanity. )t is
thus deducible that the future will ha!e no Hcertitude, nor peace, nor help for painI which are the
essentialities of humans. 7umans can only sur!i!e the harsh world when e!erybody belie!es and trusts
each other, and this will be bro"en with the introduction of industrialisation. This change of the world will
bring Hconfused alarms on struggle and flightI which creates an imagery of a Hdar"ling plainI* a dar"
!ision for humans. &urthermore, the HturbidI ebb and flow shows the cloudy, uncertain future of Tebb and
flowG which is the repetiti!e cycles of nature. Can humans only sur!i!e when they ma"e harmony with the
nature, and to go against the natural cycles can only mean e,tinction of humans. The TcliffsG of England
TgleamsG and TglimmersG* gleams and glimmers ha!e a sense of sha"iness, precariousness and un"nown
which echoes the uncertain modern man. Also the alliteration of TgG and TmG creates a stuttering tone which
adds to the idea of uncertainty. This imagery portrays the withering away of cliffs as a decline of religious
beliefs and whatsmore, deterioration of the Earth itself as humans e,ploit resources out of the Earth which
the modern de!elopment enabled men to do.
The flaws of modernism and realism are e,pressed in this poem. The flow of the poem is cut off by uses
of caesura which is a parallel to the imperfect modern world. Arnold gi!es a hint that modernization of the
world will ha!e some flaws which will ine!itably bring loss of faith and result in loss of e9uilibrium. )n
science, there is no hope* e!erything is measured out and e,act. 7ence in the modern world reality there
can be no hope as it loo"s !ain. Again, Arnold sympathises with the loss of hope in reality. )n a different
sense, the calm, naturalistic description of a beach at night in the first stanza is the appearance which
contrasts to the reality that is sad, unhopeful, TretreatingG and TtremulousG.
7uman beings are inferior o!er nature and the spiritual beliefs as to an e,tent that people cannot control
anything. The abandonment of the doctrine of religion with the help of the )ndustrial ;e!olution is only a
!ain act against the power+o!erwhelming nature. ;eligion and faith should remain in humanity and
ignoring it should result in the uncertainty and !ulnerability of modern man.
'hristina ;ossetti's ;eli"io&s <oetry 7 Se:&al Fr&stration an
After the publication of -ing+-ong and the reco!ery from her illness, Christina ;ossetti turned almost
e,clusi!ely to de!otional writing. Although -ing+-ong mar"s a good+bye to the possibility of ha!ing a
child, the longing for a child and husband did not end. 7er religious poetry ac"nowledged these longings
and formed an outlet for them. >any of her "poems e,plore what she saw as the great danger that the
4ictorian cult of lo!e and marriage posed to the souls of woman." As a deeply religious woman she was
afraid somebody "could come between a woman and her lo!e of (od" L&lowers, /QDM. After her
disappointments with "worldly men," she now turned to the lo!e of (od. Betty -. &lowers points out that
"disappointments e,perienced in those earthy lo!e relationships ostensibly set up as 'opposites' to the
hea!enly one" L/QBM. 7owe!er, this lo!e was not only meant in a spiritual but also in a !ery physical way.
ongings and cra!ings are e!er present in Christina ;ossetti's poetry, especially in poems such as "(oblin
mar"et". 7ow much she struggled with "unfocused dissatisfaction" L>arsh, /B/M, whose deeper root was
se,ual frustration, can be seen in a poem li"e ";oses on a Brier" L/15nM$
;oses on a brier,
Pearls from out the bitter sea,
such is earth's desire
7owe!er pure it be.
3either bud nor brier,
3either pearl nor brine for me$
Be stilled my long desire*
There shall be no more sea.
Be stilled my passionate heart*
Fld earth shall end, new earth shall be$
Be still and earn thy part
#here shall be no more sea.
The spea"er of the poem is dissatisfied with "earth's desire" e!en if it was "pure." -he compares the desire
to wild roses and to pearls. #hile the roses grow outside the garden and thus may be unprotected, the
pearls come out of a "bitter sea," which might be a metaphor for life. Though both are rare and beautiful,
they are also surrounded by a hostile en!ironment. Therefore the spea"er refuses both of them in the
second stanza. -he spea"s to herself when she says "Be stilled my long desire@ There shall be no more
sea," then as"ing her own desire to stop longing for something which she cannot ha!e. "-ea" seems to be a
metaphor for the emotional uphea!als of life.
The meaning becomes clearer in the third and final stanza. Again the spea"er demands her heart to be still.
:eath ."old earth"6 will be a turning point. )n hea!en ."new earth"6 there will be a fulfilment to what the
spea"er longs for ."earn thy part@where shall be no more sea"6. A similar e,pression of dissatisfaction and
frustration is to be found in "The 7eart =noweth its Fwn Bitterness" Lcited from >arsh, /B/M$ "7ow can
we say 'enough' on earth* 'Enough' with such a cra!ing heart$ "9uestions the lyrical self and e,presses the
desire to gi!e herself away ") long to pour myself, my soul,@ 3ot to "eep bac" or count". Eet there is also
the dissatisfaction with the people around her .") will not lean on child of man"6
The realisation that she, ;ossetti, would not ha!e a child is transformed into a series of poems dealing
with plants and their fruitlessness. The imagery of fading blossom and lea!es hints at ;ossetti's "fading
beauty" L&lowers, /QBM as well as on her childlessness. i"e a plant who had a beautiful blossom, but did
not bear any fruit, ;ossetti was !ery beautiful as a young woman, but now finds herself to be past the age
of childbearing without ha!ing produced an offspring. )n a poem li"e ":ead before :eath" the lines "All
fallen the blossom that no fruitage bore,@ All lost the present and the future time" e,press the feeling of the
senselessness of one's being if it did not bare any fruit .did not ha!e children6. This senselessness does not
only enclose the present, but also the future. This e,presses the doubt that a life that doesnot produce some
"ind of fruit has any meaning. The lyrical self is "dead before death" and can only be re!i!ed in the ne,t
life after death. )n "-ong .Fh roses for the flush of youth6" the lyrical self also declares herself to ha!e
"grown old before my time".
But there is not only the !oicing of disappointment. A poem li"e "A Better ;esurrection" mar"s a turning
point, when it states$
. . . >y life is li"e a faded leaf,
>y har!est dwindled to a hus",
Truly my life is !oid and brief
And tedious in the barren dus"*
>y life is li"e a frozen thing,
3o bud nor greenness can ) see$
Eet rise it shall S the sap of spring,
F Nesus, rise in me. . ."
#hereas the first si, lines of this stanza enforce the imagery of fading lea!es and life+weariness, the last
two mar" a transition. The lyrical self has a !ision of a new spring that comes with Nesus. :isappointed
with the lo!e of man she e,perienced in her life, ;ossetti turns to find a substitute in Nesus Christ. 7e is
both begged and e,pected to bring forth new life in her. The poem concludes with ;ossetti imagining
herself to be "a royal cup for him my =ing,@ F Nesus drin" of me."
)n "ong Barren" the lyrical self declares herself to be 'barren', but as"s the ord to gi!e her strength "to
bring forth fruit to Thee." )n the second stanza this is reinforced in the lines "yet now strengthen me
Thou@That better fruit be borne." )n the third and final stanza the lyrical self echoes the biblical "-ong of
-ongs" and turns the poem into a lo!e song to Nesus. ."Thou ;ose of -haron, Cedar of broad roots,@4ine of
sweet fruits, . . . "6 The poem concludes with a plea to Nesus to gi!e strength to her wea" being. ."&eed
Thou my feeble shoots"6
;ossetti's S&bstit&te (ove for =es&s
hristina ;ossetti's "unfocused dissatisfaction" had now found a focus and a relief. ;ossetti's
turn to de!otional writing is depicted by :orothy >ermin in the following way$ "Christina ;ossetti
stopped trying to rebel$ in her de!otional writings she finds an appropriate place for a con!entional
woman's !oice" L0BM. 7er "desire for Christ, the ideal lo!er" L7arrison, 0AM and "!isions of fulfillment in
all+embracing lo!e . . in Paradise" L7arrison, 0AM helped her to find a new sense of purpose in her life and
inspired her to 'new' poetry. Ta"ing up the "con!entional 'spousal' imagery of religious !erse, the spea"er
described as a bride and Christ as the bridegroom, . . ." L7arrison, 00M and mi,ing it with "appetiti!e
images" L7arrison, 0AM, ;ossetti ta"es up another male genre .this time de!otional writing6 and alters it to
transport her message of "earthly lo!e's inade9uacy and the impossibility of achie!ing genuine fulfillment
through it" L7arrison, DQM and the e,change of it for the pure lo!e of Nesus Christ who would not hurt her$
Christ had become "the ideal lo!er" L7arrison, 0AM and the only one to satisfy her needs. These needs are
e,pressed in the same sensual descriptions that highlight, for e,ample "(oblin >ar"et."
The desire and lusting for Nesus becomes e!ident in a poem such as "i"e as the desireth the water
broo"s", which opens$
">y heart is yearning$
Behold my yearning heart,
And lean low to satisfy,
)ts lonely beseeching cry,
&or Thou its fullness art. . . . " L51/M
)n this poem the lyrical self e,presses her "yearning" for Nesus. As the title .ta"en from a psalm6 already
indicates, she is longing for Christ as a deer longs for "water broo"s." These water broo"s are a place
where one is safe. They also deli!er water, which is the source of all forms of life on earth. Nust as she
could not e,ist without the life+gi!ing water, she could not e,ist without the life+gi!ing spirituality of
Nesus. 7e is described li"e a protector, who should "behold" her heart. At the same time he should also
"satisfy" this heart, which is begging ."beseeching"6 to him, for he is "its fullness," all this heart needs to
be fulfilled.
)n "Peace ) lea!e with you" L51<M she begs Nesus to "#rap me up in thy lo!e" and in "Because Thy lo!e
hath sought me" L51<M she offers him her heart ") lift my heart to thy heart, @Thy 7eart sole resting+place
for mine. . . ". )n "Thy fainting spouse" she uses the "spousal imagery" and describes herself as wife of
"Thy fainting spouse, yet still Thy spouse*
Thy trembling do!e, yet still Thy do!e*
Thine own by mutual !ows,
By mutual lo!e. . . ." L51<M
The first line describes her to be a "fainting" spouse. The fainting could ha!e two reasons$ Either she feels
wea" in terms of e,haustion, or it is a fainting that is caused by his presence. Eet although she feels wea",
she still declares herself to be his wife. )n the second line she illustrates herself as "Thy trembling do!e."
:o!e seems to be used li"e a pet name between lo!ers. Again the word "trembling" raises the 9uestion for
the cause$ wea"ness or .se,ual6 e,citement. )n the third line she describes herself to be "Thine own by
mutual !ows,@ By mutual lo!e." 7er whole being belongs to him. The "mutual !ows" e!o"e the image of a
legally sanctioned marriage, whose sole foundation is "mutual lo!e."
") =now Eou 3ot" L521M again echoes the "-ong of -ongs," before e,pressing her desire as a thirst .")
thirst for Thee, full fount and flood*@ >y heart calls thine, as deep to deep"6* "ord, grant me to lo!e Thee"
L5QAnM enlarges this image to "The hungering thirsting longing of my heart". The longing for Nesus
e,presses e!ery of her needs and they will be stilled by him$ he will 9uench her thirst, feed her and gi!e
peacefulness to her desire.
-ssay on .No Thank Yo) /ohn.
<rintable >ersion
!y A&rey Tamer
Poetry is a completely malleable form of e,pression that writers use as an outlet for emotion and
ad!ocacy. Because each poet is distinct in form and content, a poet may harbor some characteristics that
bare a resemblance to wor" of another. )f there is no room for comparison, a poem may ha!e a literary
complement that sets up an interesting contrast between poems, or a poem may reinforce the ideas of
another poem. The wor"s of Christina ;ossetti and ;obert (ra!es are no e,ception. Though the two li!ed
in different centuries, they both wrote about relationships between the se,es. ;ossetti and (ra!esG forms
differed e!en as their contents played upon one another in the poems H3o Than"+Eou NohnI and HA -lice
of #edding Ca"eI respecti!ely.
Christina ;ossetti was nothing if she were not a true artist. ;ossetti was born in /A1< and li!ed until
/AB2 as a poet who had an early passion for art and literature .HChristina ;ossettiI /DA16. The dri!ing
force in ;ossettiGs life was religion. -he was a self+regulator who made decisions based on rigid religious
!alues. )n the midst of her unfaltering spiritual de!otion, ;ossetti ga!e up theater, opera, and chess
.HChristina ;ossettiI /DA16. ;ossetti ne!er married, but that is not to say that she ne!er had plans for
marriage. -he was engaged twice and both times bro"e the engagements for religious reasons. ;ossetti
wrote pure lyric, narrati!e fable, ballad, and de!otional !erse .HChristina ;ossettiI /DA16. -he wrote
poetry that dealt with deflection and negation. The 3orton Anthology writes, HL7erM !ery denials and
constraints gi!e her a powerful way to articulate a poetic self in critical relationship to the little that the
world offersI .HChristina ;ossettiI /DA26.
;obert (ra!es was born the year after Christina ;ossetti died, but he shared her desire to write poetry
with a moc"ing tone. -er!ing time with the army in #orld #ar ) pro!ided (ra!es with inspiration for his
first published wor", H(oodbye to All ThatI .H;obert (ra!esI 52226. -tarting with war as his subJect,
(ra!es settled on domestic concepts and the annoyances of personal relationships .H;obert (ra!esI
522D6. (ra!es differs from most (eorgian poets because his H!isionaryI and Hcollo9uialI diction
intertwine in his wor"s .H;obert (ra!esI 52226. The language in his poetry creates a con!ersational
rhythm in his stanzas .H;obert (ra!esI 52226. (ra!esG tone is no contrast to his language. The 3orton
Anthology includes that (ra!es writes in a way that combines Hthe ironic and the !isionaryI .H;obert
(ra!esI 52226. (ra!esG poetry has most accurately been labeled by the 3orton Anthology as Hdown+to+
earthI .H;obert (ra!esI 52226. (ra!es li!ed his ordinary life until /BAD when he died as a poet who
would be remembered on two continents for his wor"s.
H3o Than" Eou NohnI was written in /ADB by ;ossetti and after reading it, one would find it
impossible to forget the message of tactful reJection. )n this poem, the spea"er reJects the offering of lo!e
from the persistent Nohn. 7er wor" spea"s to the idea of unre9uited lo!e. The spea"er contends that she
ne!er told Nohn that she lo!ed him and that he "new she ne!er lo!ed him. As the poem progresses,
;ossettiGs spea"er mo!es from a simple refusal to an absolute reJection of a romantic lo!e between she
and Nohn. The spea"erGs reJection is not a heartless brea"+up ballad, but instead is a piece that offers the
compromise of friendship in the final line of the poem. The line reads, H7ereGs friendship for you if you
li"e* but lo!e, +++@ 3o, than you, NohnI .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI /Q<56. Though what the spea"erGs offer is
hardly a compromise to the de!oted Nohn, he will ha!e to settle for friendship because the spea"er has no
interest in prolonging their relationship. :espite the seemingly insensiti!e message, ;ossetti is sure that
her spea"er is polite because she is always mannerly in her refusal of NohnGs offerings.
#ritten one hundred years after ;ossettiGs piece, ;obert (ra!es uses !erse to e,press his moc"ing
thoughts about the marriage of Hlo!ely, gifted girlsI to Himpossible menI in his poem HA -lice of #edding
Ca"eI .HA -lice of #edding Ca"eI 52D<6. #hile ;ossetti does not use negati!e epithets to depict Nohn,
(ra!es has no problem bashing the male gender in his poem. (ra!es cannot understand why some women
willfully subJect themsel!es to marriages with HidleI and HilliterateI men .HA -lice of #edding Ca"eI
52D<6. #hereas ;ossettiGs !erse ci!illy reJects Nohn, (ra!esG poem painfully reJects marriages between
well+beha!ed women and intolerable men as he slams men as HslyI and HdirtyI .HA -lice of #edding
Ca"eI 52D<6. ;ossetti maintains a respectful tone in her piece as the female spea"er formally reJects Nohn.
(ra!esG holds nothing bac" in his poem that is hyper+critical of the male gender. (ra!esG puts the woman
on a pedestal and has man down below her.
;ossettiGs spea"er is spea"ing down to Nohn, but in a way that is elo9uent and poignant. :espite the
ob!ious fact that Nohn is being reJected, ;ossettiGs spea"er performs the not+so+dreaded tas" by
incorporating beautiful !erse with tactfully rude remar"s. The first stanza begins, H) ne!er said ) lo!ed
you, Nohn,I and the second stanza begins, HEou "now ) ne!er lo!ed you, NohnI .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI
/Q</6. 7er bold lines ma"e her point unmista"able. Throughout the poem, the spea"er is moc"ing of Nohn.
&or e,ample$ H) dare say >eg or >oll would ta"e@ Pity upon you, if youGd as"$@ And pray donGt remain
single for my sa"e@ #ho canGt perform the tas"I .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI /Q</6. The spea"er does not
want to be misunderstood in her total reJection of this man, while at the same time she wants to remain
friends. The concluding stanzas of the poem are her final words on the subJect as she desires to put the
past behind them and mo!e on as friends.
#here ;ossetti decides to gi!e Nohn a little space for redemption, (ra!es offers redemption to the
male gender only in a moc"ing manner. 7is wor" categorizes the male gender with negati!e adJecti!es
that are used to describe the worst of people. 7e writes that the men who marry the women are Hself+
pityingI and Hfoul+temperedI .HA -lice of #edding Ca"eI 52D<6. 7is descriptions of men and women put
the two genders at a contrast beha!iorally as the men are characterized as less than mannerly and women
as Hlo!ely, gifted girlsI .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI /Q</6. The final lines of (ra!esG wor" act li"e they may
negate his argument, but they ser!e to continue the moc"ing tone. 7e writes, HFr do ) always o!er+!alue
woman@ At the e,pense of man8@ :o )8@ )t might be soI .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI /Q</6. (ra!es "nows that
he has not o!er!alued woman at the e,pense of man, but he is reiterating the point that the men do not
deser!e the women that they married.
3o man could deser!e such an outspo"en woman as ;ossetti. 4irginia #oolf said, HL;ossettiGsM
instinct was so sure, so direct, so intense that it produced poems that sing li"e music in oneGs earsI
.HChristina ;ossettiI /DA26. The poem H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI sings in the readerGs ears because of its
consistent rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme alternates a b a b c d c d creating a rhythmic reJection song
to Nohn. The first and third lines of the poem rhyme with the thirtieth and thirty+second lines of the poem.
The effect of the rhyming is to bring a conclusion to the situation. The lines bring a balanced end to the
poem. ;ossettiGs spea"er reJects Nohn from the beginning of the piece to the conclusion of the wor".
As consistent as the reJection in the poem, is ;ossettiGs use of con!ersation. The poem appears as
though Nohn is attempting a rebuttal against the spea"er as she is trying to put him out for the final time.
As he fights her on the subJect she refutes his argument in the following lines ./1+/Q6$
) ha!e no heart8SPerhaps ) ha!e not*
But then youGre mad to ta"e offence
That ) donGt gi!e you what ) ha!e not got$
Kse your common sense .H3o, Than" Eou, NohnI /Q</6.
Though Nohn refuses to ta"e HnoI for an answer, ;ossettiGs spea"er refuses to offer HyesI an answer. -he
counters e!ery time he tries to ma"e her rethin" her decision. Kltimately, all of NohnGs attempts to sal!age
some sort of lo!e with the spea"er are in !ain.
;obert (ra!es successfully uses alliteration and diction in his wor" to stress his attitude toward the
idea of good women marrying horrible men. (ra!es sets up a contrast between men and women from the
first line of his poem where he describes women as Hlo!ely, gifted girlsI and men as HimpossibleI .HA
-lice of #edding Ca"eI 52D<6. The words (ra!es uses to describe the genders ele!ate the female gender
from the beginning of the wor". The men are not worthy of the women in (ra!esG mind or his language.
The language of the poem is often harsh towards the male gender while the alliteration of the poem
puts the harsh terms for men close in pro,imity creating alliteration. The adJecti!es Himpossible, idle,
LandM illiterateI repeat the sound HiI ma"ing the line roll without incident. -pecifically, the sound HsI is
repeated throughout the wor" using the words Hsimple, self+sacrifice, self+pitying, LandM slyI create the
effect. The alliteration in the wor" ma"es the poem flow from word to word, line to line, and stanza to
stanza. The alliteration creates an impression in the poem that stresses (ra!esG "ey idea$ the men are not
worthy of the women that married them.
(ra!es and ;ossetti are poets of a different era. ;ossettiGs spea"erGs action towards Nohn is something
that (ra!es would ha!e been in fa!or of. Both poets were not afraid to e,press themsel!es through their
!erse. The differences in gender between ;ossetti and (ra!es do not pre!ent them from sharing an
opinion on the topic of relationships. Each poet "new how to use poetic de!ices such as alliteration and
!i!id diction to achie!e his point.
Z Audrey Tamer
0oe* Analysis of A)rora Lei1h and The Lady of Shalo by
Tennyson and Bro!nin1: 2icorian 3o*en
Posted by 3icole -mith, 3o! 5Q, 5<// iterature 3o Comments Print
Fther essays and articles in the iterature Archi!es related to this topic include $ An Analysis of Common
Themes in 4ictorian Poetry $ Browning and Arnold [ Poem Analysis of H&ra ippo ippiI by ;obert
Browning [ (ender and -ocial Criti9ue of 4ictorian -ociety in HThe Awa"eningI by =ate
Chopin [ Common Themes in ;omanticism, The Enlightenment, and the ;enaissance [ Analysis of
Poems by #illiam Butler Eeats

Although the typical and popular interpretation of femininity in 4ictorian poetry and literature is
predictably one that casts women into the role of the passi!e indi!idual who does not possess agency but
who is acted upon, a close e,amination of two poems by different poets re!eals that the images
ofstereotypical 4ictorian women were actually far more di!erse than a superficial glance suggests. )n
TennysonGs HThe ady of -halottI and BrowningGs HAurora eigh,I di!erse definitions of 4ictorian
femininity are de!eloped. Although the different female characters in these two poems struggle against the
roles that society was determined to assign to them, their strategies for doing so were 9uite different,
pointing to the di!erse opportunities women crafted for themsel!es in this era.
)n TennysonGs Hady of -halott,I the main female figure is the mysterious woman who occupies a tower in
the island of -halott. -he is portrayed as a woman who is beautiful yet inaccessible, who is not only
trapped in the highest le!el of the tower, but who cannot e!en loo" outside of the towerGs window, lest she
cause the full power of the curse that is upon her to be unleashed. At first, the ady of -halott appears to
be almost entirely passi!e. 3o one Hhath seen her wa!e her handI in this tower on the Hsilent isle,I and
none of her own personality attributes are identified. -he is a blan" slate upon which the an,ieties, desires,
and fears of -halott are proJected, but as such she appears to ha!e no personal agency at all. The lady
"eeps herself occupied by steadily wea!ing HA magic web with colours gay.I The purpose of the web is
not clear, nor is the intended recipient, but the woman still appears to delight in her craft.
The lady of -hallot is compared to the other women of the town, damsels who are portrayed as giddy and
e!en fri!olous. These women ha!e suitors, they are gay and Hglad,I but the narrator specifically points out
that the lady Hhath no loyal =night and true.I )t is somewhat surprising, then, when the ady of -halott
suddenly becomes bored with her tas" and decides to brea" her routine. 3ot surprisingly, because she is
con!inced that the curse has now been acti!ated, she soon dies. Although she e,ercised self+authority, she
was con!inced that destiny had already been written for her, either by society or an unearthly force, and
did not get to enJoy her freedom.
)n the ;obert Browning poem, in contrast, the female characters are clearly constrained by social norms,
roles, and e,pectations, but they are constantly see"ing and e,perimenting with strategies intended to
circum!ent or sub!ert the constraints of those roles. )n fact, HAurora eighI can be read on multiple le!els
and interpreted not only according to the female characters encountered in the poem, but also in the poet
herself, as well as her narrati!e@poetic strategies. The fact that Browning alluded to so many !aried
references outside of the poem indicates the subtle yet sub!ersi!e strategies the poet used to demonstrate
her intelligence and wit. This attribute is underscored by the e,periences of Aurora eigh, who at the
tender age of 5< reJects her suitor, who also happens to be her cousin, because he is a misogynist.
&urthermore, she finds him repulsi!e because he openly reJects the notion that a woman can be an artist, a
poet, or an intellectual.
As this poem analysis of Aurora eigh by ;obert Browning is suggesting, the main figure in the poem is
wholly dedicated to her craft, and throughout the epic poem she reflects thoughtfully and openly on her
de!elopment as a poet and as a woman. This display of candor and insight affirms Aurora eighGs
commitment to self+actualization, and her fearlessness in opening herself to sharing the realizations at
which she arri!es with her reader. )n the end, AuroraGs situation foreshadows the modern womanGs
dilemma$ )s it possible to ha!e it all8 )n AuroraGs case, the answer is yes. Although there are other female
characters in the poem who pro!ide a counterpoint to the character of Aurora eigh, condition, and
feminine role, it is Aurora who is the most e,citing and most promising of the characters in this poem.
)t is common to read 4ictorian poetry and no!els narrowly, !iewing women as passi!e creatures who ha!e
no choice but to accept the roles that are assigned to them. #hile this role certainly was a common oneU
and one which was embodied by ady -halottUthere were also many other manifestations of 4ictorian
femininity that are e!ident upon a close and careful reading of 4ictorian poems. Fne of the best e,amples
of alternate femininity can be !iewed in BrowningGs ambitious epic poem, HAurora eigh.I The re!elation
of these di!erse forms offemininity re9uires that readers reconsider 4ictorian poetry and ac"nowledge that
not all women were passi!e indi!iduals who were acted upon based on the dominant social norms of the
Eli?abeth !arrett !rownin"$ 5omen's Iss&es$ an Aurora Leigh
=ason Isaacs '42
L4ictorian #eb 7ome S\ Authors S\ Elizabeth Barrett Browning S\ #or"s S\ Biographical
lizabeth Barrett Browning, a prodigy of learning and poetry, published her first !olume of
!erse when she was thirteen and in her thirties established herself as an authority on the (ree" Christian
poets. 7er collected wor"s include translations of Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound ./A116 and Bion's
"ament for Adonis" ./A116 as well as selections from other Classical authors. Enormously admired for
her learning and her passionate moral and political commitments, Barrett Browning, whose fame much
surpassed that of her husband during her lifetime, achie!ed the 4ictorian ideal balance between personal
and political.
>ore than any other maJor 4ictorian poet, she e,plicitly and directly confronts political issues,
particularly those concerning women. i"e Tennyson, her husband, and many other contemporaries, she
began as a disciple of -helley who found the ;omantic !isionary mode compelling, and li"e them, she
later de!eloped a poetry of social, moral, and political commitment. Part of her sense of the poet's
responsibility appears in her many early religious poems, but it appears e!en more as an attachment to
themes in!ol!ing domestic, international, and se,ual politics. 7er concern with English political and
social conditions, which creates a poetry of political protest li"e Thomas 7ood's "-ong of the -hirt"
./A216, appears in "The Cry of the Children" ./A216 and similar wor"s.
After settling in &lorence after her elopement with ;obert Browning in /A2Q, she too" up the cause of
)talian nationalism, and this subJect produced Casa (uidi #indows ./AD/6 and Poems before Congress
./AQ<6. ">other and Poet" ./AQ56, which bears the subtitle "Turin, after 3ews from (aeta, /AQ/," is a
lyric spo"en by the )talian poet and patriot aura -a!io upon learning that both her sons ha!e died in the
cause of )talian liberty. Combining her interests in the fate of women, the role of the female poet, and the
e!ents of the ;isorgimento, this poem records the cost and the pain of the struggle.
7er concern with women's issues, particularly the dilemmas facing writers, inspire her two poems in
praise of (eorge -and ./A226 as well as her tributes to other women authors. -uch concern also lies at the
heart of her masterpiece, Aurora eigh ./AD06. This poetic narrati!e, a woman's !ersion of The Prelude
./AD<6, tells the story of the young poet, Aurora eigh, who li!es in England with an unsympathetic aunt
after the death of her )talian mother and English father. The poem's main action begins at the point her
cousin ;omney, a wealthy philanthropist and social acti!ist, as"s her to marry him. :enying that women
ha!e either the innate capacity or the position in society necessary to write important poetry, ;omney
clumsily tries to con!ince her to Join his worthy cause. Barrett Browning's heroine reJects her cousin's
proposal, succeeds as a poet, and obser!es e!ents as he ma"es a fool of himself attempting to play
Pygmalion and marry >arian Earle, a poor seamstress. After a series of melodramatic incidents, including
the blinding of ;omney, the two lo!ers unite and marry, both ha!ing learned the proper role of gender and
Aurora eigh ta"es the form of no!el+poem, a composite genre that drew upon the one literary form in
which women authors e,celled. According to 4irginia #oolf, Barrett Browning "was inspired by a flash of
true genius when she rushed into the drawing+room and said that here, where we li!e and wor" is the true
place for the poet." The no!el+poem set in the contemporary world was adopted by many others including
her husband in The ;ing and the Boo", The )nn Album ./A0D6, and ;ed Cotton 3ightcap Country ./A016,
and Arthur 7ugh Clough ./A/B+/AQ/6 in Bothie of Tober+na+4uolich ./A2A6 and Amours de 4oyage
./AQ56. But few attempts to base a long poetic narrati!e upon the no!el met with the artistic or critical
success of Aurora eigh.
Barrett Browning's poem employs a contemporary setting and contemporary social issues as a conte,t for
an in9uiry into the relation between gender and genre. The poem, which e,plores the #oman Ruestion, as
it was called by contemporaries, dramatizes the modern woman's se!ere need for mothers S for, that is,
nurturing political and literary female ancestors. )n e,amining the growth and de!elopment of a woman
poet, Aurora eigh shows that women cripple themsel!es by internalizing patriarchal or androcentric
conceptions of them. #hen Aurora eigh first reJects her arrogant belo!ed, her reJection does not free her
from the grip of interiorized male constructions of women, for she merely displaces ;omney from the
center of power, spea"s about herself with images of male power, and feminizes him. Fnly when both can
brea" free from the conceptual structures that oppress them can she fully become the woman, wife, and
poet she wants to be.
)n presenting her heroine's path to poetic and personal maturity, Barrett Browning not only e,plored the
4ictorian relation between gender and genre but she also created a female literary tradition by alluding to
her predecessors. 7er wor" draws upon no!els written by women, Charlotte Bront]'s Nane Eyre ./A206
being one maJor source$ the female protagonist's status as an orphan, the figure of a cruel aunt, the
proposal by -t. Nohn ;i!ers, and ;ochester's blindness all appear in Aurora eigh.
A second contribution to a female tradition appears in the poem's continual use of a gynocentric, as
opposed to an androcentric, imagery. Barrett Browning's long narrati!e poem thus substitutes female,
rather than male, types from the Fld Testament and e!en when describing men uses female figures from
myth as the source of analogy. These analogies and images, which are dri!en by the poem's most serious
concerns, represent an important imaginati!e achie!ement in themsel!es.
Kathleen !lake on the 5oman @&estion$ The <roblem of (ove$
an A&rora (ei"h
Kathleen !lake
L4ictorian #eb 7ome S\ Authors S\ Elizabeth Barrett Browning S\ #or"s S\ Biographical
LFne of the greatest issues of concern in feminist theory is the role women play in relationships and the
relati!e importance placed on a woman's identity as both a lo!er and as an artist. The following passages
from by =athleen Bla"e's o!e and the #oman Ruestion in 4ictorian iterature pro!ides a fine analysis
of these issues. S aurelyn :ouglas 'B/ .English 5Q2, /BB/6M
Aurora eigh is a "!erse no!el" in blan" !erse and nine boo"s, longer than Paradise ost, and it offers a
comprehensi!e treatment of E.B.B.'s complicated feelings about lo!e. o!e forms the highest of religious
imperati!e, as we ha!e seen in her :rama of Emile. Aurora's father dies with the words, "o!e my child,
lo!e, lo!e%", and the pauper girl >arion Erle has only to loo" up at the sun to be taught a "grand, blind
o!e @ -he learnt (od that way" .), 5/5* ))), AB1+D6. But in this life an on this earth the ways of lo!e pro!e
difficult to follow. To the probings of its inJuries, ine9uities and conflicts found in her other poems and her
personal writings, E.B.B. adds the 9uestion of its role for the woman artist. Aurora eigh tells the story of
the de!elopment of a woman poet largely as the story of her struggle to understand how her life and art
can accommodate lo!e. Aurora eigh en!ies male poets because they find it possible to write poetry for
their wi!es an mothers .4, D</+1D6. )n a woman's case art and lo!e are connected by a "but"$ "Art is much,
but lo!e is more" .)^, QDQ6. To be an artist means li!ing as a lone woman. This wrongs the artist's
feminine nature and, in turn, undermines her art because "3o perfect artist is de!eloped here@&rom any
imperfect woman" .)^, Q2A+B6. Aurora eigh assumes a feminine instinct of lo!e, from which it de!elops
the woman artist's dilemma$ she cannot become a full artist unless she is a full woman, but she can hardly
become an artist at all without resisting lo!e as it consumes women, subsuming them to men.
>en literally consume women in the poem. Aurora eigh gained notoriety and went into multiple editions
for its treatment of prostitution. >arion Erle's mother tries to sold her to a man, and later she is con!eyed
un"nowingly into the hands of a bawd, raped in a continental brothel, and made mad with the indignity.
3o complete reco!ery can follow such a thing. -ome power of feeling perishes. Fnly her child can rouse
response, and >arion refuse to marry the noble+hearted ;omney eigh, e!en though marriage would
redress dishonour. &rom her drugged !iolation she "wa"ed up in the gra!e" .4), /5/A6, and she remains
enshrouded, ne!er to be dec"ed out in nupital imagery.
Eet >arion Erle ends up with a curious dignity, her life lopped of e!erything e,cept her feeling for her
child, but also ha!ing gained a certain blea" freedom from dependence on man or his wedding ring.
Before the disaster she had been betrothed to ;omney. 7e had ta"en her up as one of "the people", to
whom he ministers with selfless philanthropy. 7is feeling for her deri!ed more from principle, not e9ual
affection. -he doted on him li"e a dog, li"e a handmaid more than a wife, because he lifted her up.
According to Aurora, more than a little arrogance coloured his condescension. 7e intended to ta"e a wife
as he would sign a subscription che9ue .)4, 1<<+56. The poem e,poses in their engagement the
misguideness of the highest intentions. Because of its imbalance >arion runs away into danger. -he
comes to grief partly because ;omney has put her in such an untenable position. >oreo!er, her suffering
is ultimately more tenable for a self+responsible human being than marriage to him would ha!e been.
#hen she turns down his second proposal, she e,plains that she used to feel unworthy of him or only
worthy of his miraculous bestowal of worth. But now through her grief she has learned "a woman_is a
human soul". &or all of her e,ternal degradation, she !alues herself without needing restoration by an offer
of marriage .)^, 502+1B<6. &or >arion, de!eloping consciousness comes from utter casting down. -he
emerges from her period of madness to confront herself, "), >arion Erle, myself, alone, undone" .4),
/50<6. -he is cast upon her own resources and thereby finds them. Presumably she would not ha!e found
them in a marriage of grateful, worshipful subser!ience to grace+conferring ;omney eigh. -he would
ha!e forgone more than she lost by being raped.
Aurora eigh runs the same ris" from ;omney in a !ery different form. 7is ideas about the relation of the
se,es in!ite her also to forgo herself out of feeling for him. ;omney eigh has little use for poets and less
for women poets. 7e belie!es that art finds its only e,cuse in being the best, and that female art usually
fails to 9ualify .)), /22+B6. 7e thin"s that women possess a too personal and circumstantial !ision for the
disinterested ideality of art. This follows from his own bias for the general and systematic. 7e is a
philanthropist on a scale too grand to allow for indi!idual sentiment. A debate on art !ersus practical
bene!olence and the role of women in each ensues when ;omney disco!ers the young Aurora crowning
herself with laurels in playful symbolism, a would+be Corinne crowned at the Capitol. 7e wants her to
marry him instead, initiating a contest between lo!e and art, for though Aurora's heart belongs to ;omney,
as later becomes clear, she must resist him. 7e wants to turn the artist into the philanthropist's handmaid.
Aurora reacts bitterly to his lordly charity in offering to put her to use. -he accuses him of wanting "a wife
to help your ends, S in her no end" .)), 2<16. ;omney typifies the man, "#ho sees the woman as the
complement@Ff his se, merely. Eou forget too much@That e!ery creature, female as male,@-tands single in
responsible act and thought" .)), 21D+A6 Aurora !iews such relationship to a husband as dangerous and
common because of the difference between the se,es, she amorously self+dissol!ing and he self+
#here we learn to lose oursel!es
And melt li"e white pearls in another's wine,
7e see"s to double himself by what he lo!es,
And ma"e his drin" more costly by our pearls.
.4, /<0A+A/6
=nowing her own susceptibility S ") lo!e lo!e" S Aurora is also dismayed by what lo!e does to women
S "for lo!e,@They pic" much oa"um" .))), 0<1* )), 22A+B6. -he chooses !ocation by turning ;omney
down. The two acts are one.
A good portion of the rest of the poem is de!oted to showing Aurora's heart+star!ation as the price of her
accomplishment. -he neither finds happiness in wor"ing are full belief in the !alue of the wor". 7er loo"s
and health decline much faster than ;omney's. -he becomes so demoralised that she e!en e,periences her
fame in ironical terms, first, because she suspects that popular success signals inferiority, and second,
because she thin"s women are so constituted as to find the adulation of the crowd no substitute for
personal affection .))), 51/+5* 4, 20D+A/6
Besides forfeiting her lo!e, and belie!ing that her art depends on the forfeiture, but doubting whether her
wor" is good enough to be worth it, Aurora eigh also suffers from guilt o!er the effect of her denial upon
;omney. Nust as Nane Eyre has to resist feeling responsible for ;ochester's reprobation when she lea!es
him, Aurora suspects that ;omney would ha!e escaped dangerous entanglement with >arion Erle and
ady #aldemar if she had married him.
The worst of her choice of the artist o!er the woman is that neither obliterates and each rebu"es the other.
After her outburst in fa!our of femininity, she suffers the rebound, and ")t seems as if ) had a man in
me,@:espising such a woman" .4)), 5/1+/26. 7er ambi!alence produces a certain misogyny. ;omney
obser!es "you sweep your se,@#ith somewhat bitter gusts from where you li!e@Abo!e them" .4)), 0<06.
-ome of Aurora eigh's most powerful se9uences e!o"e her disgust with herself$ ") li!e self+despised for
being myself" .4)), 0<06. )n an effecti!ely nauseous image, she finds herself dissol!ing slowly until lost,
li"e a lump of salt that spoils the drin" into which it disappears .4)), /1<A+//6.
According to Aurora eigh, women dissol!e in lo!e li"e pearls in men's wine, but without lo!e li"e salt in
a ruined drin". &eminine or feminist self+postponement .the artist's !ision of these6 S there is little to
chose between them. The first precludes poetry* the second enables but ultimately demoralises it. And yet
be holding out until the latter dissolution, after which Aurora lac"s spirits to write, she produces a great
poem. )t is so great that it e!en con!erts ;omney to appreciation of art and the woman artist. 7e himself is
brought low, as his humanitarian schemes fail and he loses his eyesight in a melodramatic debacle,
symbolising his former lac" of true perception. -tripped of his masculine arrogance, he declares his lo!e
again, and Aurora accepts him. i"e Nane Eyre, she is !indicated and compensated, and also assured of
power enough to balance the relationship by her husband's new+found debility. The rift between art and
lo!e is pronounced healed near the end of the poem but the conflict remains more compelling than its
resolution in Aurora eigh. :enial of lo!e was necessary to the production of Aurora's great poem while
steadily eroding the capacity to go on writing great poems, that is, when the writer is a woman. Aurora's
continued !ocation as a poet doesn't seem !ery li"ely at the end because she so completely identifies her
former achie!ements with abdication of lo!e, and because she so completely repudiates the abdication.
Kltimately, it re!eals the insufficiency of artistic ambition and success to ma"e up for the lac" of lo!e on
which they depend. "As in all the wor"s of its "ind, which women ha!e so freely poured out from their
full hearts during late years, we see the agony more fully than the remedy."
Some @&estions
)s Bla"e's analysis an appropriate reading of Aurora eigh8
#hat does the idea of needing not only a room of one's own in which to write, but a man to "eep
you company there, imply8
:oes >arion Erle really find "her own resources"8 )f so, what are they, comparati!ely8
=athleen Bla"e. o!e and the #oman Ruestion in 4ictorian iterature$ The Art of -elf+Postponement.
-usse,$ The 7ar!ester Press, /BA1.