Browning Poetry

English Literature

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


Initial Analysis


  • language of rage/heightened emotion
  • 'Gr-r-r' - animal-like/bestiality
  • 'water your damned flowerpots, do!' - intense dislike
  • petty accusations; table conversation/manners, the way Lawrence speaks
  • narrator's mental state whilst describing his 'plan' with Satan
  • punctuation emphasizes strength of his feelings - exclamation mark expresses deep anger; explosions at Lawrence 'Hell dry you up with its flames' + question marks express sarcasm 'What? Your myrtle bush wants trimming?' - disgust/unsubtle disguising of feelings
  • belief of superiority - will risk his soul to eliminate Lawrence - he is not holy now.. if he ever was
  • rather than stating the anger, Browning expresses it through what the speaker says and how he speaks

Themes


  • jealousy
  • ignorance of self
  • hypocrisy
  • pride/egotism
  • hatred and the results of it
  • sex
  • unfaithfulness towards church/religion
  • irony


Analysed Quotes


  • 'water your damned flower-pots, do!'/'What? Your myrtle-bush wants trimming?' - childish rivalry, mocking enjoyment - immature + sarcastic
  • 'God's blood' - blasphemy
  • 'Hell dry you up with its flames' - angst/melodramatic - pettiness
  • 'I must hear' - forced to listen - everything Lawrence does it irritating - jealous; lonely
  • 'Wise talk' - sarcasm/tedious
  • 'What's the Latin name for "parsley"?' - speaker cannot relate - Lawrence shares same interest as others - speaker's loneliness
  • 'Swine's Snout' - dandelion/pig - play on words
  • 'We'll' - majestic; 'we' rather than 'I' - speaker feels like Lawrence thinks he's superior - marks goblet with initials
  • 'rinsed like something sacrificial' - like it was made/washed perfectly for Lawrence
  • 'He-he! There his lily snaps!' - greedy, selfish - petulant of speaker
  • 'Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs' - well-groomed/healthy - sensual description - spent time admiring them
  • 'Can't I see his dead eye glow' - accusing Lawrence of being a pervert - hypocritical (previous line description)
  • 'Barbary corsair's?' - un-monk-like --> guilty/pirate-like + wicked
  • Lawrence never lays his knife and fork 'cross-wise' - ways to Jesus (comparing himself)
  • 'Not one fruit-sort can you spy?' - pretending to be unaware but he is 'on the sly' - duplicitous; half conversation - 'strange!' - sarcasm - paragraph relates to Garden of Eden
  • 'if I trip him just-a dying, sure of heaven as sure can be' - speaker will go to heaven, Lawrence will be 'off to hell' (if plan is successful) - will trick Lawrence to sin - expresses pure bitterness of speaker's hatred
  • the 'scrofulous French novel' on 'grey paper with blunt type' - implies it has been read multiple times - 'sixteenth print' - speaker memorizes exact page number; implies he owns it/has read it many times (he is the sinner rather than Lawrence yet is seemingly unaware) - will trick Lawrence to sin by reading something that he has already read - therefore they will both be sinning (slip into basket) - speaker says he will sell his soul to the devil and get Lawrence to hell, but will eventually escape and go to heaven - double entendre
  • 'Gr-r-r' - mirrors opening of poem - consistent hatred throughout

The Bishop Orders His Tomb


Initial Analysis


  • set in the Renaissance era; Basilica of Saint Praxedes (Saint Prassede - real ancient church in Rome, Italy) - typical theme of materialism; wanting wealth - love of art + the aesthetic
  • humorous; diatribe (rant) - rambles on + sons aren't listening (talking to himself) - obsession with rivalry with Gandolf + love of aesthetic: un-bishop-like
  • sympathy with him - dying + isolated; wants to be remembered by luxurious tomb (sons do not value him)
  • dramatic monologue; blank verse
  • iambic pentameter


Themes


  • wordliness
  • inconsistency
  • pride
  • ignorance of self
  • hypocrisy
  • materialism


Analysed Quotes


  • 'and so, about this tomb of mine' - contradicts 'mask' of loving the church - priorities - importance of it
  • 'but Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst' - should be helping others NOT contemplating self (wrong occupations) - meaning of life? heaven or hell? - contradicts earlier 'forgive and forget' stage; 'what's done is done' (priorities are skewed)
  • 'nay boys, ye love me' contradicts earlier dislike towards him and 'leave me in my church' negates this - inconsistency with feelings; convincing himself (niggling insecurities)
  • 'carrion' - rotting flesh of a dead animal - bitter comparison with Gandolf
  • 'old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was' - proud of jealousy and how he is better off than Gandolf - unusual behaviour from a bishop
  • 'I fought with tooth and nail to save my niche' - impressed with hard word/effort exerted into getting what he wanted - materialistic desires - violent + immature
  • 'and I have not Saint Praxed's ear to pray' - feels he is God-like - ironic as he is not faithful or biblically influential in any way
  • 'Nephews - sons mine...' - euphemism emphasises the fact that bishops should not have children; hypocrisy
  • 'put me where I may look at him' - should not want to gloat to his fellow bishop - disloyal/disrespectful
  • 'ye have stabbed me with ingratitude' - ironic as he has done exactly the same to his sons (blackmail, guilt-tripping etc.)
  • 'how I earned the prize' - did nothing to achieve this sinful 'reward' - ignorance of self
  • 'like God the Father's globe on both his hands' and 'I fold my arms' and 'stretch my feet forth' - sees himself as Godly/saintly; should be treated as God - with care and great gratitude (unlike how he treats others)
  • 'to death - ye wish it' - melodramatic + feeling sorry for himself - ignorant towards children/Gandolf - elaborating; attention-seeking
  • 'no gaudy were like Gandolf's second lines - Tully my masters?' - feels he is superior + should deserve the 'best of the best' poetry
  • 'lapis lazuli' - desires expensive/luxurious stone - treated like royalty
  • 'and then how I shall lie through centuries' - spiritually expected to be in heaven but NOT morally - church rather than heaven
  • 'do I live, am I dead?' - repetition/melodramatic - needy attitude - uncertainty of afterlife - delirious
  • 'and leave me in my church' - feels victimised/attacked
  • last thoughts/departing words reflect his priorities: 'as still he envied me, so fair she was' - desire/pride for his love? using her?

Pictor Ignotus


Themes


  • jealousy
  • insecurity
  • desire for fame
  • rejection
  • regret
  • delusion
  • arrogance/pride
  • dreams/desires vs. truth


Analysed Quotes


  • 'I could have painted pictures like that youth's' - justifying failure; fresh, new possibilities - arrogance of own work
  • 'with all my gift of fires from God' - artistic skills; attempt to cover failure and 'over the canvas could my hand have flung' - implies he is equal to any other artist
  • 'learning at my feet' - teacher 'making new hearts beat' - dream reflects strong contrast with reality
  • 'here ony my earth, earth's every man my friend' - emphasis on my; longing for love/praise - awareness of failure: 'and then not go to heaven, but linger here' - collapse in success - reality strikes him
  • 'shrinking as from the soldiery a nun' - timidity/vulnerability (success makes you confident?)
  • 'but a voice changed it' - questioning ambitious desires; not taking responsibility for failure - internal regret
  • 'though which saddens while it soothes' - what he COULD've been (risk-taking) - hint of pride but extreme grief also
  • 'o human faces, hath it spilt, my cup? What did ye give me that I have not saved?' - questioning ability - underlying sense of pride in what he SHOULD have
  • 'my face, and youth' - self-deluded: rationalizes rejections - 'I chose my portion' - implying that he COULD have been better/famous if he wanted to
  • 'cold faces that begun to press on me and judge me' - reflects feelings of rejections
  • 'my heart sinks as monotonous I paint' - contrasts with 'joys' of painting - tedious/repetitive - worse than others; nervousness