Robert Browning, 1812-1883

Porphyria’s Lover
by Robert Browning
from Dramatic Lyrics (1842)

The rain set early in to-night,
     The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite, 
     And did its worst to vex the lake: 
     I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight 
     She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate 
     Blaze up, and all the cottage warm; 
     Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, 
     And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall, 
     And, last, she sat down by my side 
     And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist, 
     And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced, 
     And, stooping, made my cheek lie there, 
     And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me—she 
     Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free 
     From pride, and vainer ties dissever, 
     And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail, 
     Nor could tonight’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale 
     For love of her, and all in vain: 
     So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes 
     Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise 
     Made my heart swell, and still it grew 
     While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair, 
     Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair 
     In one long yellow string I wound 
     Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she; 
     I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee, 
     I warily oped her lids: again 
     Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress 
     About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss: 
     I propped her head up as before, 
     Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still: 
     The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will, 
     That all it scorned at once is fled, 
     And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how 
     Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now, 
     And all night long we have not stirred, 
     And yet God has not said a word!  

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