Porphyria's Lover
Porphyria's Lover
by Robert Browning
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Eyes

Symbol Analysis

There's not a lot of talking in this poem. Porphyria doesn't get any direct dialogue, and the entire poem is the speaker's (possibly internal) monologue. Eyes do most of the talking in "Porphyria's Lover." Let's see what they say…

  • Lines 31-32: The speaker does something active for the first time in the poem! Instead of just lying there like Gumby, allowing Porphyria to rearrange his limbs as she sees fit, he "look[s] up at her eyes." It's not clear whether "happy and proud" describe her "eyes," or the speaker. It's ambiguous. But it's clear that the speaker sees something in her eyes that convinces him that she really, really loves him.
  • Lines 43-44: This is a weird simile. The speaker compares Porphyria's closed eyes to a closed flower "bud" with a "bee" inside. Is he afraid of getting stung by her eyes when he opens them again? Or is it a sexual metaphor, since bees, after all, pollinate flowers? Also note that the alliteration (the repeated "b" sounds) connects the "bud" and the "bee."
  • Line 45: There's a lot going on in this line. The speaker is using synecdoche by making Porphyria's "blue eyes" represent the whole woman ("synecdoche" is when you have a part of something stand in for the whole thing). After all, "eyes" don't "laugh" by themselves. But there's also an odd metaphor at the end of the line. What kind of "stain" could the eyes have? Does he mean that they're clear, and not bloodshot (as you might expect the eyes of a strangled woman to be)? Or does he mean that, by dying, the "stain" of Porphyria's sin is gone? Or is he saying that there's no "stain" of his sin (of killing her) visible in her eyes?