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Porphyria's Lover

Porphyria's Lover


by Robert Browning

Lines 10-20 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 10-13

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,

  • After setting the fire, Porphyria takes off her wet "cloak" and "gloves," and lets her wet hair down.
  • OK, so sounds like she's probably not some kind of magical fairy-lady. She might be handy with fireplaces, but if she were magical, she wouldn't have gotten wet in the rainstorm.
  • She's done all this – walked in, made a fire in the fireplace, taken off her coat and hat – all without saying anything? What's the speaker doing this whole time?

Lines 14-15

And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,

  • After taking care of all the preliminaries, like setting a fire and taking off her coat, Porphyria sits down next to the speaker and addresses him.
  • We don't get to hear what she said, though.
  • We don't get to hear what the speaker said in response, either. In fact, he didn't respond to her at all.
  • He phrases it passively, too: instead of saying "I didn't reply," he says, "When no voice replied." This makes him seem very distant from Porphyria and from what's going on around him.

Lines 16-20

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,

  • Porphyria's not one to be discouraged, though. Her boyfriend might be giving her the cold shoulder, but she snuggles up to him anyway.
  • She takes his arm and pulls it around her waist, uncovers her shoulder, and pulls his head down to rest on her bare shoulder.
  • Is he made out of silly putty? Is he a Ken doll that she's playing with? She just moves his arms and head around and arranges him as she likes.
  • After pulling his head down to rest on her shoulder, she spreads her "yellow hair" across them both.

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