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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


by Robert Browning

Stanza 2 Summary

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

Lines 9-16

At the meal we sit together;
Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:

Not a plenteous cork crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt;
What's the Latin name for "parsley"?
What's the Greek name for "swine's snout"?

  • The speaker sits next to Brother Lawrence at their meals.
  • The words in italics (or above, in non-italics) are what Brother Lawrence says to him: "Salve tibi" is Latin for "Hail to thee," or, as we'd say nowadays, "How's it going?"
  • The speaker hates to hear all of Brother Lawrence's "wise talk" (more sarcasm) about the weather and the crops.
  • Again, the lines in italics are what Brother Lawrence says to the speaker.
  • You can imagine the speaker mimicking and mocking Brother Lawrence as he says those lines in italics.
  • Brother Lawrence, according to the speaker, likes to talk about how big the "cork crop" will be, how they have "oak galls" (a kind of disease that grows on oak leaves), and the Latin names for different herbs and plants.
  • So Brother Lawrence might not be the most exciting guy to have dinner with (unless you're into gardening), but we still haven't seen anything too detestable about him.
  • The speaker makes fun of Brother Lawrence's interest in learning the Latin name for "parsley" by asking what the "Greek name" is for "Swine's Snout."
  • "Swine's Snout" is, in fact, a common name for the dandelion flower in some rural areas of England, but we're pretty sure the speaker is just implying that Brother Lawrence has a piggy face.

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