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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


by Robert Browning

Stanza 3 Summary

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

Lines 17-24

Whew! We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps--
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

  • Stanzas 3 and 4 are tough, but don't worry – we'll walk you through them.
  • Like Stanza 1, Stanza 3 with something that isn't really a word – "Whew!" – like the "G-r-r" of the first stanza.
  • The speaker is talking in this stanza about the dishwashing chores that all the monks have to do in the monastery. He's making fun of Brother Lawrence for taking too much pride in his personal belongings.
  • After the meal, the speaker says that they'll "burnish" (polish) the platter, and carefully put it away on the shelf.
  • The speaker says "we" get a brand-spanking-new spoon, and a goblet that is rinsed "like something sacrificial" – i.e., like something that is fit for the gods – before the goblet is worthy to touch "our chaps" (or "chops," which means lips).
  • It sounds like the speaker is using the royal "we" here – he's not talking about himself but about Brother Lawrence alone. It's as if Brother Lawrence were speaking about himself in the third-person, like a king. ("We are not amused.") He's mocking Brother Lawrence for taking too much care in cleaning his own platter, spoon, and goblet and for taking too much pride in these things.
  • Yep, suspicions are confirmed: the fancy goblet is engraved with the initial "L," presumably for "Lawrence."
  • You should note that monks all took a vow of poverty, so they weren't supposed to have personal possessions at all. Having a fancy goblet engraved with your own initial was a no-no, but not exactly a huge sin.
  • The stanza ends with a funny little parenthetical aside: the speaker goes from saying "we" and "our" to saying "his."
  • It's as though his rage boils over and he forgets himself, slipping into open contempt of Brother Lawrence.
  • He's almost gleeful as he says it, too: he actually laughs ("he-he!").
  • He's so happy to have caught the supposedly perfect Brother Lawrence breaking a rule!

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