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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


by Robert Browning

Stanza 4 Summary

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

Lines 25-32

Saint, forsooth! While Brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
--Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)

  • "Forsooth" means "indeed!" but the speaker is being sarcastic again: he's saying "Saint? Yeah, right!"
  • The speaker says that when "brown Dolores" and "Sanchicha," two women from the neighboring convent (and therefore possibly nuns, but maybe just female servants of the convent), bathe themselves down at the riverbank and trade stories, Brother Lawrence likes to check them out.
  • Again, this is a big no-no, since all monks take a vow of chastity, too. It's an even bigger no-no because these two women might be nuns, so they'd be off-limits anyhow.
  • The speaker claims he can see Brother Lawrence's "dead eye glow" when the nuns are down by the river.
  • He even compares Brother Lawrence's lust for these nuns to that of a "Barbary corsair," a North African pirate.
  • But in the last line, the speaker undercuts himself by saying that Brother Lawrence doesn't actually "show" this lust; the speaker just knows it's there.
  • Hmm... the speaker was able to describe the "blue-black, lustrous" hair ("tresses") of the bathing nuns in loving detail. Who's the one who's actually checking them out?
  • To sum up: so far, the speaker has accused Brother Lawrence of the sin of pride (he keeps his own goblet and polishes it obsessively) and the sin of lust (he checks out the ladies as they bathe).

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