Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Or, my scrofulous French novel
On grey paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's gripe;
If I double down its pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?
- Here's another way the speaker could get Brother Lawrence in trouble: he could trick him into reading his "scrofulous French novel."
- "Scrofulous" means morally corrupt or even pornographic. "French novels" were commonly associated with sexiness and bad morals during the Victorian period, when Browning was writing this.
- The speaker's dirty novel has "grey paper," as though it's been read and reread many times.
- Um, the speaker is a monk! Why is he reading dirty novels anyway?
- He says that just "glanc[ing]" at the novel will have Brother Lawrence in Belial, or the Devil's, grip ("gripe").
- The speaker imagines turning down the page at a really naughty part (the "sixteenth print!") and hiding the book in Brother Lawrence's "sieve" so that he'll see it when he goes out to gather his "greengages" (a kind of fruit related to plums).