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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


by Robert Browning

Stanza 9 Summary

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

Lines 65-72

Or, there's Satan!--one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of!
Hy, Zy, Hine...
'St, there's Vespers! Plena gratia
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r--you swine!

  • In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker gives us his last, drastic alternative for doing away with Brother Lawrence: making a pact with Satan (a.k.a. the Devil).
  • Of course, he doesn't want to go all the way with this hypothetical deal with the Devil. He'd want to make sure there was some kind of a loophole – a "flaw in the indenture" – so that he could save himself in the end.
  • He says he is almost willing to "pledge [his] soul" to the Devil until the "rose-acacia/ We're so proud of" is "blasted."
  • The "rose-acacia" is a kind of flower shrub. The speaker could be referring to the "blasting" of a literal flower bush, since we already know that Brother Lawrence is an avid gardener, or he could be using "rose-acacia" to stand in for Brother Lawrence himself. It's not clear.
  • "Hy, Zy, Hine. . ." might be just nonsense words, although some critics think that it could be Browning's version of the beginning of a spell to pledge his soul to the Devil as he just described. Still other readers think it's the speaker imitating the sound of the bells calling him to vespers (evening prayer service). Again, the jury's still out on this line.
  • "Plena gratia/Ave, Virgo!" is part of two different Latin prayers. It's not clear whether the speaker is just so distracted by his rage that he's mixing up his prayers, or whether Browning himself was a bit confused about the order of prayers in a vespers service. (See the "Allusions" section for more on this.)
  • The poem then ends the way it began, with the speaker's guttural, non-verbal "G-r-r-rowl" as he calls Brother Lawrence a "swine" (pig).

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