Study Guide

Fra Lippo Lippi Lust

By Robert Browning

Lust

And here you catch me at an alley's end
Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar? (5-6)

Naughty Lippo! How would he know these "sportive ladies" leave their doors open if he has not tried them a few times? It seems the good Bro isn't exactly keeping to his vows, is he?

And a face that looked up . . . zooks, sir, flesh and blood,
That's all I'm made of! (60-61)

There's a hottie down in the street while carnival is going on, and this is the temptation that is the final straw that causes Lippo to rip up all of the available fabric in his room and climb on down to get his party on. What can the guardsman expect, though? After all, Lippo is just made of flesh and blood and is so subject to the lusts and desires of most men.

Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts, She's just my niece . . . Herodias, I would say,— Who went and danced and got men's heads cut off! (195-197)

Lippo is now speaking in the Prior's voice, remarking on the painting he (Lippo) has just completed. It's pretty suspicious that the Prior would immediately focus his gaze, as if laser-guided, on the young lady's breasts, wouldn't you say? And those ellipses... are indicative of an uncomfortable pause (awkward!). So, it would seem this niece is much more than a niece, and it's perhaps fitting that Lippo represents her as Herodias, Salome's mother. (Salome was the girl who danced for men and eventually got John the Baptist's head cut off).

I'm grown a man no doubt, I've broken bounds:
You should not take a fellow eight years old
And make him swear to never kiss the girls. (223-225)

Admittedly, Lippo has broken his vows as they relate to chastity. But, he defends himself, it should be excused because it's an unnatural thing to make a young boy (only eight years old) swear he'll never kiss girls. Lust is a force that is natural and it will win out over the rather artificial vows of the monastery.

You understand me: I'm a beast, I know. (270)

Aside from his vows and his monk's robes, Lippo is like the guardsman: a fellow who is subject to the same failings of the flesh as anyone else.

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