Random Poetry: “My Last Duchess”


By Robert Browning

FERRARA
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
“Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
“Must never hope to reproduce the faint
“Half-flush that dies along her throat;” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart . . . how shall I say? . . . too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace, all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men, good; but thanked
Somehow . . . I know not how . . . as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech, (which I have not), to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
“Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
“Or there exceed the mark”, and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Text via Public Domain Poetry

This is a new feature I’m trying out. I’ll blog a poem that’s in the public domain and talk about it. If people like it, I’ll make it a regular thing. Since this one’s so long, I’ll keep my comments brief:

  • One of the best examples of a dramatic monologue. I like the form because it’s versatile and it’s relatively easy to achieve authenticity of voice by speaking in the first person and telling a story.
  • Notice how many of the lines lack punctuation at the end. If you like to rhyme at the ends of your lines, but you have trouble making the rhyme sound like natural speech, study this poem, and try not to stop your lines at the first part of a set of rhymes. The opposite of an end-stopped line is an enjambed line. The placement of pauses and stops are very important in poetry.
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About Gene'O

Compulsive writer, amateur photographer, and blogaholic. Also an evil genius.

2 thoughts on “Random Poetry: “My Last Duchess”

  1. That is so funny, great minds must think alike. I was cleaning out a box of stuff I’m donating to a local charity, and I ran across a poem that has always made an impact on me. It’s in public domain, so I pasted it into a draft last night. I’m having trouble tying the post up though, so I was sitting here hoping and praying for a little inspiration. Excellent post today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gene'O says:

      Indeed, they do.

      I came up with this idea when I looked at the A to Z posts I wrote in april and realized nearly every one of them discussed poetry or poetic techniques, even though I was mostly talking about prose writing. And those posts were very well-received. So I thought I would give these a try, because they’re pretty easy.

      best of luck with yours 🙂

      Like

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