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Compare how Poets Present Intense Feeling in Porphyria’s Lover and one other Poem of your Choice

Both Robert Browning, in Porphyria’s Lover (PL) and Charlotte Mew, in The Farmer’s Bride (FB) present the intense feelings of desire and obsession, with in their dramatic monologues, using both imagery and structure to drive the poems to inevitable endings, resulting in the pain and suffering of the women with in them. Through these shocking narratives both poets explore the social expectations of women with in the 1800s when both these poems were set, arguably the catalyst for the intense feelings shown by the persona. 

Intense feelings within the poems are evident from the beginning, the pathetic fallacy at the beginning of PL, “The sullen wind was soon awake”, not only portraying an ominous image, foreshadowing future event but the personification also mirroring the persona’s inner conflict. It could also be interpreted as being God’s objection to the events to come. Similarly Mew also uses the pathetic fallacy, “short days shorten”, to build an ominous atmosphere while the winter imagery has connotation of rejection and lack of romance.

The personas’ lack of self worth becomes evident as their feelings of rejection evoke powerful emotions, “I’ve hardly heard her speak at all.”, the simple sentence  in FB with an end stop, showing the persona to be convinced of his bride’s lack of feelings for him. Similarly in PL he is convinced of Porphyria’s heart as being, “Too weak,” - the caesura also emphasising his certainty.


Ultimately these feelings drive the poems to an inevitable ending, shown in PL through its form being one single stanza, giving the poem pace. Arguably the form of this poem could be representing the persona’s single train of thought or it could be mirroring Porphyria’s hair, a key focus within the poem as it becomes the murder weapon. However Mew uses the strong regular rhyme scheme to drive the poem to an inevitable end. 

The regular rhyme scheme mostly in iambic tetrameter in FB portrays the imprisonment of the bride, adding to her intense feeling of sadness, “her eyes beseech”. Alternatively it could show that nothing has changed for the persona, emphasising his frustration. This contrasts the irregular rhyme scheme in PL, which could be portraying the persona’s uneven psyche.

The mental instability of the persona in PL can also be seen through the use of colloquial language allowing the reader an insight into his psyche and the intense feeling within him. It can also be interpreted by the title, “Porphyria’s Lover”, porphyria being a blood disease that can cause mental illness; thus the poem could also be interpreted not as a woman, but as a disease that the persona is in love with, as an unhealthy obsession.

Mental health is also a common theme throughout FB, the bride continually shown that she, “‘twasn’t a woman-”, the end stop showing the persona’s conviction. The bride’s unstable psyche, in the view of the persona, is also shown through her alignment with the supernatural world shown through the simile, “like a frightened fay”, the noun “fay” having mystical connotations and a sense of innocence; the sibilance also describes the bride to be a supernatural being, showing the persona’s distance from her, “Sweet as the first violets, she,” , the parenthesis showing the bride’s isolation from society. Mew had a strong interest in mental health, with two of her siblings being sent to a mental asylum at an early age, possibly inspiring her writing.

 The persona in FB could also be interpreted as being driven to insanity, much like the persona in PL, through his intense feeling of desire, shown through the repetition and the increasingly fragmented last stanza, “the brown,/ The brown of her- her eyes, her hair, her hair!”, giving the impression that he is sexually predatory. The persona’s loss of control is also represented with the increasingly shorter stanzas and the internal rhyme, “down of her, the brown”, representing internal conflict.

The mental instability of the persona during PL is also shown through him intensely focusing on Porphyria’s, “yellow hair” as shown through the repetition of this image. The adjective “yellow” has inappropriate connotations, with hair usually being described as blonde again, evidence of the persona’s unstable psyche. This fixation could arguably be foreshadowing events as he is fixated upon the murder weapon.

As PL reaches its climax natural imagery is used to show Porphyria’s intense suffering; the simile, “As a shut bud  that holds a bee” representing her fluttering eye lids as she is being strangled, with the plosives emphasising the brutality of the killing. The assonance of, “found”, “wound” and “around” could also mimic her pain and the rhymes mirror the wrapping action of her hair, “around” her neck. Mew also uses assonance in FB to portray the bride’s pain, “’Not near, not near!’ her eyes beseech” portraying her as pleading.

The masculine brutality is also emphasised in both poems with the use of caesura, “We caught her,” in FB and “And strangled her.” In PL, also emphasised through the short clause.

This brutality could arguably be the result of the persona’s intense feelings of obsession and desire, reinforced by society’s expectations of women. During Robert Browning’s lifetime people began to question their beliefs and values, possibly an inspiration for his poem. In the 1800s women were expected to be submissive to men, “Porphyria worshipped me”, the verb having connotations of inferiority. The frustration at these changing morals within society could possibly be shown through Browning using the metaphor, “blue eyes without a stain” to describe Porphyria’s purity now she can only be with him, another social expectation of women to be faithful. This metaphor could also symbolise the persona’s lack of guilt as he has made her comply with the image of society, “still:”, the end stop emphasising the permanency of this.

Similarly Charlotte Mew could be addressing society’s expectations of women, she herself wore suits to challenge stereotypes. In FB she could be addressing the vulnerability of young women, “Too young maybe” and with her use of natural imagery to isolate her from society, using increasingly smaller animals in the similes to describe her, showing the bride’s increasing vulnerability and wellbeing; “like a hare” to “like a mouse”, the noun “mouse having connotations of being timid.

Mew could also be challenging the expectation that women should provide offspring, the long line, “So over seven-acre field and up-along across”, reflecting how far the bride ran to try and escape her sexual expectation. Mew died childless and made a pact with her sister that they would never have children as they believed that the insanity in her family was hereditary; the bride in FB could possibly be reflecting Mew’s own fears of having sex. 

The ambiguity at the end of FB, “her hair, her hair!”, leaves the reader to interpret whether or not the farmer goes on to rape - the exclamation mark emphasising the strong emotion, evoking intense feelings within the reader allowing members of the Victorian society to question their moral position.

Overall, both Robert Browning, in PL and Charlotte Mew, FB present the intense feelings of the persona to be desire and obsession, the women to be pain and suffering which in turn evoke intense feelings within the reader, both poets challenging the social expectation of the Victorian society. 


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