Comparative Literary Analysis and Interpretation of the Blessed Damozel and Porphyria’s Lover
Victorian writers used literature to express explicit emotions through their writings that would have otherwise been suppressed in public. The two different aspects of emotional restrain and emotional release are explored in each writers respective poems, The Blessed Damozel by Dante Rosetti and Porphyria’s Lover by Robert Browning. Each writer explores an emotional attachment that is expressed both implicitly and explicitly as their female interests are praised, and ultimately pursued. This pursuit is sought for the fulfillment of emotional attachment which is attained through their writings.
In Robert Browning’s poem Porphyria’s Lover, Porphyria’s lover articulates an emotion of obsession with Porphyria. Browning begins with a contrast of emotional states as the poem begins by stating Porphyria’s presence warms the lover as “She shut the cold out and the storm”(Browning, Line 7) in contrast to a stormy reality her lover seems to live without her. However, this warmth becomes more intimate as Porphyria calls her lover and he does not answer, but lets her actions speak for her as, “She put my arm about her waist, And made her smooth white shoulder bare, And all her yellow hair displaced, And, stooping, made my cheek like there, And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair”(Browning, Lines 16-20). The sheer actions of making her shoulder bare and letting her full yellow hair spread over him expressed other emotions of lust that were seen as taboo in the 19th Century Victorian society, but unconfined through Browning’s writing. As Porphyria and her lover’s intimacy take on new levels the lovers feel for the moment as he quotes, “That moment she was mine, mine, fair, Perfectly pure and good: I found A thing to do,”(Lines 36-38). This emotional release that was bred in an obsessive passion manifests itself through a love that strangles both lovers. As Porphyria’s lover strangles her with her own hair, which he obsessed about earlier in the poem, he becomes strangled by his emotional obsession and notes “No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain” (Browning, Lines 41-42). His full realization shows that although he released emotions frowned upon in 19th century Victorian society, these same emotions overtake his ability to ration his own emotions.
The emotions that are explored are not only obsessive but reflect a self satisfying emotional release because the lover begins to address how his love’s wish had been heard as he quotes, “Her darling one wish would be heard. And all night long we have not stirred, and yet God has not said a word!” (Browning, Lines 57-60). Here the lover has become so immune to the reality of his actions that his emotions once again overtake his ability to ration. He justifies that God has not said a word, thus prospectively approving this actions in his eyes. This denial of a rational conscious manifests itself in the release of his emotional state which results in the death of this lover, as well as his fall from societal and moral justification.
In Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel, the speaker respects and realizes his emotional restraint due to a situation that is out of his control. He cannot control the fact that his lover has passed and is not looking down on him from hear. However, he remains obsessed with her love just the same. The speaker embraces his love lost as he quotes “…Yet now, and in this place, surely she leaned o’er me-her hair Fell all about my face…” (Browning, Lines 20-22). At this point the speaker accepts his reality without her, but eventually she longs for him in her reality. She quotes “I wish that he were come to me, for he will come,” (Rossetti, Lines 67-68). Both lovers long to live the love that they were destined to be a part of, but are separated by the heavenly plane. Their emotional repression here is credited to the both of them occupying a different space and time. Although these two have to restrain their emotions they still seek to be reunited as she states, “He shall fear haply, and be dumb; Then will I lay my cheek to his, and tell about our love”(Rossetti, Lines 115-117). Finally he realizes that she will not be returning to him and finds herself “And laid her face between her hands, and wept. (I heard her tears.)” (Rossetti, Lines 143-144) Here her lover restrains himself and even squashes his emotions in order to expect his lover eventually in heaven where he believes she resides.
These poems both articulate emotional views that were not directly in line with the Victorian society’s views of emotions. They each related to a love which is beyond the speakers grasp and even the reader’s grasp of morals. The emotional release that both speakers seek to embrace is a release of passion, obsession, and at times a life. Both Browning and Rossetti sought to address an emotional aspect of relationships that did not end with the physical death of their mates. They seemed to figure out a way to address love on an everlasting emotional front which may have been suppressed in public, but was eternal in their writing.
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