Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  720. Porphyria’s Lover

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Robert Browning. 1812–1889

720. Porphyria’s Lover

THE rain set early in to-night, 
  The sullen wind was soon awake, 
It tore the elm-tops down for spite, 
  And did its worst to vex the lake: 
  I listen’d with heart fit to break.         5
When glided in Porphyria; straight 
  She shut the cold out and the storm, 
And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate 
  Blaze up, and all the cottage warm; 
  Which done, she rose, and from her form  10
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, 
  And laid her soil’d gloves by, untied 
Her hat and let the damp hair fall, 
  And, last, she sat down by my side 
  And call’d me. When no voice replied,  15
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 lie there, 
  And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,  20
Murmuring how she loved me—she 
  Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour, 
To set its struggling passion free 
  From pride, and vainer ties dissever, 
  And give herself to me for ever.  25
But passion sometimes would prevail, 
  Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain 
A sudden thought of one so pale 
  For love of her, and all in vain: 
  So, she was come through wind and rain.  30
Be sure I look’d up at her eyes 
  Happy and proud; at last I knew 
Porphyria worshipp’d me; surprise 
  Made my heart swell, and still it grew 
  While I debated what to do.  35
That moment she was mine, mine, fair, 
  Perfectly pure and good: I found 
A thing to do, and all her hair 
  In one long yellow string I wound 
  Three times her little throat around,  40
And strangled her. No pain felt she; 
  I am quite sure she felt no pain. 
As a shut bud that holds a bee, 
  I warily oped her lids: again 
  Laugh’d the blue eyes without a stain.  45
And I untighten’d next the tress 
  About her neck; her cheek once more 
Blush’d bright beneath my burning kiss: 
  I propp’d her head up as before, 
  Only, this time my shoulder bore  50
Her head, which droops upon it still: 
  The smiling rosy little head, 
So glad it has its utmost will, 
  That all it scorn’d at once is fled, 
  And I, its love, am gain’d instead!  55
Porphyria’s love: she guess’d not how 
  Her darling one wish would be heard. 
And thus we sit together now, 
  And all night long we have not stirr’d, 
  And yet God has not said a word!  60