Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Rose for Emily

Necrophilia, decaying monuments, Southern chivalry, and eyes that resemble two lumps of coal pressed into raw dough. Ah, Faulkner. What's not to love?

Rather than posting my comments on this story, I think I'll post one of my favorite poems, which also contains an image of necrophilia. (I have to admire writers who write so boldly about this taboo.) This poem was written by Robert Browning in 1836 England--a world every bit as mannerly and conservative as Faulkner's South. The gender of killer and killed are reversed here, opening up all sorts of points of comparison and allowing us to reflect on how our perceptions of gender affect our understanding of the murder.

Porphyria's Lover

The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
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,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight'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.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last l knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
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 l wound
Three times her little throat around,
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
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And l untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!


  1. This poem brings back memories of past classes! One of my favorites; mostly because I remember reading it numerous times to understand the meaning, and everytime I read it I see something new.

  2. Loved reading "Porphyria's lover" w/ Dr. Griffiths in Brit. Lit!

  3. And I loved first reading it in sophomore year at Poly High with Mr. Rice! I'll spread the love back to him.

    I'll never forget reading this for the first time and hitting "And strangled her." I think I sat straight up and re-read the poem about five times in a row, thinking, "WHAT? You can DO THIS in a poem??"