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MY LAST DUCHESS

- By Robert Browning
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Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose dramatic monologues made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are noted for irony, characterisation, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings and challenging vocabulary and syntax. His career began well, but collapsed for a time. The long poems Pauline (1833) and Paracelsus (1835) were acclaimed, but in 1840 Sordello was seen as wilfully obscure. His renown took over a decade to recover, by which time he had moved from Shelleyan forms to a more personal style. In 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett and went to live in Italy. By the time of her death in 1861 he had published the collection Men and Women (1855). His Dramatis Personae (1864) and book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book (1868-1869) made him a leading British poet. He continued to write prolifically, but his reputation today rests largely on his middle period. On his death in 1889, he was seen as a sage and philosopher-poet who had contributed to Victorian social and political discourse. Societies for studying work formed in his lifetime and subsisted in Britain and the United States into the 20th century. Robert Browning was born in Walworth in the parish of Camberwell, Surrey, which now forms part of the Borough of Southwark in south London. He was baptised on 14 June 1812, at Lock's Fields Independent Chapel, York Street, Walworth,[2] the only son of Sarah Anna (née Wiedemann) and Robert Browning.[3][4] His father was a well-paid clerk for the Bank of England, earning about £150 per year.[5] Browning's paternal grandfather was a slave owner in Saint Kitts, West Indies, but Browning's father was an abolitionist. Browning's father had been sent to the West Indies to work on a sugar plantation, but, due to a slave revolt there, had returned to England. Browning's mother was the daughter of a German shipowner who had settled in Dundee in Scotland, and his Scottish wife. Browning had one sister, Sarianna. Browning's paternal grandmother, Margaret Tittle, who had inherited a plantation in St Kitts, was rumoured (within the family) to have a mixed race ancestry, including some Jamaican blood, but author Julia Markus suggests she was Kittitian rather than Jamaican.[6] The evidence, however, is inconclusive.[7] Robert's father, a literary collector, amassed a library of around 6,000 books, many of them rare. As such, Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources. His mother, to whom he was very close, was a devout nonconformist and a talented musician.[3] His younger sister, Sarianna, also gifted, became her brother's companion in his later years, after the death of his wife in 1861. His father encouraged his children's interest in literature and the arts.[3]

MY LAST DUCHESS

"Portrait of Lucrezia de' Medici" by Agnolo Bronzino is in the public domain.

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
'Fra 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
Fra 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

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Additional Information:

Rating: A

Words: 474

Unique Words : 268

Sentences : 65

Reading Time : 2:06

Noun : 185

Conjunction : 55

Adverb : 35

Interjection : 3

Adjective : 22

Pronoun : 66

Verb : 73

Preposition : 41

Letter Count : 1,912

Sentiment : Positive

Tone : Conversational

Difficult Words : 117

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