720. Porphyria's Lover

Robert Browning. 1812-1889

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.
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
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,
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 endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
  From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
  And give herself to me for ever.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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!
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!

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition