First Published 1855, in Men and Women.

Is the speaker a victim that we should feel sorry for, or does she carry a manipulative persona that we should respect?

How do the following lines alter depending on your personal response:

1) "Be a man and fold me/ with thine arm!"
2) "Laying flesh and spirit/ in thy hands."
3) "That shall be to-morrow/not to-night"
4) "Must a little weep, Love./ (Foolish me!)"

What do you make of the Biblical imagery?
    • Serpent's tooth
    • the Tree
    • the apple reddens
    • Lest we lose our Edens
    • Eve and I
Did you know Elizabeth Barrett used to refer to herself as Eve? Why does Browning use imagery connected to the 'Fall of Man'?

- Traditionally, Browning’s ‘love poems’ do not focus on relationships within society, or even marriage as a social fact. They instead focus on the inside of their relationships, their privacy. This is very different to many of the 19th century novels.
- This would be an ideal poem if you were asked about the ‘private sphere’ as it reflects upon an internal ‘argument’ between, we assume, Browning and his wife.
- One of the only poems to feature a female speaker. This is a very interesting comparison to his other ‘love’ poems as he assumes a female persona.
- The ambiguity in the title is a key point of reference. Is the female speaker ending the argument in a weak way, or is she being very manipulative in her actions? Either way, it is the woman who appears to be in control of the dispute.
- In comparison to other poems the rhyme scheme and meter is fairly consistent.
Points for consideration
- Does the speaker seem like a weak woman or does she represent a compromised womankind? Why?
Poems for comparison
- Two in the Campagna – disappointment and misunderstanding
- The Lost Leader – infidelity, desertion
- Apparent Failure –feeling vulnerable
- Pictor Ignotus / A Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister - jealousy