First Published 1864, in Dramatic Personae.

- Regular rhyme scheme [ABABCDCDD] and end rhymes throughout.
- Shows Browning’s tendency to base his poems on fact; the Brownings were living in Paris 1855-6.
- The initial specificity of setting, in Paris at a certain historical moment is detailed, e.g. ‘the Congress’, ‘Buonaparte’, ‘Tuillieres’. Yet, the final stanza opens up broader philosophical and theological argument.
- After the (smaller) revolution in 1848 the Paris Morgue is located in an old slaughterhouse. What is the significance of this?
Points for consideration
- What is the speaker’s reaction to the fact that such a grisly spectacle is a tourist attraction?
- To what extent are we invited to sympathise with these poor souls laid out on mortuary slabs?
- What do you make of the more sardonic and judgemental moments in the poem?
- Is there a moral to be drawn from the deaths of the individuals in the morgue? Is the poem didactic?
- Why does the speaker mark themselves out as a foreigner: ‘No Briton’s to be balked!’, ‘your Prince’.
Poems for comparison
- A Toccata of Galuppi’s – Looking at a foreign culture as an outsider
- Prospice – confronting the idea of death
- Pictor Ignotus - anonymity
- The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church – the demise of the individual
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