As children we are taught the phrase, “actions speak louder than words,” occasionally this is applied to how we treat others when making a promise to treat someone with respect, but the more often connotation of this phrase is applied to expressing love through actions instead of showering your love with gifts or meaningless, nonsensical words. Passion. This can not be bought in a store. Sometimes, however, such passion has the ability to warp into something vile and deformed, and from there obsession is formed.
This week, our poems all reflected that sort of warped affection for another human being, and how it is resolved in different ways. One poem in particular highlights the diseased mind once it has been corrupted with a diseased type of love, Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”. The immediate setting of the poem is dark and dreary, but light enters the home as the lady, assumed to be Porphyria, enters the narrative. Passion quickly perverts the mind of this man and he decides to strangle the woman with her own hair in an effort to keep the beauty with him forever, “That moment she was mine, 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.” (36-41). There is something morbidly enthralling about the way that Browning describes this dead woman as still bearing a smile and a bright face after the man has untwisted the hair about her neck. This particular poem sparked a memory in my mind of a song by alternative rock band Avenged Sevenfold called “Little Piece of Heaven” during which the narrator kills his girlfriend in a fit of jealous rage because he believes that she will cheat on him, unlike Browning’s poem however, the woman in the song is able to get her revenge and murder the narrator as well.
Each of the other poems also reflected this sort of strong emotion that is evoked incorrectly leaving all or both parties fairing rather poorly as a direct cause. Matthew Arnold’s poem “The Buried Life” uses this sort of unspoken love as way of showcasing a battle of emotions in the heart of a man, and how the revealing of such an unmasculine display would end him, “I knew the mass of men concealed / Their thoughts, for fear that if revealed / They would by other men be met / With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;” (16-19). Elizabeth Barrett Browning has a poem, “Lord Walter’s Wife”, with a man who happens to have no real problems expressing himself in words, but is attempting to tell a woman she is beautiful while also being rather condescending in his tone of voice, “ ‘because you are far too fair, / And able to strangle my soul in a mesh of your gold-coloured hair.’ “(3-4). Is this a reflection of the stereotypes of this time period? Perhaps that the woman was not able to do anything without it meaning that she was deliberately courting the attention of everyone around her, even when it was something permanent as eye-color or the tilt of a brow. The sad thought is that we still see these sort of behaviors portrayed today, because the other gender is not allowed to be attractive without people taking notice of them.
Although it is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18 due to blood, gore, and sexual situations, I am going to also add the link to that song I mentioned above in my post…. A Little Piece of Heaven