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Forum Post: A Portrait of the One Percent, 1561 ~ My Last Duchess

Posted 7 months ago on Sept. 5, 2013, 11:41 a.m. EST by ZenDog (20556) from South Burlington, VT
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My Last Duchess

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as if she were alive. I call

That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands

Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said

'Frà 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, 't was not

Her husband's presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps

Frà 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, 't was 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 pretense

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!

. by Robert Browning ~ 1842

.

My Last Duchess

.

Note:

I gave commands;

Then all smiles stopped together.

.

The more things change,

the more they stay the same.

Historical Background

Poem Summary and Analysis

6 Comments

6 Comments


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[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (21783) 7 months ago

I've always found this time period fascinating because of the in your face brutality.

[-] 2 points by ZenDog (20556) from South Burlington, VT 7 months ago

really? You mean you find one period in particular more brutal than another?

The Romans had their Colosseum, and though our sensibilities may have changed, there is nothing to suggest that a human life may not be wagered, today, as a matter of sport, and against the will of that life being wagered.

And if that is not brutality enough, there remains our recent history, from Auschwitz and Treblinka to Jones Town, Aurora, Tuscon . . .

The human species is a bloodthirsty lot, and as my most recent post attempts to point out - human sacrifice may be the essence of negotiation.

I'm sure It has always been so.

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (21783) 7 months ago

Not really.

Romanticizing the era comes later. Cities in Italy at that time period didn't have anything in place for those at the bottom and I think it was in Florence there was a convent/orphanage that was only willing to take beautiful girls because they were afraid that they would become prostitutes. So, the Church said..... we will save only the pretty girls from hunger or begging in the streets. They didn't hide it, lie about it.......that was the deal. The Popes didn't even try to lie about what they were doing. So, you have lovers coming and going.

Too, they didn't have armies. They had hired mercenaries. So, you can see watch what Academi on crack looks like and the continuous power struggle between the family that hired them and those hired.

I will take a look at your post tomorrow when I can read through it.

[-] 1 points by ZenDog (20556) from South Burlington, VT 7 months ago

I will confess we do seem to have made an effort to produce at least the illusion of civility - which the repelicans are intent on dispelling by any means possible.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (21783) 7 months ago

Hell, I don't even think they are tryin' anymore. The Rethuglicans aren't even interested in maintaining an illusion.

[-] 1 points by ZenDog (20556) from South Burlington, VT 7 months ago

no they are not

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