Love, Passion and Suffering

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In this essay, I intend to analyze Christina Rosetti’s “Cousin Kate” {1879} and Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s lover”. These two poems have a common theme of love and passion that are shared by two lovers at some point. Although Christina’s highlights the plights of the ‘maiden’ who is crying fowl about her love gone sour after she had been abandoned. She regrets why she met the lord whom she thought would be the true love of her heart “Why did a great lord find me out, and praise my flaxen hair?”{Rossetti}.Converse to her cousin’s which is blossoming with great passion. This disparity is also realized in Browning’s which mainly dwells on the pleasurable moments enjoyed by the two lovers by the beach.

Their joy therefore reflects their perfect and pure relationship they behold. The two lovers portray the fulfillment one gets in loving the partner. Porphyria is quite in love and even lacks words to express it to the lover. Later on, the lover finds out that she is much deep in love with him, when he says “at last I knew Porphyria worshipped me”.{Browning}.

In Rossetti’s poem, the theme of love and passion has been explored in a unique manner. This is because the image of love and passion has taken two dimensions, such that the author is bringing out Kate’s engagement as perfect and standing the test of time. While her cousin’s is doomed after what she held precious is lost. She talks of leading a shameless shameful life and not even the neighbors have regard for her. This changes the theme to that of Hate because she rail against the fact that she was lured by wealth and would not have taken her love’s hand when she knew that she would treat her like a rag and plaything. This purposefully reveals to us the sufferings one can be faced with when they fail in finding a true love that cares and values them. Rossetti’s poem is therefore driving in some important message of love and suffering intertwined together. Such that not all love come to blossom especially if one is lured by wealth and not real love, i.e. if it’s bought.

    Styles brought out

 In regard to the two poems, the major style explored is imagery. It is clearly brought out in the Browning’s in which we are able to visualize the setting of the poem and even the passion shared by the two. The beach because we are told that she withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl. A clear picture is brought out when porphyria’s lover gives a vivid description on the way his love blazes up a gloomy grate and warms up the cold lodge. This enough tells us how much she is of value to him.

 Imagery in Christina’s poem is brought out through the woman who has been deserted by the lover. The suffering can be seen in her choice of regretful words. We are also able to see the kind of peaceful and lovely life her cousin Kate is leading with her love which was described as planted in sand yet hers was founded in great love and wealth. Imagery in this poem has also been portrayed through the use of metaphor and simile. She has indirectly compared Kate’s love with writ in sand, “You love was writ in sand” {Rosssetti}.meaning that her love was not founded on a strong ground but later survived. She even refers to Kate as ‘fret’ to mean that she is simply a trouble. This shows how resentful she feels towards her cousin Kate for having succeeded in her relationship. There is also use of similes to directly compare a person or situation, e.g. “He wore me like a silken knot”
                                                        “He changed me like a glove”

These two comparisons give us an idea about the value that was accorded to the woman by the lover. In that he manipulated her according to his desires and later on dumped her just like one can throw away a used useless glove. Therefore this style can be said to be laying a lot of emphasis on the theme of hate since the woman does not only hate the lover but also dislikes the cousin for having a good life. Besides, it’s enhancing the theme of suffering pot rayed in the woman’s way of life.

However, there is also use of alliteration in both poems which helps in creating rhythm hence enhances the musicality of the poems. Alliteration is the use of same letters at the beginning of a word in a line. For instance, in Rossetti’s poem there is alliteration in line three of stanza two, e.g. -shameless shameful life and  in the last stanza line five-My fair-haired son, my shame, my pride. In Browning’s poem instances of alliteration are; Blush’d bright beneath my burning, Three times her little, she sat down by my side. These also play the important role of enhancing the musicality of the poem.

Another important style explored in these two poems is the use of repetition. This has been constantly used through words, phrases and sentences. There are several repeated words and sentences in Rossetti’s poem. For instance, in stanza one the sentence; ‘Why did a great lord find me out’ has been repeated to emphasize on the woman’s regretful state for the man having come across the rich man. The words ‘he’ has been repeated to refer to the man and ‘you’ to refer to her cousin Kate and ‘my’ refers to her only son on whom she can count on.

In Browning’s poem the word ‘her’ has been repeated to emphasize on the one and only Porphyria in the poem. This has been deliberately done by the persona so as to stress on the fact that Porphyria loves him and he loves her too. Besides, the name porphyria has also been repeated to perform the same function. The word ‘mine’ has also been used frequently to emphasize on the fact that she is nobody else’s but his alone. Even the phrase No pain felt she is repeated. All in all, repetitions in these two poems have mainly been used to create emphasis.

Irony has also been used as a style in the two poems. The situations in Rossetti’s poem is quiet ironical when we focus on the lifestyles led by the two women, i.e Kate and her cousin who are leading a very contradicting life in relation to the base on which their relationship was founded. This is to say that according to Kate’s cousin, her relationship tended to have been planted on a fertile soil and expected it to yield the fruits contrary to Kate’s whose love is compared to writ on sand. The woman thinks that her relationship should be the best yet it’s the fallen one. It’s also quiet ironical in the way the wealthy lord treats her like a shriveled rag which can be discarded at owner’s will. We expected that the wealthy lord to treat her like a queen since she even lacked nothing in her physical wellbeing. While Kate was to be the frustrated woman because after all her man picked her from a very poor estate and state yet raised her to the higher level of life. bound by a mere ring.

The irony in Browning’s poem is portrayed in the actions of the lover, who strangles the lady using her own hair strings in the name of showing love to her. As a reader, I expect him to display his love to her in another special manner other than strangling her and claiming that she hasn’t felt any pain.

 The authors of the two poems have also employed the use of poetic diction. This is the choice of words by the author to bring out the mood, tone, styles and even the attitude in the poem. The choice of words can greatly determine the message and purpose a poem has for the reader. Like in Rossetti’s poem, she has carefully chosen the words so as to portray the real situation that is prevailing in the life of the woman. For example she has used phrases and sentences such as;
                              I was a cottage maiden
                              Hardened by sun and air.

                              Wore me like a silken knot,
                               changed me like a glove;

                              The neighbors call you good and pure,
                              Call me an outcast thing.

These words are used to describe how the woman and her cousin were portrayed by her lover and even the neighbors. And the way she felt for her cousin. In comparison to the Browning’s “Porphyria’s lover”, the use of poetic diction has affected the thematic concern of the poem- love and passion. It has helped the augmentation of the image created in the entire poem. Some of the word and phrases used are: And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate; Blaze up, and the entire cottage warm; struggling passion free; perfectly pure and good and burning kiss.


This is the voice brought out in the poem through the choice of words used by the poet. The tone in Rossetti’s poem can be described as aggrieved and resentful. This is in light of the regrets made by the woman as she asks herself why the lord had to meet her out. She feels aggrieved by the fact that the man fooled her and wishes that she wasn’t bought by the wealth of the man. She even longs for her cousin Kate to have been the one in her shoe. This makes her to even hate Kate for her prosperity in life.

This further clearly brings out the resentful tone. She says “if he had fooled not me but you, and “the neighbors call you good and pure,” “Call me an outcast thing”. These phrases shows how much unhappy she is with the cousin’s way of life. Her heart is full of bitterness especially when she thinks of the way the man wooed her into loving him. She bitterly says that she was lured by a mere piece of land the sentence; “I would have spit into his face” says it all. The resentful tone has larked throughout the poem but in some circumstances when she reflects on the first days when the man admired her hair and planted joy in her portrays a happy tone. Unfortunately it quickly vanishes. In the same poem, the description on her cousin’s endeavors creates a happy tone though watered down by the resentful voice of the speaker.

The tone in Browning’s differs from that of Rossetti. This is because the speaker’s choices of words are quite appealing, hence bringing out a cheerful tone. The words reflect the blissful life they are leading. He knows that the lady loves him so much .words like ‘smiling rosy little head, So glad it has its utmost will, and at last I knew Porphyria worshipp’d me’{Browning} tells us the kind of love they share. Besides, the joy Porphyria gives him makes the man happy since she warms up the cottage and blazes up the cheerless mood. The lady in turn is so much in love that lacks word thus resorts to action. In this poem therefore the tone reflects on the main theme.

In conclusion, the two poems exhaust the themes of love and passion and suffering after a fallen love. They strongly highlight the pleasurable feeling  everyone requires, and that’s why Kate’s cousin is bitter when she can no longer  hold to her love just like Kate. She even curses the first meeting and only finds comfort in her son. On the other hand, porphyria’s love and she represents the true love admired by all. They also Represents those who bath in the warm waters of love. The same case is with Kate whose lover treats her like a queen yet they only bound their love with a simple ring. It is therefore apparent that though love can be appealing, but at the same time become a trauma to some as portrayed in Rossetti’s ‘cousin Kate’.

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