Hating the Duke

Kenia, over at Real Toads, challenged us earlier this week to re-examine a poem we don’t like to find a line or verse we could at least respect.  I do love poetry, and yet when I was browsing my books this one came back to haunt me.  “My Last Duchess” is a poem I love the feel of, how it is written, but I loathe the story and the character of the Duke.  The full poem is at the end of this post for those who wish to read it entirely.  Below, however, is my favorite lines and the poem I wrote around them, as the ghost of the Duchess.

Hating The Duke

 

The fool, he boasted to that little man.

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder”

Did he think that it kill me, to shed my blood?

That my body entombed would trap my spirit?

Little fool of a man, thought he should own joy.

Thought he should own laughter not his own.

He was quite right, though you know, about me.

I loved live so dearly, held it as a treasure,

I never missed pleasure, a chance to steal a kiss.

When the painter came, and for him I too smiled,

I feared that it was for funeral he painted me.

So my spirit I did send, to haunt the brush strokes,

My spirit to infuse each splash of color and hue.

Knowing I could, in the end, live on behind the veil.

Trapping that fool in his vanity and lust.

Having me sent on that fatal carriage ride,

He thought he was rid of me at last.

I win, in the end I win, because even behind it.

That curtain of dark velvet, I still call him body.

Behind that soft crush of velvet I own him mind.

In every stroke of  painted hue, his soul is mine.

Come my lover, your own my smile now forever.

Come my lover, I am yours and yours alone.

Come my lover, madness waits behind the curtain.

Come my Duke, I am your last Duchess true.

Come my lover, and die here with me to live on.

*************************

My Last Duchess

by Robert Browning

FERRARA.

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fr Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fr 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, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Fr 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, ’twas 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 pretence
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!

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20 Comments

  1. isadoragruye said,

    May 20, 2012 at 3:30 am

    You did a good job of finding the voice of the Duchess and making it your own. well done.

    • shanyns said,

      May 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the read, good to see you here.

  2. May 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    The original example is why I’ve never tried to immerse myself in so much of the old poetry. I don’t mind a little here and there but, (for me) it’s too deep, too intricate, complicated, too, too much of everything…I like something easy to understand and know what the writer is trying to put across. Your example is just that. He was a waster, and she knew he would kill her and so she was haunting and taunting him in the very thing he coveted. Nice!
    Well risen to the challenge Shanyn

    • shanyns said,

      May 21, 2012 at 1:13 am

      Thank you! 😀 Studying poetry can be difficult but in this challenge I did learn that even a poem whose form I don’t mind but has a story I loathe can be transformed by changing perspective! So pleased you enjoyed the read. Thanks for coming by.

  3. May 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    How clever to write from the viewpoint of the murdered duchess. Yes, the duke is one of the most arrogant and evil characters of literature, perfectly captured by Browning, and based on an historical character.
    I liked that you point out she owned him in the end – not the other way around.

    • shanyns said,

      May 21, 2012 at 1:14 am

      Kerry – thank you coming by. Your comment made my day! I loved the idea that she knew he coveted her, and that his desire could entrap him, even after she was gone. It was great to have this challenge to give the Duchess a voice at last! Great to see you.

  4. brian miller said,

    May 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I feared that it was for funeral he painted me.

    So my spirit I did send, to haunt the brush strokes,

    My spirit to infuse each splash of color and hue.

    Knowing I could, in the end, live on behind the veil

    some rather cool lines there…and haunt his paintings i am sure you will…poetry is a love that came later in life an i def am a fan of much more modern poets…i def honor the old but really dont have a taste for stilted language…

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Brian – thanks for coming by, and I’m glad you found some cool factor lines here to enjoy! In school we had to study different poets and sometimes it was nauseating too! The older poets have something to offer, but many are so laborious to read I struggle with them. I, too, honour the old but enjoy the new too!

  5. May 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I like your poetic response…very clever to make him pay for his deeds by imprinting your picture in his soul (beyond the painting) ~ Nice work ~

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks! I always imagined that she could find a way to own him as he tried to own her…and now she has! Great to see you here.

  6. Laurie Kolp said,

    May 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Such strong lines throughout…

    Knowing I could, in the end, live on behind the veil.
    Trapping that fool in his vanity and lust.

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      🙂 Laurie – thank you. Great that you came by, so pleased you enjoyed the read.

  7. Mary said,

    May 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I def like yours much more than the original. i feel as Bren says about some of classic literature (too obscure). You rose to the challenge very well.

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Mary – thank you! I appreciate your comment and am so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the poem.

  8. May 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Shanyn! Complex poetry! Thanks for sharing!

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Dawn – thanks for coming by, and I’m hoping you enjoyed it. It is complex that old poetry, but sometimes it is worth digging into. Even the stuff you don’t like. 🙂

  9. chris said,

    May 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Great response to Browning’s poem. Love that the duchess wins in the end, and haunts the stupid man.

    • shanyns said,

      May 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Chris – thanks! I’m glad I was able to give her a victory.

  10. poemsofhateandhope said,

    May 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    wow- tough challenge to take on! your delivery certainly has a classical/traditional feel…some real strong sentiments come through that paint the dutchess with such strong character….almost obsessive! menacing! i wouldnt mess with her

    • shanyns said,

      May 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Stu – thanks! I wanted to have her come through as more than a victim to the Duke and his appetites. I wouldn’t mess with her either, but would love to have her on my side in a fight! 😀 I am so pleased you stopped by and I’m glad you enjoyed the poem.


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