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Compare and contrast two poems

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In this Essay I will compare and contrast Havisham, by Carol Ann Duffy and Porphyria’s Lover, by Robert Browning. I will explore and analyse the range of poetic devices used to tell a story of love gone wrong. Havisham is spoken by a fictional character based on Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham. Duffy depicts Havisham as a woman crippled by love and loneliness after being left at the altar. In contrast Browning’s poem sees Porphyria’s Lover murder Porphyria, so she can’t leave and he will no longer be lonely in her absence. Despite being written over 150 years apart both poems share a theme of love and loneliness portrayed through unhinged minds. They tell the story of painful suffering and longing due to separation from their lovers, although they dreamt of marriage it cannot be an option- both characters drive themselves to madness in the loneliness of their dark rooms. After being jilted at the alter Miss Havisham spends the rest of her life in her house as she is unable to move on, surrounded with wedding paraphernalia as a hurtful reminder. She lets the feelings of betrayal and anger fester and it deteriorates her mental health until she becomes a mad spinster, Havisham loses her sense of identity at points and snaps in and out of fantasies of killing her fiancé. ( E J Taylor,2006)

In Porphyria’s lover a man sits alone in his cold cottage, longing for his lover. She walks in after traveling far, through harsh conditions. He looks at her he realises how much she loves him but due to the conditions in the Victorian era they cannot marry, presumably due to class divide. In his deluded mind he finds a solution. He wraps her hair round her neck three times and strangles her. He cuddles with her corpse in front of the fire, happy that he has answered her wish. They can finally stay together without interruption in his secluded cottage. In Havisham it initially looks as if it is rhythmic and consistent as it has four stanzas of four lines of similar length. However, as you read through you will soon realise there is no strict structure, words are used freely and do not rhyme or create consistent rhythm. Duffy instead use syllables to create ever changing, unpredictable rhythm (M Kendry, 2013). Duffy uses longer syllables to portray a sense of longing and misery “Beloved Sweetheart” paired with harsh sounds which abruptly stops the misery and twists it into bitterness and anger “Bastard. This is shown immediately in the first line as Havisham recalls her lover.

Our first impression is that Havisham is unstable and chaos surrounds her. Duffy uses enjambment to amplify the disorder and chaos both in her mind and her surroundings as she jolts from scene to scene: “cawing at the wall” “yellowing” dress and the “slewed” mirror. She sees someone “her” it takes a few seconds to recognise herself and she asks “who did this” a pause is created as the next stanza continues… “To me?” she identifies herself as a victim. Unlike Havisham Porphyria’s lover is has a strict rhyme pattern of ABABB and a solid structured rhythm, each line has 6 syllables (Sparknotes, 2014). The poem is one solid stanza so the rhythm never pauses. This soothing rhythm gives the impression that the speaker is calm and collected; there is no room for a pause at the end of stanzas implying the speaker is confident or at ease with what he is saying. However, the story depicts a very conflicting story of how he strangles Porphyria-his lover, to death with her own hair because he can’t bare being without her, he needs her to stay, forever. With this being the case it becomes more apparent that the speaker is clearly deluded and insane. The steady rhythm conceals his anxiety and the absurd reasoning for murder. It is as if he is rocking back and forth whilst telling the story, reassuring himself it will be better this way.

Enjambment is also used in this poem, like Havisham jumping rom line to line. However Browning still keeps the narrator in strict rhythm, this gives a small indicator of madness. “She felt no pain” “her one darling wish would be heard” “God has not said a word” He does not seem to think he has done anything wrong, adding to the eerie feel. The imagery created by Havisham is a dark room of decay reflecting on her own neglected self and demise of happiness and love Duffy uses alliteration with the B sound “beloved Bastard” this also draws the words together creating an oxymoron showing personal conflict of love/hate (M Woods, 2005) . The alliteration of the “B” sound and the long syllables gives the impression she is blubbering and spluttering her words slowly in self-pity. Her eyes have turned to “green pebbles” glazed over, lifeless. She explains she has clasped her hands so hard wishing for his death that “ropes” on the back of her hands appeared, it could also be viewed that she is evolving into a monster through envy and bitterness. She wishes to strangle him with the ropes that have emerged. . “Spinster.” This incomplete sentence, sitting alone shows exactly how she portrays herself without her fiancé (M Kendry, 2013)..

Havisham is “cawing” like a crow, unheard in her dark room, her cries heard by nobody. The poem is filled with images of wedding accessories and associated items showing Havisham is clinging on to painful memories We see the wedding dress “yellowing” giving us the scale of how long Havisham has sat and wallowed in despair and an idea of how everything else around her will also be in decay. Images of a Red balloon burst in her face “Bang.” Generally balloons are associated with celebration, however the bursting of the balloon symbolises the abrupt end to her happiness, and her bubble had burst. .Duffy uses onomatopoeia “Bang.” To reinforce the shock caused by the devastating news. The narrator goes on the say how she “stabbed” the wedding cake. Images of murder, aggression are created. Havisham the demands a Corpse, again we are forced to face death and murder. In Porphyria’s lover the narrator set the scene of a cold stormy night in his cottage, surrounded by nothing but woodland (J T Best 2007).

Browning uses personification to bring the storm to life, “the wind was soon to awake” like a demon surrounding his house as it “tore” the trees down and tried to “vex” the lake, again adding human qualities giving the lake emotion, this is imagery is alike the monster like portrayal of Miss Havisham. He describes how his partner “glided” into the room, mentioning her yellow hair giving the impression she is angelic, there to turn his hell into heaven. The moment she arrives she “shut out the cold and the storm”. not only because she has lit the fire but her presence has bought warmth and comfort. He describes how she bares a shoulder for his head to rest, this gives the image the man is in need of being taken care of he is vulnerable and she cares for him, but she will leave yet again and all her love is in vain. He casually describes how he wraps her hair three times round her neck, using a metaphor, describing it this time as “yellow string” so we picture a more rope like tool rather that hair. This is where the sad vulnerable image he has portrayed of himself changes unexpectedly. Her head now rests on his shoulder, she cannot leave he is now in charge.

He” warily” opened her eyes, but laughed in relief as they showed no “stain” the stain could refer to her eyes being blood shot from strangulation or he could mean they still have a look of innocence and purity, reassuring himself he has done the right thing. Here is where the poems differ, Porphyria’s lover found a “solution” to his problem. His mistress’ eyes are bright and her cheeks are “rosy”. Also her Yellow hair is mentioned three times and signifies her beauty and youthful attraction whereas in Havisham the Yellow dress represents decay and impurity. Although in general the imagery created in both poems as the scene is dark cold and they are suffering in the absence of their partners, no one can hear their cries or attend to their needs. In conclusion the main themes in are similar as they are about love, marriage and madness. They both tell the story of love turned sour and the desperate characters who suffer, longing for their love to be present forever. Their suffering seems to be extensive and self-inflicted causing them to become delusional and take extreme actions. However the techniques used differ, specifically in the rhythm and form, Duffy’s poem appears neat and structured like Browning’s but at a closer look it is scattered and unorganised. The language used in Porphyria’s lover is more literal and matter of fact. In contrast Duffy uses more figurative language.

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