Prophyria – Robert Browning

I knew that, on this night, I could not leave him

To lie steeped in the anguished wretchedness of his isolation

I wrapped my cloak securely around my shoulders

Gloves covering my willing fingers

And yet, the storm and gale bit through both with daggered fangs

Denying my body of warmth by filling the hollows of my bones with ice

And yet, I continued with all that tried to drown my devotion

Bearing the beating dealt by the rain, punishing

The wind wailed, a witch's cackle

Talons ripping at my clothes

Pulling, holding me back

Perhaps, now desperate, pleading that I not go

I could not obey.

I passed the wild water, made so by the storm that beat me also

And my eyes found strength to battle the darkness and find his door

The windows were bare

The cottage was black

And I was certain, with my whipping cloak

That the cold must be inside as well

My heart throbbed with boundless compassion, the tormentor of lovers

And I went in and shut out the storm that wished to intervene

It was to feed my despair, that inside it was very cold indeed

My lover sat upon the edge of an icy bed, a worn and wretched poor soul

Lonely and chilled while I had been warm in comfort

So selfish, oh it is disgusting

I, preferring to stay in my own home instead

While he had suffered here, in need of me

Oh, may all the gods that ever were damn me for how I have wronged him!

I built a fire with my anguish, as if to set myself to burn

The flame breathed life into the room,

First to the stones, then to the wood, its nurturing touching my own nature

But it could not reach the man who remained frozen

So I removed my dripping cloak that had left dampness all around me

My gloves, with the futile purpose to warm me, were cast away

And I moved to him, he who I loved with a tender heart

Throwing off my hat at last, releasing the mane it had caged

And denying all else in the world, I freely sat beside him

With lips that could not help but tremble, I spoke his name

My heart shuddered, for he spoke not

And saw me not, or I assumed in the dull gaze that found the floor to be so dear

He, a lonesome creature, taken away from himself by some deep despair

Oh, one of such depth that I could not possibly hope to know

Never to understand, I so spoiled and ignorant

I, the callous lover that had left him to fight this, unaided

I held him

Led him to me

Pushed aside my hair, and let his head rest

Yes, to find peace, to take whatever measure I might have on my shoulder

And, to keep his perch in gentle comfort, I whispered my love to him

Again, and then some more, I transmuted immeasurable feeling into short words

I touched his lovely head, one that contained the being I so cherished

I strove to tell him what my heart said

Oh yes, that silly restless organ that all know

"Love, my Love. My dearest love, so dear.

I am here, as I will always be, bearing my love for you."

Yes, I let the moving lips smile, forming nonsense, in all ears

But it was precious here between lovers, such as us

Salvation to all lonely hearts, that voice might yet be

I loved him so.

Then, to my delight, he stirred, clouded eyes becoming clear

With returning life, he looked at me, and our eyes did meet

Tears welled, happy tears, all of them from my eyes

I weighted my smile with all the emotion it could hold, and spoke

"I love you."

And he smiled! Blessed, beautiful! I never want more than this smile!

My heart aflame

My soul rejoicing

I laughed and held his face, which had left my shoulder with no need for it

As he touched my hair so thoughtfully, good thoughts I hope

And soon he wound it about his hand, to keep it near, to make it stay

As if holding it might fuse our fates together

A rope

A chain

Forever binding me to him

I smiled and laughed, unable to hold this feeling back, and not wanting to

For all the world, I did not want to smother this moment, preserving the freedom

I, at this glorious time, was so glad to see his face as happy as it was

His dancing eyes, reborn with light

His arms moving around me, caring

Moving to hold me, having been denied for so long

My hair going around my throat with a wrapping embrace

He smiled, and the words were drawn from me

Nothing was there to prevent them from coming again

"I love you."

Again I laughed

And then I choked

And his smile grew

And was lost from my sight, dimed and blurred

All love failing

Fear and horror

Despair and turmoil

I grasped and caught his shirt

I clawed

I could not scream

Ages, horrid, agonizing ages

The pain


Lord have mercy

All despair


Than he could have ever known

I wept

I shuddered

And then

I died.

Above him, and so cold

I watched as he gently placed my hair

And took my lifeless head

So gentle, and so loving

Was he to my corpse…

He seemed to love me so much more in death

Than he ever had in life.