Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

A Light Woman


So far as our story approaches the end,
Which do you pity the most of us three?---
My friend, or the mistress of my friend
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  • Emily Tong (9/14/2013 2:58:00 AM)

    Here is my take on this poem: (probably not perfect, still in the midst of studying literature at A levels)
    Basically this is a poem about Browning's friend, and how he has been captivated by a certain lady. However, it is suggested to us that this lady has no intentions of truly loving his friend and perhaps has other ulterior motives, can can be inferred from the animal imagery that surrounds her 'An eagle's the game her pride prefers, though she snaps at a wren instead', which suggests to us that perhaps she's in for some material gains, though she is unable to see that Browning's friend is perhaps not a suitable candidate for this. Also can be seen from the allusions to traps and nets and how his friend is 'tangled in her toils'. As such, in the end, with Browning able to see through her, he has decided to spare his friend the misery of marrying this woman and instead diverted her attention onto himself and married her instead. While this is indeed a noble act, it is not recognized by his friend, who views it as Browning having stolen the girl of his dreams, or in this case, his 'light lady'. To the friend, this lady was almost sort of a holy figure to him and he almost seemed to worship her, as the word 'light' does hold such connotations. Moreover, we are told that his friend's 'day was turned to night' and that his 'sun's disc has elipsed', giving us an indication as to how she was almost sort of a light source for him. His friend then holds much grudges and hatred towards browning, as can be seen through the phrase 'he eyes me as the basilisk', a mythical creature that had the power to kill just by its gaze, which suggests very strong negative feelings that the friend holds against browning. At the end of the poem, we are given a sense that perhaps Browning should not have proceeded with such an action because it has obviously been misinterpreted by his friend and it has caused more harm to his friend now that he has to deal not just with the loss of love, but also the loss of friendship. (Report) Reply

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