MY LAST DUCHESS- POEM ANALYSIS

MY LAST DUCHESS is a poem written by Robert Browning. The poem is set during the Victorian era where women were objectified and were defined as things to be possessed and controlled. There is only one speaker in this poem-The Duke.

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,”

The poem begins with the Duke of Ferrara directing the attention of the envoy who has arrived to negotiate the Duke’s marriage. The Duke introduces his last Duchess from a painting on the wall to the emissary who was looking as if she was full of life. The duke calls it a piece of wonder and there can be no such doubt when it a piece of art from Fra Pandolf. The Duke asks the envoy to sit down at look at the picture. The Duke then explains that he deliberately said the name of the painter because all visitors look at the painting with earnest glace.


“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
Fra 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”

In these above stanzas he continues about the painting. The Duke tells the envoy that every visitor act as though they would ask, if they dared, how an expression like that came into her face. The duke informs the guest that he isn’t the first person to ask this question. He continues to say that the spot of joy on the cheeks of the Duchess was not perhaps just his presence. He says maybe Pandolf may have complimented her.


“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”

The Duke tells the messenger that the Duchess was too easily impressed and finds a reason to blush for everything. He says that she liked everything she saw and flirted with every person who crossed her. A brooch from the Duke or the sun setting or a branch of cherries brought by a person or her white mule gave the same level of happiness to her and she blushed the same way for everything. He claimed that she ranked his 900 year old name equally with anyone else’s gift. He says that he cannot stoop down by arguing with her.


“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 Duke of Ferrara imagines a situation where he would confront her and express about and her disgusting character. And if she had let herself be degraded by changing, instead of being stubborn and making excuses, then even the act of confronting her would be beneath him, and he refuses to ever belittle himself like that. He continues saying that she smiled at everybody at the same way and hence he gave orders to stop her smile forever indicating he killed her. He asks the envoy to follow him downstairs.


“The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
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!

This is the last part of the poem. Here, the Duke’s prospective bride’s father, a Count was known for his generosity in money and dowry. However, the Duke tells that his primitive objective is the Count’s beautiful daughter and not his dowry. As they walk together, the Duke directed the attention of the emissary towards the statue of God Neptune taming a seahorse, a rare piece of art that Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze specifically for him.

Speaking about the Duchess by the Duke speaks volume about his character and the men of his times. Husbands believed they owned their wives and considered that they had the right to dictate her feelings.

Relevant links:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Browning

https://www.gradesaver.com/robert-browning-poems/study-guide/summary-my-last-duchess#:~:text=Analysis%20%22My%20Last%20Duchess%2C%22%20published%20in%201842%2C%20is,poem%20is%20probably%20the%20speaker%20himself%2C%20the%20duke.

ON KILLING A TREE: Poem analysis

“ON KILLING A TREE” is a poem written by Gieve Patel. This poem is highlights deforestation and exploitation of nature by man in a cruel way to satisfy his needs. The poem gives a vivid picture of the brutal act of killing a tree. The poem compares the killing of a tree to a murder.

“It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown

Slowly consuming the earth,

Rising out of it, feeding

Upon its crust, absorbing

Years of sunlight, air, water,

And out of its leprous hide

Sprouting leaves.”

The poem starts with the poet starting to describe how difficult it is to kill a tree. It cannot be killed with just a quick blow of a knife because it had grown this huge and is deep rooted in the soil. It rises out of the earth’s crust and absorbing years of sunlight, water and air. The tree also sprouts leaves from its discoloured bark.

So hack and chop

But this alone wont do it.

Not so much pain will do it.

The bleeding bark will heal

And from close to the ground

Will rise curled green twigs,

Miniature boughs

Which if unchecked will expand again

To former size.”

In stanza 2, these lines state that even though human being chop the tree, it doesn’t mean the tree is destroyed. Just like how we get cuts and bleed and finally heal, the tree also releases sap when chopped. The bleeding bark will heal back itself and grow again from the ground. Green twigs grow and when left unnoticed, it grows back to it’s former size.

“No, The root is to be pulled out —

Out of the anchoring earth;

It is to be roped, tied,

And pulled out — snapped out

Or pulled out entirely,

Out from the earth-cave,

And the strength of the tree exposed

The source, white and wet,

The most sensitive, hidden

For years inside the earth.”

In the above lines, the initial step to destroy a tree is described. The initial step is uprooting the tree. To destroy a tree completely, first it needs to be pulled out from the earth which was holding and sustaining it. The earth nurtured the tree for many years but now roped, tied and pulled out entirely. ‘Earth cave’ is maybe referred to deep hole that is created by pulling out the tree. It is only when the act of pulling the tree out of the earth is done, it’s real strength is revealed. When the tree is uprooted, the most sensitive, white and moist part of the tree, the roots come out from the earth which was deep down the soil for years.

“Then the matter

Of scorching and choking

In sun and air,

Browning, hardening,

Twisting, withering,

And then it is done.”

And after the tree is uprooted, it is destroyed by other elements of nature such as sunlight and air. The climatic and environmental changes play a role in browning and hardening of the tree. It dries and twists and finally withers. By this stage, the tree is destroyed once and for all.

This poem conveys a social message to all stating the importance of trees and destroying them is a crime. The nature has provided man so much but man becomes greedy and exploits nature. Man should realize that destroying nature is destroying himself.

RELEVANT LINKS: https://byjus.com/cbse-notes/class-9-english-beehive-on-killing-a-tree-summary/ https://experimentwithperspectives.blogspot.com/2016/03/poem-analysis-subject-summarisation-and-explanatioon-on-killing-a-tree-by-gieve-patel.html