Valentine Poem Fragment: "In a Gondola" by Robert Browning

This is a fragment of a long "he said/she said" poem titled "In A Gondola," written by Robert Browning (1812-1889).  It's not an exalted love poem, but rather a role-playing dalliance enacted on Venice's night canals by a woman (possibly married) and her lover.  Browning forever established his lover-man credentials in 1846 by eloping to Italy with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and by inspiring her to write "Sonnets From the Portuguese" ("How do I love thee?" etc.).  There's a hilarious "Cambridge Footlights" courtship sketch with Emma Thompson as Elizabeth and Stephen Fry as Robert--set in London when Elizabeth was a prisoner of ill health and paternal cloistering (at Minute 2 "diddy"=daddy).

"In a Gondola" was sparked when an intermediary for painter Daniel Maclise asked Browning to write a few lines on an oil-painting titled "The Serenade" (now in Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library; scroll to bottom of linked page for small image).  Browning wrote the few lines, and then added over 200 more. These excerpted stanzas are intended to be "sung" by the woman, but for the podcast I asked a man to speak them (audio link below), just for fun.

(More fun with nature: the "bee" on the delphinium flower above is actually an illusion created by tiny fuzzy petals.)  

In A Gondola (excerpt)
by Robert Browning

The moth's kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made me believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst.

The bee's kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is rendered up,
And passively its shattered cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.


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