I think I can say that The Laboratory by Robert Browning is legitimately the poem that got me into poetry. I don’t know what it is about this poem but it is so amazing. I don’t know whether it’s the rhythm, the structure or the content. I mean, it’s going to be a little bit of everything.
So what do I mean by rhythm, structure and content. For me personally when I am reading poetry for myself, not for my course or for anyone else, just for the pleasure of reading it I tend to focus on those things.
I focus on how the poem trundles along, if its easy to read, sounds nice in my head, you know how the sound of the poem flows man. (Just to let you all know this isn’t going to be a super in depth, technical review, more like showing how my mind works when I read a poem and enjoy it :))
I then think about how the poem moves from one point to another point. Does it engage on an emotional level because of how it moves along? How does it end, do I feel moved or tickled or whatever the poem wants to convey.
And then I think about what the poem is actually saying. How the poem says it, through imagery, metaphors, the actual make up of the poem.
Ok so lets look at The Laboratory in this sense then. Here’s a link to the poem if you fancy playing along 🙂 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laboratory
Ok so the rhythm is great, as it is with a lot of dramatic monologues. The rhythm of the poem reflects her madness. Although there is no specific mention of a madness, her obsession with her task and the way the rhythm is quite staggered and random shows how her thoughts are working. This staggered rhythm is clear in specific parts, one of the main moments this is shown is through the beginning when she is talking about how they think of her and then when she describes how Pauline will die.
It goes from A to B in a really fun and clever way. The first stanza of the poem establishes what this woman is planning to do straight away. This makes her dangerous and interesting and grabs the attention of the reader. The sense of urgency in the act of making the poison increasing as time runs out. She does state ‘I am not in haste’ however as the poem progresses the thought of killing this woman creates a dark and tense atmosphere and creates a fast pace which is incredibly entertaining to read. This all comes to the conclusion ‘next moment I dance at the King’s’. This always reminds me of a cliffhanger, like how the penultimate episode to Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad would go. However, the reader never finds out what happens, and that makes the poem so powerful. This uncertain ending creates the drama.
So now for the good one; content. 🙂
The imagery in this poem is truly amazing. Its so funny and brutal all at the same time. At one point the narrator states ‘what a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me’ adding that kick to the teeth to her competition. This shows that the narrator is being petty, but I just find it so funny. This woman is trying to kill her competition and yet she still finds it important to mention that. The thing I always try to remember about poetry is that everything is important. Poems are so hard to write well, so a good one has gone through a lot of editing and rewriting. Nothing is just coincidence, it all means something.
Another bit of the imagery that I really like is the stanza that is two away from the end. This is one of the bits that shows the glimmer of madness from this woman. She states
‘Not that I bid you spare her the pain!
Let death be felt and the proof remain;
Brand, burn up bite into its grace–
He is sure to remember her dying face.’
I always imagine that the last line should be said quietly, almost sadly. She truly hates these people and she is going to take it out on her competition. The graphic nature of this description so nicely contrasts the ‘exquisite blue’ of the poison. This description very much reminds the reader what crime the narrator is planning to commit. I find this so powerful and amazing.
This poem is just the right mixture of horrific and playful and I love this poem.
What are your thoughts? Favourite piece of imagery from the poem?
Happy reading everyone 🙂 xx