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Hello dVerse Poets. I’m Kim of writinginnorthnorfolk.com. Welcome to Tuesday Poetics on this second day of May. This week I would like to take a brief look at dramatic monologues, specifically ‘The Laboratory’ by Robert Browning.

The Laboratory

Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly,
May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely,
As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy—
Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?

He is with her, and they know that I know
Where they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow
While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear
Empty church, to pray God in, for them!—I am here.

Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste,
Pound at thy powder,—I am not in haste!
Better sit thus and observe thy strange things,
Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s.

That in the mortar—you call it a gum?
Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!
And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue,
Sure to taste sweetly,—is that poison too?

Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures,
What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures!
To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,
A signet, a fan-mount, a filigree basket!

Soon, at the King’s, a mere lozenge to give
And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!
But to light a pastile, and Elise, with her head
And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!

Quick—is it finished? The colour’s too grim!
Why not soft like the phial’s, enticing and dim?
Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and stir,
And try it and taste, ere she fix and prefer!

What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me—
That’s why she ensnared him: this never will free
The soul from those masculine eyes,—say, “no!”
To that pulse’s magnificent come-and-go.

For only last night, as they whispered, I brought
My own eyes to bear on her so, that I thought
Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she would fall,
Shrivelled; she fell not; yet this does it all!

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!

Is it done? Take my mask off! Nay, be not morose;
It kills her, and this prevents seeing it close:
The delicate droplet, my whole fortune’s fee—
If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me?

Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill,
You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!
But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings
Ere I know it—next moment I dance at the King’s!

The Laboratory

Image found on https://anthologypoems.wikispaces.com/The+Laboratory

This poem is made up of twelve four-line stanzas of rhyming couplets with a regular rhyme scheme of aabb, ccdd, eeff, etc. The basic metric unit is the anapest: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable – da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM – but Browning doesn’t follow that rhythm in every single line; he mixes things up a little now and then.

The poem is a dramatic monologue in which the anti-heroine tells us how she plotted to poison her love rival with the help of a chemist, whom she paid to provide her with the means to a grisly death.

The challenge is to write a modern dramatic monologue about a plot to do away with someone (or something). You don’t have to write twelve stanzas, but I do ask that you emulate the form as closely as possible with regard to the rhyme scheme and metre. You can write from the point of view of a historical figure, such as Nero, a notorious poisoner, or a more modern non-fictional murderer; you might choose a fictional character or make up one of your own. Whatever you do, I want you to thrill me and chill me with your evil plans.

If you are new, here’s how to join in:

    • Write a poem in response to the challenge;
    • Enter a link directly to your poem and your name by clicking Mr Linky below;
    • There you will find links to other poets, and more will join so check back to see more poems;
    • Read and comment on other poet’s work, we all come here to have our poems read;
    • Please link back to dVerse from your site/blog;
    • Comment and participate in our discussion below, if you like.   We are a friendly bunch of poets.
    • Have murderous fun.

I look forward to reading some nasty, evil dramatic monologues.