A Duchess, to her Maid

I like its subtlety. Let me know what you think.

Update, note: Read this poem twice. Then read it again, and again, until you say, “<i>Oh!</i>”

<i>A Duchess, to her Maid</i>

Dear girl, pray hear me now with gentle ear,
For I have heartfelt instructions to give,
On coming affairs. My bleakness, I fear,
Has become increasingly afflictive.
Soon, I mean to reunite with my Lord.
I long to enter his heav’nly embrace,
Ecstatic communion I once adored,
And gaze contented on his flawless face.
Can such adoration be immoral?
You nod; yet who can fault my <i>agapé</i>?
I will sacrifice myself to spiritual
Bliss. Let me end my anguish in this way;
And tonight, while I die, and others dream,
Pray you ignore my chamber-shaking scream.

Very interesting, but I fear that I have not understood everything that you may have intended in this poem. The poem immediately makes me of Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, and so I am imagining the duchess foreseeing her forthcoming brutal murder by her husband.

The other thing that you may want to do is mark accents on words if you alter their stress pattern. For instance, doing so with a word like ‘áfflictíve’, you help it to clearly rhyme with ‘give’ and better hold your iambic pentametre.

Thank you. I did have Browning’s duchess in mind, and your interpretation is possible. I’m curious though how others will read this. Look at some of the phrases: “my Lord”, “heav’nly embrace”, “ecstatic union”, “gaze contented on his flawless face”, “bliss”. Also, recall the Renaissance slang meaning of “die” for the last couplet. What <i>exactly</i> is the Duchess planning to do? There are two possibilities I have in mind. Imagine the speaker with a look of despair, for one; and then imagine her saying all this with a sly, smiling look, for the other. I’ve edited the original post a little, hopefully clarifying things.

I meant afflictive to be read normally, also. The poem’s not perfectly iambic, but I think it’s enough so for a sonnet.

Yes, I got all of those references, but I guess that I took it more on the serious side the first time. Very clever, though: my poems almost never have that effect, but then again, that is not a style which I use at all. It is much more a very open and serious Anglo-Saxon style, which is not at all like yours. Renaissance slang is also not something which I know very well, but I have an idea about what you mean.

Now your poem reminds me more of John Donne.

I saw two interpretations, one in which the duchess is committing suicide to join her husband in heaven, and another in which the duchess is committing suicide because of an abusive husband. The phrase “while others dream” seems to imply that only she is aware of her forecoming death, i.e. she is committing suicide.

The former is less likely as it would surely leave the duchy in shambles and disorganization, but it is still possible. “My Lord” could refer to her husband, and the “my bleakness” phrase adds strength to this argument. The latter also seems likely, in which “My Lord” refers to God in heaven, in which case “bliss”, “heaven’ly embrace”, etc. lends strength to this argument.

As for <i>My Last Duchess</i>, the Duchess never saw the murder coming. “Even had you skill / In speech–(which I have not)–to make your will / Quite clear to such an one / […] / E’en then would be some stooping; and I chuse / Never to stoop.” Your duchess seems to take her death quite calmly, and is willing to discuss it. Are you going for a Victorian feel?

To Cless Alvein, your interpretations are also along the correct lines–at least, along the lines of one of my two readings. There’s no conclusive proof that the duchess is planning anything other than suicide. Yet is literal death <i>necessarily</i> involved? From the OED, die: “To experience a sexual orgasm. (Most common as a poetical metaphor in the late 16th and 17th cent.)” The main feature of this poem is the intertwinement of these meanings. As for “The Last Duchess”'s relation to this, there’s nothing explicit; yet, after this poem, the Duke’s suspicions do seem rather more justified..

To Sir Percival, thank you again. I did have Donne in mind, and some instances in Shakespeare’s plays; the unity of body and spirit their poems accomplish.

Very nice. I only saw the suicide until you provided that definiton. Never knew “die” could be used that way.