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!
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?
Summary of The Laboratory
- Popularity of “The Laboratory”: This poem is a classic and dramatic monologue written by Robert Browning, a popular English poet. It appeared in 1845 in his book, Dramatic Romances, and Lyrics. The poem unfolds extreme jealousy of a lady for another woman. It shows how her hatred made her reach a level where she intends to kill her lover’s new girlfriend mercilessly. The vivid imagery, powerful diction, and representation of the negative side of human nature made this poem a popular piece.
- “The Laboratory”, As a Representative of Hatred: A revengeful lady intends to kill her lover’s new girlfriend. The poem begins with an eerie scene, where the lady and the chemist are present in a devil-smithy laboratory, making poison for somebody. She closely observes the making of that deadly poison, wearing a mask. While observing, she scornfully accounts for the silly assumptions of her lover and his girlfriend. She imagines they are having fun while teasing her melancholic state.
Ironically, she is not mourning and continues to plan something deadly for them. In reality, she instructs the chemist to mix the poison with great care. Throughout the text, she seems anxious; she wants to make sure that the poison is going to kill her enemy. Finally, when the desired potion is ready, she rewards the chemist with her jewelry but also offers him a kiss. Once she is done with the Oldman, she heads toward the king’s ball, which could be the place where she is going to kill her enemy.
- Major Themes in “The Laboratory”: Jealousy, death, and revenge are the major themes of this poem. The poem centers on the revengeful attitude of a woman who intends to kill another woman. She is filled with hatred and wants to kill the lady. For that purpose, she is making poison that can help her achieve her goal. Her interest in making the poison as well as her filthy intentions reveal the negative side of the speaker how merciless and pitiable death she can inflict upon another human being if someone cheats her. The poem depicts if a woman intends to take revenge on someone, she can go to any extent.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Laboratory”
literary devices are tools to convey the writers’ emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. They can also make the poems lifelike and connects the readers with the real message of the text. Robert Browning has also used some literary devices in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below.
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /uh/ in “Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and stir” and the sound of /oi/ in “Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?”.
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the use of consonant sounds in the words occurring closer to each other. For example, the sounds of /g/ and /m/ in “Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill, You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!”
- Consonance: It is the occurrence of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sounds of /r/ and /t/ in “But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings.”
- Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,
“But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings
Ere I know it—next moment I dance at the King’s.”
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead”, “What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me” and “To carry pure death in an earring, a casket.”
- Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet compares the laboratory with the “devil’s smithy” to show that the speaker is engaged in a devilish act “As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy.”
- Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked in order to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. For example, “If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me?” and “Why not soft like the phial’s, enticing and dim?”
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Laboratory”
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make a stanza melodious. For example, “tightly/whitely”, “pain/remain” and “face/grace.”
- Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is a quatrain.
- Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the AABB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues until the end.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are twelve stanzas in this poem with each comprising four lines.
Quotes to be Used
The lines stated below are suitable to quote when describing the intention of a criminal to describe his/her negative intention while plotting to kill someone.
“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.”