Translation of Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess": go.to/litgarden


"My Last Duchess"

That's my last wife (a Duchess because I am a Duke) 
in that painting on the wall.
She looks as if she is alive.
It's a marvellous painitng - by Fra Pandolf.
He worked at the painting for a day, and there it is.
Why don't you sit down and look at her?  I 
deliberately mentioned Fra Pandolf because
strangers like you never look at the painting of the
woman's face (with its marvellous depth and emotion)
without turning to me (because I am the one 
who draws back the curtain and shows the picture)
and asking me 
how she could have such a wonderful expression.  So you are 
not the first to turn and ask me that.  Well, 
it wasn't just her husband that made her look happy.
Maybe Fra Pandolf suggested "Her cloak (mantle) covers her wrist too much" or maybe
he said that "mere paint could not capture 
her natural colour."  That is just 
politeness, she may have thought, and enough reason
to make her blush with happiness.   She had 
a heart (how can I put this?) that was made happy too easily,
It was too easily impressed.  She liked
whatever she saw, and she was always looking everywhere.
There it is!  In the picture, my special gift is pinned to her dress
The sun is sinking in the west.
There is the branch of cherries some fool
broke off a tree in the orchard, the white mule
she rode around outside the house - everything
would make her express her happiness
or make her blush, at least.  She thanked men - that's fine. But she thanked them in a way - 
I don't know exactly how - as if she ranked
my gift of a famous 900 year old name and ancestry as the same as
everybody else's gift.  Who would criticise
this kind of trivial behaviour?   Even if you were a brilliant
speaker (which I am not) so that you could explain
clearly to her that "This 
disgusts me; here you are wrong; 
or there you have gone too far" - and even if she allowed
herself to be criticised, and didn't
argue with you or make up excuses - 
even then it would be degrading; and I have chosen 
never to degrade myself.  Sir, no doubt she smiled
whenever I walked past her; but who  walked past her without
receiving the same smile?  This got worse.  I gave orders.
And then all her smiling stopped.  There she is in the picture
as if she is alive.  Please, will you get up?  We'll go
downstairs and meet everyone.  I repeat,
the generosity of your master, the Count
makes me feel sure that no fair request
for a dowry by me will be refused.
Though, of course, my real purpose in this is marriage to his beautiful daughter
and that's my main purpose.  Come on, let's go
downstairs.  Look at this sculpture of Neptune,
who is taming a sea horse.  It is very rare.
Claus of Innsbruck made it out of bronze for me.


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