Syntax in Porphyria's Lover
Syntax Examples in Porphyria's Lover:
", and all in vain:..." See in text (Porphyria's Lover)
The punctuation in this section convolutes the meaning a little. Essentially, readers should know that the comma after “prevail” and after “her” are setting off a different clause, or sentence. This clause is situated within the larger statement, which can be written “But passion sometimes would prevail … and all in vain.” Reading the line this way, we can see how Porphyria’s passion would take her to her lover “sometimes” but that these encounters were “all in vain”; that is, nothing real or meaningful came from them. This establishes the idea that the two lovers have met in such ways many times before, but they have failed to consummate, or act upon, their love. Since Browning finishes this line with a colon introducing Porphyria’s appearance on such a night, we are drawn into suspenseful anticipation to see what awaits these two lovers on this dark, stormy night.
": again;..." See in text (Porphyria's Lover)
Among other uses, the colon conveys emphasis for whatever follows. In this case, the speaker emphasizes the adverb “again” to signal that he opens her eyelids not once, but twice. Since the semicolon follows, the adverb “again” also acts on the following line, indicating that Porphyria’s eyes continue to laugh without stain.
"surprise..." See in text (Porphyria's Lover)
The enjambment here further highlights the speaker’s perception of his own God-like power. Enjambment is when a sentence extends beyond a poetic line without a break. It is often used to suggest two meanings of a line: the one that is read to the end of the line, and the one that is read to the end of the sentence. If one reads the entire sentence, the speaker’s surprise gives him a swelling feeling of love. If one reads to the end of the line, “surprise” takes on a conceited tone: Porphyria worships him and he is not surprised. This second reading of the line reveals the speaker’s growing confidence in his power and influence. Whereas at the beginning of the poem he was unresponsive and sitting alone in a dark room, now he sees himself as obviously deserving of Porphyria’s permanent affection.