In Love with Porphyria’s Lover

I have a secret.

I fell in love with Porphyria’s Lover when I was eleven-years-old. I was introduced to her by Doña J, a woman who lived in a small cottage about a mile away from my house. Most people, in my village, were afraid of Doña J. They stayed away from her yard and even avoided the trail that ran next to her house. She had tons of books, and trees that ignored the turn of the wheel and stayed forever loaded with fruit. As you can imagine, I adored Doña J, her fruit trees and her books.

I used to go to her house every day after school, unless her husband, the Caribbean incarnation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was home. I liked Doña J’s fruits, but what I really loved was the illuminated copy of Robert Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover that she kept hidden in an old Bible. She kept the drawings in that particular book because the Dr Jekyll side of her husband was very religious and physically abusive—he didn’t hit or yell if he thought she was reading the Bible; Mr Hyde was never lucid enough to enjoy being cruel.

Anyhoo, I fell in love with Porphyria’s Lover because of Doña J’s amazing illuminations and her vivid interpretations of the poem. I don’t remember all the illustrations, but there are three I will never forget.
1. A drunken man grabbing a woman by the hair and biting her neck.
2. The same man striking the woman with a bottle and cracking her skull.
3. The woman, now ethereal, strangling the man with her long, curly hair and absorbing his life-force until the terrible beast stops being.

I was fascinated by the uncanniness of it all… but if you’ve read Porphyria’s Lover, you probably figured out that there was something peculiar about Doña J’s art. Well, in case you haven’t read Browning’s poem, let me share some of the strangling lines out of the mouth of Porphyria’s disturbing lover:
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound 
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain. 
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again 
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And thus we sit together now, 
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said aword!
You can go HERE to read the entire poem. Wondering about the secret I’ve kept for twenty-four years? Here it is: as much as I admire Robert Browning’s words, I doubt I would have ever fallen as deeply in love with Porphyria’s Lover without Doña J’s interpretation and rewriting of a line or three. And in all these years, no other art, inspired by the poem, has evoked, in me, emotions which matched that of Doña J’s illuminations and drawings.

Until I ran into this piece of greatness by Molly Crabapple; I stared at this ethereal lady for a very long time, so don’t feel bad if you, too, find your heart’s eyes lost in her beauty. She just looks so free, self-owned and eternal… “And yet God has not said aword!”
Porphyria's Lover by Molly Crabapple. Stop by her website to see more dreams.



















I would love to read one of your artsy secrets, my Wicked Luvs. Then stop by The Butterfly Effect, meet the rest of the super creative gang, and see what hidden/secrets things everyone is painting to life. While you are there, click on Amy’s link (sidebar) and join her All Together Now blog party. I already know you are freaking awesome, but I’ll love to share you with the world ;-)


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30 comments:

  1. That's a pretty liberal interpretation by Doña J, but she sounds like a fascinating person. I love this poem too. The first time I read it was in an English literature anthology in school and it was very striking.

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    1. "Liberal" and then some. I think she put all her life into those drawings. I didn't know it then, but I'm 35 now, and I see how art affects people--maybe that is why I love it so much. It seems that once a work of art leaves the artist's heart and is touched by another, it changes and it becomes some else, something amazing, something different but still a bit of the same.

      I love this poem, too. One of this days, I will write about how 3+ decades of life have helped me understand the lover in a way different from Doña J. I don't think he is as ruthless as she paints him...

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this for me to see and read,
    For I see what you mean.
    Also I'd like to say one more thing;
    I believe you are a magnificent writer yourself,
    Indeed.

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    1. Thank you, Lon, for the kind words ;-)

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  3. There used to be a gay bar near me called the "Fruit Tree" but as far as I know no one has ever written a poem about it.

    Plenty of drawings exist inside of it.

    Or did.

    Graphic lewd things the owner encouraged people to leave once they were good and blitzed.

    I left a few myself when I was underage and terribly drunk.

    Great sweeping pornographic angels.

    Mags do you do any kind of art or drawing aside from writing I mean?

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    1. "Great sweeping pornographic angels." How poetic ;-)

      I guess this is a post about secrets, so here it goes: when I was in middle school, my best friend and I (her name is Maggie, yes, we were the Maggs) we used to write a comic strips about Bible satires. Job was our main character and he wasn't a happy guy. He showed it, too. Maggie used to draw the backgrounds and the guys. I drew the girls and the did the lettering. We had quite the lucrative business lol .25 cents a page. Hm, I wonder if I can still draw big-breasted girls with little clothes and huge smiles...

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  4. Muy interesante El amante de Porfiria. Saludos.

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  5. Oh, what a story! You have really a secret. It's interesting but rather horrible. And You were so young :-o
    Your paintig is so beautiful, so fine, I like it very much.
    Greetings from Finland, UUna :-)

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    1. Greetings from New York, UUna ;-)
      I don't know why, but I never found the story horrible--real maybe. Hm, I wonder if that was because, like a very wise woman used to say, I was born with the soul of a jolly 40-year-old woman lol

      Molly Crabapple's work is amazing, indeed.

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  6. What an interesting challenge! And I love that drawing. Powerful and a wonderful interpretation.
    Hugging you
    SueAnn

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    1. Amy does a lot of interesting things. Now that I think about it, I think you would probably really love her work and her genius. And yes, Doña J's mind was wonderful.

      Hugs right back!

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  7. Dona J's images spoke so clearly to you because they were made from her own pained heart. Art like that makes me cry for the artist, both for the sadness they have endured and the strength that emerges. I would have visited her too :) XXX

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    1. Exactly.

      I used to stare at her choice of colors, the way sometimes the edges of an illuminated letter seemed to bleed, the sadness was alive and it wasn't shy. Like I said on an earlier reply, I think she put all who she was and felt into those illustrations.

      I think you would have liked each other. She had a rich laugh, right short curly hair and there was always ink on her fingers... and she made me roar all the time ;-)

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  8. I agree with Gina. :) And at that age we were all attracted to secrets. :) Things we shouldn't have seen or heard at that age as said by the society. Thanks for sharing Magaly. :) I would love to see you draw big breasted women in skimpy clothes. :))

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    1. Indeed, there is nothing more daring and inquisitive than a prepubescence girl in love with words ;-)

      Who knows, I might give the old girls a try. Although, lately, my doodles have mainly focus on frogs, daisies, books and skulls...

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  9. What a beautiful drawing! Now for the first time in ages, I want to give it a try again. I love not only the fine lines of the woman's hair but also the paper that was used. The different color tones. The faded red ones reminded me a little of blood on first sight.
    This butterfly effect sounds really interesting, but I didn't really get it... (Bah, blogging is so much more than just writing, I just realized that) The next theme "underwater" really caught my attention... But what does one have to do to participate?

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    1. I, too, thought of blood--dried splatters that have become stains. And the tones are intoxicating, aren't they?

      As you can see, I've gone about if rather liberally. I don't really paint, so I've focused on my own art--words--and how it relates to the visual art of others. I'm not sure if I'll have time to participate in next week's challenge--I'm working on finals and stuff--but if i do, I'm thinking about focusing on a line in Virginia Woolf's "A Sketch from the Past" it describes painting and colors from the point of view of a writer. That passage has always fascinated me.

      I would say, Amy's instructions, close your eyes, let your heart choose a medium, and allow your soul to paint what it wants ;-)

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    2. alright, thanks for the explanation :D

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  10. No creative secrets here...although I am dying to give painting a try. Saving up money to get the stuff. And to get it for the boys too. lol

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    1. I would love to see what you guys paint as family. I can't wait to be off school, a very special lady said she would make stickers out of drawings made by me and the Little Princess and I'm psyched.

      What kind of painting are thinking of doing?

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    2. I want to try all of it, acrylic and oil and water. I'm thinking of getting this but I have to get one for each of us (so 3 of them) or I'll never hear the end of it. Cheaper than camp, right?

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    3. That's too sweet. And yes, definitely cheaper than summer camp for three.

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  11. Awesome awesome Magaly!! The poem makes you want to keep reading and re-reading it and I've never heard of it before, but again there are alot of things i've never heard of before. lol The drawing is fabulous darling!! I'm off to do some searching. :) Thanks for the great share girlfriend!

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    1. Browning has a way with words, especially if you like your words dark...

      And Crabapples art is delicious. I don't know how long I'll be able to keep myself from buying something of hers lol

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  12. The image is stunning Magaly! I can't stop looking at it! Wow! Great post for The Butterfly Effect! I got home a few hours ago! Trying to catch up with everything!! Hugs ;o)

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    1. I can understand the attraction; she is a captivating vision.

      Hope you and your mom had fun ;-)

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  13. It really is a haunting poem. I like it very much, despite the somewhat grim ending. And Amy's picture is stunning. Thanks for posting this!

    Also - congratulations on being featured on WitchVox! A great article!

    Hugs,

    Jen

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    1. Haunting and then some. And gracias ;-)

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  14. Oops - that should have been "Molly's picture" not "Amy's" - sorry!

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