In Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Browning uses Biblical imagery to illustrate the condition of her protagonist's time in isolation. She uses both myth and Biblical allusions to fully convey her meaning to the reader. During her time alone, writing emerges as Aurora's only means of communication — she discusses her correspondents and her lack of exchange with Romney. Aurora's writing also serves as social commentary for the city she finds herself in.
So, happy and unafraid of solitude,
I worked the short days out,�and watched the sun
On lurid morns or monstrous afternoons,
Like some Druidic idol's fiery brass,
With fixed unflickering outline of dead heat,
In which the blood of wretches pent inside
Seemed oozing forth to incarnadine the air, —
Push out through fog with his dilated disk,
And startle the slant roofs and chimney-pots
With splashes of fierce colour...
No one sings,
Descending Sinai; on Parnassus mount,
You take a mule to climb, and not a muse,
Except in fable and figure: forests chant
Their anthems to themselves, and leave you dumb.
But sit in London, at the day's decline,
And view the city perish in the mist
Like Pharaoh's armaments in the deep Red Sea, —
The chariots, horsemen, footmen, all the host,
Sucked down and choked to silence�then, surprised
By a sudden sense of vision and of tune,
You feel as conquerors though you did not fight,
And you and Israel's other singing girls,
Ay, Miriam with them, sing the song you choose.
Biblical song here functions as a catalyst for creativity. The city also seems to function as both a hindrance and a help to Aurora's sense of voice.
1. In the Bible most prophets have a wilderness phase where they commune with God and remove themselves from society before returning to preach. Does Aurora experience this?
2. We have in these passages three traditional myths — Druidic, Greek, and biblical. What effect does mixing these three have on the passage's larger goals?
3. What is the role of the city here? How does Browning envision the city as linked to the allusions?
Last modified 23 March 2011