7

From Aurora Leigh:

She said her name quite simply, as if it meant
Not much indeed, but something,–took my hands,
And smiled, as if her smile could help my case,
And dropped her eyes on me, and let them melt.
'Is this,' she said, 'the Muse?'
'No sibyl even,'
I answered, 'since she fails to guess the cause
Which taxed you with this visit, madam.'
'Good,'
She said, 'I like to be sincere at once;
Perhaps, if I had found a literal Muse,
The visit might have taxed me. As it is,
You wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes,
My fair Aurora, in a frank good way,
It comforts me entirely for your fame,
As well as for the trouble of my ascent
To this Olympus. '
There, a silver laugh
Ran rippling through her quickened little breaths
The steep stair somewhat justified.

What is the meaning of this sentence? The blue color of Aurora's eyes provides comfort, so that the visitor is not feeling meek, even despite Aurora's fame?

And what is the meaning of "so chiefly"? "Since your eyes are the main source of blue color in you"? But what could this mean? That there is nothing "blue" in Aurora besides her eyes? Meaning, Aurora is not sad (blue)?

  • The first sentence of the 3rd paragraph reads, "I write. My mother was a Florentine, Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me When scarcely I was four years old; " So having established blue as a primary color in her palette, other mentions of blue repeat this trope as, perhaps, symbolic of her mother in her memory. – DJohnson Apr 22 '18 at 15:35
  • 3
    @DJohnson - will you perhaps consider turning your comment into an answer? Comments aren't exactly meant for half answers; if you have an answer, best to put it in the answer box :) – Mithrandir Jun 20 '18 at 19:19
  • @mithrandir This thread seems dormant, if not defunct. Further amplification hardly seems worth the effort. Thank you, though, for the suggestion. – DJohnson Jun 21 '18 at 0:42
  • 4
    @DJohnson - new answers that add to existing ones are always welcome, regardless of the age of the post :) – Mithrandir Jun 21 '18 at 6:49
  • 3
    @DJohnson Well, this question keeps getting bumped, and the OP appears to be still active on the site. A good answer to this would definitely be appreciated. – Rand al'Thor Aug 19 '18 at 18:07
1

Aurora Leigh is a poor poet living and working in a tiny ‘garret-room’. Lady Waldemar is a rich widow who has fallen in love with Aurora’s cousin Romney Leigh, and who has climbed the stairs to enlist Aurora’s aid in separating Romney from his protégée Marian Erle.

Lady Waldemar’s dialogue in this scene is a mixture of insincere flattery and barbed compliments. The gist of her speech here is that she finds Aurora to be prettier than she had expected on account of her fame as a writer. Let’s look at the text in detail:

‘Is this,’ she said, ‘the Muse?’

The Muses were the ancient Greek goddesses of poetry, music, and the other arts, and also “by metonymy: a person inspired by a Muse; a poet” (OED). So Lady Waldemar is asking Aurora if she is the poet she has come to visit.

                                        ‘No sibyl even,’
I answered, ‘since she fails to guess the cause
Which taxed you with this visit, madam.’

Aurora, in her reply, plays on the double meaning of ‘Muse’ by referencing another group of characters from Greek myth: the sibyls were oracles who prophesied at Delphi and other temples.

                                        ‘Good,’
She said, ‘I like to be sincere at once;’

We find out fairly soon that this is a lie: Lady Waldemar is insincere and manipulative.

‘Perhaps, if I had found a literal Muse,
The visit might have taxed me.’

This is a back-handed compliment: while saying that she does not find a visit to Aurora taxing, Lady Waldemar implies that she has no interest in poetry, music, or the other arts, that the literal Muses might have tried to inspire in her, and thus no interest in Aurora’s work.

                                        ‘As it is,
You wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes,
My fair Aurora’

This is another back-handed compliment. For the barb behind it, we must look a little later in the scene, where she asks rhetorically:

                        ‘Is the blue in eyes
As awful as in stockings, after all’

A “bluestocking” is “a woman devoted to literary, scholarly, or intellectual activities” (OED) but the word carries derogatory connotations, especially of ugliness or unfashionableness. So Lady Waldemar is apparently complimenting Aurora by saying that she wears her blue in her eyes rather than her stockings, but in doing so she manages to convey her lack of respect for Aurora’s work.

                        ‘in a frank good way,
It comforts me entirely for your fame’

The implication is that Lady Waldemar had feared, on the basis of Aurora’s fame as a poet, that she would be ugly, but on meeting her she is comforted by her good looks.

‘As well as for the trouble of my ascent
To this Olympus.’

Building on the mention of Muses and sibyls, Lady Waldemar fancifully likens Aurora’s garret to Mount Olympus, the home of the ancient Greek gods.

                        There, a silver laugh
Ran rippling through her quickened little breaths
The steep stair somewhat justified.

The use of ‘somewhat’ is a little barb at Lady Waldemar’s age and lack of fitness, but it is in the narration as Aurora is too polite to say it out loud.

0

I would agree with your first interpretation in that Aurora's eyes are comfort to the speaker and allow them to overcome any shyness or reservations about the encounter. Aurora has way with her eyes that she can just look at you and make you feel at ease.

From the passage you quote, there is no hint of an underlying sadness within Aurora.

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