7 votes
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Meaning of "I shut my tongue against my fly"

The first edition of the poem (Chapman & Hall, London, 1857) has shot, not shut: –At which I shot my tongue against my fly And struck him; Subsequent editions by Chapman & Hall also have ...
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5 votes
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What does “men in us” refer to in “Aurora Leigh”?

tl;dr It's a literal translation of the French idiomatic construction hommes en nous, which would typically be translated, simply, men. In French it implies a congregate body, so fellow members would ...
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5 votes

Who are the “men of the west” who eat clay in “Aurora Leigh”?

A straightforward explanation is that Browning is referring to literal clay-eating (geophagy) among the natives of the New World (“men of the west”), for example, as reported by Alexander von Humboldt:...
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4 votes
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Meaning of "He says it still of truth, which is his own" (in "Aurora Leigh")

The lines: […] now He has left off calling firmaments And strata, flowers and creatures, very good do not mean, as suggested in the question, that God has ceased to name things, but rather, that ...
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4 votes

To what extent is Aurora Leigh autobiographical?

In addition to my own research, I found an interesting essay discussing some of the semi-autobiographical parts of Aurora Leigh, and how Barrett Browning's character was consciously and unconsciously ...
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4 votes
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How does “the socket drop them through” in “Aurora Leigh”?

There were indeed some devices that held rushlights vertically. In A Handbook for East-Bourne and Seaford, and the Neighbourhood (1885), G. F. Chambers provides the following figure: He writes: Figs....
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3 votes

What's the significance of “Collegisse juvat” in Aurora Leigh's fan-mail?

The suggestion is that in their letters the bachelors declare that her writing has given them gooseflesh/goose bumps: A rough, pimply condition of the skin, resembling that of a plucked goose, ...
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3 votes
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Why is Aurora Leigh proud of “colonising beehives” in the poem by Elizabeth Browning?

Removing the parenthetical interruption so as to follow the syntax better, we have While I in vain touch cymbals. Yet, concede, Such sounding brass has done some actual good, ... In ...
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3 votes

What is ‘the secret of Da Vinci’s drains’ in ‘Aurora Leigh’?

Da Vinci's drains As remarked in a page of Notes and Queries (I found this at Wikisource, but I'm not sure exactly what document it's a page from!), this simply refers to the fact that Leonardo da ...
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3 votes

What is ‘the secret of Da Vinci’s drains’ in ‘Aurora Leigh’?

To answer one of your questions, Googling, I found a version of Aurora Leigh that had a footnote referencing Matthew 2:3. Looking this up, we find that Matthew 2:2-4 reads So when you give to the ...
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3 votes
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Who inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "Mother and Poet"?

‘Mother and Poet’ was first published in Last Poems (1862), where a note is appended: [This was Laura Savio, of Turin, a poetess and patriot, whose sons were killed at Ancona and Gaeta.] This is a ...
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3 votes
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Meaning of "not conclude at yours"

I think the phrase "let her start And shake at pleasure,–nor conclude at yours," should be understood something like "let her start and shake at [her] pleasure, and not conclude at your [pleasure]",...
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Meaning of "I own myself incredulous of confidence like this availing him or you"

The two speakers in the passage are Lady Waldemar and Aurora Leigh. They are rivals for the affection of Aurora’s cousin Romney Leigh. Lady Waldemar is older than Aurora, and an insincere and ...
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2 votes
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What is "vulgar white of personal aims"? Why is it "white"?

Metaphor, mainly I wasn’t able to find any exposition of the meaning of this particular passage. However, I think the meaning is fairly straightforward. Here “white” doesn’t refer to the color of “...
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2 votes
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Meaning of "and beauty keeps itself still uppermost" (Aurora Leigh by Liz Browning)

The key to this passage is the emotional situation of the characters. The speaker is Marian Erle, a poor young woman who loves philanthropist Romney Leigh. She has been visited by Lady Waldemar, a ...
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2 votes

Why is Aurora Leigh proud of “colonising beehives” in the poem by Elizabeth Browning?

Peter Shor having identified the connection between cymbals and bees, I found a couple of classical sources for this allusion. First, in Ovid’s Fasti: liba deo fiunt, sucis quia dulcibus idem gaudet, ...
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2 votes
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Meaning of "that all the towns make offal of their daughters for its use on summer-nights"

One possible reading: “its” is “his very body as a man.” So, it could be a very circumlocutionary way of saying something like, “The physical urges of men are so base, women in every town die because ...
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2 votes

Why is Romney’s pattern “on his nail” in “Aurora Leigh”?

An addendum to Gareth's answer: this is originally an old Spanish idiom. From the book A Dictionary of Spanish Provers, by John Collins (1883), via Google books: Tener en la uña.—“To have it in one's ...
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2 votes

Why is Romney’s pattern “on his nail” in “Aurora Leigh”?

I think that “on his nail” is a calque of the French “sur son ongle” which was a favourite phrase of the poet Jacques Carpentier de Marigny (1615–1673), according to the memoirs of his friend Gilles ...
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2 votes

What inspired the "fakir in a box" in Elizabeth Browning's "Aurora Leigh"?

Browning alludes here to the biblical account of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. But the details don’t come from John, in whose account Lazarus’s tomb is closed with a stone (11:38), not a locked ...
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1 vote

What is the correspondence of flowers with the spirit-world in Elizabeth Browning’s “Aurora Leigh”?

Browning is alluding here to the philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, a mystical Christian philosopher, who propounded the doctrine of correspondence: Moreover, there is no one thing existing in the ...
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1 vote

Why is it a mistake to “eliminate” rather than “analyse” in "Aurora Leigh"?

First, the “still ray”. The theory that sight works by rays that are emitted from the eye was held by some ancient philosophers, for example: For [the gods] caused the pure fire within us, which is ...
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1 vote

What does Elizabeth Browning mean by "turning up their under-natures"?

Let’s take the trees first. The “under-natures” are the undersides of the leaves, which are “turned up” (made visible) by the wind, and since the undersides are paler than the upper surfaces of the ...
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1 vote
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Meaning of "who bespoke our place so far in the east"

I won’t claim to have the definitive answer, but one recurring theme in the poem is the morning sun as the source of the soul and of divine inspiration. Aurora is even called out within the poem as a ...
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1 vote

Meaning of "to risk, in turn, a woman's paradox"

The OED says: paradox, n. 2. a. An apparently absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition, or a strongly counter-intuitive one, which investigation, analysis, or explanation may ...
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1 vote
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Meaning of "gambled" in "whose wasted right hand gambled against his left" (Aurora Leigh)

The child is playing a game of chance, with one hand competing against the other, for want of a companion to play against. Here are a couple of examples from other works, to show how the phrase is ...
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1 vote
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Meaning of "you wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes ... it comforts me entirely for your fame" in Aurora Leigh

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 ...
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