My Fair Duchess

I didn’t realise it was NaPoWriMo!! Strangely enough it wasn’t mentioned on my Creative Writing course…

Well, here’s a poem I wrote for Coursework last year, as a response to Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, where we had to keep the rhyming words at the end of the lines the same as the original poem. Not as easy as it looks!


There’s my fair duchess captured on the wall,

As beautiful here as in life – I recall

The piano whites tickled by her elegant hands.

She finishes playing and then she stands.

“Miss, will’t please you play once more?” I said.

She obliged and attended me while I read.


And each day upon seeing her glowing countenance,

I longed more for the passion of her emerald glance.

Though lovely as that smile had been, by

law the property of my brother. And I

Admired from afar, speaking when I durst

and choosing the path of betrayal, but at first

she declined my affections, said it was not

a safe topic, or an appropriate spot

to talk – afraid of my brother perhaps?

The duke who sits in luxury’s lap –

Who throws away money, saying, “paint

my dear duchess ere her beauty grows faint.”

The man who owns such fanciful stuff –

which I’m afraid is never enough:

for the greatest jewel he already had.

Suffice to say my heart was glad

when she agreed to my proposal with, “whate’er

the consequence, I’d follow you anywhere.”

Sir, how happy was I! My favour at her breast.

I waited ’til the sun set in the West

before riding out on my servant’s mule –

“To town I go,” I managed to fool

my brother. I rode with her – each

moment falling for her more. Her eloquent speech

beguiled me. For the bough of cherries she thanked

profusely – such a small gift had ranked

higher than my brother’s marriage; the gift of our name.

It had been forced on her, so who could blame

her lack of love and marital skill

when marriage was against her will?


My brother knew we met like this –

The small details went not amiss.

He pieced it together, then let

us meet under false pretences he had set.

I tried to deny, make some excuse

but in the end he made me choose.

I smiled at him. I had no doubt

of my decision. “Her I cannot live without.”


“This presumption must be tested.” He gives commands

and by the hanging rope she solemnly stands.

She smiles at me and say, “I hope we shall meet

again. Know I am happy not to repeat

the same shallow pretence

of love and false munificence.”

I was pained to watch, but disallowed

to leave. I watched my love die and I avowed

to avenge her. But ere I go,

I stand before her painting. And though

the unveiling of her face is a rarity,

those concealed eyes still show love for me.


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