The Next Duchess

By sfe

Original link: https://www.storiesspace.com/stories/poetry/the-next-duchess.aspx

Tags: robert browning, my last duchess, arranged marriage

Added: 05 Feb 2016 Views: 353 Avg Score: 5

Adapted from Robert Brownings "My Last Duchess", where the envoy now advises the Count

THE NEXT DUCHESS

 All is as you thought it would be sir and more.
The Duke is most formidable.
He is powerful and feared.
Respect he commands well through design. 
Vigilance is his strength.
He’ll tolerate no slight towards his authority.
His name he guards most jealously.

An alliance of your house to his will prove most practical,
The benefits I’m sure you’ll weigh.

I’d dare sir if I may,
Make some suggestion to this scheme.
You’ve few enough daughters here at home,
Though there be but one in his dream.
Other interests will occur,
For which the other daughters you’ll have need.
I’d see sense in sending only one sir,
So I’d hope you take heed.

I’m not sure I’m clear sir,
So this I must say.
If she’s to go and you’re to benefit,
Set new lessons in her way.
The Countess and you are twice blessed,
Both by her beauty and her mirth.
His last Duchess too possessed,
These same virtues from her birth.
Her joviality was, as is with yours,
For more than but a single one.
Thus then for a time at least,
Her house remained quite fun.

That home is now forlorn sir,
The tiniest crack he’ll not accede.
The poor last Duchess he would not warn,
Nor listen as she plead.
A wall now holds her image,
Covered by a curtain that sets the tone.
So as to your daughter sir,
I urge you then,
Do have a say,
For this man possess, 
A most very singular way.

Teach her to be shrewd.
Care for one is all she need know.
Of her eyes, he’ll be well aware,
So explain how there’s little for her to see.
With her voice,
Let it be just for him to enjoy,
Just as it should be.
Drear for all others will be fine sir,
Least he be otherwise inclined sir.
With her mirth,
Let it never tarry here nor there.
She should direct it for him sir, 
Or else always forebear.
As to her modesty, I’ll not indulge,
I know you’re wise,
And so then will advise.

She’ll suffer little pain there sir,
If she can think of him
As her only friend and family.
The love you and the Countess have given,
She must keep tucked deep and hidden.
Also, though it wasn’t mentioned,
To ensure her and your good fortune,
And since it’s a wife’s duty to abide,
A son then should she provide.

If you’re to do this sir,
A last and final thing,
For there’s a connection,
Which could turn to misconception.
So just as a precaution,
Here’s one more suggestion.
Though it might make her weep,
Take back from her,
The horse you said she’d keep.