How does the use of figurative language convey the sonnet’s overall message?
Browning’s use of simile and metaphor conveys a message of love triumphing over evil. In the first octet, she contrasts all that is sad and painful with all that is good and calm. The sharpness of a knife—a metaphor for pain and harm—is resisted with the gentle, loving hand of the speaker. This sends the message that love conquers all. When she turns to her husband for comfort, she feels as safe as a person wearing a lucky “charm.” This simile contrasts with the metaphor that follows it directly, the “stab of worldlings.” No matter how much people try to harm them, their love keeps them safe. In the last sestet, the metaphor of white lilies may suggest the couple’s enduring love or the life cycle. In both cases, the lilies are shown to be a sign of God’s presence on Earth. His love governs all things, and thriving lilies are a sign that He is there to protect them.
How might the speaker’s view of God be considered ironic or contradictory?
In the last six lines (the sestet), the speaker makes references to religion. By describing the dewdrops on the lilies as “heavenly,” she conveys the idea that they are blessed by a divine force and thriving because of God’s nurturing capacity. In the final line of the poem, however, the speaker states that just as God can make her rich, He can also make her poor. This implies that, while God has been benevolent in her life, He can also take her joy away. The speaker therefore believes in a God who is truly almighty and not necessarily one who only bestows her with good things.