In the “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” one monk is expressing his vehement dislike, even hatred for another monk. The speaker goes out of his way to detail numerous examples of how the other brother, Lawrence, abuses or disgraces his position; however, the kinds of behaviors he mentions give the opposite impression, that he envies Lawrence’s superiority and virtue. A soliloquy is by definition a dramatic monologue that the character delivers while alone. It is often considered to be an expression of the character’s thoughts, which are spoken aloud for the benefit of the audience but not actually directed to another person. This poem begins with the speaker using second-person address, directing himself at Brother Lawrence, who has just left to tend his garden. He switches perspectives several times, at another point directly addressing an erotic novel.
Diction and word choice work together to convey that the speaker hates, not just dislikes, Brother Lawrence. In the first few lines, the speaker confesses “abhorrence” and “hate,” and even the desire to “kill” the other man. He also sacrilegiously invokes God in this sinful thought. The first stanza ends with the outburst, “Hell dry you up….”
As the poem progresses, it seems he is merely reciting a litany of qualities that he finds unbearable, including the way Lawrence eats and his propensity to ask about Greek and Latin words. In the seventh stanza, however, the speaker turns to his plan for getting Lawrence damned in 29 different ways.
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell….
In addition, verbal expressions of sound that are not actual words contribute to the intensity of feeling. For example, the first “word” is “Gr-r-r.” The speaker’s malicious glee at cutting Lawrence’s flowers is expressed with a laugh: “He-he!” His attitude toward Lawrence is confirmed in the last line, which echoes the first: “Gr-r-r—you swine.”