Meeting at Night by Robert Browning cover image

Meeting at Night by Robert Browning: Complete Analysis

“Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning is a poem that depicts the journey of a man to meet his beloved. It seems that the speaker was traveling at night, when he could barely see anything, just to meet his beloved for a moment. This describes the nature and power of love. “Meeting at Night” was published in 1845 in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics.

Love is like a seed that you sow in the soil when you meet your beloved for the first time. With distance, the seed starts becoming a plant, and the roots of the plant start becoming stronger and stronger holding the soil tightly, and after every meeting with your beloved, the plant starts turning into a tree, a tree with its roots set so strong in the soil, that it is impossible to remove.

Moreover, readers also relate this poem to Browning’s personal life, since Browning composed the poem during his courtship with Elizabeth Barrett, who was already a successful poet. Barrett’s father was against this marriage and did not approve of Browning. Hence, the secretive meeting at night can be read as a time when Browning met Elizabeth in a private and hushed manner.

Meeting at Night

I
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.


II
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
- Robert Frost

Meaning and Summary

“Meeting at Night” by Robert browning is a love poem that follows the journey of speaker through a mysterious landscape just to meet his lover. The speaker in the boat was only surrounded by the sea and it was dark.

The only light was that of the half moon, but the speaker could see his destination. The poem describes the overpowering nature of love where the speaker was ready to cross any obstacle that was on his way just to reach his final destination.

The sea reminds him of his lover, the “fiery ringlets” could be a reference to the hair of his lover. When he finally reaches the sea shore, the land seems to welcome him with the warmth and the fragrance from the sea.

The mysterious journey and the location were kept secretive throughout the poem, but the place he reached was known to him. He knew that he had to cross three fields to reach a farm, which was his final destination.

After reading the poem, we understand that the speaker did not reveal the place because he was forbidden to meet his lover and to make it clear to the readers the poet uses this technique.

The speaker finally meets his lover and the voice of his beloved makes the speaker’s heart beat faster. It seems that once hopeless and full of darkness the speaker’s life is now full of hope and light. The determination and perseverance of the speaker were all to meet his lover, implying that love is worth all the efforts.

Analysis of the Poem

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;

The first lines of the poem create a sense of anticipation in the readers because the speaker is descriptive of the view that he sees but the location of the place is not disclosed. This creates a sense of mystery. The poet describes the sea as gray because the only source of light is the moon. There is darkness all around except for the little light of the half moon.

The poet is unbothered by the sea or place he is in, it is just another obstacle for him that stands in the way of meeting his beloved. It is unimportant which sea or lands the speaker is traveling through, the destination is the important part. The repetition of the word “and” suggests the endless nature of the journey, which is followed by yet another step.

And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

The “gray sea” which was calm before started forming the “fiery ringlets”. The waves are leaping, it’s as if the entire sea has come back to life. The rings that the waves make are glowing because of the light of the moon.

The “fiery ringlets” could also be a reference to the hair of his lover; it seems that when the speaker has thoughts of giving up, it is the reminder of his lover that pushes him to reach his destination.

As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

The speaker was sailing and had reached the shore of the sea and he brings the vessel to a halt in the sand. The speaker makes it to the “long black land” that seemed far away from the sea. He reached the bay and pushed the boat without any help. “Slushy sand” means sand mixed with mud and “quench” means to stop.

The imagery in these two lines is quite strong as the readers can understand what exactly the speaker is doing. The speaker has reached his destination and will meet his beloved.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;

In the second stanza, the speaker tries to suggest that the shore was waiting for him to appear. The sea seems warm compared to the coldness of the night. It seems that the speaker has been here before and he is aware that he has to cross “three fields” and then a farm will appear.

The speaker is not unknown to this place, like the readers. The speaker knows his final destination is the farm that he is about to reach after crossing the sea, the shore, and the three fields. It was a long and complicated journey in the dark but to the speaker it is unimportant.

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,

The speaker has reached his destination and the meeting was expected by someone else as well. The speaker taps at the window and there is someone else who strikes the match that bursts into a blue flame. Here, lighting the match is a symbol of passion and love.

The speaker had finally met his beloved, who filled his life that was dark with light. His hopeless life seemed to have hope again just by seeing the face of his beloved. The “Meeting at Night” was a meeting of two hearts and two souls.

And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

In the last lines, someone with a “voice less loud” speaks, probably the one speaker traveled for. The voice is filled with joy and fear at the same time, joy because of the “meeting” and the fear because of the secretive nature of the meeting. The “voice” is probably fearing that no one sees them. But the voice louder than their words is the sound of their hearts beating for each other.

The hearts beating for each other represents the joy of the lovers on finally meeting each other. Finally, the speaker and his beloved are together, and the speaker has made his way to the “Meeting at Night”.

Themes

The theme of the poem “Meeting at Night” is love, endurance, and passion. The poem explains the vitality and the excitement of love, especially the one in its early stages. The love and endurance of the speaker can be described through the long and clandestine journey of the speaker through the landscape that was kept secretive and mysterious in the entire poem.

The speaker, however, was determined to reach his final destination and in the end, he finally met his lover and the two hearts were beating for each other. The poem thus makes us believe that love is worth all the efforts, we just have to stay determined and face all the obstacles.

The passion of the speaker and his lover is not only physical but rather something emotional. Someone wouldn’t travel in the sea at dark just for physical love, but for a love that connects them, the love that makes them feel at ease even after crossing all the obstacles. We can only fight through the obstacles, only to love the destination as much. It was the passion of their love that kept them together.

The readers can understand that the whole journey was for love and the anticipation in the poem suggests that their love was forbidden, but it was worth taking a risk. Love is vital yet thrilling at the same time. The poet reflects not only the excitement but also the dangers of love. But also implies that Love is worth all the obstacles and fear.

Literary Devices

The literary devices used in the poem “Meeting at Night” are:

Alliteration – The poet uses alliteration to create a rhythm just like the waves of the sea. For example:

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;

As I gain the cove with pushing prow,

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

Caesura – The poet gives a pause in the ending lines of the second stanza to suggest a normal conversation. For example:

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,

Onomatopoeia – The poet uses Onomatopoeia so that readers could exactly understand what the speaker was doing. For example:

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

End-stopped lines – The poet uses end-stopped lines to give a poetic and rhythmic effect to the poem. For example:

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;

And blue spurt of a lighted match,

Polysyndeton – The poet uses polysyndeton to suggest the seemingly endless nature of the speaker’s journey, there is always one step, followed by another and then another. For example:

And the yellow half-moon large and low;

And the startled little waves that leap

And blue spurt of a lighted match,

Enjambment – A few examples of enjambment from the poem include:

And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,

Conclusion

“Meeting at Night” is a poem that describes that it is the determination and our love for our destination that makes us go through and fight all the obstacles that come our way. One can relate it with the goals of their love that can be achieved only if we have love and the perseverance for it, otherwise, a minor conflict will make us stop.

The speaker was someone who loved passionately and was ready to go against the norms of the Victorian era, just for a few moments with his lover. When we think about someone we love our monotonous life is filled with hope and joy again.

Love is daring and thrilling and one cannot be a lover if he is not ready to go through any consequences of loving. When we realize that love is worth all the efforts, no greater power can overcome the passion of love that one feels in their heart. Do you love someone this much?

Read More

Similar Posts