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Meeting at Night Summary by Robert Browning

Meeting at Night Summary by Robert Browning

 

Love Poems of Browning :

Browning was probably the only English poet who wrote love poems all through his writing career. Most of the major Victorians wrote love poems in their youth and shifted to other themes as they grew older. But Browning, quite unlike his illustrious contemporaries like Tennyson or Pre-Raphaelites like Swinburne never ceased to write love poems. Even his very last poem ‘Asolando’ which was published exactly on the day of his death includes love as its theme.

Love in Browning’s Poem:

The most noteworthy aspect of Browning’s love poem is that he never tried to deify love. Love, to him was that irresistible passion and attraction between man and woman with all its hues and jubilation. In his numerous love poems, Browning had tried to capture many facets of love as an exalted and passionate human emotion. Sometimes, it is the normal passionate longing. Sometimes, it is the abnormal psychological aberration (Porphyria’s Lover) or an unrequited romantic love (The Last Ride Together).

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Dramatic Objectivity :

Though Browning was unsuccessful as a dramatist, his temperament as a poet remained essentially dramatic till the end. He generally remained an objective onlooker in the life of others and explored the relationship of love with incisive psychological insight. This is the cause behind the popularity of his ‘ dramatic monologues’. On the other hand, this objectivity led him to portray very few of his poems a vehicle of his own personal experience of love.

 

Love affair with Elizabeth Barret:

‘Meeting at Night’, along with its sequel ‘Parting at Morning‘ is one of those rare poems which record the personal experience of the poet as a lover. Browning had a turbulent love-affair with Elizabeth Barret, with whom he eloped and later settled in Italy as husband and wife. Since Elizabeth’s father initially disapproved of their relationship, Browning might have experienced of clandestine meeting with his lady-love. The poem faithfully records the longing, the growing excitement of a lover’s journey to meet his lady-love.

It is said that Browning seldom describes the beauty and physical attributes of women in his love poems. The passion of Browning is revealed by his intense sensuousness, imageries and symbols with unique suggestiveness. In the poem ‘Meeting at Night’ we come across such intense sensuousness of lover’s passion. The expressions ‘black land’, ‘grey sea’ and ‘yellow half-moon’ not only present a perfect nocturnal sea-scape but hint about the crescendo of mental transition from gloom to brightness at the prospect of love.

Symbols and suggestiveness :

 

The intensity of the male passion is expressed by the imagery of ‘fiery ringlets’. Ever-widening procession of moonlit ripples suggest the growing passion in the mind of the lover. Again, the shy and secret feminine passion is suggested by the ‘blue spurt’ of burning match stick inside the closed room.

Every line in the poem contains some image, some appeal to the senses. The grey sea’, ‘the long black land’, ‘the ringlet’ and ‘the blue spurt’ of the lighted match appeal to our sense of sight and convey not only shape but also colour and motion. The warm sea-scented beach appeals to the sense of both smell and touch. The ‘pushing prow’ of the boat on the sand, the secret tap at the window pane, ‘the quick sharp scratch of the match, the susurrus of the lady love and the sound of the beating hearts appeal to our sense of hearing.

 

Diction & Rhyme

The choice of diction and rhyme-scheme of this poem is also unique. Browning has used only four full verbs (gain, leap, quench, appears) in the poem and all the imageries have been presented in a collage-like succession. These have created an objective detachment, so quintessential to Browning. The rhyme-scheme abccba, deffed of this twelve lined poem is called mirror rhyme with couplets inside. The common alliterative expressions like ‘pushing prow’ or ‘slushy sand’ and the use of sibilants ‘the quick sharp scratch of blue spurt’ adds to the hush secretiveness presented in the poem.

 

SOURCE OF THE TEXT

The original poem appeared in ‘Dramatic Romances and Lyrics’ (1845) in which ‘Night’ and ‘Morning’ were two sections. In 1849, the poet separated them into two poems, ‘Meeting at Night’ and ‘Parting at Morning’.

It is night time and the poet is at sea. He is heading towards the black land in the distance. The poet describes how the sea looks at night with a yellow half moon in the sky. Then, he tells us how his boat moves forward until he can pull it up on to the sand. He walks a mile along the beach, stepping on the warm sand and then across three fields until he reaches a farm. He then taps at the window and someone inside lights a match. The poet then goes on to describe how overwhelmed he feels by the beating of his and his lover’s hearts as they reunite.

This is a simple love poem but there is a pressing sense of urgency in it. There is always a sense of forward momentum, a sense of constantly moving forward as the poet travels to see his loved one. He stops briefly to describe the sea at night and the warm sands of the beach. These elements lend a certain magic and mystery to the atmosphere. The night also adds to the sense of secrecy, because the poet is visting his beloved under the cover of night.

TITLE OF THE POEM

Robert Browning’s poem ‘Meeting at Night’ revolves round a secret journey of a lover. The lover undertakes the journey under the shade of night to meet his beloved. The poem focuses on the speaker’s anticipation of the meeting and the stages of his journey through the sea, sea-beach and the fields. At last he reaches a farm-house. He taps on the window pane, Evidently someone inside is waiting eagerly for this secret announcement of his arrival. For instantly, a sharp scratch of matchstick is heard and a sudden spurt of blue flame momentarily lights the dark room.

After this a low whispering voice and the sound of two beating hearts are heard. Certainly the two lovers come to meet with each other after so much longing, fear and excitement. Thus the title ‘Meeting at Night’ clearly hints at the most important event narrated in the poem. The suggestiveness of the poem itself is retained in the title itself as it leaves the

 

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