The poem uses clear and easy-to-understand language in order to describe the last meeting the speaker had with someone she loved. It’s an incredibly effective experience, one that’s conveyed with a great deal of emotion. Their inevitable separation occurs, and the speaker is left to dwell on the final image—that of a ticking clock as she sits in her new darkness at the end of ‘The Meeting.‘
The Meeting Katherine MansfieldWe started speaking, Looked at each other, then turned away. The tears kept rising to my eyes. But I could not weep. I wanted to take your hand But my hand trembled. You kept counting the days Before we should meet again. But both of us felt in our hearts That we parted for ever and ever. The ticking of the little clock filled the quiet room. "Listen," I said. "It is so loud, Like a horse galloping on a lonely road, As loud as a horse galloping past in the night." You shut me up in your arms. But the sound of the clock stifled our hearts' beating. You said, "I cannot go: all that is living of me Is here for ever and ever." Then you went. The world changed. The sound of the clock grew fainter, Dwindled away, became a minute thing. I whispered in the darkness. "If it stops, I shall die."
Explore The Meeting
‘The Meeting’ by Katherine Mansfield is a moving poem about lost love. The speaker describes her last interaction with someone she loved.
In the first lines of ‘The Meeting,’ the speaker begins by describing how she and her lover were standing together, discussing their impending separation. She wanted to cry and take her partner’s hand but was unable to. They expressed their desire to remain with her, but, she notes, they “went” anyway. The poem’s central image is of a horse running along a lonely road. It’s related to the sound of a ticking clock in the same room. After the two are separated, that sound is all that the speaker has left, and it continues to grow fainter every day.
Structure and Form
‘The Meeting’ by Katherine Mansfield is a twenty-two-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme but there are several interesting examples of rhyme throughout. For instance, “I” and “die” in the last line. This is known as internal rhyme.
Throughout ‘The Meeting,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “little” and “listen” in lines eleven and twelve.
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses especially effective descriptions. For example, “my hand trembled” and “The ticking of the little clock filled the quiet room.”
- Simile: can be seen through the use of “like” or “as” to compare two different things. For example, “Like a horse galloping on a lonely road, / As loud as a horse galloping past in the night.”
- Dialogue: in this piece, readers can find an example of dialogue. The speaker is describing the scene and then conveys her own words as she addresses her lover.
We started speaking,
Looked at each other, then turned away.
The tears kept rising to my eyes.
But I could not weep.
I wanted to take your hand
But my hand trembled.
You kept counting the days
Before we should meet again.
In the first lines of ‘The Meeting,’ the speaker brings the reader into an encounter between herself and her lover. The two were speaking to one another, looking and then looking away. She notes how distraught she was through the depiction of tears rising to her eyes. This is a wonderful example of how a writer can convey a particular emotional experience without stating it explicitly.
Her tears came, but she couldn’t fully weep. The moment, perhaps, was too strong and too present for her to fully process it.
Her partner, someone she obviously cares deeply for, is counting the days till the two meet again. This makes it clear that this is not a one-sided parting. The speaker and her partner are both experiencing sorrow over this separation. It’s unclear why the two are parting or why, as the next lines state, it feels like they’re never going to see one another again.
But both of us felt in our hearts
That we parted for ever and ever.
The ticking of the little clock filled the quiet room.
“Listen,” I said. “It is so loud,
Like a horse galloping on a lonely road,
As loud as a horse galloping past in the night.”
You shut me up in your arms.
But the sound of the clock stifled our hearts’ beating.
In the next few lines of the poem, the speaker notes how they both felt the same way. Their hearts knew, somehow, that they’d never seen one another again. They were parting “for ever and ever.” The speaker then transitions into a wonderful example of imagery.
She notes how loud the clock in the “quiet room” was. Its ticking filled the space, and she compares it to “a horse galloping on a lonely road.” This image conveys the emotional state the two are soon to inhabit and also adds drama t the scene.
When her partner took her into their arms, she could only hear the clock over their heartbeats. It comes to symbolize the time they have together and their connection. It also conveys the lonely state of someone who is in love but separated from the person they care about.
You said, “I cannot go: all that is living of me
Is here for ever and ever.”
Then you went.
The world changed. The sound of the clock grew fainter,
Dwindled away, became a minute thing.
I whispered in the darkness. “If it stops, I shall die.”
The final few lines contain the speaker’s partner’s words once more. It becomes clear that they’re the one that’s leaving. Despite their desire to stay, their need to leave (for whatever reason) was stronger. They “went,” and the speaker was left alone in a changed world. All that was left was the sound of the clock that represented their time together. But, it “grew fainter.” The speaker is so tied to the relationship that she felt as though she’ll “die” if the sound ever stops completely.
The poem ends on this dark note, with the speaker whispering into the darkness. The poet does not provide any more information about what happened to her speaker nor the speaker’s partner. Readers are left to wonder if the clock ever stopped ticking or if the two ever saw one another again.
The tone is emotional and distressed. The speaker conveys her emotional connection to her partner clearly through simple statements about her hand shaking and tears coming to her eyes. These elements, in combination with the poem’s conclusion, give it a very specific tone.
The purpose is to share how moving and upsetting a separation such as the one described can be. It put the speaker in an impossible situation. One in which she wanted desperately to be with someone who “went” even when they didn’t want to.
The themes at work in this poem include love and change. The speaker goes through an important change in this poem, one that makes the world appear quite different. With her partner gone, she’s left alone clinging, in darkness, to the sound of the ticking clock.
Readers are likely to walk away from this poem feeling sympathetic towards the speaker and perhaps as downtrodden as she feels. Because of the vagaries of this poem, it’s easy to relate its elements to one’s own life. This can make one’s experience with the text all the more important.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Meeting’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘The Sorrow of True Love’ by Edward Thomas – explores how love comes with grief and pain, that pain does not compare to the suffering in a life that passes without embracing love at all.
- ‘Parting at Morning’ by Robert Browning -a short poem that describes in clear detail what the speaker experienced after leaving his lover in the morning.
- ‘A Late Aubade’ by Richard Wilbur – an aubade that emphasizes a speaker’s desire to be with his beloved.