R Robert Browning

Love in a Life by Robert Browning

‘Love in a Life’ is Browning’s unending quest to find his lover in the numerous rooms of their house. By the end, he still has not found her, which alludes to the possibility that the search will continue.

Love in a Life’ by Robert Browning is a short two stanza poem that is separated into two sets of eight lines, or octaves. The lines are structured with a consistent rhyme scheme that follows the pattern of ABCDDABC, alternating end sounds in the second stanza. The repetition used in the arrangement of the lines mimics the circular actions of the speaker himself. As he searches he goes in one door and out the other, always close behind, but not quite catching, his lover. By the end of the poem he still hasn’t found her, this alludes to the possibility that his “quest” will go on for some time to come.

The most important theme of the piece is separation. Browning’s speaker, who might be the poet himself, spends the text looking for his lover. She has disappeared somewhere in their home and he is determined, no matter how long it takes, to find her. 

The meter of the pome is also well structured. The lines are grouped together, with two tercets and one couplet making up each stanza. Browning formatted the first tercet in dimeter, the second in tetrameter, and the couplet in pentameter. This means that the lines contained either two, four or five sets of two beats. 

Love in a Life was originally published in his volume, Men and Women, in 1855. The book included a number of other poems written on similar themes, all of which were dedicated to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, his wife. 

 

 

Summary of Love in a Life

Love in a Life by Robert Browning tells of a speaker’s seemingly endless quest to find his lover within the numerous rooms of their shared home.

The poem begins with the speaker stating that he is on a journey to find his lover in their house. He is going from room to room, “hunt[ing]” for “her.” He speaks to his heart, telling it not to worry, as they will soon find her. The speaker constantly feels as if he’s about to catch up to his lover. He can smell her on the curtains and sense her presence on the furniture. 

In the second stanza he states that although he has not yet succeeded, he plans to. He is going to continue to search and as it is only “twilight” there are still many doors to open and rooms to enter.   

 

Analysis of Love in a Life 

Stanza One

Room after room, 

I hunt the house through 

We inhabit together. 

Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her— 

Next time, herself!—not the trouble behind her 

Left in the curtain, the couch’s perfume!  

As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew:  

Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather.  

In the first stanza of ‘Love in a Life the speaker begins by describing how he hunts for his lover throughout the rooms of their house. The first three lines are quite short, but extremely powerful and assertive. The speaker’s tone in these lines is determined and confident. He knows he’s going to find the person he’s looking for. 

In line four the speaker turns to address his own heart. It is as if he started to worry about the search and needed a moment to calm himself down. He tells his heart that “thou shalt find her.” There is nothing to fear in this situation as long as they remain strong. So far, while the speaker and his heart have been searching, they’ve only come across “the trouble behind her.” They have only seen the remnants of her presence. Whether that is the smell of the couch or the wave of a curtain. “Next time,” the speaker declares, he and his heart will find “herself!”

Everything they pass, from the curtains to the glass, holds something of the speaker in them. There are remnants of her passing presence. These descriptions are used to better describe the impact she has on the speaker’s mind. He is able to see her everywhere because they are so close and “inhabit together” the house he is searching for. 

 

Stanza Two

Yet the day wears,   

And door succeeds door;  

I try the fresh fortune—  

Range the wide house from the wing to the centre. 

Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter.  

Spend my whole day in the quest,—who cares?  

But ’tis twilight, you see,—with such suites to explore,  

Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune!  

In the second set of lines, the speaker explains how while he searches, doors open, and there are only more doors behind them. As “door succeeds door”  the day “wears,” or drags on painfully. Each time he opens a door he hopes that something will change, but it has yet to. His fortune is in the balance. 

His travels through the house ranging from “the wing to the centre.” There is nowhere he is ignoring but he still can’t seem to catch up to her or find her. The speaker is clearly frustrated at this point and exclaims over the apparent fact that when “she goes out” he enters. He describes the search he is participating in as a “quest.” This increases his own feelings of nobility in what he is doing. The speaker also knows that this search is likely going to take his “whole day” and professes not to care. 

In fact, in the following lines of ‘Love in a Life, he alludes to his intention to search all night. He states that it is only “twilight” and there is plenty of time left to search the “closets…and alcoves.” There are “suites to explore” and any number of other places she could be hiding. 

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
  • Bradley kao says:

    Thank you for the analysis really helped me in class .We had to write a summary

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      No worries. Glad we could help.

  • Radha Ranjani Jayawardena says:

    Structure of the poem ,literary devices etc are not discussed .It would have been better if these are included, Thanks

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      The structure of the poem is included in the first line of the poem and the use of structural devices are littered throughout the article – it just doesn’t have its own subheading.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this! 🙂

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      Thank you for reading it!

  • >

    Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

    Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

    Ad blocker detected

    To create the home of poetry, we fund this through advertising

    Please help us help you by disabling your ad blocker

     

    We appreciate your support

    The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

    Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

    Send this to a friend