Meeting at Night by Robert Browning was originally featured in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, which was published in 1845. However, the poem, at the time of its publication, was divided in two sections, “day” and “night”, that were later separated into two different poems: Parting at Morning and Meeting at Night.
Meeting at Night narrates how the lyrical voice sails across the sea to reach his/her beloved one. The poem is written in two stanzas of six lines each. It has an ABCCBA rhyme scheme and a loose Iambic tetrameter. Love is the main theme in Meeting at Night. The poem constructs a sense of movement that imitates the lyrical voice’s longing to reunite with his/her lover. The lyrical voice portrays a strong natural imagery and also uses nighttime and sea as important motifs. Moreover, Meeting at Night allows the reader to experiment the point of view of the lyrical voice, showing his passions and emotions and how they affect his/her point of view.
Meeting at Night Analysis
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.
The first stanza depicts a journey. The first lines set the scene and describe the landscape: “The grey sea and the long black land;/And the yellow half-moon large and low;”. The reference to a “long black land” suggests that it is nighttime and the “yellow half-moon” could be narrating either a sunrise or a sunset. The “little waves” further the description of the “grey sea” but they make a contrast as they leap in “fiery ringlets” and appear to be turbulent. Notice the light imagery that is going to be persistent later in the poem. Then, the lyrical voice appears strongly with the use of the first person singular “I”. He/she narrates how he/she was sailing and arrives to the shore (“As I gain the cove with pushing prow”). In addition, the lyrical voice depicts how he/she stopped his/her boat on the coast (“And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand”). In this first stanza, the imagery is mostly pastoral and picturesque, as the first lines vividly depict the landscape that the lyrical voice was sailing through. However, in the second part of the stanza, the lyrical voice focuses on finishing his voyage in order to go in a particular direction. Notice, as more actions take place, how the tone of the poem gets more dynamic and the images portrayed become stronger.
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.
The second stanza narrates a meeting between the lyrical voice and his/her beloved one. The lyrical voice depicts how he/she disembarked from his/her boat and how he/she walked across the land (“Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach; Three fields to cross till a farm appears”). The description of the “warm sea-scented beach” relates to the first stanza, as it depicts a particular landscape. Notice how the lyrical voice doesn’t say where his/her final destination is but, as he walks through the fields in a complicated journey, the farm seems to be his/her final destination; the lyrical voice goes across the sea, across the beach, and, finally, across the fields in order to get to where he/she wants to go. “A tap at the pane” shows that the lyrical voice was expected in that farm and a figure appears (“the quick sharp scratch/And blue spurt of a lighted match”). These lines appear to have no movement; time stops as the lyrical voice and this unknown figure meet. Furthermore, notice the “lighted match” as a symbolism for passion and for romance. After this first encounter, a voice speaks, a voice that is “less loud”. This is the lyrical voice’s beloved one, the one he/she did all that harsh journey for. The voice that has experienced a lot (“thro’ its joys and fears”) is dissimilar to the hearts which beat louder than words (“Than the two hearts beating each to each”). This represents the joy of the lovers of finally meeting and seeing each other. The final image of the poem shows the culmination of the journey in a romantic and powerful way, because love was at the end of the severe voyage. Moreover, the meeting at night suggests a transgression and the abrupt ending shows how the lyrical voice needs not to write but simply live the reunion with his/her lover.
About Robert Browning
Robert Browning was born in 1812 and died in 1889. He was an English poet and playwright. Robert Browning’s proficiency in the dramatic monologue made him one of the most well known Victorian Poets. His poetry is ironic, humorous, and with demanding vocabulary and syntax. He also wrote harsh social commentary and very detailed historical setting in his texts. Robert Browning’s most famous works are Men and Women, The Ring and the Book, Dramatis Personae, Dramatic Lyrics, Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, among others. He is also known for his monologues (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Fra Lippo Lippi, and My Last Duchess, for example). In 1846, Robert Browning married Elizabeth Barrett, who was also a poet, and they became one of the most famous literary marriages of all time. They moved to Italy, a country that is frequently featured in Browning’s works.