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'Meeting at Night' is a love poem by Robert Browning that contains much more than one might expect.

It is
expressive, descriptive and carefully worded. In this lesson, we will learn about this poem's background
and understand its meaning. We will also discover how Browning used sensory details, imagery,
symbolism, rhyme scheme and iambic tetrameter to create such a poetic scene.

Background Information
Robert Browning wrote 'Meeting At Night' in 1845 while he was courting Elizabeth Barrett. The two
exchanged many love letters and secretly eloped in 1846, despite her father's protests. Browning's urgent
love for Elizabeth is clearly expressed in this poem, and it is considered the most sensual poem that he had
written up to that point. Browning uses the senses of sight, smell, sound and touch to help convey his
passion and excitement as he travels by boat during the night to secretly see his beloved.

Poem Analysis
In the first stanza, the speaker is in a boat at sea beneath the half-moon noticing the way the little waves
move: 'in fiery ringlets from their sleep.' The image of fiery ringlets can be seen in our mind; therefore, this
is an example of imagery. The speaker's lantern shines on the little waves, making them seem fiery, and
fire is often seen as a symbol or representation of passion and love. Colours also help create imagery, and
Browning mentions grey, black and yellow in the first stanza to help create images in the reader's mind.
Another example of imagery is when the speaker comes ashore by mentioning the prow or the nose of the
boat above the water. He gets closer and closer to the cove until he arrives in the 'slushy sand'. We can
imagine the slushy sand, and this uses our sense of touch, since we know what watery sand feels like.
Because this detail uses one of our senses, it is called a sensory detail.
In the second stanza, he mentions the 'sea-scented beach,' which ties to our sense of smell, reminding us
of the smell of the salty air by the beach. The speaker goes on to describe how he travels on the beach
then through fields where he arrives at a farm and taps on the window, mentioning a 'quick sharp scratch,'
which we can almost hear by reading those words. A 'blue spurt of a lighted match' is clearly seen by
mentioning the colour blue, and an excited though startled voice is heard, which is said to be softer than
their beating hearts. If this poem is indeed about Elizabeth Barrett, which historians assume, the mention
of fear could be hinting at the fact that Elizabeth's father, who disliked Robert Browning, could find out
about this secretive meeting. The poem conveys their stealthy secrecy through details such as: the poem is
set at night, the speaker travels alone, he taps at her window and she quietly speaks to him.
Not only does Browning use symbolism, imagery and powerful sensory details, but he also uses the rhyme
scheme or rhyming pattern ABCCBA DEFFED.

Meeting at Night is a short poem divided into two parts, each consisting of a single
six-line stanza. The poem was originally entitled Night and Morning and included a
third stanza that described the speakers departure; Browning later separated the
concluding stanza and retitled the two poems Meeting at Night and Parting at
Morning. Although Meeting at Night is written in the first person, Browning rarely
directly identified himself with his speakers. When asked about this poem and Parting
at Morning, Browning indicated that the poems speaker was male.

As the title suggests, Meeting at Night describes the speakers night-time journey to
meet his lover. The poem focuses on the speakers anticipation of the meeting and the
stages of his journey. Although by the poems end the purpose of the journey is made
clear to the reader, the speaker does not explain where he is going or why and never
gives any details about his relationship with the person he is meeting. Given that the
meeting takes place at night and at a remote location, it may be an illicit rendezvous.
In the first stanza, Browning takes advantage of the night-time setting to create a
contrast between the energetic speaker and the inert and featureless landscape. The
reader is not provided with a narrative but is offered a series of images and details that
suggest the speakers state of mind. The speaker, who is traveling by boat, begins by
presenting a spare, camera-like representation of the sea, sky, and land.

The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, but many of the lines include anapaestic feet
that hurry its pace. Brownings use of a traditional yet somewhat irregular meter seems
appropriate for this speaker, who is both in control and in a hurry. Browning uses the
rhyme scheme to insert a subtle contradiction of the poems implicit assertion that love
is the speakers ultimate goal. Each stanza follows the same pattern: abccba. In this
rhyme scheme, the last three lines (cba) reverse the sequence of the first three (abc),
and the last line rhymes with the first. Thus, while each stanza moves forward toward a
goal (the beach, the lover), the rhyme scheme moves backward, signalling that the
speaker cannot remain with his lover indefinitely.

As indicated above, Browning also uses imagery and figurative language to convey the
speakers situation and attitude. The poems opening lines present the bleak and
almost colourless setting of the speakers journey: grey sea, black land, and a
yellow half-moon. The poems tone seems to shift when the speaker personifies the
waves, which leap to form fiery ringlets: Suddenly the water is full of motion and
colour, but only in response to the speakers actions and preoccupations. The
speakers first use of I takes place in the fifth line I gain the coveas if to reinforce
the notion that he is in control of his environment.

The poem both asserts and questions the idea that passionate emotion, especially
love, is not only powerful but also enduring and vital. The speaker argues for the power
of love by insisting upon his ability to conquer all that separates him from his lover.
Time, distance, and even the lovers joys and fears cannot stand in his way and are
not important once the two are together. Displaying characteristic Victorian optimism,
the speaker believes firmly in his ability to achieve his goals and ends the poem at the
precise moment when he has done so.

Analysis of Meeting at Night by Robert


Robert Browning was an erudite poet best known for his dramatic monologues. The most important event of
his life was his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett who was an older and better known poet. Elizabeth had been
under the control of a dominating and jealous father and the two had to marry in secret and elope to escape
her fathers anger. This particular poem is most likely connected to the clandestine affair that he had with
Elizabeth Barrett. The poet here speaks of meeting his lover late at night in a farm house that he reaches
after crossing a part of the ocean.

Metaphorical Inference

The poem starts off with a series of descriptions of the sea and the land. With no words to show any action,
the fast changing descriptions help to conjure fast moving scenery. Only in the fifth line does the speaker
appear in person. He is moving along the edge of the ocean in a boat. Once he gains land, he kills the speed
of the boat and leaving in on the wet beach, walks along till he comes to some fields. He now crosses three
of them till he comes to a farm house. His tap on the window pane produces immediate response. He hears a
bolt being moved and the scratch of a match being struck and then is heard a tremulous voice.


The speaker crosses a strip of ocean with the land along it appearing black in the darkness of the night. The
yellow moon illumines the wavelets that seem to leap up in surprise. Soon he comes to a cove into which he
enters. He lands and leaves the boat in the slushy sand. He walks along the beach and then comes to some
fields that he crosses soon reaching a farm house. In answer to his tap on the window pane is heard the
sound of the bolt being pulled and the scratch of a match. This is followed by a tremulous voice.

In "Meeting at Night", Browning focuses on the clandestine journey of the narrator across land and sea
to meet his lover. The development of setting from sea to land complements the shifting tones in the
poem, while the sense of urgency for the narrator is gained through the use of the first person narrative
and the present tense. Browning's employment of sensory details in conjunction with striking imagery
makes the poem particularly vivid and immediate, and the symmetrical rhyme scheme draws together
to reinforce the theme. The development of various literary devices mirrors the journey of the narrator
to his lover, ending in the romantic image of the two next to each other.

This poem explores the journey of the narrator to reach his lover. The setting shifts throughout the
journey, from the "grey sea" to the "mile of sea-scented beach" reflecting the terrain, as well as the
tones of the poem. The themes of anxiety and tension are enacted using active and energetic verbs
and images, such as "startled", "leap", and "spurt". The focus of the poem tightens in its progression,
starting from the open sea and the "long black land" to the "farm" and furthermore, to the "tap at the
pane". The title of the poem, "Meeting at Night", suggests an element of secrecy and anxiety due to
the idea that the meeting has occurred during night and shrouded in darkness, which is manifested in
the urgency and eagerness of the narrator. The vivid details seem to have no specific hierarchical
value given by the narrator, suggesting the focus of attention on his goal of reaching his lover.

Setting plays an important role in creating the backdrop for the journey in the poem, in addition to
complementing the shifting tones. The scenic background is created in the opening two lines, a "yellow
half-moon large and low", with a heavy appeal to various colours. The reader is moved along by the
narrator's eagerness "as I gain the cove" and in "the slushy sand". The second stanza opens with the
image of "a mile of warm ... beach", a swift development from the journey at sea, and then onto the
fields and building rapidly to the farmhouse. The hurried transition of the setting echoes the urgency of
the narrator on his secretive travel. Moreover, the setting complements the shifts in tone that occur,
such as the "startled little waves" suggesting a more anxious tone than the gentle pictorial opening
would suggest. Browning thus uses setting to complement the development of mood, and enact the
themes of urgency and anxiety in this poem.

The sense of urgency and eagerness in the poem is created through the use of the first person
narrative and the present tense. The poem is made much more immediate through the involvement of
the reader, such as the phrase "I gain the cove with pushing prow". The use of the present tense in
that example, as well as other references, "leap" and "beating", emphasise the immediacy of the
content and make the poem more vivid. Indeed, there is a lack of a main verb in both stanzas,
reflecting the eagerness of the narrator in discarding the details and images along his journey for his
main purpose of meeting with his lover. This absorbing sense of purpose is created through
Browning's use of the present tense, and the first person narrative perspective creates a rapport
between the reader and narrator.
The mood of the poem is largely anxious and tense, reflecting the narrator's urgency to journey to his
lover. There is a brisk pace due to the succession of images, from the "fiery ringlets" to the "slushy
sand", complementing the eagerness of the narrator. The tone of the poem starts quite calmly with the
scenic moon looming over the sea, but it shifts to a tenser nature with the "startled little waves". The
tension in the mood is brought to the fore during the middle two lines in each stanza, such as the "tap
at the pane", contrasting with the gentler atmosphere of the first two lines. By the end of the poem, the
tone has shifted once again to more joyful, "through its joys", as the narrator and his lover meet each
other. Thus Browning has successfully used mood and shifting tones to enact the themes of tension
and urgency in the narrator's journey.

Sensory details have a significant role in Browning's treatment of the subject matter in this poem,
making it more vivid and immediate to the reader. The visual nature of the opening lines sets the
backdrop for the poem. The appeal to colours, "grey sea", "black land" and "yellow half-moon", directly
invokes the reader to internalise the scene. Browning makes effective use of sounds to intensify the
impact of the poem, such as the onomatopoeic "slushy sand" and "sharp scratch". There is also a
development in the appeal to selective senses through the poem, reflecting the shifts in tone. The
pictorial opening two lines subside to an appeal to sight, and then sound, while the sense of touch is
mostly appealed to in the last two lines with the "two hears beating each to each". Browning's use of
the senses, and the appeal to colour, makes the poem particularly vivid and complements the shifting
tones, in addition to the theme and subject matter.

Browning uses striking imagery to intensify the description in the poem, and its development mirrors
the shifting tones and mood. Fire imagery is employed throughout, the "fiery ringlets", the "blue spurt"
and the "lighted match", augmenting the urgency and passion of the narrator in reaching his lover. The
water imagery stands in contrast, producing tension and conflict with the "grey sea", "little waves", and
"quench". Furthermore, there is the development from the image of the "yellow half-moon" to the "two
hearts beating each to each", suggesting the progression from the romantic to the subtly erotic. The
focus of attention narrows from the wide expanse of the sea to the specific rural domestic farmhouse
image. Thus the use of imagery reinforces the mood of tension, and suggests the shift in tones that
occur through the poem's progression.

The structure of the poem, and its symmetrical rhyme scheme, contributes to its overarching themes
and complements the development in subject matter. Split into two equal length stanzas, with three
couplets in each, the general structure is clear and provides a framework for the poem. The rhyme
scheme comes together in the middle of each stanza, with the full rhymes "leap" and "sleep", and
"scratch" and "match" in the subsequent lines, surrounded by rhymes in the first and sixth lines, and
the second and fifth lines. This drawing together echoes the image of the "two hearts beating each to
each" as the narrator reaches his lover. The use of enjambment in the poem quickens the pace, and
shows the sense of purpose of the narrator in his journey to meet his lover. Browning thus utilises the
structure to complement the urgent tone, in addition to augmenting the romantic meeting of the
narrator and his lover.

In conclusion, Browning has successfully examined the journey of the narrator in his urgent sense of
purpose in meeting his lover, using development of setting and shifting tones against a mood of
tension and anxiety. The first person narrative perspective brings a sense of immediacy to the poem,
while the use of sensory details, colour, and striking imagery makes the poem particularly vivid and
complements the theme. Personally, I find this poem to be highly effective in showing the eagerness of
the narrator in his travel due to the absence of a main verb and the use of energetic verbs. The final
image of the two lovers together is beautifully explored through the use of the symmetrical rhyme
scheme coming together in the middle of the stanzas from the yellow half-moon image in the opening.
"Meeting at Night" opens with a description of the "grey sea," which is followed shortly thereafter
by a description of some waves, a cove, and a beach. It seems that the sea, and the things
associated with it, are always in the way in this poem; the speaker must negotiate them in order to
reach the farm where the meeting will take place.

Line 5: The speaker reaches a cove, or a sheltered area near a coastline. The cove is
a symbol of shelter in the poem, as it allows the speaker to get away from the "fiery" waves
and closer to his meeting.

The poem is about a meeting at night, so it's only natural that we should have several descriptions
of night-time (like the moon and the "black land"). We tend to associate darkness and night with
secrecy, and the meeting that takes place in the poem is clearly an illicit or clandestine encounter.
The poem is full of vivid, colorful imagery; in the first three lines alone the speaker mentions three
different colors (grey, black, yellow). Later, there are references that clearly suggest other colors
("fiery" and "warm" come to mind). The presence of colors emphasizes that things are being
viewed through the mind of a unique person, the speaker of the poem.

Line 1: The speaker tells us that the sea is "grey" and that the land is "black." The land could
be really black, but it seems more likely that it appears black because it's night-time, a
clever way of suggesting the time of day without directly telling us.
Line 4: The "fiery ringlets" make us imagine various shades of red, yellow, and orange.
Line 7: The "warm sea-scented beach" probably makes most of us think of colors like red,
rose, and others, especially considering previous words in the poem like "fiery" and
Line 10: The speaker describes the "blue spurt of a lighted match." Sometimes matches
appear blue at the moment they're struck.

The poem describes waves as "fiery ringlets." There is a lighted match in the second stanza, and
there are also various other things that remind us of heat, especially the "warm sea-scented
beach." In addition to these more literal references to heat, however, we shouldn't forget to
mention that the poem is partly about love and passion, a different, more metaphorical "heat"
that is registered in the beating hearts of the concluding lines.