Critical Appreciation of Robert Browning’s "Meeting at Night” :Serious Theme of Love in Quite Dramatic Way

Apart from Tennyson, the word “lyric” again came up in the poem of Robert Browning in 1842 in a volume called “Dramatic Lyrics”. Browning became more famous when he ran away with a female poet, of the century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning with whom they live in Italy for many years. His "Meeting at Night” is smart in technical (two stanza rhyme scheme ABCCBA ABCCBA) and skillful use of language to discuss serious theme of love in quite dramatic way, and this poem is an emblem of his passionate deal with his beloved.

Robert Browning’s "Meeting at Night” (which has its sister poem "Parting at Morning”) describe the journey of a lover through sea and land to meet his beloved. We are also given to understand that the beloved also waits eagerly for the lover and the meeting at night is a moment of fulfillment the wish of both.  In the half moon of the night, the sea looks grey while the land looks black.

With the yellow moon visible in the sky, which looks large and low, the narrator sails towards the land in a boat. The waves look like flaming ringlets in the moonlight. The narrator secures his boat in the slushy land. Then he walks through the beach which is a mile in length. He also crosses three fields and reaches the farmhouse of his beloved. He reaches the place just to feel the presence of his beloved. Loaded with images that enhance the sensuousness of the narrative poem are those of the "grey sea", " long black land", "yellow half moon", "startled... waves", "slushy sand", "warm sea scented beach", and "three fields" together make the description enchanting, adventurous, passionate, daring and sensuous. It tells the longing desire of the couple to meet one another. The narrator makes a great effort to overcome all the obstacles in the way and is rewarded with a meeting with his beloved. With these images and with the daring effort of the narrator, the poet brings home the truth: Amor Vince Omnia which means love conquers all:
“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.”

Enchanting and romantic is the meeting scene. The night is also enchanting with a yellow half moon which makes the sea look grey and the land look dark. It is the time when there is nobody around and only those who have a mission to accomplish venture out. There is a cove and slushy sand which is followed by a warm sea scented beach:
“Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;”

The darkness of the land has ignited the passion of the lovers who meet secretly under the cover of the night. 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 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 mention of fear could be hinting at the fact that Elizabeth's father, who disliked Robert Browning, could find out about this secretive meeting. Though the actual meeting is described in only the last four lines, it has been done so with great mastery of description which makes them intensely passionate and exciting. The joy and excitement of the meeting is represented by the beating of their hearts together.


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