Meeting at Night

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"Meeting at Night" 
by Robert Browning
Thomas B. Read (American, 1822-1872) - Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.jpg
Elizabeth and Robert Browning in 1853
Written 1845 (1845)
First published in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics
Language English
Read online "Meeting at Night" at Wikisource

"Meeting at Night" is a Victorian English love poem by Robert Browning. The original poem appeared in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845) in which "Night" and "Morning" were two sections. In 1849, the poet separated them into the two poems "Meeting at Night" and "Parting at Morning".

The poem (like others of the 1845 collection) was written during the courtship period of Browning with his future wife Elizabeth Barrett. Kennedy and Hair describe the poem as the "most sensual poem" he had written up to that time.[1]

Background[edit]

John Kenyon, a distant cousin of Elizabeth Barrett, presented a copy of Barrett's 1844 poems to Sarianna Browning, sister of Robert Browning. Browning, discovering his name in print in the poem volume, wrote a letter to Barrett on January 10, 1815. Upon getting a reply he sent her the manuscripts of poems and plays of the Dramatic Romances and Lyrics for proofreading.[2]

The poems in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics were arranged in groups of two or three with the two love poems "Night" and "Morning" as complementary. They are described by Kennedy and Hair as "a compact dramatic narrative reflecting a decidedly masculine attitude toward love."[1]

Themes[edit]

The poem is written in two stanzas of six lines each. The first stanza describes the excitement of a secret journey by a boat on the sea. The second stanza describes the fulfilment of the meeting of the two lovers.

Like its sister poem "Parting at Morning" which uses pronominal reference to attribute the gender of the person in the boat (as male), the poem never reveals the identity of the two lovers.[3] It follows the rhyme scheme abccba and deffed.[4]

Reception[edit]

There are two published accounts of this poem: one by F. R. Leavis[5] and another by Ronald Carter and Walter Nash.[6] Kennedy and Hair explain that Browning's urgent love for Elizabeth Barrett had led him to write "the most sensual poem he had yet created."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Richard S. Kennedy; Donald S. Hair (2007). The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life. University of Missouri Press. pp. 134–136. ISBN 978-0-8262-6552-4. 
  2. ^ Mary Sanders Pollock (1 January 2003). Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning: A Creative Partnership. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0-7546-3328-0. 
  3. ^ Poetics and Linguistics Association. Conference (2008). The State of Stylistics: PALA 26. Rodopi. pp. 19–21. ISBN 978-90-420-2428-1. 
  4. ^ Jeanie Watson; Philip McM. Pittman; Warren W. Wooden (January 1989). The Portrayal of Life Stages in English Literature, 1500-1800: Infancy, Youth, Marriage, Aging, Death, Martyrdom : Essays in Memory of Warren Wooden. Edwin Mellen Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-88946-462-9. Robert Browning is doing in "Meeting at Night" [in two six-line stanzas, rhyming abccba] 
  5. ^ F. R. Leavis (1975). The living principle: "English" as a discipline of thought. Chatto & Windus. pp. 120–2. ISBN 978-1-56663-172-3. 
  6. ^ Ronald Carter; Walter Nash (8 January 1991). Seeing Through Language: A Guide To Styles Of English Writing. Wiley. pp. 123–9. ISBN 978-0-631-15135-7.