Browning’s poem, “Meeting at Night” is among the most celebrated love poems in English. It holds a unique position among Browning’s poems because it is one of his shortest poems comprising of only twelve lines. It is not a dramatic monologue because it does not reveal any inner conflict, but simply describe the poet’s journey to his beloved. Silent listener, one of the salient features of Dramatic Monologue, is also absent here.
The poem describes the speaker’s journey to his beloved. She lives on a farm. In the first stanza, the speaker describes the landscape he encounters during his journey in the sea. One by one, he encounters the grey sea, the long black land, the yellow half-moon, the startled waves, the slushy sand. But one must note that under the facade of a simple narrative, the poem actually has a powerful impact as an expression of rising passion.
The second stanza records the speaker’s journey on land and the desired meeting. He crosses a mile of beach and three fields to reach his destination. There, he taps at the window-pane. His ladylove responds by lighting a match within. Her voice expresses a mixed feeling of joy and fear. This voice fades away in the beating of their hearts in extreme excitement. The poem ends in the happiness and joy of a face-to-face union of the couple.
The first six lines in the poem describe the lover’s sailing. The next two lines describe his walk to the ladylove’s house. In the next two lines, the poet describes the tap at the pane to call his ladylove and the lighting of a match by her in response. The last two lines describe their joys and fears and the excitement of face-to-face meeting.
Reflection of Browning-Barrett Court-ship:
The poem presents a situation similar to the Browning- Barrett love affair and their secret meeting. They would meet secretly since Barrett’s father would not allow her to meet Browning. After a number of secret meetings, they got married and went to Italy on September 12, 1846. But Browning never identified himself with the speaker of the poem “Meeting at Night”.
Imagery-Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell:
The poet uses a number of images to present the landscape. There are different types of imagery:
i. visual (sight): ‘grey sea’, long black land, yellow moon’, ‘startled little waves’, ‘fiery ringlets’, ‘blue spurt of a lighted match’ etc.
ii. hearing (sound): tap at the pane’, ‘sharp scratch, ‘voiceless loud’, hearts beating’, etc.
iii. tactile (touch) and olfactory (smell): “slushy sand’, ‘warm sea-scented beach’
The images appear in the chronological sequence. This sequence matches with the poet’s psychological journey and rise of passion in him.
The title of the poem suggests a secret meeting of lovers. But it is not only about a secret love affair. It is about the lover’s long journey to satisfy his passion. The lover overcomes all obstacles only to meet his ladylove. He sails over a part of the ocean. He then walks a mile on the beach and crosses three fields to reach the farmhouse where his ladylove lives. The lover makes a lot of effort for the reward of meeting his beloved. The title highlights such a blissful meeting.