Featured Poem: Meeting at Night by Robert Browning

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Our Featured Poem this week may not be as spooky or eerie as one might expect for Halloween but Robert Browning’s Meeting at Night certainly has an air of mystery…

Robert Browning was born in May 1812. He was to become one of the foremost poets of the Victorian era, renowned for his dark humour, challenging vocabulary and irony in bold social commentaries and dramatic monologues.

There has been much speculation over Robert Browning’s Meeting at Night, not least because the original third verse was later removed by the poet and adapted into Parting at Morning. Together the poems described not just the secret meeting of two lovers at night, but their parting at dawn. It has often been interpreted that Browning was writing with his own romantic experience in mind.robertbrowningbyrudolphlehmann

After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s much-admired collection Poems, published in 1844, Browning so admired the poet’s work that he wrote to her, the pair becoming pen-pals of sorts and eventually, falling in love. However, Barrett’s father disapproved of the match and their early courtship was conducted in secret. They married in 1846 and moved to Italy for Elizabeth’s health.

At the time of their marriage Elizabeth was considerably more successful that her husband, but their time in Italy seemed to have a positive influence on his writing. By the time of his death in 1889, Browning was considered a revered sage and philosopher-poet who along with his wife, defined the literary era.

 

Meeting at Night

I
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.
II
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!
Robert Browning

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