Meeting at night - analysis

This is a short poem about the clandestine journey the narrator must undergo
to meet his lover. It explores the intensity of his feelings and his willingness to
go through great ordeals for something seemingly so minor or insignificant as a
whispered word.
In the first stanza, our poetic voice brings his boat to land in the middle of the
night where the world seems completely still and silent. In the second, he
crosses the beach and some fields to arrive at a farmhouse. Here he gently
knocks on the window and his lover strikes a match and they whisper together,
while their hearts thump with the intensity of their excitement and passion for
each other.
The poem is thought to represent Browning’s early relationship with his future
wife (fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning).
Although not explicitly mentioned, the poem is incredibly passionate. Their
secret meeting is forbidden
Anxiety and Tension:
Enacted using active and energetic verbs and images, such as "startled",
"leap", and "spurt"
Man and the natural world:
Browning must sail, walk a mile on the beach and then three fields in order to
reach the farmhouse where his love waits.
suggests an element of secrecy and anxiety due to the idea that the meeting
has occurred during the night and shrouded in darkness
Browning is extremely stoic throughout the poem.
Semicolon for pause.
The details of the journey seem to have no specific hierarchical value given by
the narrator suggesting that he is only focused on reaching his lover.
Browning uses the setting to complement the development of mood
throughout the poem. There is a swift transition from the journey at sea to
land. The hurried transition of the setting echoes the urgency of the narrator.
A sense of urgency for the narrator is gained using 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 such as "leap" and "beating" emphasize the immediacy of the
It is important to note that each stanza is only one line. This reflects his
eagerness to meet his lover by discarding details and images during his
Although the lovers are still separated by a window, their hearts are “beating
each to each” and they feel connected (despite not being physically intimate).
“Grey sea and black land” – depressing colors
sensory details in conjunction with striking imagery paint a clear picture in the
reader's mind.
The use of enjambment in the poem quickens the pace and further shows the
eagerness of the narrator to get to his lover.
Repetition of the word ‘and’
“waves that leap” – personification.
The feeling of stillness and silence is induced by the personified sea waking
from “sleep” and being “startled”. The “little waves” and “ringlets” suggest
that the motion of the boat is gentle or soundless. It brings out the narrators
fear of discovery.
Visual imagery is employed to make the scene more vivid and passionate Browning makes use of color such as “grey sea", "black land" and "yellow halfmoon" to paint a vivid picture.
Tactile imagery – "the slushy sand"
Olfactory – “warm sea-scented beach”
Auditory – he also uses sounds to make the scene livelier. An example of this is
"slushy sand" and "sharp scratch".
The concepts of fire and water are juxtaposed against each other. The phrase
“fiery ringlets” and "little waves" are contrasted to bring out the tension and
Nocturnal imagery – “black land”
“slushy sand” – alliteration
The symmetrical rhyme scheme draws together to reinforce the theme of love.
It shows the synchronization between the two lovers. However, as the poem
progresses, the rhyme scheme moves backward, signaling that the speaker
cannot remain with his lover indefinitely.
The poem starts off with iambic tetrameter, but it eventually deviates. This
demonstrates shows that the narrator is in control but also in a hurry.
Overlay of coldness and stillness. There is an overtone of anticipation and
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". 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.