Sunday, June 22, 2008



Robert Browning was born May 7, 1812 in London England. He was a master at playwright and an English poet who was accomplished in dramatic verses. By the age of 12, Browning had written a book of poems, but was unable to get these poems published because of his age. Robert later destroyed the book because the poems were not published.
When he was 33 years of age, he met a female poet by the name of Elizabeth Barrett. He met and courted Elizabeth secretly because her father essentially forbade Elizabeth from seeing or befriending anyone other than her family. They were married approximately one year later after the two of them eloped.
I believe that Robert Browning wrote Meeting at Night to talk about his relationship and later secret marriage to Elizabeth Barrett. I believe that the poem is about his dating Elizabeth in secrecy from her father. When Browning wrote:
“The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap…”
In this passage, I believe that he is referring to his elopement to Italy. An island that is surrounded oceans that have dark waters. Knowing a little about Italy, I feel that I was able to understand this. If I had knowledge of the geography of the towns that they two of them lived in or where they secretly dated, this may be an area like what is described here.
Later in the poem, Browning writes:
“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!”

In this section, Browning is talking about a dark, deep location where he went to met with Elizabeth after he came to the Barrett residence, tapped on a window until a match lit a light. They talked at a low whisper to avoid being heard, while yet being excited, and scared at the same time. Things were a lot better once they were together and they hearts beating together, “…two hearts beating each to each!”
When I read Parting at Morning, the sequel poem to this poem, I was able to see how Meeting At the Night was just the start of he and Elizabeth’s relationship. While it is believed that Meeting at the Night was written prior to the elopement and Parting at Morning was written after the marriage.


Jonathan.Glance said...


Some interesting speculation about Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but I don't think the poem is autobiographical. While the date of publication is the same as their courtship, they probably didn't shack up during their courtship in some house by the beach (she was an invalid who rarely left her room in her family's house in London). Also, Browning is notable for almost never writing about his own life, but imagining lives for characters.

jholtz11 said...

I find it very interesting that 2 of the poets we have to read about are married... I think you might be right, the poem might be subtly describing himself

Stacey said...

What an interesting take on how this poem evolved. It is fun to speculate on what really happened so long ago. If we could have been "flies on the wall" or better yet, in person to witness such a legendary love story.