Meeting at Night
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.
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!
Parting at Morning
Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.
Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)
These two poems go together. Initially, the first poem contained an extra stanza, and it was called ‘Night and Morning’ where the last stanza denoted the morning departure. Browning eventually split ‘Night and Morning’ into the above two poems.
Many have interpreted these poems in relation to Barret and Browning’s courtship. It certainly highlights an intense love affair that was highly secretive and Elizabeth Barret Browning’s father did not approve of Robert Browning or of marriage.
On the 10th of January 1845 Robert Browning wrote the following to Elizabeth in response to reading her work – ‘I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett … this great living poetry of yours … the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos, and true new brave thought … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart, and I love you too’ then followed much communication in writing not meeting in person until 20 May. They eventually married in secret on 12th of September 1846 before eloping to Italy. (Reference – Robert Browning – his life and work by F. E. Halliday)
Clearly the sentiments expressed in ‘Meeting at Night’ parallel his personal love journey.
The poem ‘Parting at Morning’ is worthily placed as a separate entity for it expresses the need to move on from the dominant emotive love feeling to the ‘world of men’ and everyday life. Life is perhaps the mix of the mountain top and the mundane.