Click here to hear a reading of the poem.
(So why am I talking about love again? Because I’m tired of hearing people tell me I look tired or miserable. In short I’m tired of feeling tired. Logical? No? I don’t care.)
This poem has a sister poem called “Parting at Morning.” But I don’t want to talk about parting. Meetings are exciting. Partings can be beautifully sad or sadly beautiful, both of which are my usual preference, but I’m not in the mood to be sad. So, exciting things for now.
Now let’s imagine this man traveling on a boat, obviously all by himself, on a dark night and crossing quite a distance (“three fields”) to meet with his lover — a woman (this is Victorian poetry, and we know Browning wrote this for his wife, Elizabeth Barrett, so.) He braves the darkness and the distance to be with her. One can feel the excitement in the imagery in the third and fourth lines of the second stanza. In the darkness — a small light, and a soft familiar voice.
I’ve read some analyses of this poem, but not thoroughly because I do not like to be influenced heavily by what others say about this poem. I prefer to have my own understanding of any poem. We did read this in our poetry class some twenty years ago (ouch!), all I remember is the sound of my professor’s voice reading it. It was always relaxing.
This poem is often interpreted as having a male speaker because the poet is male. But read the poem again and imagine the speaker being a woman. Does that work for you? It certainly does for me.
Reading this poem in the 21st century, one may ask, why can’t the speaker be a woman? Surely, women can “gain the cove with pushing prow”? Women can cross “three fields” to get to the secret meeting place? I bet a lot of women have braved weather and distances to meet with a lover.
But whether the speaker is male or female is not my main point. My main point is actually quite simple: when you’re in love and you have to meet with the object of your affection, meeting in secret, especially at night, can have its excitement that for the moment you wish would never end.
But of course it ends. Duh.