Robert Browning

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Provide a detailed analysis of "The Lost Mistress" by Robert Browning.

In "The Lost Mistress" by Robert Browning, the poet describes the emotional state of a rejected lover coming to grips with moving back to the status of being just friends with his beloved.

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This is a poem of five stanzas consisting of quatrains with a regular abab rhyme scheme that adds structure and rhythm to the work. It shows the conflicted emotional state of a lover who is struggling with his beloved's desire to move to friendship.

In this poem, the speaker addresses his absent beloved. This address of an "offstage" person or thing is a literary device called apostrophe. Through his address to his beloved, we learn that the beloved has ended the love relationship. Now they will just be friends, a situation the speaker accepts but with bitterness.

Imagery helps reveal the bleak mood of the rejected speaker. He speaks of the "red" of the leaf buds on the beloved's cottage vine turning "grey," just as his mood has turned from the gaiety of the color red to a grayer, more somber tone.

The poem is lyrical, meaning it is about the emotional state of the speaker. He shows his emotion through his use of exclamation points. For instance, he uses an exclamation point in the first stanza as he exclaims that he hears

the sparrows’ good-night twitter
About your cottage eaves!
This good night twitter mirrors the goodnight or goodbye the beloved has offered the speaker.
A series of questions also highlight the poet's bitter mood. He makes inquiries with some jeering resentment as he tries to understand the new boundaries:
Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?
May I take your hand in mine?
The speaker uses the imagery of hands as a synecdoche for their relationship: in synecdoche, the part stands for the whole. Holding the beloved's hand becomes the measure of the whole relationship. The speaker ends the poem on a note of defiance, stating,
I will hold your hand but as long as all may,
Or so very little longer!
In other words, he will continue to push the boundaries of the relationship: he is not resigned to the change.
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