What are the figures of speech in the poem "Meeting at Night" by Robert Browning?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I can help point out a few to get you started:

1.  Personification.  This is where you give inanimate objects human-like characteristics.  It helps things to have more life and depth to them.  In this poem, Browning refers to "the startled little waves."  Waves cannot be startled; that is tying a human reaction to an object in nature, and it makes the waves seem alive and active.  He also says that the waves were roused "from their sleep," again tying the ocean to traits of humans.

2.  Onomatopoeia.  This is when the words sound like the thing that they are describing, for example, "hiss" to describe the sound a cat makes when angry.  In the poem, the flame of the match "spurts," the sand is "slushy," their hearts are "beating," and the narrator "taps" and "scratches" at the windowpane.  These words help the reader to feel like they are right there, hearing the noises.

3.  Alliteration.  This is when two or more words in a sentence begin with the same consonant sounds.  In this poem, we have the "pushing prow," and the "slushy sand," the moon is "large and low," and there is a "sharp scratch" at the window.  The use of alliteration helps the poem to flow and have cadence.

I hope that those help to get you started; good luck!

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kmj23 | (Level 1) Educator

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Robert Browning uses a number of figures of speech in his poem "Meeting at Night." Here are some examples:

  • Alliteration: In the first line, Browning repeats the l sound in the phrase "long black land." By repeating this sound, Browning reinforces the idea of elongation: the idea that the land is indeed long. He uses alliteration again in the final line of the first stanza when he talks about the "speed" of the "slushy sand."  In this case, the alliteration is combined with onomatopoeia since the slushing provides a description of the sound it makes. This gives the reader a very vivid description because it creates a sensory image.
  • Personification: In the third line, Browning gives the waves some human qualities by describing them as "startled" and leaping. This same line also provides an example of metaphor. Browning likens the waves to something "fiery" and sleepy, neither of which is a true comparison. 
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