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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a few other figures of speech in this poem in addition to those already described by the previous posts. In the final line of the poem, we see an example of synecdoche in the description of the "two hearts beating each to each." Synecdoche is a technique in...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

There are a few other figures of speech in this poem in addition to those already described by the previous posts. In the final line of the poem, we see an example of synecdoche in the description of the "two hearts beating each to each." Synecdoche is a technique in which one part of something is used to represent the whole. In this case, the "two hearts" of the people in the poem are used to represent the two people. The fact that the poet chooses their hearts as representative of the two people foregrounds their emotional connection. The sensory imagery of the "two hearts beating," meanwhile, creates a sense that their pulse rates are elevated with the joy of being reunited once more. Their two hearts beat only for each other, seemingly more loudly than the voice crying out.

We also see the use of anaphora in this poem to give it a sense of internal cohesion: "And the long black land," "and the yellow half-moon," "and the startled little waves." There is significant repetition of "and" throughout this poem. This helps create a sense of distance between the speaker and his destination: he must pass this, and this, then "a mile of warm sea-scented beach" before he finds his way to the farm, but his mind is set upon his goal. The repetition of "and" maintains a sense of the speaker's earnestness to complete his task and reach the farm.

The sensory imagery in the final stanza of the poem creates a sense of place beautifully with the use of only three elements: the "tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch" are details of sound, and "the blue spurt of a lighted match" provides an accompanying visual image.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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. 
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team