Study Guide

Parting at Morning Analysis

By Robert Browning

  • Sound Check

    Just like the speaker sounds as if he's bouncing us along, the overall sound of "Parting at Morning" is upbeat and fresh. The short syllables and upbeat end rhymes (sea/me; rim/him) give the poem that energetic sound, moving us quickly from the sea, to the sun, and straight toward the "world of men." We're not lingering too much over the speaker's memories of his "Meeting at Night." In "Parting at Morning," he's left all that behind for now and is ready for a new day that's centered on the speaker as an individual rather than a lover.

    The parallelism we see in lines 2-4 in those repeated "And the" clauses helps to make the poem sound uniform and direct in regard to the speaker's feelings that surround this new day. He's focused now on what he has to do in that world of men, so those direct and purposeful sounding clauses help to accent his focus.

    Think of how you might sound if you had a list of things to do one day and kept running those errands through your mind: and then I have to go to school, and then I need to go to soccer practice, and then I need to at least give my homework a shot. You get the idea. So it sounds kind of like your ordinary morning here, only we've got the added bonus of knowing that the speaker had a particularly awesome night before.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    When we think of the title of the sister poem to "Parting at Morning" ("Meeting at Night") we get that the similarities between the two are no accident. They're supposed to look opposite but also equal to one another because they run parallel in terms of themes and context.

    The "at" in both titles acts a bit like the union between the two opposites: parting/meeting, morning/night. So just like everything else in this super succinct poem, the title itself is meant to be poignant and to the point. Each title tells us exactly what the each poem is about.

    In addition, "Parting at Morning" is what's called an aubade (a song or poem about lovers parting at morning). So we get the feeling that Browning was probably looking to keep things as simple as possible by using a title that literally defines what the poem is about. And since aubades weren't all that common in the 19th century, it's not like he had a whole lot of competition in that regard. Why not keep it simple?

    Besides the technical stuff, we also recognize that the connotations of "parting at morning" also bring to mind lovers, unions, a passionate night before, etc. And yet, this poem is about parting—it's about what happens when lovers leave each other. By the time the speaker gets to "Parting at Morning," he's ready for that "world of men" (he's done with the romantic isolation of the night before) and the path he needs to walk without his lover. So the title prepares us for his separation from his lover and the idea that it's time to get down to business—only this time it's worldly business and not the sexy kind.

  • Setting

    One thing is for sure: when you have a title like "Parting at Morning" you at least know what time it is in the poem. Once we have that squared away, it's pretty easy to see where we are, whether we're looking at the sun peeking over the mountains or the speaker checking out the sea. That vivid natural imagery allows us to imagine the poem's setting in a really clear way—we're outdoors, on a stroll, and it's a beautiful morning. Just channel Oklahoma!

    In only four lines the speaker manages to establish a time and place while also using the poem's natural landscape to reflect the speaker's feelings. The sun is personified as a "he" in order to further the speaker's feeling of having a path set out before him. Even the mountains have a kind of symbolic influence in terms of representing the earthly "world of men" and all that it entails. So even though the poem is short, it's also chockfull of vivid imagery, which helps us understand the speaker's sense of having things to do and places to go.

  • Speaker

    The speaker of "Parting at Morning" is not one of those overly descriptive or ornate dudes you might find in old school poetry. Nope, this guy likes things short and simple. He says what he needs to say in only four lines, and he says it in a rather succinct and rhythmic way. And since he speaks with a first-person point of view, we also know that he's sharing his morning after experience in a personal way—without giving too many intimate details, thank goodness.

    In lieu of intimacy, the speaker uses nature and the poem's setting to reflect the way he feels as the sun paves the "path of gold" that illuminates his need of a "world of men." We round that corner with him right at the beginning of the poem and experience the dawn of morning in the same sort of sudden way that he does. His use of syntax ("Round the cape of a sudden") helps us understand his feeling of suddenness without using too many words. In that sense, we lucky ducks get to experience everything (well, almost everything) with the speaker, which gives his voice a kind of immediacy that sounds like a fresh new morning.

    The speaker's neat little rhymes also make the poem sound fresh and upbeat, just like morning. And since each rhyme at the end of every line is a short and stressed syllable, we hear that upbeat sound even more. The speaker doesn't hover over his words too much. Instead, he kind of skips us along from point to point. After all, this guy has things to do and places to go, so it makes sense that we wouldn't hear a voice that's quiet and sleepy.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (4) Base Camp

    We definitely need to know what "Meeting at Night" was all about before we can really appreciate what's going on in "Parting at Morning." Without that info, the poem can sound a bit confusing and a little flat. So it gets an easy rating but only in the sense of assuming that we get what's going on in both poems.

  • Calling Card

    Pied Piper Guy

    We have to be honest about Robert Browning's career, without stepping on his toes of course. Our man is best known, by non-academic folks, for one thing: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." That's not to say he didn't do anything else. Nowadays academics recognize Browning as being a Big Man in Victorian poetry, but the fact of the matter is, you probably won't hear those poems all that often anymore. But you most certainly will hear about "The Pied Piper" and Browning's famous use of single and simple rhymes.

    Modern poets, like T.S. Eliot, weren't too fond of Browning's singsong rhymes, so that's a large reason as to why much of his poetry fell out of the spotlight (source). But when you do come across poems that have those perfect rhymes and deal with some heavy Victorian philosophical thought, chances are you might be staring at a Browning poem.

    Check out these two Browning gems for a better idea:

    • "My Last Duchess"
    • "Porphyria's Lover"

  • Form and Meter

    Aubade with ABBA

    As fitting as an aubade with ABBA (the band) would be, that's not what we're talking about here. But what's an aubade? Simply put, an aubade is any song or poem that's about lovers parting at morning. They're not so common nowadays so that's probably why you haven't heard the term before.

    "Parting at Morning" is a simple kind of aubade with four lines and with a rhyme scheme that fits that ABBA pattern. "Sea" (1) rhymes perfectly with "me" (4) while "rim" (2) rhymes perfectly with "him" (3). So it's not just the poem's succinct word choice that's keeping everything together here. It's also the musical sounding rhyme scheme that makes the poem move in a well-balanced and rhythmic way, like an aubade ought to.

    Repeat After Browning

    There's also quite a bit of parallelism in the speaker's repetition of "and" in lines 2-4. That helps to keep that rhythm alive and makes the poem look mighty structured and balanced. The balance accents the speaker's awareness of the fact that nature is doing the same sort of thing that he is. The sun has a "path of gold" and the speaker is headed on a path toward a "world of men." So even if the speaker is only working with a few words here, his choices of syntax and diction emphasize the meaning behind the words.

    What Meter?

    Even if we can't pin down an exact meter in the poem, we can spot a few instances of some similar sounds. For instance, lines 3 and 4 not only look similar in the speaker's repetition of "and" but they sound similar, too. Why? Because of that little anapest sitting right there in the middle. Check it out:

    was a path
    of a world (3-4).

    Hear that unstressed-unstressed-stressed syllabic pattern right in the middle of each line? Every line also ends in a stressed syllable that gives it an extra kick and keeps the poem sounding kind of uniform, even if we don't have a prescribed meter.

  • Sun

    It wouldn't be morning without the sun, right? So of course the sun is bound to play a big part in "Parting at Morning." The speaker also has a neat way of seeing himself and the sun on the same page. They're both checking out the new day and getting ready to walk a path in "a world of men."

    • Line 2: The sun is looking over the mountain's rim so it's being personified as a person checking out the scenery of a new day. Maybe the mountains are also symbolic of the earthly "world of men" that we see later.
    • Line 3: The sun even has a "path of gold" and again it's personified as a "him," so by now we definitely know there's a connection between the sun and the speaker in terms of a new day and a new path.
  • World of Men

    We promise: the speaker isn't referring to an old boys club per se when he uses the phrase "world of men" in line 4. In this case, the phrase refers to the idea of the outside world where other people—besides the speaker and his lover—work and live. The mountains in line 2 might also symbolize this world of men and all of the earthly stuff folks need to attend to.

    • Line 2: We don't actually hear the speaker say "world of men" here but the idea of the "mountain's rim" seems to have a kind of symbolic reference to the earthly outside world where people live and work. 
    • Line 4: Here we get "a world of men" that the speaker is in dire need of. Now that he's parted with his lover, he's ready for the outside world and all of the possibilities that come along with it.
  • Path of Gold

    Let's be honest, Shmoopers. We'd like our very own path of gold—how about you? And the speaker seems to be aware of that. Man, in the individual sense, seeks his own path toward success, opportunity, and enlightenment. So even if it's the sun that's giving off that path of gold, we still get the sense that the sun and the speaker are thinking along the same lines.

    • Line 3: The sun has a path of gold that's straight ahead. And since the sun is personified as "him" here, we know that the speaker is looking to make his own path and the sun's synonymous with one another.
  • Steaminess Rating

    PG

    "Meeting at Night" is really the sexy one out of the pair, but "Parting at Morning" picks up where that serenade left off. So even if the love making part is over, we still know that this poem is partially about the night before.