The Lost Mistress

The Lost Mistress

By Robert Browning

All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter
As one at first believes?
Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter
About your cottage eaves!

And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly,
I noticed that, today;
One day more bursts them open fully
– You know the red turns grey.

Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?
May I take your hand in mine?
Mere friends are we, – well, friends the merest
Keep much that I resign:

For each glance of the eye so bright and black,
Though I keep with heart’s endeavor, –
Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back,
Though it stay in my soul for ever! –

Yet I will but say what mere friends say,
Or only a thought stronger;
I will hold your hand but as long as all may,
Or so very little longer!

Summary of The Lost Mistress

  • Popularity of “The Lost Mistress”: As a dramatic monologue, the poem “The Lost Mistress” by Robert Browning, a popular English poet, is an excellent poetic rendition of a dramatic monologue. The poem first appeared in 1845 and since then has become a classic. The popularity of the poem rests on its brief, crispy, and exact tile as well as the sincerity of the message of conjugal love.
  • “The Lost Mistress” As a Representative of Intense Love: The monologue opens with the speaker asking his beloved that she should pay attention to the twittering of the sparrow around their cottage. Although he is mentioning it to his beloved, it is actually a sign to himself – a sign of reassurance that there is still hope to win love in his life. Yet, he also knows that after the night, the morning will follow and that their relationship will come to an end after which they would be merely friends. Citing the example of the buds turning into flowers and their transient life, he says that like the flowers the cycle of nature is quite short and brief. Therefore, this cycle of hiatus in their relationship will be bridged someway, and they would be friends again. Therefore, he requests her to take his hands in her hands and showers praises on her eyes, their black and bright quality. He further praises her saying her voice is going to stay in his soul. The optimism oozes out of his words in the last stanza where it seems that he is hoping against hope to cement the future relationship that does not seem to happen now.
  • Major Themes in “The Lost Mistress”: Transience of nature and love and optimism are three major thematic strands of this poem. The poem revolves around the transience of nature. The buds turn into flowers and flowers merely stay for a few days and then die. As human relationships stay a bit longer, they, too, are transient. Yet the argument of the poet that their friendship would stay is absurd in the presence of everything transient. His optimism that they would have good relations in the future shows through itself from the last stanza that the poet has a hope that they would stay in touch with each other.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Lost Mistress”

literary devices are literary tools essential for poetic or prose writing. The analysis of these devices in the poem as given below shows this fact.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter”, /i/ in “Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter” and the sound of /e/ in “Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?”
  2. Alliteration: It is the use of successive consonant sounds in the initials of the successive words such as /l/ in “little longer!”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter”, /v/ in “And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly” and the sound of /m/ in “Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. The poem shows the use of imagery such as “And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly”, “One day more bursts them open fully” and “For each glance of the eye so bright and black.”
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between different objects. The poem has used the metaphors such as the use of sparrows to show the revival of love, and the use of buds to show the temporariness of time.
  6. Personification: The poet has used the soul and buds to have life and emotions of their own.
  7. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. The poem shows the use of a rhetorical question such as “All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter / As one at first believes? Or “Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?”
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the symbols of sparrows and buds for the optimism of the poet.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Lost Mistress”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme that lasts until the end.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem with each comprising four lines/verses.
  3. Quatrain: A stanza having four lines also called a quatrain.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “The Lost Mistress” are relevant to use during a speech at a friend’s wedding.

Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest?
May I take your hand in mine?
Mere friends are we, – well, friends the merest
Keep much that I resign: