The Lost Mistress By Browning: Summary, Explanations and Solved Questions

In “The Lost Mistress” is a Dramatic Monologue by Browning. In the poem, the poet represents the passion of grief. The speaker is a lover. But next morning his beloved is going to be somebody else’s wife. She has come to meet him
at night and he says that their love has come to bites and at last it is a fact, although a bitter one. The sparrows are twittering near her cottage. Their twitter is as it were, their good night wish to their love:

All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter

As one at first believes?

Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter

About your cottage eaves! (1-4)

Summary of The Lost Mistress

The Lost Mistress Written by Browning is a Dramatic Monologue. It is dramatic monologue because throughout the poem a single character speaks. It is a talk by a single person. Throughout the poem, the speech of the speaker is directed to a person who remains silent. The speaker of the poem is a person who loves a lady. But the lady refuses the proposal of his love. He accepts his refusal without bitterness. He is a great optimist. He keeps hoping against hope. He has no feeling of bitterness towards his beloved. He is neither angry nor annoyed. He knows that their love relationship has come to an end yet he is hopeful. He says that he will be satisfied even if they can remain mere friends. He says that the truth sounds bitter at first sight.

He asks his beloved to listen the twittering of the sparrow on the eaves of his cottage. The twittering of the sparrows signifies good-night to him and his beloved. Through the sparrow’s twittering of good night, he tries to assure himself that there is still a ray of hope in his life. The night is followed by morning. And morning is a symbol of a new beginning. They can also begin with a new relationship, the relationship of friendship. Thus all is not over. The lover tells his beloved that the leaf-buds on the vine are soft and smooth. He noticed during the day that the buds will turn into flowers in a day. But the flowers are very short-lived. After sometime the flowers will turn grey. It means they will wither away after sometime. He says that this is the cycle of nature.

Everything which takes birth will die one day. But just as spring brings life to flowers on the vine in the same way their dead relationship will be revived. Their relationship assumes a new form, the form of friendship. The lover is tactful. He tries many tricks to win her back. He asks his beloved to allow him to meet her. He seeks her permission to hold her hand for some time. He tells her that the only thing he wants, is, her friendship. What the lover here is trying to say is that if the love relationship between them is not possible then they can remain mere friends. He says that he will never forget her black and bright eyes. He will never forget her sweet voice. The memory of her sweet voice and bright eyes will always remain in his memory. Finally, he seeks her permission to hold her hand for some time just as a simple friend. Then his hope grows bigger. He hopes that perhaps he will be able to hold the hand of his beloved for a little longer time. He hopes that perhaps after sometime this friendship will turn into a new relationship- the relationship of love. The persona keeps hoping against hope. He is a great optimist.

Explanation With Reference to Context

Stanza – 1

All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter As one at first believes?

Hark, “tis the Sparrows’ good-night twitter About you cottage eaves!

Reference to Context:-These lines have been taken from the poem “The Lost Mistress” written by Robert Borrowing. Like many other poems of Browning, it is also a dramatic monologue. The speaker of the poem is a rejected lover. The lover has lost his mistress. The love relationship has come to an end. Yet his heart is not broken. He is neither feeling angry nor annoyed. He continues hoping against hope. He says that he will be satisfied even if they can remain friends. These are the opening lines of the poem.

Explanation:-The speaker of these lines is a rejected lover. He has lost his mistress. He says that all between them is over. He says that the truth sounds bitter at first sight. But there is no sense of bitterness in his heart for his sweetheart. He asks his beloved to listen to the twittering of sparrows on the eaves of his cottage. The twittering of sparrows signifies good night to him and his beloved. Through the sparrow’s twittering of good night, he tries to assure himself that there is still a ray of hope in his life because night is followed by morning. Now their relationship is over but they can form a new relationship in the morning. Thus all is not over for the lover.

Stanza 2

And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly, I noticed that, to-day:

One day more bursts them open Tully, -You know the red turns grey.

Reference to Context:-The lines quoted above have been taken from Browning’s poem “The Lost Mistress”. The poem, like many other poems of Browning, is a dramatic monologue. The poem presents a defeated lover. His steady love has been rejected by his sweetheart. Yet he is hopeful. He is a great optimist. His heart is not broken. He says that now there is no relationship of love between them, but they can at least keep a relationship of friendship.
Explanation:-In these lines, the lover tells his beloved that the leaf-buds on the vine are soft and smooth. He noticed during the day that the buds will turn into flowers in a day. But the flowers are very short-lived. After sometime the flowers will turn grey. It means they will wither away after sometime. Through the allusion of greying of flowers, the lover is trying to convey the message that this is the cycle of nature. Everything which takes birth will die one day. But, he further says that just as spring brings life to flowers on the vine, in the same way, their dead relation will be brought to life. Their relationship assumes a new form, the form of friendship. There is no sign of bitterness in the nature of the lover.

Stanza 3

To-morrow we meet the same then, dearest?

May I take you hand in mine?

Mere friends are we, – well, friends are merest Keep much that I resign:

Reference to Context:-The lines quoted above have been taken from one of Browning’s most famous dramatic monologues named “The Lost Mistress”. Like many other poems, it is also filled with robust optimism. The speaker of the poem is an unsuccessful lover. He has lost his mistress. She rejected him. Yet he is hopeful. He does not curse his beloved. There is no feeling of bitterness in the lover’s heart. He keeps hoping against hope. He says that he will be contented even if his beloved allowed him to be her friend.

Explanation:-The lover’s sweetheart rejected him. He accepts this fact without bitterness. He asks his beloved to allow him to meet her. He seeks her permission to hold her hand for some time. He tells his beloved that he just wants to be his friend, nothing more. Here, what lover trying to say is that if the love relationship between them is not possible then they can remain at least mere friends. These lines show the optimism of the lover.

Stanza 4

For each glance of eye so bright and black,

Though I keep with heart’s endeavour, Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back, Though it stays in my soul forever!

Reference to Context:-The lines quoted above have been taken from Browning’s poem “The Lost Mistress”. It is a dramatic monologue. The speaker of the poem is a rejected lover. He has lost his mistress. Their love has come to an end. Ye, he is hopeful. Neither he is annoyed nor angry. His heart is not broken. He keeps hoping against hope. He says that he will be satisfied even if they can remain friends.

Explanation:-The lover knows that all is over. Yet he is not hopeless. He is tactful. He tried many tricks to persuade her. He praises her. He says that your bright and black eyes create a permanent impression in my heart and when you desire for a snowdrop your sweet voice keep echoing in my heart. The memory of your eyes and your voice will stay forever in my soul. By praising her he just wants to win her back. He does not want to lose her.

Stanza 5

Yes, 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!

Reference to Context:-The lines quoted above have been taken for Robert Browning’s poem “The Lost Mistress”. The poem is a dramatic monologue. The speaker of the poem is a lover who has lost his mistress. Their love relationship has come to an end. But the heart of the lover is not broken. He is a great optimist. He keeps hoping against hope. He says that if the love relationship between them is not possible they can keep a relation of friendship.

Explanation:-The lover knows that all is over. There is nothing left between them. But he does not lose hope. In the end, he tells his beloved that he will say her only such things which a friend can say to each other. He will feel satisfied even if they can remain mere friends. He seeks her permission to hold her hand for some time just as a simple friend. But then he hopes that perhaps he will be able to hold the hand of his beloved for a little longer time. Perhaps after sometime, this friendship will turn into a relationship of love.
Thus we can say that he is very hopeful.

Questions-Answer (Short Type)

Q. 1. ‘All’s over then’. What is over?

Ans:- All’s over then’ are the opening lines of Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue named “The Lost Mistress”. These lines are uttered by a lover. He loves a lady passionately. But she rejected his love. Now there is nothing left between them. Their love relationship has come to an end. All the doors of lady’s heart are now closed. He uttered these words after being rejected. He says that all is over. There is nothing left between him and his beloved. He is totally rejected.

Q.2.: How does the speaker ‘interpret: Sparrow’s good-night twitter’.

Ans.:- “The Lost Mistress” is a poem about a lover who has lost his mistress. She rejected his love proposal yet he is hopeful. He has no feeling of bitterness in his heart for his beloved. He wants to win her back. He asks his beloved to hear the twittering of sparrow’s on the eaves of his cottage. It appears to him that the twittering of sparrows signifies good night to him and his beloved. He calls it a good night twitter. He says that they are parted only for a night. And the night is followed by morning. Morning is a symbol of beginning. He hopes that in the morning his relationship will also take a new form. Through the good night twitter, he tries to assure himself that there is still a ray of hope in his life. He hopes of making a new relationship with his beloved.

Q. 3.: What does the lover say about the lost mistress’s glances and voice?

Ans.:- The lady has rejected the love proposal of the lover but he is hopeful. He is a tactful person. He tried tricks to win her back. He started praising her. He says that he will miss many of his beloved if they part their ways. He will miss the glance of her black and bright eyes. He will also miss her sweet voice. The memory of his bright eyes and sweet voice will always remain in his soul. He will never forget her. By praising her physical charms he trie to win her love back.

Q. 4. What does the symbol of ‘greying’ and ‘flowers’ signify?

Ans.:-Through the symbol of greying of flowers, the lover is trying to convey to his beloved the cyclical nature of the universe. Everything which takes birth will die one day. It is the cycle of the universe. Poet says that the leaf – buds on the vine are soft and smooth. He notices during the day that after one day these buds will turn into flowers and after some time the flowers will turn grey. It means the flowers will wither away. He says that just like flowers their love relationship has come to an end. So through the symbol of flowers, the poet depicts the cycle of nature.

Q. 5. What sort of relationship does the speaker hope to establish with The Lost Mistress.

Ans. “The Lost Mistress” is the poem about a lover who has lost his mistress. Their love relationship has come to an end. Now there is nothing left between them. He accepts this rejection with hope in his heart. He is a great optimist. He keeps hoping against hope. He knows that their love relationship is over. He now wants to build a new relationship with his beloved-the relationship of friendship. He says that now there is no relationship between him and his beloved but they can at least keep a relationship of friendship. He says that he will be satisfied even if they can remain friends. So he hopes to establish the relationship of friendship between him and his beloved.

Essay Type Question

Q. 1. Discuss “The Lost Mistress” as a dramatic monologue.

Ans.:- The dramatic monologue is perhaps the only poetic art form used by Browning. This form is dramatic in the sense that the narrator is not the poet but the character created by him. It is a monologue because throughout the poem a single character speaks. It is a talk by a single person. “The Lost Mistress” is also a dramatic monologue. It is dramatic because the presentation is impersonal. Browning speaks through a character. The character in the poem is an unsuccessful lover who speaks in the form of a monologue. Browning’s dramatic monologues are, essentially, psychological studies of the narrators. Their basic purpose is to lay bare the soul of the narrator at every step. Browning shows a deep psychological insight in depicting the inner working of the lover’s mind. This is perhaps one of the major characteristics of Browning’s monologues. The lover in the poem has lost his love. His sweetheart rejected him. He himself tells that everything between them is over. Yet he is neither angry nor annoyed. His heart is not broken. He says that now there is no love between him and his beloved. But he will be satisfied even if they can remain more friends. The lover asks his beloved to hear the twittering of sparrows on the eaves of his cottage. The twittering of sparrows signifies good night to him and his beloved. The leaf- buds are soft and smooth. After one day these buds will turn into flowers and after some time the flowers will turn grey. Everything on this earth which takes birth will have to die. This is the cycle of nature. In the same way, the love between lover and his beloved has come to an end. But the lover keeps hoping against hope. He asks his beloved to allow him to meet her next day. He seeks her permission to hold her hand for sometime. He says that he will be contended if they remain merely friends. Then he says that he will never forget the glances of black and bright eyes of hers. He also praises her sweet voice. He tells her that he will never forget her. Her memory will stay forever in his soul. By praising his beloved, the lover just wants to show the depth of his love for her. In the end, he tells his sweetheart that he will say her only such things which a friend can say. He just wants to be allowed to hold her hand as a friend. At the same time, he wants that perhaps he could be able to hold her hand a litter longer. Thus the monologue, like many other monologues of Browning ends on a note of optimism.

Thus we can say that “The Lost Mistress” fulfil all the requirements of a dramatic monologue. This poem is a perfect example of a dramatic monologue genre.

Q. 2. The lover in the poem continues hoping against hope. Elaborate.

Ans:- Browning was one of the greatest philosophic poets in the whole range of English poetry during the nineteenth century. Optimism is the basic element of Browning’s philosophy. He has also been called an “incorrigible” optimist. Almost all his poems show his optimistic outlook on life. “The Lost Mistress” is filled with robust optimism. The lover in this poem like the lover of “The Last Ride Together” never loses hope. It is a poem of rejected love yet of boundless optimism. In the beginning, the lover says that everything between him and his beloved is over. The love between them has come to an end. He has lost his mistress yet he is not prepared to accept the harsh reality of these hopeless situations. He is not feeling bad. His heart is not broken. He never curses his beloved. The lover continues hoping against hope. He fells his beloved that he will be satisfied even if they can remain merely friends. He seeks her permission to hold her hand for some time just as a simple friend. The only thing he wants now is a simple friendship. With his beloved then he starts praising his beloved. He says that he will never forget the black and bright eyes of his beloved. He praises her sweet voice. He says that he will never forget her sweet voice. He also tells her that he will never forget her and his memory will always remain in his soul. By praising her he just wants to show her how much he loves her. He lays bare his soul to show the intensity and depth of his love for her. He wants to build a new relationship, the relationship; of friendship. He wants to hold her hand just as a mere friend for a little time. But in the end, his hope grows bigger. He hopes that after some time he will be able to be a little more closely than a simple friend. First, he wants to hold her beloved’s hand just as a mere friend but now he wants to hold her hand a little longer than held by a mere friend. The shift from mere to merest shows lover’s optimism. The poem like many other love poems ends on a note of optimism. The lover despite losing his beloved does not want to lose hope. He keeps hoping against hope and this is the basic characteristic of Browning’s philosophy.

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