Poetry Analysis: When We Two Parted by Lord Bryon (1788–1824)


When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow –
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell in mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me –
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well –
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met –
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee? –
With silence and tears.


When We Two Parted is a poem exploring heartbreak. Whilst this emotion is usually disorientating, this poem precludes the structure. Instead, it is written in four stanza’s with eight lines each, perhaps to reflect the duration of the relationship as Byron writes ‘after long years’. This line could also be representative of the long years it takes for the writer to overcome his ‘broken-hearted’(ness)

This poem illustrates the harshness of the situation through the use of nonchalant imagery. In the first stanza, this is expressed through ‘pale grew thy cheek and cold‘- an imagery of winter illustrating how numbing the breakup was. This winter imagery continues with ‘Sunk chill on my brow’ in the second stanza. Likewise in the third stanza, the line ‘ A shudder comes o’er me‘ cements this imagery again. However in the fourth and final stanza, this imagery ceases perhaps because the subject has had years to ‘grieve’.

Furthermore there is a repetition in the beginning and the end of this poem. At the start, it is highlighted that the relationship came to a point where the ‘two parted’ but they did this in ‘silence and tears. It suggests that perhaps moments of sadness led to this decision. However, at the end, this is also repeated to show that perhaps the end of relationships materialises on how it starts- in this case with ‘silence and tears’

P.S- This is my very brief and loose interpretation of the poem. Please feel free to add your comments to help others understand this piece of poetry.



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