Lord Byron was a romantic poet who introduced the “Byronic hero” to literature through his poems. The poem “When We Two Parted”, a personal account of grief and sorrow was written on parting with a loved one and later being burdened with the sorrow of betrayal. The first line of the poem, “When we two parted” is also the title of the poem. Perhaps this is because the grief felt by the poet at parting was so intense that he chose to leave the words as they were and didn’t bother with thinking of a title. The pronoun “we” is used by the poet to make the reader enter into the shoes of the character and share the same feelings of intense grief and sorrow experienced by the poet/character, as if it were his own.Order now
The fact that they part in “silence and tears ” tells us that the grief they felt was so heavy that they themselves found words unworthy of expressing it and the phrase “silence and tears” is used to express the depth of their grief as well. They part with only half broken hearts as in the next line which is “with half hearts broken to sever for years”. From this we see that they still have hope of meeting and reuniting even if it means after a long time. The grief can be seen on their faces which have grown pale and cold as in the line “pale grew thy cheek cold”.
This is because of their grief and sorrow. People also become cold when they lack emotion and it later becomes evident that though the poet was probably “cold” because of grief, the one he was parting with wasn’t so for the same reason. The lady was actually betraying him. The sorrow he felt at that time was only a foretaste of what was to come later on as in the line “truly that hour foretold sorrow to this”. The poet then further describes his feeling through the central image of cold which was formed in the previous stanza.
He says that the coolness of the morning which provides one with a feeling of goodness and “freshness”, made him feel otherwise as it reminded him of his grief and sorrow which is once again expressed through the sensation of coldness . In the line “thy vows are all broken and light is thy fame”, we are told that the lady has broken all her promises and chosen “light” which is used as a pun. By going after fame, the lady has chosen to stand out and be in the “limelight”. And, by preferring fame over love, she opted for something less valuable. According to the poet, love compared to fame and money has a higher value but she has gone after fame and broken all her promises and by doing so she has revealed her true and greedy character.
The poet now changes the tense from past to present to tell us what he feels like now, now that we know about her betrayal. The poet is so grieved by her betrayal that when he hears her name being spoken, a feeling of sadness along with shamefulness comes over him because he alone knew what she was really like and was also aware of her true character as in the line “I hear thy name spoken and share in its shame”.
The poet uses the metaphor “a knell to my ear” to describe his feeling when they, the people mention her before him. Everyone seems to know her as she is famous. He says that he feels so extremely sad that her name sounds like a bell that’s played at someone’s funeral. That’s how painful it is for him. In the line “a shudder comes o’er me, why wert thou so dear?”, where the word “shudder” implies “cold”, the poet uses the sensation of cold to convey the feelings of grief once more. This agonized question asked by the poet himself tells us that the lady is no dearer to him. He shudders at the thought of how dear she was.
The people didn’t know that they had known each other as said by the poet in the line “they know not I knew thee who knew thee too well, long long shall I rue thee too deeply to tell” where the poet says that he knew her “well” he would, for a very long time regret the fact that he had actually found her to be good in the past, something which seemed so shameful now.
The poet then gives us the reason as to why no one knew about them. They used to meet in secret as in the line “in secret we met, in silence I grieve”. As of now, he feels the sorrow and grief caused by her betrayal all by himself. The poet then shifts to the future tense and tells us of how he would greet her if he was to meet her in the future as in the final part of the poem, ” if I shall meet thee after long long years, how shall I greet thee, In silence and tears.” The poet tells that even if meets her after a very long time he will greet her in the same way i.e. with silence and tears but with a difference. In the beginning, the grief which was at parting, was shared by both of them, but now the man is alone in his grief which id caused by the grief and sorrow at her betrayal.
Structure and tone: The poem, which is a lyric, does have a rhythm and rhyme to it. The poet uses the central image of cold to link the stanzas. The pronoun we is used to make the reader share the same indescribable feeling of sorrow felt by the poet at the time of parting. The first line of the poem is also its title… this is because the poet was too grieved to make up a title. The phrase “silence and tears implies the intensity of their grief and also tells us that because of that they had to part in “silence” because they themselves couldn’t describe it. The central image which is of cold is used repeatedly to imply sorrow and grief.