Honouring our poetic ancestors
So We'll Go No More A-Roving
By George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
I fell in love with this poem when I was a romantic schoolgirl, probably for its music and its muted melancholy. Of the Romantic poets, Byron wasn't my favourite. I think most people now consider Keats to have been the greatest of them, and I agree. I also have a very soft spot for Shelley's passionately freedom-loving voice. However, Byron could certainly make great verbal music. For example (from "The Destruction of Sennacherib"):
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
That stirs even a pacifist like me! It is actually the rhythm of it which so stirs the blood, but I most love the sonorous beauty of the language.
The music of "We'll Go No More A-Roving" is gentler, slower, but just as beautiful.
Now that I am no longer a romantic young girl, I don't think the poet was talking about strolling in the moonlight; and I'm amused to read online interpretations suggesting that the poem refers to scaling back his social life, refusing a few party invitations.
it seems to me that he is making excuses to his lover that he can no longer rise to the occasion, or at least not so often as he used to. Never has it been so prettily expressed!
Handsome Byron seemed the epitome of a romantic poet, and his affairs were scandalous in his day. (The Wikipedia link on his name, above, goes into detail.) He left England to live abroad because his free-living, free loving lifestyle was so disapproved of at home. I think it's rather sweet that even he had to confess to becoming less lustful in middle age, or at any rate less virile.
"It's not your fault, dear," he says. "Your attractions haven't faded. It's just that I'm not as young as I used to be."
Well, that's my interpretation anyway.
Whether or not you agree, do please enjoy the musical words and lovely metaphors!
You can read more of his poetry at The Poetry Archive or purchase his works via Amazon.