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This succint lyrical poem with several sound devices, "So We'll Go No More A-Roving" was written by a twenty-nine year old Lord Byron. Effete at such an early age from his promiscuous and dissolute lifestyle, Bryon writes to his lovers that he can no longer engage in his favorite moonlight activity; namely, making love. The interpretation of the second stanza is central to the meaning of this poem.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out its breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
The "sword" can be symbolic of the manly acts of Bryon that he has been proliferate it; he is no longer able to engage in his lovemaking as his body has become enervated and he must rest. In fact, a moaning effect is created by the assonance of the /o/. Despite his desire for romance, Bryon mournfully admits that his body must rest. For, his way of living and the desires of his soul have left his heart exhausted.
Lord Byron was a very socially active poet and wrote ‘So We’ll Go No More A-Roving’ at the age of twenty-nine. He was notorious for living his life indulgently with love affairs and wealth, and in this poem, Byron realises his dilapidated physical and spiritual state due to the uncountable number of nights being relentless and making love. A melancholy tone is built up through auditory effects, and by employing various techniques, Byron expresses his view with vividness that love is a powerful and irresistible force yet something that is not eternal.
This short and succinct poem makes effective use of auditory features. It begins with long and slow ‘O’ sounds, “We’ll go no more a-roving,” and implies the poet’s weary and exasperated consciousness. A “moaning” effect is created by this assonance, which may be Byron’s reflection on his physical state. In addition, sibilance is used in the second stanza, “For the sword outwears its sheath,” which also extends the delicate sound of “s” conveying Byron’s state of fragility. Also, that phrase is very smooth when enunciated, further emphasising Byron’s listlessness due to his increasing age and his rather unscrupulous way of recreation.
Bryon uses the moon as a symbol for the passion for his wish to make love. The phrase, “So late into the night … moon be still as bright” suggests that Bryon believes that there is no difference between day and night to him. From the first stanza, we can infer that Bryon does not believe night is for sleeping, and wants to waste no time of his life and continuously indulge in affairs. In the last sentence of the poem, this same idea is reinforced as the poet accepts that he cannot continue this lavish love life “by the light of the moon.”
Despite Lord Byron’s limitless desire for romance, he acknowledges his feebleness of body and mind, which shows that Byron has a hint of sensibility in him despite his rather immoral and profuse lifestyle. There are two distinct innuendoes of the second stanza. The sword may have a phallic allusion, while the sheath is a symbol of a female. The phrase “the sword outwears its sheath,” indicates that Byron is now tired and has had enough. Otherwise, the “sword” may represent Bryon’s spirit or conscience, while the “sheathe” is what contains his spirit, which is his body. In other words, Byron’s way of acting due to the influence of his soul has taken its toll on his outer appearance, and therefore he recognises the need to take a break from his usual life. By saying that “The heart must pause to breathe and love itself must have rest” Byron finally acknowledges that he has lived beyond his physical capabilities and admits that it is difficult to restrain oneself from something as compulsive as love, but failure to do so will result in morbid consequences.
The poem ‘So We’ll Go No More A-Roving’ boldly portrays the character of Byron, whose life was full of luxuries and women. He uses this poem to express his need to cease his activities, as at the age of twenty-nine, he was becoming severely enervated. Due to his extravagant lifestyle, Lord Byron died at age thirty-six. Despite Byron’s insatiable passion for more love, he admits that he has been worn out and must stop “a-roving.”’
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