What is "On Monsieur's Departure" about?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "On Monsieur's Departure" has been attributed to (regarded as the work of) Elizabeth I. The poem speaks to the conflict which exists within her regarding what is expected of her as a queen and what her heart feels. The poem speaks to the internal conflict which rages within her.

The conflict is defined through the use of opposites in the first two lines.

I grieve and dare not show my discontent

I love, and yet and forced to seem to hate.

Here, the spearker's grieving nature is contrasted with her discontent and her love is forced to contrast with her hate.
This internal contrast extends throughout the first stanza and the last stanza.

The second stanza defines the speaker's desire to find the ability to care openly and successfully. When she tries to pursue her care, it flees from her.

My care is like my shadow in the sun—
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands, and lies by me, doth what I have done.

The final stanza sets the speaker's dire attitude about the ability to show who she really is.

Or let me live with some more sweet content,
      Or die, and so forget what love e'er meant.

The speaker feels as if she is unable to live an emotional life that should should be allowed to die so as not to suffer any longer. Essentially, the poem speaks about the great turmoil a person faces when they are expected to act one way while they feel like acting another way.

The speaker's caring is personified (meaning it is given human characteristics: like fleeing, standing and laying down). By doing this, the speaker's care is the departing monsieur.