This poem concerns the cessation of a relationship between a man and a woman who loved one another, but, for reasons that are beyond their control, are forced to part and leave each other. The first stanza focuses on the impact of this parting on both of the characters involved. Both experience massive sorrow in their lives, that is reflected in the speaker's former partner by their cheek growing "pale" and only their kiss growing "colder."
However, in the third stanza, the former lover of the speaker either dies or suffers some kind of public shaming and embarassment. The news of this comes like a "knell to my ear" for the speaker. Even though it is not known that he knew his beloved, at the same time he is going to remember that relationship for a very long time. The final stanza reflects on what would happen if they were to meet again and how the speaker would respond. He answers the question by using a repeated refrain in this poem, saying he would meet his former love once more "in silence and tears."
The poem therefore concerns the tragic ending of a relationship because of forces that are beyond the control of the two participants which prevents them from being together. It also focuses on the love that the speaker still feels towards his love and the way in which he is forced to keep that love secret.