Context: The speaker is faced with the end of a romance which never developed, but he is philosophical about his mistress' rejection of him and suggests that they take a last ride together before parting. As they ride, he reflects that things could have been much better; but, life being what it is, they could have been much worse too. "What need to strive with a life awry?/ Had I said that, had I done this,/ So might I gain, so might I miss./ Might she have loved me? just as well/ She might have hated, who can tell!" It is undeniable that he has failed to win the woman's love; and he feels his failure acutely; but he is forced to ask:
Fair I alone, in words and deeds?Why, all men strive, and who succeeds?