When we two parted is a poem of George Gordon Byron written in 1808 and published in 1813 in The poetical works of Lord Byron.
Byron was a romantic poet, his writings develops a Romantic style as distinctive and as influential as Wordsworths works, one of the most representative romantic writers. Byrons romantic subjectivity defines itself in spectacular terms, this subjectivity has been criticized as too theatrical by John Keats. But for other poets like Baudelaire, that theatrical style defined Byrons greatness as a lyric poet. (1)
Lord Byron has a wonderful collection of poetic works, he started writing in 1806 to his death in 1824. Through this years he made a lot of famous works such as Child Harolds Pilgrimage, Don Juan or Manfred. The main characteristic of Byrons poems is its strenght and masculinity, combined in a lot of cases with irony. In the case of the poem I have choosen, When we two parted is a poem of heart broken, expressing strong feelings in a simple but full of meaning vocabulary, such as in other poems like So well no go more a roving.(2)
The poem is divided in four stanzas and each one in eight verses. The rhyme used by Byron follows this structure: abab cdcd efef ghgh ijij klkl mnmn kbkb. Separating each stanza in four verses, we have the rhyme more clear, each even verse and each odd verse rhyme with its equivalent even or odd verse. This structure gives to the poem a lot of rythm, giving the sensation of musicality.
In this poem it is too difficult to find rhetorical figures, due to the most important of all the poem is the strength of the words. Despite of this, it can be seen, for example, in the third line a metaphor: half broken-hearted; the poet is expressing us how he and his lover feel when they are two parted.
Another striking thing found in the poem is the second part of the fourth stanza. It is the only stanza which repeats the rhyme of other verses and not just the rhyme, but the word itself. E.g. (4) To sever for years/ (30)After long years. If we pay attention, there is also a correspondence of meaning, in the first stanza Byron is telling they are going to sever for years and in the last stanza he is thinking of what he will do when they remeet. With the other two verses is the same, at the first part: (2)In silence and tears is how they react when they are two parted, and in the last part of the poem: (32)With silence and tears is how he is going to have to greet her since they did not meet.
The poem, as I said before, is divided in four stanzas, and each stanza talks about different visions of this love separation.
On the whole, the poem is all the time giving the feeling of the pain that the poet has due to the separation of the two lovers; what we cannot know is if the separation is because of death or maybe because she split up with him.
In the first stanza the poet begins with the main topic, remembering the separation of the two lovers, how they felt: half broken-hearted , showing his pain. Also he expresses the idea of what we think that this separation is due to the death of his lover with the metaphor of : Pale grew thy cheek and cold,/colder thy kiss. All that sorrounds her is cold, and this cold is a perfect form to express the death in contrast with the warm involving the life.
Following with the poem, in the second stanza it can be found the relation of colder morning with the pain that the poet is feeling. Also another time we can see that his lover is dead: thy vows are all broken. Then, it follow with the shame that feels the poet when he hears her name; maybe shame because their relation was a sin. This idea will be developed later with some comments of people that she was a married woman.
The third stanza contains strong vocabulary showing again that she is dead: A knell to mine ear; A shudder comes oer me.These two verses remain to the sounds of the bells of a funeral, using the appropriated word Knell. Also he asked himself why he loved her so, and people who knew her well do not know any relation between them. Maybe that people who knew her well could be her family and husband.
At the last stanza the poet is remembering when they met and transmits us a feeling of hope: If I should meet thee. Maybe life exists before death and they can reopen their love, and the poet also tell us how they greet: With silence and tears.
Some researches say that the person who was addressed this poem is Lady Frances Webster (married woman) and a last stanza was left out to keep the identity of the woman a secret. It was discover when Byron wrote a letter to his cousin Lady Hardy giving her of the last stanza:
Then --- fare thee
Now doubly undone ---
To prove false unto many ---
As faithless to One ---
Thou art past all recalling
Even would I recall ---
For the woman once falling
Forever must fall.
RELATION OF THE POEM WITH THE HISTORICAL MOMENT
When we two parted is included in the historical movement of Romanticism which is an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated around the middle of the 18th century in Western Europe, and gained strength during the Industrial Revolution.(4)
During the 19th century Britain was transformed by the Industrial Revelution. Maybe this poem has nothing of realtion with these transformations, but if we consider that in these times people had to work a lot and maybe the husband of Lady Webster spent a lot of time doing business, she probably had more freedom and she felt alone and the solution was to find a lover.
Moreover, unfaithfulness is a topic of all the times and the separation of two lovers due to death or for something else happens then, now and after. For that reason we can consider that this poem of pain is a poem for all the times.
RELATION OF THE POEM WITH TODAY
As I said before, this poem perfectly can be described for people of nowadays, due to Byron expresses wonderfully what people feel when the person they love splits up with them or dies. This is a feeling of all the epochs and centuries, the loneliness and pain provoked by the missing of the person who loves.
The poet has also a relation with today, Byron has returned as a figure of great consequence, this is an historical fate to be welcomed. Now he is more appreciated than in his times, because unless in his time he was famous, he was perjudicated by his type of life, having problems with alcohol and women. But now he was recognised as one of the most representative writers of the Romanticism.
 Cambridge Companion. Byron.2004. Cambridge. Cambridege University Press.
2 George Gordon Lord Byron. 6th Baron Byron.
3 When whe two parted by Lord Byron
Cambridge Companion. Byron.2004. Cambridge. Cambridege University Press.
George Gordon Lord Byron. 6th Baron Byron.
When whe two parted by Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron
George Gordon (Lord) Byron: Bibliography
Lord Byron: Table of contents
Byron When we two parted