Lord Byron, or to use his full name, George Gordon Byron, was indeed a colourful figure in cultural society in England in the early 19th century. He was an enormously popular poet in England and Europe. His most famous poems are action filled epics such as “Don Juan” and “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”.
Byron inherited his title from his father, and had, for a short period, a seat in the House of Lords in the Parliament. But he was a restless character and was leading a life that by established moral standards at the time was seen as scandalous. After numerous love affairs, separation and divorce, and alleged incest, he had become an outcast, and left England in 1816.
With a friend he travelled on horseback across the European continent and the Middle East, and settled in Italy never to return to England. His home in Italy became the refuge of other poets exiled from England, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley. Byron died in Greece where he had devoted his last years to supporting the Greeks in their fight for independence from Turkey. This poem may not be his most famous, perhaps not even typical, but it is beautiful in its simple, yet strong poetic language.
So, We’ll Go No More a-Roving by Lord Byron (1788-1824)
So, we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
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.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
A Closer Look at the Poem
- Does the poem indicate anything about the lifestyle of the exiled poets living in Italy?
- Comment on the two first lines of the second stanza.
- Poetic language will often violate rules of grammar; do you see examples of that in this poem?
- In what way does Byron's life (see introduction) stand in contrast with this poem?
In the same way that rock star, Sting, has made an album of Elizabethan lyrics by John Dowland, it is an interesting fact that this poem by Lord Byron is included on Canadian rock poet Leonard Cohen’s album Dear Heather from 2004. See if you can find it on YouTube.