I’ve always loved this poem by Lord Byron, but for a long time assumed it was one of his later works, perhaps even written when he was ill and aware that his life might soon end. I was wrong! Byron was 29 when he wrote it in 1817, in a letter to his friend Thomas Moore, and he was recovering from Carnival and too many late nights. It’s actually a ‘hangover poem’. If he is making a pledge to stay home and have early nights, it is wistful one in tone.
So We’ll Go No More a Roving by Lord Byron
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 the 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.
The poem was published by Thomas Moore after his friend’s death and has remained one of his most popular works. It was a reworking of an old Scots ballad. The poem is almost an elegy to the pleasures of youth, and a not quite embracing of maturity. There’s a hint of sexual adventures in the choice of such words as ‘sword’ and ‘sheath’, but no roistering background detail is given – in fact, the poem jumps right into the middle of the situation by starting with the word ‘So’.
If the poem was a pledge, it’s not a vow that was kept long. Byron still had plenty of roving to do in what remained of his short life.
Listen to Sir John Gielgud reading the poem:
And there’s a sung version by Joan Baez:
Did you enjoy this poem? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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Poetry Foundation: So We’ll Go No More a Roving