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Themes

"Lord Randall" is sad. And no, he doesn't particularly want to talk about it, especially with his mother. However, even though his bit-by-bit answers aren't entirely straightforward, they do consistently communicate one thing: he's so tired, and he just wants to be alone… on his deathbed. We don't have to be Freud to recognize these things as classic symptoms of melancholia—you know, a kind of extreme, er, sadness. In the end, we discover that his sadness isn't an existential condition as it seems to be at first, but that it's specifically caused by the betrayal of his lover. Yet even before we find this out, we can't help but notice that the poem is brimming over with a vague, bummer atmosphere.

Questions About Sadness

  1. Between the oddly calm Lord Randall and his distressed mother, we don't get much of a conventional picture of sadness. In the early stanzas (before puppies dying and poison eels), how do we know that this is a "sad" poem?
  2. Though Lord Randall, like a typical young guy, has some trouble expressing his feelings, what are some clues we get towards his inner state?
  3. Lord Randall's doting mother keeps emphasizing his youth and beauty. How does that contribute to the melancholy air of this poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Since the straightforward dialogue form of this poem does not allow us to see the characters' reactions, the poem relies upon the reader's (or listener's) response to create a dramatic air of sadness and mourning.

While Lord Randall's sadness is not expressed overtly, we see evidence of his melancholy attitude in his emphasis on his physical weariness; in this way, though the poem lacks detailed description of his feelings, we can see emotions projected through Lord Randall's body.

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