Study Guide

When We Two Parted Stanza 2

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Stanza 2

Lines 9-12

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.

  • That whole bit about coldness at the end of the first stanza is picked up again at the beginning of the second stanza. 
  • The speaker says that the morning "dew […] sunk chill" on his brow (i.e., the dew fell or "sunk" into his forehead and felt cold). 
  • As in the first stanza, the speaker here interprets the departure as foreshadowing some later sadness or unhappiness or just all around bad times.
  • In this case, the chilly dew of the morning "felt like the warning" of what he now feels. "Warning" here almost means something like harbinger, herald, or forerunner—not necessarily warning in the sense of "beware."
  • So, this chilly feeling on his brow gave him a glimpse of the emotional coldness—the sadness or unhappiness—that he now feels, at the moment he is writing the poem. 
  • As with the first four lines of the first stanza, the rhyme scheme here is ABAB. Note, that just because we're saying the scheme here is ABAB, this does not mean that the A's in this stanza rhyme with the A's way back in the first stanza (and if you haven't guessed it, each letter represents the sound of particular end rhyme). As a general rule, the letters reset when you go from stanza to stanza. Just sayin'.
  • Now that that's out of the way, need a quick breather? Go right ahead. Maybe check out some morning dew.

Lines 13-14

Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;

  • The speaker just referred to how he feels "now," and he continues to speak in the present tense. It seems like the poem is shifting away from what happened then (when they parted) to the consequences of that parting.
  • The woman's "vows are all broken," and her "fame" is light. Okay, things are starting to get a little obscure here. Let's take these two short, but loaded, lines, bit by bit.
  • As for vows: are these marriage vows? Vows to a religious order or something like that? (We know that priests and nuns take vows.) Could they be promises of some kind? Ding-ding. We'd argue that it's most likely the latter—promises between former lovers. 
  • It's starting to seem like the speaker and the woman had some kind of romantic relationship of sorts, and the "vows" that are now broken are her vows of love, companionship, a future together, etc.
  • As for the business of her fame being "light," well that's kind of tricky—but only kind of, sort of, just a bit. 
  • Think of it like this: something that is light isn't heavy. It's weaker, cheaper, less durable, and can be moved from place to place with much more ease, kind of like a feather.
  • There are a few ways one can interpret all senses of "light." On the one hand, the speaker suggests that the woman's reputation has suffered—it is now light, weaker or less than it once was.
  • The speaker may also be implying something about the way in which this woman's reputation circulates. Her fame is light like a feather, and is known to many people. Or rather her fame travels a lot, because it's light. 
  • It sounds bizarre, we know, so let's hurry up and get to the end of this stanza and see if we can't get a more definite answer to this annoying little puzzle. 

Lines 15-16

I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

  • Ah, so the speaker hears the woman's name "spoken" and shares in its shame. Well that solves it. Thank you folks, good night—we love you all.
  • Oh, you're still here? On with the analysis, then: where does he hear her name? And what's the deal with the shame and the sharing? We're going to guess that the speaker and the woman have some mutual friends, which would explain where the speaker might hear her name spoken.
  • Now, normally we don't like to interpolate biographical details and that sort of thing, but in this case we sort of have to, in order to make sense of this bit about "shame."
  • If you've read our "In a Nutshell" section, you know that Byron partly wrote this poem about a woman named Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster, with whom he had some sort of relationship (the exact nature of it is up for debate). 
  • Now, at the time Byron wrote this poem (either in 1815 or 1816), Lady Frances was involved in a less-than-appropriate relationship with the Duke of Wellington. And by less than appropriate, we mean she was a married woman. Yikes.
  • Anyway, since Lady Frances' relationship with the Duke had been made somewhat public, or at least was rumored, she suffered a bit of shame.
  • When the speaker says he shares in her shame, he is implying that he too is a cause of, or perhaps a fellow participant in, her shameful conduct. 
  • Keeping all of this People-Magazine-worthy info in mind, the whole bit about hearing her name looks a bit different. 
  • Since this poem is partly about an affair among nobles (Lady Frances, Duke of Wellington) and is written by a nobleman (Lord Byron), it's possible that the speaker means he hears the name spoken at various aristocratic social gatherings (dinners, balls, polo matches—that sort of stuff). 
  • Anyway, we're getting tired of all this gossip and need to press on. If you want more info, you can read this modern, funny, take on one of the most alarming interactions between the Duke and Lady Frances. 
  • Just want a picture? Check out this mega babe right here.
  • Oops, we almost forgot—the rhyme scheme of lines 13-16 is the same as it is for 5-8: CDCD. In fact, every stanza in this poem will rhyme like this: ABABCDCD, where each letter stands for a particular end rhyme.

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