Study Guide

When We Two Parted Stanza 4

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Stanza 4

Lines 25-28

In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.

  • We begin the poem's final stanza with some anaphora and the speaker giving us some of the details about what we now are supposed to realize was an affair.
  • He flat-out says they met in secret, by which he means they rendezvoused in private. Nobody knew what they were up to
  • Aha
  • Now the speaker silently grieves, which is to say he grieves in a fashion similar to their mode of meeting. If you grieve in silence, nobody knows you're grieving, and thus you're grieving in secret.
  • But the speaker isn't just grieving; he's grieving about two specific facts—Fact #1: that the woman, apparently, has forgotten about him (he doesn't say this, but it's clearly implied) and Fact #2: that her spirit has deceived her (about something).
  • The woman clearly has no recollection of what a great thing she and the speaker used to have, and her spirit is deceiving her into thinking there are better things out there.
  • Better things out there? Sorry—we forgot to mention how we've arrived at this little conclusion. Based on what we know about the background of this poem (see "In a Nutshell" for more), the speaker is clearly irked by the woman's new affair.
  • In other words, her "spirit," or soul, or what have you, has deceived her into thinking somebody else is better and that she can move on from our speaker, who, incidentally, is definitely in touch with his feelings.
  • Who in the world would want to reject this guy anyway? He seems like a decent fellow to us—just sayin'.

Lines 29-32

If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.

  • And now, for the final moments of this super-sad, frustrated poem. The speaker imagines what he'll do if he runs into his ex. If you've ever wondered about this, you know it can be painful.
  • He asks how he will greet her if he runs into her in a few years ("long years") from now. Apparently, he's not going to say anything to her at all, merely greet here with "silence and tears." Yeah, that should work well. But what are we supposed to make of this?
  • Well, we can make a lot of things out of it. First, he basically says he will be heartbroken for a long time. Why else would the sight of a woman that he hasn't been with for a number of years cause him to cry?
  • Good question—maybe it wouldn't actually cause him to cry. Maybe he would cry just to be manipulative and drum up some sympathy. (People do that, you know.)
  • If he's an actor, he could probably make him himself cry, or he could just bust out a convincing fake-cry, like this guy.
  • That brings us to another point. If the speaker wants to be manipulative, and if he doesn't even want to talk to the woman, we have to wonder: is he angry? 
  • It kind of seems like he is. All those questions about the woman's heart forgetting sound like the queries of a guy who's desperate, frustrated, and maybe even mad. He might be so mad that he doesn't even want to give this girl the time of day.
  • Well, that's that then. The poem sure does end on kind of a sad, but also ambiguous note. We really know nothing more about the identity of the woman or the speaker than when we started.
  • And we're not really sure about the speaker's feelings either. Yeah, we have some idea, but he really kind of leaves us readers in the dark. Perhaps he's not too sure himself. 
  • Before we sign off, though, we should let you know that, in some early draft versions of this poem, Byron included one final stanza. Said stanza went some way toward explaining the identity of the woman in this poem.
  • While Byron left those lines unpublished for obvious reasons, you can read them right here (go to the very bottom of the page).
  • The mention of "Fanny" makes it pretty darn clear that Byron had his relationship with Lady Frances in mind when he wrote "When We Two Parted" (see "In a Nutshell" for more on that scoop).

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