Tears, broken hearts, sorrow—and that's just the first stanza. Sadness is everywhere in "When We Two Parted" The speaker was sad when he had to say goodbye to his friend, and he's still sad now, in the present as he writes the poem. Even though he writes about it, the speaker's sadness is something he keeps from his friends ("in silence I grieve"), for reasons that remain unclear. Either way, he's not happy, and if he ever sees this girl again he will show her how sad he still is by crying in front of her (and not saying anything). And that, Shmoopers, is just plain… sad.
Questions About Sadness
Were both the speaker and his companion sad? Or was/is it just him? How can you tell?
Why do you think the speaker grieves in silence?
Why will the speaker refuse to speak to his friend and only confront her with his tears?
Does the speaker's sadness seem the result of regret at all? Is he sad that he was ever involved with this person, in other words? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
Chew on This
Sometimes, sadness lasts for a really, really long time. Look at the speaker; he still gets sad, years later, about one tearful goodbye. (Get over it already, fella.)
The speaker grieves in silence (i.e., he doesn't tell anybody about it), but that's exactly why it persists. He's got to get it out to get past it.