The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #24460   Message #4200280
Posted By: GUEST,Rory
02-Apr-24 - 06:36 AM
Thread Name: Lyr/Chords Req: So We'll Go No More A-Roving
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: So We'll Go No More A-Roving
So We'll Go No More a Roving

Poem by Lord Byron (George Gordon, 1788–1824), written in 1817

Published in:
Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, ed. Thomas Moore, Vol 2, 1831, p. 56

The poem was included in a letter to his friend Thomas Moore on 28 February 1817 from Venice. Moore published the poem in 1830 as part of Letters and Journals of Lord Byron.

In the letter to Moore, the poem is preceded by an account of its genesis.
Byron explained that the Venetian high life had begun to weary him. He describes that he is not feeling very well and describes nights of celebration; he writes about the carnival season, and how he has stayed up the past several nights to enjoy himself and is now feeling the ill effects of it. He then explains that the Lenten season — the Christian tradition of preparing for the symbolic anniversary of the death of Jesus — has begun, and the nights have been replaced by “abstinence and sacred music.” Afterward, he describes feeling as though his sword is wearing out its scabbard, and laments that this is happening to him, even though he is only twenty-nine years old. He follows this with ‘So We’ll Go No More a Roving‘.

Byron letter to Moore 1817

At present, I am on the invalid regimen myself. The Carnival—that is, the latter part of it, and sitting up late o' nights—had knocked me up a little. But it is over—and it is now Lent, with all its abstinence and sacred music.
The mumming closed with a masked ball at the Fenice, where I went, as also to most of the ridottos, etc., etc.; and though I did not dissipate much upon the whole, yet I find 'the sword wearing out the scabbard,' though I have just turned the corner of twenty-nine.

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 may have been suggested in part by the refrain of a Scottish song known as "The Jolly Beggar".
"The Jolly Beggar" was published in David Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs in 1776 (Vol 2, p.26), decades before Byron's letter, with this refrain:

And we'll gang nae mair a roving
    Sae late into the night,
And we'll gang nae mair a roving, boys,
    Let the moon shine ne'er sae bright.
And we'll gang nae mair a roving.

This poem conveys a sense of resignation and acceptance of life's limitations. The speaker acknowledges that indulging in a hedonistic lifestyle of youthful exuberance and endless pursuit of pleasure must eventually come to an end.
The imagery of a sword outwearing its sheath, as well as the soul outwearing the breast, metaphorically depicts the wearing down of youth and passion over time. The poem suggests that, while the heart may still be capable of love, the physical and emotional toll of life eventually takes its toll, necessitating periods of rest and respite.

The poem was written as the poet approached his thirties, to mark the end of an era of wild, excessive partying and youth. The poem explains the reasons for leaving behind a period of excess and late night partying. The tiredness of age will replace the restless searching of youth.

By this point in his life, Lord Byron had been living in exile for nearly a year. He spent much of 1817 in Italy, particularly Venice and Rome, having left England following the breakdown of his marriage and to escape his debts and sexual scandals. -He had been living a dissolute lifestyle in Venice, a city known for sex-tourism at the time, and he was exhausted to the point of illness from his sexual activities, drinking and late nights when he wrote the poem . This, along with the contents of the letter, suggest that it is written more as a lament to his growing up than for any one person in particular. For someone who spends so much of his youth sleeping around, taking personal liberties, and enjoying the expressions of his own emotion, to discover at the age of twenty-nine that he was beginning to feel tired must have come as a surprise. This poem was meant for Moore as a way of expressing how he was feeling, perhaps in a way that he felt could not be conveyed as well through unadorned words. It seems likely that his intention was not for the poem to be published at all, and yet reading it still provides fascinating insight on the life and in the mind of Lord George Gordon Byron at the age of twenty-nine.

Detailed Analysis

‘So We’ll Go No More A-Roving‘ is nothing quite like the epics and long displays of emotion that made Byron so famous in his day, but there’s a lot of meaning within these three simple stanzas. ‘So We’ll Go No More a Roving‘ is designed to be easily read and to flow off the tongue — its ABAB format is one of the most pleasant to read and understand, and it uses metaphorical imagery often. Byron evokes images of the heart and the soul, as well as a sword and sheath. This is a clever choice on his part; by pairing the metaphorical images with the literal one, it is easier to understand his meaning without it being lost entirely in non-literal exclamations.

To “rove” is to wander aimlessly, a luxury commonly afforded to young people who do not have or need a particular direction in life just yet, and this makes sense in light of the rest of ‘So We’ll Go No More a Roving‘. The narrator is describing a situation in which they are no longer free to rove around, even though they feel that the nights are made for that particular purpose. Even today, it is common to see those who stay awake through all hours of the night to do the things that they want to do, rather than what they have to do. For the narrator it is the same — except that nothing has changed about the night itself. Their heart still desires this nightlife, and the night itself is there, but still, the time for roving has ended.

During the second, metaphorical stanza, the narrator is describing the process of aging. Eventually, a sheath that is used too often becomes worn out; it is the same, they claim, with a heart and soul that desires the night, but exist within a body that is losing its ability to enjoy itself — it too is becoming worn out. They still believe that the night itself exists for the kind of aimless wandering they’ve been enjoying, but it doesn’t matter — that period in their life is ended. It’s time to grow up, whether they want to or not, because they now need rest more than they need to rove all night.

Another interpretation could be that ‘So We’ll Go No More a Roving‘ describes a romance ended early. To describe that the heart remains “as loving” and that the night is made for that purpose could be to suggest a one-night stand between the narrator and another person, the “we” of “yet we’ll go no more a-roving.” Now that the day has returned, the narrator may be suggesting, the romance is ended, and they must both return to their lives, for he does not have it in him to continue the romance beyond that one night together.