When We Two Parted Poem by Lord Byron Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“When We Two Parted” is a poem written by Lord Byron. It is a bitter poem that revolves around love and betrayal. 

About the Poet:

George Gordon Byron, formally known as Lord Byron (1788-1824) was one of the greatest English poets. He was an important pioneer of the Romantic Movement. Famous works of his include “Don Juan”, “She Walks in Beauty”, and “Manfred”. 


This poem is divided into 4 stanzas consisting of 8 lines each. It follows the simple rhyme scheme “ababcdcd” in each stanza. 

Explanation of the Stanzas:

Stanza 1:

When we two parted
   In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
   To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
   Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
   Sorrow to this.

The poem begins with the persona parting ways with his beloved. They were both “In silence and tears”, their hearts broken for “years” to come. When this fatal deed occurred, the persona’s cheek had been “pale” and “cold”; her kiss even colder. The persona feels that this sorrow had to have been a foreshadowing of the pain and grief he currently felt. 

Stanza 2:

The dew of the morning
   Sunk chill on my brow— 
It felt like the warning
   Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
   And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
   And share in its shame.

Here, the persona feels that the coldness of the “dew of the morning” that fell on his brow was a “warning” of the coldness he felt in the present with the absence of his beloved. Because she had broken her “vows”, her “fame” or honour was “light” — that is to state that it was being in question. The persona further states that he was embarrassed every time he had to hear her “name spoken”, hinting at the fact that the cause of their break up could be her having had an illicit affair. 

Stanza 3:

They name thee before me,
   A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
   Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
   Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
   Too deeply to tell.

Her name, in fact, was a “knell” or death bell for the persona’s ears, so much so that he shudders. He bemoans why he ought to have loved her so. He also states how “they” – the people who gossiped about her– did not know that he knew her or how well he knew her. This line suggests that the relationship between the persona and his beloved was in itself illicit separate from her other scandal. The stanza ends with the persona sorrowfully stating that he would “rue” her and their love for a “long, long” time, much more “deeply” than he could express.

Stanza 4:

In secret we met—
   In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
   Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
   After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
   With silence and tears.

The beginning of this concluding stanza confirms the previous stanza’s question. Indeed, their own relationship too had been a “secret”, forcing the persona to “grieve” in “silence”. He wonders how her “heart could forget” him, how she could ever have had it in her “spirit” to “deceive” him. He ends the poem on a bitter note– that if he were to meet her years later, he would still remember her and their secret love and grieve “with silence and tears”. 


This is a heart-wrenching poem. Rumoured to be based on Lord Byron’s own extramarital affair with a Lady and her subsequent deceit, the poem is deeply bitter and starkly expresses the agony felt by the poet and the persona.