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Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover? It is a poem by Sir John Suckling. In this poem, the poet is unable to understand his friend’s lovesickness and questions it. He points out to his friend that this unrequited love of his is making him sick and introverted. The poet asks his friend if his love interest did not love him back when he was cheerful, why will she love him when he appears to be so desolate? The poet also points out the futility of his love for the girl because it is not reciprocated and is only making the poet’s friend miserable. In the end, the poet becomes assertive and tells his friend to get over this girl and forget about her.
About the poet
The most well-known work of the English Cavalier poet, playwright, and courtier is Sir John Suckling. For his play Aglaura, written in 1637, he penned, “Why so pale and wan fond lover?” Suckling wrote four plays, the best of which is the lively comedy The Goblins (1638); the most ambitious is the tragedy Aglaura, which was brilliantly played in 1637 and gorgeously printed at the author’s expense (1638). There are parallels between Beaumont, Fletcher, and Shakespeare in all of them.
The poem “Why so pale and wan fond lover?” is divided into three five-line stanzas.
Why so pale and wan, fond lover? Prithee, why so pale? Will, when looking well, can't move her, Looking ill prevail? Prithee, why so pale?
In this stanza, the poet is asking his friend a rhetorical question: Why does he appear to be so ‘pale and wan.’ Even though the poet knows the answer, he is still asking it because he wants his friend to realize that pursuing her beloved when she does not love him back is affecting his health and complexion. He also asks his friend if his beloved did not love him back when he was cheerful and with a rosy complexion, why would she love him when he is so pale and looks sick?
Why so dull and mute, young sinner? Prithee, why so mute? Will, when speaking well, can't win her, Saying nothing do't? Prithee, why so mute?
In this stanza, the poet asks his friend why he has become so ‘dull and mute.’ This indicates that the poet’s friend was quite talkative and cheerful. Now that he is lovesick, it is making him dull and sad. The poet again asks his friend a rhetorical question. He asks him that if his beloved did not reciprocate his love when he was so lively and happy, why would she do it now when he has become so quiet and mopes around?
Quit, quit, for shame; this will not move, This cannot take her. If of herself she will not love, Nothing can make her; The devil take her!
In this stanza, the poet takes on an aggressive tone and asks his friend to quit his love that is not reciprocated. The poet asks him to move on because it is embarrassing for his friend to mope around. The poet expresses his concern for his friend and tries to tell his friend that if she cannot love his friend back, then his friend should move on. In the last lines, the poet takes an offensive stance and wishes that his friend’s beloved end up in hell for causing his friend pain.
The title of the poem itself is a rhetorical question to the poet’s friend. Even though he knows the answer to why his friend appears to be ‘pale and wan,’ he still asks the question to emphasize his point. He thinks it does not make any sense for his friend to mope around all day, appearing so sickly over a girl who does not love him back. He cautions his friend that his beloved did not love him back when he was in good spirits, so why would she love him now when he is so pale?
The poet again asks his friend a rhetorical question as to why he appears to be so ‘dull and mute.’ The poet knows it is because of lovesickness, but he wants his friend to snap out of it. He again makes a point that if his friend’s beloved did not love him back when he was so cheerful and lively, then why would she do it now when he is dull and unresponsive?
The poet does not seem to support his friend’s unreciprocated love because he tells his friend to move on as soon as he can. The poet also tries to tell his friend that it is embarrassing to mope around someone who does not even care about you. The poet does not wish well for his friend’s beloved and hopes that ‘the devil take her.’
The poet tries to convey a message through the poem that it is useless to pine for someone who does not care for you. It is best to move on as soon as possible to avoid any pain and embarrassment.