"So We’ll Go No More a Roving" is a poem written by the poet Lord Byron. In 1817, this poem was included in a letter to Thomas Moore. It was not until 1830 that Moore published it in a book titled Letters and Journals of Lord Byron.
This is a short poem made up of only three quatrains. Each quatrain loosely follows an ABAB rhyme scheme. Every B rhyme is either an off rhyme, meaning the sounds do not match perfectly. This is distinct from an eye rhyme, wherein the words merely look alike, in that the end sounds do resemble each other closely. Finally, it is of note that the B rhymes of the first and last stanzas use the same words in reverse order.
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
The speaker (henceforth referred to with male pronouns) begins with a declarative statement that he will no longer go wandering around during late nights. He seems to be addressing someone who is likely a friend (or lover) who partakes in the activity with him. The first word being "So" almost makes the poem sound conversational at the start, reinforcing the notion he is addressing a friend (or lover).
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
In these lines, the word "still" is used in the definition of continuation. The speaker is saying even if the heart continues to love as much and the moon to brilliantly shine, there will be no more nighttime wandering. This should bring simple but meaningful questions to the reader’s mind: Why? What is the reason behind this decision? Why such strong conviction about it?
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
In the first two lines of the second quatrain, the sentimentality of being worn out is brought up. It is not only a reminder that people, like things, get worn out. It also raises the idea that people outgrow things and situations. However, these lines seem to have bleak undertones to them. It is not simply because of what is worn out but also how they fall into that state. At one point in time, the sword fit perfectly in its sheath. However, over time, the extensive use of it and the blade constantly rubbing on it ate away at the sheath. This idea becomes drearier when thought of as the soul and the breast of a person. Like the sword wearing its sheath, the soul of a person wears his or her breast. This may be simply referring to aging but it may also be pointing to something darker. It may be showing how our thoughts, feelings, and actions take a toll on our bodies and lives.
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
The somber tone of the second stanza continues in its final two lines. Basic needs and wants are made difficult, or even given up, as time goes on. Here, the reader sees the physicality of the wear described in the previous two lines. This is yet another sign of aging. However, these lines can also be attributed to a person’s emotional exertion and the toll it takes on them. When thought of in conjunction with the first stanza, the reader can begin to formulate a theory behind the speaker’s decision. Perhaps the nighttime wandering is too much for the speaker to bear now, physically or emotionally. It may even be the case where the speaker cannot bear the roving in any capacity.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
The first line of the third and final quatrain is somewhat vague. "Loving" can signify any number of things. It can be used to mean romance, making love, a friend’ company, or even just enjoying life. In any case, it is something positive. It is something most people seek out their entire lives. "And the day returns too soon" demonstrates how quickly time passes when someone is full of joy and doing something that delights them. This parallels how quickly youth, and life in general, goes by.
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
Despite knowing the night is a great time to do what makes one happy, the speaker stands firm in his resolve to stop wandering. He is, in essence, making his own "love itself have rest." Perhaps he is too aged now, too damaged emotionally, or simply outgrown from this stage in life. He has decided to stop his nighttime wanderings and is standing strongly behind his choice.
The poem’s first line is the same as the title. It is then paraphrased in the second-to-last line of the poem. The speaker has decided to end his drifting nighttime strolls. He is aware of what he is giving up, something which is detailed in the second stanza of the poem. The first and last stanzas are composed of the speaker’s decision and own feelings about love and time. The second stanza serves to show the reader how this is important and the need to recognize changes over time. Though the descriptions are simple enough to understand at a surface level, it is the meaning the reader takes that is striking and relatable.
Like many poems, there are numerous themes to take away. Though it may be a work shorter in length, it does not lack in the messages it delivers. Two overarching themes include love and the passage of time as related to a person. In essence, these are two major factors of a person’s life. Love is not represented merely in the romantic sense toward a person, but affection and appreciation toward something. It is the concept that living life to the fullest extent requires love of oneself and activities one loves. Unfortunately, time’s passing wears a person in body and spirit. Though this is related to death, the theme is not necessarily about the end of life. It is much more about what we lose, give up, and outgrow as life progresses.