Fare Thee Well – Romantic Poetry Revision

Image: Ada Lovelace© Biography

Fare Thee Well was written by Lord Byron in 1816

ROMANTIC CONCERNS

  • Spontaneity in thought and action and in the expression of thought
  • Emotional responses valued above rational ones
  • Interest in states of innocence, especially childhood
  • Experiments in forms and language used for poetry

POET’S MESSAGE(S)

  • He leaves his wife and young daughter and will never see them again
  • There is a sense of regret about the breakdown of the relationship and guilt about leaving the child behind
  • There is care here

Byron’s feelings towards the child

“When our child’s first accents flow, Wilt thou teach her to say ‘Father!’”

“When her little hands shall press thee When her lip to thine is press’d,

Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee

Think of him thy love had bless’d!” 

“Even my soul forsakes me now”

Byron talks very fondly of his child in this poem, we never know her by name but rather by her presence, although through context we know that it was Ada Lovelace. Whenever he speaks of her actions, it is in relation to the mother – shown through the use of the pronouns ‘thee’ and ‘thou’. It creates a very sad tone to the poem as he thinks of all the precious moments that he will miss with his child and it would be greatly relatable to many readers who have had children. He does not want to be forgotten or not mentioned. He wants to be a distant part of the child’s life and this is something there is certainty about – show through the use of repetition ‘think of him’. It almost sounds religious as he speaks of himself in 3rd person, or it could just be evidence of his arrogance and melodramatic tendencies, which would make sense considering his treatment of his wife (that the poem is addressed to).

Exophoric Tone

“Fare thee well!”

“Where thy head so oft hath lain”

“Wake us from a widow’d bed”

“Fare thee well! Thus disunited,

Torn from every nearer tie,

Sear’d in heart, and lone, and blighted,

More than this I scarce can die.”

We can assume from context that Byron is speaking to his wife after she left with, taking their daughter with her. He treated her badly. There is care exclaimed but whether it is truthful or not is debatable. The images portrayed are intimate and personal of close physical contact and their bed. Obviously, a child comes from this and affection and so the child becomes a bond that the two will share even when he is gone. Perhaps that is why the poem shifts to concentrate more on the girl than the wife, as it brings him solace as well as sadness to know that he will always have a tie to the life he has here. The final stanza, however details the crushing pain he is experiencing from this and we can interpret him deep (or what he wants her to think of as deep) care for her.

The Exclamative Mood

“Fare thee well!”

“Yet, oh yet”

“Father!”

“Think of him thy love had bless’d!”

Byron’s use of the exclamative mood and apostrophe here can take one of two interpretations. Knowing the kind of character that Byron was, it is not hard to believe that he would indulge in such fancifying of his feelings. He almost seems to take pleasure in his own pain, making leaving worse for everyone involved. It could be because he really cares. However, it could also be red to be a bit over the top in the sense that it is a pretence to try and comfort the woman he is leaving. This is likely as there are many reference to himself “my” “him”, he always draws the poem back to himself, and this behaviour is the reason that his wife Annabella Millbanke left him, violence, adultery, incest and sodomy were all claims by her.

AO3 to consider:

Byron was dismissive of his contemporary poets

He denounced his critics using satire

Marriage to Annabella Millbanke

Byron’s hedonistic nature

Ella

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