‘I Shall Not Pass This Way Again’ by Eva Rose York is separated into three long stanzas. The first is made up of nineteen lines, the second: twenty, and the third: twenty-six. York has chosen to structure this piece with the rhyming pattern of aabbccddee…and so on. The lines are paired up in sets of two, or couplets, throughout the text. The only moment where the rhyme is broken is in the first line which states the title of the poem.
York’s choice to utilize this rhyme scheme allows the reader to move smoothly through the text and have an expectation of what is going to come next. It assists greatly in the creation of a rhythm that can be picked up on by any reader.
Summary of I Shall Not Pass This Way Again
The poem begins with the speaker stating the fact that even though she loves the “path” she has been walking on, she will never “pass” that way again. She is leaving behind the floral smells, singing birds, and the gentle wind and waves. The speaker does not want to abandon this place (or way of life) she has been living in, but she has no choice.
The next section describes how while on the path she can hear people singing joyously and it fills her with happiness. The whole world is heightened there, from the greens of the summer to the winter snow. Now that she knows she has to leave this world she is determined to make herself a better person. She knows she hasn’t been the kindest or most thoughtful human being. In the last stanza, she asks that God forgive her for that fact and allow her to spend her future days comforting those who have not been as lucky as she.
Analysis of I Shall Not Pass This Way Again
I shall not pass this way again—
Although it bordered be with flowers,
Although I rest in fragrant bowers,
And hear the singing
Of song-birds winging
To highest heaven their gladsome flight;
Though moons are full and stars are bright,
And winds and waves are softly sighing,
While leafy trees make low replying;
In the first section of the poem, the poet’s narrator speaks the title of the poem, “I shall not pass this way again.” The following lines take the time to acknowledge the beauty of the “way” she will no longer go.
The path is “bordered with flowers” and allows her ample opportunity to sit and rest in the “fragrant bowers” alongside the trail. It is clear from the first lines that this “path” is a beautiful one. A reader will immediately question what it is that is making the speaker leave her much-loved path.
There is no answer provided in the next lines, which speaks on how while resting she can listen to the “singing / Of song-birds” flying through the air. They are able to reach the “highest heaven” through their flight, at least in her mind. The next lines move into a description of the atmosphere. She is never taking the path again, even though the “moons are full and stars are bright.” It seems as if the path is an incredibly peaceful place through which the elements move slowly and delicately, it is easy to see why she would want to stay.
Though voices clear in joyous strain
Though rising suns their radiance throw
On summer’s green and winter’s snow,
In such rare splendor that my heart
Would ache from scenes like these to part;
Though beauties heighten,
And life-lights brighten,
And joys proceed from every pain,—
I shall not pass this way again.
In the next section, she continues to speak about the good things about her abandoned path. There, she is able to hear “voices clear in joyous strain.” She can hear the sound of people singing a “jubilant refrain” as she walks. Additionally, there is the “radiance” of the sun and the brilliance of the “green” in summer and the “snow” in winter. These things have brought “splendor” and joy to her.
The speaker says that every time she left these parts her heart would “ache from” these “scenes.” They would stay with her throughout the day. Their “heightened” beauty and “life-lights” would not leave her.
Then let me pluck the flowers that blow,
And let me listen as I go
To music rare
That fills the air;
And let hereafter
Songs and laughter
Fill every pause along the way;
And to my spirit let me say:
“O soul, be happy; soon ’tis trod,
The path made thus for thee by God.
At the beginning of the second stanza, the speaker’s narrative picks up with a few requests she has before leaving her path for the last time. She wants to “pluck flowers that blow” and listen once more to the “music rare.” It will fill the air around her and she will do what she can to take in that experience. Hopefully, if she pauses for long enough, and in the right way, she will be able to remember these moments forever.
In the last part of this section of lines, the speaker reminds herself that it was “God” who made the path she walks on. He made it in the way he did “for thee.” This would be her ideal final moment on the path. Her heart would be filled with laughter, song, and joy, as well as the glory of God.
Be happy, thou, and bless His name
By whom such marvellous beauty came.”
And let no chance by me be lost
To kindness show at any cost.
I shall not pass this way again.
Then let me now relieve some pain,
Remove some barrier from the road,
Or brighten someone’s heavy load;
A helping hand to this one lend,
Then turn some other to befriend.
The second half of the stanza continues the speaker’s reminder to herself that it was God who made her joyous experiences possible. She knows she should be “happy” she ever visited this place. Also, she knows it is best if she blesses “His name / By whom such marvellous beauty came” rather than mourning the fact she is leaving.
The next lines speak of her intentions for her own behavior in the future. She will never be cruel to another being, she will “kindness show at any cost.” This demeanor will be inspired by her memories of her “path.” She knows that she will never pass through this place again, but instead of being bitter about it she decides she will “Remove some barrier from the road” so that another will have an easier time passing through.
It is all due to the nature of her past experiences that the speaker is determined to “brighten” another day and lend a “helping hand.” She will “befriend” everyone she can.
O God, forgive
That I now live
As if I might, sometime, return
To bless the weary ones that yearn
For help and comfort every day,—
For there be such along the way.
O God, forgive that I have seen
The beauty only, have not been
Awake to sorrow such as this;
That I have drunk the cup of bliss
Remembering not that those there be
Who drink the dregs of misery.
In the last stanza, which is made up of twenty-six lines, she turns to God once more. She asks for his forgiveness for the wrong she has done in the past. This includes drinking from the cup of happiness and forgetting about those who do not have the chance to. She has not comforted the weary when she should’ve, nor has she remembered the misery of others. These are parts of her personality she means to change.
I love the beauty of the scene,
Would roam again o’er fields so green;
But since I may not, let me spend
My strength for others to the end,—
For those who tread on rock and stone,
And bear their burdens all alone,
Who loiter not in leafy bowers,
Nor hear the birds nor pluck the flowers.
The next section reiterates the statements made in the first. York’s speaker is fully aware that she will never enter this area again and rather than mourn, she will “spend” her strength “for others to the end.” She has seen the greatest beauty the world has to offer and now that she must turn away from it, she will engage with those in the greatest misery. Those who, “tread on rock and stone” and are all alone in the carrying of their “burdens.”
It is those who have not had the chance to “loiter” as she has in the “leafy bower,” who need her the most.
A larger kindness give to me,
A deeper love and sympathy;
Then, O, one day
May someone say—
Remembering a lessened pain—
“Would she could pass this way again.”
In the final lines of this piece, the speaker asks that God give her the ability to love more kindly and deeply than she has in the past. She wants to feel the “sympathy” she needs to help others. It is her new goal that one day someone says of her that she “lessened pain.”