‘Fare Thee Well’ by Lord Byron is a fifteen stanza autobiographical poem written in an ABAB pattern. This poem was written by Byron after separating from his wife in the early 1800s. The title itself gives away the fact that in this poem Byron unapologetically bids his wife and daughter farewell. Byron was known to not be very reputable in society and when he married his wife who was a very upright and respected member of society it was a surprise to no one that things ended in separation. ‘Fare Thee Well’ is supposed to be Byron’s attempt at rebuilding his reputation, it makes matters worse that after sending this poem to his wife he printed and passed around the poem to his circle of friends and family in hopes of mending what people thought of him.
Fare Thee Well Analysis
FARE thee well! and if for ever,
Still for ever, fare thee well:
Even though unforgiving, never
’Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.
The very first stanza of ‘Fare Thee Well’ enlightens the reader about Byron’s separation as well as his character as an individual. He starts the poem by saying farewell right away, and he makes it very clear that he has made his decision to stay away with a lot of thought put into it by stating that even if he never sees them again “still forever, fare thee well”. The first two lines let the reader know that his leaving was not a rash decision and he is sure that it was what he had to do. Lines three and four expose his attempted good nature as he states that even though he is “unforgiving” of the fact that his wife left, his heart will never actually “rebel” against them; he has the maturity to love them despite the problems their relationship was afflicted with.
Where thy head so oft hath lain,
While that placid sleep came o’er thee
Which thou ne’er canst know again:
The second stanza is Byron trying to reach out to his estranged wife by reminding her of the bed she used to sleep in when they were still together. Byron brings up the bed and her sleep never being the same again because now she sleeps elsewhere is trying to add a touch of intimacy to the poem, perhaps to find a soft spot in her heart to make her remember that they did share intimate moments with each other and that is something neither of them can find an identical replica of elsewhere.
Would that breast, by thee glanced over,
Every inmost thought could show!
Then thou wouldst at last discover
’Twas not well to spurn it so.
Here in the third stanza of ‘Fare Thee Well’, Byron is telling his wife that if she looked deep into her heart to the point where she could see the innermost emotions and thoughts she would discover that she should not have rejected him and their life together. Byron was a man who indulged himself in whatever he desired and his wife was more reputable in society, it was inevitable that she would one day decide that she wanted more structure and reliability in her life. This stanza exposes that Byron did feel a little stung at her decision to leave.
Though the world for this commend thee—
Though it smile upon the blow,
Even its praises must offend thee,
Founded on another’s woe:
The fourth stanza here is exposing the character of Byron’s estranged wife as he knows that even though everyone is praising her for doing the right thing, she must still be hurt that she is being appreciated at the cost of his reputation. Byron’s wife seems like the type of woman who carries high moral values and does not want to be happy at the cost of someone’s sadness. This stanza also makes the reader realize that his habits and character were not very well accepted by society if he can admit that society is siding with his wife for leaving him.
Though my many faults defaced me,
Could no other arm be found,
Than the one which once embraced me,
To inflict a cureless wound?
Stanza five continues to expose Byron’s ill reputation as he expresses that he knows his actions have “defaced” him. Lines seventeen to nineteen display Byron’s attempts to make his wife feel bad about her decision by claiming that he didn’t deserve a “cureless wound” by the person that was supposed to be the closest to him. He seems to be sneakily blaming her for the situation at hand, instead of taking responsibility of the fact that all actions have consequences.
Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
Love may sink by slow decay,
But by sudden wrench, believe not
Hearts can thus be torn away:
Stanza six of ‘Fare Thee Well’ seems almost as though Byron is taunting his wife for the separation. He starts the stanza by saying that she should not try to fool herself. Lines twenty-one to twenty-three elaborate on that thought by stating that love slowly does die off and “decay” but you can’t just suddenly rip apart hearts that were once tied together. He is trying to tell her that she can try to tell herself that their love for each other has dwindled but she will definitely feel the pain of suddenly not having him around anymore.
Still thine own its life retaineth,
Still must mine, though bleeding, beat;
And the undying thought which paineth
Is—that we no more may meet.
Stanza seven gets a little dramatic as Byron tries to express how hurt he feels by her decision. He states that her heart still has some life left in it but his own is “bleeding” as it beats knowing the pain it will continuously suffer knowing that they will never meet or be together again. This stanza portrays that Byron wants to be seen as someone who regrets losing her company, whether he is sincere is debatable.
These are words of deeper sorrow
Than the wail above the dead;
Both shall live, but every morrow
Wake us from a widow’d bed.
In this stanza, Byron paints an image of loneliness for himself. He claims to be in more pain and engulfed in the feeling of extreme loss than someone mourning for the dead. His reason behind feeling such a strong sense of loss is that he sleeps in the same bed that she used to be in with him, making her absence all the more noticeable and hard to digest. It is obvious that Byron is trying to mend his relationship with his wife hoping that she will feel some sympathy for him upon reading these words.
And when thou wouldst solace gather,
When our child’s first accents flow,
Wilt thou teach her to say ‘Father!’
Though his care she must forego?
Stanza nine is the first time Byron mentions his daughter. He is making a request to his wife to teach her about his existence even though he will not be there to care for her. The reader can see that Byron wants to be known and not forgotten but does not want to do much more than that. This stanza also depicts him in a bad light as it sounds as though he is trying to point out to his wife that because she made the decision to leave him his daughter shall suffer by not knowing her own 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!
Stanza ten of ‘Fare Thee Well’ continues to attempt at playing the sympathy card as Byron begs his wife to not forget that he exists especially for his daughter. He tries to paint a picture of the love between mother and daughter and then asks her to remember him in those moments of love because he may be a part of her past but will forever be a part of his daughter’s existence. Byron also mentions that they will be in his prayers implying that he will never forget them.
Should her lineaments resemble
Those thou never more may’st see,
Then thy heart will softly tremble
With a pulse yet true to me.
Stanza eleven continues to try and manipulate the feelings of his wife as Byron tries to remind her that their daughter will always remind her of him whether he is there or not. He starts the stanza by pointing out that their daughter will have things about her that will resemble him, whether it be features or characteristics. Lines forty one to forty-three express Byron’s belief that upon seeing these similarities his wife will be forced to remember him.
All my faults perchance thou knowest,
All my madness none can know;
All my hopes, where’er thou goest,
Wither, yet with thee they go.
In the twelfth stanza, Byron professes his attentions still belong to his wife. He states that even though she knows all his faults she could not know how upset he is and his “hopes” for happiness are attached to her, wherever she goes. Here the reader cannot be for certain whether he is being sincere or only trying to clear his reputation but it is likely that he is just using the flowery language in trying to mend his image because not once has he apologized for causing her to leave. He does not take the blame for anything rather blames her for causing him pain by choosing to leave.
Every feeling hath been shaken;
Pride, which not a world could bow,
Bows to thee—by thee forsaken,
Even my soul forsakes me now:
Stanza thirteen continues Byron’s efforts of trying to grab the attention of his wife and perhaps gain some sympathy. Line forty-eight claims that every part of him emotionally is shaken from her separation and the following three lines express that his pride that no one could bend, is now bowing down to his wife because she has left him his own soul is rejecting him. Yes, these lines are very dramatic but Byron is trying to woo his wife with his words in hopes of some level of connection to rekindle through the poem.
But ’tis done—all words are idle—
Words from me are vainer still;
But the thoughts we cannot bridle
Force their way without the will.
Stanza Fourteen is important because here Byron confesses that he knows that words are useless at this point in their relationship and words coming from him are all the more useless. He also claims that he cannot help but express how he feels because his emotions are beyond his control at this point. Byron is ending the poem soon and is still playing the victim when he is well aware that it was him and his lifestyle that pushed his wife away.
Fare thee well! thus disunited,
Torn from every nearer tie,
Sear’d in heart, and lone, and blight
The final stanza to Byron’s long unapologetic poem almost sounds like a curse. Byron states farewell and claims that he is now “torn” from all intimate ties and is “sear’d in heart” lonely and scarred for life. Even as he is expressing how sorry he is for being left behind he does not apologize for his behaviour or makes any promises of a better future together. Although ‘Fare Thee Well’ was supposed to be a means to reconnect the relationship in reality it is a letter of Byron victimizing himself and complaining about how he suffers due to her decision to leave him.