An Hour With Thee

Sir Walter Scott

‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a poem about the speaker’s appreciation for spending time with an unnamed character. Despite his difficult life, an hour with this person can make his situation tolerable.


Sir Walter Scott

Nationality: Scottish

Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish poet, author, and historian of the Romantic era.

His poetry tends to depict Scottish history and landscapes with vivid imagery.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Life is better when you can share it with someone

Speaker: Unspecified

Emotions Evoked: Courage, Hope, Resilience

Poetic Form: Rondel

Time Period: 19th Century

'An Hour With Thee' by Sir Walter Scott is an endering and sweet poem about the power of companionship to make any bad situation more tolerable.

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‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a French-style rondel that appears in Scott’s Novel, Woodstock: or The Cavalier. A Tale of the Year Sixteen Hundred and Fifty-one.

This poem, through its lyrical musicality, expresses the speaker’s misery and toil from his daily labors, but it also offers hope, as the speaker finds courage and hope from spending a mere hour with his loved one.

An Hour With Thee
Sir Walter Scott

An hour with thee! When earliest dayDapples with gold the eastern gray,Oh, what can frame my mind to bearThe toil and turmoil, cark and care,New griefs, which coming hours unfold,And sad remembrance of the old?One hour with thee.

One hour with thee! When burning JuneWaves his red flag at pitch of noon;What shall repay the faithful swain,His labor on the sultry plain;And, more than cave or sheltering bough,Cool feverish blood and throbbing brow?One hour with thee.

One hour with thee! When sun is set,Oh, what can teach me to forgetThe thankless labors of the day;The hopes, the wishes, flung away;The increasing wants, and lessening gains,The master's pride, who scorns my pains?One hour with thee.


‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a heartfelt poem about the speaker’s appreciation for his time spent with another unnamed person. 

The speaker begins the poem with a rhetorical question, asking what might help him find the motivation to begin his burdensome workday after waking up at dawn. The speaker explains that the only thing that gives him the strength and energy to get out of bed and start the day is the hope of spending an hour with “thee,” some unnamed person. 

Additionally, the speaker states that when it is midday and midsummer, and the day is hot and full of work and activity, the promise of spending an hour with his companion is enough to help him keep going. 

At sunset and during fall’s “lessening gains,” the idea of spending an hour with “thee” gives the speaker the strength to carry on. 

Form and Structure

‘An Hour With thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a roundel (not to be confused with a rondel) that includes several unique features. This poem, unlike most roundels,  

The rhyme structure in ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is AABB / CCDDEEB / FFGGEEB. Each pair of rhyming lines are an octosyllabic couplet. However, at the end of each stanza, the poet repeats the four-syllable line, “One hour with thee!” 

In fact, the poet repeats the line “One hour with thee!” five times in this poem. He also begins the first stanza with a slightly different line: “An hour with thee!” 

This repetition and symmetry of phrases and rhymes mimic the companionship that the speaker craves. 

However, the organization of the poem into three stanzas is also significant, as each group of lines represents a different season and time of day. The first stanza describes the speaker’s thoughts at dawn, which comes to represent spring, as well. The next stanza describes midday and midsummer, while the final stanza describes both sunset and fall. 

As such, the speaker seems to think about “thee” all day and all year long. Additionally, as it becomes clear that the speaker does farm work, his thoughts of “thee” are most intense when he is working hard, tired, and unsatisfied with his life. 

Context Within Woodstock

‘An Hour With Thee’ appears as a song within the novel Woodstock, or The Cavalier. A Tale of the Year Sixteen Hundred and Fifty-one. This book is a historical one, and it comprises a romantic, supernaturally-charged retelling of the future King, Charles II’s escape from his pursuers following the English Civil Wars and during the Anglo-Scottish wars. 

In this book, Charles II (known as Louis Kerneguy in the narrative) sings this poem to the leading lady, Alice Lee, as he explains to her that he cannot be content loving someone who is far away and unreliable. 

However, as Charles/Kerneguy discusses his romantic preferences, he also says that a lover is both “fair and cruel.” After singing ‘An Hour With Thee,’ Charles/Kerneguy also states: 

“‘Truly, there is another verse… but I sing it not to you, Mistress Alice, because some of the prudes of the court liked it not.’”

From this clue, we can surmise that the last stanza of the poem has either a more sexual or sorrowful theme. 

Sir Walter Scott likely meant to leave this matter up for interpretation, but some of his drafts for the poem, made available posthumously, seem to indicate that the poem’s last stanzaz was more sexual than not. For example, here is one of Scott’s earlier drafts of stanza two: 

One hour with thee! when in mid June,
The sun burns hot at height of noon;
I see thee in thy slight disguise,
Thy ruby lips and angel eyes,
In some cool cave, ‘neath sheltering bough
I soothe thy sad and troubled brow.
One hour with thee!

Still, it’s worth noting that Scott chose the more politically-charged variant of this poem for publication. 

Since this song comes out of the mouth of the future King Charles II, it does a lot to make Charles II seem appealing. Here, his love for the ambiguous “thee” might be for his homeland, his lover, his brother, or even his hairbrush. We have no way of knowing. 

However, it ultimately reveals that Charles II is a man of the people, driven to “toil” by his “master,” “faithful,” and passionate. These characteristics help us to understand that he will grow to become a good king. 


While ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is primarily a poem about the comforts of companionship, the poem includes several mentions of a “master,” “toil,” and “labor on the sultry plain.” These phrases indicate that the speaker is an indentured agricultural worker or enslaved person. 

While Scott does not give us as listeners any clues about who this enslaved or indentured person might be, this poem has many political undertones that leave it very open for interpretation. It may be seen as a poem about love, freedom, abolition, and service to one’s country. 

This vagueness is very intentional on Scott’s part, as it allows the listener to focus more on the speaker’s morality, emotional state, and motivations than the actual meaning of the poem. Additionally, the ambiguous use of “thee” allows this poem to become more universal, which is part of why it’s still relevant today.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

An hour with thee! When earliest day
Dapples with gold the eastern gray,
Oh, what can frame my mind to bear
The toil and turmoil, cark and care,
New griefs, which coming hours unfold,
And sad remembrance of the old?
One hour with thee.

‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott opens as the speaker exclaims in apostrophes, “An Hour With Thee!” The poet uses this phrase throughout the poem to create repetition, emphasizing the speaker’s mental fixation on spending an hour with “thee.” 

Still, the “thee” character is never specified, nor is the speaker. Here, we have one vague, unidentifiable person pining for another unidentifiable person. This lack of clarity allows the poem to become more universal. With no names or specifics, the listener can insert themselves wherever they want into the poem, whether they are being pined for or pining for another person. 

This first stanza represents morning, spring, and youth, all of which are generally entwined when analyzing poetry. The speaker uses this morning-time scene to explain that the “thee” character is the first thing he thinks of when he wakes. 

Morning time is also significant for the speaker because he seems to have a very difficult job that brings him sorrow. The phrase “toil and turmoil, cark and care” emphasizes that the speaker is full of “griefs” due to his job, and he also spends his day thinking about the “sad” things that have happened in the past. 

Thus, the speaker implies that his life isn’t a very pleasant one. The only pleasure he seems to have in life is the time spent with “thee.”

Stanza Two

One hour with thee! When burning June
Waves his red flag at pitch of noon;
What shall repay the faithful swain,
His labor on the sultry plain;
And, more than cave or sheltering bough,
Cool feverish blood and throbbing brow?
One hour with thee.

Following the progression of the seasons and the day, stanza two of ‘An Hour With Thee’ focuses on the speaker’s thoughts at midday in June. 

When the personified sun “waves his red flag at pitch of noon,” as if going into battle, the speaker works in the “sultry plain,” or hot and humid field. Here, through metaphor, the speaker is a soldier fighting against the natural world to get his job done. This image of toil as war stresses the speaker’s misery and destitution. 

Additionally, this stanza includes connotations of enslavement. Perhaps the speaker sees himself as an enslaved person, or perhaps he is actually an imprisoned servant. We cannot be positive. 

Although this field worker toils all day long in the summer heat, he says that he would rather spend time with “thee” than rest under a tree or in a cool cave. The “thee” character is the only thing that restores and motivates the speaker. 

Stanza Three

One hour with thee! When burning June
Waves his red flag at pitch of noon;
What shall repay the faithful swain,
His labor on the sultry plain;
And, more than cave or sheltering bough,
Cool feverish blood and throbbing brow?
One hour with thee.

Finally, in the last stanza of ‘An Hour With Thee,’ it is sunset, and it is also late fall when there are “increasing wants” and “lessening gains” (i.e., it’s about the time that people are running out of food from the fall harvest). 

The speaker states that the time spent with the “thee” character can teach him to “forget” his hard work and his master, who criticizes the speaker’s work. Here, we have a clear indication of enslavement or at least indentured servitude. 

But “one hour with thee” can make life bearable for this sad, overworked speaker. 

Even by the end of the poem, we cannot understand who “thee” is. For that reason, this poem is like a chameleon that can take on whatever meaning you want to give it. It could be about religion, love, brotherhood, dreams and sleep, a book, or any kind of object or being that one could associate with “thee.”

As such, this poem is as universal and versatile as it ever could be. 


What is the main message of ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott?

The main message of ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is that, even when times are tough, companionship and the promise of spending time with a loved one can help you get through the day.

What are the themes in ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott?

The themes in ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott include love, hard work, sorrow, enslavement, and hope. Though the speaker feels burdened by his daily work as a laborer and potentially as an enslaved person, the promise of love and companionship helps him forget his sorrows.

What is the tone in ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott?

The tone in ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is desperate, longing, hopeless, and hopeful. While the speaker is downtrodden and burdened by his life, he rejoices in his thoughts of spending time with “thee,” an unnamed character.

What kind of poem is ‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott?

‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a French rondelai, or rondel. However, it’s supposed to be a medieval-sounding song, and it breaks the traditional, standardized form of the modern English rondel. In context, this poem is a song sung by a character in Scott’s book “Woodstock.”

Similar Poetry

‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a song deliberately written to sound older than the poet. As such, it sounds like it came out of the 16th or 17th century. 

Some earlier poems that may have inspired Scott’s ‘An Hour With Thee’ include: 

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Aimee LaFon Poetry Expert
Aimee LaFon has a BAS with honors in English and Classics, focusing her studies on the translation of Latin poetry, manuscript traditions, and the analysis of medieval and neoclassical poetry. She is a full-time writer and poet passionate about making knowledge accessible to everyone.

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