Byron's poem, So We'll Go No More a-Roving got under my skin when I was a boy and stumbled on it in a Ray Bradbury novel--no, really.
So, we'll go no more a-rovingThe rather gentle, autumnal melancholy of the poem is at odds with what one expects from Byron (he was, after all, "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" according to Lady Caroline Lamb, in a classic instance of it-takes-one-to-know-one), and so stayed with me.
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
The strangest thing about the experience of going over one's own first novel--ok, for me, and my first novel--is becoming cognizant of all the roots of various moments in the book, and the extent to which I have found ways of using themes, motifs and what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called "little fragments of my fleece that I have left upon the hedges of life." (Collected Legal Papers Papers (1921) at v). Byron's poem informs a moment that I felt (and feel) the book needed, and gave me a construct around which to structure an autumnal moment that completes a movement in the lives of the characters--and leads to a new theme.
As well as allowing me to engage with a text that has been marinating in my sub-conscious since I was twelve.
Perhaps it's because the poem was in my heart in writing that I thought of it when an old friend died of an illness, all too young, last week. Her memorial service was this weekend, and seeing so many friends of my youth--some hardly changed, some in different walks of life than would have anticipated--made the poem loom larger in my thoughts. Seeing these friends,even under such circumstances, was an unalloyed good. Because, when our number was reduced, we gathered. Some remotely, by e-mail or social media, some in person, there and then.
The heart of our friendship was and is still beating.
The heart may pause to breathe, and love itself may rest--and them, altered forever, but unbroken, it goes on. The pause ends, and we who are left for the next stage of what Anthony Powell called the dance to the music of time, we resume, mindful of our losses, but taking them with us, until we all meet again in the Grand Finale.