Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Explication of Thomas Moore's "Farewell but Whenever You Welcome the Hour"

Moore’s lyric poem, “Farewell but whenever you welcome the hour,” meditates on the joys of friendship and the power of memory. The speaker in this poem addresses a “you,” entreating them to recollect joyous times spent together and claiming that the remembrance of these moments may carry a person through difficult times. The tone of the poem shifts over the course of each stanza, transitioning from regret, to nostalgia mixed with anxiety, and ultimately to defiance. These tonal shifts emphasize different aspects of remembrance to highlight the importance of memory in maintaining relationships despite the passage of time or separation by distance.

The poem begins with the word “Farewell,” indicating that the speaker is addressing a person he is currently with, and then proceeds to implore that person to remember the speaker once they are parted. It is suggested over the course of the first stanza that something will prevent the speaker from being reunited with the person he is addressing, particularly through the lines, “His griefs may return—not a hope may remain/Of the few that have brighten’d his pathway of pain--/But he ne’er will forget the short vision that threw/Its enchantment around him while ling’ring with you!” The diction choices in these lines, highlighting the speaker’s “griefs” and “pathway of pain,” suggest that the speaker regrets being parted from the person he is addressing and struggles with some conflict, whether internal or external, that the companionship of the person being addressed has helped the narrator to endure. However, this friendship and respite was a “short vision,” unable to last and which he now must leave, but which provides him with fond memories that he claims will help him overcome his hardships. This first stanza is dominated by “w” sounds which create a soft, lulling rhythm to the poem. This is clearly illustrated in the very first line of the poem through the inclusion of the words “farewell,” “whenever,” and “welcome”. This consonance extends through the rest of the stanza, carried by Moore’s inclusion of words such as, “awakens,” “once,” “bower,” “pathway,” and “threw.”  This repeated “w” sound is a voiced semi-vowel and its soft, lulling rhythm adds a dreamy, nostalgic feel to the poem. By including these sounds throughout the poem, but particularly at the beginning, Moore signals that this poem is almost akin to a daydream the narrator has, making the reader question whether he is indeed addressing a physical “you” or whether this address is imagined.

In the second stanza, it is suggested that the “you” being addressed in the poem may actually be a plural “you,” indicated by the phrase, “My soul, happy friends, shall be with you that night—." This modifies the tone of the poem, clarifying the relationship between the speaker and the “you.” Initially, the relationship appeared to be romantic, denoted by the line, “that awakens the night song of mirth in your bower,” from the first stanza. A bower generally has a romantic connotation as a secluded, private location, and “the night song of mirth” can easily be read as an innuendo referring to a romantic tryst. However, the second stanza redefines this relationship by making the “you” plural, describing “each heart and each cup” as brimming with happiness, indicating that there are many people gathered in celebration. The address to “happy friends” further suggests that the speaker is addressing a group of people rather than a single person. This modifies the meaning of the poem, shifting it from a regretful parting between lovers to a platonic promise of continued friendship despite distance or the passage of time.

After describing how his soul shall be in the company of his friends whether he is able to be with them in person or not, the speaker confides, “Too blest if it tells me, that ‘mid the gay cheer,/Some kind voice had murmur’d ‘I wish he were here’!” This line indicates that, even though the speaker conveys a sense of bravado throughout the rest of the piece, reassuring his friends that the fond memories they share will carry him through his troubles, he still experiences a nagging sense of insecurity which suggests that his friends will continue to have just as much fun without him. The diction of these lines reveals the narrator’s inner desire to be remembered and missed by his friends when he is absent, as he reassures himself that he still matters to them as much as they do to him. This sentiment is reinforced by the rhyme scheme of the poem which consists of paired couplets. These consecutive rhymes work because of their proximity to each other, but if you place distance between the end rhymes, the rhyme scheme breaks down. Thus, the couplet rhyme scheme requires that the end rhymes be close to each other, creating a parallel to the narrator’s desire to be close to his friends’ thoughts. Additionally, the couplet rhyme scheme emphasizes the power of memory to keep relationships strong despite distance because when you read through the poem, whether you’ve read it before or not, your brain wants to fill in the rhymed word at the end of the couplet. The knowledge that there will be a rhyme at the end of the next line keeps you thinking about the rhyme scheme much as the narrator hopes to continue thinking about his friendships and that his friends, in turn, will continue to think of him.

This desire to be missed by his friends reveals the narrator’s complex relationship with memory. In the beginning of the poem, the narrator stresses the ability of memory and the recollection of fond moments to carry a person through difficult times. In contrast, the second stanza reveals the subversive power of memory deceptively cast in a nostalgic light. While the narrator claims that, “Where e’er my path lies, be it gloomy or bright/My soul happy friends, shall be with you that night—/Shall join in your revels, your sports and your wiles,/And return to me beaming all o’er with your smiles;” there is a strong sense of nostalgia that accompanies these lines, suggesting that the speaker is not only recollecting his own fond memories of spending time with his friends but also imagining the time he is missing. This is followed by the narrator’s confession that his heart would be “too happy” if he learned that in his absence, one of his friends had said, “‘I wish he were here!’” The narrator, despite putting on a brave face, is afraid of parting from his friends and the possibility of their friendship fading away. Besides being suggested through diction, this fear of parting is further illustrated through the meter of the poem. While it does not conform to any consistent poetic meter, each line within the poem has either eleven or twelve syllables. This is not quite syllabic verse because the pattern in the first stanza is not repeated in the following stanzas, but the constancy is worth noting. The narrator is so afraid of change that even the syllable count throughout the poem remains consistent. Despite dealing with topics of change and the passage of time, the narrator argues that nothing in the relationship between him and his friends will change as long as they hold onto their shared memories. This opinion is strengthened by the consistent syllable count which suggests that the narrator will steadfastly hold on to memories of the past and remain constant in his friendship despite the passage of time.

While the second stanza appears to be a continuation of the sentiments in the first stanza— primarily that reminiscing on time spent with loved ones can sustain a person through difficulties— there is actually an undercurrent of anxiety that suggests the narrator is afraid of being forgotten. This reveals the subversive aspects of memory by suggesting that while happy memories can be recalled and bring joy during hardships, they can also be forgotten, leading to a deterioration in relationships over a continued absence. Thus, the imagined proof that one of the narrator’s friends has voiced their desire for his presence buoys the narrator’s confidence, allowing him to continue on to the defiant tone of the third and final stanza.

The final stanza begins with a challenge wherein the narrator states, “Let fate do her worst there are relics of joy,/Bright dreams of the past which she cannot destroy!” This line appears directly after the imagined statement by the narrator’s friend, indicating that the thought of being remembered gives the narrator the courage to continue on his “path of pain,” and to spite fate, though she may, “do her worst,” by remembering the “relics of joy,” which have brought him thus far. This final stanza shifts from the nostalgic tone of the previous stanza to a rebellious and defiant tone, which affirms the power of memory and friendship over the pitfalls of fate. The poem ends on this defiant note with the narrator declaring, “Long, long lie my heart with such memories fill’d!/Like the vase in which roses have once been distill’d/You may break, you may ruin the vase if you will/But the scent of the roses will hang around still.” These concluding lines establish the narrator’s triumph over fate, ultimately confirming memory as a constructive tool to sustain optimism and friendships despite separation over time or distance, rather than giving in to the anxiety expressed in the second stanza. By equating friendship with “the vase in which roses have once been distill’d,” the narrator claims that although time and fate may conspire to ruin that friendship, the recollection of “bright dreams of the past,” will allow the speaker’s friendship to persist, much like “the scent of the roses” which, “hang[s] around still,” despite the destruction of the vase.

The tonal shifts throughout this poem, beginning with the regret at parting in the first stanza, transitioning to nostalgia and anxiety in the second stanza, and ultimately concluding with a sense of defiance in the final stanza, showcase the complex relationship the narrator has with memory. This complex relationship is further developed by the formal elements of the poem such as the couplet rhyme scheme and consistent syllable count. By discussing the power of memory to carry a person through difficult times and expressing a sense of anxiety at being forgotten by his friends, Moore uses the narrator to manipulate tone in order to highlight the importance of memory in maintaining relationships despite the passage of time or separation by distance.

"Farewell but Whenever" by Thomas Moore

Formal Description of "Farewell but Whenever"

Thomas Moore Biography