Jan. 22, 2005

When We Two Parted

by Lord Byron

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "When We Two Parted" by George Gordon, Lord Byron.

When We Two Parted

When we two parted
    In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
    To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
    Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
    Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
    Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
    Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
    And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
    And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
    A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
    Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
    Who knew thee too well—
Long, long I shall rue thee,
    Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
    In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
    Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
    After long years,
How should I greet thee?
    With silence and tears.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh, born in East Pittsburgh (1937). He is best known for his fiction and non-fiction accounts of police work in the United States, particularly California.

Wambaugh is the son of a policeman. He joined the Marines at age seventeen and married a year later. Then he became a Los Angeles patrolman and detective for fourteen years. He began to "moonlight" as a writer during his police career, and in 1971 he published The New Centurions. It was greeted with acclaim. Evan Hunter of the New York Times Book Review said, "Let us dispel forever the notion that Mr. Wambaugh is only a former cop who happens to write books. This would be tantamount to saying that Jack London was first and foremost a sailor." John Greenway wrote in National Review that the novel was "incomparably the best revelation of the lives and souls of policemen ever written."

Wambaugh took extended leave from the police department after he published The Blue Knight (1972), which depicted the final days in the career of a corrupt policeman. It was during this time that Wambaugh wrote his most important book, The Onion Field (1974). It is based on a true story of young police officers taken hostage by small-time criminals. They took the officers to a distant onion field, where the criminals murdered one of the officers. The Onion Field earned comparisons to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1965).

The tone of Wambaugh's writing changed after he read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1955). Wambaugh said, "Heller enabled me to find my voice."

Until Joseph Wambaugh, most police officers were depicted in print and in film as either overly pious or violent heroes. Wambaugh's characters are "just coping." Nearly all contemporary police characters are influenced by his characterizations.

It's the birthday of the philosopher, essayist and statesman Francis Bacon, born in London (1561). Bacon is best known as a philosopher and essayist, but he accomplished much of his writing after his political career ended in scandal. He is also known as the writer of Essays, a collection that includes work spanning several years.

Bacon was a member of Parliament by age twenty-three, but he disagreed with Queen Elizabeth's tax program and had difficulty moving forward in his career. A friend convinced the Queen to place Bacon on her Learned Council. Bacon repaid this friend by participating actively in his prosecution years later, for which Bacon was roundly criticized. Many years later, Bacon pleaded guilty to accepting bribes as Lord Chancellor. Bacon was banished from holding office and sentenced to the Tower of London, but that sentence was revoked and Bacon was allowed to write in his retirement.

Bacon's main contribution to philosophy was his application of the inductive method of modern science. He supported full investigation, and rejected any rational theories based upon incomplete or insufficient data.

Francis Bacon said, "Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes."

It's the birthday of the poet Howard Moss, born in New York (1922). He served as poetry editor of the New Yorker for nearly forty years. When asked his definition of a good poem, Howard Moss said, "One I like."

It's the birthday of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, born George Gordon in London, England (1788). He is best known for his poem Don Juan, which he never completed. It was considered one of the most important poems in English since Milton's Paradise Lost. Byron is also known for having lived an extravagant lifestyle, and he was considered controversial in his own time.

Byron was born with a clubfoot, and he was sensitive about his lameness throughout his life. This did not prevent him from living a flamboyant lifestyle and becoming romantically involved with several women, including the wife of a viscount. Byron was also fond of animals, especially his dog Boatswain, and Byron nursed the animal when it became infected with rabies. His lifestyle, good looks and lameness contributed to what is called the Byronic legend.

Byron's maternal grandfather, also his namesake, committed suicide the year after Byron was born. As a result, Byron's mother Lady Catherine had to sell her property and title to pay for her father's large debts. Byron's father was named "Mad Jack" Byron, and he squandered his wife's remaining fortune before they separated. Byron moved with his mother to Aberdeen, Scotland, where they lived in poverty until Byron reached the age of ten and became the sixth Baron Byron.

After studying at Cambridge, Byron became a well-known poet and politician in London, though he was just as well known because of constant rumors concerning his romantic life. Byron left England after his marriage to Annabella Milbanke abruptly ended, and he spent time in Geneva with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Then Byron moved to Italy, where he lived for two years. It was during this time that Byron wrote Don Juan and other famous poems.

Byron's life ended in bizarre fashion. After leaving Italy, Byron was contacted by representatives of Greek rebels seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire. They asked for his help, and Byron eagerly gave it. He spent freely from his own fortune to upgrade the rebel military, and he even assumed control of part of the military forces, and he collaborated with the rebel leader regarding plans of attack. But Byron became sick before he saw any military action, and the typical remedy of bleeding only made his condition worse, and he died.

Lord Byron said, "Actions are our epochs."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show