Summary of “A Quoi Bon Dire”

“A Quoi Bon Dire” by Charlotte Mew is a reflective poem. It reflects on the passage of time and the memories of a past relationship. The speaker of the poem reflects on a past goodbye that was said 17 years ago and how everyone else believes the person she said goodbye to is dead. However, she is still holding onto the memory of that person and the love she shared.

As the speaker grows older and begins to say goodbye to different things in life, she observes that others see her as old and past her prime. But in contrast, the person she said goodbye to remains frozen in time in her memory, always young and beautiful.

The poem concludes with the image of two young lovers meeting and falling in love, but the speaker notes that her love will always be remembered and cherished, even though the speaker and the person she said goodbye to are no longer together. The poem suggests that the memories of love never truly die and that the person who was once loved will always hold a special place in the heart of the person who said goodbye.

To read the full poem, please click here.

Significant Themes in “A Quoi Bon Dire

Memory, the power of love, time, and human relationships are the poem’s central themes. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to convey that love never dies. She reflects on a goodbye that was said 17 years ago and how it still haunts her. She acknowledges that everyone else thinks the person she said goodbye to is dead, but the speaker cannot let go of the past.

The speaker also reflects on her aging and how she is saying goodbye to different things in life. Also, she observes how everyone else sees her as old, but the person she said goodbye to they are still young and vibrant.

The theme of longing and unfulfilled love also reflect in the poem. The speaker longs for the person she said goodbye to and wishes she could return to their time together. Furthermore, she imagines a future scenario where a young couple is in love, but the speaker knows she will never experience that kind of love again. The poem also reflects on the theme of memory. Her memories of the past are vivid and still hold power over them. She seems unable to forget the goodbye that was said many years ago, which still haunts her.

Analysis of Poetic and Literary Elements Used in “A Quoi Bon Dire”

Poetic and literary elements are powerful tools used to make a lasting impression. Their appropriate use can bring depth and uniqueness to seemingly simple poems. Charlotte Mew has also used some poetic techniques in this poem, whose analysis is as follows.

  • Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound. The writer has repeated the/o/ and /e/sounds in “And everybody sees that I am old.”
  • Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds. The writer has repeated the/s/ and /r/ sounds in “Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear.”
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid images such as “tossed hair” to convey emotions and create a picture in the reader’s mind.
  • Metaphor: A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. The speaker uses goodbye as an extended metaphor in the poem to show how people remain stuck in time even after saying goodbye.  
  • Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to non-human things. The poem’s speaker personifies “Goodbye” as if it’s an entity that can be said.
  • Quatrain: A quatrain is a four lined stanza. Here, first two stanzas are quatrains.
  • Rhyme scheme: The poem Follows an ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  • Repetition: Repetition is used to create musical quality in the poem. The phrase “Goodbye” is repeated several times in the poem.
  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem having different numbers of lines.
  • Tone: The poem’s tone is nostalgic, melancholy, and bittersweet.


To conclude, “A Quoi Bon Dire” is a melancholic reflection on the passage of time and its effects on relationships. It reminds us of the fleeting nature of love and the importance of cherishing the moments we have with the ones we love.

Suggested Readings

Analysis of “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell

Analysis of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”