The poem is written as five quatrains, with a rhyming tercet followed by a fourth line repeated as a refrain throughout the song.
In the first four lines, the poet asks for the audience not to overlook his intention to reach meaning and truth, and to consider the great efforts he has willingly made. The fourth line refrain ‘Forget not yet’ emphasizes this request.
The request here is for the audience not to forget when they first began this tired life of service and courtship, which no one really understands. The refrain in line 8 is a repetition of line 4.
Here the audience is asked not to overlook the big criticisms, the mean injustices, the cruel treatment and the pain of waiting through delays in decision-making. Line 12 is a repetition of line 4 again, and this serves to build up the negative issues, which the narrator is attempting to highlight.
The appeal here is to not ignore how long ago it was (and is) that the mind never meant any harm. The repeated refrain of line 4 is used for the last time here.
The final quatrain requests that the reader consider those who were approved, who have loved the audience for so long and who have remained faithful. The final line of the quatrain is a variation of the refrain used through the rest of the poem. The line becomes ‘Forget not This!’
The song is composed of the three line rhyme, or tercet, followed by a fourth line which is repeated, forming a refrain. The intention is to emphasize the connected point of each tercet with a repeated request to ‘forget not’ forming the final quatrain, or four line verse. The use of the negative, ‘forget not’, rather than ‘remember’ accentuates the tone of melancholy and regret.
The first verse stresses the honesty and truth with which the song is composed. By beginning with this assertion, the audience is compelled to see the following sentiments and observations as sincere. There has been considerable effort – ‘great travail’ – put in to this message; not just in the formal structure of the verse, but in the diplomacy with which a difficult and dangerous sentiment is phrased and expressed.
By the second verse the poet highlights the life within the court, how exhausting it is for audience and narrator, and how clandestine the affairs of court are. It is certain that in the young court of King Henry VIII, who was a monarch at 17 and surrounded himself with the young, the witty and the beautiful.