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BYRON, George Gordon

The Prisoner of Chillon

My hair is grey, but not with years,

Nor grew it white

In a single night,

As men's have grown from sudden fears
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing

To see the human soul take wing

In any shape, in any mood.
A light broke in upon my brain, —

It was the carol of a bird;

It ceased, and then it came again,

The sweetest song ear ever heard

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.


One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o'er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.


And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!


Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!

Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;

Man marks the earth with ruin; his control

Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain

The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain

A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,

When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,

Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths; thy fields

Are not a spoil for him; thou dost arise

And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields

For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,

Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,

And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray,

And howling, to his gods, where haply lies

His petty hope in some near port or bay,

And dashest him again to earth: there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls

Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,

And monarchs tremble in their capitals,

The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make

Their clay creator the vain title take

Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war,—

hese are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,

They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar

Alike the Armada’s pride or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee:

Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?

Thy waters washed them power while they were free,

And many a tyrant since; their shores obey

The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay

Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,

Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play;

Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow;

Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form

Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,

Calm or convulsed; in breeze or gale or storm,

Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime

Dark-heaving, boundless, endless, and sublime,—

The image of Eternity, the throne

Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime

The monsters of the deep are made; each zone

Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy

Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be

Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy

I wantoned with thy breakers; they to me

Were a delight; and if the freshening sea

Made them a terror, ’t was a pleasing fear,

For I was as it were a child of thee,

And trusted to thy billows far and near,

And laid my hand upon thy mane, as I do here.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,

To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,

Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,

And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been;

To climb the trackless mountain all unseen,

With the wild flock that never needs a fold;

Alone o'er steeps and foaming falls to lean;

This is not solitude, 'tis but to hold

Converse with Nature's charms, and view her stores unrolled.

But midst the crowd, the hurry, the shock of men,

To hear, to see, to feel and to possess,

And roam alone, the world's tired denizen,

With none who bless us, none whom we can bless;

Minions of splendour shrinking from distress!

None that, with kindred consciousness endued,

If we were not, would seem to smile the less

Of all the flattered, followed, sought and sued;

This is to be alone; this, this is solitude!


January 22nd, Missolonghi
On this Day I Complete my Thirty-Sixth Year

'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,

       Since others it hath ceased to move:

Yet though I cannot be beloved,

                                    Still let me love!

   My days are in the yellow leaf;

       The flowers and fruits of Love are gone;

The worm—the canker, and the grief

                                    Are mine alone!

   The fire that on my bosom preys

       Is lone as some Volcanic Isle;

No torch is kindled at its blaze

                                    A funeral pile.

   The hope, the fear, the jealous care,

       The exalted portion of the pain

And power of Love I cannot share,

                                    But wear the chain.

   But 'tis not thus—and 'tis not here

       Such thoughts should shake my Soul, nor now,

Where Glory decks the hero's bier,

                                    Or binds his brow.

   The Sword, the Banner, and the Field,

       Glory and Greece around us see!

The Spartan borne upon his shield

                                    Was not more free.

   Awake (not Greece—she is awake!)

       Awake, my Spirit! Think through whom

Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake

                                    And then strike home!

   Tread those reviving passions down

       Unworthy Manhood—unto thee

Indifferent should the smile or frown

                                    Of beauty be.

   If thou regret'st thy Youth, why live?

       The land of honourable Death

Is here:—up to the Field, and give

                                    Away thy breath!

   Seek out—less often sought than found—

       A Soldier's Grave, for thee the best;

Then look around, and choose thy Ground,

                                    And take thy rest.


Adieu, adieu! my native shore

Fades o'er the waters blue;

The night-winds sigh, the breakers roar,

And shrieks the wild sea-mew.

Yon sun that sets upon the sea

We follow in his flight;

arewell awhile to him and thee,

My Native Land--Good Night!

A few short hours, and he will rise

To give the morrow birth;

And I shall hail the main and skies,

But not my mother earth.

Deserted is my own good hall,

Its hearth is desolate;

Wild weeds are gathering on the wall,

My dog howls at the gate.

'Come hither, hither, my little page:

Why dost thou weep and wail?

Or dost thou dread the billow's rage,

Or tremble at the gale?

But dash the tear-drop from thine eye,

Our ship is swift and strong;

Our fleetest falcon scarce can fly

More merrily along.'

'Let winds be shrill, let waves roll high,

I fear not wave nor wind;

Yet marvel not, Sir Childe, that I

Am sorrowful in mind;

For I have from my father gone,

A mother whom I love,

And have no friend, save these alone,

But thee--and One above.

'My father blessed me fervently,

Yet did not much complain;

But sorely will my mother sigh

Till I come back again.' -

'Enough, enough, my little lad!

Such tears become thine eye;

If I thy guileless bosom had,

Mine own would not be dry.

'Come hither, hither, my staunch yeoman,

Why dost thou look so pale?

Or dost thou dread a French foeman,

Or shiver at the gale?' -

'Deem'st thou I tremble for my life?

Sir Childe, I'm not so weak;

But thinking on an absent wife

Will blanch a faithful cheek.

'My spouse and boys dwell near thy hall,

Along the bordering lake;

And when they on their father call,

What answer shall she make?' -

'Enough, enough, my yeoman good,

Thy grief let none gainsay;

But I, who am of lighter mood,

Will laugh to flee away.'

For who would trust the seeming sighs

Of wife or paramour?

Fresh feeres will dry the bright blue eyes

We late saw streaming o'er.

For pleasures past I do not grieve,

Nor perils gathering near;

My greatest grief is that I leave

No thing that claims a tear.

And now I'm in the world alone,

Upon the wide, wide sea;

But why should I for others groan,

When none will sigh for me?

Perchance my dog will whine in vain

Till fed by stranger hands;

But long ere I come back again

He'd tear me where he stands.

With thee, my bark, I'll swiftly go

Athwart the foaming brine;

Nor care what land thou bear'st me to,

So not again to mine.

Welcome, welcome, ye dark blue waves!

And when you fail my sight,

Welcome, ye deserts, and ye caves!

My Native Land--Good Night!

Thy Days Are Done

Thy days are done, thy fame begun;
Thy country's strains record
The triumphs of her chosen Son,
The slaughter of his sword!
The deeds he did, the fields he won,
The freedom he restored!

Though thou art fall'n, while we are free
Thou shalt not taste of death!
The generous blood that flow'd from thee
Disdain'd to sink beneath:
Within our veins its currents be,
Thy spirit on our breath!

Thy name, our charging hosts along,
Shall be the battle-word!
Thy fall, the theme of choral song
From virgin voices pour'd!
To weep would do thy glory wrong:
Thou shalt not be deplored.

My Soul Is Dark

My soul is dark - Oh! quickly string

The harp I yet can brook to hear;

And let thy gentle fingers fling

Its melting murmurs o'er mine ear.

If in this heart a hope be dear,

That sound shall charm it forth again:

If in these eyes there lurk a tear,

'Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.

But bid the strain be wild and deep,

Nor let thy notes of joy be first:

I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,

Or else this heavy heart will burst;

For it hath been by sorrow nursed,

And ached in sleepless silence, long;

And now 'tis doomed to know the worst,

And break at once - or yield to song

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 shrudder comes o'er me--

Why wert thou so dear?

They know not I knew thee,

Who knew thee so 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.

Know ye the land where the cypress and...

Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle

Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime,

Where the rage of the vulture -- the love of the turtle --

Now melt into sorrow -- now madden to crime? --

Know ye the land of the cedar and vine?

Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine,

Where the light wings of Zephyr, oppress'd with perfume,

Wax faint o'er the gardens of Gúl in her bloom;

Where the citron and olive are fairest of fruit,

And the voice of the nightingale never is mute;

Where the tints of the earth, and the hues of the sky,

In colour though varied, in beauty may vie,

And the purple of Ocean is deepest in dye,

Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,

And all, save the spirit of man, is divine?

'Tis the clime of the East; 't is the land of the Sun ---

Can he smile on such deeds as his children have done?

Oh ! wild as the accents of lovers farewell

Are the hearts which they bear, and the tales which they tell.

(The opening lines were probably suggested by Goethe's "Kennst du das Land wo die citronen blühn?”]

Don Juan
Canto xv
Stanza 99

Between two worlds life hovers like a star,

’Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.

How little do we know that which we are!

How less what we may be! The eternal surge

Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar

Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge,

Lash’d from the foam of ages; while the graves

Of empires heave but like some passing waves.