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BYRON, George Gordon

Don Juan

Canto I.

’TIS sweet to hear

At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep

The song and oar of Adria’s gondolier,

By distance mellow’d, o’er the waters sweep;

’Tis sweet to see the evening star appear;

’Tis sweet to listen as the night-winds creep

From leaf to leaf; ’tis sweet to view on high

The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.

’Tis sweet to hear the watch-dog’s honest bark

Bay deep-mouth’d welcome as we draw near home;

’Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark

Our coming, and look brighter when we come;

’Tis sweet to be awaken’d by the lark,

Or lull’d by falling waters; sweet the hum

Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,

The lisp of children, and their earliest words.

Sweet is the vintage, when the showering grapes

In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth,

Purple and gushing; sweet are our escapes

From civic revelry to rural mirth;

Sweet to the miser are his glittering heaps,

Sweet to the father is his first-born’s birth,

Sweet is revenge—especially to women,

Pillage to soldiers, prize-money to seamen.

Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet

The unexpected death of some old lady

Or gentleman of seventy years complete,

Who ’ve made ‘us youth’ wait too—too long already

For an estate, or cash, or country seat,

Still breaking, but with stamina so steady

That all the Israelites are fit to mob its

Next owner for their double-damn’d post-obits.

’Tis sweet to win, no matter how, one’s laurels,

By blood or ink; ’tis sweet to put an end

To strife; ’tis sometimes sweet to have our quarrels,

Particularly with a tiresome friend:

Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels;

Dear is the helpless creature we defend

Against the world; and dear the schoolboy spot

We ne’er forget, though there we are forgot.

But sweeter still than this, than these, than all,

Is first and passionate love—it stands alone.

Like Adam’s recollection of his fall;

The tree of knowledge has been pluck’d—all ’s known—

And life yields nothing further to recall

Worthy of this ambrosial sin, so shown,

No doubt in fable, as the unforgiven

Fire which Prometheus filch’d for us from heaven. …..


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.


Canto 15,


Tussen twee werelden zweeft het leven als een ster,

tussen nacht en morgen, aan de horizon ginds ver.

Wat weten we weinig van wat is ons eigenste gemoed!

Nog minder van wat we kunnen zijn! De eeuwige stoet

van tijd en getij rolt maar aan, en draagt mijlen her

onze bubbels; als d'oude barsten, komt nog een vloed,

gestuwd door eeuwen schuim; een graf wordt gedolven

voor wereldrijken die deinen als voorbijgaande golven.


Vertaling Z. DE MEESTER

To Inez
Awake, ye sons of Spain! awake! advance

Lo! Chivalry, your ancient goddess, cries,

But wields not, as of old, her thirsty lance,

Nor shakes her crimson plumage in the skies:

Now on the smoke of blazing bolts she flies,

And speaks in thunder through yon engine's roar!

In every peal she calls—'Awake! arise!'

Say, is her voice more feeble than of yore,

When her war-song was heard on Andalusia's shore?

There shall they rot—Ambition's honoured fools!

Yes, Honour decks the turf that wraps their clay!

Vain Sophistry! in these behold the tools,

The broken tools, that tyrants cast away

By myriads, when they dare to pave their way

With human hearts—to what?—a dream alone. [

how much

Hath Phoebus wooed in vain to spoil her cheek

Which glows yet smoother from his amorous clutch!

Who round the North for paler dames would seek?

How poor their forms appear? how languid, wan, and weak!

Match me, ye climes! which poets love to laud;

Match me, ye harems! of the land where now

I strike my strain, far distant, to applaud

Beauties that even a cynic must avow!

Match me those houris, whom ye scarce allow

To taste the gale lest Love should ride the wind,

With Spain's dark-glancing daughters—deign to know,

There your wise Prophet's paradise we find,

His black-eyed maids of Heaven, angelically kind.

Nay, smile not at my sullen brow,

Alas! I cannot smile again:

Yet Heaven avert that ever thou

Shouldst weep, and haply weep in vain.

And dost thou ask what secret woe

I bear, corroding joy and youth?

And wilt thou vainly seek to know

A pang even thou must fail to soothe?

It is not love, it is not hate,

Nor low Ambition's honours lost,

That bids me loathe my present state,

And fly from all I prized the most:

It is that weariness which springs

From all I meet, or hear, or see:

To me no pleasure Beauty brings;

Thine eyes have scarce a charm for me.

It is that settled, ceaseless gloom

The fabled Hebrew wanderer bore,

That will not look beyond the tomb,

But cannot hope for rest before.

What exile from himself can flee?

To zones, though more and more remote,

Still, still pursues, where'er I be,

The blight of life—the demon Thought.

Yet others rapt in pleasure seem,

And taste of all that I forsake:

Oh! may they still of transport dream,

And ne'er, at least like me, awake!

Through many a clime 'tis mine to go,

With many a retrospection curst;

And all my solace is to know,

Whate'er betides, I've known the worst.

What is that worst? Nay, do not ask—

In pity from the search forbear:

Smile on—nor venture to unmask

Man's heart, and view the hell that's there.


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?”]

So we'll go no more a roving

So, we'll go no more a roving

So late into the night,

Though the heart be still as loving,

And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,

And the soul wears out the breast,

And the heart must pause to breathe,

And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,

And the day returns too soon,

Yet we'll go no more a roving

By the light of the moon.

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!


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:

And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,

The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,

And men were gather'd round their blazing homes

To look once more into each other's face;

Happy were those who dwelt within the eye

Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:

A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;

Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour

They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks

Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black.

The brows of men by the despairing light

Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits

The flashes fell upon them; some lay down

And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest

Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;

And others hurried to and fro, and fed

Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up

With mad disquietude on the dull sky,

The pall of a past world; and then again

With curses cast them down upon the dust,

And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd

And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,

And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes

Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd

And twin'd themselves among the multitude,

Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.

And War, which for a moment was no more,

Did glut himself again: a meal was bought

With blood, and each sate sullenly apart

Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;

All earth was but one thought—and that was death

Immediate and inglorious; and the pang

Of famine fed upon all entrails—men

Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;

The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,

Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,

And he was faithful to a corse, and kept

The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,

Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead

Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,

But with a piteous and perpetual moan,

And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand

Which answer'd not with a caress—he died.

The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two

Of an enormous city did survive,

And they were enemies: they met beside

The dying embers of an altar-place

Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things

For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,

And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands

The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath

Blew for a little life, and made a flame

Which was a mockery; then they lifted up

Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld

Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died—

Even of their mutual hideousness they died,

Unknowing who he was upon whose brow

Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,

The populous and the powerful was a lump,

Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—

A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.

The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,

And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;

Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,

And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd

They slept on the abyss without a surge—

The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,

The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;

The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,

And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need

Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:

I love not Man the less, but Nature more,

From these our interviews, in which I steal

From all I may be, or have been before,

To mingle with the Universe, and feel

What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

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.

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!