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GEORGE GORDON BYRON, LORD BYRON

1788-1824

605                                        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 shall I 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.

606                                       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.

607                                          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 mellow’d to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impair’d 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!

608                                            The Isles of Greece

THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
   Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
   Where Delos rose, and Phbus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.
The Scian and the Teian muse,
   The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse:
   Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires’ ‘Islands of the Blest.
The mountains look on Marathon—
   And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
   I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sate on the rocky brow
   Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
   And men in nations;—all were his!
He counted them at break of day—
   And when the sun set, where were they?
And where are they? and where art thou,
   My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now—
   The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?
’Tis something in the dearth of fame,
   Though link’d among a fetter’d race,
To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
   Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.
Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
   Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
   A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylæ!
What, silent still? and silent all?
   Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent’s fall,
   And answer, ‘Let one living head,
But one, arise,—we come, we come!’
’Tis but the living who are dumb.
In vain—in vain: strike other chords;
   Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
   And shed the blood of Scio’s vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call—
How answers each bold Bacchanal!
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet;
   Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
   The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave—
Think ye he meant them for a slave?
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon’s song divine:
   He served—but served Polycrates—
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.
The tyrant of the Chersonese
   Was freedom’s best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
   O that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
   Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.
Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
   They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords and native ranks
   The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force and Latin fraud
Would break your shield, however broad.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   Our virgins dance beneath the shade—
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
   But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
   Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
   There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

 

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