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George Gordon Noel Byron
1788 - 1824
was born into an aristocratic English family; even so, he led the life of a vagabond; a "haughty and aristocratic genius" subject only to his own ruling passions. He was born with a malformation of one foot, which left him with a life long limp; he grew up, however, to be a dark, handsome man; the women liked Byron and he liked women; his sexual exploits are legend. Byron spent most of his adult life on the continent, making his first trip in 1809 with his school chum, John Hobhouse. Hobhouse returned to England leaving Bryon to go on to Greece by himself. During this eastern trip Bryon wrote the first two cantos of "Childe Harold," which tells the story of his tour. On his return to England he arranged for its publication and it "took the town by storm; seven editions were sold in a month." Byron tried to settle down into a regular aristocratic life, even to the point of getting himself married (it lasted but a few months); but none of it worked very well for Byron. By 1821, Byron was permanently living in Italy where he is part of a romantic literary circle, a circle which includes the Hunts; the Shelleys; and, of course, Trelawney. Byron was to get himself caught up with the war between the Greeks and the Turks, and, in 1824, Byron embarked for Greece. Shortly, thereafter, at the age of 36, though likely not seeing any action, Byron dies at Missolonghi, Greece.
So we’ll go no more a-roving
|ON LEAVING NEWSTEAD ABBEY|
|Epitaph for William Pitt|
|My Soul Is Dark|
|THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB|
THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
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 murmur 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 had 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
Epitaph for William Pitt
With Death doomed to grapple,
Beneath this cold slab, he
Wholied in the Chapel,
Now lies in the Abbey.
ON LEAVING NEWSTEAD ABBEY
‘Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days?
Thou lookest from thy tower to-day; yet a few years,
and the blast of the desert comes, it howls in thy empty court.’ - Ossian
Through thy battlements, Newstead, the hollow winds whistle;
Thou, the hall of my fathers, art gone to decay;
In thy once smiling garden, the hemlock and thistle
Have choked up the rose which late bloom’d in the way.
Of the mail-cover’d Barons, who proudly to battle
Led their vassals from Europe to Palestine’s plain,
The escutcheon and shield, which with every blast rattle,
Are the only sad vestiges now that remain.
No more doth old Robert, with harp-stringing numbers,
Raise a flame in the breast for the war-laurell’d wreath;
Near Askalon’s towers, John of Horistan slumbers,
Unnerved is the hand of his minstrel by death.
Paul and Hubert, too, sleep in the valley of Cressy;
For the safety of Edward and England they fell:
My fathers! the tears of your country redress ye;
How you fought, how you died, still her annals can tell.
On Marston, with Rupert, ‘gainst traitors contending,
Four brothers enrich’d with their blood the bleak field;
For the rights of a monarch their country defending,
Till death their attachment to royalty seal’d.
Shades of heroes, farewell! your descendant, departing
From the seat of his ancestors, bids you adieu!
Abroad, or at home, your remebrance imparting
New courage, he’ll think upon glory and you.
Though a tear dim his eye at this sad separation,
’Tis nature, not fear, that excites his regret;
Far distant he goes, with the same emulation,
The fame of his fathers he ne’er can forget.
That fame, and that memory, still will he cherish;
He vows that he ne’er will disgrace your renown:
Like you will he live, or like you will he perish;
When decay’d, may he mingle his dust with your own!
Farewell! If ever fondest
For other’s weal avail’d on high,
Mine will not all be lost in air,
But waft thy name beyond the sky.
’T were vain to speak, to weep, to sigh:
Oh! More than tears of blood can tell,
When wrung from guilt’s expiring eye,
Are in that word – Farewell! – farewell!
These lips are mute, these eyes are dry;
But in my breast and in my brain,
Awake the pangs that pas not by,
The sought that ne’er shall sleep again.
My soul nor deigns nor dares complain,
Though grief and passion there rebel;
I only know we loved in vain -
I only feel – Farewell! – Farewell!
Lines written in an album, at Malta
As o’er the cold sepulcher stone
Some name arrests the passer-by;
Thus, when thou view’st this page alone,
May mine attract thy pensive eye!
And when by thee that name is read,
Perchance in some succeeding year,
Reflect on me as on the dead,
And think my Heart is buried here.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey--
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day--)
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squandered my whole summer while 'twas May,
And feel no more the spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deemed, my soul invincible.
No more--no more--Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new;
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee.
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 'twas not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of the flower.
No more--no more--Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, my universe!
Once in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse:
The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgement,
Though Heaven knows how it ever found a lodgement.
My days of love are over; me no more
The charms of maid, wife, and still less widow,
Can make the fool of which they made before,--
In short, I must not lead the life I did do;
The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er,
The copious use of claret is forbid too,
So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
Ambition was my idol, which was broken
Before the shrines of Sorrow, and of Pleasure;
And the two last have left me many a token
O'er which reflection may be made at leisure:
Now, like Friar Bacon's Brazen Head, I've spoken,
'Time is, Time was, Time's past': a chymic treasure
Is glittering Youth, which I have spent betimes--
My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.
What is the end of Fame? 'tis but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their 'midnight taper',
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture and worse bust.
What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's King
Cheops erected the first Pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging
Burglariously broke his coffin's lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
But I, being fond of true philosophy,
Say very often to myself, 'Alas!
All things that have been born were born to die,
And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass;
You've passed your youth not so unpleasantly,
And if you had it o'er again--'twould pass--
So thank your stars that matters are not worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse.'
O, snatch'd away in beauty’s bloom!
On thee shall press noo ponderous tomb;
But on thy turf shall roses rear
Their leaves, the earliest of the year,
And the wild cypress wave in tender gloom.
And oft by yon blue gushing stream
Shall Sorrow lean her drooping head,
And feed deep thought with many a dream,
And lingering pause and lightly tread;
Fond wretch! as if her step disturb'd the dead!
Away! we know that tears are vain,
That Death nor heeds nor hears distress:
Will this unteach us to complain?
Or make one mourner weep the less?
And thou, who tell'st me to forget,
Thy looks are wan, thine eyes are wet.
In thee I fondly hoped to clasp
A friend whom death alone could sever;
Till envy, with malignant grasp,
Detach'd thee from my breast for ever.
True, she has forced thee from my breast,
Yet in my heart thou keep'st thy seat;
There, there thine image still must rest,
Until that heart shall cease to beat.
And when the grave restored her dead,
When life again to dust is given,
On thy dear breast I'll lay my head--
Without thee where would be my heaven?
The spell is broke, the charm is flown!
© 2000 Elena and Yacov Feldman