1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Auctor, "A Lament on the Death of the Noble Poet, Lord Byron" The Examiner (23 May 1824) 329.



Oh! Men of Sparta and of Salamis!
Of hilly Athens, — of "bleak Thermopylae"
Of Corinth, whom the double waters kiss,
And Marathon, that awake, like freedom, — free,
And drove the gaudy Persians hounds,
Shaking with foreign fear and gory wounds,
Across the Hellespont wild and deep,—
Mourn! Mourn! Mourn!
The PATRIOT of all Countries lies for aye asleep!

Mourn, mourn, O mourn! Glory and Strength have died;
Bright Genius faded hath, and dazzling wit;
And the proud spirit of the mind (a pride
Pillared on large endowments) down is smit.
Mourn, therefore, to the winds and weeping air!
The perfect music of your deep despair,
As triumph answered once the Spartan state!
Perhaps some hovering sense may still abide
Like Conquest by your side;
Or, — as when BION died,
The Dorian waters wide
Spoke in reply, as may the barren main
Grow fruitful with a sound
Of Sorrow, caught from the sepulchring ground:—
Mourn, therefore, men of Athens! still complain!

And ye who are left behind
Far from the sunny shore, where Freedom pined,
Till he, and others like him, cherished
The dawning Courage till it broke in Day,—
Know ye the Poet of your land hath perished,
A stranger, among troubles, — far away?
O foes! O friends! All, all who have loved the light
Wherein he soothed his spirit stern and high,
Unite! Unite!
And for a Prince of Poesy,
Who garlanded his brows with deathless song,
Offer now gentle tears and earnest prayers!
Offer up virgin sighs and silver hairs
Torn from the childless brow, and, above all,
That dark and bitter gall
Which wrought on men else kind, alas! to do him wrong!

He was a Poet, and was long possessed
By holy fury and a fine disdain,
Such as should touch the breast
Of Phoebus' follower, never known in vain:
He was a Poet whom the mountains owned,
The bleak rocks, and the tempest-lifted wave,
And the mad battle, and the ghastly grave!—
Nothing in man's wide world ever disowned
His sway, but waited on his various skill,
And answered, as he touched the quill,
In deep harmonious measures which might drown despite!
Sometimes he sang of pain,
And sometimes in a blyther vein,
And heroes wrought in song, and patriots rare,
Green earth and heavenly blue,
The tender, and the true,
The fierce, the false, the great, and (most) the fair!

And is he gone? — Yet shall his great example
Survive, as doth a glory, on that land
Where Greeks have met to perish, or else trample
The bloody Crescent down, all hand in hand
Like banded brothers armed for their fame.—
There lives he in the shadow of his name:
And the great Spirit which he woke by song
Shall breath in battle till the Turk be slain,
And frowning Truth appeased, and lightnings strong
Have molten every despot-forged chain!
O Greece! O Freedom! If your cause be crowned,
Much shall ye owe to him who fondly clung
Beside ye, like your child, and sung
Your famous heroes to his latest sound;
And then, upon your laurell'd ground,
Sank, like the eagle in its flight,
And perished in his utmost flight,
Before his toil was o'er, beloved and renowned!

Men of a future age and happier time
Shall turn back to his ashes pale and cold,
And read the wonders of his starry rhyme,
And sigh o'er all he writ and all he said of old:—
And youthful poets to his carved urn
Shalt come and often mourn,—
Shall come as to a far and holy shrine,
And weave Imagination fine,
And airy thoughts, and dreams that will not die,
In many a sweet and gentle Elegy!