1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Granville Penn, Lines to Harold, 1812; New Monthly Magazine 10 (September 1818) 132-33.



Cold is the breast, extinct the vital spark,
That kindles not to flame at Harold's muse;
The mental vision too, how surely dark,
Which, as the anxious wanderer it pursues,
Sees not a noble heart that fain would choose
The course to heaven, could that course be found;
And since on earth it nothing fears to lose,
Would joy to press that blest etherial ground,
Where peace, and truth, and life, and friends, and love abound.

I deem not Harold's breast a thing of steel;
Steel is the heart that could that thought receive;—
But warm, affectionate, and quick to feel;
Eager in joy — but not unwont to grieve:
And sorely do I view his vessel leave—
Like erring bark of cord and chart bereft—
The shore to which his soul would love to cleave.
Would Harold! I could make thee know, full oft,
That bearing thus the helm, the land thou seek'st is left!—

Is Harold satiated with worldly joy?—
Leaves he his home, his lands without a sigh?
'Tis half the way to heaven! O then employ
That blessed freedom of thy soul to fly
To Him, who ever gracious, ever nigh,
Demands the heart that breaks the world's hard chain:
If early freed, tho' by satiety,
Vast is the privilege that thou mayst gain:
Who, early, foils the foe, may well the prize obtain.

Thou lovest Nature with a filial zeal;
Canst fly mankind to brood with her apart;
Unutterable sense! that inward feel,
When swells the soul, and heaves the labouring heart
With yearning throes, that sympathetic start
At Nature's majesty remote from man.
In kindred raptures I have borne my part;
The Pyrenean horrors loved to scan,
And from the crest of Alps, peruse the mighty plan.

"'Tis extasy to brood o'er flood and fell,
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,
Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,
And mortal steps have 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 God, and see his stores unrolled."

Forget not the artist in the art,
Nor overlook the giver in the grace;
Say! what is Nature but that little part
Which man's imperfect vision can embrace.
Of the stupendous whole that fills all space;
The work of Him by whom all space is bound?—
Shall Raphael's pencil Raphael's self efface?
Shall Handel's self be lost in Handel's sound?
And shall not Nature's God, in Nature's works be found?

But Harold thro' sin's labyrinth has run,
"Nor made atonement when he did amiss:"
And does the mem'ry of that evil done,
Disturb his spirit and obscure his bliss?
'Tis just! 'tis Harold's due; yet let not this
Press heavier on his heart than heaven ordains.
What mortal lives, not guilty or remiss?
What breast that hath not felt remorse's pains?
What human soul so pure but marked with sin's foul stains?

And can this hapless thing — pollute — debased,
Its dying nature self-reanimate?
Say, can the sculptured marble, once defaced,
Restore its lineaments — re-form its state?
That only can the sculptor renovate;
Else must the marr'd and mutilated stone
For ever be disfigured — desolate.
So man may sin and wail, but not atone:
That restorative power belongs to God alone!

Yet is atonement made. — Creation's Lord
Deserts not thus the work his skill devised.
Thou, not the creature only, but the ward,
Too dearly in thy Maker's eye art prized,
Than thus to lie, abandon'd and despis'd!
Atonement is th' Almighty's richest dole,
And ever in the mystic plan compris'd,
To mend the foul debasement of the soul,
Restore God's likeness lost, and make the image whole.

Oh! "if as holiest men have deem'd there be,
A land of souls beyond death's sable shore,"
How would quick-hearted Harold burn to see
The much-lov'd object of his life once more,
And Nature's new sublimities explore
In better worlds! — Ah!, Harold! I conjure,
Speak not in ifs to those whom God hath taught!
If aught on earth, that blessed truth is sure;
All gracious God, to quiet human thought,
Hath pledged his sacred word, and demonstration wrought.

Did Babylon, in truth, by Cyrus fall?—
Is't true that Persia stain'd the Grecian land?—
Did Philip's son the Persian host enthral,
Or Caesar's legions press the British strand?—
Fell Palestine by Titus' brand and sword?—
Could Harold to these facts his fate entrust?
Then let him humbly learn and understand,
That Christ is ris'n; for the unjust — the just;
Sole pledge of mortal frames, still mould'ring in the dust!

But Harold will not look beyond the tomb,
And thinks he may not look for rest before;
Fie, Harold, fie! — Unconscious of thy doom;
The nature of thy soul thou know'st not more:
Nor know'st thy lofty mind which loves to soar!—
Thy glowing spirit, and thy thoughts sublime,
Are foreign to this flat and naked shore,
And languish for their own celestial clime,
Far in the bounds of space, beyond the bounds of time!

Thou must then surely live: — and of that life
Ages on ages shall no part exhaust,
But with renewed existence, ever rife,
No more in dark uncertainty be tost,
When once that turning barrier be crost;
The birth of mortals to immortal day!
Oh let not then this precious hour be lost!
But humbly turn to Him who points the way
To ever during youth — from infinite decay.

Such, such the prospect! such the glorious boon,
The last great end in Heav'n's supreme design!
Deem not thy cloud continuous, for soon
Must truth break in upon a soul like thine,
Yearning, unconscious, for the light divine!
O hear the words of love to thee addrest
By Him, thy Lord, all gracious and benign—
"Come unto me all ye by care opprest!
Come to my open'd arms, and I will give you rest."

Would thou hadst lov'd o'er Judah's court to stray!
Would Sion's Hill, Parnassus' love might share!
What joy to hear thy muse's potent lay
The sacred horrors of that land declare;
And all that holy scene engage thy care,
Where poets harp'd e'er Homer's shell was strung;
Where heavenly wisdom poured her treasures rare,—
Long, long, ere Athens woke to Solon's tongue,—
And truth, inspir'd, scenes of after-ages sung.

But thanks for that we have, and for the more,
Thy Muse doth bid the listening ear attend;
Nor vainly bids those whom she charmed before;
Ah! let not then this humble verse offend!
Her skill can judge the speaking of a friend;
Not zeal presumptuous prompts the cautious strain,
But Christian love, that would to all extend
The cloudless ray, and steady calm that reign
Where evangelic truths their empire due maintain.