Poetry: Lord Byron - Hours of idleness - Part I - Links to more Byron

Posted by Ricardo Marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 10:42



"Virginibus puerisque canto." -- Horace, lib. iii., Ode 1.
"[Mu-eta-tau alpha-rho mu-epsilon mu-alpha-lambda
alpha-iota-nu-epsilon-epsilon, mu-eta-tau-epsilon
tau-iota nu-epsilon-iota-kappa-epsilon-iota. (Greek)]"
-- Homer, /Iliad,/ x. 2?0.
"He whistled as he went, for want of thought." -- Dryden.

[Transcriber's note: I am not sufficiently familiar with
Greek to know how to satisfactorily denote the accents
In the Homer quote.  Also, the impression in my copy
becomes only semi-legible at the end of the line where
the reference is given.]







                 BY HIS


                                THE AUTHOR.



In submitting to the public eye the following collection, I have not only to combat the difficulties that writers of verse generally encounter, but may incur the charge of presumption for obtruding myself on the world, when, without doubt, I might be, at my age, more usefully employed.

These productions are the fruits of the lighter hours of a young man who has lately completed his nineteenth year.  As they bear the internal evidence of a boyish mind, this is, perhaps, unnecessary information.  Some few were written during the disadvantages of illness and depression of spirits: under the former influence, "CHILDISH RECOLLECTIONS," in particular, were composed.  This consideration, though it cannot excite the voice of praise, may at least arrest the arm of censure.  A considerable portion of these poems has been privately printed, at the request and for the perusal of my friends.  I am sensible that the partial and frequently injudicious admiration of a social circle is not the criterion by which poetical genius is to be estimated, yet, "to do greatly," we must "dare greatly;" and I have hazarded my reputation and feeling in publishing this volume.  "I have passed the Rubicon," and must stand or fall by the "cast of the die."  In the latter event, I shall submit without a murmur; for, though not without solicitude for the fate of these effusions, my expectations are by no means sanguine.  It is probable that I may have dared much and done little; for, in the words of Cowper, "it is one thing to write what may please our friends, who, because they are such, are apt to be a little biased in our favour, and another to write what may please everybody; because they who have no connexion, or even knowledge of the author, will be sure to find fault if they can."  To the truth of this, however, I do not wholly subscribe; on the contrary, I feel convinced that these trifles will not be treated with injustice.  Their merit, if they possess any, will be liberally allowed; their numerous faults, on the other hand, cannot expect that favour which has been denied to others of maturer years, decided character, and far greater ability.

I have not aimed at exclusive originality, still less have I studied any particular model for imitation: some translations are given, of which many are paraphrastic.  In the original pieces there may appear a casual coincidence with authors whose works I have been accustomed to read; but I have not been guilty of intentional plagiarism.  To produce anything entirely new, in an age so fertile in rhyme, would be a Herculean task, as every subject has already been treated to its utmost extent.  Poetry, however, is not my primary vocation; to divert the dull momenta of indisposition, or the monotony of a vacant hour, urged me to "to this sin:" little can be expected from so unpromising a muse.  My wreath, scanty as it may be, is all I shall derive from these productions; and I shall never attempt to replace its fading leaves, or pluck a single additional sprig from groves where I am, at best, an intruder. Though accustomed, in my younger days, to rove a careless mountaineer on the Highlands of Scotland, I have not, of late years, had the benefit of such pure air, or so elevated a residence, as might enable me to enter the lists with genuine bards, who have enjoyed both these advantages.  But they derive considerable fame, and a few not less profit, from their productions: while I shall expiate my rashness as an interloper, certainly without the latter, and in all probability with a very slight share of the former.  I leave to others "virum volitare per ora."  I look to the few who will hear with patience "dulce est desipere in loco."  To the former worthies I resign, without repining, the hope of immortality, and content myself with the not very magnificent prospect of ranking amongst "the mob of gentlemen who write" -- my readers must determine whether I dare say "with ease" -- or the honour of a posthumous page in "The Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors," -- a work to which the Peerage is under infinite obligations, inasmuch as many names of considerable length, sound, and antiquity, are thereby rescued from the obscurity which unluckily overshadows several voluminous productions of their illustrious bearers.

With slight hopes, and some fears, I publish this first and last attempt.  To the dictates of young ambition may be ascribed many actions more criminal and equally absurd.  To a few of my own age, the contents may afford amusement: I trust they will, at least, be found harmless.  It is highly improbable, from my situation and pursuits hereafter, that I should ever obtrude myself a second time on the public; nor, even in the very doubtful event of present indulgence, shall I be tempted to commit a future trespass of the same nature.  The opinion of Dr Johnson on the Poems of a noble relation of mine,* "That when a man of rank appeared in the character of an author, he deserved to have his merit handsomely allowed," can have little weight with verbal, and still less with periodical censors; but were it otherwise, I should be loth to avail myself of the privilege, and would rather incur the bitterest censure of anonymous criticism, than triumph in honours granted solely to a title.

* The Earl of Carlisle, whose works have long received the meed of public applause, to which, by their intrinsic worth, they were well entitled.






Hush'd are the winds, and still the evening gloom,
 Not e'en a zephyr wanders through the grove,
Whilst I return, to view my Margaret's tomb,
 And scatter flowers on the dust I love.

Within this narrow cell reclines her clay,
 That clay, where once such animation beam'd.
The King of Terrors seized her as his prey;
 Not worth, nor beauty, have her life redeem'd.

Oh! could that King of Terrors pity feel,
 Or Heaven reverse the dread decrees of fate!
Not here the mourner would his grief reveal,
 Not here the muse her virtues would relate.

But wherefore weep?  Her matchless spirit soars
 Beyond where splendid shines the orb of day;
And weeping angels lead her to those bowers
 Where endless pleasures virtue's deeds repay.

And shall presumptuous mortals Heaven arraign,
 And, madly, godlike Providence accuse?
Ah! no, far fly from me attempts so vain; --
 I'll ne'er submission to my God refuse.

Yet is remembrance of these virtues dear,
 Yet fresh the memory of that beauteous face;
Still they call forth my warm affection's tear,
 Still in my heart retain their wonted place.


* The author claims the indulgence of the reader more for this piece than, perhaps, any other in the collection; but as it was written at an earlier period than the rest (being composed at the age of fourteen), and his first essay, he preferred submitting it to the indulgence of his friends in its present state, to making either addition or alteration.

         TO E-------.

Let Folly smile, to view the names
 Of thee and me in friendship twined;
Yet Virtue will have greater claims
 To love, than rank with vice combined.

And though unequal is thy fate,
 Since title deck'd my higher birth,
Yet envy not this gaudy state;
 Thine is the pride of modest worth.

Our souls at least congenial meet,
 Nor can thy lot my rank disgrace;
Our intercourse is not less sweet,
 Since worth of rank supplies the place.

                        /November/ 1802


          TO D-------.

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 restores 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?

                         /February/ 1803



[Aleph-sigma-tau-eta-rho pi-rho-iota-nu
mu-epsilon-nu epsilon-lambda-alpha-mu-pi-epsilon-sigma
epsilon-nu-iota zeta-omega-omicron-iota-sigma-iota-nu
epsilon-omega-omicron-sigma. (Greek)] -- Laertus.

O Friend! for ever loved, for ever dear!
What fruitless tears have bathed thy honour'd bier!
What sighs re-echo'd to thy parting breath,
Whilst thou wast struggling in the pangs of death!
Could tears retard the tyrant in his course;
Could signs avert his dart's relentless force;
Could youth and virtue claim a short delay,
Or beauty charm the spectre from his prey;
Thou still hadst lived to bless my aching sight,
Thy comrade's honour and thy friend's delight.
If yet thy gentle spirit hover nigh
The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie,
Here wilt thou read, recorded on my heart,
A grief too deep to trust the sculptor's art.

No marble marks thy couch of lowly sleep,
But living statues there are seen to weep;
Affliction's semblance bends not o'er thy tomb,
Affliction's self deplores thy youthful doom.
What though thy sire lament his failing line,
A father's sorrows cannot equal mine!
Though none, like thee, his dying hour will cheer,
Yet other offspring soothe his anguish here:
But, who with me shall hold thy former place?
Thine image, what new friendship can efface?
Ah! none! -- a father's tears will cease to flow,
Time will assuage an infant brother's woe;
To all, save one, is consolation known,
While solitary friendship sighs alone.



             A FRAGMENT.

When, to their airy hall, my fathers' voice
Shall call my spirit, joyful in their choice;
When, poised upon the gale, my form shall ride,
Or, dark in mist, descend the mountain's side;
Oh! may my shade behold no sculptured urns
To mark the spot where earth to earth returns!
No lengthen'd scroll, no praise-encumber'd stone;
My epitaph shall be my name alone;
If /that/ with honour fail to crown my clay,
Oh! may no other fame my deeds repay!
/That,/ only /that,/ shall single out the spot;
By that remember'd, or with that forgot.




"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
 Let 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 remembrance 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!


* The battle of Marston Moor, where the adherents of Charles I. were defeated. -- Rupert, son of the Elector Palatine, and nephew to Charles I.  He afterwards commanded the fleet in the reign of Charles II.


Written in "Letters to an Italian Nun and an English Gentleman by J. J. Rousseau: Founded on Facts."

    "Away, away, your flattering arts
    May now betray some simple hearts;
    And you will smile at their believing,
    And they shall weep at your deceiving."

Answer to the foregoing, addressed to Miss -----.

Dear, simple girl, those flattering arts,
From which thou'dst guard frail female hearts,
Exist but in imagination --
Mere phantoms of thine own creation;
For he who views that witching grace,
That perfect form, that lovely face,
With eyes admiring, oh! believe me,
He never wishes to deceive thee:
Once in thy polish'd mirror glance,
Thou'lt there descry that elegance
Which from our sex demands such praises,
But envy in the other raises:
Then he who tells thee of thy beauty,
Believe me, only does his duty:
Ah! fly not from the candid youth:
It is not flattery -- 'tis truth.

                           July 1804



Ah! gentle, fleeting, wav'ring sprite,
Friend and associate of this clay!
 To what unknown region borne,
Wilt thou now wing thy distant flight?
No more with wonted humour gay,
 But pallid, cheerless, and forlorn.

* "Animula! vagula, blandula,
 Hospes comesque corporis,
 Quæ nunc abibis in loca--
 Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
 Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos?"



         Ad Lesbiam.

Equal to Jove that youth must be --
Greater than Jove he seems to me --
Who, free from Jealousy's alarms,
Securely views thy matchless charms.
That cheek, which ever dimpling glows,
That mouth, from whence such music flows,
To him, alike, are always known,
Reserved for him and him alone.
Ah, Lesbia! though 'tis death to me,
I cannot choose but look on thee;
But, at the sight, my senses fly;
I needs must gaze, but, gazing, die;
Whilst trembling with a thousand fears,
Parch'd to the throat my tongue adheres,
My pulse beats quick, my breath heaves short,
My limbs deny their slight support,
Cold dews my pallid face o'erspread,
With deadly languor droops my head,
My ears with tingling echoes ring,
And life itself is on the wing;
My eyes refuse the cheering light,
Their orbs are veil'd in starless night:
Such pangs my nature sinks beneath,
And feels a temporary death.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Hebrew Melodies


The Vision Of Judgment

The bride of Abydos

Heaven and Earth:


Poetry: Lord Byron - Hours of idleness - Part I - Links to more Byron 

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