Poetry: Lord Byron - Hours of idleness - Part 6 - Links to more Byron

Posted by Ricardo Marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 11:07


When fierce conflicting passions urge
 The breast where love is wont to glow,
What mind can stem the stormy surge
 Which rolls the tide of human woe?
The hope of praise, the dread of shame,
 Can rouse the tortured breast no more;
The wild desire, the guilty flame,
 Absorbs each wish it felt before.

But if affection gently thrills
 The soul by purer dreams possest,
The pleasing balm of mortal ills
 In love can soothe the aching breast:
If thus thou comest in disguise,
 Fair Venus! from thy native heaven
What heart unfeeling would despise
 The sweetest boon the gods have given?

But never from thy golden bow
 May I beneath the shaft expire!
Whose creeping venom, sure and slow,
 Awakes on all-consuming fire:
Ye racking doubts! ye jealous fears!
 With others wage internal war;
Repentance, source of future tears,
 From me be ever distant far!

May no distracting thoughts destroy
 The holy calm of sacred love!
May all the hours be wing'd with joy,
 Which hover faithful hearts above!
Fair Venus! on thy myrtle shrine
 May I with some fond lover sigh,
Whose heart may mingle pure with mine --
 With me to live, with me to die.

My native soil! beloved before,
 Now dearer as my peaceful home,
Ne'er may I quit thy rocky shore,
 A hapless banish'd wretch to roam!
This very day, this very hour,
 May I resign this fleeting breath!
Nor quit my silent humble bower;
 A doom to me far worse than death.

Have I not heard the exile's sigh?
 And seen the exile's silent tear,
Through distant climes condemn'd to fly,
 A pensive weary wanderer here?
Ah! hapless dame! no sire bewails,*
 No friend thy wretched fate deplores.
No kindred voice with rapture hails
 Thy steps within a stranger's doors.

Perish the fiend whose iron heart,
 To fair affection's truth unknown,
Bids her he fondly loved depart,
 Untitled, helpless, and alone;
Who ne'er unlocks with silver key**
 The milder treasures of his soul --
May such a friend be far from me,
 And ocean's storms between us roll!

* Medea, who accompanied Jason to Corinth, was deserted by him for the daughter of Creon, king of that city.  The chorus from which this is taken here addresses Medea; though a considerable liberty is taken with the original, by expanding the idea, as also in some other parts of the translation.

** The original means literally, "disclosing the bright key of the mind."


High in the midst, surrounded by his peers,
Magnus his ample front sublime uprears:*
Placed on his chair of state, he seems a god,
While Sophs and Freshmen tremble at his nod.
As all around sit wrapt in speechless gloom,
His voice in thunder shakes the sounding dome;
Denouncing dire reproach to luckless fools,
Unskill'd to plod in mathematic rules.

 Happy the youth in Euclid's axioms tried,
Though little versed in any art beside;
Who, scarcely skill'd an English line to pen,
Scans Attic metres with a critic's ken.
What, though he knows not how his fathers bled,
When civil discord piled the fields with dead,
When Edward bade his conquering bands advance,
Or Henry trampled on the crest of France:
Though marvelling at the name of Magna Charta,
Yet well he recollects the law of Sparta:
Can tell what edicts sage Lycurgus made,
While Blackstone's on the shelf neglected laid;
Of Grecian dramas vaunts the deathless fame,
Of Avon's bard remembering scarce the name.

 Such is the youth whose scientific pate
Class-honours, medals, fellowships await;
Or even, perhaps, the declamation prise,
If to such glorious height he lift his eyes.
But lo! no common orator can hope
The envied silver cup within his scope.
Not that our heads much eloquence require,
Th' Athenian's** glowing style, or Tully's fire,
A manner clear or warm is useless, since
We do not try by speaking to convince.
Be other orators of pleasing proud:
We speak to please ourselves, not move the crowd:
Our gravity prefers the muttering tone,
A proper mixture of the squeak and groan:
No borrow'd grace of action must be seen,
The slightest motion would displease the Dean;
Whilst every staring graduate would prate
Against what he could never imitate.

 The man who hopes t' obtain the promised cup
Must in one posture stand, and ne'er look up,
Nor stop, but rattle over every word --
No matter what, so it can /not/ be heard.
Thus let him hurry on, nor think to rest:
Who speaks the fastest 's sure to speak the best;
Who utters most within the shortest space
May safely hope to win the wordy race.

 The sons of science these, who, thus repaid,
Linger in ease in Granta's sluggish shade;
Where on Cam's sedgy bank supine they lie
Unknown, unhonour'd live, unwept for die:
Dull as the pictures which adorn their halls.
They think all learning fix'd within their walls;
In manners rude, in foolish forms precise,
All modern arts affecting to despise;
Yet prizing Bentley's, Brunck's, or Porson's note,***
More than the verse on which the critic wrote;
Vain as their honours, heavy as their ale,
Sad as their wit, and tedious as their tale;
To friendship dead, though not untaught to feel
When Self and Church demand a bigot zeal.
With eager haste they court the lord of power,
Whether 'tis Pitt or Petty rules the hour;****
To him, with suppliant smiles, they bend the head,
While distant mitres to their eyes are spread.
But should a storm o'erwhelm him with disgrace,
They'd fly to seek the next who fill'd his place.
Such are the men who learning's treasures guard!
Such is their practice, such is their reward!
This much, at least, we may presume to say --
The premium can't exceed the price they pay.

* No reflection is here intended against the person intended under the name of Magnus.  He is merely represented as performing an unavoidable function of his office.  Indeed, such an attempt could only recoil upon myself; as that gentlemen is now as much distinguished by his eloquence, and the dignified propriety with which he fills his situation, as he was in his younger days for wit and conviviality.

** Demosthenes.

*** Porson, Greek professor of Trinity College, Cambridge; a man whose powers of mind and writing may, perhaps, justify their preference.

**** Since this was written, Lord Henry Petty has lost his place, and subsequently (I had almost said consequently) the honour of representing the University.  A fact so glaring requires no comment.


Sweet girl! though only once we met,
That meeting I shall ne'er forget;
And though we ne'er may meet again,
Remembrance will thy form retain.
I would not say, "I love," but still
My senses struggle with my will:
In vain, to drive thee from my breast,
My thoughts are more and more represt;
In vain I check the rising sighs,
Another to the last replies:
Perhaps this is not love, but yet
Our meeting I can ne'er forget.

What though we never silence broke,
Our eyes a sweet language spoke;
The tongue in flattering falsehood deals,
And tells a tale it never feels:
Deceit the guilty lips impart;
And hush the mandates of the heart;
But soul's interpreters, the eyes,
Spurn such restraint, and scorn disguise.
As thus our glances oft conversed,
And all our bosoms felt rehearsed,
No spirit from within, reproved us,
Say rather, "'twas the spirit moved us."
Though what they utter'd I repress,
Yet I conceive thou'lt partly guess;
For as on thee my memory ponders,
Perchance to me thine also wanders.
This for myself, at least, I'll say,
Thy form appears through night, through day:
Awake, with it my fancy teems;
In sleep, it smiles in fleeting dreams:
The vision charms the hours away,
And bids me curse Aurora's ray,
For breaking slumbers of delight,
Which make me wish for endless night.
Since, oh! whate'er my future fate,
Shall joy or woe my steps await,
Tempted by love, by storms beset,
Thine image I can ne'er forget.

Alas! again no more we meet,
No more our former looks repeat;
Then let me breathe this parting prayer,
The dictate of our bosom's care:
"May Heaven so guard my lovely quaker,
That anguish never can o'ertake her;
That peace and virtue ne'er forsake her:
But bliss be aye her heart's partaker:
Oh! may the happy mortal, fated
To be, by dearest ties, related,
For her each hour new joys discover
And lose the husband in the lover!
May that fair bosom never know
What 'tis to feel the restless woe,
Which stings the soul with vain regret
Of him who never can forget!"


No specious splendour of this stone
 Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre only once it shone,
 And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship's ties,
 Have, for my weakness, oft reproved me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize --
 For I am sure the giver loved me.

He offer'd it with downcast look,
 As fearful that I might refuse it;
I told him when the gift I took,
 My only fear should be to lose it.

This pledge attentively I view'd,
 And sparkling as I held it near,
Methought one drop the stone bedew'd,
 And ever since I've loved a tear.

Still, to adorn his humble youth,
 Nor wealth, nor birth their treasures yield;
But he who seeks the flowers of truth,
 Must quit the garden for the field.

'Tis not the plant uprear'd in sloth,
 Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers which yield the most of both
 In Nature's wild luxuriance bloom.

Had Fortune aided Nature's care,
 For once forgetting to be blind,
His would have been an ample share,
 If well proportion'd to his mind.

But had the goddess clearly seen,
 His form had fix'd her fickle breast;
Her countless hoards would his have been,
 And none remain'd to give thee rest.

Delivered previous to the performance of
"The Wheel of Fortune" at a private theatre.

Since the refinement of this polish'd age
Has swept immortal raillery from the stage;
Since taste has now expunged licentious wit,
Which stamp'd disgrace on all an author writ;
Since now to please with purer scenes we seek,
Nor dare to call the blush from Beauty's cheeck,
Oh! let the modest Muse some pity claim,
And meet indulgence, though she find not fame.
Still, not for her alone we wish respect,
Others appear more conscious of defect:
To-night no veteran Roscii you behold,
In all the arts of scenic action old;
No Cooke, no Kemble, can salute you here.
No Siddons draw the sympathetic tear;
To-night you throng to witness the /début/
Of embryo actors, to the Drama new:
Here, then, our almost unfledged wings we try;
Clip not our pinions ere the birds can fly:
Failing in this our first attempt to soar,
Drooping, alas! we fall to rise no more.
Not one poor trembler only fear betrays,
Who hopes, yet almost dreads, to meet your praise;
But all our /dramatis personæ/ wait
In fond suspense this crisis of their fate.
No venal views our progress can retard,
Your generous plaudits are our sole reward:
For these, each Hero all his power displays,
Each timid Heroine shrinks before your gaze.
Surely the last will some protection find;
None to the softer sex can prove unkind:
While Youth and Beauty form the female shield,
The sternest censor to the fair must yield.
Yet, should our feeble efforts nought avail,
Should, after all, our best endeavours fail,
Still let some mercy in your bosoms live,
And, if you can't applaud, at least forgive.


The following illiberal impromptu appeared in a morning paper:

    "Our nations' foes lament on Fox's death,
    But bless the hour when Pitt resign'd his breath;
    These feelings wide, let sense and truth unclue,
    We give the palm where Justice points it's due."

To which the author of these pieces sent the following reply:

O factious viper! whose envenom'd tooth
Would mangle still the dead, perverting truth;
What though our "nation's foes" lament the fate,
With generous feeling, of the good and great,
Shall dastard tongues essay to blast the name
Of him whose meed exists in endless fame?
When Pitt expired in plenitude of power,
Though ill success obscured his dying hour,
Pity her dewy wings before him spread,
For noble spirits "war not with the dead."
His friends, in tears, a last sad requiem gave,
As all his errors slumber'd in the grave;
He sunk, an Atlas bending 'neath the weight
Of cares o'erwhelming our conflicting state:
When, lo! a Hercules in Fox appear'd,
Who for a time the ruin'd fabric rear'd:
He, too, is fall'n, who Britain's loss supplied,
With him our fast-reviving hopes have died;
Not one great people only raise his urn,
All Europe's far-extended regions mourn.
"These feelings wide, let sense and truth unclue,
To give the palm where Justice points it's due:"
Yet let not canker'd Calumny assail,
Or round our statesman wind her gloomy veil.
Fox! o'er whose corse a mourning world must weep,
Whose dear remains in honour'd marble sleep;
For whom, at last, e'en hostile nations groan,
While friends and foes alike his talents own;
Fox shall in Britain's future annals shine,
Nor e'en to Pitt the patriot's palm resign;
Which Envy, wearing Candour's sacred mask,
For Pitt, and Pitt alone, has dared to ask.


              THE TEAR.

    "O lachrymaruym fons, tenero sacros
     Ducentium ortus ex animo; quater
      Felix! in imo qui scatentum
       Pectore te, pia Nympha, sensit." -- Gray.

When Friendship or Love our sympathies move,
 When Truth in a glance should appear,
The lips may beguile with a dimple or smile,
 But the test of affection's a Tear.

Too oft is a smile but the hypocrite's wile,
 To mask detestation or fear;
Give me the soft sigh, whilst the soul-telling eye
 Is dimm'd for a time with a Tear.

Mild Charity's glow, to us mortals below,
 Shews the soul from barbarity clear;
Compassion will melt where this virtue is felt,
 And its dew is diffused in a Tear.

The man doom'd to sail with the blast of the gale,
 Through billows Atlantic to steer,
As he bends o'er the wave which may soon be his grave,
 The green sparkles bright with a Tear.

The soldier braves death for a fanciful wreath
 In Glory's romantic career:
But he raises the foe when in battle laid low,
 And bathes every wound with a Tear.

If with high-bounding pride he return to his bride,
 Renouncing the gore-crimson'd spear,
All his toils are repaid, when, embracing the maid,
 From her eyelid he kisses the Tear.

Sweet scene of my youth! seat of Friendship and Truth,*
 Where loved chased each fast-fleeting year,
Loth to leave thee, I mourn'd, for a last look I turn'd,
 But thy spire was scarce seen through a Tear.

Though my vows I can pour to my Mary no more,
 My Mary to love once so dear;
In the shade of her bower I remember the hour
 She rewarded those vows with a Tear.

By another possest, may she live ever blest!
 Her name still my heart must revere:
With a sigh I resign what I once thought was mine,
 And forgive her deceit with a Tear.

Ye friends of my heart, ere from you I depart,
 This hope to my breast is most near:
If again we shall meet in this rural retreat,
 May we meet, as we part, with a Tear.

When my soul wings her flight to the regions of night,
 And my corse shall recline on its bier,
As ye pass by the tomb where my ashes consume,
 Oh! moisten their dust with a Tear.

May no marble bestow the splendour of woe,
 Which the children of vanity rear;
No fiction of fame shall blazon my name;
 All I ask -- all I wish -- is a Tear.

                                  October 26, 1806.

* Harrow.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Hebrew Melodies

Hours of idleness


The Vision Of Judgment

The bride of Abydos

Heaven and Earth:


Poetry: Lord Byron - Hours of idleness - Part 6 - Links to more Byron

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