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[Lord Byron on his deathbed, painted by Joseph-Denis Odevaere]

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 murmurs 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 hath 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. 
* * *

Farewell! If Ever Fondest Prayer

                         Farewell! if ever fondest prayer
                             For other’s weal availed on high,
                         Mine will not all be lost in air,
                             But waft thy name beyond the sky.
                         ‘Twere 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 pass not by,
                             The thought 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! 
* * *

Fare Thee Well

                             “Alas! they had been friends in youth: 
                             But whispering tongues can poison truth; 
                             And constancy lives in realms above; 
                             And life is thorny; and youth is vain; 
                             And to be wroth with one we love, 
                             Doth work like madness in the brain; 

                             But never either found another 
                             To free the hollow heart from paining – 
                             They stood aloof, the scars remaining. 
                             Like cliffs which had been rent asunder; 
                             A dreary sea now flows between, 
                             But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder, 
                             Shall wholly do away, I ween, 
                             The marks of that which once hath been.” 
                                                   [Coleridge, Christabel ]

                         Fare thee well! and if for ever,
                             Still for ever, fare thee well:
                         Even though unforgiving, never
                             ‘Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

                         Would that breast were bared before thee
                             Where thy head so oft hath lain,
                         While that placid sleep came o’er thee
                             Which thou ne’er canst know again:

                         Would that breast, by thee glanced over,
                             Every inmost thought could show!
                         Then thou wouldst at last discover
                             ‘Twas not well to spurn it so.

                         Though the world for this commend thee –
                             Though it smile upon the blow,
                         Even its praise must offend thee,
                             Founded on another’s woe:

                         Though my many faults defaced me,
                             Could no other arm be found,
                         Than the one which once embraced me,
                             To inflict a cureless wound?

                         Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
                             Love may sink by slow decay,
                         But by sudden wrench, believe not
                             Hearts can thus be torn away:

                         Still thine own its life retaineth,
                             Still must mine, though bleeding, beat;
                         And the undying thought which paineth
                             Is – that we no more may meet.

                         These are words of deeper sorrow
                             Than the wail above the dead;
                         Both shall live, but every morrow
                             Wake us from a widowed bed.

                         And when thou wouldst solace gather,
                             When our child’s first accents flow,
                         Wilt thou teach her to say “Father!”
                             Though his care she must forego?

                         When her little hands shall press thee,
                             When her lip to thine is pressed,
                         Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee,
                             Think of him thy love had blessed!

                         Should her lineaments resemble
                             Those thou never more may’st see,
                         Then thy heart will softly tremble
                             With a pulse yet true to me.

                         All my faults perchance thou knowest,
                             All my madness none can know;
                         All my hopes, where’er thou goest,
                             Wither, yet with thee they go.

                         Every feeling hath been shaken;
                             Pride, which not a world could bow,
                         Bows to thee – by thee forsaken,
                             Even my soul forsakes me now:

                         But ’tis done – all words are idle –
                             Words from me are vainer still;
                         But the thoughts we cannot bridle
                             Force their way without the will.

                         Fare thee well! thus disunited,
                             Torn from every nearer tie.
                         Seared in heart, and lone, and blighted,
                             More than this I scarce can die. 

* * * * * *

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