Lord Byron, painted by Richard Westall c. 1813
(on display at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome)
As once this pledge appear’d a token,
These follies had not, then, been mine,
For, then, my peace had not been broken.
To thee, these early faults I owe,
To thee, the wise and old reproving:
They know my sins, but do not know
‘Twas thine to break the bonds of loving.
For once my soul, like thine, was pure,
And all its rising fires could smother;
But, now, thy vows no more endure,
Bestow’d by thee upon another.
Perhaps, his peace I could destroy,
And spoil the blisses that await him;
Yet let my Rival smile in joy,
For thy dear sake, I cannot hate him.
Ah! since thy angel form is gone,
My heart no more can rest with any;
But what it sought in thee alone,
Attempts, alas! to find in many.
Then, fare thee well, deceitful Maid!
‘Twere vain and fruitless to regret thee;
Nor Hope, nor Memory yield their aid,
But Pride may teach me to forget thee.
Yet all this giddy waste of years,
This tiresome round of palling pleasures;
These varied loves, these matrons’ fears,
These thoughtless strains to Passion’s measures—
If thou wert mine, had all been hush’d:—
This cheek, now pale from early riot,
With Passion’s hectic ne’er had flush’d,
But bloom’d in calm domestic quiet.
Yes, once the rural Scene was sweet,
For Nature seem’d to smile before thee;
And once my Breast abhorr’d deceit,—
For then it beat but to adore thee.
But, now, I seek for other joys—
To think, would drive my soul to madness;
In thoughtless throngs, and empty noise,
I conquer half my Bosom’s sadness.
Yet, even in these, a thought will steal,
In spite of every vain endeavor;
And fiends might pity what I feel—
To know that thou art lost for ever.
* * *
The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,
Oblivion! may thy languid wing
Wave gently o’er my dying bed!
No band of friends or heirs be there,
To weep, or wish, the coming blow:
No maiden, with dishevelled hair,
To feel, or feign, decorous woe.
But silent let me sink to earth,
With no officious mourners near:
I would not mar one hour of mirth,
Nor startle friendship with a tear.
Yet Love, if Love in such an hour
Could nobly check its useless sighs,
Might then exert its latest power
In her who lives, and him who dies.
‘Twere sweet, my Psyche! to the last
Thy features still serene to see:
Forgetful of its struggles past,
E’en Pain itself should smile on thee.
But vain the wish — for Beauty still
Will shrink, as shrinks the ebbing breath;
And women’s tears, produced at will,
Deceive in life, unman in death.
Then lonely be my latest hour,
Without regret, without a groan;
For thousands Death hath ceas’d to lower,
And pain been transient or unknown.
`Ay, but to die, and go,’ alas!
Where all have gone, and all must go!
To be the nothing that I was
Ere born to life and living woe!
Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen,
Count o’er thy days from anguish free,
And know, whatever thou hast been,
‘Tis something better not to be.
* * *
When We Two Parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:—
Long, long shall I rue thee
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.
* * * * * *
As nice as it is to be able to read great poetry for free online, there’s no substitute for a real book in one’s hands. With that in mind, I encourage you to consider buying one of these volumes from Amazon.com. And remember a percentage of every purchase you make goes to help keep this site up and running.