« PreviousContinue »
Selictar unsheathe then our chief's scimitar : Tambourgi! thy larum gives promise of war. Ye mountains, that see us descend to the shore, Shall view us as victors, or view us no more!
Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!? Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great! Who now shall lead thy scatter'd children forth, And long accustom'd bondage uncreate ? Not such thy sons who whilome did await, The hopeless warriors of a willing doom, In bleak Thermopyla's sepulchral straitOh! who that gallant spirit shall resume, Leap from Eurotas' banks, and call thee from the tomb?
Spirit of Freedom! when on Phyle's brow 3 Thou sat'st with Thrasybulus and his train, Couldst thou forbode the dismal hour which now Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain ? Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain, But every carle can lord it o'er thy land; Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain, Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand, From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmann'd.
In all save form alone, how changed! and who That marks the fire still sparkling in each eye, Who but would deem their bosoms burn'd anew With thy unquenched beam, lost Liberty! And many dream withal the hour is nigh That gives them back their fathers' heritage: For foreign arms and aid they fondly sigh, Nor solely dare encounter hostile rage, Or tear their name defiled from Slavery's mournful
Hereditary bondsmen ! know ye not
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow? By their right arms the conquest must be wrought? Will Gaul or Muscovite redress ye? no! True, they may lay your proud despoilers low, But not for you will Freedom's altars flame. Shades of the Helots! triumph o'er your foe! Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same; Thy glorious day is o'er, but not thine years of shame.
See some Thoughts on the present State of Grecce and Turkey in the Appendix to this Canto, Notes [D] and [E]. 3 Phyle, which commands a beautiful view of Athens, has still considerable remains: it was seized by Thrasybulus, previous to the expulsion of the Thirty.
• When taken by the Latins, and retained for several years. Mecca and Medina were taken some time ago by the Wahabees, a sect yearly increasing.
[Of Constantinople Lord Byron says, "I have seen the ruins of Athens, of Ephesus, and Delphi; I have traversed great part of Turkey, and many other parts of Europe, and some of Asia; but I never beheld a work of nature or art which yielded an impression like the prospect on each side, from the Seven Towers to the end of the Golden Horn."]
7 The view of Constantinople," says Mr. Rose, which anneared intersected by groves of cypress (for such is the effect of its great burial-grounds planted with these trees), its gilded domes and minarets reflecting the first rays of the sun; the deep blue sea in which it glassed itself.' and that sea covered with beautiful boats and barges darting in every
The city won for Allah from the Giaour, The Giaour from Othman's race again may wrest; And the Serai's impenetrable tower Receive the fiery Frank, her former guest; + Or Wahab's rebel brood, who dared divest The prophet's 5 tomb of all its pious spoil, May wind their path of blood along the West; But ne'er will freedom seek this fated soil, But slave succeed to slave through years of endless toil.
Yet mark their mirth -ere lenten days begin, That penance which their holy rites prepare To shrive from man his weight of mortal sin, By daily abstinence and nightly prayer; But ere his sackcloth garb Repentance wear, Some days of joyaunce are decreed to all, To take of pleasaunce each his secret share, In motley robe to dance at masking ball, And join the mimic train of merry Carnival.
And whose more rife with merriment than thine, Oh Stamboul 6! once the empress of their reign? Though turbans now pollute Sophia's shrine, And Greece her very altars eyes in vain : (Alas! her woes will still pervade my strain !) Gay were her minstrels once, for free her throng, All felt the common joy they now must feign, Nor oft I've seen such sight, nor heard such song, As woo'd the eye, and thrill'd the Bosphorus along. 7
Loud was the lightsome tumult on the shore, Oft Music changed, but never ceased her tone, And timely echo'd back the measured oar, And rippling waters made a pleasant moan: The Queen of tides on high consenting shone, And when a transient breeze swept o'er the wave, 'T was, as if darting from her heavenly throne, A brighter glance her form reflected gave, [lave. Till sparkling billows seem'd to light the banks they
Glanced many a light caique along the foam, Danced on the shore the daughters of the land, Ne thought had man or maid of rest or home, While many a languid eye and thrilling hand Exchanged the look few bosoms may withstand, Or gently prest, return'd the pressure still :
Oh Love! young Love! bound in thy rosy band, Let sage or cynic prattle as he will,
These hours, and only these, redeem Life's years of ill! direction in perfect silence, amid sea-fowl, who sat at rest upon the waters, altogether conveyed such an impression as I had never received, and probably never shall again receive, from the view of any other place." The following sonnet, by the same author, has been so often quoted, that, but for its exquisite beauty, we should not have ventured to reprint it here:
"A glorious form thy shining city wore,
'Mid cypress thickets of perennial green,
Of sculptured barques and galleys many a score;
Who, mute as Sinbad's man of copper, rows, And only intermits the sturdy stroke, When fearless gull too nigh his pinnace goes. I, hardly conscious if I dream'd or woke, Mark'd that strange piece of action and repose."]
But, midst the throng in merry masquerade, Lurk there no hearts that throb with secret pain, Even through the closest searment half betray'd? To such the gentle murmurs of the main Seem to re-echo all they mourn in vain ; To such the gladness of the gamesome crowd Is source of wayward thought and stern disdain : How do they loathe the laughter idly loud, And long to change the robe of revel for the shroud!
This must he feel, the true-born son of Greece, If Greece one true-born patriot still can boast: Not such as prate of war, but skulk in peace, The bondsman's peace, who sighs for all he lost, Yet with smooth smile his tyrant can accost, And wield the slavish sickle, not the sword: Ah! Greece! they love thee least who owe thee most; Their birth, their blood, and that sublime record Of hero sires, who shame thy now degenerate horde!
When riseth Lacedæmon's hardihood, When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,
When Athens' children are with hearts endued, When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men, Then may'st thou be restored; but not till then. A thousand years scarce serve to form a state; An hour may lay it in the dust: and when Can man its shatter'd splendour renovate, Recall its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate ?
And yet how lovely in thine age of woe,
Land of lost gods and godlike men! art thou! Thy vales of evergreen, thy hills of snow, I Proclaim thee Nature's varied favourite now; Thy fanes, thy temples to thy surface bow, Commingling slowly with heroic earth, Broke by the share of every rustic plough: So perish monuments of mortal birth, So perish all in turn, save well-recorded Worth;
On many of the mountains, particularly Liakura, the snow never is entirely melted, notwithstanding the intense heat of the summer; but I never saw it lie on the plains, even in winter.
2 Of Mount Pentelicus, from whence the marble was dug that constructed the public edifices of Athens. The modern name is Mount Mendeli. An immense cave, formed by the quarries, still remains, and will till the end of time.
3 In all Attica, if we except Athens itself and Marathon, there is no scene more interesting than Cape Colonna. To the antiquary and artist, sixteen columns are an inexhaustible source of observation and design; to the philosopher, the supposed scene of some of Plato's conversations will not be unwelcome; and the traveller will be struck with the beauty of the prospect over "Isles that crown the Egean deep: but, for an Englishman, Colonna has yet an additional interest, as the actual spot of Falconer's Shipwreck. Pallas and Plato are forgotten, in the recollection of Falconer and Campbell:
"Here in the dead of night by Lonna's steep. The seaman's cry was heard along the deep."
This temple of Minerva may be seen at sea from a great distance. In two journeys which I made, and one voyage to Cape Colonna, the view from either side, by land, was less striking than the approach from the isles. In our second land excursion, we had a narrow escape from a party of Mainotes, concealed in the caverns beneath. We were told afterwards, by one of their prisoners, subsequently ransomed, that they were deterred from attacking us by the appearance of my two Albanians: conjecturing very sagaciously, but
Save where some solitary column mourns
While strangers only not regardless pass,
Yet are thy skies as blue, thy crags as wild; Sweet are thy groves, and verdant are thy fields, Thine olive ripe as when Minerva smiled, And still his honied wealth Hymettus yields; There the blithe bee his fragrant fortress builds, The freeborn wanderer of thy mountain-air; Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds, Still in his beam Mendeli's marbles glare; Art, Glory, Freedom fail, but Nature still is fair.+
Where'er we tread 't is haunted, holy ground; No earth of thine is lost in vulgar mould, But one vast realm of wonder spreads around, And all the Muse's tales seem truly told, Till the sense aches with gazing to behold The scenes our earliest dreams have dwelt upon : Each hill and dale, each deepening glen and wold Defies the power which crush'd thy temples gone: Age shakes Athena's tower, but spares gray Marathon.
The sun, the soil, but not the slave, the same; Unchanged in all except its foreign lordPreserves alike its bounds and boundless fame The Battle-field, where Persia's victim horde First bow'd beneath the brunt of Hellas' sword, As on the morn to distant Glory dear, When Marathon became a magic word; 5 Which utter'd, to the hearer's eye appear The camp, the host, the fight, the conqueror's career,
falsely, that we had a complete guard of these Arnaouts at hand, they remained stationary, and thus saved our party, which was too small to have opposed any effectual resistance. Colonna is no less a resort of painters than of pirates; there
"The hireling artist plants his paltry desk, And makes degraded nature picturesque."
(See Hodgson's Lady Jane Grey, &c.)
But there Nature, with the aid of Art, has done that for herself. I was fortunate enough to engage a very superior German artist; and hope to renew my acquaintance with this and many other Levantine scenes, by the arrival of his performances.
[The following passage in Harris's Philosophical Inquiries, contains the pith of this stanza: -"Notwithstanding the various fortunes of Athens as a city, Attica is still famous for olives, and Mount Hymettus for honey. Human institutions perish, but Nature is permanent." I recollect having once pointed out this coincidence to Lord Byron, but he assured me that he had never even seen this work of Harris's. - MOORE.]
5" Siste Viator-heroa calcas!" was the epitaph on the famous Count Merci; what then must be our feelings when standing on the tumulus of the two hundred (Greeks) who fell on Marathon? The principal barrow has recently been opened by Fauvel: few or no relics, as vases, &c. were found by the excavator. The plain of Marathon was offered to me for sale at the sum of sixteen thousand piastres, about nine hundred pounds! Alas!" Expende-quot libras in duce summo invenies!" was the dust of Miltiades worth no more? It could scarcely have fetched less if sold by weight.
The flying Mede, his shaftless broken bow; The fiery Greek, his red pursuing spear; Mountains above, Earth's, Ocean's plain below; Death in the front, Destruction in the rear! Such was the scene- what now remaineth here? What sacred trophy marks the hallow'd ground, Recording Freedom's smile and Asia's tear? The rifled urn, the violated mound, [around. The dust thy courser's hoof, rude stranger! spurns
Yet to the remnants of thy splendour past
Shall pilgrims, pensive, but unwearied, throng; Long shall the voyager, with th' Ionian blast, Hail the bright clime of battle and of song; Long shall thine annals and immortal tongue Fill with thy fame the youth of many a shore; Boast of the aged! lesson of the young! Which sages venerate and bards adore, As Pallas and the Muse unveil their awful lore.
The parted bosom clings to wonted home,
If aught that's kindred cheer the welcome hearth; He that is lonely, hither let him roam, And gaze complacent on congenial earth. Greece is no lightsome land of social mirth; But he whom Sadness sootheth may abide, And scarce regret the region of his birth, When wandering slow by Delphi's sacred side, Or gazing o'er the plains where Greek and Persian died. 1
Let such approach this consecrated land, And pass in peace along the magic waste: But spare its relics-let no busy hand Deface the scenes, already how defaced ! Not for such purpose were these altars placed : Revere the remnants nations once revered : So may our country's name be undisgraced, So may'st thou prosper where thy youth was rear'd, By every honest joy of love and life endear'd!
For thee, who thus in too protracted song
1 [The original MS. closes with this stanza. The rest was added while the canto was passing through the press.]
4 [This stanza was written October 11. 1811; upon which day the poet, in a letter to a friend, says, "I have been again shocked with a death, and have lost one very dear to me in happier times; but I have almost forgot the taste of grief, and supped full of horrors,' till I have become callous; nor have I a tear left for an event which, five years ago, would hare bowed down my head to the earth. It seems as though I were to experience in my youth the greatest misery of age. My friends fall around me, and I shall be left a lonely tree before I am withered. Other men can always take refuge in
their families: I have no resource but my own reflections, and they present no prospect here or hereafter, except the selfish satisfaction of surviving my friends. I am indeed very wretched, and you will excuse my saying so, as you know I am not apt to cant of sensibility." In reference to this stanza, "Surely," said Professor Clarke to the author of the Pursuits of Literature, "Lord Byron cannot have experienced such keen anguish as these exquisite a'lusions to what older men may have felt seem to denote."-"I fear he has," answered Matthias ;-" he could not otherwise have written such a poem."]
Yet, though a dreary strain, to this I cling,
Of selfish grief or gladness-so it fling
To me, though to none else, a not ungrateful theme.
He, who grown aged in this world of woe,
In deeds, not years, piercing the depths of life,
So that no wonder waits him; nor below
Still unimpair'd, though old, in the soul's haunted cell.
'Tis to create, and in creating live
A being more intense, that we endow
Mix'd with thy spirit, blended with thy birth, And feeling still with thee in my crush'd feelings' dearth.
Yet must I think less wildly: I have thought Too long and darkly, till my brain became, In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought, A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame: And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame, My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too late! Yet am I changed; though still enough the same. In strength to bear what time can not abate, And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate.
He of the breast which fain no more would feel,
And life's enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
[The first and second cantos of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" produced, on their appearance in 1812, an effect upon the public, at least equal to any work which has appeared within this or the last century, and placed at once upon Lord Byron's head the garland for which other men of genius have toiled long, and which they have gained late. He was placed pre-eminent among the literary men of his country by general acclamation. It was amidst such feelings of admiration that he entered the public stage. Every thing in his manner, person, and conversation, tended to maintain the charm which his genius had flung around him; and those admitted to his conversation, far from finding that the inspired poet sunk into ordinary mortality, felt themselves attached to him, not only by many noble qualities, but by the interest of a mysterious, undefined, and almost painful curiosity. A countenance exquisitely modelled to the expression of feeling and passion, and exhibiting the remarkable contrast of very dark hair and eyebrows with light and expressive eyes, presented to the physiognomist the most interesting subject for the exercise of his art. The predominating expression was that of deep and habitual thought, which gave way to the most rapid play of features when he engaged in interesting discussion; so that a brother poet compared them to the
sculpture of a beautiful alabaster vase, only seen to perfection when lighted up from within. The flashes of mirth, gaiety, indignation, or satirical dislike, which frequently animated Lord Byron's countenance, might, during an evening's conversation, be mistaken, by a stranger, for the habitual expression, so easily and so happily was it formed for them all; but those who had an opportunity of studying his features for a length of time, and upon various occasions, both of rest and emotion, will agree that their proper language was that of melancholy. Sometimes shades of this gloom interrupted even his gayest and most happy moments. SIR WALTER SCOTT.]
[In the third canto of Childe Harold there is much inequality. The thoughts and images are sometimes laboured; but still they are a very great improvement upon the first two cantos. Lord Byron here speaks in his own Language and character, not in the tone of others; he is describing, not inventing; therefore he has not, and cannot have, the freedom with which fiction is composed. Sometimes he has a conciseness which is very powerful, but almost abrupt. From trusting himself alone, and working out his own deep-buried thoughts, he now, perhaps, fell into a habit of labouring, even where there was no occasion to labour. In the first sixteen stanzas there is yet a mighty but groaning
burst of dark and appalling strength. It was unquestionably the unexaggerated picture of a most tempestuous and sombre, but magnificent soul!-BRYDGES.]
2 [These stanzas,-in which the author, adopting more distinctly the character of Childe Harold than in the original poem, assigns the cause why he has resumed his Pilgrim's staff, when it was hoped he had sat down for life a denizen of his native country, abound with much moral interest and poetical beauty. The commentary through which the meaning of this melancholy tale is rendered obvious, is still in vivid remembrance; for the errors of those who excel their fellows in gifts and accomplishments are not soon forgotten. Those scenes, ever most painful to the bosom, were rendered yet more so by public discussion; and it is at least possible that amongst those who exclaimed most loudly on this unhappy occasion, were some in whose eyes literary superiority exaggerated Lord Byron's offence. The scene may be described in a few words: the wise condemned — the good regretted -the multitude, idly or maliciously inquisitive, rushed from place to place, gathering gossip, which they mangled and exaggerated while they repeated it; and impudence, ever ready to hitch itself into notoriety, hooked on, as Falstaff enjoins Bardolph, blustered, bullied, and talked of "pleading a cause," and "taking a side."- SIR WALTER SCOTT.]