Poems, now first collected/Byron
A hundred years, 't is writ,—O presage vain!—
Earth wills her offspring life, ere one complete
His term, and rest from travail, and be fain
To lay him down in natural death and sweet.
What of her child whose swift divining soul
With triple fervor burns the torch apace,
And in one radiant third compacts the whole
Ethereal flame that lights him on his race?
Ay, what of him who to the winds upheld
A star-like brand, with pride and joy and tears,
And lived in that fleet course from youth to eld,
Count them who will, his century of years?
The Power that arches heaven's orbway round
Gave to this planet's brood its soul of fire,
Its heart of passion,—and for life unbound
By chain or creed the measureless desire;
Gave to one poet these, and manifold
High thoughts, beyond our lesser mortal share,—
Gave dreams of beauty, yes, and with a mould
The antique world had worshipped made him fair;
Then touched his lips with music,—lit his brow,
Even as a fane upon a sunward hill,
For strength, gave scorn, the pride that would not bow,
The glorious weapon of a dauntless will.
But that the surcharged spirit—a vapor pent
In beetling crags—a torrent barriered long—
A wind 'gainst heaven's four winds imminent—
Might memorably vent its noble song,
Each soaring gift was fretted with a band
That deadlier clung which way he fain would press:
His were an adverse age, a sordid land,
Gauging his heart by their own littleness;
Blind guides! the fiery spirit scorned their curb,
And Byron's love and gladness,—such the wise
Of ministrants whom evil times perturb,—
To wrath and melancholy changed their guise.
Yet this was he whose swift imaginings
Engirt fair Liberty from clime to clime,—
From Alp to ocean with an eagle's wings
Pursued her flight, in Harold's lofty rime.
Where the mind's freedom was not, could not be,
That bigot soil he rendered to disdain,
And sought, like Omar in his revelry,
At least the semblance of a joy to gain.
Laughter was at his beck, and wisdom's ruth
Sore-learned from fierce experiences that test
Life's masquerade, the carnival of youth,
The world of man. Then Folly lost her zest,
Yet left undimmed (her valediction sung
With Juan's smiles and tears) his natal ray
Of genius inextinguishably young,—
An Eôs through those mists proclaiming day.
How then, when to his ear came Hellas' cry,
He shred the garlands of the wild night's feast,
And rose a chief, to lead—alas, to die
And leave men mourning for that music ceased!
America! When nations for thy knell
Listened, one prophet oracled thy part:
Now, in thy morn of strength, remember well
The bard whose chant foretold thee as thou art.
Sky, mount, and forest, and high-sounding main.
The storm-cloud's vortex, splendor of the day,
Gloom of the night,—with these abide his strain,—
And these are thine, though he has passed away;
Their elemental force had roused to might
Great Nature's child in this her realm supreme,—
From their commingling he had guessed aright
The plenitude of all we know or dream.
Read thou aright his vision and his song,
That this enfranchised spirit of the spheres
May know his name henceforth shall take no wrong,
Outbroadening still yon ocean and these years!