The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/I would I were a Careless Child

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I would I were a careless child,
Still dwelling in my Highland cave,
Or roaming through the dusky wild,
Or bounding o'er the dark blue wave;
The cumbrous pomp of Saxon[2] pride,
Accords not with the freeborn soul,
Which loves the mountain's craggy side,
And seeks the rocks where billows roll.


Fortune! take back these cultur'd lands,
Take back this name of splendid sound!
I hate the touch of servile hands,
I hate the slaves that cringe around:
Place me among the rocks I love,
Which sound to Ocean's wildest roar;
I ask but this—again to rove
Through scenes my youth hath known before.


Few are my years, and yet I feel
The World was ne'er design'd for me:
Ah! why do dark'ning shades conceal
The hour when man must cease to be?
Once I beheld a splendid dream,
A visionary scene of bliss;
Truth!—wherefore did thy hated beam
Awake me to a world like this?


I lov'd—but those I lov'd are gone;
Had friends—my early friends are fled:
How cheerless feels the heart alone,
When all its former hopes are dead!
Though gay companions, o'er the bowl
Dispel awhile the sense of ill;
Though Pleasure stirs the maddening soul,
The heart—the heart—is lonely still.


How dull! to hear the voice of those
Whom Rank or Chance, whom Wealth or Power,
Have made, though neither friends nor foes,
Associates of the festive hour.
Give me again a faithful few,
In years and feelings still the same,
And I will fly the midnight crew,
Where boist'rous Joy is but a name.


And Woman, lovely Woman! thou,
My hope, my comforter, my all!
How cold must be my bosom now,
When e'en thy smiles begin to pall!
Without a sigh would I resign,
This busy scene of splendid Woe,
To make that calm contentment mine,
Which Virtue knows, or seems to know.


Fain would I fly the haunts of men[3]
I seek to shun, not hate mankind;
My breast requires the sullen glen,
Whose gloom may suit a darken'd mind.
Oh! that to me the wings were given,
Which bear the turtle to her nest!
Then would I cleave the vault of Heaven,
To flee away, and be at rest.[4]

  1. Stanzas.—[Poems O. and T.]
  2. Sassenach, or Saxon, a Gaelic word, signifying either Lowland or English.
  3. [Shyness was a family characteristic of the Byrons. The poet continued in later years to have a horror of being observed by unaccustomed eyes, and in the country would, if possible, avoid meeting strangers on the road.]
  4. "And I said, O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest."—Psalm lv. 6. This verse also constitutes a part of the most beautiful anthem in our language.