The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/On the Star of "the Legion of Honour"

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Star of the brave!—whose beam hath shed
Such glory o'er the quick and dead—
Thou radiant and adored deceit!
Which millions rushed in arms to greet,—
Wild meteor of immortal birth!
Why rise in Heaven to set on Earth?


Souls of slain heroes formed thy rays;
Eternity flashed through thy blaze;
The music of thy martial sphere
Was fame on high and honour here;
And thy light broke on human eyes,
Like a Volcano of the skies.


Like lava rolled thy stream of blood,
And swept down empires with its flood;
Earth rocked beneath thee to her base,
As thou didst lighten through all space;
And the shorn Sun grew dim in air,
And set while thou wert dwelling there.


Before thee rose, and with thee grew,
A rainbow of the loveliest hue
Of three bright colours,[2] each divine,
And fit for that celestial sign;
For Freedom's hand had blended them,
Like tints in an immortal gem.


One tint was of the sunbeam's dyes;
One, the blue depth of Seraph's eyes;
One, the pure Spirit's veil of white
Had robed in radiance of its light:
The three so mingled did beseem
The texture of a heavenly dream.


Star of the brave! thy ray is pale,
And darkness must again prevail!
But, oh thou Rainbow of the free!
Our tears and blood must flow for thee.
When thy bright promise fades away,
Our life is but a load of clay.


And Freedom hallows with her tread
The silent cities of the dead;
For beautiful in death are they
Who proudly fall in her array;
And soon, oh, Goddess! may we be
For evermore with them or thee!

[First published, Examiner, April 7, 1816.]

  1. ["The Friend who favoured us with the following lines, the poetical spirit of which wants no trumpet of ours, is aware that they imply more than an impartial observer of the late period might feel, and are written rather as by Frenchman than Englishman;—but certainly, neither he nor any lover of liberty can help feeling and regretting that in the latter time, at any rate, the symbol he speaks of was once more comparatively identified with the cause of Freedom."—Examiner, April 7, 1816.]
  2. The tricolor.