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The crowd's loud shout and ladies' lovely glance,
And all that kings or chiefs e'er gain their toils repay.
In costly sheen and gaudy cloak arrayed,
The lord of lowing herds: but not before
The ground, with cautious tread, is traversed o’er, Lest aught unseen should lurk to thwart his speed : His arms a dart, he fights aloof, nor more
Can man achieve without the friendly steedAlas! too oft condemned for him to bear and bleed.
Thrice sounds the clarion: lo! the signal falls,
Here, there, he points his threatening front, to suit
His angry tail; red rolls his eye's dilated glow.
Sudden he stops; his eye is fixed: away,
The skill that yet may check his mad career. With well-timed croupe2 the nimble coursers veer; On foams the bull, but not unscathed he goes; Streams from his flank the crimson torrent clear: He flies, he wheels, distracted with his throes; Dart follows dart; lance, lance; loud bellowings speak
1 Matadore.] From the Latin mactator, the waver of the red flag in the arena of the bull-fight, who takes off the bull's attention. 2 Croupe.] See Glossary.
Again he comes; nor dart nor lance avail, Nor the wild plunging of the tortured horse; Though man and man's avenging arms assail, Vain are his weapons, vainer is his force. One gallant steed is stretched a mangled corse; Another, hideous sight! unseamed appears, His gory chest unveils life's panting source; Though death-struck, still his feeble frame he rears ; Staggering, but stemming all, his lord unharmed he bears.
Foiled, bleeding, breathless, furious to the last,
'Mid wounds, and clinging darts, and lances brast,1
And now the Matadores around him play,
Shake the red cloak, and poise the ready brand: Once more through all he bursts his thundering way— Vain rage! the mantle quits the conynge 2 hand, Wraps his fierce eye-'tis past-he sinks upon the sand!
Where his vast neck just mingles with the spine,
The corse is piled-sweet sight for vulgar eyes-
Such the ungentle sport that oft invites
1 Brast.] By Metathesis for 'burst.'
2 Conynge.] See Glossary,
What private feuds the troubled village stain! Though now one phalanxed host should meet the foe. Enough, alas! in humble homes remain,
To meditate 'gainst friends the secret blow,
For some slight cause of wrath, whence life's warm stream must flow.1
But Jealousy has fled his bars, his bolts,
(Ere War uprose in his volcanic rage),
With braided tresses bounding o'er the green,
While on the gay dance shone Night's lover-loving Queen?
Oh! many a time and oft, had Harold loved, Or dreamed he loved, since rapture is a dream; But now his wayward bosom was unmoved, For not yet had he drunk of Lethe's stream; And lately had he learned with truth to deem Love has no gift so grateful as his wings : How fair, how young, how soft soe'er he seem, Full from the fount of Joy's delicious springs Some bitter o'er the flowers its bubbling venom flings.
1 One of the few instances in the poem in which Byron moralises practically from his own experience. Conf.
'One breast laid open were a school
Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine and rule.'
2 Centinel.] From the French sentinelle, is wrongly spelt by Byron. Several of his words have little authority for their support. Scott spells the verb centinel.
3 Duenna.] See Glossary.
4 Loved, or dreamed he loved.] Conf. Canto ii. s. xli.-' He felt, or deemed he felt.' Not an uncommon expression in Byron. 5 Lethe.] The river of Oblivion' in the ancient Hell.
6 It is unsafe to interpret all these cynical passages as personally true. Byron is often led by the facilitas scribendi. His description of the Paphian joys of Harold's home is drawn much from his imagination. I rattle on exactly as I talk.'-See 'Don Juan,' cxv.
Yet to the beauteous form he was not blind,
E'er deigned to bend her chastely-awful eyes :
Still he beheld, nor mingled with the throng;
To charms as fair as those that soothed his happier day.
NAY, smile not at my sullen brow;
And dost thou ask what secret woe
I bear, corroding joy and youth?
A pang, even thou must fail to soothe ?
1 Unpremeditated lay.] Quoted from Scott ('Lay of the Last Minstrel'):
'He poured to lords and ladies gay His unpremeditated lay.' When to Scott he again refers, in Canto iv. s. xl., he amply retracts the fierceness of his onslaught upon him in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.' His quotations from other poems are not numerous, though his references to them are abundant in' Childe Harold.'
It is not love, it is not hate,
Nor low Ambition's honours lost,
It is that weariness which springs
It is that settled, ceaseless gloom
What Exile from himself can flee ?
To zones though more and more remote,
Still, still pursues where'er I be,
The blight of life-the demon Thought.
Yet others rapt in pleasure seem,
Through many a clime 'tis mine to go,
Whate'er betides, I 've known the worst.
What is that worst? Nay do not ask-
Smile on-nor venture to unmask
Man's heart, and view the Hell that's there.
1 The fabled Hebrew wanderer.] The wandering Jew. Ahasuerus, a Jew refusing to assist our Lord when bearing His cross, was doomed to wander for ever.