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False to the heart, distorts the hollow cheek,
To leave the flagging spirit doubly weak;
Still o'er the features, which perforce they cheer,
To feign the pleasure or conceal the pique ?
Smiles from the channel of a future tear,
Or raise the writhing lip with ill-dissembled sneer.
What is the worst of woes that wait on age ?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow ?
To view each loved one blotted from life's 1
And be alone on earth, as I am now.
Before the Chastener humbly let me bow,
O’er hearts divided and o'er hopes destroyed :
Roll on, vain days ! full reckless may ye flow,
Since time hath reft whate'er my soul enjoyed,
And with the ills of Eld mine earlier years alloyed.
1 To view each loved one, 8c.] Conf. Johnson's “Vanity of Human Wishes :'
• A sister sickens, or a daughter mourns.' And
• Now kindred merit fills the sable bier,
Now lacerated friendship claims a tear.' Very different are the sentiments here from those of Wordsworth:
• Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound !
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through our hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May !
What though the radiance that was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,' &c. &c.
[In the interval between Cantos II. and III. Byron had inarried Miss Milbank ; his daughter Ada was born ; and his wife had left him, in 1816.]
Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child !
Ada ! 1 sole daughter of my house and heart ?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted, -not as now we part,
But with a hope. -
Awaking with a start,
The waters heave around me ; and on high
The winds lift up their voices : I depart,
Whither I know not; but the hour's
gone by, When Albion's lessening shores could grieve or glad mine
Once more upon the waters ! yet once more ! And the waves bound beneath me as a steed That knows his rider. Welcome, to the roar! Swift be their guidance, whereso'er it lead! Though the strained mast should quiver as a reed, And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale, Still must I on ; for I am as a weed, Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam to sail Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath pre
In my youth's summer? I did sing of One,
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;
1 Ada.] Ada Byron married, in 1835, the Earl of Lovelace, and died in 1852.
% In my youth's summer.] We must measure Byron's life not by
Again I seize the theme, then but begun,
And bear it with me, as the rushing wind
Bears the cloud onwards : in that Tale I find
The furrows of long thought, and dried-up tears,
Which, ebbing, leave a sterile track behind,
O’er which all heavily the journeying years
Plod the last sands of life,-where not a flower appears.
Since my young days of passion-joy, or pain,
Perchance my heart and harp have lost a string,
And both may jar : it may be, that in vain
I would essay as I have sung to sing.
Yet, though a dreary strain, to this I cling ;
So that it wean me from the weary dream
Of selfish grief or gladness—801 it fling
Forgetfulness around me-it shall seem
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
Can love or sorrow, fame, ambition, strife,
Cut to his heart again with the keen knife
Of silent, sharp endurance : he can tell
Why thought seeks refuge in lone caves, yet rife
With airy images, and shapes which dwell
Still unimpaired, though old, in the soul's haunted cell.
'Tis to create, and in creating live
A being more intense, that we endow
With form our fancy, gaining as we give
The life we image, even as I do now. years ; his poetical precocity was very remarkable. He was now only 30 years of age, and utterly miscalculates the declension of his powers. Without any doubt Čantos III. and IV. are nobler than I. and II.
1 So that, and so (7th line).] Note this use. Also in v. 3.
2 'Tis to create.] Of no poet could it be said with more truth that he lives in his own creations. This fact constitutes Byron's
subjectivity'— egotism’-vanity'-by these nanies has it been variously designated.
What am I ? Nothing : but not so art thou,
Soul of my thought! with whom I traverse earth,
Invisible but gazing, as I glow
Mixed with thy spirit, blended with thy birth,
And feeling still with thee in my crushed 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 poisoned. '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.
Something too much of this :—but now 'tis past,
And the spell closes with its silent seal.
Long absent HAROLD re-appears at last ;
He of the breast which fain no more would feel,
Wrung with the wounds which kill not, but ne'er heal ;
Yet Time, who changes all, had altered him
In soul and aspect as in age : years steal
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And life's enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
His had been quaffed too quickly, and he found
The dreys were wormwood; but he filled again,
And from a purer fount, on holier ground,
And deemed its spring perpetual ; but in vain !
Still round him clung invisibly a chain
Which galled for ever, fettering though unseen,
And heavy though it clanked not ; worn with pain,
Which pined although it spoke not, and grew keen, Entering with every step he took through many a scene.
My springs of life were poisoned.] To many influences this may refer, especially, perhaps, to that of his mother, who was the first to allude to that deformity on which his own mind so unhealthily brooded.
Secure in guarded coldness, he had mixed
Again in fancied safety with his kind,
And deemed his spirit now so firmly fixed
And sheathed with an invulnerable mind,
That, if no joy, no sorrow lurked behind;
And he, as one, might ’midst the many stand
Unheeded, searching through the crowd to find
Fit speculation ; such as in strange land
He found in wonder-works of God and Nature's hand,
But who can view the ripened rose, nor seek
To wear it ? who can curiously behold
The smoothness and the sheen of Beauty's cheek,
Nor feel the heart can never all grow old ?
Who can contemplate Fame through clouds unfold
The star which rises o'er her steep, nor climb ?
Harold, once more within the vortex, rolled
On vith the giddy circle, chasing Time,
Yet with a nobler aim than in his youth's fond prime.
But soon he knew himself the most unfit
Of men to herd with Man ; with whom he held
Little in common; untaught to submit
His thoughts to others, though his soul was quelled
In youth by his own thoughts ; still uncompelled,
He would not yield dominion of his mind
To spirits against whom his own rebelled ;
Proud though in desolation ; which could find
A life within itself, to breathe without mankind,
Where rose the mountains, there to him were friends ;
Where rolled the ocean, thereon was his home ;
Where a blue sky, and glowing clime, extends,
He had the passion and the power to roam ;
1 Mountain scenery was with Byron a passion, from the time when, as a child, he visited the Highlands with his mother :
• The infant rapture still survived the boy,
And Lochnagar with Ida looked on Troy;'