Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Canto the Third

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I Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart? When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smil'd, 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 eye.

II And the waves bound beneath me as a steed That knows his rider. Welcome to their roar! Swift be their guidance, wheresoe'er it lead! Though the strain'd 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 sailWhere'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail.

III The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind; 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 yearsPlod the last sands of life--where not a flower appears.

IV 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--so it fling Forgetfulness around me--it shall seemTo me, though to none else, a not ungrateful theme.

V 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 dwellStill unimpair'd, though old, in the soul's haunted cell.

VI A being more intense, that we endow With form our fancy, gaining as we give The life we image, even as I do now. What am I? Nothing: but not so art thou, Soul of my thought! with whom I traverse earth, Invisible but gazing, as I glow Mix'd with thy spirit, blended with thy birth, And feeling still with thee in my crush'd feelings' dearth.

VII Too long and darkly, till my brain became, In its own eddy boiling and o'er-wrought, A whirling gulf of fantasy and flame: And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame, My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too late! Yet am I chang'd; though still enough the same In strength to bear what time cannot abate,And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate.

VIII 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 alter'd 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.

IX The dregs were wormwood; but he fill'd again, And from a purer fount, on holier ground, And deem'd its spring perpetual; but in vain! Still round him clung invisibly a chain Which gall'd for ever, fettering though unseen, And heavy though it clank'd not; worn with pain, Which pin'd although it spoke not, and grew keen,Entering with every step he took through many a scene.

X Again in fancied safety with his kind, And deem'd his spirit now so firmly fix'd And sheath'd with an invulnerable mind, That, if no joy, no sorrow lurk'd behind; And he, as one, might 'midst the many stand Unheeded, searching through the crowd to find Fit speculation; such as in strange landHe found in wonder-works of God and Nature's hand.

XI 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, roll'd On with the giddy circle, chasing Time,Yet with a nobler aim than in his youth's fond prime.

XII Of men to herd with Man; with whom he held Little in common; untaught to submit His thoughts to others, though his soul was quell'd In youth by his own thoughts; still uncompell'd, He would not yield dominion of his mind To spirits against whom his own rebell'd; Proud though in desolation; which could findA life within itself, to breathe without mankind.

XIII Where roll'd the ocean, thereon was his home; Where a blue sky, and glowing clime, extends, He had the passion and the power to roam; The desert, forest, cavern, breaker's foam, Were unto him companionship; they spake A mutual language, clearer than the tome Of his land's tongue, which he would oft forsakeFor Nature's pages glass'd by sunbeams on the lake.

XIV Till he had peopled them with beings bright As their own beams; and earth, and earthborn jars, And human frailties, were forgotten quite: Could he have kept his spirit to that flight He had been happy; but this clay will sink Its spark immortal, envying it the light To which it mounts, as if to break the linkThat keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink.

XV Restless and worn, and stern and wearisome, Droop'd as a wild-born falcon with clipp'd wing, To whom the boundless air alone were home: Then came his fit again, which to o'ercome, As eagerly the barr'd-up bird will beat His breast and beak against his wiry dome Till the blood tinge his plumage, so the heatOf his impeded soul would through his bosom eat.

XVI With nought of hope left, but with less of gloom; The very knowledge that he lived in vain, That all was over on this side the tomb, Had made Despair a smilingness assume, Which, though 'twere wild--as on the plunder'd wreck When mariners would madly meet their doom With draughts intemperate on the sinking deck--,Did yet inspire a cheer, which he forbore to check.

XVII An Earthquake's spoil is sepulchred below! Is the spot mark'd with no colossal bust? Nor column trophied for triumphal show? None; but the moral's truth tells simpler so: As the ground was before, thus let it be; How that red rain hath made the harvest grow! And is this all the world has gain'd by thee,Thou first and last of fields! king-making Victory?

XVIII The grave of France, the deadly Waterloo! How in an hour the power which gave annuls Its gifts, transferring fame as fleeting too! In "pride of place" here last the Eagle flew, Then tore with bloody talon the rent plain, Pierc'd by the shaft of banded nations through; Ambition's life and labours all were vain;He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.

XIX And foam in fetters--but is Earth more free? Did nations combat to make One submit; Or league to teach all kings true sovereignty? What! shall reviving Thraldom again be The patch'd-up idol of enlighten'd days? Shall we, who struck the Lion down, shall we Pay the Wolf homage? proffering lowly gazeAnd servile knees to thrones? No; prove before ye praise!

XX In vain fair cheeks were furrow'd with hot tears For Europe's flowers long rooted up before The trampler of her vineyards; in vain years Of death, depopulation, bondage, fears, Have all been borne, and broken by the accord Of rous'd-up millions; all that most endears Glory, is when the myrtle wreathes a swordSuch as Harmodius drew on Athens' tyrant lord.

XXI And Belgium's capital had gather'd then Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men; A thousand hearts beat happily; and when Music arose with its voluptuous swell, Soft eyes look'd love to eyes which spake again, And all went merry as a marriage bell;But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!

XXII Or the car rattling o'er the stony street; On with the dance! let joy be unconfin'd; No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet-- But hark!--that heavy sound breaks in once more, As if the clouds its echo would repeat; And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!Arm! Arm! it is--it is--the cannon's opening roar!

XXIII Sate Brunswick's fated chieftain; he did hear That sound the first amidst the festival, And caught its tone with Death's prophetic ear; And when they smil'd because he deem'd it near, His heart more truly knew that peal too well Which stretch'd his father on a bloody bier, And rous'd the vengeance blood alone could quell:He rush'd into the field, and, foremost fighting, fell.

XXIV And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress, And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago Blush'd at the praise of their own loveliness; And there were sudden partings, such as press The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs Which ne'er might be repeated; who could guess If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!

XXV The mustering squadron, and the clattering car, Went pouring forward with impetuous speed, And swiftly forming in the ranks of war; And the deep thunder peal on peal afar; And near, the beat of the alarming drum Rous'd up the soldier ere the morning star; While throng'd the citizens with terror dumb,Or whispering, with white lips--"The foe! they come! they come!'

XXVI The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn's hills Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes. How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills, Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers With the fierce native daring which instils The stirring memory of a thousand years,And Evan's, Donald's fame rings in each clansman's ears!

XXVII Dewy with nature's tear-drops as they pass, Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves, Over the unreturning brave--alas! Ere evening to be trodden like the grass Which now beneath them, but above shall grow In its next verdure, when this fiery mass Of living valour, rolling on the foeAnd burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low.

XXVIII Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay, The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife, The morn the marshalling in arms, the day Battle's magnificently stern array! The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when rent The earth is cover'd thick with other clay, Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent,Rider and horse--friend, foe--in one red burial blent!

XXXVI Whose spirit, antithetically mixt, One moment of the mightiest, and again On little objects with like firmness fixt; Extreme in all things! hadst thou been betwixt, Thy throne had still been thine, or never been; For daring made thy rise as fall: thou seek'st Even now to re-assume the imperial mien,And shake again the world, the Thunderer of the scene!

XXXVII She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name Was ne'er more bruited in men's minds than now That thou art nothing, save the jest of Fame, Who woo'd thee once, thy vassal, and became The flatterer of thy fierceness, till thou wert A god unto thyself; nor less the same To the astounded kingdoms all inert,Who deem'd thee for a time whate'er thou didst assert.

XXXVIII Battling with nations, flying from the field; Now making monarchs' necks thy footstool, now More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield; An empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild, But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor, However deeply in men's spirits skill'd, Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of war,Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.

XXXIX With that untaught innate philosophy, Which, be it wisdom, coldness, or deep pride, Is gall and wormwood to an enemy. When the whole host of hatred stood hard by, To watch and mock thee shrinking, thou hast smil'd With a sedate and all-enduring eye; When Fortune fled her spoil'd and favourite child,He stood unbow'd beneath the ills upon him pil'd.

XL Ambition steel'd thee on too far to show That just habitual scorn, which could contemn Men and their thoughts; 'twas wise to feel, not so To wear it ever on thy lip and brow, And spurn the instruments thou wert to use Till they were turn'd unto thine overthrow; 'Tis but a worthless world to win or lose;So hath it prov'd to thee, and all such lot who choose.

XLI Thou hadst been made to stand or fall alone, Such scorn of man had help'd to brave the shock; But men's thoughts were the steps which pav'd thy throne, Their admiration thy best weapon shone; The part of Philip's son was thine, not then (Unless aside thy purple had been thrown) Like stern Diogenes to mock at men;For sceptred cynics earth were far too wide a den.

XLII And there hath been thy bane; there is a fire And motion of the soul which will not dwell In its own narrow being, but aspire Beyond the fitting medium of desire; And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore, Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.

XLIII By their contagion; Conquerors and Kings, Founders of sects and systems, to whom add Sophists, Bards, Statesmen, all unquiet things Which stir too strongly the soul's secret springs, And are themselves the fools to those they fool; Envied, yet how unenviable! what stings Are theirs! One breast laid open were a schoolWhich would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule:

XLIV A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last, And yet so nurs'd and bigoted to strife, That should their days, surviving perils past, Melt to calm twilight, they feel overcast With sorrow and supineness, and so die; Even as a flame unfed, which runs to waste With its own flickering, or a sword laid by,Which eats into itself, and rusts ingloriously.

XLV The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow; He who surpasses or subdues mankind, Must look down on the hate of those below. Though high above the sun of glory glow, And far beneath the earth and ocean spread, Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow Contending tempests on his naked head,And thus reward the toils which to those summits led.

LXVIII The mirror where the stars and mountains view The stillness of their aspect in each trace Its clear depth yields of their far height and hue: There is too much of man here, to look through With a fit mind the might which I behold; But soon in me shall loneliness renew Thoughts hid, but not less cherish'd than of old,Ere mingling with the herd had penn'd me in their fold.

LXIX All are not fit with them to stir and toil, Nor is it discontent to keep the mind Deep in its fountain, lest it over boil In the hot throng, where we become the spoil Of our infection, till too late and long We may deplore and struggle with the coil, In wretched interchange of wrong for wrongMidst a contentious world, striving where none are strong.

LXX In fatal penitence, and in the blight Of our own soul turn all our blood to tears, And colour things to come with hues of Night; The race of life becomes a hopeless flight To those that walk in darkness: on the sea The boldest steer but where their ports invite; But there are wanderers o'er EternityWhose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er shall be.

LXXI And love Earth only for its earthly sake? By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone, Or the pure bosom of its nursing lake, Which feeds it as a mother who doth make A fair but froward infant her own care, Kissing its cries away as these awake-- Is it not better thus our lives to wear,Than join the crushing crowd, doom'd to inflict or bear?

LXXII Portion of that around me; and to me High mountains are a feeling, but the hum Of human cities torture: I can see Nothing to loathe in nature, save to be A link reluctant in a fleshly chain, Class'd among creatures, when the soul can flee, And with the sky--the peak--the heaving plainOf ocean, or the stars, mingle--and not in vain.

LXXIII I look upon the peopled desert past, As on a place of agony and strife, Where, for some sin, to sorrow I was cast, To act and suffer, but remount at last With a fresh pinion; which I feel to spring, Though young, yet waxing vigorous as the blast Which it would cope with, on delighted wing,Spurning the clay-cold bonds which round our being cling.

LXXIV From what it hates in this degraded form, Reft of its carnal life, save what shall be Existent happier in the fly and worm, When elements to elements conform, And dust is as it should be, shall I not Feel all I see, less dazzling, but more warm? The bodiless thought? the Spirit of each spot?Of which, even now, I share at times the immortal lot?

LXXV Of me and of my soul, as I of them? Is not the love of these deep in my heart With a pure passion? should I not contemn All objects, if compar'd with these? and stem A tide of suffering, rather than forego Such feelings for the hard and worldly phlegm Of those whose eyes are only turn'd below,Gazing upon the ground, with thoughts which dare not glow?

LXXVI To that which is immediate, and require Those who find contemplation in the urn To look on One, whose dust was once all fire, A native of the land where I respire The clear air for a while--a passing guest, Where he became a being--whose desire Was to be glorious; 'twas a foolish quest,The which to gain and keep, he sacrific'd all rest.

LXXVII The apostle of affliction, he who threw Enchantment over passion, and from woe Wrung overwhelming eloquence, first drew The breath which made him wretched; yet he knew How to make madness beautiful, and cast O'er erring deeds and thoughts a heavenly hue Of words, like sunbeams, dazzling as they pastThe eyes, which o'er them shed tears feelingly and fast.

LXXVIII On fire by lightning, with ethereal flame Kindled he was, and blasted; for to be Thus, and enamour'd, were in him the same. But his was not the love of living dame, Nor of the dead who rise upon our dreams, But of ideal beauty, which became In him existence, and o'erflowing teemsAlong his burning page, distemper'd though it seems.

LXXIX Invested her with all that's wild and sweet;

This hallow'd, too, the memorable kiss Which every morn his fever'd lip would greet From hers, who but with friendship his would meet; But to that gentle touch through brain and breast Flash'd the thrill'd spirit's love-devouring heat; In that absorbing sigh perchance more blestThan vulgar minds may be with all they seek possest.

LXXX Or friends by him self-banish'd; for his mind Had grown Suspicion's sanctuary, and chose, For its own cruel sacrifice, the kind, 'Gainst whom he rag'd with fury strange and blind. But he was frenzied--wherefore, who may know? Since cause might be which skill could never find; But he was frenzied by disease or woe,To that worst pitch of all, which wears a reasoning show.

LXXXI As from the Pythian's mystic cave of yore, Those oracles which set the world in flame, Nor ceas'd to burn till kingdoms were no more: Did he not this for France? which lay before Bow'd to the inborn tyranny of years? Broken and trembling to the yoke she bore, Till by the voice of him and his compeersRous'd up to too much wrath, which follows o'ergrown fears?

LXXXII The wreck of old opinions--things which grew, Breath'd from the birth of Time: the veil they rent, And what behind it lay, all earth shall view. But good with ill they also overthrew, Leaving but ruins, wherewith to rebuild Upon the same foundation, and renew Dungeons and thrones, which the same hour refill'dAs heretofore, because ambition was self-will'd.

LXXXIII Mankind have felt their strength and made it felt. They might have us'd it better, but, allur'd By their new vigour, sternly have they dealt On one another; pity ceas'd to melt With her once natural charities. But they, Who in oppression's darkness cav'd had dwelt, They were not eagles, nourish'd with the day;What marvel then, at times, if they mistook their prey?

LXXXIV The heart's bleed longest, and but heal to wear That which disfigures it; and they who war With their own hopes, and have been vanquish'd, bear Silence, but not submission: in his lair Fix'd Passion holds his breath, until the hour Which shall atone for years; none need despair: It came--it cometh--and will come--the powerTo punish or forgive--in one we shall be slower.

© George Gordon Byron