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Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
II. Descriptive and Narrative
Bonnivard and his Brothers
 
(Prisoner of Chillon, Stanzas 6–8.)

  LAKE LEMAN lies by Chillon’s walls:
A thousand feet in depth below
Its massy waters meet and flow;
Thus much the fathom-line was sent
From Chillon’s snow-white battlement,        5
  Which round about the wave inthrals:
A double dungeon wall and wave
Have made—and like a living grave.
Below the surface of the lake
The dark vault lies wherein we lay,        10
We heard it ripple night and day;
  Sounding o’er our heads it knock’d;
And I have felt the winter’s spray
Wash through the bars when winds were high
And wanton in the happy sky;        15
  And then the very rock hath rock’d,
  And I have felt it shake, unshock’d,
Because I could have smiled to see
The death that would have set me free.
 
I said my nearer brother pined,        20
I said his mighty heart declined,
He loathed and put away his food;
It was not that ’twas coarse and rude,
For we were used to hunter’s fare,
And for the like had little care:        25
The milk drawn from the mountain goat
Was changed for water from the moat,
Our bread was such as captive’s tears
Have moisten’d many a thousand years,
Since man first pent his fellow men        30
Like brutes within an iron den;
But what were these to us or him?
These wasted not his heart or limb;
My brother’s soul was of that mould
Which in a palace had grown cold,        35
Had his free breathing been denied
The range of the steep mountain’s side;
But why delay the truth?—he died.
I saw, and could not hold his head,
Nor reach his dying hand—nor dead,—        40
Though hard I strove, but strove in vain,
To rend and gnash my bonds in twain.
He died—and they unlock’d his chain,
And scoop’d for him a shallow grave
Even from the cold earth of our cave.        45
I begg’d them, as a boon, to lay
His corse in dust whereon the day
Might shine—it was a foolish thought,
But then within my brain it wrought,
That even in death his freeborn breast        50
In such a dungeon could not rest.
I might have spared my idle prayer—
They coldly laugh’d—and laid him there:
The flat and turfless earth above
The being we so much did love;        55
His empty chain above it leant,
Such murder’s fitting monument!
 
But he, the favourite and the flower,
Most cherish’d since his natal hour,
His mother’s image in fair face,        60
The infant love of all his race,
His martyr’d father’s dearest thought,
My latest care, for whom I sought
To hoard my life, that his might be
Less wretched now, and one day free;        65
He, too, who yet had held untired
A spirit natural or inspired—
He, too, was struck, and day by day
Was wither’d on the stalk away.
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing        70
To see the human soul take wing
In any shape, in any mood:—
I’ve seen it rushing forth in blood,
I’ve seen it on the breaking ocean
Strive with a swoln convulsive motion,        75
I’ve seen the sick and ghastly bed
Of Sin delirious with its dread;
But these were horrors—this was woe
Unmix’d with such—but sure and slow:
He faded, and so calm and meek,        80
So softly worn, so sweetly weak,
So tearless, yet so tender—kind,
And grieved for those he left behind!
With all the while a cheek whose bloom
Was as a mockery of the tomb,        85
Whose tints as gently sunk away
As a departing rainbow’s ray—
An eye of most transparent light,
That almost made the dungeon bright,
And not a word of murmur—not        90
A groan o’er his untimely lot,—
A little talk of better days,
A little hope my own to raise,
For I was sunk in silence—lost
In this last loss, of all the most;        95
And then the sighs he would suppress
Of fainting nature’s feebleness,
More slowly drawn, grew less and less:
I listen’d, but I could not hear—
I call’d, for I was wild with fear;        100
I knew ’twas hopeless, but my dread
Would not be thus admonished;
I call’d, and thought I heard a sound—
I burst my chain with one strong bound,
And rush’d to him:—I found him not,        105
I only stirr’d in this black spot,
I only lived—I only drew
The accursed breath of dungeon-dew;
The last—the sole—the dearest link
Between me and the eternal brink,        110
Which bound me to my failing race,
Was broken in this fatal place.
 
 
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