Verse > Lord Byron > Poems
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
II. Descriptive and Narrative
Bonnivard alone
 
(Prisoner of Chillon, Stanzas 9–14.)

WHAT next befell me then and there
  I know not well—I never knew—
First came the loss of light, and air,
  And then of darkness too:
I had no thought, no feeling—none—        5
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was, scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist;
For all was blank, and bleak, and grey,
It was not night—it was not day,        10
It was not even the dungeon-light,
So hateful to my heavy sight,
But vacancy absorbing space,
And fixedness—without a place;
There were no stars—no earth—no time—        15
No check—no change—no good—no crime—
But silence, and a stirless breath
Which neither was of life nor death;
A sea of stagnant idleness,
Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless!        20
 
A light broke in upon my brain,—
  It was the carol of a bird;
It ceased, and then it came again,
  The sweetest song ear ever heard,
And mine was thankful till my eyes        25
Ran over with the glad surprise,
And they that moment could not see
I was the mate of misery;
But then by dull degrees came back
My senses to their wonted track,        30
I saw the dungeon walls and floor
Close slowly round me as before,
I saw the glimmer of the sun
Creeping as it before had done,
But through the crevice where it came.        35
That bird was perch’d, as fond and tame,
  And tamer than upon the tree;
A lovely bird, with azure wings,
And song that said a thousand things,
  And seem’d to say them all for me!        40
I never saw its like before,
I ne’er shall see its likeness more:
It seem’d like me to want a mate,
But was not half so desolate,
And it was come to love me when        45
None lived to love me so again,
And cheering from my dungeon’s brink,
Had brought me back to feel and think.
I know not if it late were free,
  Or broke its cage to perch on mine,        50
But knowing well captivity,
  Sweet bird! I could not wish of thine!
Or if it were, in winged guise,
A visitant from Paradise;
For—Heaven forgive that thought! the while        55
Which made me both to weep and smile—
I sometimes deem’d that it might be
My brother’s soul come down to me;
But then at last away it flew,
And then ’twas mortal—well I knew;        60
For he would never thus have flown,
And left me twice so doubly lone—
Lone—as the corse within its shroud,
Lone—as a solitary cloud,
  A single cloud on a sunny day,        65
While all the rest of heaven is clear,
A frown upon the atmosphere,
That hath no business to appear
  When skies are blue, and earth is gay.
 
A kind of change came in my fate,        70
My keepers grew compassionate;
I know not what had made them so,
They were inured to sights of woe,
But so it was:—my broken chain
With links unfasten’d did remain,        75
And it was liberty to stride
Along my cell from side to side,
And up and down, and then athwart,
And tread it over every part;
And round the pillars one by one,        80
Returning where my walk begun,
Avoiding only, as I trod,
My brothers’ graves without a sod;
For if I thought with heedless tread
My step profaned their lowly bed,        85
My breath came gaspingly and thick,
And my crush’d heart fell blind and sick.
 
I made a footing in the wall,
  It was not therefrom to escape,
For I had buried one and all        90
  Who loved me in a human shape;
And the whole earth would henceforth be
A wider prison unto me:
No child—no sire—no kin had I,
No partner in my misery;        95
I thought of this, and I was glad,
For thought of them had made me mad;
But I was curious to ascend
To my barr’d windows, and to bend
Once more, upon the mountains high,        100
The quiet of a loving eye.
 
I saw them—and they were the same,
They were not changed like me in frame;
I saw their thousand years of snow
On high—their wide long lake below,        105
And the blue Rhone in fullest flow;
I heard the torrents leap and gush
O’er channell’d rock and broken bush;
I saw the white-wall’d distant town,
And whiter sails go skimming down;        110
And then there was a little isle,
Which in my very face did smile.
    The only one in view;
A small green isle, it seem’d no more,
Scarce broader than my dungeon floor,        115
But in it there were three tall trees,
And o’er it blew the mountain breeze,
And by it there were waters flowing,
And on it there were young flowers growing,
    Of gentle breath and hue.        120
The fish swam by the castle wall,
And they seem’d joyous each and all;
The eagle rode the rising blast,
Methought he never flew so fast
As then to me he seem’d to fly,        125
And then new tears came in my eye.
And I felt troubled—and would fain
I had not left my recent chain;
And when I did descend again,
The darkness of my dim abode        130
Fell on me as a heavy load;
It was as is a new-dug grave,
Closing o’er one we sought to save,—
And yet my glance, too much oppress’d,
Had almost need of such a rest.        135
 
It might be months, or years, or days,
  I kept no count, I took no note,
I had no hope my eyes to raise,
  And clear them of their dreary mote;
At last men came to set me free,        140
  I ask’d not why, and reck’d not where,
It was at length the same to me
Fetter’d or fetterless to be,
  I learn’d to love despair.
And thus when they appear’d at last,        145
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:        150
With spiders I had friendship made,
And watch’d them in their sullen trade,
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?
We were all inmates of one place,        155
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learn’d to dwell.
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends        160
To make us what we are;—even I
Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.
 
 
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors