Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Extracts from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Harold the Wanderer
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
[From Canto III.]

    IS thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
    ADA! 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,
        5
    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 should grieve or glad mine eye.
 
    Once more upon the waters! yet once more!        10
    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,        15
    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 prevail.
 
    In my youth’s summer I did sing of One,
    The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;        20
    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,        25
    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        30
    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 seem        35
To me, though no one 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,        40
    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 unimpair’d, though old, in the soul’s haunted cell.        45
 
    ’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.
    What am I? Nothing: but not so art thou,        50
    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.
 
    Yet must I think less wildly:—I have thought        55
    Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
    In its own eddy boiling and o’erwrought,
    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!        60
    Yet am I changed; though still enough the same
    In strength to bear what time cannot 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.        65
    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        70
    Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And life’s enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
 
    His had been quaff’d too quickly, and he found
    The dregs were wormwood; but he fill’d again,
    And from a purer fount, on holier ground,        75
    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 pined although it spoke not, and grew keen,        80
Entering with every step he took through many a scene.
 
    Secure in guarded coldness, he had mix’d
    Again in fancied safety with his kind,
    And deem’d his spirit now so firmly fix’d
    And sheath’d with an invulnerable mind,        85
    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 land
He found in wonder-works of God and Nature’s hand.        90
 
    But who can view the ripen’d 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        95
    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.
 
    But soon he knew himself the most unfit        100
    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        105
    To spirits against whom his own rebell’d;
    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 roll’d the ocean, thereon was his home;        110
    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        115
    Of his land’s tongue, which he would oft forsake
For Nature’s pages glass’d by sunbeams on the lake.
 
    Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,
    Till he had peopled them with beings bright
    As their own beams; and earth, and earth-born jars,        120
    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 link        125
That keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink.
 
    But in Man’s dwellings he became a thing
    Restless and worn, and stern and wearisome,
    Droop’d as a wild-born falcon with dipt wing,
    To whom the boundless air alone were home:        130
    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 heat
Of his impeded soul would through his bosom eat.
*        *        *        *        *
        135
ALIGN="center">Longing
THE CASTLED crag of Drachenfels
Frowns o’er the wide and winding Rhine,
Whose breast of waters broadly swells
Between the banks which bear the vine,
And hills all rich with blossom’d trees,        140
And fields which promise corn and wine,
And scattered cities crowning these,
Whose far white walls along them shine,
Have strew’d a scene, which I should see
With double joy wert thou with me.        145
 
And peasant girls, with deep blue eyes,
And hands which offer early flowers,
Walk smiling o’er this paradise;
Above, the frequent feudal towers
Through green leaves lift their walls of gray;        150
And many a rock which steeply lowers,
And noble arch in proud decay,
Look o’er this vale of vintage-bowers;
But one thing want these banks of Rhine,—
Thy gentle hand to clasp in mine!        155
 
I send the lilies given to me;
Though long before thy hand they touch,
I know that they must wither’d be,
But yet reject them not as such;
For I have cherish’d them as dear,        160
Because they yet may meet thine eye,
And guide thy soul to mine even here,
When thou behold’st them drooping nigh,
And know’st them gather’d by the Rhine,
And offer’d from my heart to thine!        165
 
The river nobly foams and flows,
The charm of this enchanted ground,
And all its thousand turns disclose
Some fresher beauty varying round:
The haughtiest breast its wish might bound        170
Through life to dwell delighted here;
Nor could on earth a spot be found
To nature and to me so dear,
Could thy dear eyes in following mine
Still sweeten more these banks of Rhine!        175
 
 
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