Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
II. Freedom
Greece Enslaved
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
From “Childe Harold” Canto II.

  FAIR Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
  Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!
  Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth,
  And long-accustomed bondage uncreate?
  Not such thy sons who whilom did await,        5
  The hopeless warriors of a willing doom,
  In bleak Thermopylæ’s sepulchral strait,—
  O, who that gallant spirit shall resume,
Leap from Eurotas’ banks, and call thee from the tomb?
 
  Spirit of Freedom! when on Phyle’s brow        10
  Thou sat’st with Thrasybulus and his train,
  Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now
  Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?
  Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,
  But every carle can lord it o’er thy land;        15
  Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,
  Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned.
 
  In all save form alone, how changed! and who
  That marks the fire still sparkling in each eye,        20
  Who but would deem their bosoms burned anew
  With thy unquenchèd beam, lost Liberty!
  And many dream withal the hour is nigh
  That gives them back their fathers’ heritage;
  For foreign arms and aid they fondly sigh,        25
  Nor solely dare encounter hostile rage,
Or tear their name defiled from Slavery’s mournful page.
 
  Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not,
  Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?
  By their right arms the conquest must be wrought?        30
  Will Gaul or Muscovite redress ye? No!
  True, they may lay your proud despoilers low,
  But not for you will Freedom’s altars flame.
  Shades of the Helots! triumph o’er your foe!
  Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same;        35
Thy glorious day is o’er, but not thy years of shame!
*        *        *        *        *
  And yet how lovely in thine age of woe,
  Land of lost gods and godlike men, art thou!
  Thy vales of evergreen, thy hills of snow,
  Proclaim thee Nature’s varied favorite now.        40
  Thy fanes, thy temples to thy surface bow,
  Commingling slowly with heroic earth,
  Broke by the share of every rustic plough:
  So perish monuments of mortal birth,
So perish all in turn, save well-recorded worth;        45
 
  Save where some solitary column mourns
  Above its prostrate brethren of the cave;
  Save where Tritonia’s airy shrine adorns
  Colonna’s cliff, and gleams along the wave;
  Save o’er some warrior’s half-forgotten grave,        50
  Where the gray stones and long-neglected grass
  Ages, but not oblivion, feebly brave,
  While strangers only not regardless pass,
Lingering like me, perchance, to gaze, and sigh “Alas!”
 
  Yet are thy skies as blue, thy crags as wild,        55
  Sweet are thy groves, and verdant are thy fields,
  Thine olive ripe as when Minerva smiled,
  And still his honeyed wealth Hymettus yields;
  There the blithe bee his fragrant fortress builds,
  The free-born wanderer of thy mountain air;        60
  Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds,
  Still in his beam Mendeli’s marbles glare:
Art, Glory, Freedom fail, but Nature still is fair.
 
  Where’er we tread, ’t is haunted, holy ground;
  No earth of thine is lost in vulgar mould,        65
  But one vast realm of wonder spreads around,
  And all the Muse’s tales seem truly told,
  Till the sense aches with gazing to behold
  The scenes our earliest dreams have dwelt upon:
  Each hill and dale, each deepening glen and wold,        70
  Defies the power which crushed thy temples gone:
Age shakes Athena’s tower, but spares gray Marathon.
 
 
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