I can never get people to understand that poetry is the expression of excited passion, and that there is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever. Besides, who would ever shave themselves in such a state?
Lord Byron, in a letter to Thomas Moore, 5 July 1821
(BEING CONTINUED FROM 10/09/2017)
Epistle to Augusta
1 My sister! my sweet sister! if a name
2 Dearer and purer were, it should be thine.
3 Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim
4 No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:
5 Go where I will, to me thou art the same
6 A lov’d regret which I would not resign.
7 There yet are two things in my destiny–
8 A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
9 The first were nothing–had I still the last,
10 It were the haven of my happiness;
11 But other claims and other ties thou hast,
12 And mine is not the wish to make them less.
13 A strange doom is thy father’s son’s, and past
14 Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
15 Revers’d for him our grandsire’s fate of yore–
16 He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
17 If my inheritance of storms hath been
18 In other elements, and on the rocks
19 Of perils, overlook’d or unforeseen,
20 I have sustain’d my share of worldly shocks,
21 The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
22 My errors with defensive paradox;
23 I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
24 The careful pilot of my proper woe.
25 Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward.
26 My whole life was a contest, since the day
27 That gave me being, gave me that which marr’d
28 The gift–a fate, or will, that walk’d astray;
29 And I at times have found the struggle hard,
30 And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay:
31 But now I fain would for a time survive,
32 If but to see what next can well arrive.
33 Kingdoms and empires in my little day
34 I have outliv’d, and yet I am not old;
35 And when I look on this, the petty spray
36 Of my own years of trouble, which have roll’d
37 Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away:
38 Something–I know not what–does still uphold
39 A spirit of slight patience; not in vain,
40 Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
41 Perhaps the workings of defiance stir
42 Within me–or perhaps a cold despair,
43 Brought on when ills habitually recur,
44 Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air
45 (For even to this may change of soul refer,
46 And with light armour we may learn to bear),
47 Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not
48 The chief companion of a calmer lot.
49 I feel almost at times as I have felt
50 In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks,
51 Which do remember me of where I dwelt
52 Ere my young mind was sacrific’d to books,
53 Come as of yore upon me, and can melt
54 My heart with recognition of their looks;
55 And even at moments I could think I see
56 Some living thing to love–but none like thee.
57 Here are the Alpine landscapes which create
58 A fund for contemplation; to admire
59 Is a brief feeling of a trivial date;
60 But something worthier do such scenes inspire:
61 Here to be lonely is not desolate,
62 For much I view which I could most desire,
63 And, above all, a lake I can behold
64 Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.
65 Oh that thou wert but with me!–but I grow
66 The fool of my own wishes, and forget
67 The solitude which I have vaunted so
68 Has lost its praise in this but one regret;
69 There may be others which I less may show;
70 I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet
71 I feel an ebb in my philosophy,
72 And the tide rising in my alter’d eye.
73 I did remind thee of our own dear Lake,
74 By the old Hall which may be mine no more.
75 Leman’s is fair; but think not I forsake
76 The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:
77 Sad havoc Time must with my memory make
78 Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before;
79 Though, like all things which I have lov’d, they are
80 Resign’d for ever, or divided far.
81 The world is all before me; I but ask
82 Of Nature that with which she will comply–
83 It is but in her summer’s sun to bask,
84 To mingle with the quiet of her sky,
85 To see her gentle face without a mask,
86 And never gaze on it with apathy.
87 She was my early friend, and now shall be
88 My sister–till I look again on thee.
89 I can reduce all feelings but this one;
90 And that I would not; for at length I see
91 Such scenes as those wherein my life begun,
92 The earliest–even the only paths for me–
93 Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun,
94 I had been better than I now can be;
95 The passions which have torn me would have slept;
96 I had not suffer’d, and thou hadst not wept.
97 With false Ambition what had I to do?
98 Little with Love, and least of all with Fame;
99 And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,
100 And made me all which they can make–a name,
101 Yet this was not the end I did pursue;
102 Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
103 But all is over–I am one the more
104 To baffled millions which have gone before.
105 And for the future, this world’s future may
106 From me demand but little of my care;
107 I have outliv’d myself by many a day,
108 Having surviv’d so many things that were;
109 My years have been no slumber, but the prey
110 Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share
111 Of life which might have fill’d a century,
112 Before its fourth in time had pass’d me by.
113 And for the remnant which may be to come
114 I am content; and for the past I feel
115 Not thankless, for within the crowded sum
116 Of struggles, happiness at times would steal,
117 And for the present, I would not benumb
118 My feelings further. Nor shall I conceal
119 That with all this I still can look around,
120 And worship Nature with a thought profound.
121 For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart
122 I know myself secure, as thou in mine;
123 We were and are–I am, even as thou art–
124 Beings who ne’er each other can resign;
125 It is the same, together or apart,
126 From life’s commencement to its slow decline
127 We are entwin’d–let death come slow or fast,
128 The tie which bound the first endures the last!
(TO BE CONTINUED)