Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Athens


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

COME, blue-eyed maid of heaven!—but thou, alas,

Didst never yet one mortal song inspire,—

Goddess of Wisdom! here thy temple was,

And is, despite of war and wasting fire,

And years, that bade thy worship to expire:

But worse than steel, and flame, and ages slow,

Is the dread sceptre and dominion dire

Of men who never felt the sacred glow

That thoughts of thee and thine on polished breasts bestow.

Ancient of days! august Athena! where,

Where are thy men of might, thy grand in soul?

Gone,—glimmering through the dream of things that were:

First in the race that led to glory’s goal,

They won, and passed away,—is this the whole?

A school-boy’s tale, the wonder of an hour!

The warrior’s weapon and the sophist’s stole

Are sought in vain, and o’er each mouldering tower,

Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.

Son of the morning, rise! approach you here!

Come,—but molest not yon defenceless urn!

Look on this spot,—a nation’s sepulchre!

Abode of gods, whose shrines no longer burn.

Even gods must yield,—religions take their turn:

’T was Jove’s,—’t is Mahomet’s; and other creeds

Will rise with other years, till man shall learn

Vainly his incense roars, his victim bleeds;

Poor child of Doubt and Death, whose hope is built on reeds.

Bound to the earth, he lifts his eye to heaven,—

Is ’t not enough, unhappy thing, to know

Thou art? Is this a boon so kindly given,

That being, thou wouldst be again, and go,

Thou know’st not, reck’st not to what region, so

On earth no more, but mingled with the skies!

Still wilt thou dream on future joy and woe?

Regard and weigh yon dust before it flies:

That little urn saith more than thousand homilies.

Or burst the vanished hero’s lofty mound;

Far on the solitary shore he sleeps:

He fell, and falling nations mourned around;

But now not one of saddening thousands weeps,

Nor warlike worshipper his vigil keeps

Where demigods appeared, as records tell.

Remove yon skull from out the scattered heaps:

Is that a temple where a God may dwell?

Why, even the worm at last disdains her shattered cell!

Look on its broken arch, its ruined wall,

Its chambers desolate, and portals foul:

Yes, this was once Ambition’s airy hall,

The dome of Thought, the palace of the Soul.

Behold through each lack-lustre, eyeless hole,

The gay recess of Wisdom and of Wit,

And Passion’s host, that never brooked control:

Can all saint, sage, or sophist ever writ,

People this lonely tower, this tenement refit?