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

Introductory to Greece


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

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 whilome did await,

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

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;

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,

Who but would deem their bosoms burned anew

With thy unquenched 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,

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?

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;

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:

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;

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,

Where the gray stones and unmolested 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;

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 freeborn wanderer of thy mountain air;

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,

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

Defies the power which crushed thy temples gone:

Age shakes Athena’s tower, but spares gray Marathon.

The sun, the soil, but not the slave, the same;

Unchanged in all except its foreign lord—

Preserves alike its bounds and boundless fame

The battle-field, where Persia’s victim horde

First bowed beneath the brunt of Hellas’ sword,

As on the morn to distant glory dear,

When Marathon became a magic word;

Which uttered, to the hearer’s eye appear

The camp, the host, the fight, the conqueror’s career.

The flying Mede, his shaftless broken bow;

The fiery Greek, his red pursuing spear;

Mountains above, earth’s, ocean’s plain below;

Death in the front, destruction in the rear!

Such was the scene,—what now remaineth here?

What sacred trophy marks the hallowed ground,

Recording freedom’s smile and Asia’s tear?

The rifled urn, the violated mound,

The dust thy courser’s hoof, rude stranger! spurns around.

Yet to the remnants of thy splendor past

Shall pilgrims, pensive, but unwearied, throng;

Long shall the voyager, with the Ionian blast,

Hail the bright clime of battle and of song;

Long shall thine annals and immortal tongue

Fill with thy fame the youth of many a shore;

Boast of the aged! lesson of the young!

Which sages venerate and bards adore,

As Pallas and the muse unveil their awful lore.