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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac

Childe Harold’s Departure

(Childe Harold, Canto i. Stanzas 4–11)

CHILDE HAROLD bask’d him in the noontide sun,

Disporting there like any other fly;

Nor deem’d before his little day was done

One blast might chill him into misery.

But long ere scarce a third of his pass’d by,

Worse than adversity the Childe befell;

He felt the fulness of satiety:

Then loathed he in his native land to dwell,

Which seemed to him more lone than Eremite’s sad cell.

For he through Sin’s long labyrinth had run,

Nor made atonement when he did amiss,

Had sigh’d to many though he loved but one,

And that loved one, alas! could ne’er be his.

Ah, happy she! to ’scape from him whose kiss

Had been pollution unto aught so chaste;

Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss,

And spoil’d her goodly lands to gild his waste,

Nor calm domestic peace had ever deign’d to taste.

And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart,

And from his fellow bacchanals would flee;

’Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start,

But Pride congeal’d the drop within his ee:

Apart he stalk’d in joyless reverie,

And from his native land resolved to go,

And visit scorching climes beyond the sea;

With pleasure drugg’d, he almost long’d for woe,

And e’en for change of scene would seek the shades below.

The Childe departed from his father’s hall:

It was a vast and venerable pile;

So old, it seemed only not to fall,

Yet strength was pillar’d in each massy aisle.

Monastic dome! condemn’d to uses vile!

Where Superstition once had made her den

Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile;

And monks might deem their time was come agen,

If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.

Yet oft-times in his maddest mirthful mood

Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold’s brow,

As if the memory of some deadly feud

Or disappointed passion lurk’d below:

But this none knew, nor haply cared to know;

For his was not that open, artless soul

That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow,

Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole,

Whate’er this grief mote be, which he could not control.

And none did love him—though to hall and bower

He gather’d revellers from far and near,

He knew them flatt’rers of the festal hour;

The heartless parasites of present cheer.

Yea! none did love him—not his lemans dear—

But pomp and power alone are woman’s care,

And where these are light Eros finds a feere;

Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,

And Mammon wins his ways where Seraphs might despair.

Childe Harold had a mother—not forgot,

Though parting from that mother he did shun;

A sister whom he loved, but saw her not

Before his weary pilgrimage begun:

If friends he had, he bade adieu to none.

Yet deem not thence his breast a breast of steel:

Ye, who have known what ’tis to dote upon

A few dear objects, will in sadness feel

Such partings break the heart they fondly hope to heal.

His house, his home, his heritage, his lands,

The laughing dames in whom he did delight,

Whose large blue eyes, fair locks, and snowy hands,

Might shake the saintship of an anchorite,

And long had fed his youthful appetite;

His goblets brimm’d with every costly wine,

And all that mote to luxury invite,

Without a sigh he left, to cross the brine,

And traverse Paynim shores, and pass Earth’s central line.