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

II. Descriptive and Narrative

Conrad’s Return

(Corsair, Canto iii. Stanzas 19–21.)

THE LIGHTS are high on beacon and from bower,

And ’midst them Conrad seeks Medora’s tower:

He looks in vain—’tis strange—and all remark,

Amid so many, hers alone is dark.

’Tis strange—of yore its welcome never fail’d,

Nor now, perchance, extinguish’d, only veil’d.

With the first boat descends he for the shore,

And looks impatient on the lingering oar.

Oh! for a wing beyond the falcon’s flight,

To bear him like an arrow to that height!

With the first pause the resting rowers gave,

He waits not—looks not—leaps into the wave,

Strives through the surge, bestrides the beach, and high

Ascends the path familiar to his eye.

He reach’d his turret door—he paused—no sound

Broke from within; and all was night around.

He knock’d, and loudly—footstep nor reply

Announced that any heard or deem’d him nigh;

He knock’d—but faintly—for his trembling hand

Refused to aid his heavy heart’s demand.

The portal opens—’tis a well-known face—

But not the form he panted to embrace.

Its lips are silent—twice his own essay’d,

And fail’d to frame the question they delay’d;

He snatch’d the lamp—its light will answer all—

It quits his grasp, expiring in the fall.

He would not wait for that reviving ray—

As soon could he have linger’d there for day;

But, glimmering through the dusky corridor,

Another chequers o’er the shadow’d floor;

His steps the chamber gain—his eyes behold

All that his heart believed not—yet foretold!

He turn’d not—spoke not—sunk not—fix’d his look,

And set the anxious frame that lately shook:

He gazed—how long we gaze despite of pain,

And know, but dare not own, we gaze in vain!

In life itself she was so still and fair,

That death with gentler aspect wither’d there;

And the cold flowers her colder hand contain’d,

In that last grasp as tenderly were strain’d

As if she scarcely felt, but feign’d a sleep,

And made it almost mockery yet to weep:

The long dark lashes fringed her lids of snow,

And veil’d—thought shrinks from all that lurk’d below—

Oh! o’er the eye Death most exerts his might,

And hurls the spirit from her throne of light!

Sinks those blue orbs in that long last eclipse,

But spares, as yet, the charm around her lips—

Yet, yet they seem as they forbore to smile,

And wish’d repose—but only for a while;

But the white shroud, and each extended tress,

Long—fair—but spread in utter lifelessness,

Which, late the sport of every summer wind,

Escaped the baffled wreath that strove to bind;

These—and the pale pure cheek, became the bier—

But she is nothing—wherefore is he here?

He ask’d no question—all were answer’d now

By the first glance on that still—marble brow.

It was enough—she died—what reck’d it how?