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

II. Descriptive and Narrative

Corsair Life

(Corsair, Canto i. Stanza 1.)

O’ER the glad waters of the dark blue sea,

Our thoughts are boundless, and our souls as free,

Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,

Survey our empire, and behold our home!

These are our realms, no limits to their sway—

Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.

Ours the wild life in tumult still to range

From toil to rest, and joy in every change.

Oh, who can tell? not thou, luxurious slave!

Whose soul would sicken o’er the heaving wave;

Not thou, vain lord of wantonness and ease!

Whom slumber soothes not–pleasure cannot please—

Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,

And danced in triumph o’er the waters wide,

The exulting sense—the pules’s maddening play,

That thrills the wanderer of that trackless way?

That for itself can woo the approaching fight,

And turn what some deem danger to delight;

That seeks what cravens shun with more than zeal,

And where the feebler faint—can only feel—

Feel—to the rising bosom’s inmost core,

Its hope awaken and its spirit soar?

No dread of death—if with us die our foes—

Save that it seems even duller than repose:

Come when it will—we snatch the life of life—

When lost—what recks it—by disease or strife?

Let him who crawls enamour’d of decay

Cling to his couch, and sicken years away;

Heave his thick breath, and shake his palsied head;

Ours—the fresh turf, and not the feverish bed.

While gasp by gasp he falters forth his soul,

Ours with one pang—one bound—escapes control.

His corse may boast its urn and narrow cave,

And they who loath’d his life may gild his grave:

Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,

When Ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.

For us, even banquets fond regret supply

In the red cup that crowns our memory;

And the brief epitaph in danger’s day,

When those who win at length divide the prey,

And cry, remembrance saddening o’er each brow,

How had the brave who fell exulted now!