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

II. Descriptive and Narrative

Greece, I

(The Corsair, Canto iii.)

SLOW sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,

Along Morea’s hills the setting sun;

Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,

But one unclouded blaze of living light;

O’er the hush’d deep the yellow beam he throws,

Gilds the green wave that trembles as it glows;

On old Ægina’s rock and Hydra’s isle

The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;

O’er his own regions lingering loves to shine,

Though there his altars are no more divine.

Descending fast, the mountain-shadows kiss

Thy glorious gulf, unconquer’d Salamis!

Their azure arches through the long expanse,

More deeply purpled, meet his mellowing glance,

And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,

Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;

Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,

Behind his Delphian rock he sinks to sleep.

On such an eve his palest beam he cast

When, Athens! here thy wisest look’d his last.

How watch’d thy better sons his farewell ray,

That closed their murder’d sage’s latest day!

Not yet—not yet—Sol pauses on the hill,

The precious hour of parting lingers still;

But sad his light to agonising eyes,

And dark the mountain’s once delightful dyes;

Gloom o’er the lovely land he seem’d to pour,

The land where Phœbus never frown’d before;

But e’er he sunk below Citheron’s head,

The cup of woe was quaff’d—the spirit fled;

The soul of him that scorn’d to fear or fly,

Who lived and died as none can live or die.

But, lo! from high Hymettus to the plain

The queen of night asserts her silent reign;

No murky vapour, herald of the storm,

Hides her fair face, or girds her glowing form.

With cornice glimmering as the moonbeams play,

There the white column greets her grateful ray,

And bright around, with quivering beams beset,

Her emblem sparkles o’er the minaret;

The groves of olive scatter’d dark and wide,

Where meek Cephisus sheds his scanty tide,

The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,

The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,

And sad and sombre mid the holy calm,

Near Theseus’ fane, you solitary palm;

All, tinged with varied hues, arrest the eye;

And dull were his that pass’d them heedless by.

Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,

Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war;

Again his waves in milder tints unfold

Their long expanse of sapphire and of gold,

Mix’d with the shades of many a distant isle,

That frown, where gentler ocean deigns to smile.