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

II. Descriptive and Narrative


(Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanzas 42–47.)

ITALIA! oh Italia! thou who hast

The fatal gift of beauty, which became

A funeral dower of present woes and past,

On thy sweet brow is sorrow plough’d by shame,

And annals graved in characters of flame.

Oh, God! that thou wert in thy nakedness

Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim

Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press

To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;

Then might’st thou more appal; or, less desired,

Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored

For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,

Would not be seen the armed torrents pour’d

Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde

Of many-nation’d spoilers from the Po

Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword

Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,

Victor or vanquish’d, thou the slave of friend or foe

Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,

The Roman friend of Rome’s least-mortal mind,

The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim

The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,

Came Megara before me, and behind

Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,

And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined

Along the prow, and saw all these unite

In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;

For Time hath not rebuilt them, but uprear’d

Barbaric dwellings on their shatter’d site,

Which only make more mourn’d and more endear’d

The few last rays of their far-scatter’d light,

And the crush’d relics of their vanish’d might.

The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,

These sepulchres of cities, which excite

Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page

The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.

That page is now before me, and on mine

His country’s ruin added to the mass

Of perish’d states he mourn’d in their decline,

And I in desolation: all that was

Of then destruction is; and now, alas!

Rome-Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,

In the same dust and blackness, and we pass

The skeleton of her Titanic form,

Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.

Yet, Italy! through every other land

Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;

Mother of Arts! as once of arms; thy hand

Was then our guardian, and is still our guide;

Parent of our Religion! whom the wide

Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!

Europe, repentant of her parricide,

Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,

Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.