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

II. Descriptive and Narrative

Journey and Death of Hassan

(From The Giaour)

STERN Hassan hath a journey ta’en

With twenty vassals in his train,

Each arm’d, as best becomes a man,

With arquebuss and ataghan;

The chief before, as deck’d for war,

Bears in his belt the scimitar

Stain’d with the best of Arnaut blood,

When in the pass the rebels stood,

And few return’d to tell the tale

Of what befell in Parne’s vale.

The pistols which his girdle bore

Were those that once a pasha wore,

Which still, though gemm’d and boss’d with gold,

Even robbers tremble to behold.

’Tis said he goes to woo a bride

More true than her who left his side;

The faithless slave that broke her bower,

And, worse than faithless, for a Giaour!


The sun’s last rays are on the hill,

And sparkle in the fountain rill,

Whose welcome waters, cool and clear

Draw blessings from the mountaineer:

Here may the loitering merchant Greek

Find that repose ’twere vain to seek

In cities lodged too near his lord,

And trembling for his secret hoard—

Here may he rest where none can see,

In crowds a slave, in deserts free;

And with forbidden wine may stain

The bowl a Moslem must not drain.


The foremost Tartar’s in the gap,

Conspicuous by his yellow cap;

The rest in lengthening line the while

Wind slowly through the long defile:

Above, the mountain rears a peak,

Where vultures whet the thirsty beak,

And theirs may be a feast to-night,

Shall tempt them down ere morrow’s light;

Beneath, a river’s wintry stream

Has shrunk before the summer beam,

And left a channel bleak and bare,

Save shrubs that spring to perish there:

Each side the midway path there lay

Small broken crags of granite gray,

By time, or mountain lightning, riven

From summits clad in mists of heaven;

For where is he that hath beheld

The peak of Liakura unveil’d?


They reach the grove of pine at last:

“Bismillah! now the peril’s past;

For yonder view the opening plain,

And there we’ll prick our steeds amain:”

The Chiaus spake, and as he said,

A bullet whistled o’er his head;

The foremost Tartar bites the ground!

Scarce had they time to check the rein,

Swift from their steeds the riders bound;

But three shall never mount again:

Unseen the foes that gave the wound,

The dying ask revenge in vain.

With steel unsheath’d, and carbine bent,

Some o’er their courser’s harness leant,

Half shelter’d by the steed;

Some fly behind the nearest rock,

And there await the coming shock,

Nor tamely stand to bleed

Beneath the shaft of foes unseen,

Who dare not quit their craggy screen.

Stern Hassan only from his horse

Disdains to light, and keeps his course,

Till fiery flashes in the van

Proclaim too sure the robber-clan

Have well secured the only way

Could now avail the promised prey;

Then curl’d his very beard with ire,

And glared his eye with fiercer fire:

“Though far and near the bullets hiss,

I’ve ’scaped a bloodier hour than this.”

And now the foe their covert quit,

And call his vassals to submit;

But Hassan’s frown and furious word

Are dreaded more than hostile sword,

Nor of his little band a man

Resign’d carbine or ataghan,

Nor raised the craven cry, Amaun!

In fuller sight, more near and near,

The lately ambush’d foes appear,

And, issuing from the grove, advance

Some who on battle-charger prance.

Who leads them on with foreign brand,

Far flashing in his red right hand?

“’Tis he! ’tis he! I know him now;

I know him by his pallid brow;

I know him by the evil eye

That aids his envious treachery;

I know him by his jet-black barb:

Though now array’d in Arnaut garb,

Apostate from his own vile faith,

It shall not save him from the death:

’Tis he! well met in any hour,

Lost Leila’s love, accursed Giaour!”


With sabre shiver’d to the hilt,

Yet dripping with the blood he spilt;

Yet Strain’d within the sever’d hand

Which quivers round that faithless brand;

His turban far behind him roll’d,

And cleft in twain its firmest fold;

His flowing robe by falchion torn,

And crimson as those clouds of morn

That, streak’d with dusky red, portend

The day shall have a stormy end;

A stain on every bush that bore

A fragment of his palampore,

His breast with wounds unnumber’d riven,

His back to earth, his face to heaven,

Fall’n Hassan lies—his unclosed eye

Yet lowering on his enemy,

As if the hour that seal’d his fate

Surviving left his quenchless hate;

And o’er him bends that foe with brow

As dark as his that bled below.