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

I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac

Nature to the Last

(Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanzas 175–184.)

MY Pilgrim’s shrine is won,

And he and I must part,—so let it be!

His task and mine alike are nearly done;

Yet once more let us look upon the sea.

The midland ocean breaks on him and me,

And from the Alban Mount we now behold

Our friend of youth, that ocean, which when we

Beheld it last by Calpe’s rock unfold

Those waves, we follow’d on till the dark Euxine roll’d

Upon the blue Symplegades; long years—

Long, though not very many, since have done

Their work on both; some suffering and some tears

Have left us nearly where we had begun:

Yet not in vain our mortal race hath run,

We have had our reward—and it is here;

That we can yet feel gladden’d by the sun,

And reap from earth, sea joy almost as dear

As if there were no man to trouble what is clear.

Oh! that the Desert were my dwelling-place,

With one fair Spirit for my minister,

That I might all forget the human race,

And, hating no one, love but only her!

Ye Elements!—in whose ennobling stir

I feel myself exalted—Can ye not

Accord me such a being? Do I err

In deeming such inhabit many a spot?

Though with them to converse can rarely be our lot.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar.

I love not man the less, but Nature more,

From these our interviews, in which I steal

From all I may be, or have been before,

To mingle with the Universe, and feel

What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!

Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;

Man marks the earth with ruin—his control

Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain

The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain

A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,

When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,

Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields

Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise

And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields

For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,

Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,

And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray

And howling, to his Gods, where haply lies

His petty hope in some near port or bay,

And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls

Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,

And monarchs tremble in their capitals,

The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make

Their clay creator the vain title take

Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;

These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,

They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar

Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee—

Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?

Thy waters wasted them while they were free,

And many a tyrant since; their shores obey

The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay

Has dried up realms to deserts:—not so thou,

Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play—

Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow—

Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form

Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,

Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm,

Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime

Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime—

The image of Eternity—the throne

Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime

The monsters of the deep are made; each zone

Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy

Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be

Born, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy

I wanton’d with thy breakers—they to me

Were a delight; and if the freshening sea

Made them a terror—’twas a pleasing fear,

For I was as it were a child of thee,

And trusted to thy billows far and near,

And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.