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

II. Descriptive and Narrative

The Ave Maria

(Don Juan, Canto iii. Stanzas 102–109.)

AVE MARIA! blessed be the hour!

The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft

Have felt that moment in its fullest power

Sink o’er the earth so beautiful and soft,

While swung the deep bell in the distant tower,

Or the faint dying day-hymn stole aloft,

And not a breath crept through the rosy air,

And yet the forest leaves seem’d stirr’d with prayer.

Ave Maria! ’tis the hour of prayer!

Ave Maria! ’tis the hour of love!

Ave Maria! may our spirits dare

Look up to thine and to thy Son’s above!

Ave Maria! oh, that face so fair!

Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty dove—

What though ’tis but a pictured image?—strike—

That painting is no idol—’tis too like.

Sweet hour of twilight!—in the solitude

Of the pine forest, and the silent shore

Which bounds Ravenna’s immemorial wood,

Rooted where once the Adrian wave flowed o’er,

To where the last Cæsarean fortress stood,

Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio’s lore

And Dryden’s lay made haunted ground to me,

How have I loved the twilight hour and thee!

The shrill cicalas, people of the pine,

Making their summer lives one ceaseless song,

Were the sole echoes, save my steed’s and mine,

And vesper bell’s that rose the boughs along;

The spectre huntsman of Onesti’s line,

His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng

Which learn’d from this example not to fly

From a true lover,—shadow’d my mind’s eye.

Oh, Hesperus! thou bringest all good things—

Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,

To the young bird the parent’s brooding wings,

The welcome stall to the o’erlabour’d steer;

Whate’er of peace about our hearthstone clings,

Whate’er our household gods protect of dear,

Are gather’d round us by thy look of rest;

Thou bring’st the child, too, to the mother’s breast.

Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart

Of those who sail the seas, on the first day

When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;

Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way

As the far bell of vesper makes him start,

Seeming to weep the dying day’s decay;

Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?

Ah! surely nothing dies but something mourns!

When Nero perish’d by the justest doom

Which ever the destroyer yet destroy’d,

Amidst the roar of liberated Rome,

Of nations freed, and the world overjoy’d,

Some hand unseen strew’d flowers upon his tomb:

Perhaps the weakness of a heart not void

Of feeling for some kindness done, when power

Had left the wretch an uncorrupted hour.