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

I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac

The Poet’s Curse

(Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanzas 134–137.)

AND if my voice break forth, ’tis not that now

I shrink from what is suffer’d: let him speak

Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,

Or seen my mind’s convulsion leave it weak;

But in this page a record will I seek.

Not in the air shall these my words disperse,

Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak

The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,

And pile on human heads the mountains of my curse!

That curse shall be Forgiveness.—Have I not—

Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven!—

Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?

Have I not suffer’d things to be forgiven?

Have I not had my brain sear’d, my heart riven,

Hopes sapp’d, name blighted, Life’s life lied away?

And only not to desperation driven,

Because not altogether of such clay

As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.

From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy

Have I not seen what human things could do?

From the loud roar of foaming calumny

To the small whisper of the as paltry few,

And subtler venom of the reptile crew,

The Janus glance of whose significant eye,

Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,

And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,

Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.

But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:

My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,

And my frame perish even in conquering pain;

But there is that within me which shall tire

Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire;

Something unearthly, which they deem not of,

Like the remember’d tone of a mute lyre,

Shall on their soften’d spirits sink, and move

In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.