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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By The Course of Time (1827). II. Lord Byron (From Book iv)

Robert Pollok (1798–1827)

TAKE one example, to our purpose quite.

A man of rank, and of capacious soul,

Who riches had, and fame, beyond desire;

An heir of flattery, to titles born,

And reputation, and luxurious life.

Yet, not content with ancestorial name,

Or to be known because his fathers were,

He on this height hereditary stood,

And, gazing higher, purposed in his heart

To take another step. Above him seemed

Alone the mount of song, the lofty seat

Of canonisèd bards; and thitherward,

By nature taught, and inward melody,

In prime of youth he bent his eagle eye.

No cost was spared. What books he wished, he read;

What sage to hear, he heard; what scenes to see,

He saw. And first in rambling schoolboy days

Britannia’s mountain-walks, and heath-girt lakes,

And story-telling glens, and founts, and brooks,

And maids, as dewdrops pure and fair, his soul

With grandeur filled, and melody and love.

Then travel came, and took him where he wished.

He cities saw, and courts, and princely pomp;

And mused alone on ancient mountain-brows;

And mused on battle-fields, where valour fought

In other days; and mused on ruins grey

With years; and drank from old and fabulous wells;

And plucked the vine that first-born prophets plucked;

And mused on famous tombs, and on the wave

Of ocean mused, and on the desert waste.

The heavens and earth of every country saw.

Where’er the old inspiring Genii dwelt,

Aught that could rouse, expand, refine the soul,

Thither he went, and meditated there.

He touched his harp, and nations heard, entranced.

As some vast river of unfailing source,

Rapid, exhaustless, deep, his numbers flowed,

And opened new fountains in the human heart.

Where fancy halted, weary in her flight,

In other men, his, fresh as morning, rose,

And soared untrodden heights, and seemed at home

Where angels bashful looked. Others, though great,

Beneath their argument seemed struggling whiles;

He, from above descending, stooped to touch

The loftiest thought; and proudly stooped, as though

It scarce deserved his verse. With Nature’s self

He seemed an old acquaintance, free to jest

At will with all her glorious majesty.

He laid his hand upon “the Ocean’s mane,”

And played familiar with his hoary locks;

Stood on the Alps, stood on the Apennines,

And with the thunder talked, as friend to friend;

And wove his garland of the lightning’s wing,

In sportive twist, the lightning’s fiery wing,

Which, as the footsteps of the dreadful God,

Marching upon the storm in vengeance, seemed;

Then turned, and with the grasshopper, who sang

His evening song beneath his feet, conversed.

Suns, moons, and stars, and clouds, his sisters were;

Rocks, mountains, meteors, seas, and winds, and storms,

His brothers, younger brothers, whom he scarce

As equals deemed. All passions of all men,

The wild and tame, the gentle and severe;

All thoughts, all maxims, sacred and profane;

All creeds, all seasons, Time, Eternity;

All that was hated, and all that was dear;

All that was hoped, all that was feared, by man,

He tossed about, as tempest, withered leaves;

Then, smiling, looked upon the wreck he made.

With terror now he froze the cowering blood,

And now dissolved the heart in tenderness:

Yet would not tremble, would not weep himself;

But back into his soul retired, alone,

Dark, sullen, proud, gazing contemptuously

On hearts and passions prostrate at his feet.

So Ocean from the plains his waves had late

To desolation swept, retired in pride,

Exulting in the glory of his might,

And seemed to mock the ruin he had wrought.

As some fierce comet of tremendous size,

To which the stars did reverence as it passed,

So he, through learning and through fancy, took

His flights sublime, and on the loftiest top

Of Fame’s dread mountain sat; not soiled and worn,

As if he from the earth had laboured up;

But as some bird of heavenly plumage fair

He looked, which down from higher regions came,

And perched it there to see what lay beneath….

Great man! the nations gazed, and wondered much,

And praised; and many called his evil good.

Wits wrote in favour of his wickedness;

And kings to do him honour took delight.

Thus, full of titles, flattery, honour, fame,

Beyond desire, beyond ambition, full,

He died—he died of what?—of wretchedness;

Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump

Of fame, drank early, deeply drank, drank draughts

That common millions might have quenched; then died

Of thirst, because there was no more to drink.

His goddess, Nature, wooed, embraced, enjoyed,

Fell from his arms abhorred; his passions died;

Died all but dreary, solitary pride;

And all his sympathies in being died.

As some ill-guided bark, well built and tall,

Which angry tides cast out on a desert shore,

And then retiring, left it there to rot

And moulder in the winds and rains of heaven;

So he, cut from the sympathies of life,

And cast ashore from pleasure’s boisterous surge,

A wandering, weary, worn, and wretched thing,

A scorched, and desolate, and blasted soul,

A gloomy wilderness of dying thought—

Repined, and groaned, and withered from the earth.