The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 19

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London, _May_, 1813.


The tale which these disjointed fragments present, is founded upon circ.u.mstances now less common in the East than formerly; either because the ladies are more circ.u.mspect than in the "olden time," or because the Christians have better fortune, or less enterprise. The story, when entire, contained the adventures of a female slave, who was thrown, in the Mussulman manner, into the sea for infidelity, and avenged by a young Venetian, her lover, at the time the Seven Islands were possessed by the Republic of Venice, and soon after the Arnauts were beaten back from the Morea, which they had ravaged for some time subsequent to the Russian invasion. The desertion of the Mainotes, on being refused the plunder of Misitra, led to the abandonment of that enterprise, and to the desolation of the Morea, during which the cruelty exercised on all sides was unparalleled even in the annals of the faithful.


No breath of air to break the wave That rolls below the Athenian's grave, That tomb[55] which, gleaming o'er the cliff, First greets the homeward-veering skiff High o'er the land he saved in vain; When shall such Hero live again?

Fair clime! where every season smiles[cg]

Benignant o'er those blessed isles, Which, seen from far Colonna's height, Make glad the heart that hails the sight, 10 And lend to loneliness delight.

There mildly dimpling, Ocean's cheek Reflects the tints of many a peak Caught by the laughing tides that lave These Edens of the eastern wave: And if at times a transient breeze Break the blue crystal of the seas, Or sweep one blossom from the trees, How welcome is each gentle air That wakes and wafts the odours there! 20 For there the Rose, o'er crag or vale, Sultana of the Nightingale,[56]

The maid for whom his melody, His thousand songs are heard on high, Blooms blushing to her lover's tale: His queen, the garden queen, his Rose, Unbent by winds, unchilled by snows, Far from the winters of the west, By every breeze and season blest, Returns the sweets by Nature given 30 In softest incense back to Heaven; And grateful yields that smiling sky Her fairest hue and fragrant sigh.

And many a summer flower is there, And many a shade that Love might share, And many a grotto, meant for rest, That holds the pirate for a guest; Whose bark in sheltering cove below Lurks for the pa.s.sing peaceful prow, Till the gay mariner's guitar[57] 40 Is heard, and seen the Evening Star; Then stealing with the m.u.f.fled oar, Far shaded by the rocky sh.o.r.e, Rush the night-prowlers on the prey, And turn to groans his roundelay.

Strange--that where Nature loved to trace, As if for G.o.ds, a dwelling place, And every charm and grace hath mixed Within the Paradise she fixed, There man, enamoured of distress, 50 Should mar it into wilderness,[ch]

And trample, brute-like, o'er each flower That tasks not one laborious hour; Nor claims the culture of his hand To bloom along the fairy land, But springs as to preclude his care, And sweetly woos him--but to spare!

Strange--that where all is Peace beside, There Pa.s.sion riots in her pride, And l.u.s.t and Rapine wildly reign 60 To darken o'er the fair domain.

It is as though the Fiends prevailed Against the Seraphs they a.s.sailed, And, fixed on heavenly thrones, should dwell The freed inheritors of h.e.l.l; So soft the scene, so formed for joy, So curst the tyrants that destroy!

He who hath bent him o'er the dead[ci][58]

Ere the first day of Death is fled, The first dark day of Nothingness, 70 The last of Danger and Distress, (Before Decay's effacing fingers Have swept the lines where Beauty lingers,) And marked the mild angelic air, The rapture of Repose that's there,[cj]

The fixed yet tender traits that streak The languor of the placid cheek, And--but for that sad shrouded eye, That fires not, wins not, weeps not, now, And but for that chill, changeless brow, 80 Where cold Obstruction's apathy[59]

Appals the gazing mourner's heart,[ck]

As if to him it could impart The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon; Yes, but for these and these alone, Some moments, aye, one treacherous hour, He still might doubt the Tyrant's power; So fair, so calm, so softly sealed, The first, last look by Death revealed![60]

Such is the aspect of this sh.o.r.e; 90 'Tis Greece, but living Greece no more![61]

So coldly sweet, so deadly fair, We start, for Soul is wanting there.

Hers is the loveliness in death, That parts not quite with parting breath; But beauty with that fearful bloom, That hue which haunts it to the tomb, Expression's last receding ray, A gilded Halo hovering round decay, The farewell beam of Feeling past away! 100 Spark of that flame, perchance of heavenly birth, Which gleams, but warms no more its cherished earth!

Clime of the unforgotten brave![62]

Whose land from plain to mountain-cave Was Freedom's home or Glory's grave!

Shrine of the mighty! can it be,[cl]

That this is all remains of thee?

Approach, thou craven crouching slave:[63]

Say, is not this Thermopylae?[cm]

These waters blue that round you lave,-- 110 Oh servile offspring of the free-- p.r.o.nounce what sea, what sh.o.r.e is this?

The gulf, the rock of Salamis!

These scenes, their story not unknown, Arise, and make again your own; s.n.a.t.c.h from the ashes of your Sires The embers of their former fires; And he who in the strife expires[cn]

Will add to theirs a name of fear That Tyranny shall quake to hear, 120 And leave his sons a hope, a fame, They too will rather die than shame: For Freedom's battle once begun, Bequeathed by bleeding Sire to Son,[co]

Though baffled oft is ever won.

Bear witness, Greece, thy living page!

Attest it many a deathless age![cp]

While Kings, in dusty darkness hid, Have left a nameless pyramid, Thy Heroes, though the general doom 130 Hath swept the column from their tomb, A mightier monument command, The mountains of their native land!

There points thy Muse to stranger's eye[cq]

The graves of those that cannot die!

'Twere long to tell, and sad to trace, Each step from Splendour to Disgrace; Enough--no foreign foe could quell Thy soul, till from itself it fell; Yet! Self-abas.e.m.e.nt paved the way 140 To villain-bonds and despot sway.

What can he tell who treads thy sh.o.r.e?

No legend of thine olden time, No theme on which the Muse might soar High as thine own in days of yore, When man was worthy of thy clime.

The hearts within thy valleys bred,[cr]

The fiery souls that might have led Thy sons to deeds sublime, Now crawl from cradle to the Grave, 150 Slaves--nay, the bondsmen of a Slave,[64]

And callous, save to crime; Stained with each evil that pollutes Mankind, where least above the brutes; Without even savage virtue blest, Without one free or valiant breast, Still to the neighbouring ports they waft[cs]

Proverbial wiles, and ancient craft; In this the subtle Greek is found, For this, and this alone, renowned. 160 In vain might Liberty invoke The spirit to its bondage broke Or raise the neck that courts the yoke: No more her sorrows I bewail, Yet this will be a mournful tale, And they who listen may believe, Who heard it first had cause to grieve.

Far, dark, along the blue sea glancing, The shadows of the rocks advancing Start on the fisher's eye like boat 170 Of island-pirate or Mainote; And fearful for his light caque, He shuns the near but doubtful creek:[ct]

Though worn and weary with his toil, And c.u.mbered with his scaly spoil, Slowly, yet strongly, plies the oar, Till Port Leone's safer sh.o.r.e Receives him by the lovely light That best becomes an Eastern night.

Who thundering comes on blackest steed,[65] 180 With slackened bit and hoof of speed?

Beneath the clattering iron's sound The caverned Echoes wake around In lash for lash, and bound for bound: The foam that streaks the courser's side Seems gathered from the Ocean-tide: Though weary waves are sunk to rest, There's none within his rider's breast; And though to-morrow's tempest lower, 'Tis calmer than thy heart, young Giaour![66] 190 I know thee not, I loathe thy race, But in thy lineaments I trace What Time shall strengthen, not efface: Though young and pale, that sallow front Is scathed by fiery Pa.s.sion's brunt; Though bent on earth thine evil eye,[cu]

As meteor-like thou glidest by, Right well I view and deem thee one Whom Othman's sons should slay or shun.

On--on he hastened, and he drew 200 My gaze of wonder as he flew:[cv]

Though like a Demon of the night He pa.s.sed, and vanished from my sight, His aspect and his air impressed A troubled memory on my breast, And long upon my startled ear Rung his dark courser's hoofs of fear.

He spurs his steed; he nears the steep, That, jutting, shadows o'er the deep; He winds around; he hurries by; 210 The rock relieves him from mine eye; For, well I ween, unwelcome he Whose glance is fixed on those that flee; And not a star but shines too bright On him who takes such timeless flight.[cw]

He wound along; but ere he pa.s.sed One glance he s.n.a.t.c.hed, as if his last, A moment checked his wheeling steed,[67]

A moment breathed him from his speed, A moment on his stirrup stood-- 220 Why looks he o'er the olive wood?[cx]

The Crescent glimmers on the hill, The Mosque's high lamps are quivering still Though too remote for sound to wake In echoes of the far tophaike,[68]

The flashes of each joyous peal Are seen to prove the Moslem's zeal.

To-night, set Rhamazani's sun; To-night, the Bairam feast's begun; To-night--but who and what art thou 230 Of foreign garb and fearful brow?

And what are these to thine or thee, That thou shouldst either pause or flee?

He stood--some dread was on his face, Soon Hatred settled in its place: It rose not with the reddening flush Of transient Anger's hasty blush,[cy][69]

But pale as marble o'er the tomb, Whose ghastly whiteness aids its gloom.

His brow was bent, his eye was glazed; 240 He raised his arm, and fiercely raised, And sternly shook his hand on high, As doubting to return or fly;[cz]

Impatient of his flight delayed, Here loud his raven charger neighed-- Down glanced that hand, and grasped his blade; That sound had burst his waking dream, As Slumber starts at owlet's scream.

The spur hath lanced his courser's sides; Away--away--for life he rides: 250 Swift as the hurled on high jerreed[70]

Springs to the touch his startled steed; The rock is doubled, and the sh.o.r.e Shakes with the clattering tramp no more; The crag is won, no more is seen His Christian crest and haughty mien.

'Twas but an instant he restrained That fiery barb so sternly reined;[da]

'Twas but a moment that he stood, Then sped as if by Death pursued; 260 But in that instant o'er his soul Winters of Memory seemed to roll, And gather in that drop of time A life of pain, an age of crime.

O'er him who loves, or hates, or fears, Such moment pours the grief of years:[db]

What felt _he_ then, at once opprest By all that most distracts the breast?

That pause, which pondered o'er his fate, Oh, who its dreary length shall date! 270 Though in Time's record nearly nought, It was Eternity to Thought![71]

For infinite as boundless s.p.a.ce The thought that Conscience must embrace, Which in itself can comprehend Woe without name, or hope, or end.[72]

The hour is past, the Giaour is gone: And did he fly or fall alone?[dc]

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The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 19 summary

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