Sunday Poetry – Lord Byron

Another poem by Byron which I came across in my anthology & I don’t think I’ve ever read before. It’s called On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year & it was written only months before his death which makes it even more poignant. The speaker sounds so weary & melancholy almost as though he foresees his death in a soldier’s grave although Byron died of fever rather than on the battlefield. Nevertheless he was in Greece to help the Independence movement even though he had no military experience & he may have been looking back on his life when he wrote this.

       ‘Tis time the heart should be unmoved,
        Since others it hath ceased to move:
        Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
        Still let me love!
        
        My days are in the yellow leaf;
        The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
        The worm, the canker, and the grief
        Are mine alone!
        
        The fire that on my bosom preys
        Is lone as some volcanic isle;
        No torch is kindled at its blaze–
        A funeral pile.
        
        The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
        The exalted portion of the pain
        And power of love, I cannot share,
        But wear the chain.
        
        But ’tis not thus–and ’tis not here–
        Such thoughts should shake my soul nor now,
        Where glory decks the hero’s bier,
        Or binds his brow.
        
        The sword, the banner, and the field,
        Glory and Greece, around me see!
        The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
        Was not more free.
        
        Awake! (not Greece–she is awake!)
        Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
        Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
        And then strike home!
        
        Tread those reviving passions down,
        Unworthy manhood!–unto thee
        Indifferent should the smile or frown
        Of beauty be.
        
        If thou regrett’st thy youth, why live?
        The land of honourable death
        Is here:–up to the field, and give
        Away thy breath!
        
        Seek out–less often sought than found–
        A soldier’s grave, for thee the best;
        Then look around, and choose thy ground,
        And take thy rest.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Lord Byron

  1. Not come across that one before, but I admit I don't know Byron that well. I studied part of Don Juan for A Level, loved his barbed wit, his humour, and his amazing use of words – who else could rhyme intellectual with hen pecked you all (though I may not have spelled that as he did). But I never got round to exploring much more of his work. This is much more reflective and personal than Don Juan.

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  2. I loved Don Juan. So clever & funny, he was a genius of wordplay. I've read lots of his lyrics but not many of the long poems like Childe Harold.

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