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Though the strained mast should quiver as a reed,
And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale,
Still I must on; for I am as a weed

Flung from the rock, on ocean's foam to sail,
Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail."

With this voluntary exile he entered upon a new era of authorship, in which he attained to the full maturity of his powers. At Geneva he wrote the third, and at Venice the fourth canto of "Childe Harold," and at once placed himself among the great masters of English verse. Landscapes of unsurpassed majesty and beauty are portrayed; history lives again; our feelings are stirred with deep emotion. Treasures are found on every page. For example:

"The sky is changed! - and such a change! O night,
And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong,
Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light

Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,

From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
And Jura answers through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud.”

Or again :

"I see before me the gladiator lie:


He leans upon his hand - his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low

And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow

From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,

Like the first of a thunder shower; and now

The arena swims around him - he is gone,


Ere ceased the inhuman shout that hailed the wretch who won."

Once more:

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

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I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal."

At Geneva he wrote the touching story of Bonnivard, “The Prisoner of Chillon."

From Switzerland, Byron went to Italy, living for a time at Venice, Ravenna, Piza, and Genoa. His Italian life was voluptuous and immoral. In every place of sojourn, however, he continued to write, composing many works of high excellence. "Cain" is a powerful drama. One of the characters is Lucifer, of whom Byron apologetically says, "It was difficult for me to make him talk like a clergyman upon the same subjects." "Manfred" and "Sardanapalus" are other dramas. The "Vision of Judgment," a satire on George the Third and "Bob Southey," is not reverent, but it is the wittiest production of its class in our language. "Don Juan," his longest poem, is a conglomerate of wit, satire, and immorality, relieved at intervals by sage reflection and delicate poetic sentiment. It shows at once the author's genius and degradation.

At length the aimless and voluptuous life he was leading filled him with satiety. He had drained the cup of pleasure to its dregs of bitterness. He began to long for a life of action. "If I live ten years longer," he wrote in 1822, “you will see that it is not all over with me. I don't mean in literature, for that is nothing—and I do not think it was my vocation; but I shall do something."

Greece was at this time struggling for independence from Turkish tyranny. Byron was a friend of liberty; the struggling Greeks touched his sympathies. Accordingly he embarked for Greece in 1823 to aid them in their struggle. As he was about to depart, the shadow of coming disaster fell upon him. "I have a sort of boding," he said to some friends, “that we see each other for the last time, as something tells me I shall never return from Greece."

He was received at Mesolonghi with salvoes of musketry and music. He received a military commission, and in his subsequent movements displayed ability and courage. But before he had been of much assistance to the Greeks, he was seized with a virulent fever, and died April 9, 1824. The cities of Greece contended for his body; but it was taken to England, where, sepulture in Westminster Abbey having been refused, it was conveyed to the village church of Hucknall.

Such lives are unutterably sad. Byron possessed what most men spend their lives for in vain - genius, rank, power, fame; yet he lived a wretched man. His peace of mind was broken and his body prematurely worn by vicious passions. He was himself oppressed with sense of failure; and less than three months before his death he wrote:

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'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!"

Life had lost its charm; and all he sought was a martial death in that land of ancient heroes.

"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."



My hair is gray, but not with years,
Nor grew it white
In a single night,

As men's have grown from sudden fears:
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,

For they have been a dungeon's spoil,

And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd and barr'd — forbidden fare;
But this was for my father's faith
I suffer'd chains and courted death;
That father perish'd at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling-place;
We were seven-who now are one,

Six in youth, and one in age,
Finish'd as they had begun,

Proud of persecution's rage;
One in fire, and two in field,
Their belief with blood have seal'd;
Dying as their father died,

For the God their foes denied;
Three were in a dungeon cast,
Of whom this wreck is left the last.


There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and gray,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,

A sunbeam which hath lost its way,




And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp:
And in each pillar there is a ring,

And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,

For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun to rise
For years
I cannot count them o'er,
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop'd and died,
And I lay living by his side.


They chain'd us each to a column stone,
And we were three — yet, each alone:
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight:
And thus together - yet apart,
Fetter'd in hand, but joined in heart,
'Twas still some solace, in the dearth
Of the pure elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each
With some new hope, or legend old,
Or song heroically bold;

But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon-stone,

A grating sound- not full and free
As they of yore were wont to be:
It might be fancy-
but to me
They never sounded like our own.





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