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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 a sense of failure; and less than three months before his death he wrote:
Life had lost its charm; and all he sought was a martial death in that land of ancient heroes.
And through the crevice and the cleft
And in each ring there is a chain;
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
They chain'd us each to a column stone,
The other was as pure of mind,
Which 'gainst the world in war had stood,
With joy : but not in chains to pine:
I saw it silently decline
And so perchance in sooth did mine:
But yet I forced it on to cheer
Those relics of a home so dear.
He was a hunter of the hills,
Had follow'd there the deer and wolf;
To him this dungeon was a gulf, And fetter'd feet the worst of ills.
Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls:
A thousand feet in depth below
Its massy waters meet and flow;
Thus much the fathom-line was sent
From Chillon's snow-white battlement,
Which round about the wave enthrals :
A double dungeon wall and wave
Below the surface of the lake
The dark vault lies wherein we lay,
We heard it ripple night and day;
Sounding o'er our heads it knock'd;
And I have felt the winter's spray
Wash through the bars when winds were high
And then the very rock hath rock'd,
And I have felt it shake, unshock'd,
Because I could have smiled to see
The death that would have set me free.
I said my nearer brother pined,
I said his mighty heart declined,
He loathed and put away his food;
It was not that 'twas coarse and rude,
And for the like had little care:
The milk drawn from the mountain goat