Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Greece and the Greeks before the Revolution

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Greece and the Greeks before the Revolution

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

From ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’

ANCIENT of days! august Athena! where,

Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?

Gone—glimmering through the dream of things that were:

First in the race that led to Glory’s goal,

They won, and passed away—is this the whole?

A schoolboy’s tale, the wonder of an hour!

The warrior’s weapon and the sophist’s stole

Are sought in vain, and o’er each moldering tower,

Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.


Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!

Immortal, though no more! though fallen, great!

Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth,

And long accustomed bondage uncreate?

Not such thy sons who whilome did await,

The hopeless warriors of a willing doom,

In bleak Thermopylæ’s sepulchral strait—

Oh, who that gallant spirit shall resume,

Leap from Eurotas’s banks, and call thee from the tomb?

Spirit of Freedom! when on Phyle’s brow

Thou sat’st with Thrasybulus and his train,

Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now

Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?

Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,

But every carl can lord it o’er thy land:

Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,

Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,

From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned.


Hereditary bondmen! know ye not

Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?

By their right arms the conquest must be wrought?

Will Gaul or Muscovite redress ye? No!

True, they may lay your proud despoilers low,

But not for you will Freedom’s altars flame.

Shades of the Helots! triumph o’er your foe:

Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same;

Thy glorious day is o’er, but not thy years of shame….

When riseth Lacedæmon’s hardihood,

When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,

When Athens’ children are with hearts endued,

When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men,

Then may’st thou be restored; but not till then.

A thousand years scarce serve to form a State;

An hour may lay it in the dust: and when

Can man its shattered splendor renovate,

Recall its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate?

And yet how lovely in thine age of woe,

Land of lost gods and godlike men, art thou!

Thy vales of evergreen, thy hills of snow,

Proclaim thee Nature’s varied favorite now.

Thy fanes, thy temples to thy surface bow,

Commingling slowly with heroic earth,

Broke by the share of every rustic plough:

So perish monuments of mortal birth,

So perish all in turn, save well-recorded worth;

Save where some solitary column mourns

Above its prostrate brethren of the cave;

Save where Tritonia’s airy shrine adorns

Colonna’s cliff, and gleams along the wave;

Save o’er some warrior’s half-forgotten grave,

Where the gray stones and long-neglected grass

Ages, but not oblivion, feebly brave,

While strangers only not regardless pass,

Lingering like me, perchance, to gaze, and sigh “Alas!”

Yet are thy skies as blue, thy crags as wild,

Sweet are thy groves, and verdant are thy fields,

Thine olive ripe as when Minerva smiled,

And still his honeyed wealth Hymettus yields;

There the blithe bee his fragrant fortress builds,

The free-born wanderer of thy mountain air;

Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds,

Still in his beam Mendeli’s marbles glare:

Art, Glory, Freedom fail, but Nature still is fair.

Where’er we tread, ’tis haunted, holy ground;

No earth of thine is lost in vulgar mold,

But one vast realm of wonder spreads around,

And all the Muse’s tales seem truly told,

Till the sense aches with gazing to behold

The scenes our earliest dreams have dwelt upon:

Each hill and dale, each deepening glen and wold,

Defies the power which crushed thy temples gone:

Age shakes Athena’s tower, but spares gray Marathon.