Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Greece

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


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

From ‘The Giaour’

HE who hath bent him o’er the dead

Ere the first day of death is fled,—

The first dark day of nothingness,

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,

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,

Where cold Obstruction’s apathy

Appalls the gazing mourner’s heart,

As if to him it could impart

The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon—

Yes, but for these and these alone,

Some moments, ay, 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!

Such is the aspect of this shore;

’Tis Greece, but living Greece no more!

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 passed away!

Spark of that flame—perchance of heavenly birth—

Which gleams, but warms no more its cherished earth!

Clime of the unforgotten brave!

Whose land from plain to mountain-cave

Was Freedom’s home, or Glory’s grave!

Shrine of the mighty! can it be

That this is all remains of thee?

Approach, thou craven crouching slave:

Say, is not this Thermopylæ?

These waters blue that round you lave,

O servile offspring of the free—

Pronounce what sea, what shore is this?

The gulf, the rock of Salamis!

These scenes, their story not unknown,

Arise, and make again your own;

Snatch from the ashes of your sires

The embers of their former fires;

And he who in the strife expires

Will add to theirs a name of fear

That Tyranny shall quake to hear,

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,

Though baffled oft, is ever won.

Bear witness, Greece, thy living page,

Attest it many a deathless age!

While kings, in dusty darkness hid,

Have left a nameless pyramid,

Thy heroes, though the general doom

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

The graves of those that cannot die!

’Twere long to tell, and sad to trace,

Each step from splendor to disgrace:

Enough—no foreign foe could quell

Thy soul, till from itself it fell;

Yes! self-abasement paved the way

To villain-bonds and despot sway.