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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 ‘Don Juan’

T’ OUR tale.—The feast was over, the slaves gone,

The dwarfs and dancing girls had all retired;

The Arab lore and poet’s song were done,

And every sound of revelry expired;

The lady and her lover, left alone,

The rosy flood of twilight sky admired;—

Ave Maria! o’er the earth and sea,

That heavenliest hour of Heaven is worthiest thee!

Ave Maria! blessed be the hour,

The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft

Have felt that moment in its fullest power

Sink o’er the earth so beautiful and soft,

While swung the deep bell in the distant tower,

Or the faint dying day hymn stole aloft,

And not a breath crept through the rosy air,

And yet the forest leaves seemed stirred with prayer.

Ave Maria! ’tis the hour of prayer!

Ave Maria! ’tis the hour of love!

Ave Maria! may our spirits dare

Look up to thine and to thy Son’s above!

Ave Maria! oh that face so fair!

Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty Dove—

What though ’tis but a pictured image strike?

That painting is no idol—’tis too like.

Some kindly casuists are pleased to say,

In nameless print, that I have no devotion;

But set those persons down with me to pray,

And you shall see who has the properest notion

Of getting into heaven the shortest way:

My altars are the mountains and the ocean,

Earth, air, stars—all that springs from the great Whole,

Who hath produced and will receive the soul.

Sweet hour of twilight!—in the solitude

Of that pine forest, and the silent shore

Which bounds Ravenna’s immemorial wood,

Rooted where once the Adrian wave flowed o’er

To where the last Cæsarean fortress stood,—

Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio’s lore

And Dryden’s lay made haunted ground to me,

How have I loved the twilight hour and thee!

The shrill cicalas, people of the pine,

Making their summer lives one ceaseless song,

Were the sole echoes, save my steed’s and mine,

And vesper bells that rose the boughs along:

The spectre huntsman of Onesti’s line,

His hell-dogs and their chase, and the fair throng

Which learned from this example not to fly

From a true lover—shadowed my mind’s eye.

O Hesperus! thou bringest all good things:

Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,

To the young bird the parent’s brooding wings,

The welcome stall to the o’erlabored steer;

Whate’er of peace about our hearthstone clings,

Whate’er our household gods protect of dear,

Are gathered round us by thy look of rest;

Thou bring’st the child, too, to the mother’s breast.

Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart

Of those who sail the seas, on the first day

When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;

Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way

As the far bell of vesper makes him start,

Seeming to weep the dying day’s decay.

Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?

Ah! surely nothing dies but something mourns.