THE SPIRIT OF REVOLUTION AND ROMANCE
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)
WHEN A MAN HATH NO FREEDOM TO FIGHT FOR AT HOME
When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,
Let him combat for that of his neighbours;
Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome,
And get knocked on the head for his labours.
To do good to Mankind is the chivalrous plan,
And is always as nobly required;
Then battle for Freedom wherever you can,
And, if not shot or hanged, you’ll get knighted.
Byron’s concern with human emancipation found one of its noblest expressions in a long poem and a sonnet to a Swiss patriot, Francois de Bonnivard, imprisoned for his political opinions. Byron took several liberties with the facts in The Prisoner of Chillon, with whom Byron undoubtedly identified himself; but the sonnet a far finer poem is unmarred by false dramatization.
SONNET ON CHILLON
Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind:
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty; thou art,
For there thy habitation is the heart –
The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned –
To fetters, and the damp vault’s dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom’s fame finds wings on every wind.
Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And the sad floor an altar – for ’twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.
In 1821 Byron joined an impending revolution in Italy which came to nothing. In 1823 he again attempted to lead a revolt. He learned that numbers of intransigents were attempting a liberation of Greece, and, after offering money and advice, he joined them. Byron was now eager to find “a soldier’s” grave.” But he was denied that final heroic gesture. The climate and his previous excesses proved too much for him. For months he suffered from fits of dizziness and spasms of pain. His illness increased; he was seized with ague, followed by delirium. He died April 19, 1824, three months more than thirty-six years old. His last words were said to be “Forward! Courage! Don’t be afraid! Follow my example!”
Most of Byron’s impulses were in opposition to each other. Byron was a genuinely romantic poet, and a melodramatic poseur, a stern ironist, and a sentimentalist who inflated every protestation; an impassioned rebel with an abstract love of justice, and a nineteenth-century Narcissus whose love for himself was one of the great romances of history. This duality was the core of his creativeness; the period of his greatest debauchery was also the period of his greatest achievements.
WE’LL GO NO MORE A ROVING
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night.
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Such a beautiful poem above, so sadly Lord Byron died too young. I hope you enjoyed the above and will enjoy the music below. Anna.
British Images and Music, hope you enjoy.