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CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE
Not in those climes where I have late been straying.
Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deem'd,
Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd,
Hath aught like thee in truth or fancy seem'd:
Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek
To paint those charms which varied as they beam'd—
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
To those who gaze on thee what language could they
Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Nor unbeseem the promise of thy spring,
As fair in form, as warm yet pure in heart,
Love's image upon earth without his wing,
And guileless beyond Hope's imagining!
And surely she who now so fondly rears
Thy youth, in thee, thus hourly brightening,
Beholds the rainbow of her future years.
Before whose heavenly hues all sorrow disappears.
Young Peri of the West!—'tis well for me
My years already doubly number thine;
My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,
And safely view thy ripening beauties shine:
Happy, I ne'er shall see them in decline;
Happier, that while all younger hearts shall bleed,
Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
To those whose admiration shall succeed,
But mix'd with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours de-
Oh! let that eye, which, wild as the gazelle's,
Now brightly bold or beautifully shy,
Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells,
Glance o'er this page, nor to my verse deny
That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh,
Could I to thee be ever more than friend:
This much, dear maid, accord; nor question why
To one so young my strain I would commend,
But bid me with my wreath one matchless lily blend.
Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast
On Harold's page, Ianthe's here enshrined
Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:
My days once number'd, should this homage past
Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre
Of him who hail'd thee loveliest, as thou wast,
Such is the most my memory may desire;
Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less
Oh, thou! in Hellas deem'd of heavenly birth,
Muse! form'd or fabled at the minstrel's will!
Since shamed full oft by later lyres on earth,
Mine dares not call thee from thy sacred hill;
Yet there I've wander'd by thy vaunted rill;
Yes! sigh'd o'er Delphi's long-deserted shrine,
Where, save that feeble fountain, all is still;
Nor mote my shell awake the weary Nine
To grace so plain a tale—this lowly lay of mine.
Whilome in Albion's isle there dwelt a youth,
Who ne in virtue's ways did take delight;
But spent his days in riot most uncouth,
And vex'd with mirth the drowsy ear of Night.
Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight,
Sore given to revel and ungodly glee;
Few earthly things found favor in his sight
Save concubines and carnal companie
And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.
Childe Harold was he hight:—but whence his name And lineage long, it suits me not to say; Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame, And had been glorious in another day: But one sad losel soils a name for aye, However mighty in the olden time; Nor all that heralds rake from coffin'd clay, Nor florid prose, nor honey'd lies of rhyme, Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.
Childe Harold bask'd him in the noontide sun, Disporting there like any other fly, Nor deem'd before his little day was done One blast might chill him into misery. But long ere scarce a third of his pass'd by, Worse than adversity the Childe befell; He felt the fullness of satiety: Then loathed he in his native land to dwell, Which seem'd to him more lone than Eremite's sad cell.
For he through Sin's long labyrinth had run,
Nor made atonement when he did amiss,
Had sigh'd to many, though he loved but one,
And that lov'd one, alas, could ne'er be his.
Ah, happy she! to 'scape from him whose kiss
Had been pollution unto aught so chaste;
Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss,
And spoil'd her goodly lands to gild his waste,
Nor calm domestic peace had ever deign'd to taste.
And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart, And from his fellow bacchanals would flee; 'Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start, But Pride congeal'd the drop within his e'e; Apart he stalk'd in joyless reverie, And from his native land resolv'd to go, And visit scorching climes beyond the sea: With pleasure drugg'd, he almost long'd for woe, And e'en for change of scene would seek the shades below.
The Childe departed from his father's hall;
It was a vast and venerable pile;
So old, it seemed only not to fall.
Yet strength was pillar'd in each massy aisle.
Monastic dome ! condemn'd to uses vile!
Where Superstition once had made her den,
Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile;
And monks might deem their time was come agen,
If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.
Yet ofttimes, in his maddest mirthful mood, Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold's brow, As if the memory of some deadly feud Or disappointed passion lurk'd below: But this none knew, nor haply cared to know; For his was not that open, artless soul That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow; Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole, Whate'er this grief mote be, which he could not control.
And none did love him—though to hall and bower He gather'd revellers from far and near, He knew them flatterers of the festal hour; The heartless parasites of present cheer. Yea! none did love him—not hislemans dear— But pomp and power alone are woman's care, And where these are light Eros finds a feere; Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare. And Mammon wins his way where Seraphs might despair.