Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
Extracts from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Night and Tempest
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
    CLEAR, placid Leman! thy contrasted lake,
    With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing
    Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
    Earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring.
    This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing        5
    To waft me from distraction; once I loved
    Torn ocean’s roar, but thy soft murmuring
    Sounds sweet as if a Sister’s voice reproved,
That I with stern delights should e’er have been so moved.
    It is the hush of night, and all between        10
    Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear,
    Mellow’d and mingling, yet distinctly seen,
    Save darken’d Jura, whose capt heights appear
    Precipitously steep; and drawing near,
    There breathes a living fragrance from the shore,        15
    Of flowers yet fresh with childhood; on the ear
    Drops the light drip of the suspended oar,
Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more;
    He is an evening reveller, who makes
    His life an infancy, and sings his fill;        20
    At intervals, some bird from out the brakes
    Starts into voice a moment, then is still.
    There seems a floating whisper on the hill,
    But that is fancy, for the starlight dews
    All silently their tears of love instil,        25
    Weeping themselves away, till they infuse
Deep into nature’s breast the spirit of her hues.
    Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!
    If in your bright leaves we would read the fate
    Of men and empires,—’tis to be forgiven,        30
    That in our aspirations to be great,
    Our destinies o’erleap their mortal state,
    And claim a kindred with you; for ye are
    A beauty and a mystery, and create
    In us such love and reverence from afar,        35
That fortune, fame, power, life, have named themselves a star.
    All heaven and earth are still—though not in sleep,
    But breathless, as we grow when feeling most;
    And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep:—
    All heaven and earth are still: From the high host        40
    Of stars, to the lull’d lake and mountain-coast,
    All is concenter’d in a life intense,
    Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
    But hath a part of being, and a sense
Of that which is of all Creator and defence.        45
    Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt
    In solitude, where we are least alone;
    A truth, which through our being then doth melt,
    And purifies from self: it is a tone,
    The soul and source of music, which makes known        50
    Eternal harmony, and sheds a charm
    Like to the fabled Cytherea’s zone,
    Binding all things with beauty;—’t would disarm
The spectre Death, had he substantial power to harm.
    Not vainly did the early Persian make        55
    His altar the high places, and the peak
    Of earth-o’ergazing mountains, and thus take
    A fit and unwall’d temple, there to seek
    The Spirit, in whose honour shrines are weak,
    Uprear’d of human hands. Come, and compare        60
    Columns and idol-dwellings, Goth or Greek,
    With Nature’s realms of worship, earth and air,
Nor fix on fond abodes to circumscribe thy pray’r!
    The sky is changed!—and such a change! Oh night,
    And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong,        65
    Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
    Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,
    From peak to peak, the rattling crags among
    Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
    But every mountain now hath found a tongue,        70
    And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!
    And this is in the night:—Most glorious night!
    Thou wert not sent for slumber! let me be
    A sharer in thy fierce and far delight,—        75
    A portion of the tempest and of thee!
    How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea,
    And the big rain comes dancing to the earth!
    And now again ’tis black,—and now, the glee
    Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain-mirth,        80
As if they did rejoice o’er a young earthquake’s birth.
    Now, where the swift Rhone cleaves his way between
    Heights which appear as lovers who have parted
    In hate, whose mining depths so intervene,
    That they can meet no more, though broken-hearted;        85
    Though in their souls, which thus each other thwarted,
    Love was the very root of the fond rage
    Which blighted their life’s bloom, and then departed;
    Itself expired, but leaving them an age
Of years all winters,—war within themselves to wage.        90
    Now, where the quick Rhone thus hath cleft his way,
    The mightiest of the storms hath ta’en his stand:
    For here, not one, but many, make their play,
    And fling their thunder-bolts from hand to hand,
    Flashing and cast around: of all the band,        95
    The brightest through these parted hills hath fork’d
    His lightnings,—as if he did understand,
    That in such gaps as desolation work’d,
There the hot shaft should blast whatever therein lurk’d.
    Sky, mountains, river, winds, lake, lightnings! ye!        100
    With night, and clouds, and thunder, and a soul
    To make these felt and feeling, well may be
    Things that have made me watchful; the far roll
    Of your departing voices, is the knoll
    Of what in me is sleepless,—if I rest.        105
    But where of ye, O tempests! is the goal?
    Are ye like those within the human breast?
Or do ye find, at length, like eagles, some high nest?
    Could I embody and unbosom now
    That which is most within me,—could I wreak        110
    My thoughts upon expression, and thus throw
    Soul, heart, mind, passions, feelings, strong or weak,
    All that I would have sought, and all I seek,
    Bear, know, feel, and yet breathe—into one word,
    And that one word were Lightning, I would speak;        115
    But as it is, I live and die unheard,
With a most voiceless thought, sheathing it as a sword.

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