Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
(See full text.)

MY hair is gray, but not with years,
    Nor grew it white
    In a single night,
As men’s have grown from sudden fears;
My limbs are bowed, though not with toil,        5
  But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon’s spoil,
  And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are banned and barred—forbidden fare:        10
But this was for my father’s faith
I suffered chains and courted death;
That father perished at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race        15
In darkness found a dwelling-place;
We were seven who now are one,
  Six in youth, and one in age,
Finished as they had begun,
  Proud of persecution’s rage;        20
One in fire, and two in field,
Their belief with blood have sealed;
Dying as their father died,
For the God their foes denied;
Three were in a dungeon cast,        25
Of whom this wreck is left the last.
There are seven pillars of Gothic mold
In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old;
There are seven columns, massy and gray,
Dim with a dull imprisoned ray,        30
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o’er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh’s meteor lamp:        35
And in each pillar there is a ring,
  And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,
  For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,        40
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
For years—I cannot count them o’er;
I lost their long and heavy score        45
When my last brother drooped and died,
And I lay living by his side….
  Lake Leman lies by Chillon’s walls:
A thousand feet in depth below,
Its massy waters meet and flow;        50
Thus much the fathom-line was sent
From Chillon’s snow-white battlement,
  Which round about the wave enthralls:
A double dungeon wall and wave
Have made—and like a living grave        55
Below the surface of the lake
The dark vault lies wherein we lay;
We heard it ripple night and day;
  Sounding o’er our heads it knocked;
And I have felt the winter’s spray        60
Wash through the bars when winds were high
And wanton in the happy sky;
  And then the very rock hath rocked,
  And I have felt it shake unshocked,
Because I could have smiled to see        65
The death that would have set me free.

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