Lines Written among the Euganean Hills
Composed at Este, October, 1818. Published with "Rosalind and Helen", 1819. Amongst the late Mr. Fredk. Locker-Lampson's collections at Rowfant there is a manuscript of the lines (167-205) on Byron, interpolated after the completion of the poem.
Many a green isle needs must be In the deep wide sea of Misery, Or the mariner, worn and wan, Never thus could voyage on— Day and night, and night and day, Drifting on his dreary way, With the solid darkness black Closing round his vessel's track: Whilst above the sunless sky, Big with clouds, hangs heavily, And behind the tempest fleet Hurries on with lightning feet, Riving sail, and cord, and plank, Till the ship has almost drank Death from the o'er-brimming deep; And sinks down, down, like that sleep When the dreamer seems to be Weltering through eternity; And the dim low line before Of a dark and distant shore Still recedes, as ever still Longing with divided will, But no power to seek or shun, He is ever drifted on O'er the unreposing wave To the haven of the grave. What, if there no friends will greet; What, if there no heart will meet His with love's impatient beat; Wander wheresoe'er he may, Can he dream before that day To find refuge from distress In friendship's smile, in love's caress? Then 'twill wreak him little woe Whether such there be or no: Senseless is the breast, and cold, Which relenting love would fold; Bloodless are the veins and chill Which the pulse of pain did fill; Every little living nerve That from bitter words did swerve Round the tortured lips and brow, Are like sapless leaflets now Frozen upon December's bough.
On the beach of a northern sea Which tempests shake eternally, As once the wretch there lay to sleep, Lies a solitary heap, One white skull and seven dry bones, On the margin of the stones, Where a few gray rushes stand, Boundaries of the sea and land: Nor is heard one voice of wail But the sea-mews, as they sail O'er the billows of the gale; Or the whirlwind up and down Howling, like a slaughtered town, When a king in glory rides Through the pomp of fratricides: Those unburied bones around There is many a mournful sound; There is no lament for him, Like a sunless vapour, dim, Who once clothed with life and thought What now moves nor murmurs not.
Ay, many flowering islands lie In the waters of wide Agony: To such a one this morn was led, My bark by soft winds piloted: 'Mid the mountains Euganean I stood listening to the paean With which the legioned rooks did hail The sun's uprise majestical; Gathering round with wings all hoar, Through the dewy mist they soar Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven Bursts, and then, as clouds of even, Flecked with fire and azure, lie In the unfathomable sky, So their plumes of purple grain, Starred with drops of golden rain, Gleam above the sunlight woods, As in silent multitudes On the morning's fitful gale Through the broken mist they sail, And the vapours cloven and gleaming Follow, down the dark steep streaming, Till all is bright, and clear, and still, Round the solitary hill.
Beneath is spread like a green sea The waveless plain of Lombardy, Bounded by the vaporous air, Islanded by cities fair; Underneath Day's azure eyes Ocean's nursling, Venice lies, A peopled labyrinth of walls, Amphitrite's destined halls, Which her hoary sire now paves With his blue and beaming waves. Lo! the sun upsprings behind, Broad, red, radiant, half-reclined On the level quivering line Of the waters crystalline; And before that chasm of light, As within a furnace bright, Column, tower, and dome, and spire, Shine like obelisks of fire, Pointing with inconstant motion From the altar of dark ocean To the sapphire-tinted skies; As the flames of sacrifice From the marble shrines did rise, As to pierce the dome of gold Where Apollo spoke of old.
Sun-girt City, thou hast been Ocean's child, and then his queen; Now is come a darker day, And thou soon must be his prey, If the power that raised thee here Hallow so thy watery bier. A less drear ruin then than now, With thy conquest-branded brow Stooping to the slave of slaves From thy throne, among the waves Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew Flies, as once before it flew, O'er thine isles depopulate, And all is in its ancient state, Save where many a palace gate With green sea-flowers overgrown Like a rock of Ocean's own, Topples o'er the abandoned sea As the tides change sullenly. The fisher on his watery way, Wandering at the close of day, Will spread his sail and seize his oar Till he pass the gloomy shore, Lest thy dead should, from their sleep Bursting o'er the starlight deep, Lead a rapid masque of death O'er the waters of his path.
Those who alone thy towers behold Quivering through aereal gold, As I now behold them here, Would imagine not they were Sepulchres, where human forms, Like pollution-nourished worms, To the corpse of greatness cling, Murdered, and now mouldering: But if Freedom should awake In her omnipotence, and shake From the Celtic Anarch's hold All the keys of dungeons cold, Where a hundred cities lie Chained like thee, ingloriously, Thou and all thy sister band Might adorn this sunny land, Twining memories of old time With new virtues more sublime; If not, perish thou and they!— Clouds which stain truth's rising day By her sun consumed away— Earth can spare ye: while like flowers, In the waste of years and hours, From your dust new nations spring With more kindly blossoming.
Perish—let there only be Floating o'er thy hearthless sea As the garment of thy sky Clothes the world immortally, One remembrance, more sublime Than the tattered pall of time, Which scarce hides thy visage wan;— That a tempest-cleaving Swan Of the songs of Albion, Driven from his ancestral streams By the might of evil dreams, Found a nest in thee; and Ocean Welcomed him with such emotion That its joy grew his, and sprung From his lips like music flung O'er a mighty thunder-fit, Chastening terror:—what though yet Poesy's unfailing River, Which through Albion winds forever Lashing with melodious wave Many a sacred Poet's grave, Mourn its latest nursling fled? What though thou with all thy dead Scarce can for this fame repay Aught thine own? oh, rather say Though thy sins and slaveries foul Overcloud a sunlike soul? As the ghost of Homer clings Round Scamander's wasting springs; As divinest Shakespeare's might Fills Avon and the world with light Like omniscient power which he Imaged 'mid mortality; As the love from Petrarch's urn, Yet amid yon hills doth burn, A quenchless lamp by which the heart Sees things unearthly;—so thou art, Mighty spirit—so shall be The City that did refuge thee.
Lo, the sun floats up the sky Like thought-winged Liberty, Till the universal light Seems to level plain and height; From the sea a mist has spread, And the beams of morn lie dead On the towers of Venice now, Like its glory long ago. By the skirts of that gray cloud Many-domed Padua proud Stands, a peopled solitude, 'Mid the harvest-shining plain, Where the peasant heaps his grain In the garner of his foe, And the milk-white oxen slow With the purple vintage strain, Heaped upon the creaking wain, That the brutal Celt may swill Drunken sleep with savage will; And the sickle to the sword Lies unchanged, though many a lord, Like a weed whose shade is poison, Overgrows this region's foison, Sheaves of whom are ripe to come To destruction's harvest-home: Men must reap the things they sow, Force from force must ever flow, Or worse; but 'tis a bitter woe That love or reason cannot change The despot's rage, the slave's revenge.
Padua, thou within whose walls Those mute guests at festivals, Son and Mother, Death and Sin, Played at dice for Ezzelin, Till Death cried, "I win, I win!" And Sin cursed to lose the wager, But Death promised, to assuage her, That he would petition for Her to be made Vice-Emperor, When the destined years were o'er, Over all between the Po And the eastern Alpine snow, Under the mighty Austrian. Sin smiled so as Sin only can, And since that time, ay, long before, Both have ruled from shore to shore,— That incestuous pair, who follow Tyrants as the sun the swallow, As Repentance follows Crime, And as changes follow Time.
In thine halls the lamp of learning, Padua, now no more is burning; Like a meteor, whose wild way Is lost over the grave of day, It gleams betrayed and to betray: Once remotest nations came To adore that sacred flame, When it lit not many a hearth On this cold and gloomy earth: Now new fires from antique light Spring beneath the wide world's might; But their spark lies dead in thee, Trampled out by Tyranny. As the Norway woodman quells, In the depth of piny dells, One light flame among the brakes, While the boundless forest shakes, And its mighty trunks are torn By the fire thus lowly born: The spark beneath his feet is dead, He starts to see the flames it fed Howling through the darkened sky With a myriad tongues victoriously, And sinks down in fear: so thou, O Tyranny, beholdest now Light around thee, and thou hearest The loud flames ascend, and fearest: Grovel on the earth; ay, hide In the dust thy purple pride!
Noon descends around me now: 'Tis the noon of autumn's glow, When a soft and purple mist Like a vaporous amethyst, Or an air-dissolved star Mingling light and fragrance, far From the curved horizon's bound To the point of Heaven's profound, Fills the overflowing sky; And the plains that silent lie Underneath, the leaves unsodden Where the infant Frost has trodden With his morning-winged feet, Whose bright print is gleaming yet; And the red and golden vines, Piercing with their trellised lines The rough, dark-skirted wilderness; The dun and bladed grass no less, Pointing from this hoary tower In the windless air; the flower Glimmering at my feet; the line Of the olive-sandalled Apennine In the south dimly islanded; And the Alps, whose snows are spread High between the clouds and sun; And of living things each one; And my spirit which so long Darkened this swift stream of song,— Interpenetrated lie By the glory of the sky: Be it love, light, harmony, Odour, or the soul of all Which from Heaven like dew doth fall, Or the mind which feeds this verse Peopling the lone universe.
Noon descends, and after noon Autumn's evening meets me soon, Leading the infantine moon, And that one star, which to her Almost seems to minister Half the crimson light she brings From the sunset's radiant springs: And the soft dreams of the morn (Which like winged winds had borne To that silent isle, which lies Mid remembered agonies, The frail bark of this lone being) Pass, to other sufferers fleeing, And its ancient pilot, Pain, Sits beside the helm again.
Other flowering isles must be In the sea of Life and Agony: Other spirits float and flee O'er that gulf: even now, perhaps, On some rock the wild wave wraps, With folded wings they waiting sit For my bark, to pilot it To some calm and blooming cove, Where for me, and those I love, May a windless bower be built, Far from passion, pain, and guilt, In a dell mid lawny hills, Which the wild sea-murmur fills, And soft sunshine, and the sound Of old forests echoing round, And the light and smell divine Of all flowers that breathe and shine: We may live so happy there, That the Spirits of the Air, Envying us, may even entice To our healing Paradise The polluting multitude; But their rage would be subdued By that clime divine and calm, And the winds whose wings rain balm On the uplifted soul, and leaves Under which the bright sea heaves; While each breathless interval In their whisperings musical The inspired soul supplies With its own deep melodies; And the love which heals all strife Circling, like the breath of life, All things in that sweet abode With its own mild brotherhood, They, not it, would change; and soon Every sprite beneath the moon Would repent its envy vain, And the earth grow young again.
NOTES: _54 seamews 1819; seamew's Rossetti. _115 Sun-girt]Sea-girt cj. Palgrave. _165 From your dust new 1819; From thy dust shall Rowfant manuscript (heading of lines 167-205). _175 songs 1819; sons cj. Forman. _278 a 1819; wanting, 1839.