Lord Byron

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Lord Byron, painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813.

George Gordon (Noel) Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-01-221824-04-19), better known as Lord Byron, was an Anglo-Scottish poet and leading figure in Romanticism.

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  • When age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past—
    For years fleet away with the wings of the dove—
    The dearest remembrance will still be the last,
    Our sweetest memorial the first kiss of love.
  • Farewell! if ever fondest prayer
    For other's weal avail'd on high,
    Mine will not all be lost in air,
    But waft thy name beyond the sky.
    • Farewell! if ever fondest Prayer.
  • I only know we loved in vain;
    I only feel—farewell! farewell!
    • Farewell! If Ever Fondest Prayer, st. 2 (1808)
  • When we two parted
    In silence and tears,
    Half brokenhearted,
    To sever for years.
  • In secret we met
    In silence I grieve,
    That thy heart could forget,
    Thy spirit deceive.
    If I should meet thee
    After long years,
    How should I greet thee?
    With silence and tears.
    • When We Two Parted, st. 4 (1808)
  • Near this spot
    Are deposited the Remains of one
    Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
    Strength without Insolence,
    Courage without Ferocity,
    And all the virtues of Man, without his Vices.
    This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
    If inscribed over human ashes,
    Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
    BOATSWAIN, a DOG
  • The poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
    The first to welcome, foremost to defend.
    • Inscription on the monument of a Newfoundland dog (1808)
  • Maid of Athens, ere we part,
    Give, oh give me back my heart!
  • And thou wert lovely to the last,
    Extinguish'd, not decay'd;
    As stars that shoot along the sky
    Shine brightest as they fall from high.
    • And Thou Art Dead as Young and Fair
  • The Cincinnatus of the West,
    Whom envy dared not hate,
    Bequeath'd the name of Washington,
    To make man blush there was but one!
  • My great comfort is, that the temporary celebrity I have wrung from the world has been in the very teeth of all opinions and prejudices. I have flattered no ruling powers; I have never concealed a single thought that tempted me.
  • Fare thee well! and if forever,
    Still forever, fare thee well:
    Even though unforgiving, never
    'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.
  • My hair is grey, but not with years,
    Nor grew it white
    In a single night,
    As men's have grown from sudden fears.
  • Oh, God! it is a fearful thing
    To see the human soul take wing
    In any shape, in any mood.
    • The Prisoner of Chillon, st. 8
  • A light broke in upon my brain, —
    It was the carol of a bird;
    It ceased, and then it came again,
    The sweetest song ear ever heard.
    • The Prisoner of Chillon, st. 10
  • There be none of Beauty's daughters
    With a magic like thee;
    And like music on the waters
    Is thy sweet voice to me.
  • There 's not a joy the world can give like that it takes away.
    • Stanzas for Music, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)..
  • I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
  • Though the day of my Destiny's over,
    And the star of my Fate hath declined,
    Thy soft heart refused to discover
    The faults which so many could find.
  • In the desert a fountain is springing,
    In the wide waste there still is a tree,
    And a bird in the solitude singing,
    Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
    • Stanzas to Augusta, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The careful pilot of my proper woe.
    • Epistle to Augusta. Stanza 3, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)..
  • And a firm will, and a deep sense,
    Which even in torture can descry
    Its own concenter'd recompense,
    Triumphant where it dares defy
  • As the liberty lads o'er the sea
    Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
    So we, boys, we
    Shall die fighting or live free,
    And down with all kings but King Ludd!
  • My boat is on the shore,
    And my bark is on the sea;
    But, before I go, Tom Moore.
    Here's a double health to thee!
  • Here's a sigh to those who love me,
    And a smile to those who hate:
    And, whatever sky's above me,
    Here's a heart for every fate.
    • To Thomas Moore, st. 2
  • Were't the last drop in the well,
    As I gasp'd upon the brink,
    Ere my fainting spirit fell
    'T is to thee that I would drink.
    • To Thomas Moore, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)..
  • "Bring forth the horse!" - the horse was brought;
    In truth, he was a noble steed,
    A Tartar of the Ukraine breed,
    Who look'd as though the speed of thought
    Were in his limbs.
  • And if we do but watch the hour,
    There never yet was human power
    Which could evade, if unforgiven,
    The patient search and vigil long
    Of him who treasures up a wrong.
    • Mazeppa (1819), stanza 10.
  • The best of prophets of the future is the past.
  • The world is a bundle of hay,
    Mankind are the asses that pull,
    Each tugs in a different way—
    And the greatest of all is John Bull!
  • Send me no more reviews of any kind. — I will read no more of evil or good in that line. — Walter Scott has not read a review of himself for thirteen years.
  • Because
    He is all-powerful, must all-good, too, follow?
    I judge but by the fruits—and they are bitter—
    Which I must feed on for a fault not mine.
    • Cain, Act I, sc. i (1821)
  • Who killed John Keats?
    "I," says the Quarterly,
    So savage and Tartarly;
    "'Twas one of my feats."
    • John Keats (c. 1821)
  • He seems
    To have seen better days, as who has not
    Who has seen yesterday?
    • Werner, Act I, sc. i (1822)
  • Sublime tobacco! which from east to west
    Cheers the tar's labor or the Turkman's rest.
    • The Island (1823), Canto II, st. 19.
  • Divine in hookas, glorious in a pipe
    When tipp'd with amber, mellow, rich, and ripe;
    Like other charmers, wooing the caress
    More dazzlingly when daring in full dress;
    Yet thy true lovers more admire by far
    Thy naked beauties—give me a cigar!
    • The Island (1823), Canto II, st. 19.
  • What's drinking?
    A mere pause from thinking!
    • The Deformed Transformed, Act III, sc. i (1824)
  • Seek out — less often sought than found —
    A Soldier's Grave, for thee the best;
    Then look around and choose thy Ground,
    And take thy Rest.
    • On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year, st. 10
  • I awoke one morning and found myself famous.
    • Memorandum reference to the instantaneous success of Childe Harold and quoted in Letters and Journals of Lord Byron by Thomas Moore (1830), ch. 14.
  • Hands promiscuously applied,
    Round the slight waist, or down the glowing side.
    • The Waltz, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • They never fail who die
    In a great cause.
    • Marino Faliero. Act ii. Sc. 2, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)..


English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809)

  • I'll publish right or wrong:
    Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
    • Line 5.
  • 'Tis pleasure, sure, to see one's name in print;
    A book's a book, although there's nothing in 't.
    • Line 51.
  • A man must serve his time to every trade
    Save censure—critics are ready-made.
    • Line 63.
  • With just enough of learning to misquote.
    • Line 66.
  • As soon
    Seek roses in December, ice in June;
    Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff;
    Believe a woman or an epitaph,
    Or any other thing that's false, before
    You trust in critics, who themselves are sore.
    • Line 75.
  • Better to err with Pope, than shine with Pye.
    • Line 102.
  • Perverts the Prophets and purloins the Psalms.
    • Line 326.
  • Oh, Amos Cottle! Phœbus! what a name!
    • Line 399.
  • 'Twas thine own genius gave the final blow,
    And help'd to plant the wound that laid thee low:
    So the struck eagle, stretch'd upon the plain,
    No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
    View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
    And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart.
  • Yet truth will sometimes lend her noblest fires,
    And decorate the verse herself inspires:
    This fact, in virtue's name, let Crabbe attest,—
    Though Nature's sternest painter, yet the best.
    • Line 839.

The Bride of Abydos (1813)

  • Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle
    Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime?
    Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,
    Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime!
    • Canto I, stanza 1. Compare: "Know'st thou the land where the lemon-trees bloom, / Where the gold orange glows in the deep thicket's gloom, / Where a wind ever soft from the blue heaven blows, / And the groves are of laurel and myrtle and rose!" Goethe, Wilhelm Meister.
  • Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
    And all, save the spirit of man, is divine?
    • Canto I, stanza 1.
  • The light of love, the purity of grace,
    The mind, the music breathing from her face, 19
    The heart whose softness harmonized the whole,—
    And oh, that eye was in itself a soul!
    • Canto I, Stanza 6. Compare: "The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love", Thomas Gray, The Progress of Poesy I. 3, line 16; compare also: "Oh, could you view the melody / Of every grace / And music of her face", Richard Lovelace, Orpheus to Beasts; "There is music in the beauty, and the silent note which Cupid strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument", Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part ii, Section ix.
  • Who hath not proved how feebly words essay
    To fix one spark of beauty's heavenly ray?
    Who doth not feel, until his failing sight
    Faints into dimness with its own delight,
    His changing cheek, his sinking heart, confess
    The might, the majesty of loveliness?
    • Canto I, stanza 6.
  • The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle.
    • Canto II, stanza 2.
  • Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life,
    The evening beam that smiles the clouds away,
    And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray!
    • Canto II, stanza 20.
  • Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
    He makes a solitude, and calls it — peace!
    • Canto II, stanza 20. Here Byron is using an adaptation of a quote from Agricola by the Roman historian Tacitus (c. 30). The original words in the text are Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (To robbery, slaighter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a wilderness, and call it peace). This has also been reported as Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (They make solitude, which they call peace).
  • Hark! to the hurried question of despair:
    "Where is my child?"—an echo answers, "Where?"
    • Canto II, stanza 27. Compare: I came to the place of my birth, and cried, "The friends of my youth, where are they?" And echo answered, "Where are they?", Anonymous Arabic manuscript.

The Giaour (1813)

  • He who hath bent him o'er the dead
    Ere the first day of death is fled,—
    The first dark day of nothingness,
    The last of danger and distress,
    Before decay's effacing fingers
    Have swept the lines where beauty lingers.
    • Line 68.
  • Such is the aspect of this shore;
    'T is Greece, but living Greece no more!
    So coldly sweet, so deadly fair,
    We start, for soul is wanting there.
    • Line 90.
  • Shrine of the mighty! can it be
    That this is all remains of thee?
    • Line 106.
  • For freedom's battle, once begun,
    Bequeath'd by bleeding sire to son,
    Though baffled oft, is ever won.
    • Line 123.
  • And lovelier things have mercy shown
    To every failing but their own,
    And every woe a tear can claim
    Except an erring sister's shame.
    • Line 418.
  • The keenest pangs the wretched find
    Are rapture to the dreary void,
    The leafless desert of the mind,
    The waste of feelings unemployed.
    • Line 957.
  • Better to sink beneath the shock
    Than moulder piecemeal on the rock.
    • Line 969.
  • The cold in clime are cold in blood,
    Their love can scarce deserve the name.
    • Line 1099.
  • I die—but first I have possessed,
    And come what may, I have been blessed.
    • Line 1114.
  • She was a form of life and light
    That seen, became a part of sight,
    And rose, where'er I turn'd mine eye,
    The morning-star of memory!
    Yes, love indeed is light from heaven;
    A spark of that immortal fire
    With angels shared, by Alla given,
    To lift from earth our low desire.
    • Line 1127.

The Corsair (1814)

  • The fatal facility of the octosyllabic verse.
    • Dedication
  • Oh who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried.
    • Canto I, stanza 1. Compare: "To all nations their empire will be dreadful, because their ships will sail wherever billows roll or winds can waft them", Dalrymple, Memoirs, vol. iii, p. 152; "Wherever waves can roll, and winds can blow", Charles Churchill, The Farewell, Line 38.
  • O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
    Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
    Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam, 22
    Survey our empire, and behold our home!
    These are our realms, no limit to their sway,—
    Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
    • Canto I, stanza 1.
  • She walks the waters like a thing of life,
    And seems to dare the elements to strife.
    • Canto I, stanza 3.
  • The power of thought,—the magic of the mind!
    • Canto I, stanza 8.
  • Such hath it been — shall be — beneath the sun
    The many still must labour for the one!
    • Canto I, stanza 8.
  • There was a laughing devil in his sneer.
    • Canto I, stanza 9.
  • Hope withering fled, and Mercy sighed farewell!
    • Canto I, stanza 9.
  • Farewell!
    For in that word, that fatal word,—howe'er
    We promise, hope, believe,—there breathes despair.
    • Canto I, stanza 15.
  • No words suffice the secret soul to show,
    For truth denies all eloquence to woe.
    • Canto III, stanza 22.
  • He left a corsair's name to other times,
    Linked with one virtue, and a thousand crimes.
    • Canto III, stanza 24. Compare: "Hannibal, as he had mighty virtues, so had he many vices; he had two distinct persons in him", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, "Democritus to the Reader".

Hebrew Melodies (1815)

  • She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
    Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
    • She Walks in Beauty, st. 1. The subject of these lines was Mrs. R. Wilmot.—Berry Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 7.
  • The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
    And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
    And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
    When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
  • For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast.
    • The Destruction of Sennacherib, st. 3
  • And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
    Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
    • The Destruction of Sennacherib, st. 6

Monody on the Death of Sheridan (1816)

  • When all of genius which can perish dies.
    • Line 22.
  • Folly loves the martyrdom of fame.
    • Line 68.
  • Who track the steps of glory to the grave.
    • Line 74.
  • Sighing that Nature formed but one such man,
    And broke the die, in molding Sheridan.
    • Line 117. Compare: "Natura il fece, e poi ruppe la stampa" (translated: "Nature made him, and then broke the mould"), Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, canto x, stanza 84; "The idea that Nature lost the perfect mould has been a favorite one with all song-writers and poets, and is found in the literature of all European nations", Book of English Songs, p. 28.

The Dream (1816)

  • And both were young, and one was beautiful.
    • Stanza 2.
  • And to his eye
    There was but one beloved face on earth,
    And that was shining on him.
    • Stanza 2.
  • She was his life,
    The ocean to the river of his thoughts,
    Which terminated all.
    • Stanza 2. Compare: "She floats upon the river of his thoughts", Henry W. Longfellow, The Spanish Student, act ii, scene 3.
  • A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
    • Stanza 3.
  • And they were canopied by the blue sky,
    So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful
    That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
    • Stanza 4.

Manfred (1817)

  • Mont Blanc is the Monarch of mountains;
    They crowned him long ago,
    On a throne of rocks – in a robe of clouds –
    With a Diadem of Snow.
    • Act I, scene i.
  • But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,
    Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
    To sink or soar.
    • Act I, scene ii.
  • Think'st thou existence doth depend on time?
    It doth; but actions are our epochs: mine
    Have made my days and nights imperishable
    Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore
    Innumerable atoms; and one desert
    Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break,
    But nothing rests, save carcases and wrecks,
    Rocks, and the salt-surf weeds of bitterness.
    • Act II, scene i.
  • The heart ran o'er
    With silent worship of the great of old!
    The dead but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule
    Our spirits from their urns.
    • Act III, scene 4.

So, We'll Go No More A-Roving (1817)

  • 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.
    • St. 1
  • 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.
    • St. 2
  • 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.
    • St. 3

Beppo (1818)

  • For most men (till by losing rendered sager)
    Will back their own opinions by a wager.
    • Stanza 27.
  • Soprano, basso, even the contra-alto,
    Wished him five fathom under the Rialto.
    • Stanza 32.
  • His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
    Wax to receive, and marble to retain:
    He was a lover of the good old school,
    Who still become more constant as they cool.
    • Stanza 34. Compare: "My heart is wax to be moulded as she pleases, but enduring as marble to retain", Cervantes, The Little Gypsy.
  • Besides, they always smell of bread and butter.
    • Stanza 39.
  • I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
    Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,
    And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,
    With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,
    And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in,
    That not a single accent seems uncouth,
    Like our harsh northern whistling, grunting guttural,
    Which we're obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.
    • Stanza 44.
  • Heart on her lips, and soul within her eyes,
    Soft as her clime, and sunny as her skies.
    • Stanza 45.
  • O Mirth and Innocence! O milk and water!
    Ye happy mixtures of more happy days.
    • Stanza 80.

Sardanapalus (1821)

  • Which makes life itself a lie,
    Flattering dust with eternity.
    • Act I, scene 2.
  • By all that 's good and glorious.
    • Act I, scene 2.
  • I am the very slave of circumstance
    And impulse,—borne away with every breath!
    • Act IV, scene 1.
  • The dust we tread upon was once alive.
    • Act IV, scene 1.
  • All farewells should be sudden.
    • Act V.

The Age of Bronze (1823)

  • The "good old times" — all times when old are good —
    Are gone.
    • St. 1
  • Where is he, the champion and the child
    Of all that's great or little, wise or wild;
    Whose game was empires, and whose stakes were thrones;
    Whose table earth — whose dice were human bones?
    • St. 3
  • While Franklin's quiet memory climbs to heaven,
    Calming the lightning which he thence hath riven,
    Or drawing from the no less kindled earth
    Freedom and peace to that which boasts his birth;
    While Washington's a watchword, such as ne'er
    Shall sink while there's an echo left to air.
    • St. 5

About Lord Byron

  • If I could envy any man for successful ill nature I should envy Lord Byron for his skill in satirical nomenclature.
    • Sydney Smith, letter to Elizabeth Vassal Fox, Lady Holland (June 1810)
  • Mad, bad and dangerous to know.
    • Lady Caroline Lamb, written in her journal upon their first meeting at a ball (March 1812)
  • You speak of Lord Byron and me — there is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees — I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task.
    • John Keats, letter to George and Georgiana Keats (September 1819)
  • If they had said that the sun or the moon had gone out of the heavens, it could not have struck me with the idea of a more awful and dreary blank in creation than the words: "Byron is dead!"
  • The world is rid of Lord Byron, but the deadly slime of his touch still remains.
  • Lord Byron makes man after his own image, woman after his own heart; the one is a capricious tyrant, the other a yielding slave.
  • Whatever he does, he must do in a more decided and daring manner than any one else; he lounges with extravagance, and yawns so as to alarm the reader!
  • Our Lord Byron — the fascinating — faulty — childish — philosophical being — daring the world — docile to a private circle — impetuous and indolent — gloomy and yet more gay than any other.
  • It still saddens me that Lord Byron, who showed such impatience with the fickle public, wasn't aware of how well the Germans can understand him and how highly they esteem him. With us the moral and political tittle-tattle of the day falls away, leaving the man and the talent standing alone in all their brilliance.
  • I never heard a single expression of fondness for him fall from the lips of any of those who knew him well.
  • Lord Byron is great only as a poet; as soon as he reflects, he is a child.
  • From the poetry of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, a system in which the two great commandments were, to hate your neighbour, and to love your neighbour's wife.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Moore's Life of Lord Byron" (June 1830), from Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to the Edinburgh Review (1843), vol. I
  • In a room at the end of the garden to this house was a magnificent rocking-horse, which a friend had given my little boy; and Lord Byron, with a childish glee becoming a poet, would ride upon it. Ah! why did he ever ride his Pegasus to less advantage?
    • Leigh Hunt, Autobiography (1850), vol. II, ch. XV
  • What helps it now, that Byron bore,
    With haughty scorn which mocked the smart,
    Through Europe to the Aetolian shore
    The pageant of his bleeding heart?
    That thousands counted every groan,
    And Europe made his woe her own?
    • Matthew Arnold, "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse," Fraser's Magazine (April 1855); reprinted in New Poems (1867)
  • The news came to the village - the dire news which spread across the land, filling men's hearts with consternation - that Byron was dead. Tennyson was then about a boy of fifteen.

    "Byron was dead! I thought the whole world was at an end," he once said, speaking of those bygone days. "I thought everything was over and finished for everyone — that nothing else mattered. I remembered I walked out alone, and carved 'Byron is dead' into the sandstone."

  • Always looking at himself in mirrors to make sure he was sufficiently outrageous.

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