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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/61

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31
TO THYRZA.

By all, save one, perchance forgot,
Ah! wherefore art thou lowly laid?
By many a shore and many a sea[1]

Divided, yet beloved in vain;

    solution, and the allusions in the verses in some respects disagree with things said by Lord Byron later. According to the poems, Thyrza had met him

    "'... many a day
    In these, to me, deserted towers.'

    (Newstead, October 11, 1811.)


    "'When stretched on fever's sleepless bed,'

    (At Patras, about September, 1810.)


    "'Death for thee
    Prepared a light and pangless dart.

    "'And oft I thought at Cynthia's noon,
    When sailing o'er the Ægean wave,
    "Now Thyrza gazes on that moon"—
    Alas, it gleam'd upon her grave!'

    (One struggle more, and I am free.)

    "Finally, in the verses of October 11, 1811—

    "'The pledge we wore—I wear it still,
    But where is thine?—Ah! where art thou?'

    "There can be no doubt that Lord Byron referred to Thyrza in conversation with Lady Byron, and probably also with Mrs. Leigh, as a young girl who had existed, and the date of whose death almost coincided with Lord Byron's landing in England in 1811. On one occasion he showed Lady Byron a beautiful tress of hair, which she understood to be Thyrza's. He said he had never mentioned her name, and that now she was gone his breast was the sole depository of that secret. 'I took the name of Thyrza from Gesner. She was Abel's wife.'

    "Thyrza is mentioned in a letter from Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire, to Augustus Foster (London, May 4, 1812): 'Your little friend, Caro William (Lady Caroline Lamb), as usual, is doing all sorts of imprudent things for him (Lord Byron) and with him; he admires her very much, but is supposed by some to admire our Caroline (the Hon. Mrs. George Lamb) more; he says she is like Thyrsa, and her singing is enchantment to him.' From this extract it is obvious that Thyrza is alluded to in the following lines, which, with the above quotation, may be reproduced, by kind permission of Mr. Vere Foster, from his most interesting book, The Two Duchesses (1898, pp. 362-374).

    "'Verses addressed by Lord Byron in the year 1812 to the Hon. Mrs. George Lamb.

    "'The sacred song that on my ear
    Yet vibrates from that voice of thine
    I heard before from one so dear,
    'Tis strange it still appears divine.
    But oh! so sweet that look and tone
    To her and thee alike is given;
    It seemed as if for me alone
    That both had been recalled from Heaven.
    And though I never can redeem
    The vision thus endeared to me,
    I scarcely can regret my dream
    When realized again by thee.'"

    (It may be noted that the name Thirza, or Thyrza, a variant of Theresa, had been familiar to Byron in his childhood. In the Preface to Cain he writes, "Gesner's Death of Abel! I have never read since I was eight years of age at Aberdeen. The general impression of my recollection is delight; but of the contents I remember only that Cain's wife was called Mahala, and Abel's Thirza." Another and more immediate suggestion of the name may be traced to the following translation of Meleager's Epitaphium In Heliodoram, which one of the "associate bards," Bland, or Merivale, or Hodgson, contributed to their Translations chiefly from the Greek Anthology, 1806, p. 4, a work which Byron singles out for commendation in English Bards, etc. (lines 881-890):—

    "Tears o'er my parted Thyrza's grave I shed,
    Affection's fondest tribute to the dead.

    ·····

    Break, break my heart, o'ercharged with bursting woe
    An empty offering to the shades below!
    Ah, plant regretted! Death's remorseless power,
    With dust unfruitful checked thy full-blown flower.
    Take, earth, the gentle inmate to thy breast,
    And soft-embosomed let my Thyrza rest."

    The MSS. of "To Thyrza," "Away, away, ye notes of Woe!" "One struggle more, and I am free," and, "And thou art dead, as young and fair," which belonged originally to Mrs. Leigh, are now in the possession of Sir Theodore Martin, K.C.B.—Editor.)]

  1. By many a land ——.—[MS.]