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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/181

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147
THE LAMENT OF TASSO.

Debarring me the usage of my own,
Blighting my life in best of its career,
Branding my thoughts as things to shun and fear?
Would I not pay them back these pangs again,100
And teach them inward Sorrow's stifled groan?
The struggle to be calm, and cold distress,
Which undermines our Stoical success?
No!—still too proud to be vindictive—I
Have pardoned Princes' insults, and would die.
Yes, Sister of my Sovereign! for thy sake
I weed all bitterness from out my breast,
It hath no business where thou art a guest:
Thy brother hates—but I can not detest;
Thou pitiest not—but I can not forsake.110


V.

Look on a love which knows not to despair,
But all unquenched is still my better part,
Dwelling deep in my shut and silent heart,
As dwells the gathered lightning in its cloud,
Encompassed with its dark and rolling shroud,
Till struck,—forth flies the all-ethereal dart!
And thus at the collision of thy name
The vivid thought still flashes through my frame,
And for a moment all things as they were
Flit by me;—they are gone—I am the same.120
And yet my love without ambition grew;
I knew thy state—my station—and I knew
A Princess was no love-mate for a bard;[1]

I told it not—I breathed it not[2]—it was
  1. [It is highly improbable that Tasso openly indulged, or secretly nourished, a consuming passion for Leonora d'Este, and it is certain that the "Sister of his Sovereign" had nothing to do with his being shut up in the Hospital of Sant' Anna. That poet and princess had known each other for over thirteen years, that the princess was seven years older than the poet, and, in March 1579, close upon forty-two years of age, are points to be considered; but the fact that she died in February, 1581, and that Tasso remained in confinement for five years longer, is a stronger argument against the truth of the legend. She was a beautiful woman, his patroness and benefactress, and the theme of sonnets and canzoni; but it was not for her "sweet sake" that Tasso lost either his wits or his liberty.]
  2. [Compare—

    "I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name."

    "Stanzas for Music," line 1, Poetical Works, 1900, iii. 413.]