LINES ON HEARING THAT LADY BYRON WAS ILL.
And thou wert sad—yet I was not with thee;
And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near;
Methought that Joy and Health alone could be
Where I was not—and pain and sorrow here!
And is it thus?—it is as I foretold,
And shall be more so; for the mind recoils
Upon itself, and the wrecked heart lies cold,
While Heaviness collects the shattered spoils.
It is not in the storm nor in the strife
We fed benumbed, and wish to be no more,
But in the after-silence on the shore,
When all is lost, except a little life.
Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument
I am too well avenged!—but 'twas my right;
Whate'er my sins might be, thou wert not sent
To be the Nemesis who should requite—
- ["These verses," says John Wright (ed. 1832, x. 207), "of which the opening lines (1-6) are given in Moore's Notices, etc., (1830, ii. 36), were written immediately after the failure of the negotiation ... [i.e. the intervention] of Madame de Staël, who had persuaded Byron 'to write a letter to a friend in England, declaring himself still willing to be reconciled to Lady Byron' (Life, p. 321), but were not intended for the public eye." The verses were written in September, and it is evident that since the composition of The Dream in July, another "change had come over" his spirit, and that the mild and courteous deprecation of his wife as "a gentle bride," etc., had given place to passionate reproach and bitter reviling. The failure of Madame de Staël's negotiations must have been to some extent anticipated, and it is more reasonable to suppose that it was a rumour or report of the "one serious calumny" of Shelley's letter of September 29, 1816, which provoked him to fury, and drove him into the open maledictions of The Incantation (published together with the Prisoner of Chillon, but afterwards incorporated with Manfred, act i. sc. 1, vide post, p. 91), and the suppressed "lines," written, so he told Lady Blessington (Conversations, etc., 1834, p. 79) "on reading in a newspaper" that Lady Byron had been ill.]
"... that unnatural retribution—just,
Had it but been from hands less near."
Childe Harold, Canto IV. stanza cxxxii. lines 6, 7,
Poetical Works, 1899, ii. 427.]