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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/On a Distant View of the Village and School of Harrow on the Hill, 1806

ON A DISTANT VIEW OF THE VILLAGE AND SCHOOL OF HARROW ON THE HILL, 1806.

Oh! mihi præteritos referat si Jupiter annos.[1]Virgil.

1.

Ye scenes of my childhood, whose lov'd recollection
Embitters the present, compar'd with the past;
Where science first dawn'd on the powers of reflection,
And friendships were form'd, too romantic to last;[2]


2.

Where fancy, yet, joys to retrace the resemblance
Of comrades, in friendship and mischief allied;[3]
How welcome to me your ne'er fading remembrance,[4]
Which rests in the bosom, though hope is deny'd!


3.

Again I revisit the hills where we sported,
The streams where we swam, and the fields where we fought;[5]
The school where, loud warn'd by the bell, we resorted,
To pore o'er the precepts by Pedagogues taught.


4.

Again I behold where for hours I have ponder'd,
As reclining, at eve, on yon tombstone[6] I lay;
Or round the steep brow of the churchyard I wander'd,
To catch the last gleam of the sun's setting ray.


5.

I once more view the room, with spectators surrounded,
Where, as Zanga,[7] I trod on Alonzo o'erthrown;
While, to swell my young pride, such applauses resounded,
I fancied that Mossop[8] himself was outshone.


6.

Or, as Lear, I pour'd forth the deep imprecation,
By my daughters, of kingdom and reason depriv'd;
Till, fir'd by loud plaudits and self-adulation,
I regarded myself as a Garrick reviv'd.[9]


7.

Ye dreams of my boyhood, how much I regret you!
Unfaded your memory dwells in my breast;[10]
Though sad and deserted, I ne'er can forget you:
Your pleasures may still be in fancy possest.


8.

To Ida full oft may remembrance restore me,[11]
While Fate shall the shades of the future unroll!
Since Darkness o'ershadows the prospect before me,
More dear is the beam of the past to my soul!


9.

But if, through the course of the years which await me,
Some new scene of pleasure should open to view,
I will say, while with rapture the thought shall elate me,
"Oh! such were the days which my infancy knew."[12]

1806.

  1. [The motto was prefixed in Hours of Idleness.]
  2. ["My school-friendships were with me passions (for I was always violent), but I do not know that there is one which has endured (to be sure, some have been cut short by death) till now."—Diary, 1821; Life, p. 21.]
  3. [Byron was at first placed in the house of Mr. Henry Drury, but in 1803 was removed to that of Mr. Evans. "The reason why Lord Byron wishes for the change, arises from the repeated complaints of Mr. Henry Drury respecting his inattention to business, and his propensity to make others laugh and disregard their employment as much as himself."—Dr. Joseph Drury to Mr. John Hanson.]
  4. How welcome once more.—[4to]
  5. ["At Harrow I fought my way very fairly. I think I lost but one battle out of seven."—Diary, 1821; Life, p. 21.]
  6. [A tomb in the churchyard at Harrow was so well known to be his favourite resting-place, that the boys called it "Byron's Tomb:" and here, they say, he used to sit for hours, wrapt up in thought.—Life, p. 26.]
  7. [For the display of his declamatory powers, on the speech-days, he selected always the most vehement passages; such as the speech of Zanga over the body of Alonzo, and Lear's address to the storm.—Life, p. 20, note; and post, p. 103, var. i.]
  8. [Henry Mossop (1729-1773), a contemporary of Garrick, famous for his performance of "Zanga" in Young's tragedy of The Revenge.]
  9. I cofisider'd myself.—[4to]
  10. As your memory beams through this agoniz'd breast;
    Thus sad and deserted, I ne'er can forget you,
    Though this heart throbs to bursting by anguish possest.—[4to]
    Your memory beams through this agonized breast.—[P. on V. Occasions.]

  11. I thought this poor brain, fever'd even to madness,
    Of tears as of reason for ever was drained;
    But the drops which now flow down this bosom of sadness,
    Convince me the springs have some moisture retain'd.

    Sweet scenes of my childhood! your blest recollection,
    Has wrung from these eyelids, to weeping long dead,
    In torrents, the tears of my warmest affection,
    The last and the fondest, I ever shall shed.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]

  12. [Stanzas 8 and 9 first appeared in Hours of Idleness.]