The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Lara/Canto I

CANTO THE FIRST.[decimal 1]

The Serfs[decimal 2] are glad through Lara's wide domain,[decimal 3]
And Slavery half forgets her feudal chain;
He, their unhoped, but unforgotten lord,
The long self-exiled Chieftain, is restored:
There be bright faces in the busy hall,
Bowls on the board, and banners on the wall;
Far checkering o'er the pictured window, plays
The unwonted faggot's hospitable blaze;
And gay retainers gather round the hearth,
With tongues all loudness, and with eyes all mirth. 10

The Chief of Lara is returned again:
And why had Lara crossed the bounding main?
Left by his Sire, too young such loss to know,[decimal 4]
Lord of himself,—that heritage of woe.
That fearful empire which the human breast
But holds to rob the heart within of rest!—
With none to check, and few to point in time
The thousand paths that slope the way to crime;
Then, when he most required commandment, then
Had Lara's daring boyhood governed men.[lower-roman 2] 20
It skills not, boots not step by step to trace
His youth through all the mazes of its race;

Short was the course his restlessness had run,[lower-roman 3]
But long enough to leave him half undone.

And Lara left in youth his father-land;
But from the hour he waved his parting hand
Each trace wax'd fainter of his course, till all
Had nearly ceased his memory to recall.
His sire was dust, his vassals could declare,
'Twas all they knew, that Lara was not there; 30
Nor sent, nor came he, till conjecture grew
Cold in the many, anxious in the few.
His hall scarce echoes with his wonted name,
His portrait darkens in its fading frame,
Another chief consoled his destined bride,[lower-roman 4]
The young forgot him, and the old had died;[lower-roman 5]
"Yet doth he live!" exclaims the impatient heir,
And sighs for sables which he must not wear.[lower-roman 6]
A hundred scutcheons deck with gloomy grace
The Laras' last and longest dwelling-place; 40
But one is absent from the mouldering file,
That now were welcome to that Gothic pile.[lower-roman 7]

He comes at last in sudden loneliness,
And whence they know not, why they need not guess;
They more might marvel, when the greeting's o'er,
Not that he came, but came not long before:
No train is his beyond a single page,
Of foreign aspect, and of tender age.
Years had rolled on, and fast they speed away
To those that wander as to those that stay; 50
But lack of tidings from another clime
Had lent a flagging wing to weary Time.
They see, they recognise, yet almost deem
The present dubious, or the past a dream.

He lives, nor yet is past his Manhood's prime.
Though seared by toil, and something touched by Time;
His faults, whate'er they were, if scarce forgot,
Might be untaught him by his varied lot;
Nor good nor ill of late were known, his name
Might yet uphold his patrimonial fame: 60
His soul in youth was haughty, but his sins[decimal 5]
No more than pleasure from the stripling wins;
And such, if not yet hardened in their course,
Might be redeemed, nor ask a long remorse.

And they indeed were changed—'tis quickly seen,
Whate'er he be, 'twas not what he had been:
That brow in furrowed lines had fixed at last,
And spake of passions, but of passion past:
The pride, but not the fire, of early days.
Coldness of mien, and carelessness of praise; 70
A high demeanour, and a glance that took
Their thoughts from others by a single look;
And that sarcastic levity of tongue,
The stinging of a heart the world hath stung,
That darts in seeming playfulness around,
And makes those feel that will not own the wound;
All these seemed his, and something more beneath
Than glance could well reveal, or accent breathe.
Ambition, Glory, Love, the common aim.
That some can conquer, and that all would claim, 80
Within his breast appeared no more to strive.
Yet seemed as lately they had been alive;
And some deep feeling it were vain to trace
At moments lightened o'er his livid face.

Not much he loved long question of the past,
Nor told of wondrous wilds, and deserts vast,
In those far lands where he had wandered lone,
And—as himself would have it seem—unknown:
Yet these in vain his eye could scarcely scan.
Nor glean experience from his fellow man; 90
But what he had beheld he shunned to show,
As hardly worth a stranger's care to know;
If still more prying such inquiry grew.
His brow fell darker, and his words more few.

Not unrejoiced to see him once again.
Warm was his welcome to the haunts of men;
Born of high lineage, linked in high command,
He mingled with the Magnates of his land;
Joined the carousals of the great and gay.
And saw them smile or sigh their hours away; 100
But still he only saw, and did not share.
The common pleasure or the general care;
He did not follow what they all pursued
With hope still baffled still to be renewed;
Nor shadowy Honour, nor substantial Gain,
Nor Beauty's preference, and the rival's pain:
Around him some mysterious circle thrown
Repelled approach, and showed him still alone;
Upon his eye sat something of reproof,
That kept at least Frivolity aloof; 110
And things more timid that beheld him near
In silence gazed, or whispered mutual fear;
And they the wiser, friendlier few confessed
They deemed him better than his air expressed.

'Twas strange—in youth all action and all life,
Burning for pleasure, not averse from strife;
Woman—the Field—the Ocean, all that gave
Promise of gladness, peril of a grave,
In turn he tried—he ransacked all below,
And found his recompense in joy or woe, 120
No tame, trite medium; for his feelings sought
In that intenseness an escape from thought:[lower-roman 8]
The Tempest of his Heart in scorn had gazed
On that the feebler Elements hath raised;
The Rapture of his Heart had looked on high,
And asked if greater dwelt beyond the sky:
Chained to excess, the slave of each extreme,
How woke he from the wildness of that dream!
Alas! he told not—but he did awake
To curse the withered heart that would not break. 130

Books, for his volume heretofore was Man,
With eye more curious he appeared to scan,
And oft in sudden mood, for many a day,
From all communion he would start away:
And then, his rarely called attendants said,
Through night's long hours would sound his hurried tread
O'er the dark gallery, where his fathers frowned
In rude but antique portraiture around:
They heard, but whispered—"that must not be known—
The sound of words less earthly than his own.[lower-roman 9] 140
Yes, they who chose might smile, but some had seen
They scarce knew what, but more than should have been.
Why gazed he so upon the ghastly head[decimal 6]
Which hands profane had gathered from the dead,
That still beside his opened volume lay,
As if to startle all save him away?
Why slept he not when others were at rest?
Why heard no music, and received no guest?
All was not well, they deemed—but where the wrong?[decimal 7]
Some knew perchance—but 'twere a tale too long; 150
And such besides were too discreetly wise.
To more than hint their knowledge in surmise;
But if they would—they could"—around the board
Thus Lara's vassals prattled of their lord.

It was the night—and Lara's glassy stream
The stars are studding, each with imaged beam;
So calm, the waters scarcely seem to stray,
And yet they glide like Happiness away;[decimal 8]
Reflecting far and fairy-like from high
The immortal lights that live along the sky: 160
Its banks are fringed with many a goodly tree,
And flowers the fairest that may feast the bee;
Such in her chaplet infant Dian wove,
And Innocence would offer to her love.
These deck the shore; the waves their channel make
In windings bright and mazy like the snake.
All was so still, so soft in earth and air,
You scarce would start to meet a spirit there;
Secure that nought of evil could delight
To walk in such a scene, on such a night! 170
It was a moment only for the good:
So Lara deemed, nor longer there he stood,
But turned in silence to his castle-gate;
Such scene his soul no more could contemplate:
Such scene reminded him of other days,
Of skies more cloudless, moons of purer blaze,
Of nights more soft and frequent, hearts that now—
No—no—the storm may beat upon his brow,
Unfelt, unsparing—but a night like this,
A night of Beauty, mocked such breast as his. 180

He turned within his solitary hall,
And his high shadow shot along the wall:
There were the painted forms of other times,[decimal 9]
'Twas all they left of virtues or of crimes,
Save vague tradition; and the gloomy vaults
That hid their dust, their foibles, and their faults;
And half a column of the pompous page,
That speeds the specious tale from age to age;
Where History's pen its praise or blame supplies,
And lies like Truth, and still most truly lies. 190
He wandering mused, and as the moonbeam shone
Through the dim lattice, o'er the floor of stone,
And the high fretted roof, and saints, that there
O'er Gothic windows knelt in pictured prayer,[lower-roman 10]
Reflected in fantastic figures grew,
Like life, but not like mortal life, to view;
His bristling locks of sable, brow of gloom,
And the wide waving of his shaken plume,
Glanced like a spectre's attributes—and gave
His aspect all that terror gives the grave.[lower-roman 11] 200

'Twas midnight—all was slumber; the lone light
Dimmed in the lamp, as loth to break the night.
Hark! there be murmurs heard in Lara's hall—
A sound—a voice—a shriek—a fearful call!
A long, loud shriek—and silence—did they hear
That frantic echo burst the sleeping ear?
They heard and rose, and, tremulously brave,
Rush where the sound invoked their aid to save;
They come with half-lit tapers in their hands,
And snatched in startled haste unbelted brands. 210

Cold as the marble where his length was laid,
Pale as the beam that o'er his features played,
Was Lara stretched; his half-drawn sabre near,
Dropped it should seem in more than Nature's fear;
Yet he was firm, or had been firm till now,
And still Defiance knit his gathered brow;
Though mixed with terror, senseless as he lay,
There lived upon his lip the wish to slay;
Some half formed threat in utterance there had died,
Some imprecation of despairing Pride; 220
His eye was almost sealed, but not forsook,
Even in its trance, the gladiator's look,
That oft awake his aspect could disclose,
And now was fixed in horrible repose.
They raise him—bear him;—hush! he breathes, he speaks,
The swarthy blush recolours in his cheeks,
His lip resumes its red, his eye, though dim,
Rolls wide and wild, each slowly quivering limb
Recalls its function, but his words are strung
In terms that seem not of his native tongue; 230
Distinct but strange, enough they understand
To deem them accents of another land;
And such they were, and meant to meet an ear
That hears him not—alas! that cannot hear!

His page approached, and he alone appeared
To know the import of the words they heard;
And, by the changes of his cheek and brow,
They were not such as Lara should avow,
Nor he interpret,—yet with less surprise
Than those around their Chieftain's state he eyes, 240
But Lara's prostrate form he bent beside,
And in that tongue which seemed his own replied;
And Lara heeds those tones that gently seem
To soothe away the horrors of his dream—
If dream it were, that thus could overthrow
A breast that needed not ideal woe.

Whate'er his frenzy dreamed or eye beheld,—
If yet remembered ne'er to be revealed,—
Rests at his heart: the customed morning came,
And breathed new vigour in his shaken frame; 250
And solace sought he none from priest nor leech,
And soon the same in movement and in speech,
As heretofore he filled the passing hours,
Nor less he smiles, nor more his forehead lowers,
Than these were wont; and if the coming night
Appeared less welcome now to Lara's sight,
He to his marvelling vassals showed it not,
Whose shuddering proved their fear was less forgot.
In trembling pairs (alone they dared not) crawl[lower-roman 12]
The astonished slaves, and shun the fated hall; 260
The waving banner, and the clapping door,
The rustling tapestry, and the echoing floor;
The long dim shadows of surrounding trees,
The flapping bat, the night song of the breeze;
Aught they behold or hear their thought appals,
As evening saddens o'er the dark grey walls.

Vain thought! that hour of ne'er unravelled gloom
Came not again, or Lara could assume
A seeming of forgetfulness, that made
His vassals more amazed nor less afraid. 270
Had Memory vanished then with sense restored?
Since word, nor look, nor gesture of their lord
Betrayed a feeling that recalled to these
That fevered moment of his mind's disease.
Was it a dream? was his the voice that spoke
Those strange wild accents; his the cry that broke
Their slumber? his the oppressed, o'erlaboured heart
That ceased to beat, the look that made them start?
Could he who thus had suffered so forget,
When such as saw that suffering shudder yet? 280
Or did that silence prove his memory fixed
Too deep for words, indelible, unmixed
In that corroding secrecy which gnaws
The heart to show the effect, but not the cause?
Not so in him; his breast had buried both,
Nor common gazers could discern the growth
Of thoughts that mortal lips must leave half told;
They choke the feeble words that would unfold.

In him inexplicably mixed appeared
Much to be loved and hated, sought and feared; 290
Opinion varying o'er his hidden lot,[lower-roman 13]
In praise or railing ne'er his name forgot:
His silence formed a theme for others' prate—
They guessed—they gazed—they fain would know his fate.
What had he been? what was he, thus unknown,
Who walked their world, his lineage only known?
A hater of his kind? yet some would say,
With them he could seem gay amidst the gay;[lower-roman 14]
But owned that smile, if oft observed and near,
Waned in its mirth, and withered to a sneer; 300
That smile might reach his lip, but passed not by,
Nor e'er could trace its laughter to his eye:
Yet there was softness too in his regard,
At times, a heart as not by nature hard,
But once perceived, his Spirit seemed to chide
Such weakness, as unworthy of its pride,
And steeled itself, as scorning to redeem
One doubt from others' half withheld esteem;
In self-inflicted penance of a breast
Which Tenderness might once have wrung from Rest;
In vigilance of Grief that would compel 311
The soul to hate for having loved too well.[decimal 10]

There was in him a vital scorn of all:[lower-roman 15]
As if the worst had fallen which could befall,
He stood a stranger in this breathing world,
An erring Spirit from another hurled;
A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped
By choice the perils he by chance escaped;
But 'scaped in vain, for in their memory yet
His mind would half exult and half regret: 320
With more capacity for love than Earth
Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth.
His early dreams of good outstripped the truth,[decimal 11]
And troubled Manhood followed baffled Youth;
With thought of years in phantom chase misspent,
And wasted powers for better purpose lent;
And fiery passions that had poured their wrath
In hurried desolation o'er his path,
And left the better feelings all at strife[lower-roman 16]
In wild reflection o'er his stormy life; 330
But haughty still, and loth himself to blame,
He called on Nature's self to share the shame,
And charged all faults upon the fleshly form
She gave to clog the soul, and feast the worm;
Till he at last confounded good and ill,
And half mistook for fate the acts of will:[lower-roman 17][decimal 12]
Too high for common selfishness, he could
At times resign his own for others' good,
But not in pity—not because he ought,
But in some strange perversity of thought, 340
That swayed him onward with a secret pride
To do what few or none would do beside;
And this same impulse would, in tempting time,
Mislead his spirit equally to crime;
So much he soared beyond, or sunk beneath,
The men with whom he felt condemned to breathe,
And longed by good or ill to separate
Himself from all who shared his mortal state;
His mind abhorring this had fixed her throne
Far from the world, in regions of her own: 350
Thus coldly passing all that passed below,
His blood in temperate seeming now would flow:
Ah! happier if it ne'er with guilt had glowed,
But ever in that icy smoothness flowed!
'Tis true, with other men their path he walked,
And like the rest in seeming did and talked,
Nor outraged Reason's rules by flaw nor start,
His Madness was not of the head, but heart;
And rarely wandered in his speech, or drew
His thoughts so forth as to offend the view. 360

With all that chilling mystery of mien,
And seeming gladness to remain unseen,
He had (if 'twere not nature's boon) an art
Of fixing memory on another's heart:
It was not love perchance—nor hate—nor aught
That words can image to express the thought;
But they who saw him did not see in vain,
And once beheld—would ask of him again:
And those to whom he spake remembered well,
And on the words, however light, would dwell: 370
None knew, nor how, nor why, but he entwined
Himself perforce around the hearer's mind;[lower-roman 18]
There he was stamped, in liking, or in hate,
If greeted once; however brief the date
That friendship, pity, or aversion knew,[lower-roman 19]
Still there within the inmost thought he grew.
You could not penetrate his soul, but found,
Despite your wonder, to your own he wound;
His presence haunted still; and from the breasts[lower-roman 20]
He forced an all unwilling interest: 380
Vain was the struggle in that mental net—
His Spirit seemed to dare you to forget!

There is a festival, where knights and dames,
And aught that wealth or lofty lineage claims,
Appear—a high-born and a welcome guest
To Otho's hall came Lara with the rest.
The long carousal shakes the illumined hall,
Well speeds alike the banquet and the ball;
And the gay dance of bounding Beauty's train
Links grace and harmony in happiest chain: 390
Blest are the early hearts and gentle hands
That mingle there in well according bands;
It is a sight the careful brow might smooth,
And make Age smile, and dream itself to youth,
And Youth forget such hour was passed on earth,
So springs the exulting bosom to that mirth![lower-roman 21]

And Lara gazed on these, sedately glad,
His brow belied him if his soul was sad;
And his glance followed fast each fluttering fair,
Whose steps of lightness woke no echo there: 400
He leaned against the lofty pillar nigh,
With folded arms and long attentive eye,
Nor marked a glance so sternly fixed on his—
Ill brooked high Lara scrutiny like this:
At length he caught it—'tis a face unknown,
But seems as searching his, and his alone;
Prying and dark, a stranger's by his mien,
Who still till now had gazed on him unseen:
At length encountering meets the mutual gaze
Of keen enquiry, and of mute amaze; 410
On Lara's glance emotion gathering grew,
As if distrusting that the stranger threw;
Along the stranger's aspect, fixed and stern,
Flashed more than thence the vulgar eye could learn.

"'Tis he!" the stranger cried, and those that heard
Re-echoed fast and far the whispered word.
"'Tis he!"—"'Tis who?" they question far and near,
Till louder accents rung on Lara's ear;
So widely spread, few bosoms well could brook
The general marvel, or that single look: 420
But Lara stirred not, changed not, the surprise
That sprung at first to his arrested eyes
Seemed now subsided—neither sunk nor raised
Glanced his eye round, though still the stranger gazed;
And drawing nigh, exclaimed, with haughty sneer,
"'Tis he!—how came he thence?—what doth he here?"

It were too much for Lara to pass by
Such questions, so repeated fierce and high;[lower-roman 22]
With look collected, but with accent cold,
More mildly firm than petulantly bold, 430
He turned, and met the inquisitorial tone—
"My name is Lara—when thine own is known,
Doubt not my fitting answer to requite
The unlooked for courtesy of such a knight.
'Tis Lara!—further wouldst thou mark or ask?
I shun no question, and I wear no mask."

"Thou shunn'st no question! Ponder—is there none
Thy heart must answer, though thine ear would shun?
And deem'st thou me unknown too? Gaze again!
At least thy memory was not given in vain. 440
Oh! never canst thou cancel half her debt—
Eternity forbids thee to forget."
With slow and searching glance upon his face
Grew Lara's eyes, but nothing there could trace
They knew, or chose to know—with dubious look
He deigned no answer, but his head he shook,
And half contemptuous turned to pass away;
But the stern stranger motioned him to stay.

"A word!—I charge thee stay, and answer here
To one, who, wert thou noble, were thy peer, 450
But as thou wast and art—nay, frown not. Lord,
If false, 'tis easy to disprove the word—
But as thou wast and art, on thee looks down,
Distrusts thy smiles, but shakes not at thy frown.
Art thou not he? whose deeds———"[lower-roman 23]
"Whate'er I be,
Words wild as these, accusers like to thee,
I list no further; those with whom they weigh
May hear the rest, nor venture to gainsay
The wondrous tale no doubt thy tongue can tell,
Which thus begins so courteously and well. 460
Let Otho cherish here his polished guest,
To him my thanks and thoughts shall be expressed."
And here their wondering host hath interposed—
"Whate'er there be between you undisclosed,
This is no time nor fitting place to mar
The mirthful meeting with a wordy war.
If thou, Sir Ezzelin, hast aught to show
Which it befits Count Lara's ear to know,
To-morrow, here, or elsewhere, as may best
Beseem your mutual judgment, speak the rest; 470
I pledge myself for thee, as not unknown,
Though, like Count Lara, now returned alone
From other lands, almost a stranger grown;
And if from Lara's blood and gentle birth
I augur right of courage and of worth,
He will not that untainted line belie,
Nor aught that Knighthood may accord, deny."

"To-morrow be it," Ezzelin replied,
"And here our several worth and truth be tried;
I gage my life, my falchion to attest 480
My words, so may I mingle with the blest!"
What answers Lara? to its centre shrunk
His soul, in deep abstraction sudden sunk;
The words of many, and the eyes of all
That there were gathered, seemed on him to fall;
But his were silent, his appeared to stray
In far forgetfulness away—away—
Alas! that heedlessness of all around
Bespoke remembrance only too profound.

"To-morrow!—aye, to-morrow!" further word[lower-roman 24] 490
Than those repeated none from Lara heard;
Upon his brow no outward passion spoke;
From his large eye no flashing anger broke;
Yet there was something fixed in that low tone,
Which showed resolve, determined, though unknown.
He seized his cloak—his head he slightly bowed,
And passing Ezzelin, he left the crowd;
And, as he passed him, smiling met the frown
With which that Chieftain's brow would bear him down:
It was nor smile of mirth, nor struggling pride 500
That curbs to scorn the wrath it cannot hide;
But that of one in his own heart secure
Of all that he would do, or could endure.
Could this mean peace? the calmness of the good?
Or guilt grown old in desperate hardihood?
Alas! too like in confidence are each,
For man to trust to mortal look or speech;
From deeds, and deeds alone, may he discern
Truths which it wrings the unpractised heart to learn.

And Lara called his page, and went his way— 510
Well could that stripling word or sign obey:
His only follower from those climes afar,
Where the Soul glows beneath a brighter star;
For Lara left the shore from whence he sprung,
In duty patient, and sedate though young;
Silent as him he served, his faith appears
Above his station, and beyond his years.
Though not unknown the tongue of Lara's land,
In such from him he rarely heard command;
But fleet his step, and clear his tones would come, 520
When Lara's lip breathed forth the words of home:
Those accents, as his native mountains dear,
Awake their absent echoes in his ear,[lower-roman 25]
Friends'—kindred's—parents'—wonted voice recall,
Now lost, abjured, for one—his friend, his all:
For him earth now disclosed no other guide;
What marvel then he rarely left his side?

Light was his form, and darkly delicate
That brow whereon his native sun had sate.
But had not marred, though in his beams he grew, 530
The cheek where oft the unbidden blush shone through;
Yet not such blush as mounts when health would show
All the heart's hue in that delighted glow;
But 'twas a hectic tint of secret care
That for a burning moment fevered there;
And the wild sparkle of his eye seemed caught
From high, and lightened with electric thought,[lower-roman 26]
Though its black orb those long low lashes' fringe
Had tempered with a melancholy tinge;
Yet less of sorrow than of pride was there, 540
Or, if 'twere grief, a grief that none should share:
And pleased not him the sports that please his age,
The tricks of Youth, the frolics of the Page;
For hours on Lara he would fix his glance,
As all-forgotten in that watchful trance;
And from his chief withdrawn, he wandered lone,
Brief were his answers, and his questions none;
His walk the wood, his sport some foreign book;
His resting-place the bank that curbs the brook:
He seemed, like him he served, to live apart 550
From all that lures the eye, and fills the heart;
To know no brotherhood, and take from earth
No gift beyond that bitter boon—our birth.

If aught he loved, 'twas Lara; but was shown
His faith in reverence and in deeds alone;
In mute attention; and his care, which guessed
Each wish, fulfilled it ere the tongue expressed.
Still there was haughtiness in all he did,
A spirit deep that brooked not to be chid;
His zeal, though more than that of servile hands,[lower-roman 27] 560
In act alone obeys, his air commands;
As if 'twas Lara's less than his desire
That thus he served, but surely not for hire.
Slight were the tasks enjoined him by his Lord,
To hold the stirrup, or to bear the sword;
To tune his lute, or, if he willed it more,[lower-roman 28]
On tomes of other times and tongues to pore;
But ne'er to mingle with the menial train.
To whom he showed nor deference nor disdain,
But that well-worn reserve which proved he knew 570
No sympathy with that familiar crew:
His soul, whate'er his station or his stem,
Could bow to Lara, not descend to them.
Of higher birth he seemed, and better days,
Nor mark of vulgar toil that hand betrays,
So femininely white it might bespeak
Another sex, when matched with that smooth cheek,
But for his garb, and something in his gaze,
More wild and high than Woman's eye betrays;
A latent fierceness that far more became 580
His fiery climate than his tender frame:
True, in his words it broke not from his breast,
But from his aspect might be more than guessed.[lower-roman 29]
Kaled his name, though rumour said he bore
Another ere he left his mountain-shore;
For sometimes he would hear, however nigh,
That name repeated loud without reply.
As unfamiliar—or, if roused again.
Start to the sound, as but remembered then;
Unless 'twas Lara's wonted voice that spake, 590
For then—ear—eyes—and heart would all awake.

He had looked down upon the festive hall.
And mark'd that sudden strife so marked of all:
And when the crowd around and near him told[lower-roman 30]
Their wonder at the calmness of the bold.
Their marvel how the high-born Lara bore
Such insult from a stranger, doubly sore,
The colour of young Kaled went and came.
The lip of ashes, and the cheek of flame;
And o'er his brow the dampening heart-drops threw 600
The sickening iciness of that cold dew,
That rises as the busy bosom sinks
With heavy thoughts from which Reflection shrinks.
Yes—there be things which we must dream and dare,
And execute ere thought be half aware:[decimal 13]
Whate'er might Kaled's be, it was enow
To seal his lip, but agonise his brow.
He gazed on Ezzelin till Lara cast
That sidelong smile upon the knight he past;
When Kaled saw that smile his visage fell, 610
As if on something recognised right well:
His memory read in such a meaning more
Than Lara's aspect unto others wore:
Forward he sprung—a moment, both were gone,
And all within that hall seemed left alone;
Each had so fixed his eye on Lara's mien,
All had so mixed their feelings with that scene,
That when his long dark shadow through the porch
No more relieves the glare of yon high torch,
Each pulse beats quicker, and all bosoms seem 620
To bound as doubting from too black a dream,
Such as we know is false, yet dread in sooth,
Because the worst is ever nearest truth.
And they are gone—but Ezzelin is there,
With thoughtful visage and imperious air;
But long remained not; ere an hour expired
He waved his hand to Otho, and retired.

The crowd are gone, the revellers at rest;
The courteous host, and all-approving guest,
Again to that accustomed couch must creep 630
Where Joy subsides, and Sorrow sighs to sleep,
And Man, o'erlaboured with his Being's strife,
Shrinks to that sweet forgetfulness of life:
There lie Love's feverish hope, and Cunning's guile,[lower-roman 31]
Hate's working brain, and lulled Ambition's wile;
O'er each vain eye Oblivion's pinions wave,
And quenched Existence crouches in a grave.[lower-roman 32]
What better name may Slumber's bed become?
Night's sepulchre, the universal home,
Where Weakness—Strength—Vice—Virtue—sunk supine, 640
Alike in naked helplessness recline;
Glad for a while to heave unconscious breath,
Yet wake to wrestle with the dread of Death,
And shun—though Day but dawn on ills increased—
That sleep,—the loveliest, since it dreams the least.

  1. Lara the sequel of "the Corsair."—[MS. erased.]
  2. First in each folly—nor the last in vice.—[MS. erased.]
  3. Short was the course the beardless wanderer run.—[MS.]
  4. Another chief had won ———.—[MS. erased.]
  5. His friends forgot him—and his dog had died.—[MS.]
  6. Without one rumour to relieve his care.-[MS. erased.]
  7. That most might decorate that gloomy pile—[MS. erased.]
  8. Their refuge in intensity of thought.—[MS.]
  9. The sound of other voices than his own.—[MS.]
  10. ——knelt in painted prayer.—[MS.]
  11. His aspect all that best becomes the grave.—[MS.]
  12. ——along the gallery crawl.—[MS.]
  13. Opinion various as his varying eye
    In praise or railing—never passed him by
  14. ——gayest of the gay.—[MS.]
  15. ——an inward scorn of all.—[MS.]
  16. And left Reflection: loth himself to blame.
    He called on Nature's self to share the shame
  17. And half mistook for fate his wayward will.—[MS.]
  18. ——around another's mind;
    There he was fixed
  19. That friendship, interest, aversion knew
    But there within your inmost
  20. Yes you might hate abhor, but from the breast
    He wrung an all unwilling interest—
    Vain was the struggle in that sightless net
  21. So springs the exulting spirit ———.—[MS.]
  22. That question thus repeated—Thrice and high.—[MS.]
  23. Art thou not he who———"
    "Whatso'eer I be
  24. "Tomorrow!—aye—tomorrow" these were all
    The words from Lara's answering lip that fall
  25. That brought their native echoes to his ear.—[MS.]
  26. From high and quickened into life and thought.—[MS.]
  27. Though no reluctance checked his willing hand.
    He still obeyed as others would command
  28. To tune his lute and, if none else were there,
    To fill the cup in which himself might share
  29. Yet still existed there though still supprest.—[MS.]
  30. And when the slaves and pages round him told.—[MS.]
  31. There lie the lover's hope—the watcher's toil.—[MS.]
  32. And half-Existence melts within a grave.—[MS.]
  1. [A revised version of the following "Advertisement" was prefixed to the First Edition (Printed for J. Murray, Albemarle Street, By T. Davison, Whitefriars, 1814), which was accompanied by Jacqueline:
    "The Reader—if the tale of Lara has the fortune to meet with one—may probably regard it as a sequel to the Corsair;—the colouring is of a similar cast, and although the situations of the characters are changed, the stories are in some measure connected. The countenance is nearly the same—but with a different expression. To the readers' conjecture are left the name of the writer and the failure or success of his attempt—the latter are the only points upon which the author or his judges can feel interested.
    "The Poem of Jaqueline is the production of a different author and is added at the request of the writer of the former tale, whose wish and entreaty it was that it should occupy the first pages of the following volume, and he regrets that the tenacious courtesy of his friend would not permit him to place it where the judgement of the reader concurring with his own will suggest its more appropriate station."]
  2. The reader is apprised, that the name of Lara being Spanish, and no circumstance of local and natural description fixing the scene or hero of the poem to any country or age, the word "Serf," which could not be correctly applied to the lower classes in Spain, who were never vassals of the soil, has nevertheless been employed to designate the followers of our fictitious chieftain.
    [Byron, writing to Murray, July 14, 1814, says, "The name only is Spanish; the country is not Spain, but the Moon" (not "Morea," as hitherto printed),—Letters, 1899, iii. 110. The MS. is dated May 15, 1814.]
  3. [For the opening lines to Lara, see Murray's Magazine, January, 1887, vol. i. p. 3.]
  4. Compare Childish Recollections, lines 221-224—
    "Can Rank, or e'en a Guardian's name supply
    The love, which glistens in a Father's eye?
    For this, can Wealth, or Title's sound atone,
    Made, by a Parent's early loss, my own?"
    Compare, too, English Bards, etc., lines 689-694, Poetical Works, 1898, i. 95. 352.]
  5. [The construction is harsh and obscure, but the meaning is, perhaps, that, though Lara's soul was haughty, his sins were due to nothing worse than pleasure, that they were the natural sins of youth.]
  6. ["The circumstance of his having at this time [1808-9] among the ornaments of his study, a number of skulls highly polished, and placed on light stands round the room, would seem to indicate that he rather courted than shunned such gloomy associations."—Life, p. 87.]
  7. [Compare —
    "His train but deemed the favourite page
    Was left behind to spare his age,
    Or other if they deemed, none dared
    To mutter what he thought or heard.
    Marmion, Canto III. stanza xv, lines 19-22.]
  8. [Compare—
    "Sweetly shining on the eye,
    A rivulet gliding smoothly by;
    Which shows with what an easy tide
    The moments of the happy glide."

    Dyer's Country Walk {Poetical Works of Armstrong,
    Dyer, and Green, 1858, p. 221).]
  9. ["He used, at first, though offered a bed at Annesley, to return every night to Newstead, to sleep; alleging as a reason that he was afraid of the family pictures of the Chaworths."—Life, p. 27.]
  10. [The MS. omits lines 313-382. Stanza xviii, is written on a loose sheet belonging to the Murray MSS.; stanza xix. on a sheet inserted in the MS. Both stanzas must have been composed after the first draft of the poem was completed.]
  11. [Compare Coleridge's Lines to a Gentleman [ William Wordsworth] (written in 1807, but not published till 1817), lines 69, 70—
    "Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
    And genius given, and knowledge won in vain.
  12. [For Byron's belief or half-persuasion that he was predestined to evil, compare Childe Harold, Canto I. stanza lxxxiii. lines 8, 9, and note. Compare, too. Canto III. stanza lxx. lines 8 and 9; and Canto IV. stanza xxxiv. line 6: Poetical Works, 1899, ii. 74, 260, 354.]
  13. [Compare—
    "Strange things I have in head, that will to hand,
    Which must be acted, ere they may be scanned.
    Macbeth, act iii. sc. 4, lines 139, 140.]