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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/To Thyrza

< The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)‎ | Poetry‎ | Volume 3

TO THYRZA.[1][2]

Without a stone to mark the spot,[3]
And say, what Truth might well have said,[4]
By all, save one, perchance forgot,
Ah! wherefore art thou lowly laid?
By many a shore and many a sea[5]
Divided, yet beloved in vain;
The Past, the Future fled to thee,
To bid us meet—no—ne'er again!
Could this have been—a word, a look,
That softly said, "We part in peace,"
Had taught my bosom how to brook,
With fainter sighs, thy soul's release.
And didst thou not, since Death for thee
Prepared a light and pangless dart,
Once long for him thou ne'er shalt see,
Who held, and holds thee in his heart?
Oh! who like him had watched thee here?
Or sadly marked thy glazing eye,
In that dread hour ere Death appear,
When silent Sorrow fears to sigh,
Till all was past? But when no more
'Twas thine to reck of human woe,
Affection's heart-drops, gushing o'er,
Had flowed as fast—as now they flow.
Shall they not flow, when many a day[6]
In these, to me, deserted towers,
Ere called but for a time away,
Affection's mingling tears were ours?
Ours too the glance none saw beside;
The smile none else might understand;
The whispered thought of hearts allied,[7]
The pressure of the thrilling hand;
The kiss, so guiltless and refined,
That Love each warmer wish forbore;
Those eyes proclaimed so pure a mind,
Ev'n Passion blushed to plead for more.[8]
The tone, that taught me to rejoice,
When prone, unlike thee, to repine;
The song, celestial from thy voice,
But sweet to me from none but thine;
The pledge we wore—I wear it still,
But where is thine?—Ah! where art thou?
Oft have I borne the weight of ill,
But never bent beneath till now!
Well hast thou left in Life's best bloom[9]
The cup of Woe for me to drain.[10]
If rest alone be in the tomb,
I would not wish thee here again:
But if in worlds more blest than this
Thy virtues seek a fitter sphere,
Impart some portion of thy bliss,
To wean me from mine anguish here.
Teach me—too early taught by thee!
To bear, forgiving and forgiven:
On earth thy love was such to me;
It fain would form my hope in Heaven![11]

October 11, 1811.
[First published, Childe Harold, 1812 (4to).]

  1. On the death of —— Thyrza.—[MS.]
  2. [The following note on the identity of Thyrza has been communicated to the Editor:— "The identity of Thyrza and the question whether the person addressed under this name really existed, or was an imaginary being, have given rise to much speculation and discussion of a more or less futile kind. "This difficulty is now incapable of definite and authoritative 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.)]

  3. [For the substitution in the present issue of continuous lines for stanzas, Byron's own authority and mandate may be quoted. "In reading the 4th vol.... I perceive that piece 12 ('Without a Stone') is made nonsense of (that is, greater nonsense than usual) by dividing it into stanzas 1, 2, etc."—Letter to John Murray, August 26, 1815, Letters, 1899, iii. 215.]
  4. And soothe if such could soothe thy shade.—[MS. erased.]
  5. By many a land ——.—[MS.]
  6. And shall they not ——.—[MS.]
  7. —— the walk aside.—[MS.]
  8. (a) The kiss that left no sting behind
    So guiltless Passion thus forbore;
    Those eyes bespoke so pure a mind,
    That Love forgot to

    plead
    ask

    for more.
    (b) The kiss that left no sting behind,
    So guiltless Love each wish forebore;
    Those eyes proclaimed so pure a mind,
    That Passion blushed to smile for more.—

    [Pencilled alternative stanzas.]

  9. Well hast thou fled ——.—[MS. erased.]
  10. If judging from my present pain
    That rest alone ——.—[MS. erased.]
    If rest alone is in the tomb.—[MS.]

  11. So let it be my hope in Heaven.—[MS. erased.]