The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 4/Aristomenes


Canto First.


The Gods of old are silent on their shore.
Since the great Pan expired, and through the roar
Of the Ionian waters broke a dread
Voice which proclaimed "the Mighty Pan is dead."
How much died with him! false or true—the dream
Was beautiful which peopled every stream
With more than finny tenants, and adorned
The woods and waters with coy nymphs that scorned
Pursuing Deities, or in the embrace
Of gods brought forth the high heroic race10
Whose names are on the hills and o'er the seas.

Cephalonia, Septr. 10th. 1823.
[From an autograph MS. in the possession of the Lady Dorchester,
now for the first time printed.]

  1. [Aristomenes, the Achilles of the Alexandrian poet Rhianus (Grote's History of Greece, 1869, ii. 428), is the legendary hero of the second Messenian War (B.C. 685-668). Thrice he slew a hundred of the Spartan foe, and thrice he offered the Hekatomphonia on Mount Ithome. His name was held in honour long after "the rowers on their benches" heard the wail, "Pan, Pan is dead!" At the close of the second century of the Christian era, Pausanias (iv. 16. 4) made a note of Messenian maidens hymning his victory over the Lacedæmonians—

    "From the heart of the plain he drove them,
    And he drove them back to the hill:
    To the top of the hill he drove them,
    As he followed them, followed them still!"

    Byron was familiar with Thomas Taylor's translation of the Periegesis Græciæ (vide ante, p. 109, and "Observations," etc., Letters, v. Appendix III. p. 574), and with Mitford's Greece (Don Juan, Canto XII. stanza xix. line 7). Hence his knowledge of Aristomenes. The thought expressed in lines 5-11 was, possibly, suggested by Coleridge's translation of the famous passage in Schiller's Piccolomini (act ii. sc. 4, lines 118, sq., "For fable is Love's world, his home," etc.), which is quoted by Sir Walter Scott, in the third chapter of Guy Mannering.]