The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 4/Ode to a Lady whose Lover was killed by a Ball, which at the same time shivered a portrait next his heart
ODE TO A LADY WHOSE LOVER WAS KILLED BY A BALL, WHICH AT THE SAME TIME SHIVERED A PORTRAIT NEXT HIS HEART.
On peut trouver des femmes qui n'ont jamais eu de galanterie, mais il est rare d'en trouver qui n'en aient jamais en qu'une.—[Réflexions ... du Duc de la Rochefoucauld, No. lxxiii.]
Lady! in whose heroic port
And haughty lineaments, appear
Much that is awful, more that's dear—
Wherever human hearts resort
There must have been for thee a Court,
And Thou by acclamation Queen,
Where never Sovereign yet had been.
That eye so soft, and yet severe,
Perchance might look on Love as Crime;
And yet—regarding thee more near—
The traces of an unshed tear
Compressed back to the heart,
And mellowed Sadness in thine air,
Which shows that Love hath once been there,
To those who watch thee will disclose
More than ten thousand tomes of woes
Wrung from the vain Romancer's art.
With thee how proudly Love hath dwelt!
His full Divinity was felt,
Maddening the heart he could not melt,
Till Guilt became Sublime;
But never yet did Beauty's Zone
For him surround a lovelier throne,
Than in that bosom once his own:
And he the Sun and Thou the Clime
Together must have made a Heaven
For which the Future would be given.
And thou hast loved—Oh! not in vain!
And not as common Mortals love.
The Fruit of Fire is Ashes,
The Ocean's tempest dashes
Wrecks and the dead upon the rocky shore:
True Passion must the all-searching changes prove,
The Agony of Pleasure and of Pain,
Till Nothing but the Bitterness remain;
And the Heart's Spectre flitting through the brain
Scoffs at the Exorcism which would remove.
And where is He thou lovedst? in the tomb,
Where should the happy Lover be!
For him could Time unfold a brighter doom,
Or offer aught like thee?
He in the thickest battle died,
Where Death is Pride;
And Thou his widow—not his bride,
Wert not more free—
Here where all love, till Love is made
A bondage or a trade,
Here—thou so redolent of Beauty,
In whom Caprice had seemed a duty,
Thou, who could'st trample and despise
The holiest chain of human ties
For him, the dear One in thine eyes,
Broke it no more.
Thy heart was withered to it's Core,
It's hopes, it's fears, it's feelings o'er:
Thy Blood grew Ice when his was shed,
And Thou the Vestal of the Dead.
Thy Lover died, as All
Who truly love should die;
For such are worthy in the fight to fall
No Cuirass o'er that glowing heart
The deadly bullet turned apart:
Love had bestowed a richer Mail,
Like Thetis on her Son;
But hers at last was vain, and thine could fail—
The hero's and the lover's race was run.
Thy worshipped portrait, thy sweet face,
Without that bosom kept it's place
As Thou within.
Oh! enviously destined Ball!
Shivering thine imaged charms and all
Those Charms would win:
Together pierced, the fatal Stroke hath gored
Votary and Shrine, the adoring and the adored.
That Heart's last throb was thine, that blood
Baptized thine Image in it's flood,
And gushing from the fount of Faith
O'erflowed with Passion even in Death,
Constant to thee as in it's hour
Of rapture in the secret bower.
Thou too hast kept thy plight full well,
As many a baffled Heart can tell.
[From an autograph MS. in the possession of Mr. Murray,
now for the first time printed.]