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

< The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)‎ | Poetry‎ | Volume 4
For works with similar titles, see Stanzas and Stanzas (Byron).

STANZAS.[1]

1.

Could Love for ever
Run like a river,
And Time's endeavour
Be tried in vain—
No other pleasure
With this could measure;
And like a treasure[2]
We'd hug the chain.
But since our sighing
Ends not in dying,
And, formed for flying,
Love plumes his wing;
Then for this reason
Let's love a season;
But let that season be only Spring.


2.

When lovers parted
Feel broken-hearted,
And, all hopes thwarted,
Expect to die;
A few years older,
Ah! how much colder
They might behold her
For whom they sigh!
When linked together,
In every weather,[3]
They pluck Love's feather
From out his wing—
He'll stay for ever,[4]
But sadly shiver
Without his plumage, when past the Spring.[5]


3.

Like Chiefs of Faction,
His life is action—
A formal paction
That curbs his reign,
Obscures his glory,
Despot no more, he
Such territory
Quits with disdain.
Still, still advancing,
With banners glancing,
His power enhancing,
He must move on—
Repose but cloys him,
Retreat destroys him,
Love brooks not a degraded throne.


4.

Wait not, fond lover!
Till years are over,
And then recover
As from a dream.
While each bewailing
The other's failing,
With wrath and railing,
All hideous seem—
While first decreasing,
Yet not quite ceasing,
Wait not till teasing,
All passion blight:
If once diminished
Love's reign is finished—
Then part in friendship,—and bid good-night.[6]


5.

So shall Affection
To recollection
The dear connection
Bring back with joy:
You had not waited"[7]
Till, tired or hated,
Your passions sated
Began to cloy.
Your last embraces
Leave no cold traces—
The same fond faces
As through the past:
And eyes, the mirrors
Of your sweet errors,
Reflect but rapture—not least though last.


6.

True, separations[8]
Ask more than patience;
What desperations
From such have risen!
But yet remaining,
What is't but chaining
Hearts which, once waning,
Beat 'gainst their prison?
Time can but cloy love,
And use destroy love:
The wingéd boy, Love,
Is but for boys—
You'll find it torture
Though sharper, shorter,
To wean, and not wear out your joys.

December 1, 1819.
[First published, New Monthly Magazine, 1832,
vol. xxxv. pp. 310-312.]


  1. ["A friend of Lord Byron's, who was with him at Ravenna when he wrote these stanzas, says, "They were composed, like many others, with no view of publication, but merely to relieve himself in a moment of suffering. He had been painfully excited by some circumstances which appeared to make it necessary that he should immediately quit Italy; and in the day and the hour that he wrote the song was labouring under an access of fever." (Works, 1832, xii. 317, note 1). Here, too, there is some confusion of dates and places. Byron was at Venice, not at Ravenna, December 1, 1819, when these lines were composed. They were sent, as Lady Blessington testifies, to Kinnaird, and are probably identical with the "mere verses of society," mentioned in the letter to Murray of May 8, 1820. The last stanza reflects the mood of a letter to the Countess Guiccioli, dated November 25 (1819), "I go to save you, and leave a country insupportable to me without you." (Letters, 1900, iv. 379, note 2).]
  2. And as a treasure.—[MS. Guiccioli.]
  3. Through every weather
    We pluck.—[MS. G.]

  4. He'll sadly shiver
    And droop for ever,
    Shorn of the plumage which sped his spring.—[MS. G.]

  5. —— that sped his Spring.—[MS. G.]
  6. His reign is finished
    One last embrace, then, and bid good-night.—[MS. G.]

  7. You have not waited
    Till tired and hated
    All passions sated.—[MS. G.]

  8. True separations.—[MS. G.]