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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 7/Condolatory Address

CONDOLATORY ADDRESS

TO SARAH COUNTESS OF JERSEY, ON THE PRINCE REGENT'S RETURNING HER PICTURE TO MRS. MEE.[1]

When the vain triumph of the imperial lord,
Whom servile Rome obeyed, and yet abhorred,
Gave to the vulgar gaze each glorious bust,
That left a likeness of the brave, or just;
What most admired each scrutinising eye
Of all that decked that passing pageantry?
What spread from face to face that wondering air?
The thought of Brutus[2]—for his was not there!
That absence proved his worth,—that absence fixed
His memory on the longing mind, unmixed;10
And more decreed his glory to endure,
Than all a gold Colossus could secure.
If thus, fair Jersey, our desiring gaze
Search for thy form, in vain and mute amaze,
Amidst those pictured charms, whose loveliness,
Bright though they be, thine own had rendered less:
If he, that vain old man, whom truth admits
Heir of his father's crown, and of his wits,
If his corrupted eye, and withered heart,
Could with thy gentle image bear to part;20
That tasteless shame be his, and ours the grief,
To gaze on Beauty's band without its chief:
Yet Comfort still one selfish thought imparts,
We lose the portrait, but preserve our hearts.
What can his vaulted gallery now disclose?
A garden with all flowers—except the rose;—
A fount that only wants its living stream;
A night, with every star, save Dian's beam.
Lost to our eyes the present forms shall be,
That turn from tracing them to dream of thee;30
And more on that recalled resemblance pause,
Than all he shall not force on our applause.
Long may thy yet meridian lustre shine,
With all that Virtue asks of Homage thine:
The symmetry of youth—the grace of mien—
The eye that gladdens—and the brow serene;
The glossy darkness of that clustering hair,[3]
Which shades, yet shows that forehead more than fair!
Each glance that wins us, and the life that throws
A spell which will not let our looks repose,40
But turn to gaze again, and find anew
Some charm that well rewards another view.
These are not lessened, these are still as bright,
Albeit too dazzling for a dotard's sight;
And those must wait till ev'ry charm is gone,
To please the paltry heart that pleases none;—
That dull cold sensualist, whose sickly eye
In envious dimness passed thy portrait by;
Who racked his little spirit to combine
Its hate of Freedom's loveliness, and thine.50

May 29, 1814.
[First published in The Champion, July 31, 1814.]

Works of Lord Byron Poetry Volume 7 facing page 38.jpg

ANNESLEY HALL.


  1. ["The gentlemen of the Champion, and Perry, have got hold (I know not how) of the condolatory Address to Lady Jersey on the picture-abduction by our Regent, and have published them—with my name, too, smack—without even asking leave, or inquiring whether or no! Damn their impudence, and damn every thing. It has put me out of patience, and so, I shall say no more about it."—Letter to Moore, August 3, 1814, Letters, 1899, iii. 118. For Byron's letter to Lady Jersey, of May 29, 1814, and a note from her with reference to a lost (?) copy of the verses, vide ibid., p. 85. Mrs. Anne Mee (1775?—1851) was a miniature-painter, who was employed by the Prince Regent to take the portraits of fashionable beauties.]
  2. [Compare Childe Harold, Canto IV. stanza lix. line 3, Poetical Works, 1899, ii. 374, note 2.]
  3. [See Conversations ... with the Countess of Blessington, 1834, P. 50.]