Lord Byron Poem

Epistle to Augusta

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  My Sister! my sweet Sister! if a name
  Dearer and purer were, it should be thine.
  Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim
  No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:
  Go where I will, to me thou art the same—
  A loved regret which I would not resign.
  There yet are two things in my destiny,—
A world to roam through, and a home with thee.


  The first were nothing—had I still the last,
  It were the haven of my happiness;
  But other claims and other ties thou hast,
  And mine is not the wish to make them less.
  A strange doom is thy father’s son’s, and past
  Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
  Reversed for him our grandsire’s fate of yore,—
He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.


  If my inheritance of storms hath been
  In other elements, and on the rocks
  Of perils, overlooked or unforeseen,
  I have sustained my share of worldly shocks,
  The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
  My errors with defensive paradox;
  I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful pilot of my proper woe.


  Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward.
  My whole life was a contest, since the day
  That gave me being, gave me that which marred
  The gift,—a fate, or will, that walked astray;
  And I at times have found the struggle hard,
  And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay:
  But now I fain would for a time survive,
If but to see what next can well arrive.


  Kingdoms and Empires in my little day
  I have outlived, and yet I am not old;
  And when I look on this, the petty spray
  Of my own years of trouble, which have rolled
  Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away:
  Something—I know not what—does still uphold
  A spirit of slight patience;—not in vain,
Even for its own sake, do we purchase Pain.


  Perhaps the workings of defiance stir
  Within me—or, peihaps, a cold despair
  Brought on when ills habitually recur,—
  Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air,
  (For even to this may change of soul refer,
  And with light armour we may learn to bear,)
  Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not
The chief companion of a calmer lot.


  I feel almost at times as I have felt
  In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks,
  Which do remember me of where I dwelt,
  Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books,
  Come as of yore upon me, and can melt
  My heart with recognition of their looks;
  And even at moments I could think I see
Some living thing to love—but none like thee.


  Here are the Alpine landscapes which create
  A fund for contemplation;—to admire
  Is a brief feeling of a trivial date;
  But something worthier do such scenes inspire:
  Here to be lonely is not desolate,
  For much I view which I could most desire,
  And, above all, a Lake I can behold
Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.


  Oh that thou wert but with me!—but I grow
  The fool of my own wishes, and forget
  The solitude which I have vaunted so
  Has lost its praise in this but one regret;
  There may be others which I less may show;—
  I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet
  I feel an ebb in my philosophy,
And the tide rising in my altered eye.


  I did remind thee of our own dear Lake,
  By the old Hall which may be mine no more.
  Leman’s is fair; but think not I forsake
  The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:
  Sad havoc Time must with my memory make,
  Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before;
  Though, like all things which I have loved, they are
Resigned for ever, or divided far.


  The world is all before me; I but ask
  Of Nature that with which she will comply—
  It is but in her Summer’s sun to bask,
  To mingle with the quiet of her sky,
  To see her gentle face without a mask,
  And never gaze on it with apathy.
  She was my early friend, and now shall be
My sister—till I look again on thee.


  I can reduce all feelings but this one;
  And that I would not;—for at length I see
  Such scenes as those wherein my life begun—
  The earliest—even the only paths for me—
  Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun,
  I had been better than I now can be;
  The Passions which have torn me would have slept;
I had not suffered, and thou hadst not wept.


  With false Ambition what had I to do?
  Little with Love, and least of all with Fame;
  And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,
  And made me all which they can make—a Name.
  Yet this was not the end I did pursue;
  Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
  But all is over—I am one the more
To baffled millions which have gone before.


  And for the future, this world’s future may
  From me demand but little of my care;
  I have outlived myself by many a day;
  Having survived so many things that were;
  My years have been no slumber, but the prey
  Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share
  Of life which might have filled a century,
Before its fourth in time had passed me by.


  And for the remnant which may be to come
  I am content; and for the past I feel
  Not thankless,—for within the crowded sum
  Of struggles, Happiness at times would steal,
  And for the present, I would not benumb
  My feelings farther.—Nor shall I conceal
  That with all this I still can look around,
And worship Nature with a thought profound.


  For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart
  I know myself secure, as thou in mine;
  We were and are—I am, even as thou art—
  Beings who ne’er each other can resign;
  It is the same, together or apart,
  From Life’s commencement to its slow decline
  We are entwined—let Death come slow or fast,
The tie which bound the first endures the last!

[First published, Letters and Journals, 1830, ii. 38-41.]

Lines, On Hearing That Lady Byron Was Ill
Stanzas To Augusta II.


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