Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

poem by Lord Byron

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem written by the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron when at Kinsham. It was published between 1812 and 1818. The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands; in a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood.

I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts.

Canto I (1812)

War, war is still the cry, "War even to the knife!"
  • Vexed with mirth the drowsy ear of night.
    • Stanza 2.
  • Had sighed to many, though he loved but one.
    • Stanza 5.
  • If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.
    • Stanza 7.
  • Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,
    And Mammon wins his way where seraphs might despair.
    • Stanza 9.
  • Such partings break the heart they fondly hope to heal.
    • Stanza 10.
  • Might shake the saintship of an anchorite.
    • Stanza 11.
  • Adieu! adieu! my native shore
    Fades o'er the waters blue.
    • Stanza 13.
  • My native land, good night!
    • Stanza 13 (song).
  • O Christ! it is a goodly sight to see
    What Heaven hath done for this delicious land.
    • Stanza 15.
  • Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell,
    In hope to merit Heaven by making earth a Hell.
    • Stanza 20.
  • By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
    For one who hath no friend, no brother there.
    • Stanza 40.
  • Full from the fount of Joy's delicious springs
    Some bitter o'er the flowers its bubbling venom flings.
    • Stanza 82. Compare: "Medio de fonte leporum / Surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat" (translated: "In the midst of the fountain of wit there arises something bitter, which stings in the very flowers", Lucretius, iv. 1133.
  • War, war is still the cry, "War even to the knife!"
    • Stanza 86. "War even to the knife" was the reply of Palafox, the governor of Saragossa, when summoned to surrender by the French, who besieged that city in 1808.

Canto II (1812)

  • Gone — glimmering through the dream of things that were.
    • Stanza 2.
  • A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour!
    • Stanza 2.
  • Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.
    • Stanza 2.
  • The dome of thought, the palace of the soul.
    • Stanza 6. Compare: "And keeps the palace of the soul", Edmund Waller, Of Tea.
  • Ah, happy years! once more who would not be a boy?
    • Stanza 23.
  • None are so desolate but something dear,
    Dearer than self, possesses or possess'd
    A thought, and claims the homage of a tear.
    • Stanza 24.
  • But 'midst the crowd, the hum, the shock of men,
    To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess,
    And roam along, the world's tired denizen,
    With none who bless us, none whom we can bless.
    • Stanza 26.
  • Coop'd in their winged, sea-girt citadel.
    • Stanza 28.
  • Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
    Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!
    • Stanza 73.
  • From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned!
    • Stanza 74.
  • Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not,
    Who would free themselves must strike the blow.
    • Stanza 76. Used (along with the quote from Stanza 74) by W.E.B. DuBois as the epigraph for Chapter 3 of The Souls of Black Folk.
  • A thousand years scarce serve to form a state:
    An hour may lay it in the dust.
    • Stanza 84.
  • Land of lost gods and godlike men.
    • Stanza 85.
  • Where'er we tread 'tis haunted, holy ground.
    • Stanza 88.
  • Age shakes Athena's tower, but spares gray Marathon.
    • Stanza 88.
  • What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
    What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
    To view each loved one blotted from life's page,
    And be alone on earth, as I am now.
    • Stanza 98.

Canto III (1816)

  • Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart.
    • Stanza 1.
  • Once more upon the waters, yet once more!
    And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
    That knows his rider!
    • Stanza 2.
  • I am as a weed
    Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam to sail
    Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail.
    • Stanza 2.
  • He who grown aged in this world of woe,
    In deeds, not years, piercing the depths of life,
    So that no wonder waits him.
    • Stanza 5.
  • 'Tis to create, and in creating live,
    A being more intense, that we endow
    With form our fancy, gaining as we give
    The life we image, even as I do now.
    • Stanza 6.
  • Years steal
    Fire from the mind as vigor from the limb;
    And life's enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
    • Stanza 8.
  • And Harold stands upon this place of skulls.
    • Stanza 18.
  • There was a sound of revelry by night,
    And Belgium's capital had gathered then
    Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
    The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.
    A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
    Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
    Soft eyes looked loved to eyes which spake again,
    And all went merry as a marriage bell.
    But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
    • Stanza 21.
  • Did ye not hear it? — No! 'twas but the wind,
    Or the car rattling o'er the stony street.
    On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
    No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
    To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
    • Stanza 22.
  • But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
    Did ye not hear it?—No! 't was but the wind,
    Or the car rattling o'er the stony street.
    On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
    No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
    To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
    • Stanza 22.
  • He rush'd into the field, and foremost fighting fell.
    • Stanza 23.
  • And there was mounting in hot haste.
    • Stanza 25.
  • Or whispering with white lips, “The foe! They come! they come!”
    • Stanza 25.
  • Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
    Over the unreturning brave.
    • Stanza 27.
  • Battle's magnificently stern array.
    • Stanza 28.
  • And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly live on.
    • Stanza 32.
  • There is a very life in our despair,
    Vitality of poison, — a quick root
    Which feeds these deadly branches; for it were
    As nothing did we die; but Life will suit
    Itself to Sorrow's most detested fruit,
    Like to the apples on the Dead Sea's shore,
    All ashes to the taste.
    • Stanza 34.
  • Thou fatal Waterloo.
    Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
    Their children's lips shall echo them, and say —
    "Here, where the sword united nations drew,
    Our countrymen were warring on that day!"
    And this is much, and all which will not pass away.
    • Stanza 35.
  • But quiet to quick bosoms is a hell.
    And there hath been thy bane; there is a fire
    And motion of the soul which will not dwell
    In its own narrow being, but aspire
    Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
    And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore,
    Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
    Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,
    Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.
    • Stanza 42.
  • He who ascends to moutaintops, shall find
    The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow;
    He who surpasses or subdues mankind
    Must look down on the hate of those below.
    • Stanza 45.
  • All tenantless, save to the crannying wind.
    • Stanza 47.
  • History's purchased page to call them great.
    • Stanza 48.
  • The castled crag of Drachenfels
    Frowns o'er the wide and winding Rhine.
    • Stanza 55.
  • He had kept
    The whiteness of his soul, and thus men o'er him wept.
    • Stanza 57.
  • To fly from, need not be to hate, mankind.
    • Stanza 69.
  • But there are wanderers o'er Eternity
    Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er shall be.
    • Stanza 70.
  • By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone.
    • Stanza 71.
  • I live not in myself, but I become
    Portion of that around me: and to me
    High mountains are a feeling
    , but the hum
    Of human cities torture.
    • Stanza 72.
  • This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing
    To waft me from distraction.
    • Stanza 85.
  • On the ear
    Drops the light drip of the suspended oar.
    • Stanza 86.
  • All is concentr'd in a life intense,
    Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
    But hath a part of being.
    • Stanza 89.
  • In solitude, where we are least alone.
    • Stanza 90. Compare: "I was never less alone than when by myself", Edward Gibbon, Memoirs, Volume i, p. 117.
  • The sky is changed,—and such a change! O night
    And storm and darkness! ye are wondrous strong,
    Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
    Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,
    From peak to peak, the rattling crags among
    Leaps the live thunder! Nor from one lone cloud,
    But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
    And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
    Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!
    • Stanza 92.
  • Could I embody and unbosom now
    That which is most within me,--could I wreak
    My thoughts upon expression, and thus throw
    Soul, heart, mind, passions, feelings, strong or weak,
    All that I would have sought, and all I seek,
    Bear, know, feel, and yet breathe--into one word,
    And that one word were lightning, I would speak,
    But as it is, I live and die unheard,
    With a most voiceless thought, sheathing it as a sword.
    • Stanza 97.
  • Exhausting thought,
    And hiving wisdom with each studious year.
    • Stanza 107.
  • Sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer.
    • Stanza 107.
  • Fame is the thirst of youth.
    • Stanza 112.
  • I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
    I have not flatter'd its rank breath, nor bowed
    To its idolatries a patient knee.
    • Stanza 113. Compare: "Good bye, proud world; I'm going home.
      Thou art not my friend, and I'm not thine", Ralph Waldo Emerson, Good Bye, proud World; " I never have sought the world; the world was not to seek me", Samuel Johnson, Life of Johnson (Boswell), 77 Volume viii, Chapter v (1783).
  • I stood
    Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
    Of thoughts which were not their thoughts.
    • Stanza 113.

Canto IV (1818)

  • I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
    A palace and a prison on each hand.
    • Stanza 1.
  • Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles.
    • Stanza 1.
  • She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
    Rising with her tiara of proud towers
    At airy distance, with majestic motion,
    A ruler of the waters and their powers.
    • Stanza 2.
  • Venice once was dear,
    The pleasant place of all festivity,
    The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy.
    • Stanza 3.
  • The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
    I planted; they have torn me, and I bleed.
    I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
    • Stanza 10.
  • Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo,
    The octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe!
    • Stanza 12. Compare: "Oh for a single hour of that Dundee / Who on that day the word of onset gave!", William Wordsworth, Sonnet, In the Pass of Killicranky.
  • There are some feelings time cannot benumb,
    Nor torture shake.
    • Stanza 19.
  • Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
    • Stanza 23.
  • The cold, the changed, perchance the dead, anew,
    The mourn'd, the loved, the lost,—too many, yet how few!
    • Stanza 24.
  • Parting day
    Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
    With a new colour as it gasps away,
    The last still loveliest, till—'t is gone, and all is gray.
    • Stanza 29.
  • 'Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
    It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
    No hollow aid; alone — man with his God must strive.
    • Stanza 33.
  • The Ariosto of the North.
    • Stanza 40.
  • Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
    The fatal gift of beauty.
    • Stanza 42. A translation of the famous sonnet of Filicaja: “Italia, Italia! O tu cui feo la sorte.”
  • Fills
    The air around with beauty.
    • Stanza 49.
  • Let these describe the undescribable.
    • Stanza 53.
  • The starry Galileo with his woes.
    • Stanza 54.
  • Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
    Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore.
    • Stanza 57.
  • The poetry of speech.
    • Stanza 58.
  • The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
    And boil in endless torture.
    • Stanza 69.
  • Then farewell Horace, whom I hated so,—
    Not for thy faults, but mine.
    • Stanza 77.
  • O Rome! my country! city of the soul!
    • Stanza 78.
  • The Niobe of nations! there she stands.
    • Stanza 79.
  • Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
    Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind.
    • Stanza 98.
  • Heaven gives its favourites—early death.
    • Stanza 102. Compare: "The good die first, / And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust / Burn to the socket", William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book i; "Quem Di diligunt / Adolescens moritur" (translated: "He whom the gods favor dies in youth"), Plautus, Bacchides, act iv, scene 7.
  • History, with all her volumes vast,
    Hath but one page.
    • Stanza 108.
  • Man!
    Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear.
    • Stanza 109.
  • Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
    Thou nameless column with the buried base.
    • Stanza 110.
  • Egeria! sweet creation of some heart
    Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
    As thine ideal breast.
    • Stanza 115.
  • The nympholepsy of some fond despair.
    • Stanza 115.
  • Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
    • Stanza 115.
  • Alas! our young affections run to waste,
    Or water but the desert.
    • Stanza 120.
  • Of its own beauty is the mind diseased.
    • Stanza 122.
  • Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
    My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift.
    • Stanza 130.
  • I see before me the gladiator lie.
    • Stanza 140.
  • There were his young barbarians all at play;
    There was their Dacian mother: he, their sire,
    Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday!
    • Stanza 141.
  • "While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
    When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
    And when Rome falls — the World."
    • Stanza 145. The exclamation of the pilgrims in the eighth century.
  • Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou?
    Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
    Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
    Some less majestic, less beloved head?
    • Stanza 168.
  • Oh that the desert were my dwelling-place,
    With one fair spirit for my minister,
    That I might all forget the human race,
    And hating no one, love but only her!
    • Stanza 177.
  • There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
    There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
    There is society, where none intrudes,
    By the deep Sea, and music in its roar;
    I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
    • Stanza 178.
  • Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean — roll!
    Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
    Man marks the earth with ruin — his control
    Stops with the shore.
    • Stanza 179.
  • He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
    Without a grave, unknell'd, uncoffin'd, and unknown.
    • Stanza 179.
  • Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow:
    Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
    • Stanza 182. Compare: "And thou vast ocean, on whose awful face / Time's iron feet can print no ruin-trace", Robert Montgomery, The Omnipresence of the Deity.
  • Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
    Glasses itself in tempests.
    • Stanza 183.
  • And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
    Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
    Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
    I wanton'd with thy breakers.
    • Stanza 184.
  • And trusted to thy billows far and near,
    And laid my hand upon thy mane — as I do here.
    • Stanza 184. Compare: "He laid his hand upon 'the ocean's mane', And played familiar with his hoary locks", Robert Pollok, The Course of Time, book iv, line 389.
  • And what is writ is writ,—
    Would it were worthier!
    • Stanza 185.
  • Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been,—
    A sound which makes us linger; yet—farewell!
    • Stanza 186.
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