Tuesday 2 April 2013

Byron at 36

File:George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron by Richard Westall (2).jpgLord Byron died in Greece, where he was planning to lead a band of revolutionaries against the Ottoman forces, as you do. Though he died in April (always the cruellest month, the month of pilgrimages), his last poem was written in January on the occasion of his 36th birthday.

It's general theme is that life, or the good bits of it, are over the moment you hit the big three-six, and that nobody will ever love you any more. Quite dispiriting, really.

Incidentally, Byron was the first person to be described as mad, bad and dangerous to know, and he invented the phrase 'mental masturbation', which I discussed in this old post.

On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year

'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief,
Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle;
No torch is kindled at its blaze -
A funeral pile!

The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
The exalted portion of the pain
And power of love, I cannot share,
But wear the chain.

But 'tis not thus -and 'tis not here -
Such thoughts should shake my soul, nor now,
Where glory decks the hero's bier,
Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field,
Glory and Greece, around me see!
The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
Was not more free.

Awake! (not Greece -she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
And then strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood! -unto thee
Indifferent should the smile or frown
Of beauty be.

If thou regret'st thy youth, why live?
The land of honourable death
Is here: -up to the field, and give
Away thy breath!

Seek out -less often sought than found -
A soldier's grave, for thee the best;
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.

I shall now search for a birthday drink, and a soldier's grave.
File:Lord Byron on his Death-bed c. 1826.jpg
The Inky Fool takes a birthday nap


  1. Many Happy Returns,Inky! I shall open a new packet of wine gums.

  2. Many belated happy returns, and a toast to you and the Lord!

  3. Egregious apostrophisation error in your précis, Mr. Forsyth. I am astonished.