The Corsair, by Byron

Canto The Third.

“Come vedi—ancor non m’abbandona”

Dante, Inferno, v. 105.


Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,1

Along Morea’s hills the setting Sun; 1170

Not, as in Northern climes, obscurely bright,

But one unclouded blaze of living light!

O’er the hushed deep the yellow beam he throws,

Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.

On old Ægina’s rock, and Idra’s isle,2

The God of gladness sheds his parting smile;

O’er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,

Though there his altars are no more divine.

Descending fast the mountain shadows kiss

Thy glorious gulf, unconquered Salamis! 1180

Their azure arches through the long expanse

More deeply purpled met his mellowing glance,

And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,

Mark his gay course, and own the hues of Heaven;

Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,

Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.

On such an eve, his palest beam he cast,

When—Athens! here thy Wisest looked his last.

How watched thy better sons his farewell ray,

That closed their murdered Sage’s3 latest day! 1190

Not yet—not yet—Sol pauses on the hill—

The precious hour of parting lingers still;

But sad his light to agonising eyes,

And dark the mountain’s once delightful dyes:

Gloom o’er the lovely land he seemed to pour,

The land, where Phoebus never frowned before:

But ere he sunk below Cithæron’s head,

The cup of woe was quaffed—the Spirit fled;

The Soul of him who scorned to fear or fly—

Who lived and died, as none can live or die! 1200

But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain,

The Queen of night asserts her silent reign.4

No murky vapour, herald of the storm,

Hides her fair face, nor girds her glowing form;

With cornice glimmering as the moon-beams play,

There the white column greets her grateful ray,

And bright around with quivering beams beset,

Her emblem sparkles o’er the Minaret:

The groves of olive scattered dark and wide

Where meek Cephisus pours his scanty tide; 1210

The cypress saddening by the sacred Mosque,

The gleaming turret of the gay Kiosk;5

And, dun and sombre ‘mid the holy calm,

Near Theseus’ fane yon solitary palm,

All tinged with varied hues arrest the eye—

And dull were his that passed him heedless by.

Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,

Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war;

Again his waves in milder tints unfold

Their long array of sapphire and of gold, 1220

Mixed with the shades of many a distant isle,

That frown—where gentler Ocean seems to smile.


Not now my theme—why turn my thoughts to thee?

Oh! who can look along thy native sea,

Nor dwell upon thy name, whate’er the tale,

So much its magic must o’er all prevail?

Who that beheld that Sun upon thee set,

Fair Athens! could thine evening face forget?

Not he—whose heart nor time nor distance frees,

Spell-bound within the clustering Cyclades! 1230

Nor seems this homage foreign to its strain,

His Corsair’s isle was once thine own domain—6

Would that with freedom it were thine again!



The Sun hath sunk—and, darker than the night,

Sinks with its beam upon the beacon height

Medora’s heart—the third day’s come and gone—

With it he comes not—sends not—faithless one!

The wind was fair though light! and storms were none.

Last eve Anselmo’s bark returned, and yet

His only tidings that they had not met! 1240

Though wild, as now, far different were the tale

Had Conrad waited for that single sail.

The night-breeze freshens—she that day had passed

In watching all that Hope proclaimed a mast;

Sadly she sate on high—Impatience bore

At last her footsteps to the midnight shore,

And there she wandered, heedless of the spray

That dashed her garments oft, and warned away:

She saw not, felt not this—nor dared depart,

Nor deemed it cold—her chill was at her heart; 1250

Till grew such certainty from that suspense—

His very Sight had shocked from life or sense!

It came at last—a sad and shattered boat,

Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought;

Some bleeding—all most wretched—these the few—

Scarce knew they how escaped—this all they knew.

In silence, darkling, each appeared to wait

His fellow’s mournful guess at Conrad’s fate:

Something they would have said; but seemed to fear

To trust their accents to Medora’s ear. 1260

She saw at once, yet sunk not—trembled not—

Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot,

Within that meek fair form, were feelings high,

That deemed not till they found their energy.

While yet was Hope they softened, fluttered, wept—

All lost—that Softness died not—but it slept;

And o’er its slumber rose that Strength which said,

“With nothing left to love, there’s nought to dread.”

’Tis more than Nature’s—like the burning might

Delirium gathers from the fever’s height. 1270

“Silent you stand—nor would I hear you tell

What—speak not—breathe not—for I know it well—

Yet would I ask—almost my lip denies

The—quick your answer—tell me where he lies.”

“Lady! we know not—scarce with life we fled;

But here is one denies that he is dead:

He saw him bound; and bleeding—but alive.”

She heard no further—’twas in vain to strive—

So throbbed each vein—each thought—till then withstood;

Her own dark soul—these words at once subdued: 1280

She totters—falls—and senseless had the wave

Perchance but snatched her from another grave;

But that with hands though rude, yet weeping eyes,

They yield such aid as Pity’s haste supplies:

Dash o’er her deathlike cheek the ocean dew,

Raise, fan, sustain—till life returns anew;

Awake her handmaids, with the matrons leave

That fainting form o’er which they gaze and grieve;

Then seek Anselmo’s cavern, to report

The tale too tedious—when the triumph short. 1290


In that wild council words waxed warm and strange,

With thoughts of ransom, rescue, and revenge;

All, save repose or flight: still lingering there

Breathed Conrad’s spirit, and forbade despair;

Whate’er his fate—the breasts he formed and led

Will save him living, or appease him dead.

Woe to his foes! there yet survive a few,

Whose deeds are daring, as their hearts are true.


Within the Haram’s secret chamber sate7

Stern Seyd, still pondering o’er his Captive’s fate; 1300

His thoughts on love and hate alternate dwell,

Now with Gulnare, and now in Conrad’s cell;

Here at his feet the lovely slave reclined

Surveys his brow—would soothe his gloom of mind;

While many an anxious glance her large dark eye

Sends in its idle search for sympathy,

His only bends in seeming o’er his beads,8

But inly views his victim as he bleeds.

“Pacha! the day is thine; and on thy crest

Sits Triumph—Conrad taken—fall’n the rest! 1310

His doom is fixed—he dies; and well his fate

Was earned—yet much too worthless for thy hate:

Methinks, a short release, for ransom told

With all his treasure, not unwisely sold;

Report speaks largely of his pirate-hoard—

Would that of this my Pacha were the lord!

While baffled, weakened by this fatal fray—

Watched—followed—he were then an easier prey;

But once cut off—the remnant of his band

Embark their wealth, and seek a safer strand.” 1320

Gulnare and Seyd

“Gulnare!—if for each drop of blood a gem

Where offered rich as Stamboul’s diadem;

If for each hair of his a massy mine

Of virgin ore should supplicating shine;

If all our Arab tales divulge or dream

Of wealth were here—that gold should not redeem!

It had not now redeemed a single hour,

But that I know him fettered, in my power;

And, thirsting for revenge, I ponder still

On pangs that longest rack—and latest kill.” 1330

“Nay, Seyd! I seek not to restrain thy rage,

Too justly moved for Mercy to assuage;

My thoughts were only to secure for thee

His riches—thus released, he were not free:

Disabled—shorn of half his might and band,

His capture could but wait thy first command.”

“His capture could!—and shall I then resign

One day to him—the wretch already mine?

Release my foe!—at whose remonstrance?—thine!

Fair suitor!—to thy virtuous gratitude, 1340

That thus repays this Giaour’s relenting mood,

Which thee and thine alone of all could spare—

No doubt, regardless—if the prize were fair—

My thanks and praise alike are due—now hear!

I have a counsel for thy gentler ear:

I do mistrust thee, Woman! and each word

Of thine stamps truth on all Suspicion heard.

Borne in his arms through fire from yon Serai—

Say, wert thou lingering there with him to fly?

Thou need’st not answer—thy confession speaks, 1350

Already reddening on thy guilty cheeks:

Then—lovely Dame—bethink thee! and beware:

’Tis not his life alone may claim such care!

Another word and—nay—I need no more.

Accursed was the moment when he bore

Thee from the flames, which better far—but no—

I then had mourned thee with a lover’s woe—

Now ’tis thy lord that warns—deceitful thing!

Know’st thou that I can clip thy wanton wing?

In words alone I am not wont to chafe: 1360

Look to thyself—nor deem thy falsehood safe!”

He rose—and slowly, sternly thence withdrew,

Rage in his eye, and threats in his adieu:

Ah! little recked that Chief of womanhood—

Which frowns ne’er quelled, nor menaces subdued;

And little deemed he what thy heart, Gulnare!

When soft could feel—and when incensed could dare!

His doubts appeared to wrong—nor yet she knew

How deep the root from whence Compassion grew—

She was a slave—from such may captives claim 1370

A fellow-feeling, differing but in name;

Still half unconscious—heedless of his wrath,

Again she ventured on the dangerous path,

Again his rage repelled—until arose

That strife of thought, the source of Woman’s woes!


Meanwhile—long—anxious—weary—still the same

Rolled day and night: his soul could Terror tame—

This fearful interval of doubt and dread,

When every hour might doom him worse than dead;

When every step that echoed by the gate, 1380

Might entering lead where axe and stake await;

When every voice that grated on his ear

Might be the last that he could ever hear;

Could Terror tame—that Spirit stern and high

Had proved unwilling as unfit to die;

’Twas worn—perhaps decayed—yet silent bore

That conflict, deadlier far than all before:

The heat of fight, the hurry of the gale,

Leave scarce one thought inert enough to quail:

But bound and fixed in fettered solitude, 1390

To pine, the prey of every changing mood;

To gaze on thine own heart—and meditate

Irrevocable faults, and coming fate—

Too late the last to shun—the first to mend—

To count the hours that struggle to thine end,

With not a friend to animate and tell

To other ears that Death became thee well;

Around thee foes to forge the ready lie,

And blot Life’s latest scene with calumny;

Before thee tortures, which the Soul can dare, 1400

Yet doubts how well the shrinking flesh may bear;

But deeply feels a single cry would shame,

To Valour’s praise thy last and dearest claim;

The life thou leav’st below, denied above

By kind monopolists of heavenly love;

And more than doubtful Paradise—thy Heaven

Of earthly hope—thy loved one from thee riven.

Such were the thoughts that outlaw must sustain,

And govern pangs surpassing mortal pain:

And those sustained he—boots it well or ill? 1410

Since not to sink beneath, is something still!


The first day passed—he saw not her—Gulnare—

The second, third—and still she came not there;

But what her words avouched, her charms had done,

Or else he had not seen another Sun.

The fourth day rolled along, and with the night

Came storm and darkness in their mingling might.

Oh! how he listened to the rushing deep,

That ne’er till now so broke upon his sleep;

And his wild Spirit wilder wishes sent, 1420

Roused by the roar of his own element!

Oft had he ridden on that wingéd wave,

And loved its roughness for the speed it gave;

And now its dashing echoed on his ear,

A long known voice—alas! too vainly near!

Loud sung the wind above; and, doubly loud,

Shook o’er his turret cell the thunder-cloud;9

And flashed the lightning by the latticed bar,

To him more genial than the Midnight Star:

Close to the glimmering grate he dragged his chain, 1430

And hoped that peril might not prove in vain.

He rais’d his iron hand to Heaven, and prayed

One pitying flash to mar the form it made:

His steel and impious prayer attract alike—

The storm rolled onward, and disdained to strike;

Its peal waxed fainter—ceased—he felt alone,

As if some faithless friend had spurned his groan!


The midnight passed, and to the massy door

A light step came—it paused—it moved once more;

Slow turns the grating bolt and sullen key: 1440

’Tis as his heart foreboded—that fair She!

Whate’er her sins, to him a Guardian Saint,

And beauteous still as hermit’s hope can paint;

Yet changed since last within that cell she came,

More pale her cheek, more tremulous her frame:

On him she cast her dark and hurried eye,

Which spoke before her accents—“Thou must die!

Yes, thou must die—there is but one resource,

The last—the worst—if torture were not worse.”

“Lady! I look to none; my lips proclaim 1450

What last proclaimed they—Conrad still the same:

Why should’st thou seek an outlaw’s life to spare,

And change the sentence I deserve to bear?

Well have I earned—nor here alone—the meed

Of Seyd’s revenge, by many a lawless deed.”

“Why should I seek? because—Oh! did’st thou not

Redeem my life from worse than Slavery’s lot?

Why should I seek?—hath Misery made thee blind

To the fond workings of a woman’s mind?

And must I say?—albeit my heart rebel 1460

With all that Woman feels, but should not tell—

Because—despite thy crimes—that heart is moved:

It feared thee—thanked thee—pitied—maddened—loved.

Reply not, tell not now thy tale again,

Thou lov’st another—and I love in vain:

Though fond as mine her bosom, form more fair,

I rush through peril which she would not dare.

If that thy heart to hers were truly dear,

Were I thine own—thou wert not lonely here:

An outlaw’s spouse—and leave her Lord to roam! 1470

What hath such gentle dame to do with home?

But speak not now—o’er thine and o’er my head

Hangs the keen sabre by a single thread;

If thou hast courage still, and would’st be free,

Receive this poniard—rise and follow me!”

“Aye—in my chains! my steps will gently tread,

With these adornments, o’er such slumbering head!

Thou hast forgot—is this a garb for flight?

Or is that instrument more fit for fight?”

“Misdoubting Corsair! I have gained the guard, 1480

Ripe for revolt, and greedy for reward.

A single word of mine removes that chain:

Without some aid how here could I remain?

Well, since we met, hath sped my busy time,

If in aught evil, for thy sake the crime:

The crime—’tis none to punish those of Seyd.

That hatred tyrant, Conrad—he must bleed!

I see thee shudder, but my soul is changed—

Wronged—spurned—reviled—and it shall be avenged—

Accused of what till now my heart disdained— 1490

Too faithful, though to bitter bondage chained.

Yes, smile!—but he had little cause to sneer,

I was not treacherous then, nor thou too dear:

But he has said it—and the jealous well,—

Those tyrants—teasing—tempting to rebel,—

Deserve the fate their fretting lips foretell.

I never loved—he bought me—somewhat high—

Since with me came a heart he could not buy.

I was a slave unmurmuring; he hath said,

But for his rescue I with thee had fled. 1500

’Twas false thou know’st—but let such Augurs rue,

Their words are omens Insult renders true.

Nor was thy respite granted to my prayer;

This fleeting grace was only to prepare

New torments for thy life, and my despair.

Mine too he threatens; but his dotage still

Would fain reserve me for his lordly will:

When wearier of these fleeting charms and me,

There yawns the sack—and yonder rolls the sea!

What, am I then a toy for dotard’s play, 1510

To wear but till the gilding frets away?

I saw thee—loved thee—owe thee all—would save,

If but to show how grateful is a slave.

But had he not thus menaced fame and life,—

And well he keeps his oaths pronounced in strife—

I still had saved thee—but the Pacha spared:

Now I am all thine own—for all prepared:

Thou lov’st me not—nor know’st—or but the worst.

Alas! this love—that hatred—are the first—

Oh! could’st thou prove my truth, thou would’st not start, 1520

Nor fear the fire that lights an Eastern heart;

’Tis now the beacon of thy safety—now

It points within the port a Mainote prow:

But in one chamber, where our path must lead,

There sleeps—he must not wake—the oppressor Seyd!”

“Gulnare—Gulnare—I never felt till now

My abject fortune, withered fame so low:

Seyd is mine enemy; had swept my band

From earth with ruthless but with open hand,

And therefore came I, in my bark of war, 1530

To smite the smiter with the scimitar;

Such is my weapon—not the secret knife;

Who spares a Woman’s seeks not Slumber’s life.

Thine saved I gladly, Lady—not for this;

Let me not deem that mercy shown amiss.

Now fare thee well—more peace be with thy breast!

Night wears apace, my last of earthly rest!”

“Rest! rest! by sunrise must thy sinews shake,

And thy limbs writhe around the ready stake,

I heard the order—saw—I will not see— 1540

If thou wilt perish, I will fall with thee.

My life—my love—my hatred—all below

Are on this cast—Corsair! ’tis but a blow!

Without it flight were idle—how evade

His sure pursuit?—my wrongs too unrepaid,

My youth disgraced—the long, long wasted years,

One blow shall cancel with our future fears;

But since the dagger suits thee less than brand,

I’ll try the firmness of a female hand.

The guards are gained—one moment all were o’er— 1550

Corsair! we meet in safety or no more;

If errs my feeble hand, the morning cloud

Will hover o’er thy scaffold, and my shroud.”


She turned, and vanished ere he could reply,

But his glance followed far with eager eye;

And gathering, as he could, the links that bound

His form, to curl their length, and curb their sound,

Since bar and bolt no more his steps preclude,

He, fast as fettered limbs allow, pursued.

’Twas dark and winding, and he knew not where 1560

That passage led; nor lamp nor guard was there:

He sees a dusky glimmering—shall he seek

Or shun that ray so indistinct and weak?

Chance guides his steps—a freshness seems to bear

Full on his brow as if from morning air;

He reached an open gallery—on his eye

Gleamed the last star of night, the clearing sky:

Yet scarcely heeded these—another light

From a lone chamber struck upon his sight.

Towards it he moved; a scarcely closing door 1570

Revealed the ray within, but nothing more.

With hasty step a figure outward passed,

Then paused, and turned—and paused—’tis She at last!

No poniard in that hand, nor sign of ill—

“Thanks to that softening heart—she could not kill!”

Again he looked, the wildness of her eye

Starts from the day abrupt and fearfully.

She stopped—threw back her dark far-floating hair,

That nearly veiled her face and bosom fair,

As if she late had bent her leaning head 1580

Above some object of her doubt or dread.

They meet—upon her brow—unknown—forgot—

Her hurrying hand had left—’twas but a spot—

Its hue was all he saw, and scarce withstood—

Oh! slight but certain pledge of crime—’tis Blood!


He had seen battle—he had brooded lone

O’er promised pangs to sentenced Guilt foreshown;

He had been tempted—chastened—and the chain

Yet on his arms might ever there remain:

But ne’er from strife—captivity—remorse— 1590

From all his feelings in their inmost force—

So thrilled, so shuddered every creeping vein,

As now they froze before that purple stain.

That spot of blood, that light but guilty streak,

Had banished all the beauty from her cheek!

Blood he had viewed—could view unmoved—but then

It flowed in combat, or was shed by men!


“’Tis done—he nearly waked—but it is done.

Corsair! he perished—thou art dearly won.

All words would now be vain—away—away! 1600

Our bark is tossing—’tis already day.

The few gained over, now are wholly mine,

And these thy yet surviving band shall join:

Anon my voice shall vindicate my hand,

When once our sail forsakes this hated strand.”


She clapped her hands, and through the gallery pour,

Equipped for flight, her vassals—Greek and Moor;

Silent but quick they stoop, his chains unbind;

Once more his limbs are free as mountain wind!

But on his heavy heart such sadness sate, 1610

As if they there transferred that iron weight.

No words are uttered—at her sign, a door

Reveals the secret passage to the shore;

The city lies behind—they speed, they reach

The glad waves dancing on the yellow beach;

And Conrad following, at her beck, obeyed,

Nor cared he now if rescued or betrayed;

Resistance were as useless as if Seyd

Yet lived to view the doom his ire decreed.


Embarked—the sail unfurled—the light breeze blew— 1620

How much had Conrad’s memory to review!

Sunk he in contemplation, till the Cape

Where last he anchored reared its giant shape.

Ah!—since that fatal night, though brief the time,

Had swept an age of terror, grief, and crime.

As its far shadow frowned above the mast,

He veiled his face, and sorrowed as he passed;

He thought of all—Gonsalvo and his band,

His fleeting triumph and his failing hand;

He thought on her afar, his lonely bride: 1630

He turned and saw—Gulnare, the Homicide!


She watched his features till she could not bear

Their freezing aspect and averted air;

And that strange fierceness foreign to her eye

Fell quenched in tears, too late to shed or dry.

She knelt beside him and his hand she pressed,

“Thou may’st forgive though Allah’s self detest;

But for that deed of darkness what wert thou?

Reproach me—but not yet—Oh! spare me now!

I am not what I seem—this fearful night 1640

My brain bewildered—do not madden quite!

If I had never loved—though less my guilt—

Thou hadst not lived to—hate me—if thou wilt.”


She wrongs his thoughts—they more himself upbraid

Than her—though undesigned—the wretch he made;

But speechless all, deep, dark, and unexprest,

They bleed within that silent cell—his breast.

Still onward, fair the breeze, nor rough the surge,

The blue waves sport around the stern they urge;

Far on the Horizon’s verge appears a speck, 1650

A spot—a mast—a sail—an arméd deck!

Their little bark her men of watch descry,

And ampler canvass woos the wind from high;

She bears her down majestically near,

Speed on her prow, and terror in her tier;10

A flash is seen—the ball beyond her bow

Booms harmless, hissing to the deep below.

Up rose keen Conrad from his silent trance,

A long, long absent gladness in his glance;

“’Tis mine—my blood-rag flag! again—again— 1660

I am not all deserted on the main!”

They own the signal, answer to the hail,

Hoist out the boat at once, and slacken sail.

“’Tis Conrad! Conrad!” shouting from the deck,

Command nor Duty could their transport check!

With light alacrity and gaze of Pride,

They view him mount once more his vessel’s side;

A smile relaxing in each rugged face,

Their arms can scarce forbear a rough embrace.

He, half forgetting danger and defeat, 1670

Returns their greeting as a Chief may greet,

Wrings with a cordial grasp Anselmo’s hand,

And feels he yet can conquer and command!


These greetings o’er, the feelings that o’erflow,

Yet grieve to win him back without a blow;

They sailed prepared for vengeance—had they known

A woman’s hand secured that deed her own,

She were their Queen—less scrupulous are they

Than haughty Conrad how they win their way.

With many an asking smile, and wondering stare, 1680

They whisper round, and gaze upon Gulnare;

And her, at once above—beneath her sex,

Whom blood appalled not, their regards perplex.

To Conrad turns her faint imploring eye,

She drops her veil, and stands in silence by;

Her arms are meekly folded on that breast,

Which—Conrad safe—to Fate resigned the rest.

Though worse than frenzy could that bosom fill,

Extreme in love or hate, in good or ill,

The worst of crimes had left her Woman still! 1690


This Conrad marked, and felt—ah! could he less?—

Hate of that deed—but grief for her distress;

What she has done no tears can wash away,

And Heaven must punish on its angry day:

But—it was done: he knew, whate’er her guilt,

For him that poniard smote, that blood was spilt;

And he was free!—and she for him had given

Her all on earth, and more than all in heaven!11

And now he turned him to that dark-eyed slave

Whose brow was bowed beneath the glance he gave, 1700

Who now seemed changed and humbled, faint and meek,

But varying oft the colour of her cheek

To deeper shades of paleness—all its red

That fearful spot which stained it from the dead!

He took that hand—it trembled—now too late—

So soft in love—so wildly nerved in hate;

He clasped that hand—it trembled—and his own

Had lost its firmness, and his voice its tone.

“Gulnare!”—but she replied not—“dear Gulnare!”

She raised her eye—her only answer there— 1710

At once she sought and sunk in his embrace:

If he had driven her from that resting-place,

His had been more or less than mortal heart,

But—good or ill—it bade her not depart.

Perchance, but for the bodings of his breast,

His latest virtue then had joined the rest.

Yet even Medora might forgive the kiss

That asked from form so fair no more than this,

The first, the last that Frailty stole from Faith—

To lips where Love had lavished all his breath, 1720

To lips—whose broken sighs such fragrance fling,

As he had fanned them freshly with his wing!


They gain by twilight’s hour their lonely isle.

To them the very rocks appear to smile;

The haven hums with many a cheering sound,

The beacons blaze their wonted stations round,

The boats are darting o’er the curly bay,

And sportive Dolphins bend them through the spray;

Even the hoarse sea-bird’s shrill, discordant shriek,

Greets like the welcome of his tuneless beak! 1730

Beneath each lamp that through its lattice gleams,

Their fancy paints the friends that trim the beams.

Oh! what can sanctify the joys of home,

Like Hope’s gay glance from Ocean’s troubled foam?


The lights are high on beacon and from bower,

And ‘midst them Conrad seeks Medora’s tower:

He looks in vain—’tis strange—and all remark,

Amid so many, hers alone is dark.

’Tis strange—of yore its welcome never failed,

Nor now, perchance, extinguished—only veiled. 1740

With the first boat descends he for the shore,

And looks impatient on the lingering oar.

Oh! for a wing beyond the falcon’s flight,

To bear him like an arrow to that height!

With the first pause the resting rowers gave,

He waits not—looks not—leaps into the wave,

Strives through the surge, bestrides the beach, and high

Ascends the path familiar to his eye.

He reached his turret door—he paused—no sound

Broke from within; and all was night around. 1750

He knocked, and loudly—footstep nor reply

Announced that any heard or deemed him nigh:

He knocked, but faintly—for his trembling hand

Refused to aid his heavy heart’s demand.

The portal opens—’tis a well known face—

But not the form he panted to embrace.

Its lips are silent—twice his own essayed,

And failed to frame the question they delayed;

He snatched the lamp—its light will answer all—

It quits his grasp, expiring in the fall. 1760

He would not wait for that reviving ray—

As soon could he have lingered there for day;

But, glimmering through the dusky corridor,

Another chequers o’er the shadowed floor;

His steps the chamber gain—his eyes behold

All that his heart believed not—yet foretold!


He turned not—spoke not—sunk not—fixed his look,

And set the anxious frame that lately shook:

He gazed—how long we gaze despite of pain,

And know, but dare not own, we gaze in vain! 1770

In life itself she was so still and fair,

That Death with gentler aspect withered there;

And the cold flowers12 her colder hand contained,

In that last grasp as tenderly were strained

As if she scarcely felt, but feigned a sleep—

And made it almost mockery yet to weep:

The long dark lashes fringed her lids of snow,

And veiled—Thought shrinks from all that lurked below—Oh!

o’er the eye Death most exerts his might,13

And hurls the Spirit from her throne of light; 1780

Sinks those blue orbs in that long last eclipse,

But spares, as yet, the charm around her lips—

Yet, yet they seem as they forebore to smile,

And wished repose,—but only for a while;

But the white shroud, and each extended tress,

Long, fair—but spread in utter lifelessness,

Which, late the sport of every summer wind,

Escaped the baffled wreath that strove to bind;

These—and the pale pure cheek, became the bier—

But She is nothing—wherefore is he here? 1790

The Death of Medora


He asked no question—all were answered now

By the first glance on that still, marble brow.

It was enough—she died—what recked it how?

The love of youth, the hope of better years,

The source of softest wishes, tenderest fears,

The only living thing he could not hate,

Was reft at once—and he deserved his fate,

But did not feel it less;—the Good explore,

For peace, those realms where Guilt can never soar:

The proud, the wayward—who have fixed below 1800

Their joy, and find this earth enough for woe,

Lose in that one their all—perchance a mite—

But who in patience parts with all delight?

Full many a stoic eye and aspect stern

Mask hearts where Grief hath little left to learn;

And many a withering thought lies hid, not lost,

In smiles that least befit who wear them most.


By those, that deepest feel, is ill exprest

The indistinctness of the suffering breast;

Where thousand thoughts begin to end in one, 1810

Which seeks from all the refuge found in none;

No words suffice the secret soul to show,

For Truth denies all eloquence to Woe.

On Conrad’s stricken soul Exhaustion prest,

And Stupor almost lulled it into rest;

So feeble now—his mother’s softness crept

To those wild eyes, which like an infant’s wept:

It was the very weakness of his brain,

Which thus confessed without relieving pain.

None saw his trickling tears—perchance, if seen, 1820

That useless flood of grief had never been:

Nor long they flowed—he dried them to depart,

In helpless—hopeless—brokenness of heart:

The Sun goes forth, but Conrad’s day is dim:

And the night cometh—ne’er to pass from him.

There is no darkness like the cloud of mind,

On Grief’s vain eye—the blindest of the blind!

Which may not—dare not see—but turns aside

To blackest shade—nor will endure a guide!


His heart was formed for softness—warped to wrong, 1830

Betrayed too early, and beguiled too long;

Each feeling pure—as falls the dropping dew

Within the grot—like that had hardened too;

Less clear, perchance, its earthly trials passed,

But sunk, and chilled, and petrified at last.15

Yet tempests wear, and lightning cleaves the rock;

If such his heart, so shattered it the shock.

There grew one flower beneath its rugged brow,

Though dark the shade—it sheltered—saved till now.

The thunder came—that bolt hath blasted both, 1840

The Granite’s firmness, and the Lily’s growth:

The gentle plant hath left no leaf to tell

Its tale, but shrunk and withered where it fell;

And of its cold protector, blacken round

But shivered fragments on the barren ground!


’Tis morn—to venture on his lonely hour

Few dare; though now Anselmo sought his tower.

He was not there, nor seen along the shore;

Ere night, alarmed, their isle is traversed o’er:

Another morn—another bids them seek, 1850

And shout his name till Echo waxeth weak;

Mount—grotto—cavern—valley searched in vain,

They find on shore a sea-boat’s broken chain:

Their hope revives—they follow o’er the main.

’Tis idle all—moons roll on moons away,

And Conrad comes not, came not since that day:

Nor trace nor tidings of his doom declare

Where lives his grief, or perished his despair!

Long mourned his band whom none could mourn beside;

And fair the monument they gave his Bride: 1860

For him they raise not the recording stone—

His death yet dubious, deeds too widely known;

He left a Corsair’s name to other times,

Linked with one virtue, and a thousand crimes.16

1 The opening lines, as far as section ii., have, perhaps, little business here, and were annexed to an unpublished (though printed) poem [The Curse of Minerva]; but they were written on the spot, in the Spring of 1811, and—I scarce know why—the reader must excuse their appearance here—if he can. [See letter to Murray, October 23, 1812.]

2 [See Curse of Minerva, line 7, Poetical Works, 1898, i. 457. For Hydra, see A. L. Castellan’s Lettres sur la Morée, 1820, i. 155–176. He gives (p. 174) a striking description of a sunrise off the Cape of Sunium.]

3 Socrates drank the hemlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down.

4 The twilight in Greece is much shorter than in our own country: the days in winter are longer, but in summer of shorter duration.

5 The Kiosk is a Turkish summer house: the palm is without the present walls of Athens, not far from the temple of Theseus, between which and the tree, the wall intervenes.—Cephisus’ stream is indeed scanty, and Ilissus has no stream at all.

[E. Dodwell (Classical Tour, 1819, i. 371) speaks of “a magnificent palm tree, which shoots among the ruins of the Ptolemaion,” a short distance to the east of the Theseion. There is an illustration in its honour. The Theseion—which was “within five minutes’ walk” of Byron’s lodgings (Travels in Albania, 1858, i. 259)—contains the remains of the scholar, John Tweddell, died 1793, “over which a stone was placed, owing to the exertions of Lord Byron” (Clarke’s Travels, Part II. sect. i. p. 534). When Byron died, Colonel Stanhope proposed, and the chief Odysseus decreed, that he should be buried in the same spot.—Life, p. 640.]

6 [After the battle of Salamis, B.C. 480, Paros fell under the dominion of Athens.]

7 [Lines 1299–1375 were written after the completion of the poem. They were forwarded to the publisher in time for insertion in a revise dated January 6, 1814.]

8 The comboloio, or Mahometan rosary; the beads are in number ninety-nine. [Vide ante, p. 181, The Bride of Abydos, Canto II. line 554.]

9 [“By the way—I have a charge against you. As the great Mr. Dennis roared out on a similar occasion—‘By G-d, that is my thunder!’ so do I exclaim, ‘This is my lightning!’ I allude to a speech of Ivan’s, in the scene with Petrowna and the Empress, where the thought and almost expression are similar to Conrad’s in the 3d canto of The Corsair. I, however, do not say this to accuse you, but to exempt myself from suspicion, as there is a priority of six months’ publication, on my part, between the appearance of that composition and of your tragedies” (Letter to W. Sotheby, September 25, 1815, Letters, 1899, iii. 219). The following are the lines in question:—

“And I have leapt

In transport from my flinty couch, to welcome

The thunder as it burst upon my roof,

And beckon’d to the lightning, as it flash’d

And sparkled on these fetters.”

Act iv. sc. 3 (Ivan, 1816, p. 64).

According to Moore, this passage in The Corsair, as Byron seemed to fear, was included by “some scribblers”—i.e. the “lumbering Goth” (see John Bull’s Letter), A. A. Watts, in the Literary Gazette, February and March, 1821—among his supposed plagiarisms. Sotheby informed Moore that his lines had been written, though not published, before the appearance of the Corsair. The Confession, and Orestes, reappeared with three hitherto unpublished tragedies, Ivan, The Death of Darnley, and Zamorin and Zama, under the general title, Five Unpublished Tragedies, in 1814.

The story of the critic John Dennis (1657–1734) and the “thunder” is related in Cibber’s Lives, iv. 234. Dennis was, or feigned to be, the inventor of a new method of producing stage-thunder, by troughs of wood and stops. Shortly after a play (Appius and Virginia) which he had put upon the stage had been withdrawn, he was present at a performance of Macbeth, at which the new “thunder” was inaugurated. “That is my thunder, by God!” exclaimed Dennis. “The villains will play my thunder, but not my plays.”—Dict. Nat. Biog., art. “Dennis.”]

10 [“Tier” must stand for “hold.” The “cable-tier” is the place in the hold where the cable is stowed.]

11 [Compare—

“And I the cause—for whom were given

Her peace on earth, her hopes in heaven.”

Marmion, Canto III. stanza xvii. lines 9, 10.]

12 In the Levant it is the custom to strew flowers on the bodies of the dead, and in the hands of young persons to place a nosegay.

[Compare—“There shut it inside the sweet cold hand.” Evelyn Hope, by Robert Browning.]

13 [Compare—“And—but for that sad shrouded eye,” etc. and the whole of the famous passage in the Giaour (line 68, sq., vide ante, p. 88), beginning—“He who hath bent him o’er the dead.”]

14 [Stanza xxiii. is not in the MS. It was forwarded on a separate sheet, with the following directions:—(1814, January 10, 11.) “Let the following lines be sent immediately, and form the last section (number it) but one of the 3^rd^ (last) Canto.”]

15 [Byron had, perhaps, explored the famous stalactite cavern in the island of Anti–Paros, which is described by Tournefort, Clarke, Choiseul–Gouffier, and other travellers.]

16 That the point of honour which is represented in one instance of Conrad’s character has not been carried beyond the bounds of probability, may perhaps be in some degree confirmed by the following anecdote of a brother buccaneer in the year 1814:—“Our readers have all seen the account of the enterprise against the pirates of Barataria; but few, we believe, were informed of the situation, history, or nature of that establishment. For the information of such as were unacquainted with it, we have procured from a friend the following interesting narrative of the main facts, of which he has personal knowledge, and which cannot fail to interest some of our readers:—Barataria is a bayou, or a narrow arm of the Gulf of Mexico; it runs through a rich but very flat country, until it reaches within a mile of the Mississippi river, fifteen miles below the city of New Orleans. This bayou has branches almost innumerable, in which persons can lie concealed from the severest scrutiny. It communicates with three lakes which lie on the south-west side, and these, with the lake of the same name, and which lies contiguous to the sea, where there is an island formed by the two arms of this lake and the sea. The east and west points of this island were fortified, in the year 1811, by a band of pirates, under the command of one Monsieur La Fitte. A large majority of these outlaws are of that class of the population of the state of Louisiana who fled from the island of St. Domingo during the troubles there, and took refuge in the island of Cuba; and when the last war between France and Spain commenced, they were compelled to leave that island with the short notice of a few days. Without ceremony they entered the United States, the most of them the state of Louisiana, with all the negroes they had possessed in Cuba. They were notified by the Governor of that State of the clause in the constitution which forbade the importation of slaves; but, at the same time, received the assurance of the Governor that he would obtain, if possible, the approbation of the General Government for their retaining this property.—The island of Barataria is situated about lat. 29 deg. 15 min., lon. 92. 30.; and is as remarkable for its health as for the superior scale and shell fish with which its waters abound. The chief of this horde, like Charles de Moor, had, mixed with his many vices, some transcendant virtues. In the year 1813, this party had, from its turpitude and boldness, claimed the attention of the Governor of Louisiana; and to break up the establishment he thought proper to strike at the head. He therefore, offered a reward of 500 dollars for the head of Monsieur La Fitte, who was well known to the inhabitants of the city of New Orleans, from his immediate connection, and his once having been a fencing-master in that city of great reputation, which art he learnt in Buonaparte’s army, where he was a captain. The reward which was offered by the Governor for the head of La Fitte was answered by the offer of a reward from the latter of 15,000 for the head of the Governor. The Governor ordered out a company to march from the city to La Fitte’s island, and to burn and destroy all the property, and to bring to the city of New Orleans all his banditti. This company, under the command of a man who had been the intimate associate of this bold Captain, approached very near to the fortified island, before he saw a man, or heard a sound, until he heard a whistle, not unlike a boatswain’s call. Then it was he found himself surrounded by armed men who had emerged from the secret avenues which led to this bayou. Here it was that this modern Charles de Moor developed his few noble traits; for to this man, who had come to destroy his life and all that was dear to him, he not only spared his life, but offered him that which would have made the honest soldier easy for the remainder of his days, which was indignantly refused. He then, with the approbation of his captor, returned to the city. This circumstance, and some concomitant events, proved that this band of pirates was not to be taken by land. Our naval force having always been small in that quarter, exertions for the destruction of this illicit establishment could not be expected from them until augmented; for an officer of the navy, with most of the gun-boats on that station, had to retreat from an overwhelming force of La Fitte’s. So soon as the augmentation of the navy authorised an attack, one was made; the overthrow of this banditti has been the result: and now this almost invulnerable point and key to New Orleans is clear of an enemy, it is to be hoped the government will hold it by a strong military force.”—American Newspaper.

[The story of the “Pirates of Barataria,” which an American print, the National Intelligencer, was the first to make public, is quoted in extenso by the Weekly Messenger (published at Boston) of November 4, 1814. It is remarkable that a tale which was destined to pass into the domain of historical romance should have been instantly seized upon and turned to account by Byron, whilst it was as yet half-told, while the legend was still in the making. Jean Lafitte, the Franco–American Conrad, was born either at Bayonne or Bordeaux, circ. 1780, emigrated with his elder brother Pierre, and settled at New Orleans, in 1809, as a blacksmith. Legitimate trade was flat, but the delta of the Mississippi, with its labyrinth of creeks and islands and bayous, teemed with pirates or merchant-smugglers. Accordingly, under the nominal sanction of letters of marque from the Republic of Cartagena, and as belligerents of Spain, the brothers, who had taken up their quarters on Grande Terre, an island to the east of the “Grand Pass,” or channel of the Bay of Barataria, swept the Gulph of Mexico with an organised flotilla of privateers, and acquired vast booty in the way of specie and living cargoes of claves. Hence the proclamation of the Governor of Louisiana, W. C. C. Claiborne, in which (November 24, 1813) he offered a sum of $500 for the capture of Jean Lafitte. For the sequel of this first act of the drama the “American newspaper” is the sole authority. The facts, however, if facts they be, which are pieced together by Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré, in the History of Louisiana (1885, iv. 301, sq.), and in two articles contributed to the American Magazine of History, October and November, 1883, are as curious and romantic as the legend. It would appear that early in September, 1814, a British officer, Colonel E. Nicholls, made overtures to Jean Lafitte, offering him the rank of captain in the British army, a grant of lands, and a sum of $30,000 if he would join forces with the British squadron then engaged in an attack on the coast of Louisiana. Lafitte begged for time to consider Colonel Nicholls’s proposal, but immediately put himself in communication with Claiborne, offering, on condition of immunity for past offences, to place his resources at the disposal of the United States. Claiborne’s reply to this patriotic offer seems to have been to despatch a strong naval force, under Commander Daniel Patterson, with orders to exterminate the pirates, and seize their fort on Grande Terre; and, on this occasion, though the brothers escaped, the authorities were successful. A proclamation was issued by General Andrew Jackson, in which the pirates were denounced as “hellish banditti,” and, to all appearances, their career was at an end. But circumstances were in their favour, and a few weeks later Jackson not only went back on his own mandate, but accepted the alliance and services of the brothers Lafitte and their captains at the siege of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. Finally, when peace with Great Britain was concluded, President Madison publicly acknowledged the “unequivocal traits of courage and fidelity” which had been displayed by the brothers Lafitte, and the once proscribed band of outlaws. Thenceforth Pierre Lafitte disappears from history; but Jean is believed to have settled first at Galveston, in Texas, and afterwards, in 1820, on the coast of Yucatan, whence “he continued his depredations on Spanish commerce.” He died game, a pirate to the last, in 1826. See, for what purports to be documentary evidence of the correspondence between Colonel E. Nicholls and Jean Lafitte, Historical Memoirs of the War in West Florida and Louisiana, by Major A. La Carriére Latour, 1816, Appendix III. pp. vii.-xv. See, too, Fernando de Lemos (an historical novel), by Charles Gayarré, 1872, pp. 347–361.]

In [the Rev. Mark] Noble’s continuation of “Granger’s Biographical History” [of England, 1806, iii. 68], there is a singular passage in his account of Archbishop Blackbourne [1658–1743]; and as in some measure connected with the profession of the hero of the foregoing poem, I cannot resist the temptation of extracting it.—“There is something mysterious in the history and character of Dr. Blackbourne. The former is but imperfectly known; and report has even asserted he was a buccaneer; and that one of his brethren in that profession having asked, on his arrival in England, what had become of his old chum, Blackbourne, was answered, he is Archbishop of York. We are informed, that Blackbourne was installed sub-dean of Exeter in 1694, which office he resigned in 1702; but after his successor Lewis Barnet’s death, in 1704, he regained it. In the following year he became dean; and in 1714 held with it the archdeanery [i.e. archdeaconry] of Cornwall. He was consecrated Bishop of Exeter, February 24, 1716; and translated to York, November 28, 1724, as a reward, according to court scandal, for uniting George I. to the Duchess of Munster. This, however, appears to have been an unfounded calumny. As archbishop he behaved with great prudence, and was equally respectable as the guardian of the revenues of the see. Rumour whispered he retained the vices of his youth, and that a passion for the fair sex formed an item in the list of his weaknesses; but so far from being convicted by seventy witnesses, he does not appear to have been directly criminated by one. In short, I look upon these aspersions as the effects of mere malice. How is it possible a buccaneer should have been so good a scholar as Blackbourne certainly was? He who had so perfect a knowledge of the classics (particularly of the Greek tragedians), as to be able to read them with the same ease as he could Shakespeare, must have taken great pains to acquire the learned languages; and have had both leisure and good masters. But he was undoubtedly educated at Christ-church College, Oxford. He is allowed to have been a pleasant man; this, however, was turned against him, by its being said, ‘he gained more hearts than souls.’”

[Walpole, in his Memoirs of the Reign of King George II., 1847, i. 87, who makes himself the mouthpiece of these calumnies, says that Hayter, Bishop of Norwich, was “a natural son of Blackbourne, the jolly old Archbishop of York, who had all the manners of a man of quality, though he had been a Buccaneer, and was a clergyman; but he retained nothing of his first profession except his seraglio.”]

. . . . .

“The only voice that could soothe the passions of the savage (Alphonso III.) was that of an amiable and virtuous wife, the sole object of his love; the voice of Donna Isabella, the daughter of the Duke of Savoy, and the grand-daughter of Philip II. King of Spain. Her dying words sunk deep into his memory [A.D. 1626, August 22]; his fierce spirit melted into tears; and, after the last embrace, Alphonso retired into his chamber to bewail his irreparable loss, and to meditate on the vanity of human life.”—Gibbon’s Miscellaneous Works [1837, p. 831].

[This final note was added to the Tenth Edition.]

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