Epistle To Augusta.

A poem by Lord George Gordon Byron


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.[z]
There yet are two things in my destiny, -
A world to roam through, and a home with thee.[84]


The first were nothing - had I still the last,
It were the haven of my happiness;
But other claims and other ties thou hast,[aa]
And mine is not the wish to make them less.
A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past[ab]
Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
Reversed for him our grandsire's[85] 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;[ac]
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;[86]
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, perhaps, 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,[ad]
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.[ae]


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,[af]
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.[ag]


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,[87]
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.[88]


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.[ah]


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 - [89]
The earliest - even the only paths for me - [ai]
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[aj]
From me demand but little of my care;
I have outlived myself by many a day;[ak]
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,[90]
Before its fourth in time had passed me by.


And for the remnant which may be to come[al]
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 - [am]
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,[an]
The tie which bound the first endures the last!

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

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