Along that gloomy river's brim,
Where Charon plies the ceaseless oar,
Two mighty Shadows, dusk and dim,
Stood lingering on the dismal shore.
Hoarse came the rugged Boatman's call,
While echoing caves enforced the cry
And as they severed life's last thrall,
Each Spirit spoke one parting sigh.
"Farewell to earth! I leave a name,
Written in fire, on field and flood
Wide as the wind, the voice of fame,
Hath borne my fearful tale of blood.
And though across this leaden wave,
Returnless now my spirit haste,
Napoleon's name shall know no grave,
His mighty deeds be ne'er erased.
The rocky Alp, where once was set
My courser's hoof, shall keep the seal,
And ne'er the echo there forget
The clangor of my glorious steel.
Marengo's hill-sides flow with wine
And summer there the olive weaves,
But busy memory e'er will twine
The blood-stained laurel with its leaves.
The Danube's rushing billows haste
With the black ocean-wave to hide
Yet is my startling story traced,
In every murmur of its tide.
The pyramid on Giseh's plain,
Its founder's fame hath long forgot
But from its memory, time, in vain
Shall strive Napoleon's name to blot.
The bannered storm that floats the sky,
With God's red quiver in its fold,
O'er startled realms shall lowering fly,
A type of me, till time is told.
The storm a thing of weal and woe,
Of life and death, of peace and power
That lays the giant forest low,
Yet cheers the bent grass with its shower
That, in its trampled pathway leaves,
The uptorn roots to bud anew,
And where the past o'er ruin grieves,
Bids fresher beauty spring to view:
The storm an emblem of my name,
Shall keep my memory in the skies
Its flash-wreathed wing, a flag of flame,
Shall spread my glory as it flies."
The Spirit passed, and now alone,
The darker Shadow trod the shore
Deep from his breast the parting tone
Swept with the wind, the landscape o'er.
"Farewell! I will not speak of deeds,
For these are written but in sand
And, as the furrow choked with weeds,
Fade from the memory of the land.
The war-plumed chieftain cannot stay,
To guard the gore his blade hath shed
Time sweeps the purple stain away,
And throws a veil o'er glory's bed.
But though my form must fade from view.
And Byron bow to fate resigned,
Undying as the fabled Jew,
Harold's dark spirit stays behind!
And he who yet in after years,
Shall tread the vine-clad shores of Rhine,
In Chillon's gloom shall pour his tears,
Or raptured, see blue Leman shine
He shall not cannot, go alone
Harold unseen shall seek his side:
Shall whisper in his ear a tone,
So seeming sweet, he cannot chide.
He cannot chide; although he feel,
While listening to the magic verse,
A serpent round his bosom steal,
He still shall hug the coiling curse.
Or if beneath Italian skies,
The wanderer's feet delighted glide,
Harold, in merry Juan's guise,
Shall be his tutor and his guide.
One living essence God hath poured
In every heart the love of sway
And though he may not wield the sword,
Each is a despot in his way.
The infant rules by cries and tears
The maiden, with her sunny eyes
The miser, with the hoard of years
The monarch, with his clanking ties.
To me the will the power were given.
O'er plaything man to weave my spell,
And if I bore him up to heaven,
'Twas but to hurl him down to hell.
And if I chose upon the rack
Of doubt to stretch the tortured mind,
To turn Faith's heavenward footstep back,
Her hope despoiled her vision, blind
Or if on Virtue's holy brow,
A wreath of scorn I sought to twine
And bade her minions mocking bow,
With sweeter vows at pleasure's shrine
Or if I mirrored to the thought,
With glorious truth the charms of earth,
While yet the trusting fool I taught,
To scoff at Him who gave it birth
Or if I filled the soul with light,
And bore its buoyant wing in air
To plunge it down in deeper night,
And mock its maniac wanderings there
I did but wield the wand of power,
That God intrusted to my clasp,
And not, the tyrant of an hour
Will I resign it to Death's grasp!
The despot with his iron chain,
In idle bonds the limbs may bind
He who would hold a sterner reign,
Must twine the links around the mind.
Thus I have thrown upon my race,
A chain that ages cannot rend
And mocking Harold stays to trace,
The slaves that to my sceptre bend."