Stanzas To The Po.[588]

A poem by Lord George Gordon Byron


River, that rollest by the ancient walls,
Where dwells the Lady of my love, when she
Walks by thy brink, and there perchance recalls
A faint and fleeting memory of me:


What if thy deep and ample stream should be
A mirror of my heart, where she may read
The thousand thoughts I now betray to thee,
Wild as thy wave, and headlong as thy speed!


What do I say - a mirror of my heart?
Are not thy waters sweeping, dark, and strong?
Such as my feelings were and are, thou art;
And such as thou art were my passions long.


Time may have somewhat tamed them, - not for ever;
Thou overflow'st thy banks, and not for aye
Thy bosom overboils, congenial river!
Thy floods subside, and mine have sunk away:


But left long wrecks behind, and now again,[ib]
Borne in our old unchanged career, we move:
Thou tendest wildly onwards to the main,
And I - to loving one I should not love.


The current I behold will sweep beneath
Her native walls, and murmur at her feet;
Her eyes will look on thee, when she shall breathe
The twilight air, unharmed by summer's heat.


She will look on thee, - I have looked on thee,
Full of that thought: and, from that moment, ne'er
Thy waters could I dream of, name, or see,
Without the inseparable sigh for her!


Her bright eyes will be imaged in thy stream, -
Yes! they will meet the wave I gaze on now:
Mine cannot witness, even in a dream,
That happy wave repass me in its flow!


The wave that bears my tears returns no more:
Will she return by whom that wave shall sweep? -
Both tread thy banks, both wander on thy shore,
I by thy source, she by the dark-blue deep.[ic]


But that which keepeth us apart is not
Distance, nor depth of wave, nor space of earth,
But the distraction of a various lot,
As various as the climates of our birth.


A stranger loves the Lady of the land,[id]
Born far beyond the mountains, but his blood
Is all meridian, as if never fanned
By the black wind that chills the polar flood.[ie]


My blood is all meridian; were it not,
I had not left my clime, nor should I be,[if]
In spite of tortures, ne'er to be forgot,
A slave again of love, - at least of thee.


'Tis vain to struggle - let me perish young -
Live as I lived, and love as I have loved;
To dust if I return, from dust I sprung,
And then, at least, my heart can ne'er be moved.

June, 1819.

[First published, Conversations of Lord Byron, 1824, 4ยบ, pp. 24-26.]

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