The Duel.[583]

A poem by Lord George Gordon Byron


'Tis fifty years, and yet their fray
To us might seem but yesterday.
Tis fifty years, and three to boot,
Since, hand to hand, and foot to foot,
And heart to heart, and sword to sword,
One of our Ancestors was gored.
I've seen the sword that slew him;[584] he,
The slain, stood in a like degree
To thee, as he, the Slayer, stood
(Oh had it been but other blood!)
In kin and Chieftainship to me.
Thus came the Heritage to thee.


To me the Lands of him who slew
Came through a line of yore renowned;
For I can boast a race as true
To Monarchs crowned, and some discrowned,
As ever Britain's Annals knew:
For the first Conqueror gave us Ground,[585]
And the last Conquered owned the line
Which was my mother's, and is mine.


I loved thee - I will not say how,
Since things like these are best forgot:
Perhaps thou may'st imagine now
Who loved thee, and who loved thee not.
And thou wert wedded to another,[586]
And I at last another wedded:
I am a father, thou a mother,
To Strangers vowed, with strangers bedded.
For land to land, even blood to blood -
Since leagued of yore our fathers were -
Our manors and our birthright stood;
And not unequal had I wooed,
If to have wooed thee I could dare.
But this I never dared - even yet
When naught is left but to forget.
I feel that I could only love:
To sue was never meant for me,
And least of all to sue to thee;
For many a bar, and many a feud,
Though never told, well understood
Rolled like a river wide between -
And then there was the Curse of blood,
Which even my Heart's can not remove.
Alas! how many things have been!
Since we were friends; for I alone
Feel more for thee than can be shown.


How many things! I loved thee - thou
Loved'st me not: another was
The Idol of thy virgin vow,
And I was, what I am, Alas!
And what he is, and what thou art,
And what we were, is like the rest:
We must endure it as a test,
And old Ordeal of the Heart.[587]

Venice, Dec. 29, 1818.

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