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Greek Poems

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  1. Song of the Greek Bard by George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron

  1. Song of the Greek Bard

    by George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron

    The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!
    Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
    Where grew the arts of war and peace,—
    Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
    Eternal summer gilds them yet,
    But all, except their sun, is set.

    The Scian and the Teian muse,
    The hero's harp, the lover's lute,
    Have found the fame your shores refuse;
    Their place of birth alone is mute
    To sounds which echo further west
    Than your sires' "Islands of the Blest."

    The mountains look on Marathon,
    And Marathon looks on the sea;
    And musing there an hour alone,
    I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
    For, standing on the Persian's grave,
    I could not deem myself a slave.

    A king sat on the rocky brow
    Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
    And ships, by thousands, lay below,
    And men in nations,—all were his!
    He counted them at break of day,—
    And when the sun set, where were they?

    And where are they? And where art thou,
    My country? On thy voiceless shore
    The heroic lay is tuneless now,—
    The heroic bosom beats no more!
    And must thy lyre, so long divine,
    Degenerate into hands like mine?

    Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
    Must we but blush? Our fathers bled.
    Earth! render back from out thy breast
    A remnant of our Spartan dead!
    Of the three hundred, grant but three,
    To make a new Thermopylae!

    What! silent still and silent all?
    Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
    Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
    And answer, "Let one living head,
    But one, arise,—we come, we come!"
    'Tis but the living who are dumb!

    In vain—in vain!—strike other chords;
    Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
    Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
    And shed the blood of Scio's vine!
    Hark! rising to the ignoble call,
    How answers each bold !

    You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet;
    Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
    Of two such lessons, why forget
    The nobler and the manlier one?
    You have the letters Cadmus gave;
    Think ye he meant them for a slave?

    Fill high the howl with Samian wine!
    We will not think of themes like these!
    It made Anacreon's song divine:
    He served, but served Polycrates,
    A tyrant; but our masters then
    Were still, at least, Our countrymen.

    The tyrant of the Chersonese
    Was freedom's best and bravest friend;
    That tyrant was Miltiades!
    Oh that the present hour would lend
    Another despot of the kind!
    Such chains as his were sure to bind.

    Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
    Our virgins dance beneath the shade;
    I see their glorious, black eyes shine;
    But gazing on each glowing maid,
    My own the burning tear-drop laves,
    To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

    Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
    Where nothing save the waves and I
    May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
    There, swanlike, let me sing and die:
    A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine,—
    Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

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