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Death of the Princess Charlotte

by George Gordon Byron, 1881

(Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanzas 167–172.)

  HARK! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
  A long low distant murmur of dread sound,
  Such as arises when a nation bleeds
  With some deep and immedicable wound;
  Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground,
  The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
  Seems royal still, though with her head discrown’d,
  And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.

  Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou?
  Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
  Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
  Some less majestic, less beloved head?
  In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
  The mother of a moment, o’er thy boy,
  Death hush’d that pang for ever: with thee fled
  The present happiness and promised joy
Which fill’d the imperial isles so full it seem’d to cloy.

  Peasants bring forth in safety.—Can it be,
  Oh thou that wert so happy, so adored!
  Those who weep not for kings shall weep for thee,
  And Freedom’s heart, grown heavy, cease to hoard
  Her many griefs for ONE; for she had pour’d
  Her orisons for thee, and o’er thy head
  Beheld her Iris.—Thou, too, lonely lord,
  And desolate consort—vainly wert thou wed!
The husband of a year! the father of the dead!

  Of sackcloth was thy wedding garment made;
  Thy bridal’s fruit is ashes: in the dust
  The fair-hair’d Daughter of the Isles is laid,
  The love of millions! How did we intrust
  Futurity to her! and, though it must
  Darken above our bones, yet fondly deem’d
  Our children should obey her child, and bless’d
  Her and her hoped-for seed, whose promise seem’d
Like stars to shepherds’ eyes:—’twas but a meteor beam’d.

  Woe unto us, not her; for she sleeps well:
  The fickle reek of popular breath, the tongue
  Of hollow counsel, the false oracle,
  Which from the birth of monarchy hath rung
  Its knell in princely ears, ’till the o’erstung
  Nations have arm’d in madness, the strange fate
  Which tumbles mightiest sovereigns, and hath flung
  Against their blind omnipotence a weight
Within the opposing scale, which crushes soon or late,—

  These might have been her destiny; but no,
  Our hearts deny it: and so young, so fair,
  Good without effort, great without a foe,
  But now a bride and mother—and now there!
  How many ties did that stern moment tear!
  From thy Sire’s to his humblest subject’s breast
  Is link’d the electric chain of that despair,
  Whose shock was as an earthquake’s, and opprest
The land which loved thee so that none could love thee best.

Published in Poetry of Byron

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