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Greece, IV

by George Gordon Byron, 1881

(Childe Harold, Canto ii. Stanzas 84–88.)

  WHEN riseth Lacedæmon’s hardihood,
  When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,
  When Athens’ children are with hearts endued,
  When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men,
  Then may’st thou be restored; but not till then!
  A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;
  An hour may lay it in the dust: and when
  Can man its shatter’d splendour renovate,
Recal its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate?

  And yet how lovely in thine age of woe,
  Land of lost gods and godlike men! art thou!
  Thy vales of evergreen, thy hills of snow,
  Proclaim thee Nature’s varied favourite now;
  Thy fanes, thy temples to thy surface bow,
  Commingling slowly with heroic earth,
  Broke by the share of every rustic plough:
  So perish monuments of mortal birth,
So perish all in turn, save well-recorded Worth;

  Save where some solitary column mourns
  Above its prostrate brethren of the cave;
  Save where Tritonia’s airy shrine adorns
  Colonna’s cliff, and gleams along the wave;
  Save o’er some warrior’s half-forgotten grave,
  Where the gray stones and unmolested grass
  Ages, but not oblivion, feebly brave,
  While strangers only not regardless pass,
Lingering like me, perchance, to gaze, and sigh “Alas!”

  Yet are thy skies as blue, thy crags as wild;
  Sweet are thy groves, and verdant are thy fields,
  Thine olive ripe as when Minerva smiled,
  And still his honied wealth Hymettus yields;
  There the blithe bee his fragrant fortress builds,
  The freeborn wanderer of thy mountain-air;
  Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds,
  Still in his beam Mendeli’s marbles glare;
Art, Glory, Freedom fail, but Nature still is fair.

  Where’er tread ’tis haunted, holy ground,
  No earth of thine is lost in vulgar mould,
  But one vast realm of wonder spreads around,
  And all the Muse’s tales seem truly told,
  Till the sense aches with gazing to behold
  The scenes our earliest dreams have dwelt upon:
  Each hill and dale, each deepening glen and wold
  Defies the power which crush’d thy temples gone:
Age shakes Athena’s tower, but spares gray Marathon.

Published in Poetry of Byron

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