Back to Index


by George Gordon Byron, 1881

(Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanzas 42–47.)

  ITALIA! oh Italia! thou who hast
  The fatal gift of beauty, which became
  A funeral dower of present woes and past,
  On thy sweet brow is sorrow plough’d by shame,
  And annals graved in characters of flame.
  Oh, God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
  Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
  Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;

  Then might’st thou more appal; or, less desired,
  Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
  For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
  Would not be seen the armed torrents pour’d
  Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
  Of many-nation’d spoilers from the Po
  Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword
  Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquish’d, thou the slave of friend or foe

  Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
  The Roman friend of Rome’s least-mortal mind,
  The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
  The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
  Came Megara before me, and behind
  Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
  And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
  Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;

  For Time hath not rebuilt them, but uprear’d
  Barbaric dwellings on their shatter’d site,
  Which only make more mourn’d and more endear’d
  The few last rays of their far-scatter’d light,
  And the crush’d relics of their vanish’d might.
  The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
  These sepulchres of cities, which excite
  Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page
The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.

  That page is now before me, and on mine
  His country’s ruin added to the mass
  Of perish’d states he mourn’d in their decline,
  And I in desolation: all that was
  Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
  Rome-Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
  In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
  The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.

  Yet, Italy! through every other land
  Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
  Mother of Arts! as once of arms; thy hand
  Was then our guardian, and is still our guide;
  Parent of our Religion! whom the wide
  Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
  Europe, repentant of her parricide,
  Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.

Published in Poetry of Byron

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.