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Eileen Clemens Granfors

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Darkness by Lord Byron
By Eileen Clemens Granfors
Last edited: Monday, December 14, 2009
Posted: Monday, December 14, 2009



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Eileen Clemens Granfors

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George Gordon, Lord Byron, has been called "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Although his life was sensationalized and he was hounded out of Britain, he remains one of the great voices of the Romantic era in literature. Here is his haunting poem, "Darkness." Note his use of onomatopoeia and alliteration throughout to create an atmosphere of doom and ultimately sterility. For all who have felt the world's oppression beating on their private lives.

DARKNESS

by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

      had a dream, which was not all a dream.
      The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
      Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
      Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
      Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
      Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
      And men forgot their passions in the dread
      Of this their desolation; and all hearts
      Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
      And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
      The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
      The habitations of all things which dwell,
      Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
      And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
      To look once more into each other's face;
      Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
      Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
      A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
      Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
      They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
      Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
      The brows of men by the despairing light
      Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
      The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
      And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
      Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
      And others hurried to and fro, and fed
      Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
      With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
      The pall of a past world; and then again
      With curses cast them down upon the dust,
      And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
      And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
      And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
      Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
      And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
      Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
      And War, which for a moment was no more,
      Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
      With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
      Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
      All earth was but one thought--and that was death
      Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
      Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
      Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
      The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
      Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
      And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
      The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
      Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
      Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
      But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
      And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
      Which answer'd not with a caress--he died.
      The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
      Of an enormous city did survive,
      And they were enemies: they met beside
      The dying embers of an altar-place
      Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
      For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
      And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
      The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
      Blew for a little life, and made a flame
      Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
      Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
      Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
      Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
      Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
      Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
      The populous and the powerful was a lump,
      Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
      A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
      The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
      And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
      Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
      And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
      They slept on the abyss without a surge--
      The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
      The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
      The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
      And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
      Of aid from them--She was the Universe.
    ">http://www.poetry-archive.com/i_pic.gif" width="13" align="bottom" border="0" naturalsizeflag="3" alt="" />
    had a dream, which was not all a dream.
    The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
    Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
    Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
    Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
    Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
    And men forgot their passions in the dread
    Of this their desolation; and all hearts
    Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
    And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
    The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
    The habitations of all things which dwell,
    Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
    And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
    To look once more into each other's face;
    Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
    Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
    A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
    Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
    They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
    Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
    The brows of men by the despairing light
    Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
    The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
    And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
    Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
    And others hurried to and fro, and fed
    Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
    With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
    The pall of a past world; and then again
    With curses cast them down upon the dust,
    And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
    And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
    And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
    Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
    And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
    Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
    And War, which for a moment was no more,
    Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
    With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
    Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
    All earth was but one thought--and that was death
    Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
    Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
    Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
    The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
    Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
    And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
    The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
    Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
    Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
    But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
    And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
    Which answer'd not with a caress--he died.
    The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
    Of an enormous city did survive,
    And they were enemies: they met beside
    The dying embers of an altar-place
    Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
    For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
    And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
    The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
    Blew for a little life, and made a flame
    Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
    Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
    Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
    Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
    Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
    Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
    The populous and the powerful was a lump,
    Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
    A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
    The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
    And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
    Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
    And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
    They slept on the abyss without a surge--
    The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
    The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
    The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
    And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
    Of aid from them--She was the Universe.

 

"Darkness" is reprinted from Works. George Gordon Byron. London

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Reviewed by Patrick Granfors 12/14/2009
Good doggie.
Reviewed by Felix Perry 12/14/2009
Awesome in the age it was written and stood the test of time as it is still awesome today.
fee

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