EPISTLE TO AUGUSTA - LORD BYRON
EPISTLE TO AUGUSTA
My sister! my sweet sister! if a name Dearer and purer were, it should be thine; Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim No tears, but tenderness to answer mine: Go where I will, to me thou art the same - A loved regret which I would not resign. There yet are two things in my destiny, - A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
The first were nothing -had I still the last, It were the haven of my happiness; But other claims and other ties thou hast, And mine is not the wish to make them less. A strange doom is thy father's sons's, and past Recalling, as it lies beyond redress; Reversed for him our grandsire's fate of yore, - He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
If my inheritance of storms hath been In other elements, and on the rocks Of perils, overlooked or unforeseen, I have sustained my share of worldly shocks, The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen My errors with defensive paradox; I have been cunning in mine overthrow, The careful pilot of my proper woe.
Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward, My whole life was a contest, since the day That gave me being, gave me that which marred The gift, -a fate, or will, that walked astray; And I at times have found the struggle hard, And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay: But now I fain would for a time survive, If but to see what next can well arrive.
Kingdoms and empires in my little day I have outlived, and yet I am not old; And when I look on this, the petty spray Of my own years of trouble, which have rolled Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away: Something -I know not what -does still uphold A spirit of slight patience; -not in vain, Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
Perhaps the workings of defiance stir Within me, -or perhaps of cold despair, Brought on when ills habitually recur, - Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air, (For even to this may change of soul refer, And with light armour we may learn to bear,) Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not The chief companion of a calmer lot.
I feel almost at times as I have felt In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks, Which do remember me of where I dwelt, Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books, Come as of yore upon me, and can melt My heart with recognition of their looks; And even at moments I could think I see Some living thing to love -but none like thee.
Here are the Alpine landscapes which create A fund for contemplation; -to admire Is a brief feeling of a trivial date; But something worthier do such scenes inspire. Here to be lonely is not desolate, For much I view which I could most desire, And, above all, a lake I can behold Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.
Oh that thou wert but with me! -but I grow The fool of my own wishes, and forget The solitude which I have vaunted so Has lost its praise is this but one regret; There may be others which I less may show, - I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet I feel an ebb in my philosophy, And the tide rising in my altered eye.
I did remind thee of our own dear Lake, By the old Hall which may be mine no more. Leman's is fair; but think not I forsake The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore; Sad havoc Time must with my memory make, Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before; Though, like all things which I have loved, they are Resigned for ever, or divided far.
The world is all before me; I but ask Of Nature that with which she will comply - It is but in her summer's sun to bask, To mingle with the quiet of her sky, To see her gentle face without a mask And never gaze on it with apathy. She was my early friend, and now shall be My sister -till I look again on thee.
I can reduce all feelings but this one; And that I would not; -for at length I see Such scenes as those wherein my life begun. The earliest -even the only paths for me - Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun, I had been better than I now can be; The passions which have torn me would have slept: I had not suffered, and thou hadst not wept.
With false Ambition what had I to do? Little with Love, and least of all with Fame! And yet they came unsought, and with me grew, And made me all which they can make -a name. Yet this was not the end I did pursue; Surely I once beheld a nobler aim. But all is over -I am one the more To baffled millions which have gone before.
And for the future, this world's future may From me demand but little of my care; I have outlived myself by many a day: Having survived so many things that were; My years have been no slumber, but the prey Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share Of life which might have filled a century, Before its fourth in time had passed me by.
And for the remnant which may be to come, I am content; and for the past I feel Not thankless, -for within the crowded sum Of struggles, happiness at times would steal, And for the present, I would not benumb My feelings farther. -Nor shall I conceal That with all this I still can look around, And worship Nature with a thought profound.
For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart I know myself secure, as thou in mine; We were and are -I am, even as thou art - Beings who ne'er each other can resign; It is the same, together or apart, From life's commencement to its slow decline We are entwined -let death come slow or fast, The tie which bound the first endures the last!