Darkness

Original Text: 
Byron, Works, 17 vols. (London: John Murray, 1832-33). PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA.
1I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
2The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
3Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
4Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
5Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
6Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
7And men forgot their passions in the dread
8Of this their desolation; and all hearts
9Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
10And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
11The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
12The habitations of all things which dwell,
13Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
14And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
15To look once more into each other's face;
16Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
17Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
18A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
19Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
20They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
21Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
22The brows of men by the despairing light
23Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
24The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
25And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
26Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
27And others hurried to and fro, and fed
28Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
29With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
30The pall of a past world; and then again
31With curses cast them down upon the dust,
32And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
33And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
34And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
35Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
36And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
37Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
38And War, which for a moment was no more,
39Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
40With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
41Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
42All earth was but one thought--and that was death
43Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
44Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
45Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
46The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
47Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
48And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
49The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
50Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
51Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
52But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
53And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
54Which answer'd not with a caress--he died.
55The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
56Of an enormous city did survive,
57And they were enemies: they met beside
58The dying embers of an altar-place
59Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
60  For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
61And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
62The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
63Blew for a little life, and made a flame
64Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
65Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
66Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
67Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
68Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
69Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
70The populous and the powerful was a lump,
71Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
72A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
73The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
74And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
75Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
76And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
77They slept on the abyss without a surge--
78The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
79The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
80The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
81And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
82Of aid from them--She was the Universe.
Publication Start Year: 
1816
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.493.
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