Epistle to Augusta

Original Text: 
Byron, Works, 17 vols. (London: John Murray, 1832-33). PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA. George Gordon, lord Byron, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, ed. Thomas Moore (London: J. Murray, 1830). E-10 2736 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2    Dearer and purer were, it should be thine.
3    Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim
4    No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:
5    Go where I will, to me thou art the same
6    A lov'd regret which I would not resign.
7    There yet are two things in my destiny--
8A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
9    The first were nothing--had I still the last,
10    It were the haven of my happiness;
11    But other claims and other ties thou hast,
12    And mine is not the wish to make them less.
13    A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past
14    Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
16He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
17    If my inheritance of storms hath been
18    In other elements, and on the rocks
19    Of perils, overlook'd or unforeseen,
20    I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks,
21    The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
22    My errors with defensive paradox;
23    I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
24The careful pilot of my proper woe.
25    Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward.
26    My whole life was a contest, since the day
27    That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd
28    The gift--a fate, or will, that walk'd astray;
29    And I at times have found the struggle hard,
30    And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay:
31    But now I fain would for a time survive,
32If but to see what next can well arrive.
33    Kingdoms and empires in my little day
34    I have outliv'd, and yet I am not old;
35    And when I look on this, the petty spray
36    Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd
37    Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away:
38    Something--I know not what--does still uphold
39    A spirit of slight patience; not in vain,
40Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
41    Perhaps the workings of defiance stir
42    Within me--or perhaps a cold despair,
43    Brought on when ills habitually recur,
44    Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air
45    (For even to this may change of soul refer,
46    And with light armour we may learn to bear),
47    Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not
48The chief companion of a calmer lot.
49    I feel almost at times as I have felt
50    In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks,
51    Which do remember me of where I dwelt
52    Ere my young mind was sacrific'd to books,
53    Come as of yore upon me, and can melt
54    My heart with recognition of their looks;
55    And even at moments I could think I see
56Some living thing to love--but none like thee.
57    Here are the Alpine landscapes which create
58    A fund for contemplation; to admire
59    Is a brief feeling of a trivial date;
60    But something worthier do such scenes inspire:
61    Here to be lonely is not desolate,
62    For much I view which I could most desire,
64Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.
65    Oh that thou wert but with me!--but I grow
66    The fool of my own wishes, and forget
67    The solitude which I have vaunted so
68    Has lost its praise in this but one regret;
69    There may be others which I less may show;
70    I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet
71    I feel an ebb in my philosophy,
72And the tide rising in my alter'd eye.
73    I did remind thee of our own dear Lake,
74    By the old Hall which may be mine no more.
75    Leman's is fair; but think not I forsake
76    The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:
77    Sad havoc Time must with my memory make
78    Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before;
79    Though, like all things which I have lov'd, they are
80Resign'd for ever, or divided far.
82    Of Nature that with which she will comply--
83    It is but in her summer's sun to bask,
84    To mingle with the quiet of her sky,
85    To see her gentle face without a mask,
86    And never gaze on it with apathy.
87    She was my early friend, and now shall be
88My sister--till I look again on thee.
89    I can reduce all feelings but this one;
90    And that I would not; for at length I see
91    Such scenes as those wherein my life begun,
92    The earliest--even the only paths for me--
93    Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun,
94    I had been better than I now can be;
95    The passions which have torn me would have slept;
96I had not suffer'd, and thou hadst not wept.
97    With false Ambition what had I to do?
98    Little with Love, and least of all with Fame;
99    And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,
100    And made me all which they can make--a name,
101    Yet this was not the end I did pursue;
102    Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
103    But all is over--I am one the more
104To baffled millions which have gone before.
105    And for the future, this world's future may
106    From me demand but little of my care;
107    I have outliv'd myself by many a day,
108    Having surviv'd so many things that were;
109    My years have been no slumber, but the prey
110    Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share
111    Of life which might have fill'd a century,
112    Before its fourth in time had pass'd me by.
113    And for the remnant which may be to come
114    I am content; and for the past I feel
115    Not thankless, for within the crowded sum
116    Of struggles, happiness at times would steal,
117    And for the present, I would not benumb
118    My feelings further. Nor shall I conceal
119    That with all this I still can look around,
120And worship Nature with a thought profound.
121    For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart
122    I know myself secure, as thou in mine;
123    We were and are--I am, even as thou art--
124    Beings who ne'er each other can resign;
125    It is the same, together or apart,
126    From life's commencement to its slow decline
127    We are entwin'd--let death come slow or fast,


1] Written at Diodati, near Geneva, July 1816, but not published until 1830 in Thomas Moore's Letters and Journals of Lord Byron. Addressed to Augusta Leigh, Byron's half-sister, whose relations with Byron have been a matter of scandal and surmise from his own time to the present. Back to Line
15] Our grandsire's fate. Admiral John Byron was nicknamed "Foul-weather Jack" for his many encounters with storms. Back to Line
63] Our own dear lake: the lake at Newstead Abbey, Byron's ancestral home. Back to Line
81] The world is all before me. See Paradise Lost, XII, 646. Back to Line
128] Influenced by Byron's wife, Mrs. Leigh drew away from Byron in the years that followed. They never met again. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.490.