Start not - nor deem my spirit fled:
In me behold the only skull,
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.
I lived, I loved, I quaff'd, like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up - thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.
Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm's slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet's shape
The drink of Gods, than reptile's food.
Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others' let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?
Quaff while thou canst: another race,
When thou and thine, like me, are sped,
May rescue thee from earth's embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.
Why not? since through life's little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem'd from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.
Newstead Abbey, 1808.
First published in the seventh edition of 'Childe Harold'.
Footnote 1: Byron gave Medwin the following account of this cup: - "The gardener in digging discovered a skull that had probably belonged to some jolly friar or monk of the abbey, about the time it was dis-monasteried. Observing it to be of giant size, and in a perfect state of preservation, a strange fancy seized me of having it set and mounted as a drinking cup. I accordingly sent it to town, and it returned with a very high polish, and of a mottled colour like tortoiseshell." - Medwin's 'Conversations', 1824, p. 87.