Lord Byron's Poems

Early Poems: Translation From the "Medea" of Euripides L1 627-660

Greek: Erotes hyper men agan, K.T.L.1


When fierce conflicting passions urge

The breast, where love is wont to glow,

What mind can stem the stormy surge

Which rolls the tide of human woe?

The hope of praise, the dread of shame,

Can rouse the tortur'd breast no more;

The wild desire, the guilty flame,

Absorbs each wish it felt before.


But if affection gently thrills

The soul, by purer dreams possest,

The pleasing balm of mortal ills

In love can soothe the aching breast:

If thus thou comest in disguise, i

Fair Venus! from thy native heaven,

What heart, unfeeling, would despise

The sweetest boon the Gods have given?


But, never from thy golden bow,

May I beneath the shaft expire!

Whose creeping venom, sure and slow,

Awakes an all-consuming fire:

Ye racking doubts! ye jealous fears!

With others wage internal war;

Repentance! source of future tears,

From me be ever distant far!


May no distracting thoughts destroy

The holy calm of sacred love!

May all the hours be winged with joy,

Which hover faithful hearts above!

Fair Venus! on thy myrtle shrine

May I with some fond lover sigh!

Whose heart may mingle pure with mine,

With me to live, with me to die!


My native soil! belov'd before,

Now dearer, as my peaceful home,

Ne'er may I quit thy rocky shore,

A hapless banish'd wretch to roam!

This very day, this very hour,

May I resign this fleeting breath!

Nor quit my silent humble bower;

A doom, to me, far worse than death.


Have I not heard the exile's sigh,

And seen the exile's silent tear,

Through distant climes condemn'd to fly,

A pensive, weary wanderer here?

Ah! hapless dame! 2 no sire bewails,

No friend thy wretched fate deplores,

No kindred voice with rapture hails

Thy steps within a stranger's doors.


Perish the fiend! whose iron heart

To fair affection's truth unknown,

Bids her he fondly lov'd depart,

Unpitied, helpless, and alone;

Who ne'er unlocks with silver key, 3

The milder treasures of his soul;

May such a friend be far from me,

And Ocean's storms between us roll!

Footnote 1: The Greek heading does not appear in 'Hours of Idleness' or 'Poems O. and T'.

Footnote 2: Medea, who accompanied Jason to Corinth, was deserted by him for the daughter of Creon, king of that city. The chorus, from which this is taken, here addresses Medea; though a considerable liberty is taken with the original, by expanding the idea, as also in some other parts of the translation.

Footnote 3: The original is Greek: katharan anoixanta klaeda phren'on, literally "disclosing the bright key of the mind."

Footnote i:

'If thus thou com'st in gentle guise'.

'Hours of Idleness'.