Lord Byron's Poems

Early Poems: On Leaving Newstead Abbey


Why dost thou build the hall, Son of the winged days? Thou lookest

from thy tower to-day: yet a few years, and the blast of the desart

comes: it howls in thy empty court.-OSSIAN. [1]


Through thy battlements, Newstead, [2] the hollow winds whistle: [ii]

Thou, the hall of my Fathers, art gone to decay;

In thy once smiling garden, the hemlock and thistle

Have choak'd up the rose, which late bloom'd in the way.


Of the mail-cover'd Barons, who, proudly, to battle, [iii]

Led their vassals from Europe to Palestine's plain, [3]

The escutcheon and shield, which with ev'ry blast rattle,

Are the only sad vestiges now that remain.


No more doth old Robert, with harp-stringing numbers,

Raise a flame, in the breast, for the war-laurell'd wreath;

Near Askalon's towers, John of Horistan [4] slumbers,

Unnerv'd is the hand of his minstrel, by death.


Paul and Hubert too sleep in the valley of Cressy;

For the safety of Edward and England they fell:

My Fathers! the tears of your country redress ye:

How you fought! how you died! still her annals can tell.


On Marston, [5] with Rupert, [6] 'gainst traitors contending,

Four brothers enrich'd, with their blood, the bleak field;

For the rights of a monarch their country defending, [iv]

Till death their attachment to royalty seal'd. [7]


Shades of heroes, farewell! your descendant departing

From the seat of his ancestors, bids you adieu! [v]

Abroad, or at home, your remembrance imparting

New courage, he'll think upon glory and you.


Though a tear dim his eye at this sad separation, [vi]

'Tis nature, not fear, that excites his regret; [vii]

Far distant he goes, with the same emulation,

The fame of his Fathers he ne'er can forget. [viii]


That fame, and that memory, still will he cherish; [ix]

He vows that he ne'er will disgrace your renown:

Like you will he live, or like you will he perish;

When decay'd, may he mingle his dust with your own!


Footnote 1: The motto was prefixed in _Hours of Idleness_.

Footnote 2: The priory of Newstead, or de Novo Loco, in Sherwood, was founded about the year 1170, by Henry II. On the dissolution of the monasteries it was granted (in 1540) by Henry VIII. to "Sir John Byron the Little, with the great beard." His portrait is still preserved at Newstead.]

Footnote 3: No record of any crusading ancestors in the Byron family can be found. Moore conjectures that the legend was suggested by some groups of heads on the old panel-work at Newstead, which appear to represent Christian soldiers and Saracens, and were, most probably, put up before the Abbey came into the possession of the family.]

Footnote 4: Horistan Castle, in _Derbyshire_, an ancient seat of the B--R--N family [4to]. (Horiston.--4to.)]

Footnote 5: The battle of Marston Moor, where the adherents of Charles I. were defeated.]

Footnote 6: Son of the Elector Palatine, and related to Charles I. He afterwards commanded the Fleet, in the reign of Charles II.]

Footnote 7: Sir Nicholas Byron, the great-grandson of Sir John Byron the Little, distinguished himself in the Civil Wars. He is described by Clarendon (_Hist, of the Rebellion_, 1807, i. 216) as "a person of great affability and dexterity, as well as martial knowledge." He was Governor of Carlisle, and afterwards Governor of Chester. His nephew and heir-at-law, Sir John Byron, of Clayton, K.B. (1599-1652), was raised to the peerage as Baron Byron of Rochdale, after the Battle of Newbury, October 26, 1643. He held successively the posts of Lieutenant of the Tower, Governor of Chester, and, after the expulsion of the Royal Family from England, Governor to the Duke of York. He died childless, and was succeeded by his brother Richard, the second lord, from whom the poet was descended. Five younger brothers, as Richard's monument in the chancel of Hucknall Torkard Church records, "faithfully served King Charles the First in the Civil Wars, suffered much for their loyalty, and lost all their present fortunes." (See _Life of Lord Byron_, by Karl Elze: Appendix, Note (A), p. 436.)]

Footnote i: 'On Leaving N ... ST ... D.'--[4to] 'On Leaving Newstead.'--('P. on V. Occasions.')]

Footnote ii:

'Through the cracks in these battlements loud the winds whistle

For the hall of my fathers is gone to decay;

And in yon once gay garden the hemlock and thistle

Have choak'd up the rose, which late bloom'd in the way'.

Footnote iii: 'Of the barons of old, who once proudly to battle'.

Footnote iv: 'For Charles the Martyr their country defending'.

Footnote v: 'Bids ye adieu!'

Footnote vi: 'Though a tear dims.'

Footnote vii: ''Tis nature, not fear, which commands his regret'.

Footnote viii: 'In the grave he alone can his fathers forget'.

Footnote ix: 'Your fame, and your memory, still will he cherish'.