Lord Byron's Poems

Early Poems: Translation From Anacreon Ode 3

Greek: Mesonuktiois poth h'opais, k.t.l. 1

ODE 3.

'Twas now the hour when Night had driven

Her car half round yon sable heaven;

Booetes, only, seem'd to roll i

His Arctic charge around the Pole;

While mortals, lost in gentle sleep,

Forgot to smile, or ceas'd to weep:

At this lone hour the Paphian boy,

Descending from the realms of joy,

Quick to my gate directs his course,

And knocks with all his little force;

My visions fled, alarm'd I rose, -

"What stranger breaks my blest repose?"

"Alas!" replies the wily child

In faltering accents sweetly mild;

"A hapless Infant here I roam,

Far from my dear maternal home.

Oh! shield me from the wintry blast!

The nightly storm is pouring fast.

No prowling robber lingers here;

A wandering baby who can fear?"

I heard his seeming artless tale, ii

I heard his sighs upon the gale:

My breast was never pity's foe,

But felt for all the baby's woe.

I drew the bar, and by the light

Young Love, the infant, met my sight;

His bow across his shoulders flung,

And thence his fatal quiver hung

(Ah! little did I think the dart

Would rankle soon within my heart).

With care I tend my weary guest,

His little fingers chill my breast;

His glossy curls, his azure wing,

Which droop with nightly showers, I wring;

His shivering limbs the embers warm;

And now reviving from the storm,

Scarce had he felt his wonted glow,

Than swift he seized his slender bow: -

"I fain would know, my gentle host,"

He cried, "if this its strength has lost;

I fear, relax'd with midnight dews,

The strings their former aid refuse."

With poison tipt, his arrow flies,

Deep in my tortur'd heart it lies:

Then loud the joyous Urchin laugh'd: -

"My bow can still impel the shaft:

'Tis firmly fix'd, thy sighs reveal it;

Say, courteous host, canst thou not feel it?"

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

Footnote i: The Newstead MS. inserts -

'No Moon in silver robe was seen

Nor e'en a trembling star between'.

Footnote ii:

'Touched with the seeming artless tale

Compassion's tears o'er doubt prevail;

Methought I viewed him, cold and damp,

I trimmed anew my dying lamp,

Drew back the bar - and by the light

A pinioned Infant met my sight;

His bow across his shoulders slung,

And hence a gilded quiver hung;

With care I tend my weary guest,

His shivering hands by mine are pressed:

My hearth I load with embers warm

To dry the dew drops of the storm:

Drenched by the rain of yonder sky

The strings are weak - but let us try.'

- 'MS. Newstead'.