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Greece Enslaved by Lord Byron

Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not,
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?

By their right arms the conquest must be wrought?
Will Gaul or Muscovite redress ye? No!
True, they may lay your proud despoilers low,
But not for you will Freedom’s altars flame.
Shades of the Helots! triumph o’er your foe!
Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same;
Thy glorious day is o’er, but not thy years of shame!

— From Greece Enslaved. Lord Byron (1788-1824)

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  • David Zincavage June 22, 2021, 1:39 PM

    George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron
    The Isles of Greece

    THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
    Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
    Where grew the arts of war and peace,
    Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
    Eternal summer gilds them yet,
    But all, except their sun, is set.

    The Scian and the Teian muse,
    The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,
    Have found the fame your shores refuse:
    Their place of birth alone is mute
    To sounds which echo further west
    Than your sires’ ‘Islands of the Blest’.

    The mountains look on Marathon—
    And Marathon looks on the sea;
    And musing there an hour alone,
    I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
    For standing on the Persians’ grave,
    I could not deem myself a slave.

    A king sate on the rocky brow
    Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis;
    And ships, by thousands, lay below,
    And men in nations;—all were his!
    He counted them at break of day—
    And when the sun set, where were they?

    And where are they? and where art thou,
    My country? On thy voiceless shore
    The heroic lay is tuneless now—
    The heroic bosom beats no more!
    And must thy lyre, so long divine,
    Degenerate into hands like mine?

    ’Tis something in the dearth of fame,
    Though link’d among a fetter’d race,
    To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
    Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
    For what is left the poet here?
    For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

    Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
    Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
    Earth! render back from out thy breast
    A remnant of our Spartan dead!
    Of the three hundred grant but three,
    To make a new Thermopylae!

    What, silent still? and silent all?
    Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
    Sound like a distant torrent’s fall,
    And answer, ‘Let one living head,
    But one, arise,—we come, we come!’
    ’Tis but the living who are dumb.

    In vain—in vain: strike other chords;
    Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
    Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
    And shed the blood of Scio’s vine:
    Hark! rising to the ignoble call—
    How answers each bold Bacchanal!

    You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet;
    Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
    Of two such lessons, why forget
    The nobler and the manlier one?
    You have the letters Cadmus gave—
    Think ye he meant them for a slave?

    Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
    We will not think of themes like these!
    It made Anacreon’s song divine:
    He served—but served Polycrates—
    A tyrant; but our masters then
    Were still, at least, our countrymen.

    The tyrant of the Chersonese
    Was freedom’s best and bravest friend;
    That tyrant was Miltiades!
    O that the present hour would lend
    Another despot of the kind!
    Such chains as his were sure to bind.

    Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
    On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,
    Exists the remnant of a line
    Such as the Doric mothers bore;
    And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
    The Heracleidan blood might own.

    Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
    They have a king who buys and sells;
    In native swords and native ranks
    The only hope of courage dwells:
    But Turkish force and Latin fraud
    Would break your shield, however broad.

    Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
    Our virgins dance beneath the shade—
    I see their glorious black eyes shine;
    But gazing on each glowing maid,
    My own the burning tear-drop laves,
    To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

    Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
    Where nothing, save the waves and I,
    May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
    There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
    A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
    Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

  • Dirk June 23, 2021, 11:16 AM

    24 to 28, spent a great deal of time in Greece, specifically Athens, a wonderful people, a magical country, when not working, exploring their history. Really enjoyed exploring the islands.

    One deployment was detailed to fly as air crew on a Huey, transporting the Dallas Cowboy Cheer Leaders. Island hopping for three days. Two Army Warrant officers flying, needed a Navy rep, I had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the right time.

    Those three days were the worst year of my life.