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Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’
Home|Special Collections Exhibitions|Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’|Napoleon: Emperor, expectation & exile|24. Manuscript of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III, stanzas 19-21 

24. Manuscript of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III, stanzas 19-21

NLS Ms.43325, ff.9v-10r

Following the success of the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1812, Byron followed up with the third and fourth cantos in 1816 and 1818.

Canto III was the only part of the poem Byron did not correct in proof; and Murray, to Byron’s annoyance, removed his political notes. The text of these stanzas in McGann’s edition (based on multiple sources) reads as follows:

Fit retribution – Gaul may champ the bit
And foam in fetters – but is Earth more free?
Did nations combat to make One submit;
Or league to teach all kings true Sovereignty?
What! shall reviving Thraldom again be
The patched-up Idol of enlightened days?
Shall we, who struck the Lion down, shall we
Pay the wolf homage? proffering lowly gaze
And servile knees to thrones? No; prove before ye praise!


If not, o’er one fallen despot boast no more!
In vain fair cheeks were furrowed with hot tears
For Europe’s flowers long rooted up before
The trampler of her vineyards; in vain years
Of death – depopulation – bondage – fears,
Have all been borne, and broken by the accord
Of roused-up millions; all that most endears
Glory, is when the Myrtle wreathes a Sword
Such as Harmodius drew on Athens’ tyrant Lord.


There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium’s capital had gather’d then
Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men;
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes look’d love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell;
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!

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