by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

      had a dream, which was not all a dream.
      The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
      Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
      Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
      Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
      Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
      And men forgot their passions in the dread
      Of this their desolation; and all hearts
      Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
      And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
      The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
      The habitations of all things which dwell,
      Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
      And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
      To look once more into each other's face;
      Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
      Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
      A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
      Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
      They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
      Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
      The brows of men by the despairing light
      Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
      The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
      And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
      Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
      And others hurried to and fro, and fed
      Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
      With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
      The pall of a past world; and then again
      With curses cast them down upon the dust,
      And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
      And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
      And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
      Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
      And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
      Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
      And War, which for a moment was no more,
      Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
      With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
      Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
      All earth was but one thought--and that was death
      Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
      Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
      Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
      The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
      Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
      And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
      The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
      Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
      Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
      But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
      And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
      Which answer'd not with a caress--he died.
      The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
      Of an enormous city did survive,
      And they were enemies: they met beside
      The dying embers of an altar-place
      Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
      For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
      And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
      The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
      Blew for a little life, and made a flame
      Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
      Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
      Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
      Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
      Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
      Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
      The populous and the powerful was a lump,
      Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
      A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
      The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
      And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
      Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
      And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
      They slept on the abyss without a surge--
      The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
      The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
      The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
      And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
      Of aid from them--She was the Universe.

"Darkness" is reprinted from Works. George Gordon Byron. London: John Murray, 1832.




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