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In this second extract from The Corsair, we hear the corsair’s love, Medora, singing whilst he (unbeknownst to her) listens on from the bushes.

As background, although the corsair (a pirate) is “lone, wild, and strange” and stands “exempt/ From all affection and from all contempt” and is quite happy to prey off the weak (he “spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake/ The slumbering venom of the folded snake”), he has one humanising and tender quality:

 

None are all evil – clinging round his heart,

One softer feeling would not yet depart;

Oft could he sneer at others as beguil’d

By passions worthy of a fool or child –

Yet ‘gainst that passion vainly still he stove,

And even in him it asks the name of Love!

So basically he is a rugged, handsome, fearsome brute, yet soft and squishy on the inside. One would never of guessed that Byron was a fan of that unspeakable sin of the Greeks would you? Now for Medora’s song:

 

 

 

Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,

Lonely and lost to light for evermore.

Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,

Then trembles into silence as before.

 

There in its centre – a sepulchral lamp

Burns the slow flame eternal – but unseen;

Which not the darkness of despair can damp,

Though vain its ray as it had never been.

 

Remember me – Oh! Pass not thou my grave

Without one thought whose relics the recline;

The only pang my bosom dare not brave,

Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.

 

My fondest – faintest – latest – accents hear:

Grief for the dead not Virtue can reprove;

Then give me all I ever asked – a tear,

The first – last – sole reward of so much love.

 

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This is the first of two extracts from Lord Byron’s The Corsair, a poem about life on the high seas.

“O’er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,

Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,

Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,

Survey our empire, and behold our home!

These are our realms, no limits to their sway –

Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.

Ours the wild life in tumult still to range

From toil to rest, and joy in every change.

Oh who can tell? Not thou luxurious slave!

Whose soul would sicken o’er the heaving wave;

Not thou vain lord of wantonness and ease!

Whom slumber soothes not – pleasure cannot please –

Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,

And danc’d in triumph o’er the waters wide,

The exulting sense – the pulse’s maddening play,

That thrills the wanderer of that tackless way?

That for itself can woo the approaching fight,

And turn what some deem danger to delight;

That seeks what cravens shun with more than zeal,

And where the feebler faint – can only feel –

Feel – to the rising bosom’s inmost core,

Its hope awaken and its spirit soar?

No dread of death – if with us die our foes –

Save that it seems even duller than repose:

Come when it will – we snatch the life of life –

Let him who crawls enamoured of decay,

Cling to his couch, and sicken years away;

Heave his thick breath; and shake his palsied head;

Ours – the fresh turf, and not the feverish bed.

While gasp by gasp he faulters fourth his soul,

Ours with one pang – one bound – escapes control.

His corpse may boast it’s urn and narrow cave,

And they who loath’d his life may gild his grave:

Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,

When Ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.

For us, even banquets fond regret supply

In the red cup that crowns our memory;

And the brief epitaph in danger’s day,

When those who win at length divide the prey,

And cry, Remembrance saddening o’er each brow,

How had the brave who fell exulted now.”

 

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