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DARKNESS

A Poem By
Lord Byron
 July, 1816



&/\&/\&

I 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 crownded kings --- the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,

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 smiled;

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 twined 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 beast and famish'd men at bay,

Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead

Lured 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 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 raked up,

And shivering scraped 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 others 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 oceans 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 expired before;

The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,

And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need

Of air from them --- She was the Universe.

&/\&/\&

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