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To  Ianthe

Lord Byron

NOTE:  The following  is in a Prefix to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Canto I, and was a tribute to Charlotte Harley, an eleven year-old daughter of the Earl of Oxford.   Her mother, Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford, was known at the time to have had an affair with Lord Byron.

Later, in a letter to Lady Melbourne dated April 5th 1813, Byron wrote:  ".... the others have been transferred to Charlotte Harley whom I should love forever if she could always be only eleven years old --- & whom I shall probably marry when she is old enough & bad enough to be made into a modern wife ....."


Not in those climes where I have late been straying,

Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deem'd,

Not in those visions to the heart displaying

Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd,

Hath aught like thee in truth or fancy seem'd:

Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek

To paint those charms which varied as they beam'd ---

To such as see thee not my words were weak:

To those who gaze on thee, what language could they speak?

Ah !   May'st thou ever be what now thou art,

Nor unbeseem the promise of thy spring,

As fair in form, as warm yet pure in heart,

Love's image upon earth without his wing,

And guileless beyond Hopes imagining !

And surely she who now so fondly rears

Thy youth, in thee, thus hourly brightening,

Behold the rainbow of her future years.

Before whose heavenly hues all sorrow disappears.

Young Peri of the West !  ---  'tis well for me

My years already doubly number thine;

My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,

And safely view thy ripening beauties shine:

Happy, I ne'er shall see them in decline;

Happier, that while all younger hearts shall bleed,

Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign

To those whose admiration shall succeed,

But mix'd with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours decreed.

Oh !    let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle's,

Now brightly bold or beautifully shy,

Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells,

Glance o'er this page, nor to my verse deny

That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh,

Could I to thee be ever more than friend;

This much, dear maid, accord: nor question why

To one so young my strain I would commend.

But bid me with my wreath one matchless lilly blend.

Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;

And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast

On Harold's page, Ianthe's here enshrined

Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:

My days once number'd, should this homage past

Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre

Of him who hail'd thee, loveliest as thou wast,

Such is the most my memory may desire;

Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?


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