Thursday, October 20, 2005

To Lord Byron, On the Nature of Immortality

This is a piece I wrote a few years ago. It originally appeared in Anne Mott's Byronmania E-journal, Volume II, Number III, December 1999.

To Lord Byron, On the Nature of Immortality
by John W. Leys
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You wanted to be a hero,
An uncommon want
In a world whose clay footed heroes
Are gleefully toppled by the mob.
A risky ambition
For someone with just one good foot
To stand on in the first place.

But you saw it as a challenge,
In that oddly quixotic way of yours,
Mixed and hidden within the melancholy noble
And shielded by that satirical tongue.
You swam the Hellespont,
Swimming for Glory, as Leander for Love.
You traveled the continent
In search of adventure.
And something more.
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Like Juan, you found many legs
Willing to be opened
But nary a heart as willing
To be opened as yours.
More sinned against that sinning
They pigeonholed you
And mistook you for your own caricature.

With two good feet on the ground
You could have been a fearless warrior
Or an adventurous sailor,
Like so many of your infamous kin.
Lord knows they knew nothing but success.

But who would be a poet
Who had anything better to do?
That’s not how heroes are made.
Wars are the hero makers
And that was the one game you just couldn’t play.
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That is until Greece called you away
From that last attachment in Italy
To war, leeches, and Death
In the swamps of Missolonghi.
They still call you a hero there today
Naming streets and babies after you
And erecting monuments in the mud
Near to the spot where you expired
Barely aware that you had a life
Before you stepped on their soil


The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.