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Sonnets by Lord Byron

Lord Byron
Biography  -  Quotations

Sonnet to Lake Leman

Rousseau - Voltaire - our Gibbon - and De Staël -
Leman! these names are worthy of thy shore,
Thy shore of names like these! wert thou no more
Their memory thy remembrance would recall:
To them thy banks were lovely as to all,
But they have made them lovelier, for the lore
Of mighty minds doth hallow in the core
Of human hearts the ruin of a wall
Where dwelt the wise and wondrous; but by thee
How much more, Lake of Beauty! do we feel,
In sweetly gliding o'er thy crystal sea,
The wild glow of that not ungentle zeal,
Which of the heirs of immortality
Is proud, and makes the breath of glory real!

Sonnet on Chillon

Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty, thou art;--
For there thy habitation is the heart,--
The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned,
To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.

Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar, for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace,
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.

The Castle of Chillon in Switzerland was mostly built in the thirteenth century, enlarging the building that was already there. Byron's famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, expands upon the themes of this sonnet, dealing with the imprisonment in the castle of François Bonivard. Bonivard's crime was to show support for the Reformation, for which he was chained to a pillar from 1530 to 1536, being released when the Bernese occupied Vaud.

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