January 15 1815: Lord Byron Writes

On January 15 1815, and for the last couple days and on his honeymoon, Lord Byron has been working on poems that will ultimately be published as the Hebrew Melodies. He probably finished ‘Herod’s Lament for Mariamne’ on January 15. Byron was also finishing ‘We Sate Down and Wept By the Waters of Babel’.The poem is usually dated on that date. Peter Cochrane writes that a fair copy was annotated on January 15 1815 by Lady Byron.

The two poems are reproduced below.

Herod’s Lament for Mariamne

Oh Mariamne! now for thee
The heart of which thou bled’st is bleeding;
Revenge is lost in Agony,
And wild Remorse to rage succeeding.
Oh Mariamne! where art thou? 5
Thou canst not hear my bitter pleading:
Ah! could’st thou – thou would’st pardon now,
Though Heaven were to my prayer unheeding.

And is she dead? – and did they dare
Obey my Phrenzy’s jealous raving?
My Wrath but doomed my own despair:
The Sword that smote hers o’er me waving!
But thou art cold, my murdered Love!
And this black heart is vainly craving
For her who soars alone above,
And leaves my Soul unworthy saving.

She’s gone, who shared my diadem;
She sunk, with her my joys entombing;
I swept that flower from Judah’s stem
Whose leaves for me alone were blooming,
And mine’s the guilt, and mine the hell,
This bosom’s desolation dooming;
And I have earned those tortures well,
Which unconsumed are still consuming! –

We Sate Down and Wept By the Waters of Babel

“By the Rivers of Babylon we sate down and wept.”

We sate down and wept by the waters
Of Babel, and thought of the day
When our foe, in the hue of his slaughters,
Made Salem’s high places his prey;
And Ye! oh her desolate daughters!
Were scattered all weeping away. –

While sadly we gazed on the river
Which rolled on in freedom below,
They demanded the Song – but – Oh – never
That triumph the Stranger shall know! –
May this right hand be withered forever,
Ere it string our high harp for the Foe! –

On the willow that harp is suspended –
Oh Salem! its sound should be free –
And the hour when thy glories were ended
But left me that token of thee –
And ne’er shall its soft tones be blended
With the voice of the Spoiler by me! –

The image above is of the painting ‘Mariamne Leaving Judgement Seat of Herod’ (1887) by John William Waterhouse.

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