July 30 1815: ‘NAPOLEON’S FAREWELL’ by Lord Byron

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On July 30 1815, a poem entitled ‘Napoleon’s Farewell’ is published anonymously in the Examiner. The editor is at pains to add that he does not necessarily agree with the sentiments of the poem, but since the editor is Leigh Hunt, he probably did. Hunt does cautiously write in relation to the poem: “We need scarcely remind our readers that there are points in these spirited lines, with which our opinions do not accord; and, indeed, the author himself has told us that he rather adapted them to what he considered the speaker’s feelings than his own.” The poem in fact was written by Lord Byron whose sympathies for Napoleon were well known and intense. Byron was aware that his was no longer a popular opinion and he tried to further hide his identity by adding the suggestion that the poem is a translation from a French poem. 

NAPOLEON’S FAREWELL.

[FROM THE FRENCH.]

1.

Farewell to the Land, where the gloom of my Glory
Arose and o’ershadowed the earth with her name—
She abandons me now—but the page of her story,
The brightest or blackest, is filled with my fame.
I have warred with a World which vanquished me only
When the meteor of conquest allured me too far;
I have coped with the nations which dread me thus lonely,
The last single Captive to millions in war.

2.

Farewell to thee, France! when thy diadem crowned me,
I made thee the gem and the wonder of earth,—
But thy weakness decrees I should leave as I found thee,
Decayed in thy glory, and sunk in thy worth.
Oh! for the veteran hearts that were wasted
In strife with the storm, when their battles were won—
Then the Eagle, whose gaze in that moment was blasted
Had still soared with eyes fixed on Victory’s sun!

3.

Farewell to thee, France!—but when Liberty rallies
Once more in thy regions, remember me then,—
The Violet still grows in the depth of thy valleys;
Though withered, thy tear will unfold it again—
Yet, yet, I may baffle the hosts that surround us,
And yet may thy heart leap awake to my voice—
There are links which must break in the chain that has bound us,
Then turn thee and call on the Chief of thy choice!

July 25, 1815. London.
[First published, Examiner, July 30, 1815.]

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