GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON (1788-1824) DARKNESS 


   I had a dream, which was not all a dream. 
   The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
   Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
   Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
   Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
   Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
   And men forgot their passions in the dread
   Of this their desolation; and all hearts
   Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
   And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
   The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
   The habitations of all things which dwell,
   Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
   And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
   To look once more into each other's face;
   Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
   Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
   A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
   Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
   They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
   Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
   The brows of men by the despairing light
   Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
   The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
   And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
   Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
   And others hurried to and fro, and fed
   Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
   With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
   The pall of a past world; and then again
   With curses cast them down upon the dust,
   And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds  
   shreik'd 
   And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
   And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
   Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
   And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
   Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
   And War, which for a moment was no more,
   Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
   With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
   Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
   All earth was but one thought--and that was death
   Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
   Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
   Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
   The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
   Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
   And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
   The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
   Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
   Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
   But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
   And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
   Which answer'd not with a caress--he died.
   The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
   Of an enormous city did survive,
   And they were enemies: they met beside
   The dying embers of an altar-place
   Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
   For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
   And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
   The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
   Blew for a little life, and made a flame
   Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
   Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
   Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
   Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
   Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
   Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
   The populous and the powerful was a lump,
   Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
   A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
   The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
   And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
   Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
   And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
   They slept on the abyss without a surge--
   The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
   The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
   The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
   And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
   Of aid from them--She was the Universe.