“Darkness” by Lord Byron

When I read this poem by Byron, it reminds me of the apocalyptic vision John shares with us is his Book of Revelation.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bring 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 volcanoes, 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; 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 shriek’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 Friend. 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.

©1816 Lord Byron

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