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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Byron (S534b: 1897)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor concerning an unidentified poem, printed on page 1 of the 22 April 1897 issue of the London newspaper The Echo. Also appearing in Wallace’s autobiography. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S534B.htm

To the Editor of The Echo.

     Sir,--As you have many admirers of Byron among your readers, I send you some lines by a (to me) unknown writer, which seem to me to be of very high merit, and very suitable to be engraved upon any tablet or other memorial to the poet. They appeared about the year 1838 in a Birmingham newspaper called The Constitutionalist, and they struck me when a boy so much, that I copied them and learnt them by heart, and have now written them from memory. The concluding triplet seems to me especially fine. I shall be glad to know if any of your readers have seen them before, or can ascertain the name of their author. --Yours, &c.,

Alfred R. Wallace, Parkstone, Dorset.

     Lines written on the refusal of the Dean and Chapter to allow a monument to Byron in Westminster Abbey. [Written about 1838.]

Away with epitaph and sculptured bust!
Leave these to decorate the mould'ring dust
Of him who needs such substitutes for fame—
The chisel's pomp to deck a worthless name.
Away with these! A Byron needs them not;
Nature herself selects a deathless spot,
A people's heart; the poet cannot die,
His epitaph is, immortality.
What are earth's mansions to a tomb like this?
When time hath swept into forgetfulness
Wealth-blazoned halls and gorgeous cemet'ries,
The mould'ring abbey with its sculptured lies,
His name, emblazoned in the wild, the free,
The deep, the beautiful of earth, will be
A household word to millions. Dark and wild
His song at times, his spirit was the child
Of burning passion. Yet when he awoke
From his dark hours of bondage; when he broke
His cage and seized his harp, did he not wake
A peal of matchless melody, and shake
The very earth with joy. Still thrills the heart
Of man at those sweet notes. Scared despots start
And curse them from their thrones. They pierce the cell
And cheer the captive in his chains; they tell
Lessons of life to struggling liberty.
Death mars the man, but spares his memory,
Nor tears one laurel from his wreath of fame.
How many glorious thoughts of his we claim
Our heritage for ever; beacon-lights
To guide the barque of freedom through the nights
Of tyranny and woe, when not a star
Of hope looks down to glad the mariner--
Thoughts which must ever haunt us, like some dream
Of childhood which we ne'er forget--a gleam
Of sunshine flashing o'er life’s troubled stream.

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