Lord Byron

On Parting

Don’t cry, mother, don’t grieve that I grew up as an outlaw, an outlaw, mother, a rebel, and abandoned you to your sorrow, mourning your first-born son. But curse, mother, and rage at this foul Turkish oppression which has forced us away, so young, to this hard and alien land – to roam, to wander about, forsaken, downtrodden, depressed. I know, mother, you love me – and perhaps I’ll die in my youth, ah, tomorrow, when I go across the whitened and muffled Danube. But, tell me, what should I do, when you, mother, have given me a heart of man and hero, and that heart, mother, can’t stand to see the Turks rampaging over the hearth of my father: the place I knew as child, where I sucked at my first milk, where the beautiful girl of my heart looked up with her eyes so black and smiled gently upon me and in sorrow gazed into my heart; the place where father and brothers sadly are saddened for me… O mother, heroine mother, forgive me, and this time farewell. Now I have taken the rifle and race to answer the call against the infidel foe. And there, for all I hold dearest, for you, my father, my brothers, with him I’ll grapple in combat, and then – my sword shall decide and a her’s honour, my mother. And when, dear mother, you hear bullets sing over the village and the boys go hurrying by, go out, mother, and ask them – what has become of your son? and if they tell you that I have fallen, riddled with bullets, then mother, don’t weep, don’t pay attention to those who’ll only say about me: ‘He turned out a good for nothing,’ but go home, mother and tell my young brothers, straight from the heart, exactly how it all happened, and let them know and remember that they, too, had a brother, a brother, fallen and gone because the wretch couldn’t bear to bow his head to the Turks, to look on the pain of the poor. Tell them, mother – remember, remember and search for me: my white flesh spread on the crags, on crags and the eyries of eagles, my black blood spread on the earth, on the blackened earth, my mother. Let’s hope they discover my rifle, my rifle, my mother, my sword, then wherever they meet with the foe they can welcome him with a bullet, give him a sword’s caresses… But, mother, if it’s beyond you to do this, because you are gentle, then when all the girls come together to dance in front of your house and my comrades gather about and my sad beloved brings friends, the come out, mother, and listen, along with my little brothers, to the heroic song about me – why and how I have fallen and what were the words I had spoken to the others before I died… You’ll find it sad, my mother, to watch the reveling dance, and when you suddenly meet the eyes of my sweet beloved two dear hearts will utter a deep-felt sigh for me – her heart, mother, and yours. And then two tears shall fall – on an old breast and a young. This my brothers will see, and, mother, when they grow up they will be as their brother – strong in love and in hatred. But if I return, dear mother, safe and sound to the village, safe and sound with the standard, and the standard flies over heroes, smart in their soldiery kit, with golden lions on their forehead, with bristling guns on their shoulders and swords, like snakes, at their sides – O, then, my heroic mother – O, then my sweet beloved – gather flowers from the gardens, pick ivy and geraniums, weave them in garlands and posies to deck our heads and our guns. Then with garlands and posies come to me, my mother, mother, come and embrace me and kiss my forehead made splendid, by two sacred words made splendid: freedom or glorious death! And I shall embrace my beloved, my bloodstained hand on her shoulder, so she’ll hear the heart of a hero, and how it shudders and beats; with kisses I’ll stop her from weeping and I’ll drink her tears with my lips… And then… Mother, farewell. And don’t forget me, beloved. My company starts already, on its frightening, glorious path: perhaps I’ll die while I’m young. But I want no other reward if one day people shall say: this poor man died to bring justice, he died for justice and freedom…

1868

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