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THE ISLES OF GREECE
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung, Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! 5 Eternal summer gilds them yet;
But all, except their sun, is set.
The mountains look on Marathon
And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free; For, standing on the Persian's grave, I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sat on the rocky brow
Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; 15 And ships by thousands lay below,
And men in nations—all were his!
And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore The heroic lay is tuneless now
The heroic bosom beats no more. And must thy lyre, so long divine, Degenerate into hands like mine?
25 The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom's best and bravest friend; That tyrant was Miltiades!
O that the present hour would lend Another despot of the kind! 30 Such chains as his were sure to bind.
Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
They have a king who buys and sells;
The only hope of courage dwells;
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where nothing save the waves and I
There, swan-like, let me sing and die;
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), was born in London. He was educated at Harrow, a famous English school, and at Cambridge University. He began to write at an early age, and before he was twenty had published a small volume of poems. Byron's poetry was greatly admired in his lifetime, and he remains in the first rank of English poets. His best known long poems, Childe Harold, Don Juan, Manfred, and The Bride of Abydos, were translated into most of the European languages and had a great influence on the literature of the continent. These romantic tales brought to his countrymen the life of “the gorgeous East.” He also wrote some passionate short poems on liberty. In 1820, when the Greeks revolted against Turkey, Byron became aroused and finally went to their aid, but died at Missolonghi, in Greece, before he had an opportunity to engage in battle.
Historical Note. Ancient Greece, consisting of the peninsula and the numerous islands around it, was the leader of the civilized world in the time before Christ. Not only were Grecian art and literature developed to a degree that has not been surpassed, but the Greeks of the ancient world were famous for their love of liberty and their patriotism. About 500 B.C. the Persians invaded Greece and made repeated attempts to conquer the country. Three famous battles were fought. At Marathon, under the great general, Miltiades, the Greeks defeated a vast Persian army; at Thermopylae, under Leonidas, a little band of three hundred Spartans gave their lives in defense of a mountain pass; and at Salamis the Greek navy defeated a much larger fleet of the invaders while Xerxes, the Persian King, as described in the third stanza, watched in dismay from a "rocky brow" that overlooked the battle. Thus the Greeks in ancient times won glory.
But in the last century B.C., and in succeeding centuries, ambitious countries made attacks on Greece, and her patriotism and courage were not sufficient to throw off the foreign yokes. Her last conqueror was Turkey, under whose dominion she still was when Byron wrote Don Juan, from which “The Isles of Greece” is taken. In these stanzas the poet contrasts the glorious history of ancient Greece with the pitiable condition the country was in at the beginning of the nineteenth century-when the Greeks were still a race conquered and “fettered” by the Turks. The deep strain of sorrow throughout "The Isles of Greece” is due, however, not so much to the fact that Greece was enslaved as to the feeling in the heart of the poet that the people of Greece had no longer the old-time spirit of their ancestors and their determination to resist the oppressor.
Discussion. 1. What object do you think Byron hoped to gain by bringing the glories the past so vividly before the modern Gre <? 2. This is an English poet's idea of how a Greek poet might have sung; what line in the first stanza expresses a thought that a Greek poet would hardly admit? 3. What do the names Marathon, Salamis, Thermopylae suggest ? 4. What “ignoble call” does the poet imply the modern Greek would answer? 5. Wherein does the poet say the hope of modern Greece lies? 6. What event in Byron's life makes you know he felt the position of Greece keenly? (It is interesting to note that in December, 1823, Daniel Webster introduced a resolution in Congress which is believed to be the first official expression favorable to the independence of Greece uttered by any government of Christendom.) 7. What did you read in the Introduction on page 254 about "ambitious men” who try to keep freedom down? Who were oppressing Greece at the time this poem was written? 8. What do you know about Greece's part in the World War that tells you how that country regards freedom at the present time? 9. How does a poem such as this aid in the growth of the spirit of freedom? 10. The music of the poem makes it a pleasure to read it aloud; notice how naturally the emphasis of the rhythm accents the important words. 11. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: voiceless; lay; degenerate; fettered. 12. Pronounce: dearth; bacchanal.
Phrases for Study burning Sappho, 261, 2
men in nations, 261, 16 but all, except their sun, 261, 6 Latin fraud, 263, 5 Persian's grave, 261, 11
swan-like, let me sing, 263, 10 Class Reading. Bring to class and read “Marco Bozzaris," Halleck. (Marco Bozzaris, the leader of the Greek revolution, was killed August 20,
1823, in an attack upon the Turks near Missolonghi. His last words were: "To die for liberty is a pleasure, not a pain.”)
Suggestions for Theme Topics. (Two-Minute Talks.) 1. The Battle of Salamis. 2. Miltiades and the Battle of Marathon. 3. The Pass of Thermopylae. (Use encyclopedias and other library sources; see “Leonidas, the Spartan” in The Elson Readers, Book Seven.)
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
He said to his friend: “If the British march
Of the North Church tower, as a signal light10 One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
The Somerset, British man-of-war-
Across the moon, like a prison bar,