"Darkness"
by George Gordon Lord Byron (1788-1824)


1   I had a dream, which was not all a dream. 
2   The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars 
3   Did wander darkling in the eternal space, 
4   Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth 
5   Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; 
6   Morn came and went---and came, and brought no day, 
7   And men forgot their passions in the dread 
8   Of this their desolation; and all hearts 
9   Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light: 
10   And they did live by watchfires---and the thrones, 
11   The palaces of crownéd kings---the huts, 
12   The habitations of all things which dwell, 
13   Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed, 
14   And men were gathered round their blazing homes 
15   To look once more into each other's face; 
16   Happy were those who dwelt within the eye 
17   Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch: 
18   A fearful hope was all the World contained; 
19   Forests were set on fire---but hour by hour 
20   They fell and faded---and the crackling trunks 
21   Extinguished with a crash---and all was black. 
22   The brows of men by the despairing light 
23   Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits 
24   The flashes fell upon them; some lay down 
25   And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest 
26   Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled; 
27   And others hurried to and fro, and fed 
28   Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up 
29   With mad disquietude on the dull sky, 
30   The pall of a past World; and then again 
31   With curses cast them down upon the dust, 
32   And gnashed their teeth and howled: the wild birds shrieked, 
33   And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, 
34   And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes 
35   Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled 
36   And twined themselves among the multitude, 
37   Hissing, but stingless---they were slain for food: 
38   And War, which for a moment was no more, 
39   Did glut himself again:---a meal was bought 
40   With blood, and each sate sullenly apart 
41   Gorging himself in gloom: no Love was left; 
42   All earth was but one thought---and that was Death, 
43   Immediate and inglorious; and the pang 
44   Of famine fed upon all entrails---men 
45   Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; 
46   The meagre by the meagre were devoured, 
47   Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one, 
48   And he was faithful to a corse, and kept 
49   The birds and beasts and famished men at bay, 
50   Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead 
51   Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, 
52   But with a piteous and perpetual moan, 
53   And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand 
54   Which answered not with a caress---he died. 
55   The crowd was famished by degrees; but two 
56   Of an enormous city did survive, 
57   And they were enemies: they met beside 
58   The dying embers of an altar-place 
59   Where had been heaped a mass of holy things 
60   For an unholy usage; they raked up, 
61   And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands 
62   The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath 
63   Blew for a little life, and made a flame 
64   Which was a mockery; then they lifted up 
65   Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld 
66   Each other's aspects---saw, and shrieked, and died--- 
67   Even of their mutual hideousness they died, 
68   Unknowing who he was upon whose brow 
69   Famine had written Fiend. The World was void, 
70   The populous and the powerful was a lump, 
71   Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--- 
72   A lump of death---a chaos of hard clay. 
73   The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, 
74   And nothing stirred within their silent depths; 
75   Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea, 
76   And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped 
77   They slept on the abyss without a surge--- 
78   The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, 
79   The Moon, their mistress, had expired before; 
80   The winds were withered in the stagnant air, 
81   And the clouds perished; Darkness had no need 
82   Of aid from them---She was the Universe. 
						Diodati, July , 1816.