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George Gordon Byron (Джордж Гордон Байрон)

Granta. A Medley

Ἀργυρέαις λόγχαισι μάχου καὶ πάντα κρατήσεις.

    [Reply of the Pythian Oracle to Philip of Macedon.]


Oh! could Le Sage's demon's gift
⁠   Be realis'd at my desire,
This night my trembling form he'd lift
   ⁠To place it on St. Mary's spire.


Then would, unroof'd, old Granta's halls,
⁠   Pedantic inmates full display;
Fellows who dream on lawn or stalls,
   ⁠The price of venal votes to pay.


Then would I view each rival wight,
   ⁠Petty and Palmerston survey;
Who canvass there, with all their might,
⁠   Against the next elective day.


Lo! candidates and voters lie
⁠   All lull'd in sleep, a goodly number!
A race renown'd for piety,
   ⁠Whose conscience won't disturb their slumber.


Lord H——, indeed, may not demur;
⁠   Fellows are sage, reflecting men:
They know preferment can occur,
⁠   But very seldom,—now and then.


They know the Chancellor has got
⁠   Some pretty livings in disposal:
Each hopes that one may be his lot,
⁠   And, therefore, smiles on his proposal.


Now from the soporific scene
⁠   I'll turn mine eye, as night grows later,
To view, unheeded and unseen,
⁠   The studious sons of Alma Mater.


There, in apartments small and damp,
⁠   The candidate for college prizes,
Sits poring by the midnight lamp;
   ⁠Goes late to bed, yet early rises.


He surely well deserves to gain them,
⁠   With all the honours of his college,
Who, striving hardly to obtain them,
   ⁠Thus seeks unprofitable knowledge:


Who sacrifices hours of rest,
⁠   To scan precisely metres Attic;
Or agitates his anxious breast,
⁠   In solving problems mathematic:


Who reads false quantities in Seale,
   ⁠Or puzzles o'er the deep triangle;
Depriv'd of many a wholesome meal;
⁠   In barbarous Latin doom'd to wrangle:


Renouncing every pleasing page,
   ⁠From authors of historic use;
Preferring to the letter'd sage,
   ⁠The square of the hypothenuse.


Still, harmless are these occupations,
   ⁠That hurt none but the hapless student,
Compar'd with other recreations,
⁠   Which bring together the imprudent;


Whose daring revels shock the sight,
⁠   When vice and infamy combine,
When Drunkenness and dice invite,
   ⁠As every sense is steep'd in wine.


Not so the methodistic crew,
⁠   Who plans of reformation lay:
In humble attitude they sue,
   ⁠And for the sins of others pray:


Forgetting that their pride of spirit,
⁠   Their exultation in their trial,
Detracts most largely from the merit
⁠   Of all their boasted self-denial.


'Tis morn:—from these I turn my sight:
⁠   What scene is this which meets the eye?
A numerous crowd array'd in white,
⁠   Across the green in numbers fly.


Loud rings in air the chapel bell;
   ⁠'Tis hush'd:—what sounds are these I hear?
The organ's soft celestial swell
   ⁠Rolls deeply on the listening ear.


To this is join'd the sacred song,
⁠   The royal minstrel's hallow'd strain;
Though he who hears the music long,
⁠   Will never wish to hear again.


Our choir would scarcely be excus'd,
   ⁠E'en as a band of raw beginners;
All mercy, now, must be refus'd
   ⁠To such a set of croaking sinners.


If David, when his toils were ended,
⁠   Had heard these blockheads sing before him,
To us his psalms had ne'er descended,—
⁠   In furious mood he would have tore 'em.


The luckless Israelites, when taken
   ⁠By some inhuman tyrant's order,
Were ask'd to sing, by joy forsaken,
   ⁠On Babylonian river's border.


Oh! had they sung in notes like these
⁠   by stratagem or fear,
They might have set their hearts at ease,
   ⁠The devil a soul had stay'd to hear.


But if I scribble longer now,
⁠   The deuce a soul will stay to read;
My pen is blunt, my ink is low;
⁠   'Tis almost time to stop, indeed.


Therefore, farewell, old Granta's spires!
   ⁠No more, like Cleofas, I fly;
No more thy theme my Muse inspires:
⁠   The reader's tir'd, and so am I.

October 28, 1806

George Gordon Byron's other poems:
  1. Churchill’s Grave
  2. On a Change of Masters at a Great Public School
  3. Lines Addressed to a Young Lady
  4. To the Earl of Clare
  5. To a Lady (This Band, which bound thy yellow hair)

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