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George Gordon Byron (Джордж Гордон Байрон)

To a Youthful Friend


Few years have pass'd since thou and I
   Were firmest friends, at least in name,
And Childhood's gay sincerity
   Preserved our feelings long the same.


But now, like me, too well thou know'st
⁠   What trifles oft the heart recall;
And those who once have loved the most
⁠   Too soon forget they lov'd at all.


And such the change the heart displays,
   ⁠So frail is early friendship's reign,
A month's brief lapse, perhaps a day's,
⁠   Will view thy mind estrang'd again.


If so, it never shall be mine
   ⁠To mourn the loss of such a heart;
The fault was Nature's fault, not thine,
⁠   Which made thee fickle as thou art.


As rolls the Ocean's changing tide,
⁠   So human feelings ebb and flow;
And who would in a breast confide
   ⁠Where stormy passions ever glow?


It boots not that, together bred,
   ⁠Our childish days were days of joy:
My spring of life has quickly fled;
⁠   Thou, too, hast ceas'd to be a boy.


And when we bid adieu to youth,
   ⁠Slaves to the specious World's controul,
We sigh a long farewell to truth;
   ⁠That World corrupts the noblest soul.


Ah, joyous season! when the mind
⁠   Dares all things boldly but to lie;
When Thought ere spoke is unconfin'd,
⁠   And sparkles in the placid eye.


Not so in Man's maturer years,
   ⁠When Man himself is but a tool;
When Interest sways our hopes and fears,
⁠   And all must love and hate by rule.


With fools in kindred vice the same,
   ⁠We learn at length our faults to blend;
And those, and those alone, may claim
   ⁠The prostituted name of friend.


Such is the common lot of man:
⁠   Can we then 'scape from folly free?
Can we reverse the general plan,
⁠   Nor be what all in turn must be?


No; for myself, so dark my fate
⁠   Through every turn of life hath been;
Man and the World so much I hate,
   ⁠I care not when I quit the scene.


But thou, with spirit frail and light,
⁠   Wilt shine awhile, and pass away;
As glow-worms sparkle through the night,
⁠   But dare not stand the test of day.


Alas! whenever Folly calls
   ⁠Where parasites and princes meet,
(For cherish'd first in royal halls
⁠   The welcome vices kindly greet,)


Ev'n now thou'rt nightly seen to add
   ⁠One insect to the fluttering crowd;
And still thy trifling heart is glad
⁠   To join the vain and court the proud.


There dost thou glide from fair to fair,
⁠   Still simpering on with eager haste,
As flies along the gay parterre,
⁠   That taint the flowers they scarcely taste.


But say, what nymph will prize the flame
⁠   Which seems, as marshy vapours move,
To flit along from dame to dame,
   ⁠An ignis-fatuus gleam of love?


What friend for thee, howe'er inclin'd
⁠   Will deign to own a kindred care?
Who will debase his manly mind,
⁠   For friendship every fool may share?


In time forbear; amidst the throng
⁠   No more so base a thing be seen;
No more so idly pass along;
⁠   Be something, any thing, but—mean.

August 20th, 1808

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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