In his own dark period, Lord Byron, the adventurous English romantic poet, wrote Darkness about the violence of men, war and the end of the world.
Byron left England, travelled to Switzerland where he wrote the poem in 1818 with its despairing undertones about the state of humanity. He spent a nomadic and flamboyant life in continental Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries. He expressed his social/political concerns. He had a range of lovers both on the continent and in Britain.
To one, who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad, the love denied at home.
Byron wrote Darkness as a painful vision of the future. It is a poem for our time.
As we enter 2017, there is a certain foreboding among Western nations, if not beyond to the rest of the world. Powerful billionaires and their corporations in the USA have taken over control of US democracy for four years or more. The billionaires now occupy and fill the swamp of Washington DC. with the fixed views of these billionaires about the rest of the world.
Established to end centuries of European wars and promote free movement of people and trade, the European Union experiment faces cracks, serious cracks. If other countries follow the June 2016 British retreat (Brexit) from its commitments to Europe, then the EU could fall apart. The French electorate may hold the future of Europe with their elections in late April 2017. If there if Frexit, then the cracks become earthquakes in the EU.
A darkness has befallen Muslim countries. US and NATO led invasions by land, air or sea of numerous countries from northern Pakistan to northern parts of Africa have echoes of Western invasions in centuries gone past. The Muslim people have had to be bear the desires of the Western elite to possess, dominate and control Arab nations and their resources. These wars have then become regional wars, civil wars and religious wars.
Certain Arab cities and regions have become a living hell for men, women and children. Aleppo currently stands out bearing a parallels to certain towns and cities from World War 2 – Stalingrad, Berlin, Dresden, Hirsoshima and Nagasaki.
Darkness conveys the drama of human life. The six sentences in the entire poem give a reader no time to pause for breath.
Lord Byron points to our unresolved violence that inflicts itself upon each other and all creatures.
There is no happy ending to this poem.
It is yet another wake-up call to humanity.
How many more do we need?
A Preface of a few themes in Darkness
by Lord Byron
(born in London, England in 1788 and died in Greece in 1824, aged 36).
Byron starts saying his poem is a dream but then refutes it.
To stop the darkness men burn what they can to create light.
A fearful hope was all the world contained
All animals and birds suffer in the darkness
Happy are those who see the light
No love was left when survival was the only goal.
The population died by degrees from famine.
War goes on out of a desire to survive.
Only two men survive the wars and the wars to survive and both hate each other.
Both also die not knowing each other except as enemies
All prayers are to end the darkness and experience daylight
In the end, the moon ceases to move the waves. The earth becomes motionless.
Darkness rules and Darkness is the Universe, a despairing Byron concludes.
Darkness by Lord Byron
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned king the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire but hour by hour
They fell and faded and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress?he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects saw, and shriek’d, and died?
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless?
A lump of death a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge?
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them. She was the Universe.
May all beings keep alive their humanity
May all beings engage in acts of love
May all beings develop a commitment to waking up and staying awake