Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Wild Glow of that Not Ungentle Zeal

Sonnet to Lake Leman
by George Gordon Byron


Rousseau - Voltaire - our Gibbon - and De Staël -
Leman! these names are worthy of thy shore,
Thy shore of names like these! wert thou no more
Their memory thy remembrance would recall:
To them thy banks were lovely as to all,
But they have made them lovelier, for the lore
Of mighty minds doth hallow in the core
Of human hearts the ruin of a wall
Where dwelt the wise and wondrous; but by thee
How much more, Lake of Beauty! do we feel,
In sweetly gliding o'er thy crystal sea,
The wild glow of that not ungentle zeal,
Which of the heirs of immortality
Is proud, and makes the breath of glory real!

Lac Léman is another name for Lake Geneva on the border of Switzerland and France; Byron and the Shelleys spent a holiday there in 1816 with some other friends. The result was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Polidori's The Vampyre, and a number of poems by both Percy Shelley and Byron, including Shelley's Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and Byron's The Prisoner of Chillon. So apparently Lake Leman decided to continue its work as the Lake of Beauty.

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