Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eternal Spirit of the Chainless Mind

Sonnet on Chillon
by George Gordon Byron

Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty, thou art;--
For there thy habitation is the heart,--
The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned,
To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.

Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar, for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace,
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.

Bonivard, or Bonnivard, was a Genevan patriot who was imprisoned at the Castle of Chillon (which indeed looks like a place that would inspire poems) by the Duke of Savoy. Byron has a longer poem, more famous, on the same subject, although that poem is told from Bonivard's perspective.

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