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Darkness

Lord ByronDarknessI 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 kings--the huts, The habitations of all things which dwell, Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed, And men were gathered 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 smiled; And others hurried to and fro, and fed Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked 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 twined 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 devoured, 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 Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, But with a piteous and perpetual moan, And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand Which answered 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 raked up, And shivering scraped 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 stirred 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 withered in the stagnant air, And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need Of aid from them--She was the Universe.