Stanzas on the Present State of Greece

Table of contents

1. Stanzas on the Present State of Greece

Greece! glorious Greece! what art thou but a name?
The echo of a cataract gone by?
The once victorious voice of all thy fame,
Which awed the world, now trembles in a sigh;
And I will sing thy glory’s lullaby—
For I have loved thee, Greece,—and o’er the lyre
Faintly and sadly shall my fingers fly—
The mournful cadence dies upon the wire,
And on the desolate winds, those melodies expire!
Yes! I have loved thee—and my youthful soul
Hath wildly dreamt of glory, and of thee—
Burst the proud links of man’s severe controul,
And sprung to sojourn with the great and free!
Oh! who would not thy vot’ry, 14.1 Graecia, 14.2 be?
And I have hung upon th’enchanted page
Entranced,—and wept thy fallen liberty—
Till my breast thrill’d with all the patriot’s rage,
And soar’d aloft, to greet the hero, poet, sage.
Where art thou, Athens, and what art thou now?
Thy spirit even, exalted land, is free!—
Though wither’d, yet the laurel 21 shades thy brow—
The desolate all that now remains of thee,
Mother of arts, and arms, and liberty!
A lovely corse, 24 encircled by a wreath
Of faded flowers, my heart alone can see—
And I will love thee, though despoil’d of breath,
For thou art beauteous, Graecia, e’en in death!

2. Note on the text

These Stanzas appeared under the signature “E.B.B.” a1 in the May 1821 issue of the New Monthly Magazine, two months after the Greek War of Independence began on March 25. Since The Battle of Marathon (1820) had been privately printed by the poet’s father, this is her first officially published work. It was rapidly followed in the July issue by a second, entitled “Thoughts Awakened by Contemplating a Piece of the Palm Which Grows on the Summit of the Acropolis at Athens.” Like The Battle of Marathon, both poems reflect the philhellenism popularized by Byron, Shelley, Felicia Hemans, and earlier English poets such as James Thomson (see “Introduction,” pp. **). As in Thomson’s Liberty: A Poem (1735-36) and Hemans’s Modern Greece: A Poem (1817), EBB focuses on the past glory of Greece, not its “present” struggle for liberty from the Turks: an emphasis she would later repudiate in the context of the Italian struggle for liberty in Casa Guidi Windows.

3. Explanatory Notes

vot'ry votary, one fervently devoted to an ideal or entity.

Graecia (Greek) Greece.

laurel or bay; victors and poets were traditionally crowned with wreaths made from leaves of this bush sacred to Apollo, classical god of poetry.

corse corpse.

Standing for her full name, Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. On the poet’s use of these signature initials both before and after her marriage, see the “Introduction,” p. **.

EBB Archive HomePoemsAbout the EBB Archive

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 2009-01-23
This page is copyrighted by the EBB Archive