George Gordon Byron

Here you will find the Long Poem Siege of Corinth, The of poet George Gordon Byron

Siege of Corinth, The





January 22, 1816. 


"The grand army of the Turks, (in 1715), under the Prime Vizier, to open to themselves a way into the heart of the Morea, and to form the siege of Napoli di Romania, the most considerable place in all that country, [1] thought it best in the first place to attack Corinth, upon which they made several storms. The garrison being weakened, and the governor seeing it was impossible to hold out against so mighty a force, thought it fit to beat a parley; but while they were treating about the articles, one of the magazines in the Turkish army, wherein they had six hundred barrels of powder, blew up by accident, whereby six or seven hundred men were killed; which so enraged the infidels, that they would not grant any capitulation, but stormed the place with so much fury, that they took it, and put most of the garrison, with Signior Minotti, the governor, to the sword. The rest, with Antonio Bembo, proveditor extraordinary, were made prisoners of war." ? History of the Turks, vol. iii. p. 151. 



Many a vanish'd year and age, 
And tempest's breath, and battle's rage, 
Have swept o'er Corinth; yet she stands 
A fortress form'd to Freedom's hands. 
The whirlwind's wrath, the earthquake's shock 
Have left untouch'd her hoary rock, 
The keystone of a land, which still, 
Though fall'n, looks proudly on that hill, 
The landmark to the double tide 
That purpling rolls on either side, 
As if their waters chafed to meet, 
Yet pause and crouch beneath her feet. 
But could the blood before her shed 
Since first Timoleon's brother bled, 
Or baffled Persia's despot fled, 
Arise from out the earth which drank 
The stream of slaughter as it sank, 
That sanguine ocean would o'erflow 
Her isthmus idly spread below: 
Or could the bones of all the slain, 
Who perish'd there, be piled again, 
That rival pyramid would rise 
More mountain-like, through those clear skies 
Than yon tower-capp'd Acropolis, 
Which seems the very clouds to kiss. 


On dun Cithæron's ridge appears 
The gleam of twice ten thousand spears, 
And downward to the Isthmian plain, 
From shore to shore of either main, 
The tent is pitch'd, the crescent shines 
Along the Moslem's leaguering lines; 
And the dusk Spahi's bands advance 
Beneath each bearded pacha's glance; 
And far and wide as eye can reach 
The turban'd cohorts throng the beach; 
And there the Arab's camel kneels, 
And there his steed the Tartar wheels; 
The Turcoman hath left his herd, [2] 
The sabre round his loins to gird; 
And there the volleying thunders pour, 
Till waves grow smoother to the roar. 
The trench is dug, the cannon's breath 
Wings the far hissing globe of death; 
Fast whirl the fragments from the wall, 
Which crumbles with the ponderous ball; 
And from that wall the foe replies, 
O'er dusty plain and smoky skies, 
With fires that answer fast and well 
The summons of the Infidel. 


But near and nearest to the wall 
Of those who wish and work its fall, 
With deeper skill in war's black art 
Than Othman's sons, and high of heart 
As any chief that ever stood 
Triumphant in the fields of blood; 
From post to post, and deed to deed, 
Fast spurring on his reeking steed, 
Where sallying ranks the trench assail, 
And make the foremost Moslem quail; 
Or where the battery, guarded well, 
Remains as yet impregnable, 
Alighting cheerly to inspire 
The soldier slackening in his fire; 
The first and freshest of the host 
Which Stamboul's Sultan there can boast 
To guide the follower o'er the field, 
To point the tube, the lance to wield, 
Or whirl around the bickering blade; ? 
Was Alp, the Adrian renegade! 


From Venice ? once a race of worth 
His gentle sires ? he drew his birth; 
But late an exile from her shore, 
Against his countrymen he bore 
The arms they taught to bear; and now 
The turban girt his shaven brow. 
Through many a change had Corinth pass'd 
With Greece to Venice' rule at last; 
And here, before her walls, with those 
To Greece and Venice equal foes, 
He stood a foe, with all the zeal 
Which young and fiery converts feel, 
Within whose heated bosom throngs 
The memory of a thousand wrongs. 
To him had Venice ceased to be 
Her ancient civic boast ? "the Free;" 
And in the palace of St Mark 
Unnamed accusers in the dark 
Within the "Lion's mouth" had placed 
A charge against him uneffaced: 
He fled in time, and saved his life, 
To waste his future years in strife, 
That taught his land how great her loss 
In him who triumph'd o'er the Cros