Friday, April 4, 2008

YOUR favorite Gay Poems: Lord Byron's Love Poems to John Edleston

Continuing the Celebration of GLBTQ poetry here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" for this National Poetry Month, Today's post is our first GUEST contribution:

Hayden Thorne, author, blogger, and romantic spirit, shares with us all her two favorite poems from the "Canon of Queer," by Lord Byron...

I've got two, how's that? :D Both from Lord Byron, both dedicated to John Edleston, a choirboy from Byron's Cambridge university days with whom Byron was in love and whom some scholars believe is the real subject of Byron's Thyrza poems. For the first poem, Edleston gave Byron a Cornelian as a gift, and it's safely kept in a private collection.


The Cornelian

No specious splendour of this stone
Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre only once it shone,
And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,
Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize,
For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.

He offer’d it with downcast look,
As fearful that I might refuse it;
I told him, when the gift I took,
My only fear should be, to lose it.

This pledge attentively I view’d,
And sparkling as I held it near,
Methought one drop the stone bedew’d,
And, ever since, I’ve lov’d a tear.

Still, to adorn his humble youth,
Nor wealth nor birth their treasures yield;
But he, who seeks the flowers of truth,
Must quit the garden, for the field.

‘Tis not the plant uprear’d in sloth,
Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers, which yield the most of both,
In Nature’s wild luxuriance bloom.

Had Fortune aided Nature’s care,
For once forgetting to be blind,
His would have been an ample share,
If well proportioned to his mind.

But had the Goddess clearly seen,
His form had fix’d her fickle breast;
Her countless hoards would his have been,
And none remain’d to give the rest.


To Eddleston

Thou too art gone, thou loved and lovely one!
Whom Youth and Youth’s affections bound to me;
Who did for me what none beside have done,
Nor shrank from one albeit unworthy thee,
What is my Being! thou hast ceased to be!
Nor staid to welcome here thy wanderer home,
Who mourns o’er hours which we no more shall see--
Would they had never been, or were to come!
Would he had ne’er returned to find fresh cause to roam!

Oh! ever loving, lovely, and beloved!
How selfish Sorrow ponders on the past,
And clings to thoughts now better far removed!
But Time shall tear thy shadow from me last.
All thou couldst have of mine, stern Death! thou hast;
The Parent, Friend, and now the more than Friend:
Ne’er yet for one thine arrows flew so fast,
And grief with grief continuing still to blend,
Hath snatched the little joy that Life had yet to lend.

* Edleston died while Byron was away on his first tour of the continent *

Thanks Hayden, for sharing these - they're really amazing. I'd never read them before, and it's great to learn about Lord Byron's and Edleston's relationship. I especially like that it was Edleston who gave Byron the gift of the stone (and not the other way around...)

I'm also curious as to what private collection the stone is in now.... (hmmm, maybe there's a mystery book in that?)



ps: For more info on Lord Byron, check out this entry on him at


Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that while Edleston's name is spelled with one 'd,' Byron always spelled it with two. Don't ask.

Also, a great resource to have is Louis Crompton's Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in Nineteenth-Century England, which was where I found out about Edleston. In the book, Crompton argues that "homosexuality was a motive for Byron's first journey to Greece and for his later ostracism and exile from England."

Thanks for sharing the verses! There are more, but "The Cornelian" is my fave.

Rita said...

Lovely and amazing.

I'm trying to say more, but I will sound foolish. :) Thank you for sharing!!

Lover of Rosebud said...

I find it incredible that I am reading this 10 YEARS after the last comment... yet still, like Rita, do not wish to sound foolish. Lord Byron was revered by my favorite teacher in high I wish I had paid closer attention