(Above) Lord Byron in traditional dress in Athens
During the years Byron spent in Hellas, he completely adopted Hellenic culture and even chose to wear traditional clothes to show his solidarity with Hellenes and the Hellenic fight for Liberation. As a Classicist and Poet, Byron developed such a deep admiration for the ancient culture that the sight of the oppression of the once proud Hellenes at the hand of the Ottoman Empire inspired him to brave the disapproval of his British peers and act in defence of a Great People and their Country. Byron spent his own money to outfit the Hellenic fleet and then died of sepsis contracted during an illness just before he would have sailed with Alexandros Mavrokordatos to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto.
On April 19, it will be 186 years since Lord Byron passed away...
One of the best poems of Byron that describes quite beautifully his love for Hellas is 'The Maid of Athens, ere we part'. It was written in 1810 and years before he would return to fight for a Liberation he would never live to see. Personally I think that his life ended in the place that he truly loved like no other and that he was afforded the ultimate gift of the Gods...to die beneath the Hellenic sky....oh, and what a sky that is :)
Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Lord Byron Athens, 1810Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh give me back my heart !
Or, since that has left my breast,
Keep it now, and take the rest !
Hear my vow before I go,
By those tresses unconfined,
Woo'd by each Ægean wind;
By those lids whose jetty fringe
Kiss thy soft cheeks' blooming tinge;
By those wild eyes like the roe,
By that lip I long to taste;
By that zone-encircled waist;
By all the token-flowers that tell
What words can never speak so well;
By love's alternate joy and woe,
Maid of Athens ! I am gone:
Think of me, sweet ! when alone.
Though I fly to Istambol,
Athens holds my heart and soul:
Can I cease to love thee? No !