Saturday, March 14, 2009

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place OR Finding Byron in Cologny Part II

She walks in Beauty

by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

"She Walks in Beauty" is my favorite Byron poem. Okay, it's my favorite poem. Almost unconsciously I memorized the first verse. And I dare anyone to find as exact, beautiful and luminous a phrase such as this:

"And all that's best of light and dark
Meet in her aspect and her eyes..."

Ah, for that I can even forgive the fact that the love of his life (as much as he could love I suppose) was his own half-sister August Leigh, with whom he had a daughter, Allegra.

On a bright day late last week I answered Byron's call and found myself driving to Chemin de Ruth in Cologny. Here is the approach to number 9, the Villa Diodati.

Even Byron was not immune to Geneva's beauty, or perhaps he drew upon it for inspiration. Here are some snowcaps seen from the little meadow by the villa, where I am sure he walked and conjured up some of his most beautiful verses.

I love this informative board that tells us about Byron and the villa. Byron was indeed a "28 years old poet."

Did Byron's fingers graze the name of the villa carved by the gate? Perhaps...but my self-portrait skills leave much to be desired since I cut off the name. Oh well!

Here is a shot of the villa complex. How much time did Byron spend looking out from the windows facing the lake, writing and entertaining people like Shelley (another crush of mine), Mary Shelley and feminisit Mary Wollencraft? After all, it was on a dark and rainy summer evening that Byron challenged his guests to come up with a scary a story as possible. And Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was conceived, to be completed a mere one year later.

The owners of the villa have kindly allowed for this marker to be placed on the side of the house.

But alas they were not kind enough to open up the villa for Byron lovers and gawkers to pass through. The gates I am sad to report are tightly closed against the hoi- polloi such as me and you.

But Byron is no one's property and he cannot be closed off and captured. He belongs to the world of literature and imagination. He belongs to those of us who worship words, those of us who long to peel back the layers of emotions, of relationships, of the world entire to unveil the violently beating alive heart that is at the core of it all.

And like millions of others I do "...vainly love thee still."

Thus much and more; and yet thou lov’st me not,
And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will.
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.


Sher said...

There's something very sweet about you stalking a dead poet.

Jawahara said...

Lol. Sher, you crack me up. You know I never thought of it as stalking but it kind of is, isn't it? Thanks for showing me how truly disturbed I am. :-)

Anonymous said...

As if I needed more proof that Geneva is the most beautiful city in the world.

Anonymous said...

Ah you are truly painfully romantic. Keep up the stalking!!