'Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte' by George Gordon, Lord Byron

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'Tis done---but yesterday a King!
And armed with Kings to strive---
And now thou art a nameless thing:
So abject---yet alive!
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strewed our earth with hostile bones,
And can he thus survive?
Since he, miscalled the Morning Star [Lucifer],
Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.

Ill-minded man! why scourge thy kind
Who bowed so low the knee?
By gazing on thyself grown blind,
Thou taught'st the rest to see.
With might unquestioned,---power to save,---
Thine only gift hath been the grave
To those that worshipped thee;
Nor till thy fall could mortals guess
Ambition's less than littleness!

Thanks for that lesson---it will teach
To after-warriors more
Than high Philosophy can preach,
And vainly preached before.
That spell upon the minds of men
Breaks never to unite again,
That led them to adore
Those Pagod things of sabre-sway,
With fronts of brass, and feet of clay.

The triumph, and the vanity,
The rapture of the strife---
The earthquake-voice of Victory,
To thee the breath of life;
The sword, the sceptre, and that sway
Which man seemed made but to obey,
Wherewith renown was rife---
All quelled!---Dark Spirit! what must be
The madness of thy memory!

The Desolator desolate!
The Victor overthrown!
The Arbiter of others' fate
A Suppliant for his own!
Is it some yet imperial hope
That with such change can calmly cope?
Or dread of death alone ?
To die a Prince---or live a slave---
Thy choice is most ignobly brave!

He who of old [Milo] would rend the oak,
Dreamed not of the rebound;
Chained by the trunk he vainly broke---
Alone---how looked he round?
Thou, in the sternness of thy strength,
An equal deed hast done at length,
And darker fate hast found:
He fell, the forest prowlers' prey;
But thou must eat thy heart away!

The Roman [Sylla], when his burning heart
Was slaked with blood of Rome,
Threw down the dagger---dared depart,
In savage grandeur, home.---
He dared depart in utter scorn
Of men that such a yoke had borne,
Yet left him such a doom!
His only glory was that hour
Of self-upheld abandoned power.

The Spaniard [Charles V], when the lust of sway
Had lost its quickening spell,
Cast crowns for rosaries away,
An empire for a cell;
A strict accountant of his beads,
A subtle disputant on creeds,
His dotage trifled well:
Yet better had he neither known
A bigot's shrine, nor despot's throne.

But thou---from thy reluctant hand
The thunderbolt is wrung---
Too late thou leav'st the high command
To which thy weakness clung;
All Evil Spirit as thou art,
It is enough to grieve the heart
To see thine own unstrung;
To think that God's fair world hath been
The footstool of a thing so mean;

And Earth hath spilt her blood for him,
Who thus can hoard his own!
And Monarchs bowed the trembling limb,
And thanked him for a throne!
Fair Freedom! we may hold thee dear,
When thus thy mightiest foes their fear
In humblest guise have shown.
Oh! ne'er may tyrant leave behind
A brighter name to lure mankind!

Thine evil deeds are writ in gore,
Nor written thus in vain---
Thy triumphs tell of fame no more,
Or deepen every stain:
If thou hadst died as Honor dies.
Some new Napoleon might arise,
To shame the world again---
But who would soar the solar height,
To set in such a starless night?

Weigh'd in the balance, hero dust
Is vile as vulgar clay;
Thy scales, Mortality! are just
To all that pass away:
But yet methought the living great
Some higher sparks should animate,
To dazzle and dismay:
Nor deem'd Contempt could thus make mirth
Of these, the Conquerors of the earth.

And she, proud Austria's mournful flower,
Thy still imperial bride;
How bears her breast the torturing hour?
Still clings she to thy side ?
Must she too bend, must she too share
Thy late repentance, long despair,
Thou throneless Homicide?
If still she loves thee, hoard that gem,---
'Tis worth thy vanished diadem!

Then haste thee to thy sullen Isle,
And gaze upon the sea;
That element may meet thy smile---
It ne'er was ruled by thee!
Or trace with thine all idle hand
In loitering mood upon the sand
That Earth is now as free!
That Corinth's pedagogue hath now
Transferred his by-word to thy brow.

Thou Timour! in his captive's cage
What thoughts will there be thine,
While brooding in thy prisoned rage?
But one---ÓThe world was mine!Ó
Unless, like he of Babylon,
All sense is with thy sceptre gone,
Life will not long confine
That spirit poured so widely forth---
So long obeyed---so little worth!

Or, like the thief of fire [Prometheus] from heaven,
Wilt thou withstand the shock?
And share with him, the unforgiven,
His vulture and his rock!
Foredoomed by God---by man accurst,
And that last act, though not thy worst,
The very Fiend's arch mock;
He in his fall preserved his pride,
And, if a mortal, had as proudly died!

There was a day---there was an hour,
While earth was Gaul's---Gaul thine---
When that immeasurable power
Unsated to resign
Had been an act of purer fame
Than gathers round Marengo's name
And gilded thy decline,
Through the long twilight of all time,
Despite some passing clouds of crime.

But thou forsooth must be a King
And don the purple vest,
As if that foolish robe could wring
Remembrance from thy breast
Where is that faded garment? where
The gewgaws thou wert fond to wear,
The star, the string, the crest?
Vain froward child of Empire! say,
Are all thy playthings snatched away?

Where may the wearied eye repose
When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,
Nor despicable state?
Yes---One---the first---the last---the best---
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom Envy dared not hate,
Bequeathed the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!

Yes! better to have stood the storm,
A Monarch to the last!
Although that heartless fireless form
Had crumbled in the blast:
Than stoop to drag out Life's last years,
The nights of terror, days of tears
For all the splendour past;
Then,---after ages would have read
Thy awful death with more than dread.

A lion in the conquering hour!
In wild defeat a hare!
Thy mind hath vanished with thy power,
For Danger brought despair.
The dreams of sceptres now depart,
And leave thy desolated heart
The Capitol of care!
Dark Corsican, 'tis strange to trace
Thy long deceit and last disgrace.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte: An Analysis of Lord Byron's Poem

Have you ever read a poem that leaves you speechless? That makes you think deeply about the world and the people in it? That is exactly what "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" by George Gordon, Lord Byron does.

In this classic poem, Lord Byron reflects on the life and legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French general who rose to power during the French Revolution and became Emperor of France. He explores the complex nature of power, the futility of war and the fleeting nature of human greatness. In this literary criticism, we will delve deeper into Lord Byron's poem and uncover its themes, symbols and characters.

Overview of the Poem

"Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" was written in 1814, shortly after Napoleon's defeat and exile to Elba. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with ten lines. The tone of the poem is melancholic, reflecting the sombre mood of the time. The poem is written in iambic pentameter and uses a rhyme scheme of ABABCCDEED.

The first stanza establishes the setting of the poem and introduces the main character, Napoleon. The second stanza explores Napoleon's rise to power and his military conquests. The third stanza reflects on Napoleon's downfall and his loss of power. The final stanza examines the legacy of Napoleon and the fleeting nature of human greatness.

Themes in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte"

One of the main themes in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" is the nature of power. Lord Byron explores the way power can corrupt even the most noble of individuals. He also highlights the way power can be fleeting and temporary, with individuals who once held great power falling from grace.

Another important theme in the poem is the futility of war. Lord Byron reflects on the destruction and suffering caused by war, and the way it can tear societies apart. He also explores the way that war can often be motivated by greed and personal ambition, rather than a desire for justice or righteousness.

The final theme in the poem is the fleeting nature of human greatness. Lord Byron reflects on the way that even the most powerful individuals are eventually forgotten, with their legacy and reputation fading over time. He also highlights the way that greatness is often just an illusion, with individuals achieving power and success through deceit and manipulation.

Symbols in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte"

There are several symbols in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" that help to convey the themes of the poem. One of the key symbols is the eagle, which is used to represent Napoleon's power and ambition. Lord Byron describes how the eagle "soared, and sunk, and soared again," reflecting the way that Napoleon's power fluctuated over time.

Another important symbol in the poem is the "crown of thorns," which represents the suffering and sacrifice that individuals often undergo in order to achieve power and greatness. Lord Byron describes how Napoleon "wore" the crown of thorns, implying that he suffered greatly in order to achieve his goals.

The final symbol in the poem is the "triumphal arch," which represents the way that individuals are often celebrated and praised for their achievements, even if those achievements are morally questionable. Lord Byron highlights the way that the triumphal arch "blazed" with Napoleon's name, reflecting the way that individuals are often remembered for their triumphs rather than their faults.

Characters in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte"

The main character in "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" is, of course, Napoleon Bonaparte. Lord Byron portrays Napoleon as a complex and flawed individual, highlighting both his ambition and his downfall. He describes how Napoleon "swept off" the "dewdrops from his laurels," reflecting the way that Napoleon was driven by a desire for power and glory.

Another important character in the poem is the people of France. Lord Byron describes how the people of France "awoke, and rent their chains," reflecting the way that the French Revolution was driven by a desire for freedom and equality. He also highlights the suffering and destruction caused by war, including the way that French cities were "desolate" and "ravaged."


In "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte," Lord Byron explores some of the most important themes in human history. He reflects on the nature of power, the futility of war and the fleeting nature of human greatness. He also uses symbols and characters to help convey these themes in a powerful and memorable way.

This poem is a masterpiece of English literature, and it continues to resonate with readers today. It reminds us of the importance of reflecting on the complex nature of power, and the way that our actions can have profound and lasting consequences. It also encourages us to look beyond the surface level of greatness, and to see the flaws and complexities of even the most powerful individuals. In short, "Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte" is a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and challenge readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte by George Gordon, Lord Byron is a classic poem that captures the essence of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The poem is a reflection of Byron's admiration for Napoleon's military prowess and his eventual downfall. The poem is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry, and it is a testament to Byron's skill as a poet.

The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with a distinct theme. The first stanza is an ode to Napoleon's military conquests. Byron describes Napoleon as a "man of blood and iron" who conquered Europe with his military might. The stanza is filled with vivid imagery of Napoleon's battles, and it is clear that Byron is in awe of Napoleon's military genius.

The second stanza is a reflection on Napoleon's downfall. Byron describes Napoleon's exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he was imprisoned until his death. The stanza is filled with a sense of melancholy, and it is clear that Byron is mourning the loss of a great leader.

The third stanza is a reflection on Napoleon's legacy. Byron describes Napoleon as a hero who fought for the freedom of his people. He compares Napoleon to the ancient Greek hero Achilles, who fought for his people and died a hero's death. The stanza is filled with a sense of admiration for Napoleon's legacy, and it is clear that Byron believes that Napoleon's memory will live on forever.

The final stanza is a reflection on the nature of power. Byron describes power as a fleeting thing that can be taken away at any moment. He compares Napoleon's downfall to the fall of other great leaders throughout history, such as Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. The stanza is a reminder that even the most powerful leaders are mortal and that their power is temporary.

Overall, Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte is a powerful poem that captures the essence of Napoleon's life and legacy. Byron's admiration for Napoleon's military prowess is evident throughout the poem, but he also recognizes the fleeting nature of power and the importance of legacy. The poem is a testament to Byron's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of a historical figure in verse.

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