I cannot talk of Love to thee,
Though thou art young and free and fair!
There is a spell thou dost not see,
That bids a genuine love despair.
And yet that spell invites each youth,
For thee to sigh, or seem to sigh;
Makes falsehood wear the garb of truth,
And Truth itself appear a lie.
If ever Doubt a place possest
In woman's heart, 'twere wise in thine:
Admit not Love into thy breast,
Doubt others' love, nor trust in mine.
Perchance 'tis feigned, perchance sincere,
But false or true thou canst not tell;
So much hast thou from all to fear,
In that unconquerable spell.
Of all the herd that throng around,
Thy simpering or thy sighing train,
Come tell me who to thee is bound
By Love's or Plutus' heavier chain.
In some 'tis Nature, some 'tis Art
That bids them worship at thy shrine;
But thou deserv'st a better heart,
Than they or I can give for thine.
For thee, and such as thee, behold,
Is Fortune painted truly—blind!
Who doomed thee to be bought or sold,
Has proved too bounteous to be kind.
Each day some tempter's crafty suit
Would woo thee to a loveless bed:
I see thee to the altar's foot
A decorated victim led.
Adieu, dear maid! I must not speak
my secret thoughts may be;
Though thou art all that man can seek
I dare not talk of Love to thee.
- [From an autograph MS. in the possession of Mr. Murray, now for the first time printed. The water-mark of the paper on which a much-tortured rough copy of these lines has been scrawled, is 1809, but, with this exception, there is no hint as to the date of composition. An entry in the Diary for November 30, 1813, in which Annabella (Miss Milbanke) is described "as an heiress, a girl of twenty, a peeress that is to be," etc., and a letter (Byron to Miss Milbanke) dated November 29, 1813 (see Letters, 1898, ii. 357, and 1899, iii, 407), in which there is more than one allusion to her would-be suitors, "your thousand and one pretendants," etc., suggest the idea that the lines were addressed to his future wife, when he first made her acquaintance in 1812 or 1813.]