To Mary, On Receiving Her Picture by Byron

“This faint resemblance of thy charms,
(Though strong as mortal art could give,)
My constant heart of fear disarms,
Revives my hopes, and bids me live.”

Byron narrates a poem celebrating the beauty of a woman called Mary whose picture he will cherish forever, as it inspires him to live and feel good, when times are difficult; and he states that it will comfort him when he dies gazing at it.

Duration: 00:3:41 (about 4 minutes)
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To Mary, On Receiving Her Picture

by Lord Byron (1788-1824)

This faint resemblance of thy charms,
(Though strong as mortal art could give,)
My constant heart of fear disarms,
Revives my hopes, and bids me live.
Here, I can trace the locks of gold
Which round thy snowy forehead wave;
The cheeks which sprung from Beauty’s mould,
The lips, which made me ‘Beauty’s’ slave.
Here I can trace–ah, no! that eye,
Whose azure floats in liquid fire,
Must all the painter’s art defy,
And bid him from the task retire.
Here, I behold its beauteous hue;
But where’s the beam so sweetly straying,
Which gave a lustre to its blue,
Like Luna o’er the ocean playing?
Sweet copy! far more dear to me,
Lifeless, unfeeling as thou art,
Than all the living forms could be,
Save her who plac’d thee next my heart.
She plac’d it, sad, with needless fear,
Lest time might shake my wavering soul,
Unconscious that her image there
Held every sense in fast controul.

Thro’ hours, thro’ years, thro’ time,’twill cheer–
My hope, in gloomy moments, raise;
In life’s last conflict ’twill appear,
And meet my fond, expiring gaze.

Examining the Stanzas:

Though this picture only slightly resembles her, he believes it’s probably the very best a human artist could produce.  It renews his hopes and encourages him to live.

He traces her golden locks of hair, which are wavy around her white forehead; traces her cheeks, which were made from the mold of Beauty itself; and traces her lips, which make him a slave for Beauty, or overcome him with desire.

He traces her eye, which is an azure blue and fiery with passion.  The painter was not skilled enough to capture the look of her eye and had to give up.

He can see the beautiful color of her eye, but the painter did not manage to show the light, which reflected from it like the light of the moon sparkling on the ocean.

He declares that her lifeless picture is more important to him than any other living creature, except she herself who gave him her picture, which he holds near his heart.

She put her picture near his heart feeling sad and afraid that he would stop feeling anything for her over time.  She did not realize how much power that picture of her had over him.

As time passes, the picture will make him happy.  It will perk him up, when he’s feeling depressed and will be the last thing he looks at, when he dies.