Byron on Swimming the Hellespont

Byron's poem, on Swimming The Hellespont 

If, in the month of dark December,
Leander, who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember?)
To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont!

If, when the wintry tempest roared,
He sped to Hero, nothing loath,
And thus of old thy current poured,
Fair Venus! how I pity both!

For me, degenerate modern wretch,
Though in the genial month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
And think I've done a feat today.

But since he crossed the rapid tide,
According to the doubtful story,
To woo -and -Lord knows what beside,
And swam for Love, as I for Glory;

'Twere hard to say who fared the best:
Sad mortals! thus the gods still plague you!
He lost his labour, I my jest;
For he was drowned, and I've the ague.


Swimming the Hellespont

Byron swam the Hellespont on May 3rd 1810, aged 22, during an extended tour of Europe - the ‘Grand Tour’ of young English nobles. His travels inspired his first widely read poetic work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

The image shows a detail of the famous portrait of Byron in Albanian dress by Thomas Phillips, now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Hellespont with Sestus (on the right) and Abydus (Left). 

Byron acquired the Albanian costume ("the most magnificent in the world" in his words) at this time, during his Grand Tour. 

Feeling inspired?

If you'd like to swim the Hellespont, there is an organised swim each year. You often need to join a group to get a space - see this package from Swimtrek

There are conflicting reports about how easy or difficult it is. Here's an article of Ten Do's and Don'ts - written by a swimmer who failed to get to the other side.  

Good luck, and let us know how you get on!

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