Many of John Keats' early sonnets were written as tributes to men he admired, usually
either his friends or other poets (or both). This one was written in December of 1814,
and while it is possible that he met Byron later on in his career, he certainly hadn't
by then, and he was never a close friend, although they had enough mutual acquaintances,
including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Leigh Hunt, that it seems likely they did meet
at some point.
Unlike most of his earliest work, the images here and clear and precise, making
this one of the best sonnets of his teenage years. In my humble opinion,
this is Keats' strongest poem before "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer."
To Lord Byron
Byron, how sweetly sad thy melody
Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
As if soft pity with unusual stress
Had touch'd her plaintive lute; and thou, being by,
Hadst caught the tones, nor suffered them to die.
O'ershadowing sorrow doth not make thee less
Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
With a bright halo, shining beamily;
As when a cloud a golden moon doth veil,
Its sides are tinged with a resplendent glow,
Though the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
And like fair veins in sable marble flow.
Still warble, dying swan,--still tell the tale,
The enchanting tale--the tale of pleasing woe.