Friday, 2 March 2012

What is the best split infinitive in literature?

Frederic Gable
According to Margaret Drabble in a Guardian article, the last stanza of Lord Byron's "Love and Death" contains 'the greatest split infinitive in literature'.

Byron wrote the poem in 1824, shortly before he died. The poem was intended for his young Greek page, Lucas, who sadly did not return Byron's romantic feeling.

Read the poem below and see if you agree with Drabble. Do you know other interesting uses of split infinitive in literature? Tell me.

Interestingly, Drabble also observes that "The best love poems are written by the most faithless lovers". She uses Robert Burns and Byron as examples.


by Lord Byron

I watched thee when the foe was at our side,
Ready to strike at him - or thee and me
Were safety hopeless - rather than divide
Aught with one loved save love and liberty.

I watched thee on the breakers where a rock

Received our prow and all was storm and fear,
And bade thee cling to me through every shock;
This arm would be thy bark, or breast thy bier.

I watched thee when the fever glazed thine eyes,

Yielding my couch and stretched me on the ground,
When overworn with watching ne'er to rise
From thence if thou an early grave hadst found.

The earthquake came, and rocked the quivering wall,

And men and nature reeled as if with wine.
Whom did I seek around the tottering hall?
For thee. Whose safety first prove for? Thine.

And when convulsive throes denied my breath

The faintest utterance to my fading thought,
To thee - to thee - e'en in the gasp of death
My spirit turned, oh! oftener than it ought.

Thus much and more; and yet thou lovs't me not,

And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.

1 comment:

  1. It may not be high literature, but surely the most famous split infinitive of all is Captain Kirk's (Star Trek) mission: "To boldly go... where no man has gone before."


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