Written by George Gordon, Lord Byron in 1816, the poem was inspired by a visit to the castle at Chillon, on the shores of Lake Geneva, where Charles III, Duke of Savoy had imprisoned the monk and political prisoner, François Bonivard, underground for six years. The sonnet was written as a preface to a longer poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon."
Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,
For there in thy habitation is the heart
The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
And when thy sons to fetters are consign'd -
To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.
Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar - for t'was trod
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod
By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.