« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
And yet, while Beauty's praise is thine,
Thy soothing lays may still be read,
Still I must yield those worthies merit,
Bad rhymes, and those who write them;
I really will not fight them. 1
Perhaps they would do quite as well
Of such a young beginner.
Now, Clare, I must return to you; And, sure, apologies are due:
Accept, then, my concession. In truth, dear Clare, in fancy's flight I soar along from left to right!
My muse admires digression.
I think I said 't would be your fate To add one star to royal state;
May regal smiles attend you! And should a noble monarch reign, You will not seek his smiles in vain, If worth can recommend you.
Yet since in danger courts abound,
From snares may saints preserve you; And grant your love or friendship ne'er From any claim a kindred care,
But those who best deserve you!
Not for a moment may you stray From truth's secure, unerring way! May no delights decoy!
O'er roses may your footsteps move, Your smiles be ever smiles of love,
Your tears be tears of joy!
Oh! if you wish that happiness
article on " Epistles, Odes, and other Poems, by Thomas Little, Esq."]
A bard (horresco referens) defied his reviewer to mortal combat. If this example becomes prevalent, our periodical censors must be dipped in the river Styx: for what else can secure them from the numerous host of their enraged assailants?
["Of all I have ever known, Clare has always been the least altered in every thing from the excellent qualities and kind affections which attached me to him so strongly at school. I should hardly have thought it possible for society (or the world, as it is called) to leave a being with so little of
And though some trifling share of praise, To cheer my last declining days,
To me were doubly dear; Whilst blessing your beloved name, I'd waive at once a poet's fame, To prove a prophet here.
LINES WRITTEN BENEATH AN ELM IN THE CHURCHYARD OF HARROW. 3
SPOT of my youth! whose hoary branches sigh,
How do thy branches, moaning to the blast, Invite the bosom to recall the past,
And seem to whisper, as they gently swell, "Take, while thou canst, a lingering, last farewell !”
When fate shall chill, at length, this fever'd breast And calm its cares and passions into rest,
Oft have I thought, 't would soothe my dying hour,—
[The "Lines written beneath an Elm at Harrow,” were the last in the little volume printed at Newark in 1807. The reader is referred to Mr. Moore's Notices, for various interesting particulars respecting the impression produced on Lord Byron's mind by the celebrated Critique of his juvenile
the leaven of bad passions. I do not speak from personal experience only, but from all I have ever heard of him from others, during absence and distance."— Byron Diary, 1821.]
3 [On losing his natural daughter, Allegra, in April, 1822, Lord Byron sent her remains to be buried at Harrow, "where," he says, in a letter to Mr. Murray, "I once hoped to have laid my own." "There is," he adds, "a spot in the church-yard, near the footpath, on the brow of the hill looking towards Windsor, and a tomb under a large tree (bearing the name of Peachie, or Peachey), where I used to sit for hours and hours when a boy. This was my favourite spot; but as I wish to erect a tablet to her memory, the body had better be deposited in the church;” — and it was so accordingly.]
performances, put forth in the Edinburgh Review, - a journal which, at that time, possessed nearly undivided influence and authority. The Poet's diaries and letters afford evidence that, in his latter days, he considered this piece as the work of Mr. (now Lord) Brougham; but on what grounds he had come to that conclusion he no where mentions. It forms, however, from whatever pen it may have proceeded, so important a link in Lord Byron's literary history, that we insert it at length.]
ARTICLE FROM THE EDINBURGH REVIEW, FOR JANUARY, 1808.
Hours of Idleness; a Series of Poems, original and translated. By George Gordon, Lord Byron, a Minor. 8vo. pp. 200. Newark, 1807.
THE poesy of this young lord belongs to the class which neither gods nor men are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction from that exact standard. His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or below the level, than if they were so much stagnant water. As an extenuation of this offence, the noble author is peculiarly forward in pleading minority. We have it in the titlepage, and on the very back of volume; it follows his name like a favourite part of his style. Much stress is laid upon it in the preface; and the poems are connected with this general statement of his case, by particular dates, substantiating the age at which each was written. Now, the law upon the point of minority we hold to be perfectly clear. It is a plea available only to the defendant; no plaintiff can offer it as a supplementary ground of action. Thus, if any suit could be brought against Lord Byron, for the purpose of compelling him to put into court a certain quantity of poetry, and if judgment were given against him, it is highly probable that an exception would be taken, were he to deliver for poetry the contents of this volume. To this he might plead minority; but, as he now makes voluntary tender of the article, he hath no right to sue, on that ground, for the price in good current praise, should the goods be unmarketable. This is our view of the law on the point; and, we dare to say, so will it be ruled. Perhaps, however, in reality, all that he tells us about his youth is rather with a view to increase our wonder than to soften our censures. He possibly means to say, "See how a minor can write! This poem was actually composed by a young man of eighteen, and this by one of only sixteen!" But, alas! we all remember the poetry of Cowley at ten, and Pope at twelve; and so far from hearing, with any degree of surprise, that very poor verses were written by a youth from his leaving school to his leaving college, inclusive, we really believe this to be the most common of all occurrences; that it happens in the life of nine men in ten who are educated in England; and that the tenth man writes better verse than Lord Byron.
His other plea of privilege our author rather brings forward in order to waive it. He certainly, however, does allude frequently to his family and ancestors-sometimes in poetry, sometimes in notes; and, while giving up his claim on the score of rank, he takes care to remember us of Dr. Johnson's saying, that when a nobleman appears as an author, his merit should be handsomely acknowledged. In truth, it is this consideration only that induces us to give Lord Byron's poems a place in our review, beside our desire to counsel him, that he do forthwith abandon poetry, and turn his talents, which are considerable, and his opportunities, which are great, to better account.
With this view, we must beg leave seriously to assure him, that the mere rhyming of the final syllable, even when accompanied by the presence of a certain number of feet,-nay, although (which does not always happen) those feet should scan regularly, and have been all counted accurately upon the fingers, is not the whole art of poetry. We would entreat him to believe, that a certain portion of liveliness, somewhat of fancy, is necessary to constitute a poem, and that a poem in the present day, to be read, must contain at least one thought, either in a little degree different from the ideas of former writers, or differently expressed. We put it to his candour, whether there is any thing so deserving the name of poetry in verses like the following, written in 1806; and whether, if a youth of eighteen could say any thing so uninteresting to his ancestors, a youth of nineteen should publish it:
"Shades of heroes, farewell! your descendant, departing
"Though a tear dim his eye at this sad separation, 'Tis nature, not fear, that excites his regret : Far distant he goes, with the same emulation; The fame of his fathers he ne'er can forget."
However, be this as it may, we fear his translations and imitations are great favourites with Lord Byron. We have them of all kinds, from Anacreon to Ossian; and, viewing them as school exercises, they may pass. Only, why print them after they have had their day and served their turn? And why call the thing in p.79. (see p. 380.) a translation, where two words (Asyu) of the original are expanded into four lines, and the other thing in p. 81. (see ibid.) where uravUMTIKIS To eas is rendered by means of six hobbling verses? As to his Ossianic poesy, we are not very good judges, being in truth, so moderately skilled in that species of composition, that we should, in all probability, be criticising some bit of the genuine Macpherson itself, were we to express our opinion of Lord Byron's rhapsodies. If, then, the following beginning of a "Song of Bards" is by his lordship, we venture to object to it, as far as we can comprehend it. What form rises on the roar of clouds? whose dark ghost gleams on the red stream of tempests? His voice rolls on the thunder; 'tis Orla, the brown chief of Oithona. He was," &c. After detaining this "brown chief" some time, the bards conclude by giving him their advice to "raise his fair locks;" then to "spread them on the arch of the rainbow;" and "to smile through the tears of the storm." Of this kind of thing there are no less than nine pages; and we can so far venture an opinion in their favour, that they look very like Macpherson; and we are positive they are pretty nearly as stupid and tire
It is a sort of privilege of poets to be egotists; but they should "use it as not abusing it ;" and particularly one who piques himself (though indeed at the ripe age of nineteen) on being" an infant bard," ("The 'artless Helicon I boast is youth")-should either not know, or should seem not to know, so much about his own ancestry. Besides a poem above cited, on the family seat of the Byrons, we have another of eleven pages, on the self-same subject, introduced with an apology, he certainly had no intention of inserting it," but really the particular request of some friends," &c. &c. It concludes with five stanzas on himself, "the last and youngest of a noble line." There is a good deal also about his maternal ancestors, in a poem on Lachin y Gair, a mountain where he spent part of his youth, and might have learnt that pibroch is not a bagpipe, any more than duet means a fiddle.
As the author has dedicated so large a part of his volume to immortalise his employments at school and college, we cannot possibly dismiss it without presenting the reader with a specimen of these ingenious effusions. In an ode with a Greek motto, called Granta, we have the following magnificent
"There, in apartments small and damp,
Or puzzles o'er the deep triangle,
From authors of historic use, Preferring to the letter'd sage,
The square of the hypothenuse.
"Still harmless are these occupations,
That hurt none but the hapless student, Compared with other recreations,
Which bring together the imprudent."
We are sorry to hear so bad an account of the college psalmody as is contained in the following Attic stanzas:
"Our choir would scarcely be excused Even as a band of raw beginners; All mercy now must be refused
To such a set of croaking sinners.
"If David, when his toils were ended,
Had heard these blockheads sing before him, To us his psalins had ne'er descended:
In furious mood he would have tore 'em!"
But, whatever judgment may be passed on the poems of this noble minor, it seems we must take them as we find them, and be content; for they are the last we shall ever have from him. He is, at best, he says, but an intruder into the groves of Parnassus: he never lived in a garret, like thorough-bred
poets; and "though he once roved a careless mountaineer in the Highlands of Scotland," he has not of late enjoyed this advantage. Moreover, he expects no profit from his publication; and, whether it succeeds or not, it is highly improbable, from his situation and pursuits hereafter,' that he should again condescend to become an author. Therefore, let us take what we get, and be thankful. What right have we poor devils to be nice? We are well off to have got so much from a man of this lord's station, who does not live in a garret, but "has the sway" of Newstead Abbey. Again, we say, let us be thankful; and, with honest Sancho, bid God bless the giver, nor look the gift horse in the mouth.
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers:
[The Monthly Reviewers, in those days the next in circulation to the Edinburgh, gave a much more favourable notice of the "Hours of Idleness." "These compositions, (said they) are generally of a plaintive or an amatory cast, with an occasional mixture of satire; and they display both ease and strength-both pathos and fire. It will be expected that marks of juvenility and of haste should be discovered in these productions; and we seriously advise our young bard to fulfil with submissive perseverance the duties of revision and correction. We discern, in Lord Byron, a degree of mental power, and a turn of mental disposition, which render us solicitous that both should be well cultivated and wisely directed, in his career of life. He has received talents, and is accountable for the use of them. We trust that he will render them beneficial to man, and a source of real gratification to himself in declining age. Then may he properly exclaim with the Roman orator, non lubet mihi deplorare vitam, quod multi, et ii docti, sæpe fecerunt; neque me vixisse pœnitet: quoniam ita vixi, ut non frustra me natum existimem Lord Byron repaid the Edinburgh Critique with a satireand became himself a Monthly Reviewer.]
"I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew!
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers."— SHAKSPEARE.
ALL my friends, learned and unlearned, have urged me not to publish this Satire with my name. If I were to be" turned from the career of my humour by quibbles quick, and paper bullets of the brain," I should have complied with their counsel. But I am not to be terrified by abuse, or bullied by reviewers, with or without arms. I can safely say that I have attacked none personally, who did not commence on the offensive. An author's works are public property: he who purchases may judge, and publish his opinion if he pleases; and the authors I have endeavoured to commemorate may do by me
"Such shameless bards we have; and yet 't is true,
[The first edition of this satire, which then began with what is now the ninety-seventh line ("Time was, ere yet," &c.), appeared in March, 1809. A second, to which the author prefixed his name, followed in October of that year; and a third and fourth were called for during his first pilgrimage, in 1810 and 1811. On his return to England, a fifth edition was prepared for the press by himself, with considerable care, but suppressed, and, except one copy, destroyed, when on the eve of publication. The text is now printed from the copy that escaped on casually meeting with which, in 1816, he reperused the whole, and wrote on the margin some annotations, which also we shall preserve, distinguishing them, by the insertion of their date, from those affixed to the prior editions.
they are erased, and some of my own substituted in their stead; my only reason for this being that which I conceive would operate with any other person in the same manner, a determination not to publish with my name any production, which was not entirely and exclusively my own composition.
With regard to the real talents of many of the poetical persons whose performances are mentioned or alluded to in the following pages, it is presumed by the author that there can be little difference of opinion in the public at large; though, like other sectaries, each has his separate tabernacle of proselytes, by whom his abilities are over-rated, his faults overlooked, and his metrical canons received without scruple and without consideration. But the unquestionable possession of considerable genius by several of the writers here censured renders their mental prostitution more to be regretted. Imbecility may be pitied, or, at worst, laughed at and forgotten; perverted powers demand the most decided reprehension. No one can wish more than the author that some known and able writer had undertaken their exposure; but Mr. Gifford has devoted himself to Massinger, and, in the absence of the regular physician, a country practitioner may, in cases of absolute necessity, be allowed to prescribe his nostrum to prevent the extension of so deplorable an epidemic, provided there be no quackery in his treatment of the malady. A caustic is here offered; as it is to be feared nothing short of actual cautery can recover the numerous patients afflicted with the present prevalent and distressing rabies for rhyming. -As to the Edinburgh Reviewers, it would indeed require an Hercules to crush the Hydra; but if the author succeeds in merely "bruising one of the heads of the serpent," though his own hand should suffer in the encounter, he will be amply satisfied. 3
[Here the preface to the first edition commenced.] 2 ["I well recollect," said Lord Byron, in 1821, "the effect which the critique of the Edinburgh Reviewers on my first poem, had upon me-it was rage and resistance, and redress; but not despondency nor despair. A savage review is hemlock to a sucking author, and the one on me (which produced the English Bards, &c.) knocked me down-but I got up again. That critique was a master-piece of low wit, a tissue of scurrilous abuse. I remember there was a great deal of vulgar trash, about people being thankful for what they could get,'-' not looking a gift horse in the mouth,' and such stable expressions. But so far from their bullying me, or deterring me from writing, I was bent on falsifying their raven predictions, and determined to show them, croak as they would, that it was not the last time they should hear from me."]
3 ["The severity of the criticism," as Sir Egerton Brydges has well observed," touched Lord Byron in the point where his original strength lay it wounded his pride, and roused his bitter indignation. He published English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,' and bowed down those who had hitherto held a despotic victory over the public mind. There was, after all, more in the boldness of the enterprise, in the fearlessness of the attack, than in its intrinsic force. But the moral effect of the gallantry of the assault, and of the justice of the cause, made it victorious and triumphant. This was one of those lucky developements which cannot often occur; and which fixed Lord Byron's fame. From that day he engag the public notice as a writer of undoubted talent and energy both of intellect and temper."]
Semper ego auditor tantum? nunquamne reponam, Vexatus toties rauci Theseide Codri?"-Juv. Sat. I. ["Hoarse Fitzgerald."-" Right enough; but why notice such a mountebank."- Byron, 1816.]
6 Mr. Fitzgerald, facetiously termed by Cobbett the "Small Beer Poet," inflicts his annual tribute of verse on the Literary Fund: not content with writing, he spouts in person, after the company have imbibed a reasonable quantity of bad port, to enable them to sustain the operation.[For
Oh! nature's noblest gift-my gray goose-quill! Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will, Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen, That mighty instrument of little men! The pen foredoom'd to aid the mental throes Of brains that labour, big with verse or prose, Though nymphs forsake, and critics may deride, The lover's solace, and the author's pride. What wits! what poets dost thou daily raise ! How frequent is thy use, how small thy praise ! Condemn'd at length to be forgotten quite, With all the pages which 't was thine to write. But thou, at least, mine own especial pen! Once laid aside, but now assumed again, Our task complete, like Hamet's 7 shall be free; Though spurn'd by others, yet beloved by me: Then let us soar to-day; no common theme, No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream 8 Inspires our path, though full of thorns, is plain; Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.
When Vice triumphant holds her sov'reign sway, Obey'd by all who nought beside obey;
the long period of thirty-two years, this harmless poetaster was an attendant at the anniversary dinners of the Literary Fund, and constantly honoured the occasion with an ode, which he himself recited with most comical dignity of emphasis. He was fortunate in having for his patron Viscount Dudley and Ward, on whose death, without a will, his benevolent intentions towards the bard were fulfilled by his son, the late Earl Dudley, who generously sent him a draft for 50001. Fitzgerald died in 1829. Of his numerous loyal effusions only a single line has survived its author; but the characteristics of his style have been so happily hit off, the "REJECTED ADDRESSES" (a work which Lord Byron has pronounced to be" by far the best thing of the kind since the Rolliad, ") that we cannot resist the temptation of an
"Who burnt (confound his soul !) the houses twain,
The tree of freedom is the British Oak. Bless every man possess'd of aught to give! Long may Long Tilney Wellesley Long Pole live! God bless the army, bless their coats of scarlet! God bless the navy, bless the Princess Charlotte! God bless the Guards, though worsted Gallia scoff! God bless their pig-tails, though they 're now cut off! And oh! in Downing Street should Old Nick revel, England's prime minister, then bless the Devil!"]
7 Cid Hamet Benengeli promises repose to his pen, in the last chapter of Don Quixote. Oh! that our voluminous gentry would follow the example of Cid Hamet Benengeli.
8 ["This must have been written in the spirit of prophecy." -B. 1816.]
When Folly, frequent harbinger of crime,
Such is the force of wit! but not belong
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.
I too can scrawl, and once upon a time
I pour'd along the town a flood of rhyme,
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
A man must serve his time to ev'ry trade
To Jeffrey go, be silent and discreet,
This ingenuous youth is mentioned more particularly, with his production, in another place.
2 In the Edinburgh Review. -[" He's a very good fellow; and, except his mother and sister, the best of the set, to my mind."-B. 1816.]
3 Messrs. Jeffrey and Lambe are the alpha and omega, the first and the last of the Edinburgh Review; the others are mentioned hereafter. —[" This was not just. Neither the heart nor the head of these gentlemen are at all what they are here represented. At the time this was written, I was personally unacquainted with either."- B. 1816.]
IMIT."Stulta est Clementia, cum tot ubique occurras perituræ parcere chartæ.". Juv. Sat. I. IMIT." Cur tamen hoc libeat potius decurrere campo Per quem magnus equos Aurunca flexit alumnus: Si vacat, et placidi rationem admittitis, edam.”. Juv. Sat. L [The first edition of the Satire opened with this line; and Lord Byron's original intention was to prefix the following
"The poet considereth times past, and their poesy - makes a sudden transition to times present-is incensed against book-makers - revileth Walter Scott for cupidity and balladmongering, with notable remarks on Master Southey-complaineth that Master Southey hath inflicted three poems, epic
Or any other thing that 's false, before
and otherwise, on the public-inveigheth against William Wordsworth, but laudeth Mister Coleridge and his elegy on a young assis disposed to vituperate Mr. Lewis-and greatly rebuketh Thomas Little (the late) and the Lord Strangford recommendeth Mr. Hayley to turn his attention to proseand exhorteth the Moravians to glorify Mr. Grahame. sympathiseth with the Rev. William Bowles-and deploreth the melancholy fate of James Montgomery — breaketh out into invective against the Edinburgh Reviewers-calleth them hard names, harpies and the like apostrophiseth Jeffrey, and prophesieth. Episode of Jeffrey and Moore, their jeopardy and deliverance; portents on the morn of the combat the Tweed, Tolbooth, Frith of Forth, severally shocked; descent of a goddess to save Jeffrey; incorporation of the bullets with his sinciput and occiput.- Edinburgh Reviews en masse. — Lord Aberdeen, Herbert, Scott, Hallam, Pillans, Lambe, Sydney Smith, Brougham, &c.- The Lord Holland applauded for dinners and translations.-The Drama; Skeffington, Hook, Reynolds, Kenney, Cherry, &c.— Sheridan, Colman, and Cumberland called upon to write. Return to poesy scribblers of all sorts-lords sometimes rhyme; much better not Hafiz, Rosa Matilda, and X. Y. Z. — Rogers, Campbell, Gifford, &c. true poets - Translators of the Greek Anthology - Crabbe- Darwin's style - Cambridge - Seatonian Prize-Smythe-Hodgson - Oxford — Richards — Poeta loquitur- Conclusion."Ï
7 [When Lord Byron, in the autumn of 1808, was occupied upon this Satire, he devoted a considerable portion of his time to a deep study of the writings of Pope; and from that period may be dated his enthusiastic admiration of this great poet.]