ePub 版

is not surprising that the lash of correc- This early and signal discomfiture of
tion deservedly applied to the one, the Goliaths of literature, though achiev-
should, sometimes, inflict an unmerited ed by a stripling, with little more than
stripe on the other. It is not, however, a pebble, was enough to deter less
probably, the first instance in which his doughty champions from hazarding a
lordship has suffered from an impru- conflict. Nor was the effect of this
dent connexion.
exploit merely to avert the danger of
We have said that his lordship had attack. Whilst the few who had felt
long enjoyed an exemption from the his force, or feared his vigour, were
Scourge of criticism; but it was not al- awed at least into respectful silence, the
ways so; nor was the lenity of the many who rejoiced in the defeat of the
critics owing to the humility with vanquished, conspired to extol the
which he, at any time, kissed the rod. prowess of the victor:-and, unfortu-
The Edinburgh Reviewers frowned nately, his lordship was weak enough to
terribly at the peccadillos of his lord- measure his desert by the scale of their
ship's lisping muse. The venial pue- gratitude.
rilities of some juvenile performances,
The noble author did not repose long
which that eagerness for notoriety that upon his laurels. He soon made a bold
has been the bane of his life, impelled experiment upon the strength of his re-
him to print, drew down upon him, putation; which unhappily bore him out
from those obdurate censors, a de- in it. He was able, and his very temerity
nunciation that might have daunted a and extravagance were accessary to his
veteran. So far, however, from inspir- success, to bring into vogue a new style
ing his lordship with diffidence in his of poetry, compared with which every
powers, or operating to dissuade him thing that had preceded it was tame.
from his favourite pursuits, this severity He placed himself at the head of a
of reprehension, whilst it inflamed his new school; and the Stagirite never
ire, suggested a means of appeasing his had more disciples. The votaries of
wrath. His retort in the satire of the the system, of which Lord Byron was
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,' the propagator, have ravaged every re-

gion of fancy, and have erected the
high places of their monstrous idolatry
in groves sacred to the musès.
Is there a parson much bemused in beer,
A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,

A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,

Who pens a stanza when he should engross? Is there who lock'd from ink and paper scrawls, accounted for, certain it is, that they. Withdesperate charcoal,round hisdarken'd walls.

suddenly relaxed the austerity of their features, and have, ever since, continued to smile on his lordship with the most condescending complacency.

afforded him, at once, the gratification of revenge and the eclat of triumph, Its influence was not confined to producing a change in public sentiment; but strange as it may seem, it wrought a prodigious revolution in the minds of his adversaries. However it may be

All, all are imitators of Byron. But one may mimic the contortions of the Sybil,' without catching her inspiration.' Such is the fate of most of the herd


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

of Byron's followers. In his lordship's lordship seems to think it is as much wildest incoherence, there is something beneath him to attend to the melody of of poetic frenzy; and there are inter- his numbers, as it would be below a vals in his raving:-even his absurdi- great general to step to the air of a ties are rarely ridiculous, and there march. He sacrifices on all occasions, is sometimes, method in his mad- without hesitation, both rhyme and ness.' rythm to piquancy of phrase. He is teazing us constantly, too, with hints and innuendos at ideas which he cannot define, simply because he does not com

On the whole, his lordship's productions leave an impression on the mind, (which we cannot but suspect that they were designed to create,) that the author is capable of more than he has performed. It would seem as if one who could do so well, might do better.-We sincerely hope he may.


But his lordship has entirely lost sight of the true end of poetry. He has stripped her of her dignity. He has divorced her from reason, and prosti- prehend them. Mystery is a source of tuted her to passion. It used to be the sublime, but not a convertible term considered the province of poetry to for sublimity. inculcate useful truths by pleasing fictions; to instil moral lessons by impressive illustrations; to assign, with 'poetic justice,' to virtue its reward, and to vice its punishment; to excite horror at crime, and sympathy for suffering; in short, to refine the manners, to raise the genius, and to mend the heart.' Not one of these objects has his lordship ever His lordship is not destitute of amproposed to himself. He has selected bition; but it is not of the right sort. traitors, seducers, pirates, robbers, mur- He has an inordinate appetite for popuderers, and atheists, as the heroes of larity; but is satisfied with the coarsest bis plots, and has held them up, if not kind of it. As long as he can procure to the approbation, at least to the com- his daily bread of praise, in return for miseration of his readers. He has, by his fragments of epic and fritters of an incongruous assemblage of inconsist- song, we have no hope of his addicting ent qualities in the creatures of his himself to more worthy exertions. imagination, and by throwing into his only chance is, that his readers will pictures an artful and deceptive mix- at last be surfeited with his trash. ture of light and shade, endeavoured As they become fastidious, he will proto dazzle our sight and mislead our bably mend; but whilst he can get even judgment. He has laboured to enlist crumbs of encomium in exchange for our best feelings on the worst side, and to the crudities with which he crowds the entice us to applaud the expression of market, there is no prospect of imsentiments which it would be impious provement in the manufacture of his materials. His 'Third Canto of Childe Harold,' with its giblets and garnishes, forcibly reminded us of Peter Pindar's His exclamation,


to entertain.

But laying aside the moral of his fables, we have objections of no trivial nature to his lordship's manner.

His friends, indeed, have said that the noble author appropriates no portion of these sums to his own use. We know not how the fact may bethough we should never have thought of reproaching any man with receiving the reward of his labours, had he not

It came


Another motive than vanity might, indeed, be suggested for the incontinence of his lordship's muse. out in evidence, in a recent trial before himself endeavoured to render it opthe Lord Chancellor, on an application probrious. The world, we imagine, for an injunction to restrain the sale of would much more easily forgive his certain poems, to which the publisher lordship for subsisting on the products had taken the liberty to prefix his lord- of his literary toil, than for squandership's name to give them currency, that ing the inheritance of his family. The his lordship had received 20001. from humiliation of vending his verses is his Bookseller, Mr. MURRAY, for the but the consequence of the dilapidation copy-right of the little volume before of his patrimony, and no disgrace in us, and 5000l. at different times, on ac- comparison with the alienation of the count of works purchased by him of the venerable monuments of the feudal noble author. This huckstering does grandeur of his house. not exactly correspond with the lofty strain of his indignant apostrophe to

Walter Scott

Some folks are fond of hearing themselves chatter,

Promising wine, and giving milk and water,
Or that most mawkish mess call'd water-gruel,
This is not fair, my lord-'tis very cruel.

And think'st thou, Scott, by vain conceit perchance,

On public taste to foist thy stale romance, Though Murray with his Miller should com


To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?
No, when the sons of song descend to trade,
Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.
Let such forego the poets' sacred name,
Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame;
Low may they sink to merited contempt,
And scorn remunerate the mean attempt;
Such be their meed, such still the just reward,
Of prostituted muse, and hireling bard!
For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
And bid a long Good-night to Marmion.'

If his lordship have incurred his own anathema, it is but an exemplification of the old adage.

These spurious poems, which have been reprinted in this country under Lord Byron's name, are Lord Byron's Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Tempest, &c. We notice them to guard our readers against the imposture.

But we shall gaze, in vain, on the
galaxy of his lordship's virtues, for any
glimmering of consistency. His cha-
racter is a compound of contrarieties-
and his course has been as chequered
as his character. It is amusing to trace
his meanderings. To-day, he offers
some fruit of his fecundity as a tribute
of gratitude and a testimony of regard
to a noble relative ;*-to-morrow, disa-
Vows the acknowledgment; and the
third day, recants his revocation. Some-
times the process is reve
versed, and he
begins with reviling and ends with a
dedication. In one breath, he stigma-
tizes a man as a dunce, or an ass,§ and

the Earl of Carlisle, his guardian; ridiculed him
* His lordship dedicated his juvenile poems to
in his Satires; and confesses, in his third canto of
Childe Harold, that he wronged him.

+ Lord Holland and Thomas Moore were dealt
with after this manner.

Mr. Jeffrey, the leading editor of the Edinburgh Review, to abuse whom, he wrote his Satire, and to gratify whom, he afterwards bought up the whole edition, and suppressed it.

Mr. Coleridge: this sentimental ballad


in the next, admits him to be a scholar, or commends him as a poet.

Perhaps it will be thought unnecessary to have lacerated his lordship so deeply, in the dissection of his works. But the noble author has so identified himself with his theme, that it is next to impossible to sever him from his subject. Besides, we had an object in making an anatomy of his lordship. It has been said, by one whose opinion deserves consideration, that none but a good man can be a good orator.' If the axiom be equally applicable to the poet, perhaps we have detected the secret of his lordship's failure!—and it may be useful to point it out.


[blocks in formation]

of Lord Byron and of his muse, we should have heard no more, till time, at least, and meditation, should have enlarged the soul of the poet, and mellowed the power of his song. But a very few months since his Lordship and the public parted in no very pleasant mood; he called them forth not as arfeuds; they obeyed the summons, but bitrators, but as parties in his domestic the cause which they espoused was not that of his Lordship; they gave their sentence with justice and enforced it with spirit; and from that decision, after a vain, and, in our opinion, a paltry appeal to their worst passions, he fled. We little thought that his Lordship would again have wooed so disdainful a mistress, especially when that mistress had begun to show some signs of lassitude on the endless repetition of the same tedious and disgusting strain. And yet his Lordship informs us,

"I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bow'd
To its idolatries a patient knee-
Nor coined my cheek to smiles-nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo."

"This is all vastly indignant and vastly grand; yet we have now two witnesses before us who speak a very different language, and we find ten more in Mr. Murray's catalogue, who tell the same tale. The man who sends out into the world a single poem, the labour pretence of probability, to scorn the perhaps of years, may affect, with some voice of public censure or approbation; but he who, at intervals only of a few months, shall continue to court the expectations of the world with the successive fruits of his poetic talent, not only exists a pensioner upon public fame, but lives even from hand to mouth upon popular applause. Every poem which he publishes is a living witness that he bows the idolatry of the world a patient knee, and that he worships the very echo which he professes to scorn.

"The first publication of the noble Lord which claims our attention is the third part of Childe Harold. As the

first and second parts of this poem ap- vastly superior both he and his genius peared before we commenced our criti- are to the common herd of mankind; cal labours, we shall pass no opinion on that he is a being of another and higher their merits, except that they were too order, whose scowl is sublimity, and generally over rated by the fashion of whose frown is majesty. We have the the day. The poem before us is much noble Lord's word for this and for a more likely to find its level. The no- great deal more, and if he would have ble Lord has made such draughts upon been content with telling us so not more public partiality, that little is now left than half a dozen times, to please him, him but the dregs of a cup which he we would have believed it. But he once fondly thought to be inexhaustible. has pressed so unmercifully, that we The hero of the poem is, as usual, him- now begin to call for proof, and all self: for he has now so unequivocally the proof we can find is in his own asidentified himself with his fictitious hero, sertion. The noble Lord has written that even in his most querulous moods, a few very fine, and a few very pretty he cannot complain of our impertinence verses, which may be selected from a in tracing the resemblance. We really heap of crude, harsh, unpoetical strains; wish that the noble Lord would suppose farther than this we neither know nor that there was some other being in the wish to know of his Lordship's fame. world besides himself, and employ his His Lordship's style, by a fortunate hit, imagination in tracing the lineament of caught the favourable moment in the some other character than his own. One turn of the public taste; his gall was would have imagined that in twelve mistaken for spirit, his affectation for several and successive efforts of his feeling, and his harshness for originality. muse, something a little newer than this The world are now growing tired of same inexhaustible self might have been their luminary, and wait only for the invented. Wherever we turn, the same rise of some new meteor, to transfer portrait meets our eye. We see it now their admiration and applause. The glaring in oils, now sobered in fresco, noble Lord had talents, which if they now dim in transparency. Sometimes had been duly husbanded, might have it frowns in the turban of the Turk, ensured him a more permanent place sometimes it struts in the buskins and in their estimation. His Lordship never cloak of the Spaniard, and sometimes could have been a Milton, a Dryden, a it descends to fret in its native costume; Pope, or a Gray, but he might have but frown, strut, or fret where it will, been a star of the third or fourth magthe face is still but one, and the features nitude, whose beams would have show are still the same. 66 Mungo here, even upon posterity with no contempti Mungo there, Mungo every where." ble lustre. As the matter stands, he We are ever ready to listen with all will now be too late convinced that he due patience to a long story, provi- whose theme is only self, will find at ded it be not too often repeated, but last that self his only audience. there is really a limit beyond which "The first sixteen stanzas of the Poem are dedicated to this one human patience ceases to be a virtue. before us We must come at last to the question, everlasting theme, and contain, like a What is Lord Byron to us, and what repetition pye, nothing, more than the have we to do either with his sublimity scraps of his former strains, seasoned or his sulks? It is his poetical not his rather with the garlic of misanthropy "Self-exiled personal character which is the subject than the salt of wit. of our criticism, and when the latter is Harold" reaches the plain of Waterloo, so needlessly obtruded upon our atten- but with a step not more auspicious tion, it betrays at once poverty of in- than that of preceding poets, who have vention and lack of discretion. The trod that bloody plain. We know not what Doble Lord is ever informing us how strange fatality attends a theme so sa

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »