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CANTO THE FOURTH.
NOTHING SO difficult as a beginning
The race, he sprains a wing, and down we tend, Like Lucifer when hurl'd from heaven for sinning; Our sin the same, and hard as his to mend,
Being pride, (') which leads the mind to soar too far, Till our own weakness shows us what we are. (2)
But Time, which brings all beings to their level,
["how glorious once above thy sphere,
["the same sin that overthrew the angels,
And of all sins most easily besets
Mortals the nearest to the angelic nature:
The vile are only vain; the great are proud."
While youth's hot wishes in our red veins revel,
As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow,
And wish'd that others held the same opinion; They took it up when my days grew more mellow, And other minds acknowledged my dominion: Now my sere fancy" falls into the yellow
Leaf," (2) and Imagination droops her pinion, And the sad truth which hovers o'er my desk Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.
And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
"Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, 'Tis that our nature cannot always bring Itself to apathy, for we must steep
(1) ["Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy,
He views, and wonders that they please no more."
JOHNSON'S Vanity of Human Wishes
"'Tis a grand poem- and so true! - true as the 10th of Juvenal himself. The lapse of ages changes all things - time-language-the earth -the bounds of the sea-the stars of the sky, and every thing about, around, and underneath' man, except man himself, who has always been, and always will be, an unlucky rascal. The infinite variety of lives conduct but to death, and the infinity of wishes lead but to disappointment.". B. Diary, 1821.]
Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf." - Macbeth.]
Our hearts first in the depths of Lethe's spring,
Some have accused me of a strange design
I don't pretend that I quite understand
A novel word in my vocabulary.
(1) [Achilles is said to have been dipped by his mother in the river Styx, to render him invulnerable.]
[—" a slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
Paradise Lost, b. vi.]
(3) ["Lord Byron is the very Comus of poetry, who, by the bewitching airiness of his numbers, aims to turn the moral world into a herd of monsters."-WATKINS.
"Deep as Byron has dipped his pen into vice, he has dipped it still deeper into immorality. Alas! he shines only to mislead - he flashes
only to destroy."- COLTON.
"In Don Juan he is highly profane; but, in that poem, the profaneness is in keeping with all the other qualities, and religion comes in for a sneer, or a burlesque, only in common with every thing that is dear and valuable to us as moral and social beings."— Ecl. Rev.
"Dost thou aspire, like a Satanic mind,
With vice to waste and desolate mankind?
To make them, from restraint and conscience free,
Bad as thyself, or worse-if such can be?"- COTTLE.]
To the kind reader of our sober clime
This way of writing will appear exotic; Pulci was sire of the half-serious rhyme, (') Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic, And revell'd in the fancies of the time, [despotic; True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings But all these, save the last, being obsolete, I chose a modern subject as more meet.
How I have treated it, I do not know;
Perhaps no better than they have treated me Who have imputed such designs as show
Not what they saw, but what they wish'd to see : But if it gives them pleasure, be it so;
This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free:
Young Juan and his lady-love were left
With his rude scythe such gentle bosoms; he
Though foe to love; and yet they could not be Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring, Before one charm or hope had taken wing.
(1) [See antè, Vol. XI. p. 187.]
["Cum canerem reges et prælia, Cynthius aurem
Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail; The blank grey was not made to blast their hair, But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail They were all summer: lightning might assail And shiver them to ashes, but to trail A long and snake-like life of dull decay Was not for them-they had too little clay
They were alone once more; for them to be
Cut from its forest root of years—the river Damm'd from its fountain-the child from the knee And breast maternal wean'd at once for ever, Would wither less than these two torn apart;(') Alas! there is no instinct like the heart—
The heart—which may be broken: happy they! Thrice fortunate! who of that fragile mould, The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne'er behold The long year link'd with heavy day on day, And all which must be borne, and never told; While life's strange principle will often lie Deepest in those who long the most to die.
"from its mother's knee When its last weaning draught is drain'd for ever, The child divided - it were less to see,